Another week at Microsoft, an update

By: Paul Ip
June 21, 2007

To talk about some of the things that Patrick brought up, Microsoft is bureaucratic as well. Not a surprise considering they have about 70,000 employees. Lots of acronyms, terminology, history, and dealing with people - much like my previous life at Progressive. What is nice is that unlike what I was doing before, I'm playing a much more strategic role. Yes, that's what they all say. So how about I say it this way - I'm way less involved in the tactical execution and more involved in researching and developing broader product strategies. To give you a taste, I spent most of today sorting through various sources - internal, external, public, and proprietary - identifying and classifying items that would give me a better understanding of our competitors and also general consumer trends. It's a lot of details on key competitors and also a very broad view of the world to see what's missing and where the opportunities are. I also summarily skipped reports that were too focused on the actual execution of features, something that would have been very relevant to me before. If you're wondering how the presentation went on Monday, it went well enough. Feedback from my managers has been positive. More positive than my personal evaluation, but that serves as motivation for future work. But you probably aren't wondering that. You all are probably wondering how the visit to Bill Gates' house went. It was a good time, and I have nothing to show for it. How come? To respect his privacy and safety, none of use were allowed to bring in any electronic devices. That means no cameras, no cell phones, no camcorders, etc. Wallets, watches and ID badges are OK. But let me tell you - he has a nice place. It reminds me a bit of home, but a lot bigger and on a beautiful lake. So did I meet him? Let me tell you how the evening unfolded. I mingled for a while before I went to the buffet to help myself to some dinner. After getting my food, I needed to find a place to sit. Unfortunately, all the tables were already full (because there were probably over 200 of us). I looked around and eventually found some steps where some people were sitting. The steps too were full, but there was some room on the other side of the velvet rope. I went and sat back there, rationalizing that that would be fine since although it was going against the rule of staying in front of the rope, it did go with the intent of the rope which was to keep me out of the house. Me and a few other interns were actually discussing this when I noticed someone coming down the steps. As I looked over, the person just snaked his way through the crowd on the steps, not saying anything. This person was Bill Gates. From my perch, I got to see the crowd's reaction. The interns immediately took notice and flocked towards Bill. The odd thing is that as they got to within 10 feet of him, they stopped, forming a bubble around him. For a few moments it was pretty awkward. A crowd had gathered, but no one was talking to him. They were just staring at him. Finally, a few brave souls decided to break the silence. I thought about getting up and joining in, but I reasoned that it would be better for me to stay put since I had a full plate of food plus a glass of wine. I eventually found my way into the crowd and get close enough to hear what he was saying, but no, we didn't actually "meet." Oh. And tonight I'm going sailing with some people from Microsoft. It'll be a great time. It was fun last time even though it was cold and rainy. This afternoon is warm and sunny. Should be great. This time I'll be bringing my camera. (-;

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Paul Ip