Tips For Ward At Microsoft

See Seattle newspaper photo of Ward at Microsoft here:

(This story mentions this page. Let's keep it tidy for any visitors that the story might draw.)

How much they give you, Ward? :>

I'll hit five years in May, it is the best place I have worked. I enjoy going to work every morning and all the very bright and articulate people moving at 90mph in conflicting directions. Conflicts aren't personal, it is just the way things are resolved. Check out the Precision Question class before doing a vp-level review.

Wow, if you got started with OnceAndOnlyOnce there, where [or when] would you stop??? -- PhlIp

Microsoft can only benefit from Wards presence. Hey Ward, show em how it should be done!

-- RamonLeon

Microsoft might be able to benefit from other things, too. ;-)

Here is my advice after 23 months in the big house:

-- DonBox

Some more advice:

My advice (from Robert Scoble

MS pays dearly for R and D

SCOBLE SAYS: Oh, I guess that's what happened to WebTV. We paid, what, $400 million for that company? What about Vermeer? The guys who wrote MicrosoftFrontPage? Another few hundred million. What about IE? It was developed elsewhere and we paid a lot to buy that technology too. Flight Simulator wasn't developed here either (we bought it from Bruce Artwick, Flight Simulator's creator, in 1995). Latest acquisition? Placewhere (Placeware, now Live Meeting). Hundreds of millions. Oh, and Gates didn't even want the operating system business. He sent IBM twice down to see Digital Research. Digital Research wanted the business even less than Gates did, so Gates finally found IBM an operating system.)


IE was based on Spyglass software's browser (itself based on Mosaic: The first largely successful graphical web browser for HTTP was Mosaic, developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The people who developed it went on to form Netscape, but didn't use any of the Mosaic code. The web protocol HTTP and HTML were invented at CERN by TimBernersLee. The story of MS killing Netscape and "integrating" (their term) IE into Windows is the key historic background of Microsoft and the Internet.


The guy who wrote Tetris (AlexeyPajitnov) is employed at Microsoft as is one of the guys who invented SimpleObjectAccessProtocol, DonBox. So are many other innovators and designers.

At least we know there will be a good version of Tetris for XBox. -- StevenNewton

Wikify their web presence and have lots of fun with all the great people there - Vijay []

Please help them to remain calm during the inevitable (duck) transition to FreeSoftware licenses for all of their code.

Leave Your Mark (Advice from Dan Shafer)

Almost everything I know about Microsoft comes from the outside. Most of it doesn't give me reason to be hopeful about them. I have no idea what role they have in mind for you; I assume it's interesting or you wouldn't have taken it. So I don't have advice so much as a hope here, Ward.

I hope you can leave an impression on Microsoft that true OOP is worthwhile. Over the years, they have been a tough sell on this proposition. At one point, at least, they were working with David Simmons, one of the smartest guys I know, who invented a variant of Smalltalk called SmalltalkAgents? that was mind-boggling. He then created SmallScript (I know you know all this; I"m just noting this for others) which was at least at some point going to be a first-class scripting language for .NET development. I cannot find anything about Simmons, Smallscript or something called S# that seems to have emerged from it. But my point, I guess, is that MS' image, at least, is that they don't buy into OOP on any serious level. Maybe you can change that. Or help them understand how to surface what they ARE doing in a way that makes sense to those of us watching them for some sign.

My other hope is that MS can't somehow force you into a corner where your thinking is all incestuous to them. I have heard from more than one source (including one here) that they do tend to back-room development advancements that threaten their market positions. I don't know if that's true. I hope not. But if it is, I hope you can sidestep its effects. You're too smart a guy for the rest of us to lose your wisdom just because you take the pill!

MS has changed over the years; what with the influx of mid- to high-level management folks coming from other companies in and out of the industry MS is no longer the hotbed of geeks created by geeks who work with geeks. Office politics is present in a lot of places; favoritism, ass-kissing and reward for stealing others' ideas happens. Thankfully this seems to be a practice that is in the minority. Nevertheless, watch your back and have fun!

My Tips (DavidAnderson)

Predicted MicroSoft Hatemail leper colony

Here are some tips:

  1. Suspend any and all sense of ethics and honor. You will not need them at MS. In fact, you will be severely damaged and limited by any such quaint and outdate impulses.

  2. Practice savage and ruthless attacks on your neighboors. After all, they are breathing air that is your by all rights. Every breath they take, is one less that you can have. Especially get the children, before they get to big to fight back.

  3. Collect the source code and plans for every product and project of all former employers. MS will certainly patent those ideas and sue the hell out of those bastards for thinking of something first.

  4. Get politically active. There are dangerous and simplistic trends in the country proposing so called 'freedoms' and laws that limit and constrain what MS wants to do.

Also consider renaming all Microsoft pages to something neutral. . . like NotLinux? or HappyFunCorp?

