This is my third week at Microsoft. Happily, Dell is rapidly becoming a distant memory. Comparing the two companies is like shopping at Wal-Mart versus Neiman Marcus. There are almost no similarities, aside from both being Fortune 50, multinational organizations in the high-technology industry.
Orientation at Microsoft lasted nearly two days. There was over 100 new and returning employees, interns and people from Microsoft vendors in my orientation class. After providing my name, I was given a large plastic envelop filled with information on benefits, Microsoft polices and IT processes, coupons, and other information to help ensure a smooth start. I then visited four stations to have my picture taken for a card key, fill out personal information, confirm my right to work for Microsoft, and verify I’d reviewed and understood my offer letter.
The presenters during the orientation were engaging and sometimes very entertaining; their slides matched what was in a large ring-bound orientation book… which I referred to numerous times in my first two weeks at Microsoft. The focus, like Microsoft’s mission, centered on helping people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential. We were instructed not to be late to meetings, respond to emails promptly, be respectful of co-workers, take responsibility for our actions, and be willing to stand up for what’s right and what’s best for customers. In addition, the contributions of the individual contributor were highlighted over those of upper management.
While it’s easy to present idealistic concepts during an orientation, putting them into practice is another issue. Amazingly, I’ve found people at Microsoft to be very respective, responsive and extremely focused on improving the customer experience. My position is very process-oriented with a large team doing site and content management, editing, web productions, metrics, and strategy (my position). The team supports numerous marketing managers. What’s done by two dozen people at Microsoft is done by three or four at Dell.
Along with presenting a great work experience, the environment is fabulous. I’m in a three story building that’s "V" shaped with several bumps. Most of the offices either have a window or are only a short walk from a window or the sunlight-lit atrium in the center of the building. My office is quite large and designed for two people. Because I’m new to Microsoft, I don’t qualify for an office with a window. Prime office are assigned to employees based on seniority and not rank.
The building backs up to a quad area that’s shared by two other, oddly shaped buildings. Surrounding the building are terraces filled with beautiful plantings and plantings. The cobblestone quad also has several fountains and numerous benches, and tables. Visit this site to see the Microsoft campuses and read some fun comments about the Microsoft environment.
Across from this grouping of buildings is a large field, where during the day (and on weekends), you can see soccer and cricket matches between Microsoft employees. There are numerous sports fields on the campus along with quads to relax or work outside. The insides of the buildings are equally commodious with groupings of comfortable chairs and couches for meetings or putting ones feet up as they work. Natural light filters in through the numerous window and atriums.
Most parking is below ground or in parking garage, leaving lots of space between the buildings for lush landscaping and interesting architectural features, terraces and covered walkways. It’s like a college campus, only more high-tech with people scurrying by on foot, bicycle, skateboard, scooter, and even Segway. On the streets are shuttle and city buses, hybrid cars that transport recruiters from building-to-building, very expensive sports cars, lots of economy, compact and mid-size cars, and an occasional truck or SUV.
I’d been told that Microsoft has free coffee and sodas. I never envisioned that the break areas would have refrigerator cases like you’d find in convenience stores stocked with 36 different types of beverages from fruit juices (apple, cranberry, grape, grapefruit, orange, and V8) to Pepsi and Coke products (Fresca, five varieties of Talking Rain, Cherry Coke, Coke, Zero Coke, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, root beer, etc.) and milk (low fat, non-fat, chocolate, low-fat chocolate).
Across from the refrigerator cases is a Starbuck’s coffee machine. You simply select the cup size and type of coffee or hot chocolate then push "brew." The machine grinds the whole beans and instantly brews your beverage. You can also select from dozens of varieties of teas, cider, and powdered hot chocolate.
Being the Pacific Northwest, paper, aluminum and polystyrene recycling bins are everywhere you turn. Everything is recycled. In the cafeteria, signs instruct employees to scrap their styrofoam plates then deposit them along with foam cups, plastic silverware and bottles into the polystyrene bins. While some companies like to label themselves as environmentally astute, others, like Microsoft, truly do whatever is necessary to save or recycle valuable resources.
During my first week at Microsoft, the printer stopped working. Within an hour, a technician showed up and fixed it. The technicians are remotely alerted by the printers whenever they break or start to run low on paper or toner!
There’s no voice mail. Instead, calls are routed to one’s computer. A message is then sent via email informing you that a message was recorded. You simply click on the email and listen to the message via your computer’s speakers! You can also dial from our computer and receive faxes directly to your computer.
Working at Microsoft is like being in a Jetson cartoon. It’s very hip, automated and forward-thinking!