Microsoft - Surviving First Three Weeks as a Remote Employee
Today the business cards arrived, making me (in my own mind, and likely that of my extended family, as well as strangers on a plane) officially a real Microsoft Employee.
Now that I have a whole three weeks experience as a FTE (Full Time Employee) which gives me more time on the job than several hundred other folks that have come after me - n00bs! Ha! ;)
Here's what I've learned in my massive 3 weeks on the job.
- TLAs - There are more acronyms and codenames than you could have though possible. "What? You don't know about Fizzbin? It's going to rock." There's a whole Microsoftlingo that one has to learn. Red bits, green bits, tell mode, ask mode, Zero Bug Bounce. It's all very disorienting, and the worst part is that the folks who've been there > 2 years don't even notice the lingo. You can also tell who has been there a long time because they'll do things like refer to the Registry as "the hive."
- Email - So far, life and work is in Outlook more than in IM. I assumed we'd all be video conferencing and IM'ing out brains out and sharing information dynamically with Groove. Nope, it's Outlook and Sharepoint so far. Which is fine, it's just not the Jet Set Radio Future I hoped for. Exchange mailboxes are small, for now, and the world is all about Reply To All, +1. I'd expected more internal blogs. We'll see if this changes.
- HR - I had a really rough "on-boarding" because of a few things. Some admin in HR quit during my hire and some paperwork was missed so my start date was delayed, then delayed again, then put back. IT recycled an old "v dash" account I had from MANY years ago, so I was setup for FTE (Full Time Employee) access but without Remote, which wasn't discovered until I got home, which made week one rough. Then my email display said "Scott Hanselman (CORILLIAN)" - the name of my old employer - for a while, and still does in places. Then there's all the direct deposit, 401k, etc stuff that takes 7-10 days to propagate. However one all this stuff is worked out, which I hear is very typical and takes about 2 weeks, they are so organized. You don't get a paystub, you visit http://paystub. Want your 401k? Visit http://401k. Even my W4 (American Tax Form) was at http://w4. I think it's really amazing. But, with 80,000 people it'd have to be.
- Your Machine - I like this aspect of things at Microsoft. You're pretty much on your own. They have Network Boot setup when you're inside corporate so you can get a machine up and running with Vista+Office in 20 min. You can pretty much do what you want with your machine, assuming you're not installing evil software (BitTorrent, P2P) or doing evil things. The expected level of personal responsibility is great. IT is there to get me online, not to get me a computer all setup. I like it.
- Hardware - I got a desktop and a laptop, then two "reclaimed" laptops for a tele-presence thing that Chris Sells are working on, as well as a Mac. I'm running Vista 64 on the laptop, and Windows 2008 RC0 on the desktop. Not to mention QUADPOWER, my existing machine.
- Security - They don't screw around. Your cardkey/smartkey is your immortal soul and works for everything from door locks to RAS (Remote Access) to buying food when you're on campus, which I'm not. They are so secure it took me a week and a half to get remote access setup. Of course, now that it works, I've got Smart Card readers all over the house and it's working great.
- Insiders - Holy crap. I spent 10+ years wondering around the Microsoft Campus a few times a year as a supposed "insider" with a visitors badge. I knew I didn't know all the ins and outs, but I figured I had a decent idea about the new stuff, the code names, the plans, etc. I didn't know a thing. Seriously. The stuff going on here is SO MUCH more interesting and forward looking than I thought it would be. Of course, if I told you, I'd have to kill you.
- Blogging - There's a lot of angst about Blogging. Everyone wants to talk and listen and be heard and spread the word about whatever their thing is, but they're also paranoid about stepping on Marketing, or PR, or leaking something, or making someone angry. There's nothing sinister going on, but sometimes someone working on a thing might "blog too much" and get a talking-to. The problem being, of course, that then they are paranoid and might blog less. Also, no one wants to sound like a marketer. I'm not running posts by anyone ahead of time, but we'll see if I get into trouble, too. Rule #1 of Blogging: Never delete a blog post during a scandal. Better to just never delete.
- Admin - Know your admin, because they control all things. ScottGu's admin Christi is amazing and got me out of a half-dozen jams while I was there, helped me find robot parts, smart card readers, got me maps, set up a hotel reservation on a moment's notice, and bought me lunch. And, I'm pretty sure she doesn't need to do any of that because she works for Scott. Still, befriend an admin, and you'll be off to a good start. Good advice at any company, really. Kate at Corillian is the Queen Bee. She holds the printer ink and the batteries, so you'd better be her friend if you want to get anything done.
- Working Remote - Working from home is very lonely. I've setup lunches at least 2-3 times a week to stay connected and sane, so if you want to have (or buy, nudge nudge) lunch with me, just let me know. I need the war stories. I'm also setting up regular visits with local development shops to chat and trade ideas. Having 3 monitors, and a half dozen computers, interestingly helps, because I have lots of chats and things going at once so I still feel somewhat social.
- Remote Education - Microsoft films darn near everything and it's WONDERFUL for a Remote Employee. There was an internal security event called "BlueHat" this week that I couldn't be on campus for, but I had video running of even the lighting talks running full screen on one of my monitors. I've dug around and there's thousands of hours of talks, presentations and content for me to gorge on. Very cool.
- Working from Home - The Wife has been very cool and we've started using language like "I'm going to work" and "Daddy's at work" in order to emphasis that work is a different place all together. That's helping, but it's hard to hear her and Z playing outside when I'm hunched over a machine. I suppose I could hunch over a laptop outside, but that's blurring the lines a bit and Z still works in Black and White. Daddy's either at work, or at home. I haven't gotten to the "hey, let's go to the park on a random Tues at 3pm" place that folks who work from home always talk about. Mostly it's been 8a-8p and that's not cool. But, we both figure that'll change as I get more focused and set hard stops.
- Work/Life Balance - There's a crush of work to be done and you're basically emptying the ocean with a teaspoon. My wife has already commenting that I'm working way more than I did at my last job, which is telling. This pace isn't sustainable. Gotta get serious about boundaries.
Here's to the next three weeks.