December 11th, 2010


A different work environment

My new job has been working out superbly for me.

I've mentioned previously that the "hey, my job is actually to program computers now" thing is a big aspect of it, along with discovering that trivial budgeting made there be almost no impact on my lifestyle from the pay drop. Now that I'm getting projects at a typical rate, and I'm seeing how the team works, I'm getting more comfortable- I can work sustainably like this, and there's a wonderful degree of patience for the fact that I am working purely with technologies I've never used before.

Now, I do miss a couple things from Microsoft. Exactly two things, specifically: the Company Store (which I can regain access to for the low low price of $130/year; thanks, I think I'll wait to start my Alumni Network membership until Windows 8 comes out), and free beverages (especially milk and juice). That said, I seem to be doing without them just fine, although I can't use free milk to cover for when I didn't eat enough for lunch. (Working on getting better at packing lunches. My biggest problem, consistently, is packing lunches that are too low in calories, and I absolutely hit the wall and run out of steam by 3PM. My pile of snack food consists of oatmeal and ramen, so it helps for a bit, but it's still just carbs and tends to produce only another 45 minutes of energy.)

What I absolutely don't miss is the culture. You don't really notice it until you're someone else, and the absolute clearest sign is trivial. But people at Microsoft are in pain: they are exhausted, they are stressed, and they do not, fundamentally, trust people. As well they shouldn't; performance reviews are graded on a curve, carefully tuned to fire about 3% of staff from each individual level year over year (they don't want senior staff to feel "safe"), so collaboration can do dangerous things. People are rushing around, defensive, and eight-hour days are looked down upon. The most fundamental piece of that is this distrust-and-aversion, though: the most basic trait of this system is that other people are out to get you, and office politics are focused on making sure blame is spread appropriately, where "appropriately" means "to anybody else".

All of this seems like absolutely normal behavior in the context of a large company with aggressive deadlines, and maybe it is. But it isn't healthy, it isn't sustainable, and it doesn't, over any meaningful period of time, work.

It is more than worth every dollar of pay I lost from Microsoft to my current employer that people are more likely than not to smile at each other in the hallways, and all else follows from there.

I've migrated to DreamWidth. The original post is at View comment count unavailable comments at; go ahead and use OpenID to post your own.
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