Thursday, March 09, 2006

Internal Microsoft Compensation Documents Leaked, Analyzed, and Revealed by WashTech.org

Oh my, I interrupt the kudos love fest. Here am I, approving the morning comments, and ka-bang! I find out that WashTech has received internal documents about Microsoft's recent compensation trends... and it looks awful for everyone riding in coach.

Rising Frustration with Microsoft’s Compensation and Review System - analysis of internal information on Microsoft's compensation system. Snippet:

Internal Microsoft documents obtained by WashTech News show that Microsoft salaries have been stagnant or nudged only slightly higher over the past two years. Comments from current and former employees about the company’s compensation and performance review system suggest a growing level of frustration among rank-and-file workers.

Union trying again to organize Microsoft - Seattle Times article on WashTech.org's analysis.

Union gets special delivery: Microsoft pay guidelines - Mr. Todd Bishop's blog at the Seattle PI (includes an image of the salary info), along with newspaper article Union says Microsoft salaries lag. Snippet:

The documents appear to show minimum, midpoint and maximum compensation guidelines at Microsoft going unchanged between 2004 and 2006 for eight of the 21 salary categories, at the lowest end of the pay scale. In other categories, many of the increases shown are below 3 percent.

"Overall, you can clearly tell what their goal is," said Marcus Courtney, president of the WashTech union. "In terms of what they're paying out in annual increases to employees, they're trying to hold the line well below 3 percent a year."

Good reads. I realize that WashTech has an agenda: unionize Microsofties. All I can say is that the mismanagement of Microsoft and the reaping of benefits at the top of the company is giving them plenty of hope and ammunition.

As for the review system and compensation... I know it's been talked about a good bit here. If you've been a long-time reader here and want to stay on a positive bend, I'd say continue adding your thumbs-up comments to the kudos post.

If you're new to this blog, I'd suggest reading the below old postings and add your comments to this post.

And, one of my ego-centric favorites:

As for Microsofties: if you haven't done your Mid Year Discussion yet, perhaps you now have at least one more interesting topic to bring up...

206 comments:

1 – 200 of 206   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

Yeah, unions have an agenda, they eat human flesh and drink blood, blah blah blah blah blah.

However, they also rather strongly advocate for things like "work/life balance". The 8 hour day wasn't always required. When you're dealing with a multinational multibillion dollar corporation, it can sometimes be handy to have some backup.

I think the comparison to SPEEA and Boeing in Washtech's article is VERY instructive. People know the order in the lifeboat and that no-one is guaranteed a job- and it seems that a presence of a union has made for some significant transparency that doesn't exist at Microsoft. There's no reason an agile, slimmed down Microsoft is incompatible with a union at all.

Anonymous said...

Rising Frustration with Microsoft’s Compensation and Review System

It doesn't look like too many people are even getting cost of living adjustments in their salary.

Microsoft Salary Levels 2004-2006

Cost-of-Living Adjustments

From the graph, you can see that cost of living adjustments (COLA) have not happened at Microsoft for several years. If you're getting 3.0's, you're not likely to get a bonus or stock grants to make up for that. You would have to get a new job at another company with a higher salary just to break even with what you had several years ago.

She said a 3.0 score officially meets expectations, but, “we all know that 3.0 is a red flag that you're on your way out the door - after all, Microsoft wants only people who exceed expectations.”


Within a bucket, you have no way of knowing if there is bias but across buckets you do. It looks like you could still get evidence for a class action lawsuit but individual suits would be more difficult to prove.

A “stack ranking” system, which identified employees as “number one” and “dead last,” was changed in recent years to a “bucket system” in which employees are placed in a categories. The change occurred after lawsuits were brought against Microsoft alleging racial and gender bias in the closed-door meetings that determined the fate of an employee.

Anonymous said...

I want a better resolution copy of that salary sheet scan! :)

TheKhalif said...

That is a troubling indictment. I wonder how this "leak" happened. I always thought MS employees would be better off with a Union. The fact that people are scared to comment openly is a real shame in a free country.


How does a company expect to "kill the competition" when their employees are about to revolt?


The comment in that WASHTECH story by Joe Gellos was amazing.

He states that the Listening Tour is not an "exercise" and that action would be taken when "enough Information" was collected. I think there is enough info on this blog to show how to fix the problems with the review\compensation model.

Anonymous said...

Mini certainly, the growth in compensation is slow. But I would not call that we are under compensated. I know tons of cases where a friend tried to find a better paying job outside of Microsoft to realize that Microsoft is actually paying a good amount more than others. Before you ignore this comment, I will try to explain this chart in a little bit. The chart seems to be correct but it needs to be interpreted correctly.

First, few examples. A friend of mine who was paid 65K thought she is being underpaid. She felt so because a lot of our friends work for Microsoft, and some seems less smarter than her. She tried to find a job in the local area and found a job in the range of 45-50K. She tried valley and found a job with slightly higher salary but it was not worth because of additional taxes not even counting extra rent etc.

I had another friend who was offered a job at Google. His salary was increased by few percentage points, which he was expecting in the review here too. He was offered few hundred stock, they were worth something! But the bulk of the pay package was in the options under the assumption that goog is going to double every six month. For the first few week it seems that way but now he is dissatisfied, because options are good only in hindsight. Otherwise it is a gamble. And now he realized that even if those options have worked the reward was not because of his coding skills but because of his gamble and/or his predicting the market.

Anyways, each one of us could find such examples close to us. But the next question is why these tables are not showing up growth especially at the lower levels. IMO, one explanation is that Microsoft hired aggresively. Much more aggresively than many other companies. Microsoft needed a lot of people not necessarily all superstars but many those who could learn the skills and perform satisfactorily. In essense, the lower point on the quality requirement of an employee went down.
The chart is not true for an individual. Try to find a friend in Microsoft, whose salary did not grow more than 3-4% annually averaging over last 3-4 years.

This article try to make an argument as walmart employee are underpaid compare to target. But does not realize that walmart is a much bigger company. Walmart has to hire people who are less performing than target. You take the size of Microsoft into account and then you could explain why Microsoft employees are not resigning massively. Because most are paid at market rate!

Anonymous said...

"All I can say is that the mismanagement of Microsoft and the reaping of benefits at the top of the company is giving them plenty of hope and ammunition."

Shareholders as well. Let's face it, the ONLY people who haven't shared the pain of MSFT's execution failures and resulting slowing growth over the past 5 years, are the GMs/VPs and higher who's ridiculously highly-paid job it was to avoid them. No wonder they're the same ones who say "problems? what problems?".

Anonymous said...

Wow. I certainly was lied to during my last review, regarding where my salary is in the overall range for my level, as well as the merit raise I received.

Anonymous said...

I want to see the docs. I've always been told that you are allowed to know the range of salary for the level that you are in, but nobody has ever told me. I really want to see this data. But you're right, this will only go to fuel the angst. I'll tell you...I'm full of angst, ire and lots of other very perturbed sounding words.

Anonymous said...

When is a leak not a leak?

...when the document is propagated with the intent of assessing the reaction of employees without actually enacting a change, or setting expectations as follows:

1. Leak a report of (another unpromising pay review
2. Set expectations - let dust die down
3. Actually give expectation + 1/2 percent... didn't you do well!

Fact is, folks will only pay what they can get away with for goods and services. "Fair" is subjective, and the only way in comes into the market is as a PR ploy (Starbucks "fair trade" coffee, a company's commitment to "a fair work-life balance"). As the commenter above says, if employees aren't leavingin droves, then they must be satisfied with their current pay...right?

If we're not happy, and could do better elsewhere *overall* (i.e. including tangible and intangible benefits) - then we should leave!!

Anonymous said...

>>the reaping of benefits at the top of the >>company is

Yeah, reaping of benefits for sure. Look up these 3 GMs reporting to another GM John Nicols; marklooi, scotte, gregnel. They have one direct each, who is a PUM. Ignoring the Admins that report to them.

I have no idea how their salaries are justified. You need a PUM and a GM for MSN Autos? There are numerous cases like these, good ol boys promoting each other, while MSN perenially underperforms.

I cannot say ICs are underpaid. They do have the choice to leave. But reaping of benefits, while the stock price lags, is definitely happening at the top.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of unions...politically they're further to the left than I like. But try to ignore how you feel, and what you like or don't like about them and look at the timing of collective bargaining RIGHT NOW inside of Microsoft. We are on the cusp or getting ready to release two MAJOR products to the market in Office 12 and Vista. What if the majority of those teams just up and walked, unionized and striked (struck, stricken?). We certainly would get some attention as the company is about to make some big releases. I agree with a previous poster, if the company doesn't see anyone leave, they won't take action...so let's not leave...let's just all strike.

Anonymous said...

Unionizing would signal the death of Microsoft as many of us have known and loved it.

Having worked in a union shop for awhile, I can tell you that there is nothing to kill creativity and passion for the work you do than a unionized environment where it's "workers vs. suits" and you get in trouble if you work hard and make your coworkers look like slackers.

Microsoft pay could be more competitive, but it's not bad by a long shot. If you're unhappy with the pay, maybe 1st consider the 15-18k in benefits above and beyond base salary.

If Microsoft employees form a union, I quit.

Anonymous said...

You take the size of Microsoft into account and then you could explain why Microsoft employees are not resigning massively. Because most are paid at market rate!

Microsoft sets their base salaries at the 65th percentile.

Whether you only deserve a salary at the 65th percentile depends upon your ability, the job market, what you settle for, etc.

You can go on a site like salary.com to compare what you are making to the market rate in the area.

The only way to know for sure what you will find is to interview at other companies and compare job offers.

Anonymous said...

As the commenter above says, if employees aren't leavingin droves, then they must be satisfied with their current pay...right?

If we're not happy, and could do better elsewhere *overall* (i.e. including tangible and intangible benefits) - then we should leave!!


Who says employees aren't leaving in droves?

Why would LisaB bother with a listening tour?

The graph of Microsoft salary levels shows that salaries aren't really increasing that much even several levels above most employees.

What it doesn't show is other compensation (e.g. stock grants, bonuses, etc.) by level.

Anonymous said...

"Try to find a friend in Microsoft, whose salary did not grow more than 3-4% annually averaging over last 3-4 years."

Well I went up 2% in the last 5 years (total, not per year), but I guess you were refering to your friends.

Anonymous said...

They have one direct each, who is a PUM. Ignoring the Admins that report to them.

You see that being done in PM too to justify a higher salary.

Paul Flessner sent out an email a couple years ago about flattening the organization. I guess they haven't gotten around to it yet in PM.

It is the email where he assured everyone that you don't need to become a manager to get promoted. Maybe not but it sure helps when it comes to performance based compensation.

Anonymous said...

The leaked salaries seems pretty high for a non-tech guy. I really don't understand this union thing. Why would you want fight against your company? You really can't complain that you don't have enough money for a living. Okay, you can eventually complain that you aren't getting the same salary as some other company. So, then WHY aren't you going somewhere else?

For reasons like this I think that the usual minimsft crowd are the the spoiled, dissatisfied, rejected or fired people that have now reached a critical mass, large enough to have their own voice and community on the web. Yeah, probably that's why minimsft is so successful.

Anonymous said...

There's no reason an agile, slimmed down Microsoft is incompatible with a union at all.

Um, yes there is. Think we've got too many bozos around today? Wait till there's a union rep to file a grievance for everyone fired. Think we've got bizzaro HR rules now? Wait till there's a collective barganing agreement. Unions are badbad for companies.

Ergo, unionization represents a complete failure on the part of management. In a well-managed company, everybody feels like they're on the same team. Acquiring a union means you pissed off your workforce so bad, they decided you were the enemy.

Anonymous said...

Ask your manager what your CompA ratio is. I think you're supposed to know anyway.

CompA = Your salary devided by the mid-point for your level.

But the range for your level don't matter much. It aint that big. If you want a raise worth celebrating, get promoted to the next level. Don't worry about where you are in the range for your current level. Honest, it doesn't matter enough to fret over. Get that promo.

Anonymous said...

"Look up these 3 GMs reporting to another GM John Nicols; marklooi, scotte, gregnel."


John Nicol has a president and a vice-president under him. You must have thought vice presidents are above GMs. No? Well, one thing you do not know about Microsoft is that salary levels differ a lot for each title. A general manager for example need not be a partner, whereas a lower title employee sometimes is a partner. Salary ladder and title ladder are highly correlated but the correlation is not necessarily one.

fCh said...

Guys, with all due empathy to the feelings of some of you, let me say that over the past two years, real salaries have decreased by 2% in the US. The culprit seems to be globalization, which at this stage hurts white collar salaries just as well as it did those of truckers two decades ago.

Anyway, put your best brains towards Origami and make sure it won't be just another failed project's name your competitors will like to call you by! Here are my starting thoughts: Origami
un-folding


Cheers,
fCh.

Anonymous said...

"Well I went up 2% in the last 5 years (total, not per year), but I guess you were refering to your friends."

Something is terribly wrong with Microsoft. If I had any say, I would fire such an employee instead of giving 2% raise in 5 years. Did you get any demotion? There are several cases where Microsoft hired somebody at relatively higher level during boom period or through aquisition and then found out that the person does not even justify his/her current salary leave alone any raise. The question is, are you getting better offer than Microsoft. Get them and leave. But if you are fool enough to remain here for five years with 2% growth then may be that's what you deserve.

Anonymous said...

"If Microsoft employees form a union, I quit."

We have a union whether you admit it or not. It's already the workers vs. the suits. Anyone under L66 is against those that are level 66-67 and above. Face that fact. You may not feel pitted against your co-workers, but you are in our wacky review system. We have a union, it's just not well organized, and because it's not well organized, we are getting stepped all over.

Anonymous said...

I don't see a real problem with this.
I'm a 61 and i'm at the high end of the scale for a 61. I got screwed last year with a 3.0 but I stil got a raise and a bonus.

I don't think we are under paid but the problem is trying to get a promotion to get to the next level is really really hard.

Anonymous said...

Unionization are needed in industry where the job protection is the most important thing. That's not the case here. It is the case in airline industry. In our industry, if you are a good coder, well there are a ton of companies who would hire you.

The question here is that Microsoft is not paying enough. Unionization is not an answer and it won't solve anything either. The answer is to test this hypothesis. Resign and find another better paying job! I bet you won't. Microsoft system is good enough to evaluate most upto their ability to give them a fair salary. Demostrate your value either by performing extra ordinarily or by finding a competing offer.

Anonymous said...

I think another aspect is that software folks (of all varieties) love what we do, in the right environment.
If you've never (speaking as a developer here) had that "I can't believe that we're paying me for this!" feeling, you may just be in the wrong job.
However, feeling that you *have* to put in those 50+ hours a week just to stay where you were curve-wise works wonders to fuel cynicism and kill your love for the work. An interesting thing I've noticed here is that a number of folks I know have left for fields TOTALLY unrelated to software. Burnt out. Don't want to know any more.
My (long and rambling) point is, if the environment is in general good, (team, boss, ability to contribute, work hard play hard in the original sense) then flthy lucre isn't the top of the list. The fact that money IS way up there at present indicates that its the environment that needs the first look, the ranking system, and proper training for new leads and managers

Anonymous said...

I have never worked in an union but based on what I have read it does sound awful. But what we have right now is also bad. I hate the lack of transparency. Before mini came up, I didnt know half of things I now know!

The other thing I hate is difference between executive pay and the lower rank employees. The worst are the technical workers - SDE, SDET, and STE. Sales, Marketing, BizDev are far better off. There should be a cap as to how much the difference between the highest paid and lowest paid employee is. I think WellsFargo (not sure if it is WellsFargo or some other company) has this.

Anonymous said...

Unions - not a good thing. I know. If you think your work life is political right now, wait till you get unions.

Strikes - but for what ? Because the pay is not moving too much ? Because the PMs are not good enough ? Because the company is too big ? Those are stupid reasons for a strike.

No siree, no unions please. Software isn't factory line management. You cannot say tht you work 8 hrs and get n number of lines everytime. Sometimes you code more. Sometimes less. Sometimes you overcome the block when you are at home, and you fire up the comp and get at it. 8hrs per day - nice thought - but will kill creativity.

If you love money so much, its better you try to get a new job. You may get a better offer , or you may find you are already being paid a good amount of money.

If you like working , why not start your own company ? You can then work the way you want, and make things which are great tech. No more pointing fingers. Walk the talk.

My vote - no unions please.

Anonymous said...

OK, WOW!!

I am in IT Operations - the division under the new CIO Stuart Scott.

I am in a pretty decent level - until I saw the salary range - Dude, I am getting raped. I hardly make the entry level minimum and my manager told me that I was maxing out on the level's scale!!!

Fuck - I was being told that the product groups make at least 20% more than the IT group at Microsoft at the same levels and should have moved years ago..

BTW, my observations about getting promoted in MS IT:

If you part of a diverse group working in IT operations, you will not go beyond a certain level. The number of employees that come from various diverse backgrounds, the ratio of managers to employees is very skewed. Do that math in your group, you will notice. I know it has been brought up before in this blog.

"Mini - I agree that over the years, MS has built over a lot of deadwood, and I have seen it for 8 years..but there are issues beside just the build up like organizational diversity, ethical conduct (getting slammed multi-million dollar fines) and accountability (who is responsible for MS's behavior as a corporate entity and why are they getting rewarded)."

Address them too!!!

Anonymous said...

"You can go on a site like salary.com to compare what you are making to the market rate in the area."

