Six Months at the Empire

Hello!  My name's Joe Morel, and I'm a relatively new Program Manager here at Microsoft, working on the Aftermarket Solutions team for Visual Studio.  I work primarily on the MSDN Forums with Josh Ledgard, my manager.  I decided to restrain myself from having an "official" MSDN blog for a few months after I joined the company, basically waiting for something worth blogging about.  Over the past couple of months, I've had a few things I thought were worth broadcasting to the world, so I've decided to take the dive and split my blogging activities--I'm going to focus on Microsoft/technology related posts over here, and leave the personal stuff over on my personal blog on MSN Spaces.

So what's the occasion that finally pushed me over the edge into the blogosphere?  My six-month anniversary at Microsoft.  Six months.  It's not a huge chuck of time.  At Microsoft, you used to get a desk clock after you were at the company for five years.  For six months, I'm guessing the equivalent would be a cheap Walmart digital watch.  There will be no certificates, no awards, no celebrations.  Heck--I don't even get to buy a half-pound of M&Ms (apparently it is Microsoft tradition to put the same number of pounds of M&Ms outside of your office as years you've worked on your anniversary.)  But, to me, personally, six months is a major milestone--the difference between being the "new guy" trying to soak up everything he can to being someone that actually can contribute.  It's the difference between "I just moved to Seattle from Cleveland" to "I used to live in Cleveland."

When I started at Microsoft, Josh posted a "5 Tips for Being Successful at Microsoft" entry in his blog.  (That's where I learned about the M&Ms.)  I'm not qualified to tell people how to be successful here, but here's five, more trivial things I wish I knew before starting at Microsoft:

  1. Speak Up - The predominant personality type here is definitely "Type A".  If you wait for your turn to speak, it will likely never come.  Things move quickly and people rarely are going to ask for your opinion.  If you have something to say--say it.
  2. Don't Drive Down 40th St NE in the morning - Take NE 51st Street instead.  It took me four months to figure this out...amounting to about six hours of my life.
  3. Talk More; Email Less - This is a very hard one to follow--business is email here.  I've noticed that if you talk to somebody directly, either by picking up the phone or knocking on their door, it forces both of you to get your story straight and think about something, rather than allowing it to flounder in an inbox for two days before giving it a worthless, one-line reply.
  4. Get Thick Skin - People here love giving criticism and hate getting it (especially from the outside community).  Get used to having every incorrectly reported stat, loose end, and bad assumption you make to be pointed out and used to pick apart your credibility.  Nobody is immune.  It's not personal--it's a head-on culture that expects people to deal with it.
  5. Loan Your Manager Money At Lunch - Then he'll eventually have to return the favor by taking you out to lunch.  :)

All in all, this has been a great "onboarding" experience here at Microsoft, and I'm loving my time on this team.  Here's to six more months and a full pound of M&Ms!