Six Months in the Inside - Am I evil yet?
Yikes, I got an email from HR today that said "Congratulations on your 6th month anniversary at Microsoft!" Has it been that long? Apparently so, although it feels like maybe three months, tops.
I learned a lot about the culture in the first three weeks. There is a lot of groupthink and echo-chamber type behaviors from folks that have been there a long time, but most people I've interacted directly with are always re-asserting their independence and catching themselves thinking old-style thoughts, which is comforting to me.
It's one thing to exhibit an undesirable behavior, but it's much worse to be ignorant of that behavior. I think Microsoft's biggest problem right now is answers like "We've always done it that way," whether it's naming, versioning, documentation, conferences, whatever. I like to keep things a little more agile and tighten up the feedback loop. I think a process of continual improvement and self examination is so important.
What is my job?
I get this a lot. Seems like an obvious question. I took the title "Developer Division Community Liaison" because it was very broad. Phil likes to say I'm paid to be Scott Hanselman, but I don't like that very much because it implies some kind of punditry. If I ever start sounding Dvorak-esque, please let me know.
When my dad or the public (read: non-computer person) asks what my job is, I tell them "I'm writing a book that will never end (blog) and create training materials like videos and tutorials for Microsoft." When a technical person asks, I say the same thing with more detail. Also, if ScottGu coughs, I get him lozenges. Ahem. Yessir!
My boss runs http://www.asp.net, http://www.silverlight.net, http://www.windowsclient.net, etc, but our team is very small, only four FTE (Microsoft-speak for Full Time Employees). But, we're growing. At Microsoft we're graded on our ability to "meet our commitments" and my commitments (which were written up in a formal meeting) are mostly metrics like "write n number of significantly technical blog posts, write such-and-such book, give x number of presentations." Commitments are supposed to be a stretch, and I've got 7 different significant commitments so I've had some really late nights. The "liaison" portion of the job is also becoming more formalized in the next month, so I may take over some specific MVP-type groups.
This paragraph added for clarity (see comments): No, my job isn't to blog, although the blog is a good place to point to stuff I do. Folks originally wanted me to make a blog at msdn.com but I thought that was silly. For my day job, I do screencasts, tutorials, presentations, community outreach, books, articles for MSDN, internal presentations, advocate for the customer (this takes up more time than you'd think), provide direct feedback to the product groups, route your feedback (you know this if you've ever emailed me with a problem) and troubleshoot obscure bugs, as well as working on technical strategy with certain wonks at Microsoft. As I said in the Blue Badge post, the podcast is still belongs solely to Carl and me and I pick the guests with tips from the audience.
When I write, there's no editorialization, meaning that no-one reads my posts before I send them, although I often check with product groups to make sure I'm not completely wrong on some technical detail. Microsoft is pretty mellow and says "blog smart." That said, I'm sure I could get fired if I wrote something truly bogus, but otherwise there's no ghost writing. (Yes, ScottGu still writes his own posts...so far).
Sometimes ScottGu will email me with a one line note like this one yesterday about IIS7 and FTP7 "This might be a cool blog post to cover. It has a ton of new features (including integration with membership/roles), new admin tool and a bunch of cool new features."
However, I already had FTP7 on my list of cool things since I've been talking to the IIS7 team and that'll hopefully be done today or tomorrow. It's funny we usually think about the same general things and I'm mostly either a day ahead or a day behind whatever cool thing is going on.
Am I Evil yet?
I haven't been invited to any evil (or eeeveeel) meetings and haven't found the evil mailing list. As far as I can see Microsoft is less evil as it is unorganized. Within groups, communication is pretty good, but between divisions is trickier because there's always a doppleganger out there, like Evil Spock who is working on the same thing you're working on. I guess that means there's a Scott Hanselman out there without a goatee writing a similar post as this?
That pic is me in my early twenties. If Chins Could Kill...I'm trying to find a non-bearded pic but that's the best I can do! That guy doesn't look evil, right?
The Remote Office thing is still lonely, but I'm making up for it with regular lunches and LOTS of video conferencing thanks to ooVoo. My master plan to make a robot out of a Roomba has fizzled due to lack of a battery (and my lack of a mechanical engineering degree) that could last a full day. My new "Plan B" is get a 42" LCD (as seen at right) and make a Portal into my house.
What have I done well?
I thought the first practice videos turned out well, and I have taken all the feedback you've given and applied it to a new four-part tutorial on MVC that will be coming soon, hopefully formalizing those best practices.
I think the Wiki (beta) is turning out pretty cool. I seeded it, but there's already contributors who have exceeded the number of posts I've added and greatly improved it. I think there's a lot of work we can do to make the administration better for moderators, but it's looking nice regardless, so far.