I entered some of the parameters for a 61 level developer on salary.com. It turns out that Microsoft is already giving a much better than market salary. That is even if we do not get any increase for the next five years, we are still okay (according to salary.com). Or in other words whatever raise we deserve in the next five years is already given to us today so we should be happier not complaining. (again, according to salary.com).

Finally just one question. If we are really underpaid then why our non-microsoft friends who are also in the software industary jealous of us? They always say we have great benefits, we have inflated salary, we get similar stock grants, and we have better office space.

Anonymous said...

Regarding "workers vs. suits" comment, I couldn't agree more!

We don't need a union to sell our annual company picinic for some random benefit (I believe I recall hearing this happened at Boeing among other "negotiations"), have soda refrigerators replaced with vending machines, mandantory theft of "dues" from our paycheck, contributing to political candidates we don't support and telling us how we should be voting in the next election (and woe unto you if you mention you support the "wrong" side - whichever side that is), tell us how long a coding task should take and we shouldn't be doing anything else for that amount of time if we get done early otherwise its unfair to the other workers who haven't "caught up"... I could go on and on at the kind of political BS we would have to deal with if this was a unionized company.

Ugh

If Microsoft unionizes, a giant chunk of the company will depart and go form another Microsoft elsewhere that is non-union, and free. R.I.P. Microsoft

Anyone who wants a union should go work somewhere that has a union, it is a free country right?

Also - the only real reason Boeing computer department is unionized, is because it is part of the aerospace industry... most everything is union there. IMHO this is an Apples and Oranges comparison with a Microsoft/Google type of business environment.

To take a non-computer industry example, most grocery stores are union businesses, complete with their cute little "discount" cards which track your bank account information with purchase demographics into a database for their marketing as a condition to grant you "sale" prices (sometimes which are higher than other stores non-special prices).

In comparison, you can go shop at a non-union grocery store named Win-Co foods (no relation to MS), in Kent, WA (or other locations such as Federal Way), and see some substantially lower prices, wider variety, and what I perceive to be higher quality products.

It is quite instructive that I've seen WinCo getting picketed by unions from OTHER stores because they are a non-union business. People who have never worked there picket their store in protest that they are a non-union shop! WTF?

I'm fully convinced that all the power needed to help show Microsoft our frustrations at the current system is a combination of this Mini-MSFT forum, and the annual MsPoll. Everyone who is upset should kill the stats on the relevant categories and see what happens!

Who da'Punk said...

For those that think I blow for moderating when moderating is turned on, please note that both Scoble and Slashdot have posts on this topic that won't be so limiting.

If something is outright anti-Microsoft or just plain mean / meant to incite flamewars, I'm going to decline to post it. Sorry. My sandbox. But there are plenty of other places to make your point.

http://scobleizer.wordpress.com/2006/03/09/microsoft-salaries-on-display/

http://slashdot.org/articles/06/03/09/1754252.shtml

Anonymous said...

>>Among those under GM John Nicols; marklooi, scotte, gregnel."

>>John Nicol has a president and a vice-president under him.

I was talking about the three of the people who report to John Nicols.
They are GMs with just one report for each. A redundant link in the management chain at a lot of cost.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I finally read the washtech article and it lost all credibility with me at the end. This is obviously a tactic to outrage and organize and frankly it's a pretty poor one. I used to work at Boeing and was represented by SPEEA. The unions serve to reduce productivity, protect the underperforming, and raise the level of politics. I got the top raise for our org in our discipline, since I was a top performer, and the raise was 2.2%. Never mind that everyone got a 2% COLA. Way to reward folks. The last couple of strikes they have headed up have resulted in folks losing money/benefits due to the fact that the walkout loss of pay was not made up for in the newly negotiated contract. What is the benefit? I walked out of that company (half asleep) thinking of how great a company it could be if the union's didn't exist.

MS system is not perfect but I am far happier with the rewards/compensation system there.

Anonymous said...

There's a couple of interesting things no one has touched on so far.

This is indeed life in corporate America - unless you're in the upper echelon, you get shit all over and you thank the corporation for the privilege. Microsoft revenues and profits increase at a higher rate than raises - coincidence? No. Management is accountable to shareholders (and just barely), not you.

And, Microsoft expects their employees to live by a set of core company values - be open, honest, and respectful. Microsoft is not open, honest, or respectful to their IC's below level 67. The "core company values" are management's religion for the IC masses - follow the commandments and maybe you'll be rewarded in the afterlife (ie. September 15th). Looking at the compensation scales, raise your hand if your manager lied to you about where you are in the range at review time last year. Now raise your hand if your manager lied to you about merit increases. Mmm hmm.

Finally, Microsoft workers will never unionize - obviously. And for all the nonsense about how we should consider ourselves lucky that we have a job at all, that we have this have that, yada yada, isn't that diametrically opposed to the reason we all came to work at Microsoft in the first place? Core company value - willing to take big risks. Go ahead and take your big risk because there's no downside to the company - if you fail, they don't give you a raise or a bonus. If you succeed, they don't give you a raise or a bonus, and in fact, you should be happy you're getting paid at all.

The vote with your feet argument: having a job is better than not having a job, sure, but to suggest that people shouldn't be allowed to put some thought into how they're compensated relative to their peers is idiotic. And again, did we hire people that we just expect up and quit instead of putting some thought into how the company, a place that Microsoft expects them to devote heart and soul into, can be made better and then fighting for those things? I think the blowhards like Scoble are the ones who should be asked to leave. "If you don't like the Kool Aid, leave. Personally, I love it! Yum!" Play that fiddle, Scoble, Microsoft is burning all around you.

This information just proves what we've known all along - Microsoft does not reward based on your contribution. In most levels there's a $30k chasm between the lowest paid and the highest paid person in that level supposedly doing the same amount of work with the same amount of responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Very cool Microsoft! Leaking this salary data could put a lot of pressure on a lot of software companies to increase their worker's salary. Some would do and some won't. Those companies who do not would have a higher chance of losing their employees to us. Satisfy our demand of more workers! This is the kind of clever ideas which make our management the best around. I think we should all support (vote, in case of union) to increase their pay levels.

Anonymous said...

Mini, if I agree with your assesment that we have accumulated a lot of bozos, then may be this salary graph just represents that. Those who are not bozos are getting promoted to the next level. And those who are bozos do not really deserve any raise. That's one way of dealing with them.

Anonymous said...

"Sorry. My sandbox." - Mini

Your sandbox, your rules. Don't be sorry.

On to the topic of unions: I think that unions are a sign that management is exploiting the workers. If I'm getting a fair deal out of management, why do I need a union? So I have somebody to pay dues to? Get outta here!

But if I feel like management is mistreating me (and everybody else), and I feel powerless with respect to management (they're not listening), that's when unions form to give workers an approximately equal power.

But, as several people have pointed out, unions are a disaster in a lot of ways. You think you have bureaucracy? Unions won't make it better (on the contrary - you will have two bureaucracies). You think it's hard to move swiftly? Unions will make you move even more slowly.

So unions are, in some ways, the suicide option - the "there's no real future here anyway, so we might as well see if we can get more of the money as the place dies" approach. If you want a real future at Microsoft, you can't get one by taking the union road.

But I'm not sure that you can get one by the current road, either. So what's left?

It may be possible to flirt with the union, to look like you're going to go that way, to scare some sense (or decency) into management. But that's a dangerous road, too, because if you create the appearance of too much union sentiment, you may get the reality, and if you don't take enough, management doesn't pay any attention (except, perhaps, to find reason to get rid of the troublemakers). If you take this road, don't say I didn't warn you...

Disclaimer: I don't work at Microsoft. I have no stake in how this plays out. Just giving you my two cents, and overcharging at that...

MSS

Anonymous said...

I have to be honest, I'm a bit shocked by the finger pointing and general ostrich syndrome here.

For those of us in MSIT, the executive staff (Ron Markezich when he was the CIO) shared the Merit Matrix at the MSIT all hands, so this shouldn't be any sort of surprise to anybody.

If you dont know your compa ratio, ask your manager. If you think your manager is being dishonest with you, talk to HR. As a person who was an a-, then hired as an FTE, then hired as a lead, and now moved to a position where I manage a team of 10, I'm a bit surprised by the words that I'm seeing here.

I'm a minority, I dont play in the good ol' boys club, and I am candid and open during all my communication, so I never hold any punches in an attempt to be promoted or receive a good review score.

That said, I still dont like the way that the MSFT review cycle happens, as things seem to happen out of order (Review scores/promos determined, then followed by the annual review process). IMHO, if the review scores are already determined, why waste everyone's time going through the formal review process?

That complaint withstanding, however, I still think Microsoft is an awesome place to work. Yes the hours are long, and yes it feels like you're being run over by a bulldozer a lot of the time, but in my experience, and that of a lot of peers I have spoke to, you are generally rewarded for a high level of commitment and deliverables. Those who dont see it this way may need to re-evaluate the level of effort that they're actually putting in and what the perception is of them. The Microsoft competencies are not encapsulated solely in the amount of code that you write, or tickets that you close. If after a real, honest self-evaluation you still feel like you're not being treated in an equitable fashion, you are welcome to speak with your HR generalist or seek employment across Microsoft or externally.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that I find most surprising was the chart for merit bonuses. It says that a person getting a 5.0 can only get a 10% bonus. I thought 5.0 was supposed to be the unattainable, you single handedly save the company score that no one ever got. It is truly depressing to see that no matter how superhuman your impact is MS just has no way to reward you.

IMO this is exactly the wrong thing to do. Consider that no one ever got a 5.0 by doing what thier manager told them to do, so people who are trying for one are already taking a risk of upsetting the politcal boat by doing something undesired. How can you expect a person to take that kind of risk, and do that kind of work if they know there is no potential payoff?

We would be much better off if we took the undeserved comp from a single VP in every division and turned it into a winner take all prize where the IC with the most positive impact wins. Obviously this is just carrot to get people to work more that people would probbably still be screwed out of for political reasons. But at least there would be some potential.

Anonymous said...

"You can go on a site like salary.com to compare what you are making to the market rate in the area."

I entered some of the parameters for a 61 level developer on salary.com. It turns out that Microsoft is already giving a much better than market salary.


It depends upon whether, given your experience, you think having a level of 61 is justified. The only way to know for sure is to get job offers at the level of responsibility that you believe you can handle amd compare the compensation.

Some people have mentioned a difficulty in getting promoted.

An increase in levels among employees results in increased personnel costs for the company. To control costs, they can either deny people promotions using the curve as an excuse or hire new graduates at a lower salary and layoff those they believe can be replaced by new graduates. With the latter, they risk age discrimination lawsuits from employees over a certain age. It is less risk to deny someone a promotion based upon the curve. Something you can't verify.

Microsoft's salary range for level 61 according to the graph is $73810 (low), $90476 (mid) and $104762 (high).

Software Engineer on salary.com
----------------------------------
Experience Median 75th Percentile
0-2 years $57899 $64662
2-4 years $70395 $78798
4-6 years $84703 $94608
6-8 years $97886 $108207
8-10 years $106163 $115461

Anonymous said...

Research and development expenses include payroll, employee benefits, stock-based compensation, and other headcount-related costs associated with product development.

According to Microsoft's Income Statement, research and development costs actually went down in 2005 compared to 2004. $6.194 billion in 2005 versus $7.779 billion in 2004.

That's a decrease of about $24015 per employee over a year for the 66000 employees of Microsoft.

Where do you suppose this came from?

Anonymous said...

Anyone who wants a union should go work somewhere that has a union, it is a free country right?

Anyone who wants a union should be be free to be able to convince a majority of their co-workers it's a good idea- it is a free country, right?

And news flash- collective bargaining is just that- bargaining. Nothing says a hypothetical Microsoft union has to require X lines of code for Y hours worked or any of the nightmare scenarios.

And if you think it's not workers vs. suits now, consider that the number of outstanding shares and the stock price hasn't budged in years...but we've been putting a lot of cash into buybacks. Who gets the lions share of that money? Not the workers, folks. But hey, if you're happy watching senior management rake it in through 5 years of clusterfucks while you struggle for that 3% cost of living raise and handful of stocks, while making sure sharp objects aren't sticking out of your back and knowing this is all a process designed to not be transparent... more power to you. It's a free country, after all.

Anonymous said...

Potential topic for your next post Mini?

MSFT Leaving Door 'Wide Open' For Google

"Strategically, it seems like Microsoft should have been more proactive in leveraging its strengths to hold turf in the consumer space," Sherlund said. "We continue to look to Vista and Office 2007 as the key drivers for the stock over the next year."

IMO, MSFT could have been more proactive in just about EVERY market. Which brings up the question "why is MSFT almost always reactive vs proactive?". I'd actually argue that part of the Oragami hype was people wanting to see a glimpse of the old, smart, take no prisoners, MSFT instead of the post 00 lumbering giant that seems more prone to shooting itself in the foot vs inflicting damage on any competitors. Instead, we get a briliant marketing program for a product that, in its current form at least, is likely DOA.

Anonymous said...

"Something is terribly wrong with Microsoft."

That's what this blog is all about.

"If I had any say, I would fire such an employee instead of giving 2% raise in 5 years."

I'm actually glad you said that. I've been here almost 10 years and was lucky enough to experience that “I can’t believe they are paying me for this” feeling. My story is very complicated and includes an unusually bad manager who ended up getting fired. I’ve tried pointing out to my current manager how it is now impossible for me to advance because everyone would assume what you assumed. I would myself without the facts (even with the facts you may still be right but I’ve had managers tell me “you are not firing material” when I asked them the same)

“The question is, are you getting better offer than Microsoft. Get them and leave.”

I’ve temporarily stopped looking because in testing the waters I was getting offers, and for much more, and I didn't want to burn any bridges. The point is that I want to work at Microsoft. I’m OK with what I get paid, it’s the technology that I crave. I’ve worked many places and I know that despite the problems, Microsoft is still a good place to work. Unfortunately I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that it is not the same place it was 10 years ago and we have a lot of problems to take care of.

“But if you are fool enough to remain here for five years with 2% growth then may be that's what you deserve.”

Of that my friend, you will get no argument.

Anonymous said...

I suppose someone should (I'll do it!) point out that there seems to be a strong enough anti-union opinion amongst the employees that unionizing would lead to attrition. Good attrition? Bad attrition? I don't know, but either way that means slimming the company down. Unionization would seem to fit this blog's agenda.

- Drew

scott moore said...

I certainly left due to the review system. At least that had a great deal to do with my leaving. I’ve never seen anything so ugly and political in all my life.

While I enjoyed the high touch and exposure to cutting edge technology, the working environment was the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. In fact, the whole human environment was the worst I’ve ever seen anywhere. Competition is good, but you have people eating each other alive. It’s a shark tank where the sharks feed on each other. Every email has a buried quiver somewhere, and there are traps at every turn. Microsoft has very much turned into an environment where bullies survive.

As you state, your review score depends on how hard your manager fights for you. May the biggest bully win. The bullying, harassment, discrimination in the review process in appalling. But to top it all off, it’s become impossible to innovate at Microsoft. There are too many layers of judgment, and too many arbitrary ways to trash somebody.

I know Microsoft hates to hear this, but a breakup of the company would have been the best thing that could have happened. Quite simply the company needs to break down it’s parts to a manageable level, and remove some of the layers of bureaucracy; in doing so the parts would be of more value than the whole, and more autonomous groups would be free to scrap or change the current review system without needing the buy-in from 2600 directors.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of unions, I've managed union technical employees, and let me tell you, if you think we'll ever ship quality software again, let alone ANY software again, then you're sadly mistaken. Unionizing does nothing but widen the crevasse between the "suits" and ICs. I've also been a union (non-technical) employee, and worked with others who have been on both sides - we all agree that while unions have a place, they would not work at MS.

I've worked at a Big Six accounting firm, two large insurance companies and a top professional services firm before joining MS. The salary that I was offered was at the midpoint of the range for my level (and the HR person told me that when she was giving me the offer over the phone. When I met with my manager for the first time, she explained the review process to me, and was very honest about how it works (not that I hadn't learned a lot from reading this blog), and what her opinion of it was (she doesn't support it). Maybe I'm just fortunate that I have a really great manager. Damn...now I'll be reorged and lose her. :->

I agree with others posting here that Washtech is trying to incite a revolt of sorts among already disgruntled MS employees. I hate the idea that L67 and above/partners/executives are basically sh*tting all over the folks below when it comes to salary/bonuses/stock grants, but think about it this way - if you've never worked anywhere else except MS, you probably think the salary/benes you get at MS are standard outside of MS. Let me assure you that they're not. Health Club benefit? Please. Group Legal? Yeah, right. Fully paid for health benefits for the employee and family? Not even close. Stock grants? Yeah, right. Some large company don't even do 401K matching....SERIOUSLY. While I'm not completely drinking the kool-aid on MS, I think the dichotomy between the MS world and the "real world" has to be considered as we collectively bemoan our existence. Yeah, it's not perfect. Sure, we could be making more $$$. If you really are about the $$$ and that's all, and you're not getting it at MS, then leave and come back at a higher rate, or don't come back at all, or change to another group, or whatever. Just remember that we actually do have it pretty good in comparison. The grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side.

Anonymous said...

Guys, with all due empathy to the feelings of some of you, let me say that over the past two years, real salaries have decreased by 2% in the US. The culprit seems to be globalization, which at this stage hurts white collar salaries just as well as it did those of truckers two decades ago.

Perhaps that explains why Microsoft's research and development costs (e.g. payroll, etc.) actually went down in 2005 compared to 2004.

Microsoft moved more jobs offshore?

Anonymous said...

