October 27, 2007 spout

Working Remotely for Microsoft: What Are the Consequences?

When I went to work for Microsoft without moving up, I knew I was making a tradeoff. Before Microsoft, I spent a lot of time traveling, so MS meant staying home much more with my family. It also meant, because of MSs cultural bias, that my rate of advancement would be considerably slower than it would be if I was local. In fact, I was prepared to be completely unpromoted as several senior folks I trusted at Microsoft promised I would be. As it turned out, even though I came into Microsoft at a fairly high level (high enough that it wouldn’t have been hard to not meet expectations even if I were local), I was promoted. I doubt seriously that I’ll be promoted again, but I never thought I would be promoted at all. In fact, I’ve often referred to my Microsoft job, especially my new one on a product team, as the world’s greatest dead-end job.” : )

I know this sounds bad, but it gives me two freedoms. First, and most importantly, it gives me the freedom to spend evenings and weekends with my family (especially since I shipped the last book I plan on working on for a long, long time) and to put them first. This was the conscious decision I made going it and I’m happy every day that I made it. The second freedom that took me by surprise is that I can focus on the parts of my job that I really love without worrying about picking up tasks just because they’ll look good at review time. It’s almost like I’m one of those Microsofties with fuck you money” without the actual money. : )

Because my current boss cares deeply about making me as successful as I can be, we’ve talked about me having direct reports. I’ve done it before and I believe I could do it effectively again, even remotely (I’ve run successful remote development teams all over the world). However, because of the strong MS bias, I told my boss that I’d only take direct reports that had bought into the downsides of being remote, even if they’re local. If I’m not perceived as effective because I’m remote, then by extension, neither will anyone that works for me. My boss hasn’t pushed it since our conversation on that matter and frankly, I don’t expect to get any reports, but he’s surprised me before, so we’ll see. : )

Tomorrow: Misc tips & tricks.