I've had a lot of fun speaking lately. When I spoke while I was working at Corillian, I usually had to take vacation days or do it on the
sly side, although for large conferences my boss at the time was exceedingly cool about it.
What have I done poorly?
I am not managing my time very well and since we've got a 3 month old and an enthusiastic 2 year old and I'm working from home I feel like days are very fragmented. It's good to be home, but my wife thinks I'm actually around less which is definitely a not good thing to feel. I need to do a better job of getting up earlier and banging out work. I like being informed, but I think I may need to go on an info-diet to find more time to get things done.
Have you started a new job in the last year? How is going for you?
- Blue Badge
- Microsoft - Surviving First Three Weeks as a Remote Employee
- New Job, New House, New Baby, and Designing a Totally New Home Office
- Your Opinion Matters - Screencast Techniques Survey RESULTS
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
By that I mean you have a dream job, getting to blog about cool technologies, speak about them at conferences and make training tools. Who do I have to kill to get that kind of job?
As for being dvorak-esque, just avoid saying "hanselman.com/blog" every five minutes on your podcast and you'll be OK.
On second thought maybe you should, then we can make a drinking game out of it like we do with Dvorak!
Robert the Arcane Coder
Telecommuting full time has been an odd journey for me too, but I think I'm finally starting to feel comfortable with it. To me, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, and I'd hate to go back to commuting. It's also taken me a while to feel like I was a real player on my projects instead the FNG.
I just had my first meeting on-site with a client where I was in a tech lead role. I've been a tech lead before, but not since starting here at Corillian. It felt good to be the guy people look to for answers again, and it really energized me and got me excited about my job.
Between that and a positive mid-year review from my manager (who had some very nice things to say), I'm really beginning to feel at home.
Don't get me wrong, Scott, I think you have a dream job. But what I am hearing in your post (specifically the quoted text above) is that you are essentially paid to Microsoft to write on your own personal blog.
Though I love the blog and continue to, that fact makes me look at your writing in an ENTIRELY different way. I think the above information you presented is noteworthy to your readers.
You know how some people put a disclaimer on their blog that says "the thoughts and opinions represented on this blog are mine and mine only. They do not represent the thoughts and opinions of my employer, yada, yada, yada"?
Well, unless you tell me otherwise, I now view your blog as one that DOES represent the thoughts and views of your employer.
See what I mean? Despite what say about no one having to approve posts, yada, yada, yada...this really isn't a personal blog.
You may disagree, but I'd also argue that the perception by your readers is more important than reality.
I do have a disclaimer and always have for 6 years - "The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way." and that still applies here. The blog is still hosted by Orcsweb and still paid by me. Microsoft does let me set aside time to work on it, but literally thousands of Microsofties have blogs that aren't hosted at blogs.msdn.com and mix content, mine is no different.
You say "unless you tell me otherwise"...so here I am, telling you otherwise. I have blogged about cool tech for 6+ years, including a move to Google Apps. I still use Google Search for this blog. Nothing has changed since I was blogging as an MVP/RD except I have move access to the internals which (hopefully) makes it a better blog and gets me better interviews on the podcast.
The Metrics in my commitments basically say "keep up the good blogging" and they put a number on it so I can have a sense of "pacing" (see my post on "A blog's heartbeat.") That's all.
Does that help clear things up?
I have worked out of my home for almost 8 years now and one thing that I found early on to be of great help was working with my wife to get her and the rest of the family to treat me just as if I was out of the house. If she needs to talk to me, she calls me on the phone, even though I am just 20 feet away. The kids don't knock on the door, etc. If I am able to come home for lunch I try and put it on my calendar, and if I am going to be late I call home. Stuff like that.
It really helped separate the work environment from the home environment. Also if I need to work at home but its not 'critical/crunch time' in the evenings I use the laptop and remote into the computer in the office instead of heading into the office. Its not quite as nice as using the full desktop but I get to spend more time around the family even if I am not focused on them.
Of course there are those crunch times when I do have to "goto the office" and its just like it is during the day. My wife calls and to check if I can come home and help put the kids to bed, just like she would normally. Its just the commute that is only about 20 seconds. :)
Anyway, just thought a few of the things that I have learned might be of some use to you.
I can say that I know I'm not alone in that my co-workers along with me look forward to your posts as being very good content told in a easy to understand way. I've never thought (and still don't) that MS is telling you what to write. Giving an idea on a topic and giving you talking points are two very different things.
