Future posts will be about Linux – but to address some recent comments …

April 30, 2007

Unexpected results with the Digg post. I don’t want to dwell on the post too much but there were some comments I wanted to address in a single post. To do that I’ll briefly dissect a few lines of my post:

What was able to drain the marrow of life from my body and leave only hollowed-out shell of the man who once occupied this space?

Six years ago I began working for Microsoft.

I’m not drawing a 100% causal relationship here. Meaning – all of the issues don’t stem from my job (certainly not – kids, home, life, etc – all played a significant role) and I’m not implying that had I worked somewhere else the same thing wouldn’t have happened. It is probably a personality fault in me that allowed this – but when searching for the trigger event this was the landmark event.  Perhaps I shot my foot there. Not sure. I hope not.

I hope people also weigh the positive things I said too.  If I didn’t want to be at MS I would quit.

But there is another side to Microsoft. The side that has held my hand, shielded my eyes and who I allowed to slowly lead me down this path.

Note here that I said “I allowed” – as in everything that has changed in my life changed because I allowed it to. I let myself get into projects and schedules and deadlines and politics when I could of, or should of, had the foresight or backbone to avoid them.

The side where you aren’t given time to be creative or perform research that does not address an immediate work item on your schedule.

Note “given time”. I’m not saying that Microsoft does not value creativity or research – I’m saying that I never had the privilege of working on a team where it was actively fostered in the rank-and-file. Yes – this it the nature of business. No – I don’t think I would have gotten more chances at many other employers. Again – I’m stating my experience.

Where you are discouraged from thinking about things other than what is right in front of you at that moment. Where you have 6 weeks to do 16 weeks of work.

These two are really related. In any software development project there are unrealistic goals and deadlines and political pressures. But in a large company with multi-thousand person development teams working on 2-4 year timelines the needs of the individual can get lost. As is so often the case in our industry deadlines are a product of marketing and sales needs – not honest estimates of the feature’s cost. Being asked for an estimate is often only a courtesy because the dates have already been decided upon by others. This is an industry problem.

Where months of hard work can be thrown away because the lawyers won’t let you ship it even though the customers are screaming for it (talk about getting punched in the gut).

This is true at any company but perhaps magnified at one such as Microsoft. This really isn’t about lawyers and more about feeling like “Why couldn’t you have just told us that upfront so we could have worked on something else?” It’s about knowing that you have wasted months of your time and that your customers still aren’t getting what they need.  You don’t get that time back.  Time is the most valuable resource any of us have.

I love my current job. My role is great. I work on a team of smart people who have a passion for what we are doing. As individuals, and as a team, we have our customer’s needs on our minds constantly. Almost every decision comes down to them. I would recommend this team to anyone who is considering a career at Microsoft.

But this isn’t my first role in MS (and I pray it won’t be my last!) – some previous ones were not nearly so enjoyable. Not every job is rainbows and butterflies. Not at any employer. Not every team is right for every person. Not every manager is the right fit for every employee. I was on a team that was not the right fit for me. I used the proper process to find a new role. But to deny that I was left felling burnt out and a bit like damaged goods would be disingenuous.

Several years of working on a team that is not a match for you becomes a grind. It wears you down.

Oh – and general comments:

  1. I’ve apparently made a mistake in my usage of GRUB. I’ll look into that.

  2. I have several typos that change the meanings of the phrases entirely. I will leave them as-is. But for the record my wife does not have a glandular problem. There are certainly typos in this post too.

  3. While I did have comment moderation enabled I did not reject or fail to publish any.

  4. I do not speak for my employer. This blog is about my personal thoughts and feelings.

  5. I hope that those of you who suggest I could or should be fired are wrong.

  6. I have disabled the Snap preview pages. I did not know they were on. It is a WordPress setting that was enabled (I think I did it while signing up).

  7. I am still running XP at home. I intend to continue doing that for quite some time. It is important to my family to have a familiar experience.