Hopefully VSTS will save us from all of this. Our process could be much smoother if we implement it internally. Seriously this software is going to eliminate the need for so many PMs. Bye Bye middle management hello productivity.

Anonymous said...

Someone should bring a recorder to one of these stack ranking meetings and post it for all to see.

If that doesn't wake up the nimrods at the wheel, nothing will.

JASG said...

I can not understand a high tech union.

While I understand that WashTec has their own agenda, I just can not see a high tech workers union. We are paid a lot more than someone who is working as a hotel worker, I am not asking if someone wants fries with that, it is not the 1920’s or 30’s where hourly workers needed someone to help them intercede between the corporation and the worker. We have our individual voices, we have gone to college (some of us a lot of college), and we should understand the basic aspects of business. I am dubious in my belief that anyone could ever really organize any high tech workers into an effective union without over coming the individuality that we have, our own abilities to work as a collective are not a high point of the typical IT workers personalities. I doubt it will happen, makes for an interesting conversation, but there are a lot of hurdles to overcome to effectively get everyone on the same page and using a proxy (union) for our negotiations.

Anonymous said...

The Air Force has been caught running a race/sex quota performance evaluation system and our union turned a blind eye to it.

Anonymous said...

"I think the dichotomy between the MS world and the "real world" has to be considered as we collectively bemoan our existence"

I think this nails it on the head. I'm fairly new to MS (3 years), coming from another large tech company. While MS is not perfect, it is better than most.

I'm always amazed when I hear employees whining, but MS is the only place they've ever worked (straight out of college usually). They just need to try working in the real world first. And maybe pick up some maturity and professionalism while they're at it.

MS is a very young company (in terms of age) and this is the price we pay.

If you've never worked at another large tech company, shut your trap and leave - please.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about other DLs in MSFT but being an Indian awaiting a Green Card, I subscribe to a couple of DLs - DAC Indians and GC retro. One thing I find is that the members of these dls are surprisingly bold and fortright in highlighting the deficiencies of upper mgmt and the in-efficiency of legal and HR WITHOUT resorting to any form of anonymity. None of these guys, AFAIK, got into any trouble so far for stating their comments which obviously do not support upper mgmt or support orgs like HR/Legal. So I don't think some of the fear here that you will get into trouble for pointing out problems that aren't aligned with the 'evil' interests of upper mgmt. is pretty baseless. Also the fact that these folks making the comments in the above DLs come from all around the company - DevDiv, Client, COSD, Server probably also shows that some of the problems noted here are probably only concentrated in a small minority of the groups in Redmond. Obviously there is no way to gauge the honesty/validity of the comments in an anon blog site.

Anonymous said...

If you've never worked at another large tech company, shut your trap and leave - please.

If you believe the only people complaining about such things as forced ranking are those who have only worked at Microsoft then you are mistaken.

If you have a process at a company that is being used for something other than its intended purpose, chances are that is not the only problem at the company.

Since other companies, such as Enron, used forced ranking, you are saying the world is corrupt all over and we should shut up and just accept it?

In this country, that is not going to happen.

Your attitude is part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully VSTS will save us from all of this. Our process could be much smoother if we implement it internally. Seriously this software is going to eliminate the need for so many PMs. Bye Bye middle management hello productivity.

Microsoft does not have a history using Visual Studio in its entirety for developing software.

Microsoft did not use the build system in Visual Studio 2003 to build its products. The one sold in Visual Studio 2003 is not good enough for that.

Microsoft did not use the source code control system it sold to customers. It also was not good enough to be used by Microsoft.

Many developers at Microsoft do not use the Visual Studio IDE for writing code.

It is not likely that Microsoft is going to be changing its build environment, source code control, bug tracking, unit testing, code profiling, etc. to use the features in VSTS by actually using VSTS.

Someone may reply and say that VSTS uses some of the same technology that Microsoft uses internally so that isn't necessary. Well, if you're not going to use VSTS internally, then you're missing a great opportunity to guide the development of the product.

Anonymous said...

"I think this nails it on the head. I'm fairly new to MS (3 years), coming from another large tech company. While MS is not perfect, it is better than most."

As someone who's been at MSFT for 2 years, I agree with this. It isn't the mid-90's any more, ANYWHERE in the tech industry. Was life better at MSFT in the mid to late 1990's? Yes, and it was better at Novell, Sun and other companies.

I love my project and my work. Some days a lot more than others, but by and large, while I am tempted by recruiters talking up positions elsewhere that pay $25,000 more than my current salary, I have yet to take one up on an interview.

That said, I'm annoyed at the way the level/salary curve has been compressed to minimize recognition of what experienced staff bring to the table. My track record includes starting a couple companies before the dot com era, and being somewhat of a specialist in my technical field, over 15 years in high tech in the Valley and elsewhere. New college grads are brought in at relatively high levels, to lure then to MSFT when other offers from more exciting companies are available. Older staff like me are being brought in at levels generally described on paper as requiring a FRACTION of their years of solid experience. On my team, there is just a one-level difference between someone with 4 years of experience and myself. There is also just a one-level difference between that person with 4 years of experience and the SDETs for whom this is their first or second job in the computing industry. I'm not sure what's going on there, as 2 or more levels would seem to be a more appropriate differentiation between each of those categories. I've heard the same about other teams, so compensation compression is not an isolated issue.

Microsoft HR: In line with reviewing compensation, please also make an effort to review levels, particularly those of IC's who are 2002+ hires. Look into the number of people with more than 15 years in positions utilizing dev or design skills, who are levelled below 64. Some of us joined the company during the dotcom bust and we accepted whatever was offered after our best efforts at negotiation, when jobs in this area were scarce. Microsoft knew this, and low-balled us dramatically.

The recruiter insisted to me that 60 was a good level for someone with 15 years of experience! That's not honest or transparent behavior, and it's likely to take me the rest of my career to reach the level at which I should have been hired in. HR should care about this, because we're going to be among the most tempted to leave as high tech industry financials improve.

Anonymous said...

Also the fact that these folks making the comments in the above DLs come from all around the company - DevDiv, Client, COSD, Server probably also shows that some of the problems noted here are probably only concentrated in a small minority of the groups in Redmond.

Does LisaB's listening tour cover only a small number of groups at Microsoft? No.

One thing I find is that the members of these dls are surprisingly bold and fortright in highlighting the deficiencies of upper mgmt and the in-efficiency of legal and HR WITHOUT resorting to any form of anonymity.

You said the members of the DLs that you refer to are pointing out deficiencies of upper management.

What deficiencies are they pointing out?

After all, you stated that they are from all around the company which contradicts your supposition that the problems people are talking about on this blog are only isolated to a small number of groups.

How come you resorted to anonymity in your post on this blog?

Drei said...

don't know about other DLs in MSFT but being an Indian awaiting a Green Card, I subscribe to a couple of DLs - DAC Indians and GC retro. One thing I find is that the members of these dls are surprisingly bold and fortright in highlighting the deficiencies of upper mgmt and the in-efficiency of legal and HR WITHOUT resorting to any form of anonymity. None of these guys, AFAIK, got into any trouble so far for stating their comments which obviously do not support upper mgmt or support orgs like HR/Legal. So I don't think some of the fear here that you will get into trouble for pointing out problems that aren't aligned with the 'evil' interests of upper mgmt. is pretty baseless. Also the fact that these folks making the comments in the above DLs come from all around the company - DevDiv, Client, COSD, Server probably also shows that some of the problems noted here are probably only concentrated in a small minority of the groups in Redmond. Obviously there is no way to gauge the honesty/validity of the comments in an anon blog site.

That's what I call a syllogism. First of all, when the critic of anonymity is himself/herself anonymous, their credibility is automatically halved.

Secondly, I am on a DAC and, while I see plenty of smugness about how "we know better and they're dumb", it's never aimed at people inside MS or even specific individuals. In your case, it might be different but I still am not convinced that the virulence of the exposés on minimsft is matched by that of discussions on an official DL inside MS. If you disagree, kindly please regale us by pasting here such an excerpt.

Lastly, your inferrence that the complaints of H1ers/GC-applicants are made in the light of penalties/delays following criticism is incorrect. The actual point stated that, if you're on H1-B/applicant for GC, your lateral moves within the company will impede the progress of these legal processes. In other words, the "imports" have an additional factor to consider in their decision to switch groups.

Your characterization that problems exposed here are only applicable to a small subset of MS is naive. Have you considered that the same people from all over the company may also repeat (and strengthen) their criticism here, protected by anonymity?

And to address the point of a previous commenter, discontent (granted, not all) is a key motivator of progress. To urge abstaining from criticism is simply irresponsible. "The slumber of reason begets monsters". (Pardon the gratuitous quote, it said better what I mean. I doubt there are many MS employees in dire difficulty of providing food for their families, but that doesn't mean we should all count our blessings when facing injustice, dishonesty or plain incompetence.)

Anonymous said...

MS definately doesn't need a union as it would suck out the remaining passion that anyone has.

In some ways the affects that people describe about what happens with unions:
* Lack of passion.
* The feeling of a divide between upper mgmt and employees.
* Lack of pay differentiation for great performance.
* Inability to fire people who slack (without lots of documentation).
Feel like they have already taken place in several parts of msft.

In my situation, I felt the best way to send a message to those able to fix things was to leave.

So far it has been an excellent choice. I got a job that paid better. I feel like the people I work with are much more passionate and in general I've been more humbled/amazed by a much large percentage of co-workers than I've been at MS in a long time. My one regret about leaving MS is that I didn't do it a lot sooner.

The sad thing is that MS used to be a great place to work, but so much has deteriorated in so many ways as the company growth rate has slowed.

When I joined MS over 10 years ago, I felt like a profit center to be enabled and empowered, but when I left, I felt like an expense to be minimized.

Anonymous said...

I want to see the docs. I've always been told that you are allowed to know the range of salary for the level that you are in, but nobody has ever told me. I really want to see this data. But you're right, this will only go to fuel the angst. I'll tell you...I'm full of angst, ire and lots of other very perturbed sounding words

In my last high tech company this kind of information was available to employees, and that was transparency. Here transparency is in name only. If the system is reasonable and fair then there should be no fear of making this information available to employees.

Bill and Steve have created a total crock and their cronies are milking the cash cow at the expense of public shareholders and employees

Anonymous said...

The recruiter insisted to me that 60 was a good level for someone with 15 years of experience! That's not honest or transparent behavior, and it's likely to take me the rest of my career to reach the level at which I should have been hired in. HR should care about this, because we're going to be among the most tempted to leave as high tech industry financials improve.

You got screwed!!

Get a job offer at another company that indicates a higher level in terms of Microsoft's list of competencies for a level and give Microsoft the opportunity to counter the offer to have you stay.

If they do not counter the offer, they don't want you around.

Chances are the person knowing that the level they gave you is bullshit is long gone.

The person in HR looking at your level now probably just assumes it is what you deserve.

Anonymous said...

My beef with the system is the unfairness of it all.

First of all, it looks like managers and executives are getting paid millions of dollars each to screw up. All these guys do is eat fancy catered food, slip schedules, send out rambling e-mails about "strategy", and try to copy Google as fast as possible. How is this any more valuable than what Joe "Level 60" Developer does any given afternoon?

Second, and I know I'm going to start the mother of all flame wars because of this, but devs should be paid more relative to testers/PMs. In my experience, testers and PMs would be helpless without constant assistance from devs, but we're all paid roughly the same and that's unfair. Again, in my experience, when devs leave the company they don't seem to have any problem finding jobs with other companies, but when testers leave, they have a hell of a time and usually just come back to Microsoft as contractors.

Third, how about some profit sharing? Microsoft makes money hand over fist but the employees who create the software that makes the money only see a small fraction of it. Supposedly we need to keep costs (salaries/bonuses/etc.) down to placate investors, but we're not even really doing investors any favors because the stock's been flat and the dividend is a joke. The only people who are seeing these billions are the executives with their stock options. (See point #1.)

I don't see how a union would address any of these 3 points. Actually, I don't see how any of them are ever going to get addressed, considering the politics of it all.

Anonymous said...

fire mark ashieda

clean up networking

use products from different technology tunnels (i think the comment on visual studio say it all)... we build it but don't use it.

we have sdk, ddk and others but none really integrate well into VS...

we have source depot but it's not integratd into vs ... vstf is a "interest attempt" to breath life into vss+productstudio

Anonymous said...

Hopefully VSTS will save us from all of this. Our process could be much smoother if we implement it internally. Seriously this software is going to eliminate the need for so many PMs. Bye Bye middle management hello productivity

Yeah it is an enterprise tool, it has the kitchen sink thrown in it and a 2,8Ghz 1GB dual proc crawls under its weight. It will eliminate a developer's passion too.

Anonymous said...

Second, and I know I'm going to start the mother of all flame wars because of this, but devs should be paid more relative to testers/PMs. In my experience, testers and PMs would be helpless without constant assistance from devs, but we're all paid roughly the same and that's unfair.

I am not a dev but I agree. It takes special and rare skills to create bugs and devs should be rewarded extra for that.

Anonymous said...

fire mark ashieda
clean up networking


Thanks heaven for no Union at MS. If we had a Union, it would have been impossible to fire these Networking laggards who have camped out at Minimsft, posting diatribes against the networking execs and HR

Anonymous said...

"That said, I'm annoyed at the way the level/salary curve has been compressed to minimize recognition of what experienced staff bring to the table"

Dude, you hit the nail right on the head and I'm in the same boat. The fact of the matter is that previous experience, especially experience in business frustrates Microsoft. The chances are with that experience that you'll wind up pointing out how you manager/group is f--king things up or doesn't understand business and you'll just make them look stupid. They'd rather they could just snow you and you'll become a "yes" man. So you're absolutely right, but it's really what's wrong with the company. We are NOT mature and that includes the way that we do raises, budgeting, reviews, etc. and in the end the way that we treat employees (vs. of course the way that we preach company values).

I'm starting anew the job search, because this data just has me totally frustrated. Of course it will be the first thing in my fist in MYD.

Anonymous said...

"Second, and I know I'm going to start the mother of all flame wars because of this, but devs should be paid more relative to testers/PMs."

Repeat after me - there are *no* testers at Microsoft anymore. The last remnants are on the way out.

What we have are developers in the QA role. Given the amount of effort QA invests in hand holding all the junior devs, they should be paid at least the same if not more than the devs.

And fyi, devs *are* paid more than QA because they get up-leveled quicker.

Anonymous said...

I must admit that I find the objections from people to be surprising. I suppose I assumed everyone understood: The technology industry works exactly like this: A few people at the top benefit significantly while those at the bottom toil in what sometimes becomes almost cult-like atmospheres. ('I work here because I want to make a difference!', 'Our work is going to change the world!', 'I don't do this for MONEY!', etc.) That's the definition of a Silicon Valley startup for instance (believe me, in my naive days, I worked for enough of them). Microsoft isn't truly different. It only stands out due to its sheer size. The staggering number at the top making absurd amounts of money is large because the company is so darned big.

Are Microsoft's review practices fair? Of course not. They do win the distinction of all of my career employers as being the company that works the hardest to appear objective while being almost totally subjective, though.

Are Microsoft's compensation practices fair? Well, no - however, as other people have pointed out, don't expect them to change, and if they're too unbearable for you, leave. I will be critical, though, of those who claim that Microsoft pays well compared to the rest of the industry. I've moved around the country often enough to know what salary levels are like, and am very confident that I could secure a new position in a short time at another employer and gain at least 33% on my salary. However, I stay at Microsoft for the time being for my own reasons, and they're obviously strong enough that I can't be bought for an extra 33% of salary.

Should you choose to leave, do not go with expectations of riches. Other employers might pay more, but there's no free money just floating around. Want significant wealth? If so, you need to be among those at the top. That either means debasing your morals and playing nasty politics to climb the corporate ladder at MS or any similar company, or being a founder of a successful company and debasing your morals by taking advantage of others and pumping young minds full of slogans to get them to work 16 hour days so that you end up wealthy when the company goes public.

I used to wonder why Puget Sound had so few startups (with Microsoft here and so many Microsoft millionaires floating around). After a couple of years in Redmond, I realized why: Most Microsoft people seem to want the potential benefits of a startup without accepting any risk (probably due to the fact that Microsoft once actually provided exactly that), and the sad fact that most Microsoft millionaires stay at Microsoft and never strike out on their own.

Anonymous said...

>In my experience, testers and PMs would be helpless without constant assistance from devs, but we're all paid roughly the same and that's unfair.

Uh, on most teams Devs -are- paid more than PMs... and especially Test. Just read the book Microsoft secrets. Devs are the primadonnas of MSFT.

Situations:
PM: Do this!
Dev: No. I refuse.
PM: Uh, well, please?
Dev: No.

Dev: I want to do it XYZ
PM: No, you should do it ABC
Dev: Too bad, I checked it in.
PM: Oh.

I know of quite a few teams where devs have trained PM to regularly buy them food, movie tickets, etc to get things done.

Anonymous said...

Third, how about some profit sharing? Microsoft makes money hand over fist but the employees who create the software that makes the money only see a small fraction of it. Supposedly we need to keep costs (salaries/bonuses/etc.) down to placate investors, but we're not even really doing investors any favors because the stock's been flat and the dividend is a joke. The only people who are seeing these billions are the executives with their stock options. (See point #1.)

Instead of wasting your life waiting for Microsoft to change, why not start your own company or go to work for a startup backed by venture capital?

Bill and Steve? They're Just Not That Into You.

Anonymous said...

