August 21, 2006
@ 05:22 PM

It's hard for me to believe that it's been five years since I was an intern at Microsoft. It's still fun to go back to read my blog posts about my Microsoft interview, my impressions halfway through the experience and my parting thoughts at the end if the experience. I've started thinking about my internship again because I'm going to be the mentor/manager of an intern in a couple of weeks and I've been taking strolls down memory lane trying to remember the experiences that made my internship worthwhile. 

My favorite experience is the story behind how I got the article Using the ECMA Standards: An Interview with Miguel de Icaza published on MSDN while I was still college and Microsoft had only said negative things about Miguel's Mono project up until that article was published.

It all started with an article on C|Net entitled Open source steps in to duplicate .Net which implied that Microsoft's licensing terms may not be favorable for Open Source implementations of the .NET Framework such as Mono and DotGNU. At the time, I thought it was rather two-faced of Microsoft to claim that the CLI and C# were going to be open ECMA standards but then threaten to prohibit Open Source implementations. So I fired of an ranting mail to the internal discussion list focused on the .NET Framework pointing out this inconsistency in Microsoft's position. At first, I got a bunch of replies smacking me down for daring to question Microsoft's strategy but after a couple of supportive mails from coworkers like Fadi Fakhouri, Omri Gazitt and a couple of others I eventually got routed to the right person. I met with Tony Goodhew who was quoted in the C|Net article and he set me straight. When I found out that this wasn't the case, I mentioned that it would be a great sign of goodwill to the Open Source community if Microsoft showed just how much they were supportive of such projects. Since I'd also gotten to know the author of the Dr. GUI columns on MSDN via another flame war email discussion, I had connections at MSDN and mentioned the idea to them as well. The MSDN folks liked the idea and when I pitched the idea to Miguel De Icaza he did as well. Although it only took a few email exchanges between Miguel and I to get the meat of the interview done, I didn't get the article completely edited and approved by MSDN until after my internship was done.

It was a pretty big deal for me when the article was published especially since Slashdot ran the story multiple times. The fact that I was just some punk intern and I got Microsoft to officially endorse Mono on MSDN was a big deal to me. The entire event made me appreciate Microsoft as a company and was a key factor in my decision to come to work for Microsoft full-time.

Now I'm trying to make sure I create an environment where the intern I'll be mentoring over the next few months can have similar experiences. If you are or have been an intern at Microsoft and don't mind sharing what rocked or sucked about your internship, I'd appreciate your comments.


Monday, August 21, 2006 9:52:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I hadn't known the whole story behind this before now. That's REALLY cool!

Dear Future Dare Obasanjo's Intern,

[Article development in process to be published on my blog when complete ;)]
Monday, August 21, 2006 10:42:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Changed the title for obvious reasons, but the post is now live >
Sunday, August 27, 2006 5:10:40 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

I've been reading your blog off an on for a number of years, but I just wanted to add my comments to this post. I recently completed my first internship with Microsoft (t-robkla no longer). While I was a PM (and not a Dev), I would still like to share a few comments that may help you out.

The most important comment is that, as an intern I expected hard work (both to do and to give), but what I did not expect was the culture. The idea of so much leniency, in hours, in dress, and in attitude (feet on tables during meetings? News to me!) was so unbelievably backwards, that I didn't know how to react. Do I immediately join the group in swilling soda and hopping on desks? Do I continue acting as an awkward and out-of-place intern with no respect for cultural diversity (ahem, Microsoft culture, to be sure!)?

The whole ramp-up (or as I liked to call it, onboarding) experience is a difficult one for anybody, but especially an intern, since the majority of our 12 weeks is spent learning how not to do things and how to communicate in an environment that moves as fast as our release cycle (which is set at about once every 5-6 weeks due to working on a Windows Live property). Not that I can offer any advice on how to ease the transition, but I just want you to reflect back on how many new ideas were flung at you during your internship, and think about all your intern has to learn before they feel like they are really cruising with the team.

Otherwise, as with all newcomers to the city, be sure to take your intern out, introduce them to your friends, and if your hobby is puzzle-day (or a like-derivative), show them what you spend all of your waking hours enjoying outside work. All I can imagine is that with your intern arriving in early Fall, they are missing out on one of the absolute best experiences of the internship -- that is, other interns.

Anyway, good luck to you and your new mentorship. I'm excited to see how it turns out for both you and your intern.

Robert Klayman
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