Thanks for the hard work and keep it coming,
P.S. I know a couple people that read your blog more than the Gu. Don't tell anyone :)
So in your eyes in order for Scott to rectify things he would have to go out and build a new blog to be used only for Microsoft-work related blog posts and activities? Bah! Malarky.
Scott has built up a online identity here with his blog and has a right to use it as a tool to do his job in interacting with the developer community.
I actually forgot Scott works for Microsoft up until recently. Although I am not a developer, I read Scott's blog here because of his personal insight to technology on many different levels. I really enjoy reading what he has to say on a variety of topics.
As long as he is out front with everything, which he is, I don't see the big deal. As long as I like what he writes, who cares?
P.S. Check out my PowerShell podcast at dvorak.com/blog, er, I mean powerscripting.net. :)
I can see how people who don't know you might choose to Jump to Conclusions (TM) about your impartiality as a technical blogger when you're blogging about your own company's products. After all, if blogging is part of your performance review, might blogging negative things about MS products cause you to get dinged on your performance review? Of course, I don't think that's the case at all, but some people like to believe the worst (especially about Microsoft), so I'm sure some people will choose to believe it.
a) Scott is a Microsoft shill
b) you feel sexually violated now that you know Scott is getting paid by Microsoft to continue "being Scott"
are obviously people who have never slept with a woman in your lives.
Scott, I would like the $50 you promised me for defending you publicly delivered in a small envelope of $1 bills.
Do all the thousands of blogging MS employee's you refer to get paid by MS to write on their blogs? Do their formally written commitments to MS include blogging on their personal blogs? The impression I get is that MS pays you a salary and in return they expect you to write technical posts on this blog.
Here is how I can get a better idea of things: If you stopped writing technical blog posts on www.hanselman.com tomorrow and did not write technical related blog posts on any other blog. Would your employer still feel like they are getting a fair return on the salary they pay you?
Again...I have tons of respect for you and wouldn't want you to change a thing about your writing. I just seems odd to me that you say the opinions on the blog are yours only, but you appear to get paid to write these opinions. In my mind, that makes them MS opinions too. Not that it's a bad thing, just worth noting.
You forgot the rest of my quote. "Your job is to be Scott Hanselman, but with more INTENSITY!" (cue "Intensity" from Lost In Translation).
Also - I have never met a more ethical and concerned person than Scott. When he told me he was going to Microsoft, all I thought was that it was about time. Well, that plus the fact that I would miss working with such a good person and close friend.
Anyhow - I'm not worried. Not in this case, not at all.
Kidding aside, I haven't really noticed that much change in Scott's blogging habits since he joined MS, except for the fact that he writes more about gadgets than about code, and that's no surprise at all, given that he probably does little coding in his new role and b) he's had his hands full of a large number of interesting gadgety things to talk about (have I mentioned I'm totally jealous of your new home office?)
And heck, you gotta meet Scott in person to know he's pretty much like what his blog presents in real life (except funnier).
I'll say it again, I have GREAT respect for him (at least what I know online, never met the guy in person but would love to).
We should change topics...
If Guthrie is the Fonze, and Hansellman is Richie, does that mean Rob Conery is Potsie or Ralph Malph?
Wait. Is that bad? No, I'll pay. :)
That woman on the screen is not Asian and thus is not hot.
As well as a truism this is also an example of a symmetric relation!
I know we've talked about this before, buddy. Don't make me educate you again!
P.S. I think we *all* know who the "developer Fonz" is around here.
P.P.S. Rob Conery would be when Ted McGinley came in as Richie's cousin from another state after he left the show!
As for credibility, most folks didn't have any issues with Scoble back when he was working for the same company and blogging, so I do not see why Scott can't be given the same respect.
In my own case, I'm salaried, and like most companies that means I'm technically working 24x7. Does that mean my blog belongs to my company or reflects it? (And the answer is no, before you ask). I don't see then why Scott should be any different, it's just a bit easier for him to get access to some of the MS insiders than the rest of us.
In a weird way, when Scott went to work for MS I sort of felt like "Oh boy, one of 'us' is on the inside now." By that I mean there's someone who has had to use the MS Tools for years to solve real world issues (just like the rest of us) and blogged about them, and now he has a chance to influence that same company and share the inside scoop.
PS I still want Scott's job. Only maybe doing SQL Server stuff.
PPSS Hal Rottenberg's powerscripting.net podcast is really good!
Not sure which would be better to brag about: MS bought me a Taco or Scott Hanselman bought me a taco? Things to ponder....
