Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Microsoft Layoffs, Hiring, and Offshoring

There have been a lot of interesting comments posted over the past week or two. Additionally, my RSS searches have picked up a few interesting posts out there:

There's a bit of perspective in "Microsoft, Layoffs, and Location" regarding what seems to be a layoff game at Microsoft that favors the Redmond groups that are cut. I don't want any favoring, cost-saving or no. I just want the cuts. (There have been even more mambsy-pamsby cuts this past week I learned about over lunch. After they are announced I'll rant some more about more ill-conceived money saving.)

This part represents some of the poor thinking going on as we are being penny-wise:

If Microsoft won't spend $20 to restock the office supply room with pencils, what makes you think that Microsoft will spend $600 to fly an employee up to Redmond to interview them? The only way that you're going to get moved is if you are extremely better than the people competing in Redmond AND better than any potential recruits from outside. I've actually been in interview loops where someone was selected...not because they were the best, but because they would have to spend a massive amount of money to relocate the best.

Because it's so easy to hire Microsoft-quality developers, right?

The Scoble post "Zef says Microsoft can't hire great programmers" ( Zef's link) brings up one truth I've seen since the internet bubble: Microsoft has a really hard time hiring quality people. We go hunting for them in the wilds of East Europe. Why don't people want to come to work for Microsoft?

My take: because we're big, boring, and too entangled in each other's business. We are now IBM. We spackle in process to make up for the gaps in intellectual progress. Perhaps I have a snazzy new web app idea. There's no way I could incubate that into something that would ever see the light of phosphor as a Microsoft-brand. I'd have to hook Passport up to it, and then glom some sort of MSN story on-top of it. No, we might say how we need to be quick and agile and deft, but then we end up spending 1000% of our time trying to justify it.

So, if you can't hire Microsoft developers for Redmond, send the work to India, right? See "Mi crosoft's India workforce doubles, Americans lose 2,000 jobs." I know about code being moved to India. Can't talk about because I'm sure it would get me in big trouble. Basically, existing applications and code are being moved to India for maintenance and improvement. And yes, those Redmond groups are then looking for new positions. Fine by me, though India is not infinite in the capacity they can take. But there is an active de-Redmond-ization of Microsoft in progress. The global Company Meeting was part of that mind-shift.

Finally, in Ho w would you run Microsoft? we get the suggestion:

I would fire 90% of Microsoft's Marketing staff because they really have no understanding of Marketing or Technology. Marketing is all about creating NEW products that will sell, so if you want to do Marketing for Microsoft you should be knowledgeable about software development. The Patterns and Practice Group and the Developer Evangelists are the best thing Microsoft has done to "turn the company around", Marketing should also go through this regenerative process.


Unfortunately, followed up by:

With all the savings from firing the Marketing crowd I would hire 10,000 Developers and get to work on Win-FS because it's needed and I love a challenge.

I would establish a second Microsoft Campus in North West New Jersey, the first Technology State because it's at the center of the North East corridor: MA to VA. Microsoft needs a presence in the North East, their small little satellite offices just haven't had an impact.

Hire 10,000? Who? Where? Jersey? What are we, IBM?


Anonymous said...

>If Microsoft won't spend $20 to restock the office
>supply room with pencils, what makes you think that
>Microsoft will spend $600 to fly an employee up to
>Redmond to interview them?

Thats a pretty weak argument. For christs sake, how often do you need office supplies (note, the essentials like pens are still on each floor). They're making smart cuts where they can. Think about how you balance your personal budget - you cut corners wherever you can and in the end, it all adds up.

Anonymous said...

Those two decisions probably weren't made by the same person. Different people would have different priorities and budget concerns.

Anonymous said...

It is funnier then that. In one of the building they left the office supplies at the first floor only, so, obviously, people (as they always do dring shortages)started to take more then needed. Then the management noticed they are going faster then before, so they decided to move the supplies to the THIRD floor. What a moronic decision!

You may think this is a minor problem, but I have a strong suspicions that other major decisions are also made the same way.

Anonymous said...

Who knows the rationale behind that decision-makers choices, but this sounds like something I read about people behaviors. When supply is short, people might start stockpiling in case they supply runs out. Or the people on the second floor didn't want to make too many trips down to the first floor to get another pencil, so that picked up two and saved a trip. Maybe they should get promotions for being so efficiency-oriented. :-)

Michael Russell said...

Thanks for the link to my blog. What's even more pathetic is that the day after I posted that, I found out that my ISV buddy at Microsoft was being laid off.

By the way, the interview loop I was in was for a test position, not a development position. But I do understand your concern.

Anonymous said...

As the saying goes, "If you don't cannibalize your business, someone else will."