Neighboors? That looks like a Freudian typo, too good to correct. -- StuartMarks

Take a running start and don't look back

  1. Recognize that your wonderful inventiveness is the most valuable thing you will own in a culture that values its employees solely by their latest contributions. In a spartan culture like this, you will rise quickly.

  2. Keep spewing ideas, even when those ideas are repeatedly misunderstood, implemented poorly, and excised from products for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the idea. When you give up on communicating your new ideas, you will just go insane waiting to vest.

  3. Be patient, or better yet, don't even look back. Don't try to track and control what people do with your ideas. It will just make you jaded and cynical. (Like many of us who have gone before :)

  4. Communicate by writing things down in compact and considered form. The most senior people, who can take your ideas the furthest fastest, are very busy. As an added side-benefit, when random program managers who just don't get it come around for the fortieth time, begging for explanations, you can provide them references to your wiki, blog, or papers for the thirty-seventh time.

  5. Don't count on the research division for anything but entertaining politics.

Have a good time, and as Don said, plan for the long-haul!

If you are moving to Redmond from Oregon, remember most Seattleites are CaffeinatedSlackers?.

I worked with MSFT for 15 years. Book yourself on the nearest soonset FranklinCovey? 7-Habits 3-Day Course ASAP. If your line manager will not pay, pay for it yourself. You will never regret this.

On WardAtIbm, you (Ward) wrote, "Big companies are going to take Smalltalk to the next level. I wanted to be a part of it.". Obviously, that never happened. We all assume you are not naive enough to repeat that move, joining MS in hopes that a big company will take objects/patterns/wiki/XP to the next level. The community is clearly paying attention - multiple bloggers have posted notices of Ward joining "them" - so what can you say about reasons for signing on with "The Beast of Redmond"?

Ward, I'll treat you to a cup of coffee when you get here. I went from Apple to Microsoft in late '93 and left Microsoft in mid-2002. -- LindaStone

Wow! Ward has already gotten himself a date! Don't worry Ward we won't tell your wife!

And your most important tip is: Don't maintain websites that discuss Microsoft, because it will get you canned. And don't take pictures of the loading dock. :-) [ Like this guy]

Welcome aboard. I have also joined Microsoft for three months, overall it is a fun place to work, with many exciting projects going on. Hopefully you will like it, and some day I can attend your seminar on campus. I would like to hear your comments on Microsoft software developing process and some other unique cultures.

BTW, I like Smalltalk the same way I like Scheme. Both languages are small, neat and teach you to think differently in its own paradigm. I also like CRC and wikis too. Thank you.

-- TaoXu?

-- Kent

The change from working on a open distributed information system where ideas are valued based on their ability to work and on their contribution to the system in a pure sense - to working in a smaller environment where legal, economic and hard-sell politics take precedence over good software and a sense of doing it because it innovates things will be a difficult adjustment to make, but you seem ready for that change. I wish you the best of luck. -- munnki

MS's biggest problem is that they don't know how to reward not doing work that shouldn't be done. At review time, things done are all that count.

Be thankful you don't have to work for them as a contractor. They're almost sub-human at MS.

when you get the almighty dollar blues (and you will), dream the dream of someday working at "" in Victoria, BC.

Microsoft Training & Education (http://mste inside The One Big Firewall) offers live and online courses in everything you need to know to get ahead of Microsoft -- unless of course, you work in the Macintosh Business Unit. Check out 'Product Cycle Model', 'Precision Questioning', 'Survival Skills for Cross-Group Work', and 'Effective Communications for PMs' for a quick baptism in The Ways Of Microsoft.

At the end of product cycles, people starting moving to other groups, and the semi-annual office shuffle starts. You may be offered your choice of offices when they get around to you. Screw getting the office with a window; that's pointless, since you won't see the sun for 9 out of 12 months in Redmond. Check the floor plan, get the BIGGEST office you can, and at the first opportunity, get a couch. You're going to spend a lot of time in that office; make it comfortable.

The cafeterias serve pretty good coffee, since they all include Starbucks franchises. Get a good coffee maker anyway. See 'comfortable' above. Unless you get lucky enough to be in a building with an attached cafeteria, you won't want to leave your office for a nice walk in the freezing rain to get your morning pick-me-up.

The Microsoft campus in Redmond is vast and growing. We have a huge fleet of shuttle buses to get people from one building to another. Learn how to call for a shuttle, learn where to pick it up at your building, and remember to call for the shuttle at LEAST 25 minutes prior to your meeting at the destination. The admin assistants at the front desk of your building generally do this for you (walk up and say, 'I need to get a shuttle to Building N'), but you should know how to do it on your own.

