Where do I want to go today?
In the past I have worked with many people and organisations on many projects and I am being contacted with job offerings on regular basis. And so one day, must be about a year ago from now, I had an email in my mail box. It caught my attention as instead of praising the job as a unique and great opportunity, as head hunters and sales people often do, it was quite brief and to the point. Another thing that caught my attention was the company it came from. This is how the email started (I blanked out names):
My name is [...] and I am a recruiter at [a known software company]. I recently received your name as someone to consider for technical positions when we come to Australia in two weeks. If you are interested in being considered for a position, we would like to get a better understanding of your background by conducting a mini-interview with you. [...]
This was followed by a few brief questions, some of which were quite technical in nature - again - something you do not usually see in first contact emails.
I was intrigued by this email, and what made me even more curious is that I have never been in contact with that company, I did not know any people working for them, and in fact, I was not a huge fan of their technology. Who would have given them my name? Partly reckoning that it may have been a joke of a friend (although someone must have gone through considerable effort - the email headers including trace IPs looked authentic), partly curious about who may have given them my name, I answered the mini-quiz and replied to the email.
The lead turned out to be authentic. After I explained that I was not about to quit my PhD studies the recruiter suggested I join the company for a project that would take 12 weeks. This looked like fun: spend 12 weeks in a rather interesting part of the world, check out the US, earn some money, and - most importantly - verify whether my attitude to research and software engineering work is still the same as it was when I decided to dedicate myself to science. After a phone interview they flew me to Sydney for a further set of interviews and a short time later they made me an offer.
As I am writing this, I have been here for a few weeks already and it has been fun. I have always told people that if you are a good software developer, you should be working for a company that earns its main revenue through software, as they will value your skills (this is the main reason I would not want to work for a bank). I do believe that good developers are valued where I am now. Of course, this is still a giant corporation with a corporate culture, policies, and crap like that, but so far I do not feel like these things wouldn't let me breath. I guess, it is time to tell where I actually am. I stay in Redmond in the US state Washington. Here is my office:
and here is the lobby of the building I work in:
I do not know whether anyone who knows me is surprised now - I would be. I year ago I would have never believed that I would work for Microsoft. My favourite non-academic, software-related job is being on the Java team at Sun and I was much more likely to ever apply to places like Sun, Google or IBM (that is assuming I was interested in working for a software-multinational in the first place). Only none of those contacted me out of their own initiative. Microsoft did. And here I am.
So far I enjoyed being with the company (not so much living in the US, but that is not Microsoft's fault and an entirely separate issue). There are a few little things that one may expect to be a problem in a large corporation that are not a problem here:
There is no dress code here. Everyone walks around as they please. Jeans, geeky t-shirts, piercings, anything really. Some people say dressing badly is a culture at Microsoft, but I do not see why not wearing suits is dressing badly.
The working schedule is flexible. When I heard that I can work whenever I want as long as I meet all deadlines, perform well and make all the meetings I was quite sceptical. I heard this before and it was not true. For instance, at JP Morgan in London they told me the same. But what they really meant by "flexible" was that if I came at 9:15 rather than 9:00, it was OK. 9:30 got me into trouble. At Microsoft many people come after lunch. Of course they stay late as well, but that is fair enough - the time is flexible, and no one said one did not need to work.
I have an own office. I am only temporary here and some people in my situation have 2 people in an office, so I am kinda lucky, but certainly no-one has to sit in a giant floor with cubicles. 2 developers in an office is the worst that can happen (well, on the main campus anyway).
There are other things that I like. Good affordable food at the campus (but not free like at some of Microsoft's competitors), a reasonable selection of free drinks, good facilities, good PCs to work on, nice area around the campus and awesome employee benefits. Here are some pictures:
Some pictures from within my building:
My company subsidised car (it had only run for 400km before I got it, I pay 300 US$ a month including all maintenance and a full comprehensive insurance):
The hardware properties of my desktop PC (or should I say - server):
(not to mention the other three "test" PCs I have - only Core2 Duo @ 2.67 GHz with 4GB RAM)
My company-subsidised flat (I have 2 flatmates, we pay 600 US$ / month each including all bills, broadband internet and cleaning service):
I am working as a software developer on the Essential Business Server team. We just shipped the first version of the product and I am currently engaged in developing some design prototypes for version 2. I am working with .NET and C# and a whole bunch of other Microsoft technologies. This is exciting as I never even looked at C# before and have not even heard of a number of other technologies I have to use now. In fact, some of them have not even been released yet.
I am not sure what else to tell you about being here. If you have questions - post a comment at the bottom of this article and I will reply. I may blog on this site about the travelling I am doing around here (there are some amazing national parks around this area and I am trying to stay at home as little as possible), but I think that my arrival in Redmond concludes the "living out of a suitcase" part of my world trip 2008. The suitcase is now empty and my stuff is on the shelves. In the next few weeks I want to try to concentrate on doing a little bit of productive work and on taking up the opportunities I have here. And so my next post may be of a more technical nature.