These days the best/alpha nerds are the ones whose jobs you can't quite pin down. Are they consultants? Evangelists? Speakers? Bloggers that develop or developers that blog? Architects? Who really pays their bills? I think of people like Martian Fowler and David Heinemeier Hansson, or even the whole 37signals crew. The real power nerds these days are constantly learning and networking, they are in some small way always working and always thinking. In fact there is a great book that talks about just this thing called 'The Rise of the Creative Class'. Throw the noose of a job description around a nerd like that's neck and you'll kill the very thing that made them a valuable asset in the first place.
Oh, and the whole Microsoft Borg, Matrix-style plugs in the head shill thing is dead. People that still think a person's blog would be in any way different due to them working for Microsoft need to up periscope to get reacquainted with the world. Microsoft is no longer evil or to be feared. In fact they're more like a prize-fighter gone to pot trading in on their past glories while the young punks are rising up through the ranks quickly. Microsoft going to have to pound a lot of frozen meat to really get back into the game, and with things like the 360, Zune, MVC and Silverlight they are trying. *queue 'Eye of The Tiger'*
Now, I need to go deal with this "non-code writing" nonsense.
First off, how do you know she isn't Asian? She might be a quarter Asian...you never know...
And you don't have to call me the Fonze, although its appreciated. <blush>
I dunno about your Happy Days choice...considering that he's from Hawaii (which is like another planet), maybe he'd be more like when Mork did a guest appearance?
Just wanted to say I feel the pressure your under (smaller scale) and appreciate all you do for the community. I have recently (6 weeks in) taken on an new position as a Software Architect at an emerging software company leaving the confines of a cushy government job in an effort to "see if its greener" in the private sector. My wife and I have a 18 month old daughter and are expecting our second in July so your blog on life changes and time commitments definitely hits close to home!
Keep up the great work and worry not what the nay-sayers post - there are many of us who appreciate the efforts that people like yourself, Scott Gu, Rob Conery, and others provide back to the developer community.
DISCLAIMER: This is not a recommendation to wear your Heroes Happen Here hat to the grocery store
I switched jobs just as the calendar turned. I've gone from a great team of 20ish developers on a very visible project (made it that much more rewarding) in the MidWest to a very small 5ish developers where I'm one of 2 not in Florida. It's quiet and sometimes lonely, but I'm closer to my family. Here's to new ventures.
i just started working for neat receipts and i'm really excited to be working on a consumer-level product. my last company sold risk-management software to large financial institutions, which made user experience design very difficult. now i just get to design for me :).
as ryan said, here's to new ventures.
Keep up the great blogging! I'm glad Microsoft has some great people pushing them to be more community-centric!
So I have joined the gym and have actually started working out during the day and focus on energy, health and family. I feel I am getting good balance now.
By the way I also feel like your posts have changed. They seem to be tuned more towards marketing. Just my opinion. Please don't bye me a taco or mail me those shaved monkey balls.
Are you Evil? Well, you certainly lost a lot of kudos points with me when you joined Microsoft. The place you work for has a 'shadowy' corporate past, let's be honest, and you wanting to work for them reflects poorly on you IMO. Perhaps us from the EU have a lower/higher moral tolerance or something ;-)
Are you useful? Well, yes you do do some excellent technical writing, but here's the thing. you aren't a /real/ developer anymore (you don't make software for a living) and that's just the way it is, so I have to put my 'agenda filter' on you and your blog now. I don't think you were that much of an active developer at Corillian (at least towards the end) but you could at least be perceived as 'technically independent' technologist geek. You're an 'evangelist' for goodness sake - kinda like a 'Scoble that knows about programming'. I guess that's not my bag, but let's call it what it is.
I think for you you've just made a sensible lifestyle choice (a lot like the ex-Developmentor people) and have got out of the 'doing' business into the 'talking' business as you get older. Suckling the last few years of milk from the Windows/Office cash cow and 'writing blog posts' is a safe harbor while the kids now go to work for Google, Facebook or actually make some new software. As you demonstrate with some of your 'wealth posts' it seems a shame you haven't taken the opportunity to so something creative for yourself - with a few $ in the bank it seems foolish for someone as smart as you not to give the startup thing a spin of the wheel? Going MSFT is a soft option really.
Man, this all sounds harsh, so apologies for any downer, but I'm just answering the question you asked up top as plainly as I can. Peace.
I love my profession, I love design, I love been as an architect in a really big project... but:
I am now quite technologically frustrated, I am bored about fighting with the technology, you must now I have no training. (you should write about it as you did with wife acceptance factor, tech frustration because of the lack of training). People in a call center are trained, but in IT no, at least in Spain.
My boss is horrible, he does not give me any long term objective, any short term objective, he is always changing his opinion and he can not express properly.
Uffffffff, now I feel better :)
MS must be one of the best companies to work for, comparing to me you must be in paradise :)
But MS HR live up to the low standards maintained by HR the world over in not knowing what "anniversary" means.