  8. I did not bash XP, Vista, etc – the move to Linux was, as I said, mostly symbolic. My OS does not define me. It will not change my life. I haven’t become suddenly more creative since installing Linux. This was about letting my curiosity explore something new (new to me, anyway), researching something and expressing myself creatively (this blog – whether you like it or not – that’s the intent).

  9. This post was about me – not my employer. The fact that I let my career become such an overwhelming force in my life is my fault – not my employers.

I appreciate the comments. I may respond further in the comment section on some posts but future posts will be about what’s going on and not rehashing this further.  My intent is to talk about my experience in moving to Linux – not about the politics of work.

And seriously – if you work at MS and are thinking “this guy should be fired!” – sleep on it.  Microsoft needs more people like me – not fewer (sorry Mini – I just encouraged hiring).  Microsoft needs more people who have woken up and realized that we can and must do better.  That work/life balance is important – not just paying it lip-service – but actually realizing it in a healthy way.  That giving people time to think about things other than their day-to-day tasks will improve every employee in the long run (which improves the company as a whole).  And that Linux, and OSS in general, are something we all need to be looking at because you can bet that the Linux community is looking hard at each and every one of us.

It’s been a long day.  Good night.

27 Responses to “Future posts will be about Linux – but to address some recent comments …”

  1. Mark Says:

    I don’t know what your employment contract looks like in terms of outside work, but if you’re a coder (from what I gleaned you seem to be) you may take some joy from working on the Linux Kernel or some Linux related projects yourself. Perhaps find a part of an OS or program that you’ve always wanted to tinker with and fix some bugs or implement a new feature.

    Enjoy your use of Linux.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Hello:

    I am a project manager in the tech service industry. I have suffered and realized exactly what you are going through.

    I think anybody who thinks that working for MS is the cause, is not only short sighted. They obviously didn’t experience what you are talking about.

    I commend your honesty in confronting your problem and I wish you the best in working things out. I know I have a long way to go still🙂


  3. Welcome to the world of Ubuntu. I hope that your transition goes well. I too am in the process of moving to the world of Linux. I have used Apple products since the early 90’s and the PowerPC support with Ubuntu was what made it possible for me to try out via the LiveCD. I loved it from the moment it loaded.

    I’m not saving my $ in order to build a simple desktop to use only Ubuntu at home. (Limited PowerPC support with many apps.)

    Here’s some of my posts about the transition:
    http://www.trevorcarpenter.com/category/ubuntu/

  4. Orion Says:

    Not at all – I don’t think you should be fired. The thought never crossed my mind. It’s a great post and I think you’ve even found your corner. You’re a really really good blogger !

    Many can think really clearly about things – few can put these thoughts to paper (or blogs)🙂 Cheers !!!


  5. I love the way you’re dealing with all the Digg and other attention. I’ve resisted from posting on non-Microsoft tech because I just got tired of the “Oh – you are using non-Microsoft product X because you think Microsoft sucks” comments

  6. filipek Says:

    about scanner: see http://www.meier-geinitz.de/sane/gt68xx-backend/
    isntall firmware from windows drivers and it will wok😉


  7. I made this step (XP -> Ubuntu) 2 years ago – I don’t regret at all
    you will not either😉

  8. Michael Says:

    glad working at MS is not all bad

  9. name Says:

    “…when I could of, or should of, had the foresight …”

    could have
    should have

  10. david Says:

    Good luck with the switch. I too made the switch (to Ubuntu) mainly due to the fact that I use MS at work, so it’s nice to use something different at home.

  11. Denmaru Says:

    As for Point 5) – you have the *right* to blog about your workspace, as long as you don’t make any corporate secrets public.

    For more information about that, you should check out http://www.eff.org/ .

    Point 8) – Hm, a tricky one. I firmly believe that your OS makes an understatement at least. There are some tings common to users of a specific OS, and it normally shows. I’m not going to say that you can spot a MacOS X User from a crowd of Windoze Users, but sometimes, you just have a gut feeling…


  12. Your final paragraph is the most important one. Microsoft NEEDS BADLY open minds, curious minds. I think that you’re right: they need more people like you.🙂


  13. As a recent graduate having worked on open-source projects previously, the move to closed-source software has had an impact on my mojo as well.

