Yesterday was my last day at Microsoft. After a very nice round of goodbyes with some of my team in the Enterprise Management division, I had my exit interview over in building 18 and then did the commute home for what will be the last time — at least for awhile.
I have some mixed feelings about leaving — except for the commute and my overall need to reduce my stress level and improve my lifestyle I thoroughly enjoyed the projects I was working on. Neither project has been generally announced yet, so I’m not going to discuss them in any detail. I will say that I saw a different Microsoft than one might have seen several years ago. I worked on two projects which were clearly enterprise management territory for most software companies, but not (traditionally) for Microsoft. And yet, I worked with people who were intensely interested in branching out into new territory, solving problems that Microsoft in the past hadn’t thought were important for Microsoft to solve, and in general breaking any number of stereotypes about what, and more especially how, to do things.
That’s not to say that I didn’t also encounter a fair amount of inertia, and people who already know “the way” that something needed to be done, but I also found most people I talked with — folks in program management, marketing, director-level staff, GMs, all the way to my chain of VPs — were open and amenable to new arguments if supportable and workable.
Clearly, there is still a lot of “religion,” and although the devotion to “all things Windows” is understandable from the Windows platform vendor, I did find that knowledge of enterprise-level mixed IT installations was relatively limited. This is being fixed by hiring from the outside — I was a case in point actually — so I expect this situation to be very different in a year. I encountered an organization that was working fast and hard to remedy any gaps it might have in order to be seriously competitive in nearly all areas of enterprise software.
Wow. That sounds like I swallowed a bit of kool-aid myself. But I didn’t, not really. I’m typing this on my Macbook Pro, and I don’t even have a PC laptop or Windows desktop anymore — all of that is virtualized by Parallels Workstation and does everything I need. My primary platforms are Mac OS X and Linux.
So the message is, that the Microsoft I spent part of a year working at is not the Microsoft of evil fantasy. The company is as flexible and open to change as the people who now run and work at it, and to my eye that’s getting more flexible and open all the time. I suspect there’s still a bright future for the folks in Redmond. I’m grateful for my time there, and happy I got to spend at least a little time seeing it from the inside.
And I’m happy to move on, to whatever is next…