There is also just a one-level difference between that person with 4 years of experience and the SDETs for whom this is their first or second job in the computing industry. I'm not sure what's going on there, as 2 or more levels would seem to be a more appropriate differentiation between each of those categories. I've heard the same about other teams, so compensation compression is not an isolated issue.

It makes perfect sense if you're a Microsoft COO trying to cut costs.

Giving you a lower level saves the company money.

Because employees accept being treated that way by going back for more of the same every day, they do not have a reason to spend more.

The corruption in processes like the review system will continue to damage the company.

Employees that are given a lower review score for reasons other than performance will eventually quit, get managed out or become less productive when it becomes clear to them that they do not have a real chance at promotion.

Employees that are given a higher review score and promoted because they know how to game the system will result in people at higher levels who are not necessarily the most qualified.

The relative nature of the curve will always label somebody as substandard no matter how talented they are in absolute terms.

The higher you go in level; the less likely they are to see the performance management system as a problem.

What is the one thing you can do to interrupt this decay in the company?

Leave.

If you want to change Microsoft, leave on good terms, get a job somewhere else, and go back when Microsoft's management has made the changes necessary for a more constructive work environment.

Employees at Microsoft will see a change when enough people the company wanted to keep walk out the door.

Anonymous said...

"Second, and I know I'm going to start the mother of all flame wars because of this, but devs should be paid more relative to testers/PMs. In my experience, testers and PMs would be helpless without constant assistance from devs, but we're all paid roughly the same and that's unfair."

I absolutely agree. Everyone knows that every other discipline is merely a subset of what developers do, and requires no innate talent of its own.

What DOES the software industry employ all of these other hangers-on for? The very idea!!

(BTW, when you're done helping your worthless PM and Test compatriots, could you please come fix the toilets in bldg 40? Oh, the elevator's bust too - could you bring a screwdriver?)

Anonymous said...

We're going to see more and more of these external articles if our HR department doesn't go on the offensive like they never have before, soon and in a big way.

My job involves quite a bit of integration with Corp HR and I am constantly amazed by their culture. It continues to be self-protective, isolated, and risk-averse.

Lisa Brummel's open sessions where she meets with employees to hear our feedback is only a start and only a small one at that. HR needs to get in our face. They need to tell us what to expect, when, why, and how.

If they don't do this soon, I too will have to leave Microsoft. Not because I'm leaving my manager, or Microsoft, but because I'm leaving Microsoft's HR department who are in the best position to change so many of the problems currently plaguing us but are too slow, too lazy, or too incompetent to do anything. Prove I'm wrong. DO SOMETHING NOW!

August is less than 6 months away. Yet it is plenty of time to put together a complete package to address many of the concerns we keep seeing raised over and over again internally and externally. Steps can and should be taken in the August timeframe, if not sooner, to address the pay issue and the review process issue. If HR cannot address those two top-level issues by August, then they are incompetent and I, and you, need to leave this company.

I've worked for other companies that are smaller, with smaller HR departments. Yet those departments seem so much more connected with their customers, the employees, than our HR department. Maybe it's time to shop for an employer based upon their HR department in many respects. And if I was shopping now on the Internet, MSFT certainly would be eliminated quickly based upon all the negative press reports it's getting which are all deserving.

HR!!! DO SOMETHING!!!

Anonymous said...

If you want to see the compensation docs, just go to the Seattle Times article and look at the PDF file they have posted near the top.

It shows both the salary and the stock ranges. To me what's more interesting is the stock levels and how exponential they get around level 65. I had no idea what the stock ranges were for the upper levels and it has been quite "educational", to say the least.

Cheopys said...

I've worked at MS for half of the last 16 years, both FTE and CSG, five gigs in all. The first one was 1988-1992 and I remember it well. There were only eight buildings and another one or two under construction; Ballmer and Gates were accessible and familiar people; the work environment felt more like Apple than IBM. You could walk into the office of a manger three levels over you and rant your ass off, "fuck this" and "fuck that" and "this sucks!" and as long as there was some constructive information in your rant he'd listen, take notes ...

.. and not say a word about "my crediblity as manager" or any of that rot.

And the enthusiasm! I could walk down the hall and learn things just overhearing conversations. We were so motivated that when I showed the place to my father he invested in the stock because he figured any company with so many people working so late had to be doing something right.

And they were. We worked late because we loved what we were doing,we believed in the products, we were Making A Difference™ in a way that can't be captured in any idiotic corporate slogan.

People still work late .. but no longer because they believe. We work late now because we're under pressure, we have lousy lying managers to whom truth is a tertiary priority, and we have gotten undeservedly low reviews (and if you think managers don't get revenge for going over their heads by fucking up your review, you're too naïve to work there).

One thing about being able to meet the execs though is that you can look at them away from the backdrop of corporate luxury and take their measure. While others are having visible difficulty staying off their knees in the presence of such luminaries these days, some of us back then had the temerity to see them as ordinary people.

Bill Gates is a deeply insecure man who rocks back and forth in his chair like he has a bladder infection and Ballmer is, in a word, a redneck. While Gates has used his personal insecurity as a driving strength, Ballmer's crudeness is unmitigated. Count me among those who don't think the Crazy Eddie routine is cute. I can easily believe he throws chairs.

The review system has always been a sham, always been needlessly humiliating, and there have been many attempts to reform it. While I was there in my first gig there was a meeting where on manager announced changes, simpler easier and more straighforward .. only to be succeeded at the podium by Brian Valentine (pre-plastic) who scuttled all we had just heard and introduced the new Even More Humiliating review system to come.

I'm CSG now and were it not for the hundred day rule I would stay CSG, because it's worth it alone not to have to answer idiotic question about how my work addresses "customer centricity" or "company values." Ugh.

One comment to Mini, however, on the notion of firing all the 2.5s and low 3.0s. OK, more than one comment.

(1) Low productivity is a secondary reason for a low review. One guy in my last team in DMD went from 3.5 to 2.5 with no decrement in his work, quality or quantity, but since he was trying to transfer our manager fucked him.

(2) Anyone working on Vista should have an entire point added to his review. I too went from 3.5 to 2.5, but in my case my work had suffered. Ten lines of code in two weeks was the best of all possible times there, the rest of the time spent dealing with "process" gone completely out of control. In my new gig I am learning to code again, I had actually gotten completely out of practice at writing code while working as a developer at Microsoft.

Anyone who can remain passionate while wrestling with randomly failing BVTs and test machines should be in marketing.

So don't be so hasty to fire the "lo producers," because MS has lost the ability to motivate people. Too much stick, not enough carrot.

Anonymous said...

Here's one reason why management does not see a reason for change.

If you quit, there's someone who just needs a job to take your place.

Union trying again to organize Microsoft

It noted the company received 166,184 applications for 1,509 positions added during the past year.

There would have to be a much higher attrition rate for Microsoft's management to do something about the problem soon.

Maybe the attrition rate is a little higher than they like so LisaB travels the company listening but they can take their time because so many people are applying for positions at Microsoft.

LisaB said "The curve is essential to the people agenda we have at this company.".

There are plenty of people to take the place of any talented people who got screwed by the curve.

We'll have to wait for the 2006 annual report to see if 'Research and Development' costs indicate that more jobs moved offshore this year.

Microsoft's pitch is that you get to change the world by working for them.

How about changing the country's economy by working for a diverse set of companies where your talents can be more fully utilized? It doesn't matter how talented you are if you don't get to use your skills to your fullest potential.

Anonymous said...

Wow look at all the disdain for labor organization! It's plain that the corporate press has done a bangup job of setting the tone and terms of debate.

Really, people, anecdotes aside, in whose interest is it for you to sneer at labor organization?

Hint: not yours.

I've worked with people who drank the Kool-Aid before but not until I came to Microsoft did I run into those who had found a way to mainline it.

If you think that unions would introduce a management-versus-labor mentality then you're not paying attention: that's what we have now.

With the power of organization we could make Microsoft a better company. We are not a destructive bunch of people, we're not interested in screwing the company or defending unproductive people, I don't think there is anyone reading this who wants anything other than a great place to work and an opportuity to earn the respect of our coworkers and managers. We lack that opportunity now.

One point I would mention: MS is extremely vulnerable to a class-action lawsuit and this is probably one reason there is so much antipathy to unions. I'm 52 and I've had a manager tell me that if the job meant working 18 hour days then that's what it took to "meet expectations." People can do that at age 25, they can't do it at age 52, which was when I had a nervous breakdown. They need to get their act together and stop hurting workers to compensate for their own failures. If the product is behind then the schedule is wrong, and the ship date needs to be moved out, trade shows be damned.

Anonymous said...

I had been unhappy at Microsoft since I moved to Vista but I was still slogging along hoping things would get better, and remembering the glorious past, remembering when I loved my work.

The proverbial last straw for me came when I found out that one of the managers who had the most influence on stack ranking was one guy peer to my own manager, whom I had caught lying to me and others on seven separate occasions. And when in one case I confronted him with my discovery he ordered me to never talk about it again.

I had all the evidence anyone could ever need that this man had no business managing anything more than a trip to the toilet. I probably would have gotten a 1.5 no matter how good my work was. And in Vista "good work" isn't even possible.

Anonymous said...

Assuming the stock levels in the Seattle Times "Microsoft Compensation Guildlines" PDF are accurate, let's do a quick calculation for the high end stock level at 67+. Perhaps a Director/PUM/GM gets an 11,000 share stock award every year since 2003, when we moved to the current SA system. Given the MS stock price has hovered near 27 over the last few years, that nets out about $300,000 in stock awards per year and close to $1,000,000 in extra compensation over three years.

I guess my only question is whether or not all of the Directors/PUMs/GMs in Longhorn are doing work that deserves a $300,000 bonus every year on top of a $150,000 salary? I won't make a judgement call on that but it's an interesting question to ponder.

I wonder what the cumulative stock awards of the Developers on each of those Longhorn Director/PUM/GM's teams works out to over the last 3 years?

Anonymous said...

As someone who works in an IT department for another large Seattle-based company I can tell you the wage stagnation issue affects more that MSFT. Getting a 3% raise every year sure doesn’t motivate me to excel at what I do. I will admit that I'm glad IT workers are as highly paid as we are (compared to other professions), and I’m glad that I have a stable job. Those two factors only motivate me to work just hard enough to keep my job and stay out of trouble, not to excel or put in extra effort.

I think this is the real issue: When wages and opportunities for growth stagnate at a company, most people stop working any more than necessary. Once most people realize the difference in reward between being #2 and #20 in their department is 1%, they'll stop putting in the extra effort, because it’s not worth it. The #1 employees will either get a big difference in reward or leave for somewhere that will reward them, because that’s in their nature (they don’t know how to work less).

Smart employers know that employees need to be regularly motivated (e.g. raises, training, promotions, new projects, etc.) to even stay at their current level of performance. And the best employers know that the best employees deserve out-sized rewards for their out-sized impact on the company.

I think companies have been lulled into a false sense of security because of the low attrition rate over the last 5 years. Back in the 90s IT workers switched jobs every 18 months, because it was profitable and accepted to do so. Then the dot-com bust came along and everyone who kept or obtained a job with a stable company (i.e. Microsoft) was just happy to be employed. This means that companies could get away with small-to-nonexistent raises/promotions. Now that the economy is “recovering” and the job market is growing, the best employees will start leaving for greener pastures. So, again, smart employers will recognize this fact and do what it takes to retain their best employees.

Anonymous said...

"Assuming the stock levels in the Seattle Times "Microsoft Compensation Guildlines" PDF are accurate, let's do a quick calculation for the high end stock level at 67+. Perhaps a Director/PUM/GM gets an 11,000 share stock award every year since 2003, when we moved to the current SA system. Given the MS stock price has hovered near 27 over the last few years, that nets out about $300,000 in stock awards per year and close to $1,000,000 in extra compensation over three years."

Are you kidding? Seattle times table shows the on-hire stock award. It does not have the annual award compensation. In any case, in todays comptetitive market that should be the right reward. Microsoft is probably paying less and that's why a lot of high level people are leaving the company. This is not so bad at the lower levels.

Anonymous said...

>> You could walk into the office of a manger

Guess what, I too can walk into an office of our Director (who's about 3 levels up from where I am and he, in turn, is about three levels away from JeffR) and rant all I want and he will listen. He, probably won't appreciate the "f" word, but aside from that he values our opinions.

Microsoft is a big company and it can be drastically different depending on where you are. In some teams input from ICs is valued, appreciated and acted upon. You just need to get off your ass and look around.

Anonymous said...

> I know of quite a few teams where devs have trained PM to regularly buy them food, movie tickets, etc to get things done.

I've 'trained' my direct customers to do same. People (including me) tend to work better if they will get good feedback on their work.
It's exactly that kind of compensation that HR must think about.
I wish there was some way for users to pay tips to Microsoft developers who were working on some specific features or customer requests. “Integrating” all the crappy features into one basket is lame.
This must result insiders try their best to get correct (for users) things done.

Anonymous said...

>By Cheopys
Unrelated but - wow thats you Cheopys from the good ol' days on the FuckedCompany.com boards?

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? Seattle times table shows the on-hire stock award. It does not have the annual award compensation.

The footnote says that the "Standard" on-hire award is "1X Annual SA Grant" for L56-L67 and "2X Annual SA Grant" for L68+. So you can divide the estimates by two for L68+.

Anonymous said...

"I wish there was some way for users to pay tips to Microsoft developers who were working on some specific features or customer requests."

That's a neat idea. $400 bucks office suite, here is my $80 bucks tip! Wait, I will give this tip after I use the software for several years and feel satisfied. Wait even more, is not a lot of tips already built in this $400 bucks office suite!

Anonymous said...

Thanks heaven for no Union at MS. If we had a Union, it would have been impossible to fire these Networking laggards who have camped out at Minimsft, posting diatribes against the networking execs and HR

--

if the company was healthy and offered an uncorrupt internal system you would have not have a reason for a union. Stop redirecting the issue.

Tim
(now at google)

Anonymous said...

Great post Mini! Let the world know how MS really treats its most prized assets (i.e. us devs). And kudos to the brave soul who risked his life and livelihood by mailing over these confidential documents to WashTech.

I can just see chairs flying over Puget Sound now!

Hey, maybe we can even make a new verb out of this - you got "Ballmered" if you were ever hit by a chair thrown at you as an angry response!

fCh said...

fCh: Guys, with all due empathy to the feelings of some of you, let me say that over the past two years, real salaries have decreased by 2% in the US. The culprit seems to be globalization, which at this stage hurts white collar salaries just as well as it did those of truckers two decades ago.

Anon: Perhaps that explains why Microsoft's research and development costs (e.g. payroll, etc.) actually went down in 2005 compared to 2004.

Microsoft moved more jobs offshore?


I have no idea sa to how many R&D jobs MSFT has created overseas. However, that 2% decrease across the board shows that the demand side of the job market has had the upper hand. By being such a large employer, MSFT has a better chance than most to come close to the national average in such trends. If MSFT remains a single entity, which I would not agree with if asked (see chircu.com), you folks had better think how your life is going to resemble more and more that of an IBMer! Moreover, given MSFT's 60K and counting employees, that curve should stay in place unless you either split up the company of follow Mini's advice. There are no two ways about the curve, even if less politically savvy fall prey to it, or some no-op gets to build a power base leveraging it...

Cheers,
fCh

Anonymous said...

I haven’t seen much discussion about how much housing prices have increased in the Seattle area compared to Microsoft compensation increases.

Per CNN, $335,000 was the median home price and 11.5% was the annual appreciation last year for Seattle / Tacoma / Bellevue: http://money.cnn.com/2006/02/14/real_estate/NAR_fourth_quarter_sales/

The general rule of thumb from real estate experts is that people should generally only borrow up to 3 times their income when buying a house. If I look at the chart provided in Mini’s write-up, this means that level 63s and higher can afford a median house in the Seattle / Tacoma / Bellevue area. How many IC’s are level 63 or higher?

On the Eastside (Tacoma is a long commute!), a more realistic price is in excess of $500,000 for a modest home. Let’s do the math: $500,000 divided by 3 is $167k = high end of level 67, median level 68. How many people at Microsoft realistically expect to become a level 67/68?

A couple of ideas for HR to consider: Make criteria to receive COLA raises much more challenging for managers and executives. Implement raises for ICs that don’t result in your ICs up ending up in apartments and hovels.

Anonymous said...

>>I'm 52 and I've had a manager tell me that if the job meant working 18 hour days then that's what it took to "meet expectations." People can do that at age 25, they can't do it at age 52, which was when I had a nervous breakdown. They need to get their act together and stop hurting workers to compensate for their own failures. If the product is behind then the schedule is wrong, and the ship date needs to be moved out, trade shows be damned.<<

So you're saying that MS should take longer to ship - as long as necessary so that people can work a comfortable 35 hours a week. So that people like you can be comfy.

And then on the other hand there's Google where the average age is like 27. (You know, what Microsoft used to be when it was successful.)

Mr. 52 year old, if you can't take the fire, stay out. You are not entitled to a job at Microsoft, you are privledged.

Yes, I'm in my 20's - and I'll probably regret what I just said when I become 52 and get age discriminated out of the tech industry like everyone else, but I too am a shareholder.

Anonymous said...

I think this is the real issue: When wages and opportunities for growth stagnate at a company, most people stop working any more than necessary. Once most people realize the difference in reward between being #2 and #20 in their department is 1%, they'll stop putting in the extra effort, because it’s not worth it. The #1 employees will either get a big difference in reward or leave for somewhere that will reward them, because that’s in their nature (they don’t know how to work less).

