Despite my New Year's resolution to get fatter and work out less, I've lost 21 pounds and I'm working out 3-5 times a week. CURSE YOU NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS!!! YOU NEVER COME TRUE!!!!
Also I left my old job as a Data Platform Lead, ie 'Executive Manager', and went back into the field as a Premier Services for Developer Consultant. Oh and I did this by going to work for Microsoft.
That's right Microsoft.
"So Balls", you say "Is this Micro-soft that makes the ultra-micro-soft pillow cases? or is this the REAL Microsoft?"
Good question Dear Reader! Yes this is the real deal. I really work for Microsoft, also I feel the need to smile whenever I say that.
WAS THIS THE RIGHT DECISION?
I don't want to make this seem like being an executive or a manager were a bad experience. They were not. I love the people who were on my team at Pragmatic Works. Some have left, some have stayed, and others joined Microsoft. I love the people I worked with, and I still do.
I would relish the chance to Manage again, but it would have to be the right scenario. I was asked to manage teams many times in my career before PW. I refused. It wasn't that I didn't want to. I knew that if I had to lead the team I was a part of, I would have to
@WAdamJ), who has probably changed his twitter handle.....again...... the second I linked to it in a blog post, was a FANTASTIC boss, mentor, and friend. There are a few habits I picked up from Adam that continue to help me.
My first year I felt like I was spinning my wheels. I was more efficient, but I was still doing some of the same things and didn't know a better way to do it. Adam asked me how many books I read on SQL when that was my field. I stopped to count and he said, "A lot right? The number doesn't matter. It's the concept. You read a lot, studied more, and experimented to become an expert right?". He was right*. He then asked me, "How many books have you read on management?" I was floored. But I also didn't know what to read.
Adam created a spreadsheet that had a lot of book recommendations. He gave it to me in a spreadsheet and prioritized what he felt the most important books where. Some I loved, some I make everyone read, and others... were terrible.
I learned, I grew. I liked it. I also realized what kind of management books I enjoyed and that lead me to more books, more ideas, more new concepts.
Moving from a Consultant to a Manager was like moving from a wide receiver or running back to a Football Coach. You don't play on the field. You put people in place to play positions, you can even put a talented lead consultant in the field, your quarterback, by you don't do the work. That's not your job.
You do the opposition research now. What does the field look like? What is the goal? How do we develop the right tools so our team can win?
Going back to being a position player was a little scary. I never gave up being technical, but I didn't know if I would enjoy it like I used to.
*By the way Adam likes it when you agree with him try to do that. But don't tell him that's why you are doing that, for some reason he doesn't like that.
SO HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?
I love it. I love this job. I sometimes pinch myself. I've called my friend Jorge Segarra (@SQLChicken) sometimes just to thank him. My thank you generally starts something like this, "Dear Sir, Thank You for you kindness, generous patience, and pure grit for the number of times you called me, asked me to join you, and for all the times I said NO. Thank you for not giving up on me."
I could go on and on, but let's start to break down what is so great. I didn't number these, because it's hard. I tried. I picked my top five. There were more. I ordered, re-ordered, and then said the heck with it. So here they are. The Corporate Culture, Freedom, My Managers, Health Benefits & Corporate Giving, and The Ability to Grow as a Professional.
The Corporate Culture. The company is driven by a Growth Mindset, you've seen these changes. The quality of products are better. The collaboration is better. It's no longer Microsoft vs. the world. Gone are the days when your Microsoft app works great as long as you use additional Microsoft products X, Y, and Z and woe-be-on-to-you if you used anything non-Microsoft.
This all comes from a growth mindset of our Senior Leadership Team that views different competitive advantages as challenges to get better. The recognition that a Microsoft product is not always the best answer, and the zeal to learn from competitors and our mistakes to constantly grow. We aren't just sitting still here. There is constant progress to be made, it starts with reinventing ourselves with a clear mission dedicated to help others achieve more.
