Nadyne Mielke writes a good summary about what it’s like to interview for a position at MacBU. It got me thinking about my first interview at Microsoft and I hope you’ll forgive this nostalgic post, but I thought it might be interesting for those of you who can’t connect the dots backwards just yet. Okay, that last sentence made me sound a lot older than I am…
I had just graduated from Redmond High School and was working as a foreman for a small landscape company. I loved that job, lots of work outside, hard labor, visibly making the world better, but it just wasn’t putting enough in the bank. My parents knew Mike Murray, who worked at Microsoft at the time, and suggested I contact him about getting an interview. I nervously worked up an email from my eWorld account on my Mac IIci and sent him the request. He very graciously recommended me for a position maintaining servers in the Microsoft Library group. The interview day came and I remember it vividly. The first interview was fine, then the next interview she asked about my experience with Windows NT and how I would feel working on that OS. I remember telling her that while I felt certain I could learn Windows NT, I didn’t really want to spend my time working on such and inferior OS. I think I came off a bit too “Mac” because the interview abruptly concluded. 😉
In retrospect I look back on that day and see so much more going on. Very few people really “got it” when it came to the internet and the web. Remember, this was at the time leading up to the Windows 95 launch. Prevailing wisdom in my neck of the woods was that the MSN icon on the Windows desktop was going to “take over” the internet… Oh the perspective! As I look back on it, I believe Mike was trying to place me in a high growth area, and as far as I could tell at that time, the only place doing any serious sort of web development at Microsoft was the MS Library.
Back to landscape work I went, but word got around that I had interviewed and when a the Office team was looking for a tester to write VB automation another good friend of mine, Fred Kesler (ex-WordPerfect employee, new Microsoft hire), asked if I was interested. I applied, but my knowledge of Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, HyperTalk and AppleScript just weren’t the skills they were after. 🙂 I remember when Grant George, the hiring manager called me into his office and said, “You didn’t get the job, we were looking for better VB skills, but you did really good with the interviews. I’m going to send your resume on to a friend of mine, I think he might have just the spot for you.” I thanked him. The next day I came home from work and my Dad said, “I got the most interesting call from Microsoft today. Here’s his number. He wants to meet with you right away. He’s seen your resume and wants to hire you, but wants to meet with you first, to make sure you’re not weird!” I still don’t know what he meant by that, but I guess I passed, because I got the job.
My manager had just been hired from Apple’s QuickTime team and now at Microsoft, he spent a considerable amount of time trying to convince folks that Microsoft needed a separate Mac only development team. Eventually the Macintosh Business Unit was created and my manager moved to the new MacBU and I moved with him.
As I look back at this whole cascade of events that largely got me where I am today, I’m so thankful that my youthful fear and trepidation didn’t get the best of me while I worked on that first email to Mike. Additionally, it’s so very apparent all the good people whose position and influence could have easily pushed me outside of their priority queue, but they took the time and for me, it made all the difference.
P.S. Mike Murray was the VP of HR at the time, though I don’t really think I understood what that meant back then. He is now working in the micro-finance industry at Unitus something that I’ll probably write about later on. He had worked at Apple prior to being hired at Microsoft. Mike had in his garage the actual sledge hammer used in the 1984 commercial! After Steve Jobs returned to Apple, Mike gave the sledge hammer back to Steve.