They're no better where I work. Probably worse, truth be told.
Btw we also moved to a new house last summer and I'm 34 years old :)
I enjoy your blog as well as your audio show. I took a job about 3 months ago that allows telecommuting. I had the same feelings that you mentioned in your post about your work/family balance. I have 2 daughters 6 and 8 and worked to much to give them the dad they needed. Since taking this job, I have begun taking and picking the kids up from school as well as eating lunch with then on Thurs and Fri as well as "Ice Cream Day" on Tues (Yes even in winter). I have made a committment to my family to be there and make work second. Since that has happened, the relationships that I have with my kids and wife have improved/increased tremendously. So much so that now when I am offered a job, I no longer ask what I will be doing or how much will I be offered, but can I work from home.
I too have been felling a bit lonely... to fight that I listen to pod casts on .NetRocks and your post. Perhaps there is a market ($$$$) in building a community where tech people (specifically telecommuters) get together... who knows.
Anyway, I enjoy your blog. You're an excellent writer and I enjoy reading every post, no matter what it's about.
Your words say "no" but the goatee says "yes"
I have never felt that I am hearing any corporate biased opinions on this blog (only maybe Scott-biased, and I like Scott-biased).
Cool, Keep it up :)
I find working from home can be distracting at times; you have to shut yourself off from your 'relaxing' surroundings, else you lose focus, the time flies by and you've wasted a day! :)
Have you started a new job in the last year? How is going for you?
Are you at all concerned about losing your in depth .net framework skills and techniques by not writing enterprise level applications anymore. I presume you will now just scratch the surface of new technologies rather than having to make them sing and dance whilst squeezing performance from them?
keep up the good work
I think the major problem is that I hang around your blog and also .NET Rocks! etc.
The more I hear about cool new technology the less I enjoy the old boring stuff I have to do at work.
Why can't I just be a 5:01er?!
Microsoft employs tens of thousands of people spread throughout the whole world, but you are one. You have one blog, you have one voice and many thousands of people listen to it. To me i think your boss has it more right then you think, you are Scott, that has not changed with your transition and now you simply have more focus to bring the kinds of value that many of us expect when reading your feeds or articles.
Now that I joined the empire I have to say that everyone I have met in IT has been terrific, warm people who simply have a passion for technology and believe in Microsoft. Being such a huge company sometimes it will make mistakes, sometimes the people at the top wont set the best impression, but overall at the human level I am very happy to be here.
Keep on doing what your doing, its working. Leave the rest to the pundits.
It's been great.
My old job was stress + overtime * 10. I have a 13 month old daughter and have a new one coming in August '08. While at my old job I was working 60-80 hours a week, with numerous occasions of "40 hour days"... I was not able to spend time with my family at all, but now I work an average of 37.5 hours a week, get paid more (with awesome benefits), have no hard deadlines, and work with some of the most intelligent and mellow people I've ever met. My old job was the worst management I have ever seen, and it really made my performance as a developer suffer (as well as causing my easy-going geeky personality to turn into stressed-out-dude-who's-too-intense-and-doesn't-think-things-through-correctly), due to the stress.
Old job was in the legal software industry (no need to ad hominum, those who know me know the company), and the new job is at the largest used book store in the world. Major difference in attitude.
So, what do I think about it? I think I'm really, really lucky. I feel like I'm in control of my life again, that I'm only limited by my own abilities. Of course, that realization has led to a lot of self-reflection and insecurity as a result of that self-reflection... But I think I can live up to my own expectations. It's great to be able to breathe and imagine again without fear... and is really depressing that something like a job could have made my life so crappy that I have to say something like that. Anyone who is considering changing jobs due to stress... Just do it.
Also, there's lots of cool books here, and I get a killer discount.
Scott, I enjoy your posts and podcasts tremendously. I've been telecommuting for the last three or so years from a farm in rural Tasmania. I'm almost one of those people mentioned in one of your recent podcasts who lives "about a thousand miles from anywhere". Its an hour and a half drive to town and we're too far from the telephone exchange to get any sort of fixed broadband, so we've got a two way sat link - its better than dial up is about all I can say for the speed.
We also have two young children - 1yr and 4yr. It is hard at times to get the balance right between familly and work time , especially when the pressure is on (from either direction), However I find it helps to ask myself, "when your old and grey(er) what will you remember most fondly - that fantastic xml transform or the look of sheer delight from your son when you suggest a bike ride".
Comments are closed.
I have to say, that if Microsoft hired you to write posts on www.hanselman.com, I first bow down to you, then I say that you really should disclose that.