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Working at Microsoft

I'm experienced developer (15+ years, C/C++, Java and fully buzzword-compliant :-) ), looking for an architect / project lead position in SF Bay Area. It happened that I can get an interview for Sr. SW Developer at local Microsoft office. The position is a little bit lower than my expectations, but I thought - hey, that's Microsoft... Maybe, it's worth to try it?
Anyone wants to share experiences about working at Microsoft as a developer?

Another question is about their "Program Manager" positions. Companies I worked with didn't have this position. We always had product managers (business side) and project managers (engineering side). What about Progam Manager?  Is it primarily business or engineering position?

Thanks!

raindog
Friday, November 22, 2002

My understanding of the Program Manager position is to define the requirements and "lead the vision".

dmooney
Friday, November 22, 2002

I'm a senior manager at Microsoft that manages developers, testers, and program managers.  My area is in core infrastructure, so my view is probably different than something like Office.

I think of program managers as coming in 3 basic categories

1. Process Managers -- these people make sure that the product ships. Often called "box pm" (because they are responsible for shipping the product == "box").  They predominately create/drive/enforce process such as signoff criteria, triaging bugs, etc.

2. Outward facing PMs -- these are PMs that spend a lot of time talking to customers.  They know and understand the product well enough to talk about it in front of the customers.  They gather feedback and funnel it to the product group. They typically will speak at events like tech ed, and I expect them to be technical enough to write sample code.

3. Inward facing PMs -- these are technical designers. They write functional specs, and on my team, they drive the dev/design process.  they are *very* technical. In fact, on my PM team (about 15 people) I have former SDEs, SDE/Leads, SDE Managers (we call them "Dev Managers").  All of them can code. Most of them could be developers if they wanted to, but they feel they have more impact on the product (and company and world) by working as PMs and driving design. They spend a lot of time working with other groups.  If I want to "pull out the big guns" for a customer or an event, I'll send one of these people.  The best of these "inward facing" PMs can do the job of the process PM and the "outward facing" PM.

Of course, people will have various skills in each area, and I'll leverage their abilities as much as I can.  The inward facing pm's tend to be more senior, but a great box PM is critical to ship a project of any size.  We will sometimes call the most senior of the inward (technical) PMs "Architects", although you can be an Architect on the dev team as well (there are 2 dev architects on my team and 3 PM architects)

I have PMs on my team that have more coding experience then you (20-25 years in the industry), so I don't think that puts you out of the running for a PM spot.

I've also had PMs that have done nothing except write books.  Others have written samples. etc. etc.

I have also seen groups that are completely dev driven.  In groups like these, there aren't any of the really technical PMs...this role is filled by the development teams.  In groups like this, the PM team is usually reletively junior.

Given your experience, I'd do the interview and figure out what the best position is during the interview.  They will no doubt be checking for themselves.

Hope this helps.

Joe
Saturday, November 23, 2002

Joe,

I have come up with a few features for some Microsoft Products.

If you could send me an email, I could send this to you.

Thanks,

Prakash S
Saturday, November 23, 2002

The one thing Microsoft Program managers have in common is that they're all invariably assholes.

Just say No
Sunday, November 24, 2002

Just FYI, you can always email mswish@microsoft.com. Granted, it's not quite as nice as the ear of a manager, but the feedback does eventually make it to the product teams.

Malcolm
Sunday, November 24, 2002

A software developer at microsoft can have anywhere from 0 to 10 or 20 or more years of experience. The 'senior' in the title is for people who need titles for various reasons (for example, if they're brought in from somewhere with a different system).

I will always reccomend an interview there. It may not go well for you, or maybe it will. I, and a number of others I know, interviewed almost as a joke, but was so impressed that I ended up working there.

The key here is that decisions aren't made by management hierarchy. The amount of politics has probably increased every year there, but I have to imagine a lot still works like Joel describes elsewhere on this site. You can own something, and increase what that something is.

PM vs Dev is often about people skills. Would you rather describe what to do to a computer or a person? PM is a lot on the engineering side. This topic may be a good one to discuss during an interview.

go
Sunday, November 24, 2002

Thanks a lot! After reading your thoughtful replies, I will definitely try to get an interview there.

raindog
Sunday, November 24, 2002

As if you were going if told underwise!

GetRealDude
Sunday, November 24, 2002

As if you weren't going if told underwise!

GetRealDude
Sunday, November 24, 2002

Always go to the interview if you are unsure. Spending some time talking to people there is the best way to make your mind up one way or the other.

Hell, the current job I'm in, I accepted a post somewhere else already and went to this interview anyway because I had nothing better to do.

I've been here just over 4 years now. Obviously, if I canned the first offer to take this one, and I'm still here now, it turned out to be a really good idea to fill in an afternoon interviewing for a job I didn't need.

What swung it for me is the first job offer, the one i deserted, seem to have an attitude of "ok.. i suppose we'll hire you... i guess...." and the lot I'm with now damn near bit my arm off to get my name on a full time contract.

They thought I could make a difference (tm) instead of just making up numbers, I decided to see why they felt that way about me.

Robert Moir
Sunday, November 24, 2002

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