It feels like it was just yesterday. Exhausted after a week of driving, intense apartment shopping and relentless rain, Diana drove me in the rental car from our temporary housing to Building 92 for new employee orientation (NEO) at Microsoft.
It's funny that I walked through 92 on my last day as well, and still felt the same sense of excitement that I did when I started. I've said it many times before, that deciding to leave the company was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do professionally, and for the most part, it wasn't because of anything negative about the company. Of course, there wasn't anything quite positive enough to keep me there, either.
Microsoft is a huge company that does a great many interesting things. While Windows and Office never interested me much, I was into almost everything else. That's why it was such a thrill to work in DevDiv, on some of the apps that make up MSDN and TechNet. I mean, how many people get to work on an app that serves 45+ million pages a month, and on a small team at that? Those are the kinds of opportunities that just don't come easily in other places.
For my own professional development, it was kind of a two-sided issue. On one hand, you had the potential to work on anything that was interesting to you. Again, there aren't many places you can work in that scenario. However, advancement is tied into a rigid career model that I just don't agree with. They tend to under-hire people, meaning they hire them because they have certain experience, but put them to work just below that level. Then they expect you to go through the various levels at a reasonable pace. I disagree with this because a good developer isn't necessarily a good people manager, and vice versa, and furthermore, some people are awesome and reliable individual contributors that have no desire to go beyond that.
I was never adversely affected by the career model myself, but I knew enough people who were that it was probably the one thing that made me nervous for a longer-term run. Of course, just before I resigned, I had my annual review, and the raise and bonus really made the decision that much harder. Your sensitivity to company issues you can't control is lessened when you're paid well and have insanely good benefits.
I made some great connections while there, getting to know some of the people who built some of my favorite products. As much as I detest the "Windows influence" around the company, I really do dig it. It's the only place I've ever worked that I think I will have some kind of lasting identification with.
Still, at the end of the day, the reasons for moving back to Cleveland were sound. Financially, we're in a world of better shape that I've never known, and we enjoy having a house again. We haven't made as good on the family and friends aspect yet, and missing our friends back west is the hardest thing we deal with. From a career perspective, I'm finding limitless potential with an improved job market and a very key bullet point on my resume.
It's still funny though, how I often look at Microsoft now and feel a slight sense of regret that I'm no longer an insider. I would get that blue badge again in a heartbeat if it involved working remotely, or as a regional evangelist.