I came across this post about working at Microsoft the other day. It is written by Michael Brundage, a software design engineer employed by Microsoft. I enjoyed the post and while I am not exactly a huge fan of Microsoft, I am developing a reluctant respect for the organisation mainly as a result of Mladen’s insistence that it really isn’t so bad. This post reinforces that view and like any good pseudo-Cluetrain communication, it reflects the view of a human being who is being honest about his experiences. The comments on digg.com (from whence I travelled to read the post) are a mixed bag, many are predictably anti-Microsoft and anything that isn’t hostile towards Microsoft. Brundage deals with the general hostility towards Microsoft at one point in his post:
I’m probably the last person to end up defending Microsoft. I’m writing this on an Apple Powerbook. I’ve publically argued for more diversity in computing environments. But there’s one thing people do that really drives me nuts: anthropomorphization.
I joined Microsoft at the beginning of the antitrust litigation against the company. My NASA coworkers made all sorts of derogatory comments about my choice. I remember one began a conversation with “So you’ve decided to go work for The Great Satan, huh?” A lot of people who ought to know better are convinced Microsoft is evil. Apologies if you’re one of them — because these people are idiots.
Companies (countries, races, etc.) are not “evil” or “good”, and they do not have “intentions.” Star Trek is science fiction — there is no Borg mind. Companies, countries, races, and other groups are made up of individuals like you and me, who make individual decisions that determine the group’s direction. People who speak of companies (or countries, or races, or other groups) as being good or evil are at best ignorant, and at worst bigots.
The reality is that Microsoft is made up of mostly honest, earnest, hardworking people. People with families. People with hardships. People with ordinary and extraordinary lives. People who make wise and foolish decisions. Some employees are bad apples, and some leaders make poor decisions (which their employees may or may not support). Both usually meet with failure. All the Microsoft employees I know are internally driven to “succeed,” where success sometimes means outselling the competition but always means doing your personal best and improving people’s lives with your work.
Although groups don’t have intentions, it’s true that group policies reward some kinds of behavior over others. So perhaps “Microsoft is evil” is shorthand for “Microsoft’s policies are evil.”
The thing is, I haven’t seen any evidence of that on the inside — and I’m usually very critical of these things. For as long as I’ve worked at Microsoft, ethics have been a real part of employee performance reviews. It’s not just talk, but the way work goes each day. Most product designs revolve around addressing specific customer needs. No one ever says “Hey, let’s go ruin company P” or other things that could be construed as “evil.” Instead, it’s “customers Q and R are having trouble with this, and I have an idea how we could fix it…” and other positive, constructive statements.
If anything, Microsoft seems to have the opposite problem, in which employees sometimes design or cut a feature or product without fully appreciating the huge impact their decision can have outside the company. When the media goes wild with knee-jerk reactions for or against something Microsoft did, often the employees responsible for the decision are caught off-guard by the disproportionate public attention.
My advice? Read the post and see what this guy has to say. It doesn’t mean you are automatically a Microsoft fan. It just means you are not stubbornly closed minded.