And that's the problem. Ballmer and Gates are so obsessed with Windows that they won't get involved in anything that threatens the Windows franchise in any way. And that's why Linux and Google are slowly eroding Microsoft's position as king of the hill.

Anonymous said...

It's really kind of weird that people are only awakening to this now. M$ has been attriting people for the last 3 years. Most of the dead-wood is still there, and many of those who would or could get things done are gone.
M$ created situations where they wanted the most diverse workplace instead of the most technical. Many diversity-minded weirdos found sanctuary in management positions while the technical people either left disgusted, or were the targets of management weenies who held a grudge and now had the opportunity to make problems for them, eventually firing them for supposed "poor performance" because they changed the rules of acceptable performance to keep those they wanted out to never reach the bar.
Many found that they simply could not fight the corporate juggernaut and accepted their fate.
The sad reason that Bill can't find what he deems "competent people" is because he's allowed his diverse workplace to become an untenable position for those who really understand the technology. M$ laid a big turd in dotnet and so now everything has to be a server app or other dotnet manifest destiny. Good ideas simply can't compete with existing dotnet crap that they have to sell.
With all this, it's a wonder that M$ continues to survive, except it's got deep pockets, and it'll keep spiraling down for some time to come. Sadly, there are some who have given a substantial commitment to Microsoft, believing that their hard work and sacrifice would pay off, finding now that they're too old to look for something else, they have to try to hold on to the end, suffering the petty and ignorant decisions of the corporate diversity rainbow management brigade who only know the company mantra of "the best workforce is not the most technical workforce, it is the most diverse workforce."
M$ is not where the new great minds of the computer industry will reach their potential. It is rather, a rotting ship that is coming increasingly closer to a rocky lee shore...

Anonymous said...

Other problem is about "layzy" old workers, as the people rebouncing from department to department "supervising" the real work from the Temp workers that work more than 50 hours and report only 40 hoping that they're going to be hire after the contract. This "more than 5 years at Microsoft" never work, just cover their butts and blame the temps in case that somenthing happend.
A big problem, "layzy" old workers with a 20 year old computer degree (or even worse, no degree at all).

Anonymous said...

As an ex-Microsoft employee from 1987-88 I take a bitter-sweet interest in the company.

I was hired into U.S.Sales&Mktg and
made $6.10 per hour to answer 200+
calls per day before routers were invented. Those were the days when
we would chuckle over watching Billg try to find his car in the parking lot outside building #4. Those were the good ole' days when we used to drink green beer on St. Patrick's day while answering calls and hired temps to answer the phones while we had an Easter Egg hunt around the lake.

I was put back on "probation"
status after supervisors listened in to my calls, because I either gave out tech info and wasn't supposed to or did not answer a product developers question fast enough. Who knows? I was not the super-human robot they wanted me to be - so after being humiliated long enough, I quit and had no problem getting another job.

From what I remember, to work at MSFT you have to be a super-charged, competitive, energizer
bunny who will stab their co-worker in the back just to get a better performance review in order
to get a measly raise.

I am not surprised that many
MSFT workers are feeling disgruntled, but my heart goes out to them just the same.

With fondest memories of building
#4 in Redmond, when we all had higher hopes and naive dreams of forever loving and working at MSFT.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is in decline for a lot of reasons but one of the biggest is dilution of talent. They no longer have the best people and the people they do have that are in their 20s and 30s are living off the wealth created from the 80s and 90s, and it won't last forever.

Anonymous said...

indeed, there are too many useless workforace in marketing team. MS does not need so many PMMs (product marketing managers), and so many AMMs (audience marketing managers). One single guy could manage multiple products and audiences, as other IT companies do. Only in Microsoft, because there are so many time wasting meeting and review, so it generates these junk marketing staffs. Their jobs are just sitting in the office, changing from one meeting room to another, shooting emails to each other. That's exactly their daily works.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break. The truth is, the truly gifted and talented developers either work for themselves or work for temp agencies where they can command there own salary and not deal with the corporate BS. If you are the best of the best, why would you want to work for MS in the first place? You should be able to think outside the box and develop you own applications to patent and have MS come looking for you.
I have worked for companies and dealt with the BS and just got feed up with the backstabbing and scripted text of corporate meetings. I work as an independent contractor and could not be happier as I command my own salary and schedule and work on projects I choose and like!!!!

Anonymous said...

I have acquaintant in Microsoft, who is "technical writer". His real job is to make technical documentation from documents already done by developers. So this means he just copies and pastes bunch word documents in one. He gets paid $30 per hour. I think they have a lot of such positions, that need to be eliminated since it is a waste of money.