My first year at MCS
Last Tuesday (the 18th Aug) marked my first year at Microsoft Consulting Services (UK). I can’t believe how fast time has gone by. Years ago, I used to wonder how it would be to work in MCS and dismissed the idea as too high to aspire to and yet here I am after a full year at the very same place. So what’s life been like working for Microsoft? Here’s what I’ve seen. [Remember, this is just the view through my lenses , nothing indicates company policies etc 🙂 ]
My first 3 months were rather quiet, as they are considered a “ramp-up” period and usually one is expected to network and round-off your skills. However, I was warned that the 3 months would fly and then it would be liked drinking from a fire-hose, and the warning was absolutely spot on. It’s been a rollercoaster from last November.
The first thing that struck me (not surprisingly though) was the calibre quotient of my colleagues. While I have, in the past, worked with some top notch developers and architects, it just seems that the “average” knowledge is a mile higher than at other places. For instance, I could think I know all about SQL and then find myself sitting next to a chap who did a stint on the SQL product group and knows more about the core engine than anyone else in the world (now, this part is anecdotal, i didn’t actually encounter that myself, but heard of someone who did, but you get the picture 🙂 . Darren Jefford is the architect on my current gig. A couple of years ago, when just reading through Darren’s blog I couldn’t have imagined working on the same team as Darren. C’est la vie! (I couldn’t resist that bit of name dropping).
The second thing that took me by surprise was the how committed Microsoft is to partners both at the platform / product level as well as in Services. With our products, we pride ourselves on building the best platform and tool support possible and empowering partners and vendors to build on top of that. Sure, MS has a record of being somewhat ‘predatorial’ in the past, but it looks and feels different in that respect now. In the Services side, it’s common to find a number of partner companies working alongside us to deliver the projects and there too, it’s common to find that many of the developers and architects from partners are leading bloggers. MVPs and generally, well known in their respective dev communities. [Ok, one more name-drop.. did you know i’m actually working with the legendary BizTalk “Arch Hacker” ? It’s true he wears the mask of Zorro to work !! …(ha ha just kidding….)]
Then there’s the veritable flood of information and access to stuff ages before it becomes public! Of course, while a lot of that is non-disclosable to external audiences, within the company, information does flow quite freely (which I heard, from someone who joined us from a competitor, is not always the case in large software houses). Unfortunately, there’s seldom the time to actually use all that 😦 and in this respect, you’re on your own. There is a lot of structured learning on offer, but balancing that with project commitments is a fine art.
Ok, so that’s all about the company. So, what’s the personal impact been?
Firstly, its the amount I’ve learned technically (which is, of course, to be expected in a place like this). My knowledge of BizTalk, especially, has been deepened considerably both by the requirements of the current gig (which is in its 6th month now) as well as just absorbing tons of stuff from my colleagues.
Secondly, it’s been great to see, first-hand, very large scale projects delivered successfully and on time. I have been involved in some quite big (and successful) projects through the years, but the sheer scale of the projects here is far beyond what I’ve worked with in the past). [On the technical side of this, its been eye opening to see how useful TFS is for project tracking and reporting].
Thirdly, it’s also made me raise the bar for my own community contributions. I take longer to make something public than I would have done in the past. Although my community contributions are personal and not Microsoft IP,there is the implicit association with MS and i find myself thinking “is this good enough to be associated with an MCS guy!” . Take MockingBird, for instance. This ‘implicit’ association ensured it was better at first release than it would have been, say, 2 years ago. There’s both the knowledge gained over the years as well as the “this has to be good enough to be published by a Microsoft chap” that helped it. Not that I’ve reached some sort of ‘coding guru’ status (or ever will), and there’s always more to be learnt and improvements to be made in all areas but I’m definitely more satisfied with the quality of my output now.
So, it’s been a good year. I’m looking forward to the rest of year-2. One year at a time!