Remove the Reply All command from your Outlook toolbar. Reply all is the local equivalent of TYPING IN ALL CAPS. Relentlessly prune email recepient lists to just those who need to hear your reply. When you get an email and you feel the need to add someone to the list of recipients, state that at the TOP of your reply along with the three-word reason you're adding them, so the newly-added people know why they need to pay attention to the mail.

While you're at it, take the MSTE course on e-mail. Microsoft's email etiquette -- like so much else at Microsoft -- is Byzantine in its complexity. There's a reason for that -- empires *are* complex.

You are the local equivalent of a Roman citizen in the provinces. You will be treated accordingly by anyone who thinks they can convince you to be a repeat customer. Bank employees and real estate agents will be particularly friendly. Use this to your advantage.

Meet The Man!

Ward, this is my third gig as a contractor for MS and it's a mixed bag. There is a culture here but the treatment of contractors varies by department. The manager can make it or break it. The staff have always been great. In '97, I taped a sheet of paper on the wall of the handicapped stall of the restroom and asked users to list their reasons for using the handicapped stall (assuming they might not be handicapped). I 'seeded' it with a few of my own: 1) I'm practicing my golf swing, 2) the two of us couldn't fit in the regular stall, 3) the bars help me balance while standing on seat, etc. I came back a few hours later hoping to see some amusing additions. The paper was gone! I still don't know if it was removed for PC reasons (in '97?) or because someone else wanted a really great list (I never saw it published anywhere). Have fun.

  1. Let your manager know what you are doing. This way he/she will be aware of what you are doing, which will be helpful come review time.
  2. Don't accumulate too much stuff, I've moved offices nearly 7 times in my five years here at MS.
  3. Cafeteria food sucks. (But not if you're near Cafe 4)
  4. Have fun! This is a very relaxed casual atmosphere. There is no place like MS, trust me, I've worked for six other companies before joining, and nothing beats the environment here.

1. Offices, like organizations, are more fluid than the wind - don't get too attached to either one. 2. Meetings, like viruses, grow until they fill all the space they're in (in this case, your entire day) - fight them. 3. While it's natural to be an email slave around here, it isn't required. Avoid too many DLs and threads. 4. Try non-caffiene drinks occasionally, just to remember what they taste like. 5. Our cafeterias are great - usually better than going out.

Be nice to contractors - contrary to the beliefs of some FTE's on campus, they are people too - and their contributions are important. :) Don't get too puffy just because you happen to have blue on your badge.

As a member of the Prescriptive Architecture Guidance group plan on playing a lot of foosball. lots.

Just tell us how many times 'they' refuse a good idea for some obscure money and/or market-related reason!

Just what the hell are your and JimNewkirk's jobs again, besides keeping you out of FreeSoftware? -- PhlIp

See TheArchitectSong

Close your eyes and take the money.


Reading this page was very enlightening. Based on what I've read and my personal business instincts, I think Microsoft will fall hard eventually for various reasons. Of course, since I'm not going to go into detail please feel free to call me out. :) The post above mine disturbed me at first, but I sort of agree with it also. Use Microsoft for the money and relationships. They're using you for your brain. Then it's your duty to leave and use what you've gained to help others who not only have good ideas, but more importantly, good hearts and a desire to help humanity grow. I hope I'm not being too sappy for some of you. Maybe my text will get deleted by someone who thinks I'm naive and full of shit. In Wiki I Trust. :)


Ward --> Unifying Error Architecture Would it be too much to ask if those geniuses at Microsoft used unique error code numbers (you know the kind -- only used once and then abandoned when not required) that would link directly to the knowledgebase so that you could at least use your rearview mirror to see where you had gone wrong. Stephen Richard Levine (

My tips:

Remember, you're getting paid more than everyone around you. They probably have a lot more money than you though. Except for the contractors - they're paid more than you and won't have a job in three months.

Try and work cross-group with the new Sharepoint / Groove team(s)... MicroSoft needs you to further their ambitions of true networking collaboration!

I worked for Microsoft for two years and consulted for a year before that. I'm most proud of the four volumes of patterns that my group there has produced on the following subjects.

My group also produced and hosts a public wiki with content licensed under the CreativeCommons, a first for Microsoft.

Finally, I've met many fine people and planted many seeds for patterns, agile and wiki. I won't stay to watch these grow but certainly hope that they do. I thank everyone who posted advice to me here. I did pay attention and tried to follow most of it. -- WardCunningham

Watch out for flying chairs as you pack up your desk and head out of the office. I hear Mr. Ballmer has quite a temper.


As a newly hired contractor for MS, with dreams of getting on as a regular employee, I'm debating if I'm terrified from what I've read to this point or even more determined to make a good impression and get hired... only time will tell I suppose! -- mk_r

Not sure which cheek to use ...

Ward, when you're done there, please remember to turn out the light.

The light has been turned out.


EditText of this page (last edited December 16, 2014) or FindPage with title or text search