Microsoft Confessions: 'Killed over politics'
Yesterday's Dick Brass commentary, "Microsoft's Creative Destruction," the company's response to the op-ed and Tuesday's Don Dodge pro-Mac post have put Microsoft in the hot seat. The blogosphere is abuzz about the extent of Microsoft innovations. More former Microsofties are ready to speak out, and they will get their chance here at Betanews.
After the last round of Microsoft layoffs, I asked former employees to tell their stories. I got plenty of responses and not just from people recently leaving the company. No identities will be revealed, although I have verified each one. Two main reasons: Either the former employees still work in the technology industry and don't want to risk their current jobs; or they're receiving severance from Microsoft and don't want to risk losing it. Some of these people have returned to working for Microsoft as contractors, which is another reason to remain anonymous.
Over the next three days, I will present some of the stories in different ways. We start with a first-hand account, and it's more stream-of-conscious than the others I received. Please expect more first-hand accounts and some others strung together as narratives.
What's most surprising about the stories received: Whether they left by will or layoff, most of the former Microsofties worked for the company for a long time, typically no less than eight years. This first account comes from a senior manager who willingly left Microsoft during the last decade after nearly 20 years:
When I left, I told Steve [Ballmer] my reasons. Microsoft [had] lost its competitive edge. Too much politics, too much BS, too much 'what can I do to you today, to make myself look better tomorrow.'
The strength of Microsoft has always been small, heavily empowered teams. Teams that could move fast, make lighting quick decisions and trust the people that made them -- and actually create real schedules, not what management wants you to tell them.
In early 2000, and towards the end of Y2K, the corporate landscape was changing. All the small teams were being eaten up by these uber teams -- complete with politics, backstabbing and posturing. I wanted no part of it. Even today MS is mostly Windows, mobile and Office. Decisions I used to make in 10 minutes, took weeks in Office.
I watched a revolutionary product killed over politics. The moment someone mentioned in a high level-meeting we were better than one of MS's cash cows, I told my [general manager] we were screwed. He didn't believe until the team was disbanded and moved where? Into that cash cow. Where 90 percent of the functionality was cut.
I've watched over the years, [as] poor managers work their way up the ladder, merely because they could play the game. They didn't want the truth, they wanted the answer they wanted to hear.
When Bill Gates first started the 'aggressive schedule' mantra to get people to work harder, [it was] tell folks we only had 2 months left, when we knew it was six. How could I as a manager look my people in the face and seriously tell them we're two months from shipping -- work your ass off -- knowing the bug count was high, the find rate was high and undercover dev work was still being completed?
I finally had enough when my last reorg had me put under a brand new manager, with less weeks experience than I had years doing his job, telling me I wasn't doing my job properly. I asked him how many products he shipped. A couple was the answer. Meanwhile, I had three full Lucite blocks packed with ship-it awards on my desk. At that point, I gave my notice.
How many [Microsoft] reorgs have ever benefited anyone except the folks on top? In all my reorgs, I only ever had one that actually benefited the troops; and that was a super good manager that said if you take me, you take my team. He was one of the best I'd ever worked for -- and, of course, he is no longer at MS either. To me, that speaks volumes.
The people that need to be cut at MS are the managers that don't support their teams and only support their own careers. I've watched countless super visionary managers get bogged in politics and leave.
While I love Steve [Ballmer] to no end, he's too removed from what's really happening, and only gets info from the politically motivated ass kissers that just want to keep their jobs, not do the right thing.
Other stories in this series of confessionals:
- 'Deeply dysfunctional family'
- 'Poor worker bees'
- 'There were a ton of bozos'
- Why former Microsoft employees say Microsoft can't innovate
I'm still collecting stories. Please e-mail joewilcox at live dot com. Stories can be anonymous, but I will need to verify identities.