August 11, 2003 spout

I speak for the trees

After a few weeks at Microsoft, when I was feeling particularly frazzled with my work and travel schedule, Peter Drayton pulled me aside to reinforce what I’d heard before: the first 6 months at MS suck for everyone; after that, you either hate it forever or you can’t ever imagine working anywhere else. At that point in my budding MS career, I was leaning towards the former. Peter, having been there, said that he’d gotten a piece of advice that had seen him through.

The advice was simple: have an agenda. The idea is, no matter what projects you work on, no matter what groups you go to, no matter what tasks you’re into that day, to have an underlying agenda that pushes you forward and drives your decisions. Businesses call such a thing a vision statement.” Authors call it a story.” Whatever you call it, it’s always helpful to have one and here’s mine:

“Remember what it’s like to not work at Microsoft.”

That’s it. That’s my goal. Of course, as with all things, Dr. Seuss says it better than I can:

I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”
I consider it my mission to speak for the thousands of developers that I've known and talked to over the years that have no tongue inside Microsoft.

This came up just this morning on the phone with a colleague of mine at MS. He said, We need to maintain the value of X.” I replied, I don’t care about the value of X. I care about enabling our customers to get the most out of our products.” Of course, there are hundreds of people concerned with X inside of MS and they would be less than happy that I’d dismissed the value of it, but that didn’t matter to me. What mattered was being the kind of developer advocate inside of MS that had helped me when I wasn’t there and to be a constant reminder to my colleagues of the needs of those folks.

Since MS was founded by developers and run by developers (which has its pros and cons), I plan on being more successful than the Lorax.