Life as a Support Engineer, circa 1994

For me, some of the more interesting blogs I see from Microsoft employees are about “the old days”. In that spirit, here is what my experience was in 1994, which was the year I started working at Microsoft.

I was hired to support OS/2 LAN Manager for Microsoft’s corporate customers. I have since met people at Microsoft who worked on the code and who sold the product in the field – it seems like there weren’t many of us involved with it, but I’m sure there were. Eventually I also started supporting Windows NT 3.1, 3.5, 3.51, and 4.0 and somewhere in there I had the opportunity to connect debuggers to serial ports, but at the time I only knew enough to try a couple things and mostly get a dump of information to hand off to a more senior support engineer. Since LAN Manager was the core networking component in Windows 3.1, 3.11, Windows for Workgroups, etc. – I ended up taking quite a few calls from corporate customers regarding networking issues with those products too.

The fun started when I learned to use Network Monitor to troubleshoot problems with client logons, domain trust issues, and a variety of other LAN Manager and NTLM issues. I eventually became one of the main guys to go to for reading NetMon traces focused on SMB and NetBios. And yes, at one time I understood all those names and numbers returned from a “nbtstat –n” command (the NetBIOS Local Name Table) and how to look for those in SMB traces. It was fun because it was very geeky, very useful for troubleshooting, and not many people understood it. Oddly enough, about a year ago I even met one of the developers for the first version of Microsoft’s Network Monitor, and he confessed that he didn’t really know anything about networking when he wrote the code for it and that he really only understood what he was supposed code, not how all the pieces came together. I found that pretty weird, but I thanked him for the great work he did for this invaluable tool that I relied on.

This is also when I would ride my mountain bike about 10 miles into work most every day, even when I had a 24x7 shift (usually something like 1pm to midnight, 4 days a week). And this being Seattle (OK, my cubicle was Bellevue, WA at the time), it would often rain on me. When my shoes and socks were wet, I’d bring in a spare pair, but let my wet socks dry on top of my PC under my desk. I’m sure that gave a nice professional look to my cubicle! Biking home at midnight after my shift was done was fun though, simply because there weren’t many cars on the road and no other bikers.

Anyway, that’s what life as a LAN Manager Support Engineer at Microsoft in 1994 was like for me.