In my experience, at msft, the #20 will nearly laugh at the #2 for how hard they work for so little compensation. Mgmt doesn't get this at all. Sometimes, managers are willing to work with you to work less because that is all they can do. The key point from above is that the #1 employees don't know how to work less (and don't want to either). For them, msft is a dead end and I've seen them leaving...(not the ideal mini-msft one would hope for though, but with 100,000 employees that execs appear to want you have the massess of... well you know the rest, so you don't need the #1's anymore).

ex-msfter

Anonymous said...

So you're saying that MS should take longer to ship - as long as necessary so that people can work a comfortable 35 hours a week. So that people like you can be comfy.

No, I didn't say anything like that and I infer from your hyperbole that you couldn't make a case out of what I actually wrote so you elected to dodge the point. Please don't erect straw men.

I would not be in this industry if I expected to always put in 40-hour weeks. I expect longer weeks to be the norm and I expect the occasional death march before shipment. Otherwise I would get out.

But when managers generate schedules that are based on trade show dates or just plain pure fiction and devs are unable to meet them without significant pain, the error is not in the devs. We already work hard. The ones who come up with these "aggressive" schedules are the ones who need to be fired, not the devs who burn out a month into 75-hour weeks.

And the larger point I was trying to make, the one you didn't mention at all, is that this is a serious legal vulnerability for Microsoft. And trust me, they know about it, and there have been some unusually large and unannouced severance packages in exchange for affidavit signatures to never sue on this basis.

So a word to managers who bluster about "performance expectations" including stresses only endurable by the young: you could find yourselves in the witness box.

And then on the other hand there's Google where the average age is like 27. (You know, what Microsoft used to be when it was successful.)

You mean "back when the industry was young."

Mr. 52 year old, if you can't take the fire, stay out. You are not entitled to a job at Microsoft, you are privledged.

Yes, I'm in my 20's - and I'll probably regret what I just said when I become 52 and get age discriminated out of the tech industry like everyone else, but I too am a shareholder.


Oh, regret it you will, and long before you're 52. I've been reading Micronews since the late 80s and it never had the free-market Kool-aid tone it has now. Expect more "business decision" rationales in the future.

No, I'm doing great, thanks, I'm the "fit and trim and headed to the gym" kind of 52, not the "Blibbit-burger and takes the elevator down one floor" kind of 52, and I can handle it. But if I'm going to camp out in my office to meet a ship date I damned well better get some seriousl appreciation for it.

Anonymous said...

This is the 2nd time cost of housing has come up in relation to Microsoft compensation. I don't see why you people feel entitled to homeownership. Do you think everybody in NYC or SF gets paid half a mil so they can afford houses there? At least we can still get houses in Renton and Woodinville for pretty reasonable prices. Quit your bitching.

Anonymous said...

So you're saying that MS should take longer to ship - as long as necessary so that people can work a comfortable 35 hours a week. So that people like you can be comfy.

And then on the other hand there's Google where the average age is like 27. (You know, what Microsoft used to be when it was successful.)

Mr. 52 year old, if you can't take the fire, stay out. You are not entitled to a job at Microsoft, you are privledged.

Yes, I'm in my 20's - and I'll probably regret what I just said when I become 52 and get age discriminated out of the tech industry like everyone else, but I too am a shareholder.


Apparently, you haven't read The Mythical Man-Month or Peopleware (which is something I'd expect from a go-go person in their 20's, since all knowledge was invented sometime around when Google IPO'ed).

You might THINK you're gettting more productivity out of incessant 60 hour workweeks by people just out of college, but you're not, really.

FWIW, this other large software company I work for doesn't push for continuous overtime, has a number of people in their 40s and 50s working in IC roles and as managers, and still is able to crank out products that win huge marketshare, too. A group I worked for at Microsoft didn't push for long workweeks except for infrequent pushes (maybe once or twice a year) where people might come in for a few hours on Saturday/Sunday, and they also produce award-winning stuff. If your group is regularly burning out people and churning through college graduates, you're likely to be screwing up- the one group I DID work in that specialized in "Workaholic Wednesdays"and 60 hour weeks also had fantastic turnover- much higher than other similar groups in the division. Every release cycle, a huge amount of accumulated knowledge about the product walked out the door, never to return... and it wasn't 2.5s, either.

Anonymous said...

Mr. 52 year old, if you can't take the fire, stay out. You are not entitled to a job at Microsoft, you are privledged.

Yes, I'm in my 20's - and I'll probably regret what I just said when I become 52 and get age discriminated out of the tech industry like everyone else, but I too am a shareholder.


He is at the age where he is protected from age discrimination by law.

If they try to manage him out for only working the hours he is required to work, he can slap them with a age discrimination suit.

Working extra hours at Microsoft does not necessarily result in any forward momentum in a project. If there is a reset, work often has to be redone.

Working extra hours may improve your skills if you get to do something new. If not, you would be better off spending those extra hours learning something new.

Given how many extra hours employees are working and given how long it takes to ship a product at Microsoft, that approach does not seem to be very effective. You would probably get farther with more effective planning. Given what has been said about management on this blog, you can probably figure out the likelihood of that happening.

Cheopys said...

On thing troubles me more and more as I read about this system. Re: the stack ranking ... I must be missing something crucial here because it sounds like we have been talking about dropping very small teams on a normal distribution and expecting statistically meaningful results. And this cannot possibly be the case if we're talking about teams of the size typically reporting to a dev lead (a half dozen or so), or even the next lead up (maybe two dozen).

Most discussion of the unfairness of this system centers around teams where all are doing comparably good work and managers are required to assign some of them 3.0s when they are doing work that corresponds to 4.0 work on another team.

Given these tiny groups sizes that isn't an incidental possibility!!

Anyone who's studied statistics knows that there is such a thing as a "confidence interval" based on the sample size and if Microsoft is forcing small teams onto a normal distribution then someone is applying statistics without a license and should not only be fired but prosecuted. This makes NO sense.

Stack rankings across ICs numbering in the hundreds might make some sense but I haven't heard of anyone doing this, nor of any set of criteria for evaluatuing work objectively. Quite the contrary.

I would say that reviewer subjectivity is a secondary problem to this one.

Anonymous said...

nice to know that there only a handful of women and minorities in Windows division that are L65+ (twenty-five just 2 years ago) never mind the L68+ super levels. In short, despite the diversity hype, Windows is still ruled by angry white men.

What can they possibly be so angry about?

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
just a quick comment as a MSFT employee:

the review process sucks the mid-year process is another bluff.
when all the managers know 3 to 4 months prior of any review discussion the grade (1-5) that the employee is going to get, explains how the all process is fair :)

best regards from EMEA

Anonymous said...

Ha-ha, the MS comp news has gone national - CNN picked up the story:

Microsoft's labor troubles
"On top of a stagnant stock and a host of new competition, the software giant is said to be struggling to attract the best young talent."

Anonymous said...

HR is designed to protect management. I'll believe change when its implimented.

Anonymous said...

"if the company was healthy and offered an uncorrupt internal system you would have not have a reason for a union. Stop redirecting the issue.

Tim
(now at google)"


Me too
mYosh .. google

Anonymous said...

Really, people, anecdotes aside, in whose interest is it for you to sneer at labor organization? ... With the power of organization we could make Microsoft a better company. We are not a destructive bunch of people, we're not interested in screwing the company or defending unproductive people...

Perhaps not, but that's always what seems to happen. I am the son of an autoworker and I saw the UAW in action against the Big Three firsthand. These stories that you so breezily dismiss were all too common. They speak an ugly truth: Once the protectors of the weak against the abuses of the wealthy, the labor movement has degenerated into the shield of the incompetent and lazy and the champions of featherbedding and corruption.

If our lords and masters governing corporate America are capitalist pigs, then unions are the intestinal parasites of the business world. I have no love for either, but at least the pigs don't lie to me about being on my side.

Anonymous said...

nice to know that there only a handful of women and minorities in Windows division that are L65+ (twenty-five just 2 years ago) never mind the L68+ super levels. In short, despite the diversity hype, Windows is still ruled by angry white men.

What can they possibly be so angry about?


Rising Frustration with Microsoft’s Compensation and Review System

A “stack ranking” system, which identified employees as “number one” and “dead last,” was changed in recent years to a “bucket system” in which employees are placed in a categories. The change occurred after lawsuits were brought against Microsoft alleging racial and gender bias in the closed-door meetings that determined the fate of an employee.


Take a look at age, race and gender by Microsoft level and "stack ranking" bucket.

If the distribution of a particular age, race and/or gender are skewed to lower levels, take a closer look by years of experience.

If it still looks suspect, consider a class action suit.

You have to use measures that cannot be disputed in court (e.g. age, race, gender, years of experience, degree qualifications, etc.).

Anonymous said...

I am the son of an autoworker and I saw the UAW in action against the Big Three firsthand. These stories that you so breezily dismiss were all too common. They speak an ugly truth: Once the protectors of the weak against the abuses of the wealthy, the labor movement has degenerated into the shield of the incompetent and lazy and the champions of featherbedding and corruption.

I won't dispute your experience but I respectfully point out that from my perspective it is an anecdote and I'm sure there are plenty of others. The tone of modern political discourse is instantly negative toward labor organization, and just as everyone knows that the recent two-year period of actual wage growth was a "bubble," everyone knows that unions are corrupt and exist only to protect the slacker.

I ask again: in whose interest is it for you to believe this?

Because labor organization is more than Jimmy Hoffa and doctorate pay for unskilled work; labor organization has made a real difference in this world and in this country and I will not accept that its role is ended.

Nor do I accept that a bunch of people as passionate as we are about our work would accept representatives who protected the low end. Have you seen any such advocacy anywhere in this blog?

Anonymous said...

Read this to get an idea that there are people who have a sense of fairness. Have you seen such a boss at Microsoft?

"The Boss Actually Said This: Pay Me Less"

First made public by Gretchen Morgenson in The New York Times, this letter from RiskMetrics CEO Ethan Berman to his company's board compensation committee is remarkable on more than one level. It's not just the thoughtful, principled view Mr. Berman has about his and his company's compensation practices – it's that such thoughtful, principled views on the subject from corporate CEOs are so rare.

Full contents of the letter...

Anonymous said...

There sure are a lot of pro-union comments from Google employees... interesting trend considering Google isn't union.

Yes some of you may say they are former MSFT trying to relay their feelings about how things should work.

However I can't help but think its possible Google sees competitive advantage to Microsoft going union.

No thanks!

Anonymous said...

"You have to use measures that cannot be disputed in court (e.g. age, race, gender, years of experience, degree qualifications, etc.). "

Right on the spot - Microsoft IT Business Systems probably launched a diversity initiative to combat some "sluggishness" in that area. One of the goals seems to "improve" upon diversity ratios in every team. It was very obvious that majority of the Sr.Directors and above belong to one major group, and predominantly male. Some corrective measures are taking place - they brought in 4 women in the last 4 months at L67+ :).

If you look at the hiring taking place currently between L64-66, it's probably getting worse - even the promotions doled out and recent hires are very obviously of the same background.

Given that close to 40% of the employees are from a different background (ethnicity, education etc..), why do we have so many of the IT Management (some with very little experience) of the same background?

The promotions and the payscale is going to be even more scrutinized this year to ensure that if you are a certain level of a certain background of certain experience, then you should be at the same COMP ratio as your colleague with the same experience/qual albeit different background..I think statistically working these numbers will show the need to make adjustments...

Capitalism survives because the rich have the power to make the rules - forget bending them.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, you haven't read The Mythical Man-Month or Peopleware

A curious, lowly IC here - I see managers trot off into day-long training sessions and also see management-related books that they're given for reading material - but I've NEVER seen these two books on any managers shelf. Why is that?

PS I'm in my twenties btw

Anonymous said...

Coverage on this in CNN-

http://money.cnn.com/2006/03/13/technology/microsoft_employees/?cnn=yes

Good to know that this issue is gaining so much traction in the media- I hope this becomnes the wake-up call!!

Lou Giliberto said...

I learned long before MSFT that the way to make more money was to switch jobs.

I had a co-worker at another company that had 2 years more experience than I did. 5 years later, I was at MSFT and got a call from him. He was now a CIO at a company in IL and wanted me to come work for him. He made it there by interviewing into progressively higher positions.

That can be done internally at MSFT as well. You can hop from high-profile to high-profile projects, leaving your crufty code behind for other people to fix while you run off with your 4.0 and promotion. Those guys eventually become our bosses, and the worst of them go into coast-and-kiss-butt mode to keep their positions and make progress on the management ladder after they stop writing code.

Because, after all, that's how they've learned to manage their careers.

Now, I've had some really good bosses besides the bad ones, especially at the director and group levels, and they've always told me, "You own your career." And that's completely true.

After being frustrated for a few years because I broke my stones for the good of the company and it got me nowhere I had an epiphany that I don't care, because, in reality, that's how I want to own my career.

I stayed on the same project for 5+ years because 1) I liked it, 2) I liked the people I worked with, and 3) I believed it was important for the company.

Everyone else who was on that project that left earlier was promoted one to three times over the five years. At first I was bitter, but I realized except for the mounting bills and dwindling cash flow, I liked what I was doing.

I eventually left for something that I'm having just as much fun at, and plan to stay here for a while, too, even though it probably won't fatten my bank account anymore than the last project. But I'm not on this project to improve my career - I'm here because I want to work on it, and I like working on it.

I've just resigned myself to that's how I want to own my career. I want to work on something and make contributions to it past the "you have high visibility" stage. I don't want the dine-and-dash career model.

I think it's an unfortunate fact of life that to move up you have to move on, but I had hoped MSFT would be better than the rest of the world. Maybe the LisaB changes will address this, and maybe not.

The bottom line is: you really do own your career. For some people success is their personal advancement. For others, it's working on something you like and after it ships telling war stories and showing your scars (oh, and do I have scars!). You have to decide what it is you're really looking for, and then decide how to move your career there.

So for the guys that post things like "if you haven't been promoted in 3 years, you don't belong here", that's ridiculous. If you like what you are doing, want to make good products, and do decent work, you belong here. Not everyone wants to spend their careers chasing level increases (though more money is always welcome).

Anonymous said...

"This is the year… the year that Microsoft releases the newest version of Windows. Yes, Vista will be released in November of this year."

Woooo Hoooo! We made it!

Just in time for Back to School 2007! Sorry we missed 2006 back to school, but that would have required release to oem's ~April/May...

Take that Google!

Anonymous said...

This is the 2nd time cost of housing has come up in relation to Microsoft compensation. I don't see why you people feel entitled to homeownership.

Because it's been a personal objective all of my life. If the company that decided that all devs need to work in Redmond chooses to make that objective unattainable, I'll choose to move on. Because I care, love my work and generally am a nice guy, I give plenty of upfront warning.

Anonymous said...

Never mind the higher compensation of higher levels - my beef is with assignment to levels. I have shipped two versions of windows and helped make the company billions. I worked more 80 hour weeks than I can count. But I am at the same level (61) as the guy in the small strategic project who hasn't shipped a single product, does the 10 to 5 but is considered 'high potential'. Working in windows is a lot harder than working on a 50000 line project (more code / more process / more dependencies / more regressions). It's time we start to reward the people who bring in the money.

Anonymous said...

One of the interesting subcurrents in a lot of these threads is the complete shell game around the selection of people for senior (L67+) roles. We as employees and shareholders should have an expectation that there will be transparency, rigor and integrity in the process and moreover, that HR will uphold those standards. Lisab, is this on your radar also?

Anonymous said...

"The promotions and the payscale is going to be even more scrutinized this year to ensure that if you are a certain level of a certain background of certain experience, then you should be at the same COMP ratio as your colleague with the same experience/qual albeit different background"

it wont matter. They've apparently been doing that analysis for YEARS with little change in the outcome.

I actually have to agree with TheKalif on one point: Now white men are getting a taste of what women and other minorities have experienced for years - not receiving deserved pay and promotions in accordance with the value that they are providing to the company. Welcome..you must be new here.

Anonymous said...

"Take that Google!"

You're absolutely right... it's all Google's fault.

let's drive them out of business and everything will be fine again!



Mutters: 'Larval dweeboid'!

TheKhalif said...

The bottom line is: you really do own your career. For some people success is their personal advancement. For others, it's working on something you like and after it ships telling war stories and showing your scars (oh, and do I have scars!). You have to decide what it is you're really looking for, and then decide how to move your career there.

So for the guys that post things like "if you haven't been promoted in 3 years, you don't belong here", that's ridiculous. If you like what you are doing, want to make good products, and do decent work, you belong here. Not everyone wants to spend their careers chasing level increases (though more money is always welcome).




That was why I left. I didn't want to be a manager, I just wanted to be good at what I did. I was, but because of the stack and bad managers it was impossible to just be the guy who could be counted on.

I know every area I worked in was well tested. I know that when I got a ShipIt I earned it. I didn't care about being the highest paid person, I LOVED WHAT I DID. MS drowned that out of me and by the time I left I didn't even care if ANYTHING worked as promised.

It's a real shame because now it seems like MS is just a place where rich guys collect more money and employees stab each other in the back for crumbs.

Good Luck to all who remain. Lou you may even remember Christian Howell. I remember you from NTSELF. I left in 2002.

Anonymous said...

If this is the kind of thing unions would deliver, then it's safe to say unionization would be a fatal blow to Microsoft.

Get a grip folks. In some countries people get paid $1 a day to climb through sewers and remove clogs.

joe said...

Woooo Hoooo! We made it!

Just in time for Back to School 2007! Sorry we missed 2006 back to school, but that would have required release to oem's ~April/May...

