While playing Magic:The Gathering with Michael Brundage and a bunch of former co-workers last week he informed me that he had updated his Working At Microsoft essay given some comments and feedback he had seen. Some excerpts from the additions to his essay are included below


As a parent, I've come to understand that there's a wide gray area between overprotecting your children and creating a nuturing environment in which they can develop. I think Microsoft struggles with a similar problem with its employees. Microsoft provides its employees with a nuturing environment in which they can be most productive. But like children, these employees also need to be grounded in reality and exposed to ideas that can be disruptive or even disturbing. Otherwise a sheltered monoculture can develop that's unhealthy for everyone involved.

It's hard for people who don't work at Microsoft's main campus to understand just how unreal the experience of working there can become. Some employees forget that most of the world doesn't have broadband wireless networking, high-end consumer electronics, luxury vehicles, and enough money that they don't need to live on a budget. Some employees spend so much time using Microsoft products, that they forget about the competition and/or lose touch with typical customers' needs


Microsoft's Not Evil

The reality is that Microsoft is made up of mostly honest, earnest, hardworking people. People with families. People with hardships. People with ordinary and extraordinary lives. People who make wise and foolish decisions. Some employees are bad apples, and some leaders make poor decisions (which their employees may or may not support). Both usually meet with failure. All the Microsoft employees I know are internally driven to "succeed," where success sometimes means outselling the competition but always means doing your personal best and improving people's lives with your work.

Although groups don't have intentions, it's true that group policies reward some kinds of behavior over others. So perhaps "Microsoft is evil" is shorthand for "Microsoft's policies are evil."

The thing is, I haven't seen any evidence of that on the inside and I'm usually very critical of these things. For as long as I've worked at Microsoft, ethics have been a real part of employee performance reviews. It's not just talk, but the way work goes each day. Most product designs revolve around addressing specific customer needs. No one ever says "Hey, let's go ruin company P" or other things that could be construed as "evil." Instead, it's "customers Q and R are having trouble with this, and I have an idea how we could fix it..." and other positive, constructive statements.

If anything, Microsoft seems to have the opposite problem, in which employees sometimes design or cut a feature or product without fully appreciating the huge impact their decision can have outside the company. When the media goes wild with knee-jerk reactions for or against something Microsoft did, often the employees responsible for the decision are caught off-guard by the disproportionate public attention.

I came to similar conclusions about Microsoft employees a year or two ago. The main problem with Microsoft employees is not that they are out to 'cut of the air supply' of their competitors. Instead it is that they often make decisions without awareness of the impact their decisions will have on the software industry as a whole. I have often been surprised to realize that some program manager for some new feature or component in some Microsoft product has failed to realize that the entrance of Microsoft in that space could potentially put partners or competitors out of business. This isn't to say that the execs don't realize that Microsoft entering markets usually decimates competition but that a lot of the rank and file guys implementing these decisions or coming up with some of these ideas often don't realize the impact of their actions.

One of the reasons I like working at MSN is that we aren't under any illusions about these issues. We aren't "adding a new feature to Visual Studio to make developers more productive" or "adding some new functionality to Windows to make it more useful for end users" which also happens to have been a thriving ISV market until we decided to enter it. Instead we are directly competing with folks like Yahoo, Google or AOL for a particular market. This situation definitely sits a lot better with me.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005 7:57:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
What I've found is that most everybody will agree with you on these points and that they apply to a broad number of large monopolistic corporations. The problem is that each employee of these companies still thinks its the other guy, not themselves, that are contributing to the problems. And even when they get caught making that mistake, they justify it, their situation is somehow special. MHO.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005 4:09:21 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Dare, I like the way you think about the little guy, it would be good if the rest of MS had your ethics.

I liken small ISV to those fish that live on a shark's scraps... they can do it so long as they aren't too successful, because if they become successful the shark notices them and turns them into lunch.

Microsoft encourages these guys right up until it is too late...
Wednesday, February 23, 2005 11:53:31 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
no , i think MS is really evil . i have been trying to work there for the last 3 years . i have applied in hundreds of posts . but every time after the interview they have a strange reason . i am the most loyal person on this earth to MS . and i really wanna go there . last time i got "OverMotivated" AND "OverQualified" .
on the contrary , i find that alot of guys inside MS doesnt have any motivation towards the company . they are just doing their job , may be less. others are not satisfied by working there . i dont beleive my self . but a the end , it is really evil .
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