    I also interned at Microsoft and agree that Microsoft is a wonderful and unique place.

    I wish you the best and hope that we can both find healthy investments of our time. 🙂

  14. Another Employee Says:

    If you don’t want to use the products your company produces then you should have the backbone to quit.

  15. Jack Says:

    “That work/life balance is important – not just paying it lip-service – but actually realizing it in a healthy way.”

    Take it from a 35 yr old divorced ex-80-hour-a-week programmer (with 2 kids). Nobody will ever look back on their life and say “I wish I’d spent more time at work”. If you can’t balance your family/personal life with work, you will lose it. And it’s NOT worth it. Wishing you the best, and have fun!

  16. Me Says:

    Your posts are honest and well-rounded. Good job!

    By the way “…But to deny that I was left felling burnt out…”

    “feeling” instead of “felling.”

  17. Rubbsdecvik Says:

    I really think you have the right idea here. I’ve made the switch to almost exclusively Ubuntu, but I still use both Windows and OS X. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. I appreciate the move to exploration. I too had felt the same way you did, and I’m just a student. I was too involved with what my classes were teaching that I lost my curiosity. If you need any help please feel free to use UbuntuForums.org. It has helped me out of some really bad blunders (all self inflicted).

    I wish you luck and I support you.

  18. Deb Johnson Says:

    Just wanted to say *thumbsup* You sound like a really grounded person, who is stepping out of a rut, and enjoying it immensely. Well done! It is hard to break habits, and get out of ruts, but it’s necessary, and good for us, to do. 🙂 I’m currently running XP Home myself, and just downloading all 698 MB of Feisty Fawn distro of Ubuntu. Yes, I’m going to try it, beside my XP. I want to, to gain the experience.

    Keep on detailing your experiences. They are fascinating reading for me!🙂

  19. mejogid Says:

    I just have a couple of comments and pointers, as a Linux user of a couple of years now, that may be of use to you. First, I’d have to say don’t under estimate the power of community support. You said that forums were a ‘last resort’, but I have found linux forums to be much more worthwile than on the Microsoft side of the fence. In particular, ubuntuforums.org is a fantastic resource and has many users who will quickly respond to most questions, particularly in the “Absolute Beginners” section. I’m known as mejy over there, and feel free to PM me with any questions. The ubuntu community in particular is renowned for it’s friendliness to new users and the respect and polite attitude between all its members.

    As regards to your thoughts over the appearance of the Distros – you needn’t have worried. All linux distros are very easily and totally customisable in terms of appearance. gnome-look.org is another great resource, and most themes are fairly easy to install. The murrine engine is particularly good looking IMO, as are many of the Tango icon themes (I made a ‘tango generator’ to that end, which should still be on there). Compiz & Beryl are two forks of a similar project which provide a great and customisable accelerated desktop similar to Aero Glass in Windows.

    Finally, a couple of general pointers. For editing system text files, I’d recommend ‘gksu gedit [path]’, since this will launch Gnome’s default text editor without messing with root configuration as simply ‘su’ can.

    Another idea is to increase the screen resolution and then play around with the size of various options, which is far more customisable than in Windows or OS X.

    Other than that, ubuntuforums.org and wiki.ubuntu.com are in my opinion the two best sites for any general queries regarding ubuntu, since they’re frequently updated and written without assuming specific knowledge. Good luck with you’re ‘switch’!

  20. Brandon Says:

    I wont say anything bad about MS casue thats just too easy. I myself work for the goverment so I also know what its like to work for a curupt and evil employeer.

    Like other comments have said once you find your way around find an app you like and try to improve on it.

    Enjoy Ubuntu, Fiesty Fawn is one of, if not the GREATEST OS ever to come out.

  21. Mackenzie Says:

    I think you’re being made a big deal of for the same reason that Jim Allchin memo got so much attention. He wrote, “I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft,” a few years ago (2004). It can be taken to look like a lack of faith, though even as an avid Free Software fan, I’ll admit that there is NOTHING in the Free Software world that really stands up to Excel (MS’s best product IMO). It’s -just- too good. That doesn’t mean I have no faith in Free Software. I’d just rather work on making Calc or Gnumeric (or both) better than buy/install Excel though. When I installed Feisty, I decided I’m doing it “right” this time. No IE4Lin, no Wine, no Crossover.