Freedom. Freedom is a great and scary thing. It means that I get to be responsible for me and my time, but it also means I am responsible. My manager doesn't care if I'm at my desk. If I'm on the road two weeks in a row I may have an errand to run in the middle of the day. He's not constantly checking up on me. He encourages me to be active on social media, trusts that I will perform for my client and job, and allows me to manage that myself. The expectation is that I'm a responsible professional, and I get treated that way. It's simple, but pretty darn revolutionary given what I've experienced throughout most of my professional career. I pick my engagements, I pick my schedule, and I pick where and when I travel.
The Health Care Benefits & Corporate Giving. I not going to go into the benefits. Its not that I couldn't talk about some of them, but I don't want to accidentally cross any lines. I typically discount benefits in negotiations. Company X will say, take this job because we offer this, and this accounts to us paying this much money. I've been at plenty of companies with "GREAT HEALTHCARE OPTIONS". None of them come close to crazy good benefits. Companies use them as negotiating tools. I discount them because at the end of the day none of them were much better than the others. That is until this one. If you've ever worked at Microsoft you know they are crazy good. I don't know if the people who have worked at Microsoft their whole careers realize how good they have it. Personally, I'm extremely satisfied.
The Corporate culture of giving is also amazing. A couple of times a year the whole company spends lots of free time volunteering, creating, and offering up things for others to purchase just to give the profits to charity. We have multiple giving campaigns and Microsoft matches what you give up to over $10,000 per employee. There are whole charities that have great causes from building sustainable housing for those in need, to raising money for cures to diseases and prevention, to disaster relief. Some of them almost entirely funded internally by Microsoft employees. This is selflessness at its very best. There are so many people here doing good you cannot help but be inspired by example or by proxy. I feel very strongly about this, because Microsoft does not beat their chest and say "Look how great we are!", if you didn't see this from the inside you may not even know it occurs. This culture has been around since they existed. This is built into the place. Watching people do amazing things, and knowing my 'work' helps bring in revenue that in turn is donated to these great causes in some way, shape, or form is inspiring.
The Managers. I have two managers. One that I directly report to, but they both have decided to co-own our group. Remember all the good things I said about my friend Adam. Take that, wrap it in Microsoft culture, and put almost two decades of experience behind it. They manage a team of All Stars from App Platform to Data all with a developer focus. I've worked with some of these folks before, and even managed some of them.
To see them thrive in this environment helps me see places where at PW I could have done better, or how things could have been done for the better. It is a very interesting learning experience. I managed Bradley Schacht (@BradleySchacht), Jorge Segarra, Josh Luedeman (@JoshLuedeman), Gareth Swanepoel (@GarethSwan), and others are at Microsoft now. All thriving. It is a very cool thing to watch, to see new managers get the chance to work with them.
The really great thing is my Managers realizes this. We talk often as Managers and I'm asked for feedback and perspective. When I have it I give it, when they deserve praise I give that as well. The best feeling is the mutual respect that is given. Never once have I heard the phrase, "Well things are different here you aren't at <insert former job> you are at Microsoft and we do things this way". That comes from the corporate culture, and is embodied by how we communicate. There is always respect and a desire to learn what we can from different experiences. My managers are really incredible, and it inspires me even for when my next opportunity to lead presents itself. Dan and Niel, Thank you both!
The Ability to Grow as a Professional. One of my first conversations with Niel during my on-boarding was about how to find my next job at Microsoft. I thought, "Well that interview must have not gone as well as I thought this guy already wants to get rid of me!" The conversation revolved around finding a manager that inspires you. Finding someone that you want to work with, and making sure that the fit is right. The best part about the conversation was realizing here I am on my first day, and my manager believes in me so much that he's already trying to help me figure out what will be my next step at Microsoft. Internally I've watched people I admire transition from CSS to the Tiger Team or to the SQL Server Product Group or from the Product Group to AzureCAT. The fact is as long as you want to grow as a professional, you have a place to go within Microsoft. I didn't even mention the massive investments they make to help each of us grow technically, but I'm starting to run a bit long and if you've hung in there I appreciate your time.
WRAP IT UP
Dear Reader, I'm home. I hope to be here for as long as I can.
As always, Thank You for stopping by.