Take that Google!


This is funny... seriously, why does it matter to google whether or not Microsoft releases the next generation of their consumer OS.

How does this affect Google? Does it divert revenue from google to MSFT? Does it prevent google from deliverring on their business plan?

What, exactly is google supposed to "take"?

Anonymous said...

More praise for the stellar job being done by Gates/Ballmer and the rest of the overpaid and underperforming senior management team:

Microsoft: A 21st Century Has-been

Cheopys said...

So for the guys that post things like "if you haven't been promoted in 3 years, you don't belong here", that's ridiculous. If you like what you are doing, want to make good products, and do decent work, you belong here. Not everyone wants to spend their careers chasing level increases (though more money is always welcome).

I agree with you, I have zero interest in being a VP or a Partner. Yes the money would be nice but by the time you get to 65 or so you're taking MBA classes and thinking about "position in the marketplace" and at that point I would feel like I'd been buried alive. I expect that in five years I'll still be writing code and designing features because that's what I like to do.

But this is considered a bad attitude at Microsoft. To desire promotion away from coding is considered the only reasonable path for achievers. The hyper-aggressives who sprinkle technical conversation with the lexicon of business are regarded higher than those whose focus is on their work. And these incidentally but not really make the very worst managers.

Give me the money and give me more responsibility but as soon as I'm in more meetings and using Powerpoint instead of VS then I'm unhappy.

Anonymous said...


Microsoft aims to boost small biz sales over 9 pct


"Turner, who joined Microsoft last year from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research), said overall technology spending by small businesses is growing at 9 percent a year.

"So we better do more than that, because I think we have a big opportunity," said Turner, stressing that the target was an aspiration and not a financial projection."

Wow, that's aggressive. Effectively saying "We hope to not lose share and grow at the market - but's it's not a commitment or anything". This would be comical if it wasn't so sad.

Anonymous said...

So for the guys that post things like "if you haven't been promoted in 3 years, you don't belong here", that's ridiculous. If you like what you are doing, want to make good products, and do decent work, you belong here. Not everyone wants to spend their careers chasing level increases (though more money is always welcome).

With each year at a level, you are expected to improve your skills to match all of the requirements of the level. A 3.0 means you meet most of the requirements which may be good enough to do your job.

However, managers also factor in how long you have been trying to meet all of the requirements of your level when placing you in the stack rank which affects where you are on the curve.

The longer you are at a certain level the more likely they are going to manage you out so you can be replaced by someone else.

They have no need to settle for someone who is just doing their job.

Union trying again to organize Microsoft

It noted the company received 166,184 applications for 1,509 positions added during the past year.

Anonymous said...

I didn't start to use XP until last year and only then because the number of apps that were incompatible with W2K became so large. Having worked on Vista as a dev I doubt I will ever use it at all. And by the time I reach the same point with Vista that I reached with XP I will be a fulltime Linux user at home. I've come to truly loathe Vista.

Phil said...

"Second, and I know I'm going to start the mother of all flame wars because of this, but devs should be paid more relative to testers/PMs. In my experience, testers and PMs would be helpless without constant assistance from devs, but we're all paid roughly the same and that's unfair."

Let he who has never checked in a bug cast the first 2.5.

I have great respect for the developers at Microsoft. The devs in my group are some of the most hard working and smart people I know. However, I wouldn't think that they are exactly the best people to determine customer needs, communicate across groups, write specs, develop test cases and automation, manage the security review process, or even file a decent bug report in PS.

If you are too arrogant to realize we are all part of a team, each bringing unique and vital skills, please apply for a job at Google and help bring us them down. I'm sure people just like you were the brainchilds behind such winners like Google Talk, Google Pack, or Google Pages, or Google Video. Oh, wait - they were all disappointments that hardly anyone uses (Google Video is getting better, but it was definately released too soon).

All four disciplines (in MSN we also have Ops) bring a significant value add to the table. Maybe if you stopped whining and decided to work *with* your team instead of secretly plotting against them, they might respect you a little more and be more proactive. You might even develop something great.

I love my job because I love this company and I love my team. Our GM has made it a point to ensure that all four of the disciplines work together equally in the planning, development, testing, and release of our software. Remember back to what you learned at NEO. Diversity in teams may take more time to develop products and services, but that diversit yields a better solution.

I may sound like too much of a company man, but I really wanted to get my point across. We are a team here folks.

Anonymous said...

"Woooo Hoooo! We made it!

Just in time for Back to School 2007! Sorry we missed 2006 back to school, but that would have required release to oem's ~April/May...

Take that Google!"

Jim Alchin, is that you? BTW, GOOG could care less.

Anonymous said...

Totally unrelated to the post, but still a good read..
Go to http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/TwoStories.html
and read how microsoft was in earlier stages - Man I would love to get it back....

Anonymous said...

Jim Alchin, is that you? BTW, GOOG could care less.

Couldn't agree with you more. I work at Google. Before Google, I spent many years at mother microsoft.

You are right. We could care less when you ship or what you ship.

I personally hope Vista kicks ass. Why? Because if Vista is a great system that lets me innovate, I will take every possible advantage of it pointing more and more of your customers towards my services. See, in reality, Google is a Microsoft ISV. When you make your virus-infested platform better, our customers benefit as well.

I guess you need to keep this in mind. If you are hell bent on world domination and crushing Google, maybe you should re-think this whole internet thing. If you eliminate internet access from Windows, then you will certainly cut off our air supply...

Anonymous said...

I may sound like too much of a company man, but I really wanted to get my point across. We are a team here folks.

---

get out of the bubble dude as you are pretty isolated. Your particular team has few stars, but does have alot of star-wanna-bes and duds (you didn't leave them all in IA)

btw - flossing helps cavity prevention.

Anonymous said...

The "Shawn Kemp syndrome" has eaten deep into the fabric of several msfties, just like a cankerworm.

For the young 'uns, this syndrome is used to describe Shawn Kemp's unhappiness and protests when a stiff named Jim McIlvaine got a seven year $35m contract from the Sonics several years ago. Shawn felt Jim's talent level didn't merit such pay (which was true) and bellyached forever.

Shawn Kemp's mistake was - instead of trying to get more money for himself, he was complaining about how much money Jim was making and how Jim didn't deserve it. And by the way Shawn was being paid what he negotiated and accepted originally before Jim came along.

So what's the relevance to msfties? I have been quietly lurking in this blog for a while and all I hear for the most part are:

Pay devs more than everyone
Why are execs paid so much?
Pay Windows folks more than other groups
Fire this exec and fire that GM/PUM
PMs are dumb
Testers are bozos
etc, etc.


The bottom line is that msfties in the lower rungs of the level ladder will like to earn more since there are no more golden handcuffs (options, etc). But why should we desire that someone else lose their pay? Why do we desire that someone else be fired? Why are we so sure that no exec in MS deserves their pay or perks? Why do we desire to enforce high performance standards for execs but hate when we are dinged in our reviews for mistakes we think are beyond our control? (Imagine getting dinged for every Sev1/P1 bug or regression)

The only conclusion I have with this line of thinking is that for several of the commenters on this blog, back-stabbing, character assasination, evil machinations, etc are seen as the only to get ahead in MS. Somebody must lose something for them to gain something. No doubt this type of scheming works some of the time and some people have tried this in the past. Perhaps some people have fallen out of favor, lost their godfathers, found themselves working for their former victims due to a reorg, or are now victims of such wickedness that only others experienced before (welcome to the club, as someone said to the so called "angry white men"). Now msfties are spitting venom in these pages and trying to denigrate and take down others in the process.

My advice? Make your case (more pay, etc) without passing judgement on what others make or deserve to make. I saw the salary info on washtech. Even the high levels have low base salaries, IMHO.

BTW, if you have ever heard me use this Shawn Kemp syndrome before - yes it is the same person. And you know the quality of my counsel.

Anonymous said...

It's a real shame because now it seems like MS is just a place where rich guys collect more money and employees stab each other in the back for crumbs.

Right on the money!

Someone mentioned three of the GMs under John Nicols who manage a total of three PUMs. That's kinda how MSN is in general. Count the number of directors, senior directors, GMs and other fancy titles in MSN. Not long ago, the whole of SQL Server product had one GM. And compare that to having a GM for MSN Autos now.

It would be interesting to compare the ratio of Fancy titles Vs ICs in Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

It noted the company received 166,184 applications for 1,509 positions added during the past year.

No doubt...but not from qualified applicants.

You've only got to ask around teams to hear how hard it can be to find ONE candidate who'd get through an interview loop - let alone the 100 that the above Microsoft HR quote suggests.

Now I'm not suggesting that there aren't 99 others with the appropriate qualifications... they just aren't applying to Microsoft any more, while at the same time, years and years of experience is "allowed" to sadly (or not so sadly)leave the company every week.

Hope LisaB can distract the troops until after Vista and Office 12 ship! Actually I hope that things ARE turned around, but frankly, I would be astounded if this did happen.

Fact is, I LOVE my job. I get free reign to pursue problems, find solutions and implement them. It's a small team, and we get stuff done. I just dread the all-hands where we will get informed using terms like "leverage", "synergy", and "super-excited" that our small effective team is gone. It always happens

Lou Giliberto said...

Good Luck to all who remain. Lou you may even remember Christian Howell. I remember you from NTSELF. I left in 2002.

Yeah, Christian, I remember the name at least (which is how most of us know each other anyhow). Boy, you wouldn't recognize the place now if you left in 2002.

You're also right that things get beat out of us by some of the nonsense. I guess I just compartmentalize it well, but some days it does get to me.

Hope everything is going well for you (and all the other ex-msft people I knew that are lurking around).

Anonymous said...

Let he who has never checked in a bug cast the first 2.5.


-
ok straight from a test perspective.

Of course, a developer who is of course responsible for quite a few lines of codes can make an error from time to time. But you know what, a tester is there to help ensure quality of product happens. It is not necessarily there job to babysit/code review a developer, but i have been part of teams where test was a silent partner other than complain and certainly spend more time politicin' than testing or finding quality issues with the product.

Of course code in windows compared to the relatively small code base you deal with in MSN is really an apples-apples comparison right?

In fact, the last products you in particular were part of were purchsed externally.

ps - dental floss does prevent tooth decay

Anonymous said...

Yeah, join a union. Look how well that worked out for the US auto, coal and steelmaking industries.

MS doesn't need a union, they need a major SHAREHOLDER revolt. Balmer is running that place into the ground. Vista is six bloody years late, employee morale is completely in the crapper, and the latest so-called "idea" was to make the Tablet PC even *less* useful.

There are plenty of good engineers left at MS. For the shareholders' sake, they need to be competently led.

Anonymous said...

I worked for a guy named dalen and he ended up using a guy on our team as the lacky.

worked well for 2 years until the guy quit and went to google. He then started doing this to me but I ended up leaving to another team in windows.

Luckily for me, I had networked well and his defamation of my character attempts fell on failing ears.

Others in our group also had the same fate.

Anonymous said...

You are right. We could care less when you ship or what you ship.

Both of you mean GOOG couldn't care less. Sorry, pet peeve.

Anonymous said...

and the latest so-called "idea" was to make the Tablet PC even *less* useful.

This is true! Just ask the marketing PMs for OneNote and they'll tell you that they're trying to position OneNote as a "non-Tablet PC" product.

Ballmer is responsible for this! 5 yrs ago, it was Tablet Tablet Tablet...now, all that rah-rah Tablet attitude has suddenly hushed up...

Cheopys said...

I really wish this silly Google/Microsoft rivalry that's emerging in these comments would die away. The two companies aren't really in direct competition anyway and even if they were this squabbling is making me feel like I'm in high school again.

But it's interesting to see a new host for the kind of vivaceous and exciting environment that obtained at Microsoft before the financial types took over. I like to think we could have that again if we could get all the "shareholder value" creeps out of management.

Anonymous said...

The only conclusion I have with this line of thinking is that for several of the commenters on this blog, back-stabbing, character assasination, evil machinations, etc are seen as the only to get ahead in MS. Somebody must lose something for them to gain something. No doubt this type of scheming works some of the time and some people have tried this in the past. Perhaps some people have fallen out of favor, lost their godfathers, found themselves working for their former victims due to a reorg, or are now victims of such wickedness that only others experienced before (welcome to the club, as someone said to the so called "angry white men"). Now msfties are spitting venom in these pages and trying to denigrate and take down others in the process.

My advice? Make your case (more pay, etc) without passing judgement on what others make or deserve to make. I saw the salary info on washtech. Even the high levels have low base salaries, IMHO.


There is the curve.

If the "deadwood" is entering Microsoft faster than the curve is cutting it, you have an accumulation of "deadwood" and the curve is not being applied effectively by management.

If the "deadwood" is entering Microsoft slower than the curve is cutting it, you eventually tag talented people with 3.0's. According to the information here, repeat 3.0's are a signal you are on your way to being managed out. This is one possible source of complaints - people who are talented in absolute terms being told they are substandard in relative terms and being treated as such.

If the "deadwood" is entering Microsoft at the same rate that the curve is cutting it, you are basically just changing the players. The only justification that I can see is cutting the "deadwood" at higher levels where it does the most damage. This is more difficult to do at higher levels I imagine since those employees are more adept at politics and can afford better attornies.

As has been mentioned here before, if you apply the curve to individual teams, you many be penalizing teams with a lot of talented people. It only makes sense to apply the curve to a larger number of people to avoid doing this.

In the population in which the curve is applied, if the employees are very close in talent, some ambitious person is going to try to knock someone down by rumor or other means. This is not unique to Microsoft. Read that Corporate Confidential book to get an idea of what HR does to employees and employees to to each other. The defense against someone spreading rumors is for the decision makers to know you well enough to know the rumor is false (i.e. visibility).

Anonymous said...

"Fact is, I LOVE my job. I get free reign to pursue problems, find solutions and implement them. It's a small team, and we get stuff done. I just dread the all-hands where we will get informed using terms like "leverage", "synergy", and "super-excited" that our small effective team is gone. It always happens"

Welcome to the latest episode of Reorgs: The Dark Side.

You just described the transition that occurred for my small team last year. We thought that we were so effective at addressing a market opportunity, that MS would let us just keep doing what we were doing, the way we were doing it. But suppose there's another group looking for a "big thing" because their last project didn't get too much attention, didn't go well, etc. If they can convince management that your group is a logical fit for inclusion in theirs, because they want to stake a claim to a share of your good results, good luck to you.

Just as you described, there was an all-hands that took everyone by surprise and...

Overnight, your tightly-focused, entreprenurially-spirited dev team is overrun with the bloat of process PMs, marketing strategy analysts and their associated PPT graphs, and every tiny feature change needs to go up to a war committee that takes longer to discuss the feature than you'd take to implement it. The irony is that this bloat is probably what reduced the effectiveness of this group's prior product push. We're overstaffed and less efficient than we were 12 months ago, and the only management I can get an audience with, to voice my concerns, are those in the group that latched onto our product. In other words, those with a stake in seeing that things stay exactly as they are, because it's their kingdom and they like it as is.

When this happens, it's as if a small company was bought out by a larger one. The people who used to be in charge now have a say, but ultimately others are in charge. Things change. Some changes are good, some aren't. Some things that should have been more formalized all along (specs that actually match the product? wowee) get more formalized. Some things that likely should not be more formalized (feature discussions, fancy test result reporting) become more formalized as well. And it's the responsibility of each person in the affected area to decide if this works for them or not.

Phil said...

“Of course, a developer who is of course responsible for quite a few lines of codes can make an error from time to time.”

Of course this is true. Lord knows I’ve made my share of coding and testing mistakes in my career here. I have my beefs with devs and pm just like any other tester. I don’t think they take testability into account enough. However, this is true for any software product or service at Microsoft. I don’t think for a second though that a DEV or PM at my level score should be paid according to different scale. The levels are what they are. Deal with it.

"Of course code in windows compared to the relatively small code base you deal with in MSN is really an apples-apples comparison right?"

I have seen both sides of the coin, and I would agree with you somewhat. I worked in Windows Networking for a year and realized it was not a place I enjoyed. I prefer the software as a service model than the product one. I feel a lot closer to the customer in MSN/WL then I did in Windows. But to say that the code which MSN develops is not complex simply is untrue. If writing web applications were easy, then anyone could beat GOOG on any given day. Yeah I know I don’t work in Search, but the overall quality and complexity of MSN has grown significantly over the past 2-3 years. As our services integrate more and more the test matrix grows larger and larger. This stuff ain’t easy.

My larger point was that people need to work as a team and stop trying to degrade each other. If someone thinks they are underpaid, then work with management to get a level increase. If you receive pushback or BS, leave the company and develop something amazing for customers.

“In fact, the last products you in particular were part of were purchsed externally.”

You’re half right here. Our group licensed a piece of software for a feature and added both server-side and client-side logic to the core. My team tested both our code in a white-box fashion and the vendor’s code in a black-box fashion. This is, of course, only one feature area that my team owned. We also tested components fully developed in-house (quite well, I might add).

The Nog said...

This is funny... seriously, why does it matter to google whether or not Microsoft releases the next generation of their consumer OS.

I believe the "Take that Google!" comment was sarcasm.

As an aside, Vista does matter to Google if Microsoft closely ties Vista to its online services.

Anonymous said...