  22. Salvador Camino Says:

    PLEASE VISIT:

    http://www.ubuntuguide.org

    In this place you will find everything you need to make the system smooth.

    I´m using ubuntu for 6 months now and this guide was the best thing i´d found on the internet.

  23. Cant Say Says:

    Sorry, but people who think you should be fired for your comments are idiots.

    Welcome to Ubuntu — I’m still working the switch myself. I’m not overjoyed by the direction that MS has taken with Vista, but I am a PC gamer, and so will still use MS products.

    As for where you’re creativity etc. went? The same place it goes for all of us who work at these large corps. Just because we have to work there to make a living, doesn’t mean we agree with what can happen to us if we don’t pay attention. I’m in a band, and I write for just those reasons — the company I work for sucks. But it’s a living.

    Good luck!

  24. GoodDamon Says:

    “I’ll admit that there is NOTHING in the Free Software world that really stands up to Excel (MS’s best product IMO). It’s -just- too good.”

    Which features do you find inferior — or missing entirely — in Calc? I don’t doubt there are differences; Calc is, after all, much newer, less mature software. But for the life of me I haven’t been able to find a functional difference. Both support pivot tables, both support data arrays, both have all the basic spreadsheet functionality I need.

  25. Kevin Briody Says:

    Commenter #14 is a troll. If he’s an employee, he should be required to fire up Firefox or something not MS at least every now and again. I applaud the effort to re-spark your creative and curious side, and the fact you’re doing it by learning and trying a competing OS is so much the better – for you and for MSFT. Every employee should be curious, every employee a geek in some way who truly loves technology, whoever created it. Even if not for the passion, at a minimum to know your competition. I use FF, blog on WordPress, etc. Lots of our coworkers own or use Macs alongside their Vista boxes, and so on. Be curious, learn more, let that energize you back at work and inspire your thinking. Its good for your and for MS.

    And keep the blog going strong, while ignoring the trolls.

  26. Hugo Says:

    Hell no this guy shouldn’t be fired, it’s people like him that make what microsoft is today, a competitive corporation.

    1.Research is allways good ( Isn’t Linux a good and stable and mature OS ? – and spare me with the answer I respect your points of view, mine is, it came a long way, survived a destructive competition and reached a point where it’s an option. )

    2. (personal case) i use windows because:
    2.1. It’s easy to use and it has all i need to get my job done the way i want it ( even my grandmother can use it );
    2.2 Check 2.1
    3. Microsoft should make people get more interested in researching and it’s exactly what this guy is doing even though it’s his personal motivation.

    4. I’m tired of these OS wars, each of the OSes has it’s own point of interest ( be it Looking sleek, being fairly easy to work with or making toasts ) honestly i couldn’t care less with what each person uses as an OS, do what you need to do your job the best, if you feel comfy with the one you’re using that’s fine even if it’s MS-DOS 1.0.

    5. Flamming is not smart🙂

    6. Open source software is good to learn.

    7. I hope you go where you want to go in this and make things more interesting, ignore the narrow minded people that can’t get off of a blunt squarish screen ( mine’s rectangular by the way ).

    8. Google, MSN Search, Yahoo Search are your best friends just use them.

  27. Xtian Xultz Says:

    Its just a suggestion to you (you can take it or forget it): remove Windows entirely (unless you really need it to do work when you are at home, but then I suggest you to look for another job). Format your computer and install only one Linux distro. Ubuntu is a nice choice.
    The reason is simple: sometimes you will front a challenge, you will think that you can do that more easily on Windows, and will reboot into them. All the fun goes down the drain. Try to use only Linux at home for some weeks. Thats like you have one way, your shoes, and cannot travel it with your car, or through a shortcut. Its much more fun.
    I am telling you because I do it a lot, but in the opposite side: when I have a trouble with Windows, I try to solve it with Linux.


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