Monday, February 28, 2005

support serf to writer: part III

this is part III of a story about software support and how I moved through various jobs...
part I - support serf to writer: a how-to
part II - support serf to writer: part II

getting on with the story...

Microsoft acquired NCompass Labs and I moved down to the Seattle area. not that many Microsoft support people actually live in Seattle because the support group is located at the new Issaquah campus. the Redmond campus is reserved for the development groups. I'd say that this segregation was another hardship, except that it wasn't; it makes sense. the main campus simply isn't big enough for everyone. for example, the games division and the MSN group also have their own sites. however, I will point out that of all the campuses the support campus is the only one that is primarily filled with cubicles. pretty much every other department uses offices as the default work environment.

when I joined Microsoft, I was working in the developer support division. I knew that I would soon come back to CCanada and marry my girlfriend, so I treated it as a temporary situation. for the first couple of years, I worked long hours and did anything I could to improve my skills. I enjoyed helping people with their issues but I knew that I would eventually leave support. I was thinking about improving my resume for when I came returned to Canada.

this is the "I'm part of the problem" section of the tale. even though I enjoyed working in support, I left the team when I was offered a job in Redmond. with people constantly leaving, it's no wonder that the industry doesn't feel that support folks have garnered much appreciation.

the move to the MCMS development group was a direct result of my moonlighting as a sample app developer. the product group wanted to encourage the adoption of MCMS, so they decided to start a new program. prospective customers went to Redmond and actually tried out their web sites on the MCMS platform. this mix of support and web development was the recipe for my invitation to the main Microsoft campus.

when I was preparing to move from a cubicle to an office, my support manager called me in for a heart to heart. he told me that most people who go to Redmond didn't go back to support. I thought that the gig would be short-term so I told him that I wasn't putting much thought into leaving.

<how-to section>
the long hours continued after I joined the product group. I would routinely work 80 hour weeks and there were periods when I broke 100 hours. I don't recommend this as a long-term plan, it's just not healthy. however, in the short term, working long hours can pay off. maybe this is too facile to write, but burning the midnight oil is an obvious way to impress upon people that you're willing to go the extra mile -- that you're the sort of person they need.
</how-to section>

for example, the most prominent mcms site that we had running was www.xbox.com. although it was a Microsoft web site, the deal had been closed prior to the NCompass acquisition. we felt comfortable using the site as one of our main showcases.

working on http://www.xbox.com/ was an amazing experience. the schedule was tight - all Microsoft schedules are tight - so we were working all hours of the day. when it came time to actually setup the production web servers, a small group of us drove out to a data farm in the Seattle suburb of Tukwilla. the location, which was also used for sites such as Hotmail and MSN, was about half an hour away from the main campus. we worked through many nights in the data centre until the site was ready to go live. every once in a while we would make a challenging attempt to find something to eat -- not that much is open around 4 am.

there were some bumps along the way, but the experience of working on that site was one of my most enjoyable memories of Microsoft. the Xbox was coming into its own and we were there to help out in our own small way.

coming soon...

Microsoft Content Management Server 2002: A Complete Guide for Addison-Wesley

and working as a full-time writer...
The Unauthorized Halo 2 Battle Guide: Advanced Combat Techniques for Premier Press Game Development (Thompson Course Technology)

1 comment:

Stefan said...

Hi Steve,

a very nice story! I'm looking forward to read the next chapter!
;-)

Cheers,
Stefan.