Re: dev vs. test vs. PM: no need for straw man arguments. I'm just pointing out that, in general, devs have more expertise than testers or PMs. Devs are not infallible, testers and PMs obviously serve an important purpose, and we should all get along; nobody ever questioned that. But it's like the relationship between doctors and nurses, or lawyers and paralegals. Devs are the people who actually engineer the software and everything else is a supporting role that requires less expertise and should consequently be compensated less. (And by the way, many other software companies employ relatively few testers/PMs and pay them dramatically less than devs. In my admittedly limited experience, Microsoft is the exception here, not the rule.)

TheKhalif said...


You're also right that things get beat out of us by some of the nonsense. I guess I just compartmentalize it well, but some days it does get to me.

Hope everything is going well for you (and all the other ex-msft people I knew that are lurking around).



I'm no surprised. I couldn't believe it when I heard that SDETs have become testers. WHat a mistake. I tried doing SDET and STE work and that drained me more than anything. At the time, there were'nt a lot of people doing it. I tried to tell my managers - I had 3 on a team of 7 - that it isn't possible because you can only do one at a time.

They didn't listen and chose to say that if one thing got A LITTLE behind, I was deserving of less praise than STEs who were barely able to start a batch file. Yes the "warm body" stories are true.


I managed to make the jump from SDET to dev after working at a company MS purchased and things are going great. I have consistently increased my salary since I left so I think it was the right move.

I do miss some of the people I worked with but between the stack, bad mgmt and the weather I had to get out.

As far as unions, I am really split because if sr. mgmt was doing their job there would be no need but at the same time, devs don't need anymore process. Unions bring more process. I just want MS to be the company I LOVED working for. I want WIndows to be the platform that supports companies like Google and Yahoo, not tries to "kill them."

I want SDEs and SDETs and PMs to act like one team. In all my five years and who knows how many reorgs, I never really got a sense of team from many people.

Let's get it together guys. I'm not saying that I'll ever move back to Redmond but I STILL have a "vested interest" in the success and stability of MS. After all, I'm typing this on X64, not Linux.

Anonymous said...

"Both of you mean GOOG couldn't care less. Sorry, pet peeve."

What's next? A spelling bee?

Anonymous said...

Re: “Shawn Kemp syndrome”

Extending your basketball analogy here.

Microsoft has announced plans to spend $1 billion to buy more buildings in Redmond. Analogy: New basketball stadium that will not generate any additional revenue, impact neighboring home values, and make congestion in the neighborhood worse.

Microsoft has announced plans to hire a lot more people. Analogy: The LA Lakers trying to get all the superstars without accounting for the fact that they are going to have to pay for all these superstars and without realizing that it only takes 5 people and a couple of substitutes to have a good team. (Substitute Seattle Supersonics if you are a Lakers fan!).

The executives at Microsoft who are responsible for these decisions. Analogy: White men who can’t jump but get to play anyway.

Anonymous said...

"Acquiring a union means you pissed off your workforce so bad, they decided you were the enemy."

Glad someone gets it. If MSFT gets a union it will mean management has completely failed.

My brother works at Boeing. Don't want to join the union? Too bad, still gotta pay a fee for that. He's surrounded by slackers. Any effort to do a great job is frowned upon as making your fellow union zombies look bad.

He reads this blog and just laughs. No matter how bad we think it is at MSFT it only gets worse with a union.

As to management failure: what sucks more than being an IC and powerless? Being a low level manager and powerless. Getting glowing management feedback (I rule) but still getting less than stellar reviews becuase your boss has to pull some monkey out of his ass to justify your low score. "It's not our turn" or "*dude* over there did a better job blowing our PUM" or "The productivity of your team doesn't matter, what did YOU do?" or "you don't have enough visibility." The excuses are never ending. Whatever. The technology is cool and the salary, at least for now, is fine.

Anonymous said...

As an aside, Vista does matter to Google if Microsoft closely ties Vista to its online services.

You forget that we are convicted monopolists. We really can't get away with any form of "tying" that abuses our monopoly position. If we try to do this, Google, Yahoo, Sun, the EU, etc. will be all over us. We need to play fair unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

"(And by the way, many other software companies employ relatively few testers/PMs and pay them dramatically less than devs. In my admittedly limited experience, Microsoft is the exception here, not the rule.)"

There may be another reason why there are so many testers at Microsoft and why they are paid that much.

Lots of people on this blog have commented how technical skills are deemphasized. Its a reasonable conclusion from here that our devs are way less capable than those at many other software companies.

Therefore management tries to paper up the cracks by hiring boatloads of testers and paying them more.

Anonymous said...

Glad someone gets it. If MSFT gets a union it will mean management has completely failed.

--

You got it wrong - this means HR has succeeded. HR's goal is to increase their headcount by driving up employee discontent. This way HR can have career growth.

Anonymous said...

I won't dispute your experience but I respectfully point out that from my perspective it is an anecdote and I'm sure there are plenty of others. The tone of modern political discourse is instantly negative toward labor organization, and just as everyone knows that the recent two-year period of actual wage growth was a "bubble," everyone knows that unions are corrupt and exist only to protect the slacker.

A snowflake is a tiny thing, yet an avalanche is difficult to ignore. A web search for union misbehavior yields such an avalanche of hits. (Try it.) How about facing the issues head on instead of trying to pretend they don't exist?

Nor do I accept that a bunch of people as passionate as we are about our work would accept representatives who protected the low end. Have you seen any such advocacy anywhere in this blog?

I have not, and I doubt very much that any of the members of any other union would adovocate such a thing either. Yet, it would seem that this is commonly the case. How are we to explain this discrepancy?

I ask again: in whose interest is it for you to believe this?

My colleagues will have to find their own answer but mine is clear: it is in my interest, the interest of all of my co-workers here, and the interest of the continued future of Microsoft as the leading software company on the planet.

Our company has more than its share of ills, but a union is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

And by the way, many other software companies employ relatively few testers/PMs and pay them dramatically less than devs.

Most other companies didn't manage to grow as big as Microsoft. Hmm, I wonder why?

Having worked with quite a few ISVs, most other companies put out crappy code too.

If you want to go somewhere that caters to your prima donna attitude, don't let the door hit you on the fanny on the way out.

Anonymous said...

Lots of people on this blog have commented how technical skills are deemphasized. Its a reasonable conclusion from here that our devs are way less capable than those at many other software companies.
Therefore management tries to paper up the cracks by hiring boatloads of testers and paying them more.


If someone is really good, why would they want to be in test?

Even if someone is half way decent, they usually would not want to be in test.(except those with a "passion" for testing).

Unless the company overpays people for being in test. And that is what Microsoft does. "overpaying" of course being relative to MSFT devs and their contributions. Not comparing to market rates.

Drei said...

Re: dev vs. test vs. PM: no need for straw man arguments. I'm just pointing out that, in general, devs have more expertise than testers or PMs. But it's like the relationship between doctors and nurses, or lawyers and paralegals.

Dude, it's fine you're subscribing to this ideology, and I hope it goes well for you, but I wish you would rather spare us the condescendent BS.

Software is software, and there is no line in the sand that says "test code shall be no more complicated than this". Don't think the dev/test categorization necessarily separates men from boys. I infer from your comments that you're either a) unfamiliar with the test code covering your area or b) happen to have a crappy/undermanned/pick your reason test team. Testing is not always dumb "call X, expect Y" flat, linear code. I could point out a few areas where the testing is quite a bit more complicated than the component being tested. To wit: test drivers, simulators, reference multimedia components (audio and video) and I'm sure examples abound around the company. I assure you it takes a lot more skill to design and develop a reference processor than it is to design and implement a thin layer that passes calls between the caller and the driver.

Furthermore, as was mentioned earlier on this thread, the test ladder for ICs stops somewhere at L62-63, and one's options are only to embrace their management side or stay put as "test architect". In dev, there is still room to grow as an IC to L65 (and even beyond), and so devs are better paid than testers.

And besides, it's not your place to even debate this issue. The people that own this company have decided that testing the software is worth this much, and that's what it is. If it makes sense to them, why does it bother you? Would you work better/be less stressed out if you found out my salary was reduced by 20%, in deference to your request? Would you accept going into a 1:1 programming contest with a random tester whose compensation you think too great? What if you get your rear end violently handed to you? You think you attended the secret classes/lab hours in college that we, testfolk, were vehemently denied? Did they tell you, during your interviews, that your IQ is xxx and, as such, you are too good to be a tester?

Lastly, the comparison with other, smaller companies does not hold one bit. Maybe they don't value testing as much. Maybe they place on devs the burden of testing (unit tests, what a concept, you should see how our devs squirm at the sound of it), maybe they can't attract high quality developers for their testing effort - who knows.

Bloody hell, I've got drawn into yet another dev-test skirmish.

Anonymous said...

The anti-union comments are misguided, based on typical right of center bias. They are probably confusing regular unions with the corrupt police unions around the country - where they are allowing cops to get away with murders and getting $80K in annual pension through illegal overtime.

Remember - the real unions bought you the weekends!

Along with paid vacations, 40 hours work week and outlawed child labor.

Unions can be good for Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Weekends, vacations and a 40h work week? Where do I sign up?

Cheopys said...

The anti-union comments are misguided, based on typical right of center bias. They are probably confusing regular unions with the corrupt police unions around the country - where they are allowing cops to get away with murders and getting $80K in annual pension through illegal overtime.

Remember - the real unions bought you the weekends!

Along with paid vacations, 40 hours work week and outlawed child labor.

Unions can be good for Microsoft.


I agree. Look for example at the review system. Say anything about it and the best response you can expect is "no point complaining about what you can't change" and more likely you'll get a rep as a malcontent that will lower your next review score.

I don't think many people reading this (or for that matter many people at the entire company) have a good feeling about reviews. The only people I've heard say anything good about them were the sycophants who are always first to adopt the latest in-crowd neologisms and slogans, contemptible brown-nosers who came to MS right after college (hi, Dan!).

With the power of labor organization behind us we could apply real pressure to get the system changed to something more fair; the bright people who can see where the flaws are (e.g. applying a bell curve to four people) could overrule the dullard managers who see nothing wrong with that.

Personally I'm sick and tired of hearing the anecdotes about trade unions in blue-collar professions, the ones that purportedly protect slackers. Yeah I'm sure this happens but it's an abuse, and I reiterate that when you sneer at unions you are taking the side of corporate management, and opposing your own self-interest.

What's good for GM is NOT necessarily good for America, and what's good for Microsoft top management is not good for me and thee. Get used to the idea; the interests of the privileged and powerful are incongruent with your own. Toss that dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged in the trash where it belongs and start looking after your own interests.

I would absolutely love to attend a Microsoft union meeting. I imagine we'd have the most scintillating debates seen since the salons of the 30s where physicists and artists traded their ideas.

Anonymous said...

More strawman arguments. Of course some testing requires an incredible amount of skill. Of course there are some testers who are incredibly talented. Again, nobody said otherwise. Let's discuss the general case here.

Anonymous said...

There is no "post comment" link on the last topic.

BP/CMB said...

After composing a nice long response to your latest blog entry I found that comments are turned off for it (even though it appears to ask for comments).

So I blogged my comments and will now try and figure out what coComments is all about.

Yes, it IS possible to make the Internet so complex that nobody will know how to use it any more.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I've got a comment on the next post, too, and I can't post it there, so here it is. (Hey, you ask for comment, you've got to expect to get some.)

Don't knock safety, stability, and speed. If you ask users, what is their biggest gripe? Either stability ("it crashed and took all my work with it" or "I updated and it trashed my hard drive") or speed ("my system runs too slow" - not knowing that it's because of all the spyware they are running).

Talk to IT people. What are their biggest gripes? Stability and safety. Every virus infection costs them a lot of time. Every time they have to clean up from some user managing to hose their installation is more time. Every spyware infestation they have to remove is more time. And time is money.

These things may not be "sexy", but they translate into fixing user's actual pain points.

MSS

Cheopys said...

If stability is the criterion then we should go back to W2K.

I was a dev on Vista and while I try hard to partition my frustration with the environment with my impressions of Vista, I still have no impressions of Vista that make me warm inside. If someone asked me why he should upgrade from XP I would draw a blank.

I think people are going to absolutely hate LUA. If I'm in the administrator's group I expect to be able to create a folder anywhere I want.

Anonymous said...

"Furthermore, as was mentioned earlier on this thread, the test ladder for ICs stops somewhere at L62-63, and one's options are only to embrace their management side or stay put as "test architect". In dev, there is still room to grow as an IC to L65 (and even beyond), and so devs are better paid than testers."

This is not true. both SDE and SDET roles go above the IC L65

Look at the CSP's for dev and test and you will see that they both go to the same levels

Partner Software Development Engineer in Test
U.S. Levels 68 and Higher

Phil said...

“If someone is really good, why would they want to be in test?”

Why does someone choose to be an architect, journalist, doctor, or social worker? Questions like this are meaningless. Qualified and successful engineers in the SDET tree remain there because they like their job, they excel at it, and it gives them genuine satisfaction. Most of us also enjoy the opportunity to be customer advocates and enact real and benficial change in the product.

Have you ever thought that there might be a few testers who wonder why anyone would want to be a developer? Personally, I like the freedom to be able to design and implement my test plans, cases, and automation code all on my own. Many times testers are their own customers so we can develop things the way we like in what language suits the problem best.

Wasn't this thread about unions? Just checking. :)

Anonymous said...

>I reiterate that when you sneer at unions you are taking the side of corporate management, and opposing your own self-interest.

You can reiterate all day long but it doesn't prove a thing. Can the grandstanding, quit dodging the issues, and *prove it*.

cjt said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog; I appreciate it. Sorry if my phrasing ended up appearing a bit offensive; I wasn't trying to call you a tool, but wondering aloud if maybe there was some validity to the blog being a Microsoft tool (hopefully that's not too subtle a distinction). I have a huge respect for what you've done here, and admire how you've handled what are sometimes pretty abusive comments.

Having said that...I guess my point was that there didn't seem to be the outrage I'd expect with the announcements of the expansion. Maybe that perception was partly due to reading too much into the lag between the news and your response. And the apparent conflict between Bill's seeming nod to the idea of headcount reductions while MS adds 12K folks didn't seem to faze you.

A couple questions, if you have the time amidst all the other blog maintenance (and the intrusions of your career, non-work life, etc.). You mentioned reverting your Orgami kudo if the product wouldn't be available until fall...it sounds like it'll be out in the next several months. What's your evaluation of Orgami in that light?

Second, a hypothetical. If it were somehow communicated to you that your blog had been valuable enough to MS that Bill and/or Steve wanted to arrange a face-to-face with you to go deeper into things, would you be willing to give up your anonymity to do that? And what would be the reasons for whichever why you decide?

Thanks for providing this forum and thus all the accompanying information. And like I said, I'm not really one to buy into the conspiracy theories about who's really doing this blog. I look forward to reading it for far into the future. (Hmm, does that mean I don't think the slimming will happen any time soon? Just call me skeptical).

Anonymous said...

I think people are going to absolutely hate LUA. If I'm in the administrator's group I expect to be able to create a folder anywhere I want.

I'm sure users will hate it - until they get used to it and understand it's importance. And so will the little f***ers who like to write viruses. It's probably the single biggest reason to get Vista.

Anonymous said...

A PRODUCT MANAGER is Level 60????

What the hell is wrong with this company???

Nobody from the BMO even DESERVES to be above Level 58...seriously, think about it...if it wasn't for us Devs, would marketing people even EXIST? Would MBAs even HAVE jobs at Microsoft?

What if one fine day all us Devs decided to resign en masse and go to some low cost country to live off our savings for the rest of our lives? There'd be no coding done and no jobs for the suits...there I've said it, and no I'm not pro-union.

Anonymous said...

>Look at the CSP's for dev and test and you will see that they both go to the same levels

Yeah, the CSPs go up to the same place but A) it's a relatively recent development and B) hasn't really happened yet. I recall seeing test manager positions on the new jobs list roughly around the same level as mid-grade dev ICs.

Anonymous said...

Here's why you wanna be in test:

1. You get to design your own harness from the ground up - not follow PM specs.

2. You do not need to think about end-user issues and 30 text scrubs from the PM.

3. The more you can automate, the more you can chill out at work.

4. The stress factor is usually pretty low. If there is a major post-ship Sev 1 P1 bug, the Dev will have to do major over time under the bug is fixed. The tester does not have any hard, stressful obligation in such a scenario - he can just manually test something and do the automation later on during the next release.

So if you like to be under the fire and want to boast "I wrote this thing", you probably don't want to be a SDET. But if you like a cool, stress ful environment where you add value to the product, quite free to do what you think is cool and overall prefer a research-ish env where end-user problems are not your headache, then SDET is your dream job.

Anonymous said...

If someone is really good, why would they want to be in test?

I'm good at breaking software and I love to do it.

The fact that I get to humiliate devs like you is just icing on the cake.

Anonymous said...

mark ashida ...

is there more to say?

people don't realize he was a union guy pre-MS

Anonymous said...

1. You get to design your own harness from the ground up - not follow PM specs.

2. You do not need to think about end-user issues and 30 text scrubs from the PM.

3. The more you can automate, the more you can chill out at work.

4. The stress factor is usually pretty low. If there is a major post-ship Sev 1 P1 bug, the Dev will have to do major over time under the bug is fixed. The tester does not have any hard, stressful obligation in such a scenario - he can just manually test something and do the automation later on during the next release.

So if you like to be under the fire and want to boast "I wrote this thing", you probably don't want to be a SDET. But if you like a cool, stress ful environment where you add value to the product, quite free to do what you think is cool and overall prefer a research-ish env where end-user problems are not your headache, then SDET is your dream job.


----

Just bull*hit

you have to design something that is useful none (or near none) of which has yet yielded muc hvalue to product quality.

