First annual review

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 13, 2010, 10:08 PM | comments: 0

It's review season at Microsoft, with fiscal year 2010 behind us as of July 1. I've seen a lot of people get really stressed out about this period of time, but my thinking is that if you've got the right managers around you, there shouldn't really be any surprises.

My review was exactly what I expected. I play nice with others, am a good cheerleader and generally know my stuff, or learn what I have to. On the down side, I'm also not as productive as some of my peers, which is also not news. The bottom line is that I'm remarkably average, in the "achieved" category, which is something I'm OK with.

Sort of. It's an accurate assessment, but I am somewhat disappointed in myself that I haven't done more. Yes, the stress of moving after getting married, changing my entire life around and having a child are certainly "distractions" when it comes to being effective, but it doesn't feel right to make those excuses either. I've had to really go back through my various career points to draw on experiences and remember what kind of impact I was truly capable of. Oddly enough, my experience at Penton Media was some of the strongest experience I had, even though that was ten years ago. Maybe my confidence in those days came from not knowing any better, but honestly, I don't really know any better now, so I'm not sure what's holding me back.

I had some breakthroughs in recent weeks that I think will help. My immediate team is changing focus a bit, which means I'll get away from the soul-sucking and uninteresting bug fixing crap that bores me (and therefore causes me to disengage). I also did a demo of a prototype something or other I was building, and that resulted in a mess of interesting ideas that could truly be a big deal if I follow through. I really want to jump on that as time permits.

Overall though, I've had a pretty good time so far. I'm not always getting the growth out of it that I'd like, but I have a better feel now for how to do that. Plus, it's a neat time to be at the company in general, given the enormous year we're having with the new dev tools, the phone, Kinect and the continuing wave of success from Windows 7. A company that size that does that many things still has its failures (like the Kin, wow), but overall there are a lot of success stories. Plus it's fun to test new stuff before it comes out. I think I've been in four beta programs now.

Sometimes you read some pretty serious criticism about the overall HR scene at Microsoft, often from disgruntled people. I'm sure much of that criticism is justified in their own orgs, but you can't really generalize. At this point, I've been told what I need to do to "level up," and if I were to achieve that and then not advance, sure, I'd suspect something was wrong. That the company has a strong emphasis on continuing advancement is a little weird to me, as I think some people are content to be "stagnant" worker bees. That the big financial scores over the long haul tend to also be from stock awards is also a little odd. But it seems like the pay rates and benefits are so above average to begin with that it's hard to be overly critical. I just want to make enough to keep up with the rising cafeteria food cost. :)

So yeah, my review was kind of a non-event with no surprises, and adequate compensation changes. I know what I have to do to score higher and move up.


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