I worked for Microsoft for a little over ten years. I left last week to create an internet company.
Microsoft is an amazing company. It has evolved quite a bit since I’ve been there, but it still has the strong pull for engineers interested in some of the hardest problems in computer science.
Google has had strong growth over the last several years, which has caused many Microsoft employees have asked “Is Microsoft still the best company?” This is a natural question for a bunch of Type A employees that strive to be the best.
I’ve seen only a small number of my MSFT friends jump ship to Google (Jon Perlow, Oliver Fisher, Bob Day, Joe Beda, Wyvern, etc.); which is a very low rate for a 60,000 person company.
What keeps the best and brightest at Microsoft is that this company is still a place that is doing some of the most exciting and challenging engineering work in the computer industry.
These are the teams I would have loved to work on:
- DirectX APIs: Shader models or whatever the next wave in 3-D graphics engines
- MS SQL Server data mining algorithms: Naive Bayes, neural networks, and clustering would be fun to work on. Building the platform to make them available and scalable to the masses always looked like a blast. I’ve always wanted to create a Zillow.com sample on SQL Server 2005 with very little code (linear regression is built in). With the OLAP architecture, it could scale quite well.
- DRM: Boy everyone hates this feature. However, there are few more challenging tasks than running code on the machine that will conditionally unlock features without being able to be bypassed. It’s a great chance to work with ex-NSA coworkers.
- OS Crypto Algorithms: Pushing forward mass market encryption always looked fun, such as Elliptical Curve, biometric login, or Bitlocker.
Microsoft is also one of the few places taking on many large scale engineering projects. These are the kinds of challenging products that have 100+ programmer teams:
- Xbox & Xbox Live
- Operating Systems
- Internet Explorer
- Mobile OSs
- Many more…
For engineers looking to focus 100% on the biggest engineering problems, it’s hard to beat Microsoft.
I’ve reached a stage in my life where I want to become heavily involved in the entrepreneurial side of business. This is what has led me to leave and try my hand at creating my own company.
I’ll blog more on the Seattle Start-up scene in my future blog posts.