WTT or various other "WTT" wanna-bee harnesses?

come on ...

Drei said...

Here's why you wanna be in test:

Ok, now let me take the Dev(il)'s side and unload some ice on your pathos.

1. You get to design your own harness from the ground up - not follow PM specs.

That used to be the case, but by now most areas have old, creaky harnesses and of course, there's always the ueber-harnes, WTT itself.

2. You do not need to think about end-user issues and 30 text scrubs from the PM.

You'd better - your scenarios should mimic the usage of an end user. You should be on the spec like print on paper and be involved in triage, too. Every bug your end user finds should translate into the equivalent test case and in a search of testing holes.

3. The more you can automate, the more you can chill out at work.

Sure. But automation is a one time job; you still need to develop all the tedious test cases that resemble carrying water with a bottle cap. 50% of the time is API/code coverage/dumb testing. 10% (maybe) is the cool stuff and the rest is runs, investigations, bug fixing, spec reviews, triage ad infinitum. (And to wipe the smirk off devs' faces, they, too, are doing boring work most of the time: fixing bugs, fixing bugs, pref*, adding SAL, fixing bugs blah blah. What was the guideline? 20 lines of code per day?)

4. The stress factor is usually pretty low. If there is a major post-ship Sev 1 P1 bug, the Dev will have to do major over time under the bug is fixed. The tester does not have any hard, stressful obligation in such a scenario - he can just manually test something and do the automation later on during the next release.

I envy you, must be a special group you're in. Test devs, too, have pri 0 or pri 1 bugs, spend just as much time at work and, at least in my corner, all new bugs filed by run-time go through the test-dev. Over here, I have to investigate until I find the cause of the problem and then re-assign to its rightful owner - externals or the dev. I, too, have RIs to catch, work Saturdays and worn out thin my debugger. Lastly, there's plenty of little code/featurettes added late in the cycle that require an exponential number of test cases.

That's what I was trying to point out all the way - it's all software, and it lives by the same rules. The fact that it ships or not is simply an attribute, it doesn't change your approach one bit. You're still trying to do the best you can either way. There are test tools being shipped, and we don't ship the source depot framework (and who knows how many other "dev" developed components).

When it's cool, I find it much cooler than what my devs are doing, but put the Kool Aid mug aside - it's uncool most of the time. Just as it is on the other side.

Anonymous said...

Being a sdet in windows sucks big time these days. A lot of time is spent dealing with things beyond your control like the ridiculously unreliable and slow internal tools and services (wtt, code coverage, unified reporting to name a few). Another chunk of time is wasted on manual tests since all the ste's got riffed. On top of which you have to constantly field questions like 'why are you doing this? are you sure wtt doesn't do this for you already'

At least the devs have a deterministic list of things to do ...

Anonymous said...

At least the devs have a deterministic list of things to do ...

ROFL!!!! What group do you work in? Need a Dev Manager?

Seriously, the whole Dev/Test/PM thing - there's always been some tension between PM and Dev, but I've noticed the Dev/Test relationship getting worse lately. I think it's because the feature teams are less cohesive than the used to be. It used to be the Dev and Test members of a feature team had a really tight partnership. I still try to maintain that - I insist all my Devs either have a buddy test or sign-off from their Test Buddy that one isn't needed on all of their check-ins.

But it's getting harder. Test is being pulled off into its own world. Too many conversations go like this now:

ME: Dude, why didn't your guys find this bug three weeks ago when we made the change?

TESTMGR: We've been focused on getting our Code Coverage Metrics up for the last month. We didn't do any product testing until yesterday.

or,

ME: Dude, we have a massive change that needs to make it into tomorrow's build, but your guys tell me they can't start the buddy test until next week.

TESTMGR: We're finishing up our breadth pass, we can't look at anything until then.


So, I'm teaching my devs how to test their own code. It ain't ideal, Testers are better at it, but that doesn't do any good if they aren't available. Long ago, I gave up on getting any value out of the PMs and focus on minimizing any negative schedule impact from them, and if this keeps up, I'll have to do the same with Test.

The only Dev-Egotistical thing I will say is this: Devs are the only discipline absolutely necessary to shipping a product. Everyone else can go do some other random crap and the product can still ship if the Devs work on it. It might be full of bugs, it might miss the market, but it can still exist. If the dev team gets distracted, there is no product.

I'm starting to feel like we're being stuck holding the bag.

Anonymous said...

I'm good at breaking software and I love to do it.

The fact that I get to humiliate devs like you is just icing on the cake.


Only you think it's humiliating and that speaks volumes about your personality. Even the cockiest dev does not think he writes bug-free code. And how would you like it if somebody reviewed your code in an effort to humiliate you? You might be the exception to the rule but most of the test code I've seen is horrible and it's not because of bugs.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article Mini - and I tend to agree:

Please, Give me LiveSoft (Or...Please Split Up Microsoft!)

Lou Giliberto said...

The test vs. dev vs. PM comments here are just making my brain hurt.

Let's go to "LouisLand" (tm) & (c) and see how things should work. Disclaimer: I am in IC dev so you know where I am coming from.

You have a balance of power, just like in the good ol' US constitution. Besides job functions, each group is there to keep the other group sane.

Test: "We can't ship this product because 1 pixel is out of place!"
Dev: "It will take 6 months to fix that pixel, ship it"
PM: "That pixel doesn't affect the user experience - ship it"

Dev: "Only 1% of machines will bugcheck with this bug. I'm not going to fix it because I want to write new code - I'm sick of bugs."
Test: "1% of machines is millions of disappointed users. We can't have this kind of quality - fix it."
PM: "What test said. Fix it."

PM: "We need this shiny new feature because there is this obscure business reason. I know we ship in a week, but you guys can do it! Here's a T-shirt!"
Dev: "It will take 6 weeks to code that. Punt to V2"
Test: "It will take 4 weeks to test that cross SKUs, plus setup, plus iterations from the dev who assuredly didn't get it right the first time. And we can't start it for 3 months because we're overbooked already. Punt to V2."

Now, those are idiotic examples, but you get my point. All 3 areas are important. There is supposed to be a tension between them to keep everyone honest, but there isn't supposed to be hatred and stuff.

In the groups where I saw things happen most effectively, all 3 were one team. We worked in the lab together, we went over dev designs together, we talked business reasons for doing things together, etc.

Just because someone has a title after their name saying SDE, SDET, PM, etc. does not mean they are a complete idiot in other areas.

When testdev needed help hooking some functions to test it, I wrote testdev code. BFD - it's code and it makes the product better. I ask testers for favors, too, and same with PM.

If your team has an adversarial complex between SDE, SDET, and PM it's dysfunctional. If testers hate devs and devs think testers are beneath them, and you fall into one of those two categories, you need an attitude adjustment because you are part of the problem.

When I was in drivers, dev mentored both testers and testdev. We showed testers how to triage a bugcheck, etc. Those testers became testdevs. From there, they may choose to stay, become devs or PMs. It's up to them.

Likewise, we mentored testdevs.

In return we got way better test results, less distractions (because we didn't have to look at every remote), etc.

The PMs protected us from endless meetings and all kinds of nonsense as well. They filled in most of those endless process forms and helped manage the schedule so we weren't distracted by those kinds of things. All this in addition to what their real job is.

If your group has a dysfunctional setup, you either need to change it or get out. You will have a life of misery and despair because everyone will be bickering and hating each other.

If you have a lousy attitude, fix it. First realize that no matter what the title or alphabet soup is behind someone's name or not, they are just like you. They are trying to earn a living and support their families, and they're trying to work on our product. You can either be a stand-up guy and help them, and in return get better help and results from them, or you sneer and walk away which means your "bozo bit" is set and pretty soon no tester or dev or PM will want to deal with you. When your name comes up in a meeting, they will sigh and have nothing good to say about you. Not because of your skills, but because you're a jackass. In other words, being a jackass is a career-limiting move. Word gets around.

Yes, I'm ranting again. But there is a good reason:

There are things we can't fix at MSFT without an executive mandate. But there are things we CAN fix just by how we approach our jobs. This dysfunctionality is one of them. It's easy - be a "team player" (I can't believe I just said that) and help people out, and realize they have a job to do, too.

If you help someone become better and do their job, they will remember you. If you don't, that will be remembered, too.

I won't comment on pay disparity between job functions because, well, it's not really a concern of mine. I worry about my pay, not everyone else's (though being ranked against peers kind of makes us worry about what others are making). If you can do that, you're a lot happier that way in the end.

Sr Dir from Oracle/RWS said...

Hey there everyone. I'm a Sr Director at another of the "Big 3" software companies (Oracle). My question to you guys is: ARE YOU HIRING DIRECTORS? The rumors and stories I hear about the extreme amounts of compensation and bonuses and incentives doled out to senior-level people, apparently with complete disregard for how the company does or how the person (or his/her team) performs, is VERY attractive to me. It sounds like there is very little (if ANY) accountability at the higher levels of your organization, and after a certain point senior people are simply motivated to 'rest and vest'.

As an added plus, the real estate is about 40% cheaper between redwood shores and seattle, and the overall cost of living (excluding cost of living) is about 18% less.

I'd consider a pay cut to jump ship. I lead one of the few teams here that is still causing you guys pain... Any interest???

Sr Dir from Oracle/RWS said...

Oops... Meant to say "overall cost of living (excluding real estate)".

And I just thought of another bonus: WA doesn't have state income tax! Even a lateral move for me would equal a 6% increase...

Anonymous said...

Only you think it's humiliating and that speaks volumes about your personality. Even the cockiest dev does not think he writes bug-free code. And how would you like it if somebody reviewed your code in an effort to humiliate you? You might be the exception to the rule but most of the test code I've seen is horrible and it's not because of bugs.

Cry me a river, son. Standing up for a dev that obviously has no respect for testers or PM says volumes about you too.

Devs that show professional respect and work with me to make it easier and faster to look for bugs get 100% of my energy to help put out a quality product.

OTOH, I do indeed humiliate devs that cop an attitude about how I'm not as good as them and how I don't deserve as big a slice of the pie. Nobody deserves that kind of crap no matter what their job is. Looks like you disagree. I feel sorry for you but sorrier for your coworkers.

Anonymous said...

Weird observation of the day - a dev I know from my NEO left MSFT today to devote his energy to his catering business. He's a stand up guy and a great chef. However, isn't it remarkable that it's more profitable these days to cater to Microsoft than to write software for the company?

Anonymous said...

isn't it remarkable that it's more profitable these days to cater to Microsoft than to write software for the company?

Not necessarily more profitable - just more rewarding.

Anonymous said...

Tie a large chunk of review success to an individial's contribution to the team:

1. Mentoring
2. Co-operation across discipline
3. Fostering a healthy, professional working environment

Currently, lip-service is paid to this, but the ol' cowboys and attitudes still hold sway in many areas.

How about it, LisaB?

Drei said...

Tie a large chunk of review success to an individial's contribution to the team:

1. Mentoring
2. Co-operation across discipline
3. Fostering a healthy, professional working environment


Why? Mentoring is an on-demand service - if you think someone can help you improve your ways, you seek their mentorship. If you're a bozo who lucked his way into a job and couldn't care less about the mountains of knowledge that separate you from being a decent programmer, why should another member of the team (or anyone, for that matter) be penalized for not actively beating some sense into you?

This strikes close to home for me, as I've been asked to mentor a recent (going on 1 year) hire in our group. After our initial discussion, we've not exchanged more than 100 words, mostly salutations (from me) on the hallway. The guy is a loud mouth, writes the crappiest code I've ever seen, never once stopped by to ask "how can I do this/that" and spends half of his life in the manager's office, doing small talk. In addition, he has attitude to spare, and is not afraid to use it as he is imparting his wisdom onto the fortunate those around him. He's the kind of guy that deletes an object on the stack and then talks for hours about the deficiencies of C++. He takes code reviews personally and quite frankly, I'd b much happier if we never talked again, for when we do, I grow silver threads of hair.

I own a few features and collaborate to other areas, while fixing his older bugs, too. Do you think I should get a .5 deducted from my review score for not rearing this dumbass? (And it might even happen, see the talking loudly bit above.)

Stepping off the rant box, you do have a point - we (the company, not the royal plural) should encourage spreading the knowledge so the less experienced do not have to learn from their own mistakes (plenty of older mistakes they could learn from..) However, how will adding yet another set of unmeasurable factors to performance evaluation constitute as an improvement of the process? Not to mention that some people will focus entirely on mentorship, cross-group collaboration and .. (what was the 3rd?), while getting no real work done. Others will have to pick up even more of the slack, become even more disgruntled and will eventually defect to a camp where they can be engineers.

Accept the fact that some people weren't hired for their charming personality and only recognize mentorship and the other stuff when it is extra. (Avert your eyes, extra rhetorical BS follows..) I let my code do the mentoring - and I've noticed with great satisfaction that some of my team-mates found a few habits worth adopting. Looking forward to getting .001 pt back for it.

(I prolong my lengthy diatribe with a warm recommendation for peer reviews as part of the performance evaluation. I have a feeling this guy (and many like him around the campus) would be given the boot quickly, were that the case.)

Anonymous said...

>>If someone is really good, why >>would they want to be in test?

That was a rhetorical question!

Good people stay in test, since it pays more for less stress, compared to dev. I did not belittle Test or PM or any other discipline.

Anonymous said...

Good people stay in test, since it pays more for less stress, compared to dev. I did not belittle Test or PM or any other discipline.

Oh, the irony...

Anonymous said...

Why? Mentoring is an on-demand service - if you think someone can help you improve your ways, you seek their mentorship. If you're a bozo who lucked his way into a job and couldn't care less about the mountains of knowledge that separate you from being a decent programmer, why should another member of the team (or anyone, for that matter) be penalized for not actively beating some sense into you?


Ouchie! You've evidently had a bad experience with this and I'm sure everyone would share the same frustration with your particular mentee.

I agree that everyone has the ultimate responsibility to grow their skills, but this assumes, of course, that they are aware of their deficiencies, which for junior folks may not always be the case. And sometimes not-so-junior folks.

My beef is with those who publicly sneer at other team members' skills (or perceived lack thereof), and contribute nothing toward helping folks to help themselves. For example, I could tell everyone you write rotten code for reason XYZ or I could quietly take you aside and try to show you why. We seem to attract a number of folks interested in taking the former route. And for our leads and managers, guess what guys: this is part of your job.

Engineering never used to be like this (speaking from 20+ years' experience of software and hardware). Trouble HERE is, the time you spent helping others is time you're not working on your own review checklist... you know what, I'm sure we could do something to improve that.

Anonymous said...

Engineering never used to be like this (speaking from 20+ years' experience of software and hardware). Trouble HERE is, the time you spent helping others is time you're not working on your own review checklist... you know what, I'm sure we could do something to improve that.

Ballmer had this thing called "make others great" except that you didnt get any credit for it...

Anonymous said...

Hey there everyone. I'm a Sr Director at another of the "Big 3" software companies (Oracle). My question to you guys is: ARE YOU HIRING DIRECTORS? The rumors and stories I hear about the extreme amounts of compensation and bonuses and incentives doled out to senior-level people, apparently with complete disregard for how the company does or how the person (or his/her team) performs, is VERY attractive to me. It sounds like there is very little (if ANY) accountability at the higher levels of your organization, and after a certain point senior people are simply motivated to 'rest and vest'.

As an added plus, the real estate is about 40% cheaper between redwood shores and seattle, and the overall cost of living (excluding cost of living) is about 18% less.

I'd consider a pay cut to jump ship. I lead one of the few teams here that is still causing you guys pain... Any interest???



The very fact that you can't find a URL to the 'jobs' page on the Microsoft.com website means you already have one foot inside the door. You are truly blessed. Welcome to Microsoft!

How far will you go?

We have other former employees from Oracle that have shipped products that are struggling at Microsoft (e.g. WinFS versus Oracle Content Management SDK). It is the perfect opportunity to get told you don't know what you're talking about even though you already shipped an equivalent product. But that's OK because you're get paid extremely well.

Again welcome to Microsoft. The water is fine. Jump in!

Anonymous said...

Ballmer had this thing called "make others great" except that you didnt get any credit for it...

What Ballmer meant was "Make me rich! Oops! My bad. You got repeat 3.0'ed because you were making others great and we just don't measure that stuff! You believed me! Oh shit! Hey Bill, that bullshit works! Let's do it again!! This time let's talk about work/life balance and see who falls for it! This is fun!".

Anonymous said...

Engineering never used to be like this (speaking from 20+ years' experience of software and hardware). Trouble HERE is, the time you spent helping others is time you're not working on your own review checklist... you know what, I'm sure we could do something to improve that.

Microsoft management loves the curve. After all, it worked for GE. Hell, it didn't work for Enron but who cares. We're not like them. More Koolaid anyone?

Anonymous said...

Tie a large chunk of review success to an individial's contribution to the team:

1. Mentoring
2. Co-operation across discipline
3. Fostering a healthy, professional working environment


How exactly do you quantify that so you can accurately stack rank employees?

Oh wait, accuracy isn't something that management at Microsoft is concerned about.

That's why you have employee's experiences all over the map on this blog. The process is so subjective that it depends entirely on the people involved.

Anonymous said...

Weird observation of the day - a dev I know from my NEO left MSFT today to devote his energy to his catering business. He's a stand up guy and a great chef. However, isn't it remarkable that it's more profitable these days to cater to Microsoft than to write software for the company?

If you're talented, owning your own business works out better than being someone's salaried employee scrapping for performance compensation.

With your own business, if you perform, you get more compensation.

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