Michael D. Green

Blogger, Consultant, Technologist and Very Opinionated.

My First Year at Microsoft

29 Nov 2019 » careeradvice

Blogs - Michaeldeongreen

November 2019 marks my one year anniversary as a Microsoft employee. Similar to what I did when I reached my first six months milestone, I wanted to take some time to write a blog entry that reflects my thoughts, experiences and observations at the one year mark.


Before joining Microsoft, I had never traveled outside of the United States, not even to Canada or Mexico (which seems odd given that I am from Texas). After being at Microsoft for one year, I have been to Munich twice and Mexico City. Also, I had never been to Washington State before and I recently got the opportunity to visit Seattle and the main Microsoft Campus in Redmond while attending CSE OneWeek. All told, in my first year, I have travelled to Kansas City, Boston twice, Munich twice, Mexico City, Chicago/Deerfield, Times Square twice, Redmond and Seattle.

Traveling has not been that big of a problem for me personally, the only downside is on rare occasions you may get asked to travel on short notice and I don’t sleep well in hotels, so I tend to get very little sleep on the road and there is a sleep “adjustment” period when I get home.


Throughout my career, I have always worked for small companies and before I joined Microsoft, I was working for myself as an Independent Consultant, so I had never gone through a reorg prior to joining Microsoft. I am not sure if reorgs are a “Big Company” thing and/or if they happen a lot within Microsoft, but in my organization, we reorg frequently. When I joined in November 2018, there was a reorg in July and we had just had another reorg in July 2019.

When a reorg occurs, you may get an email stating that FILL_IN_MANAGER_NAME is your new manager or your team has changed or your role has changed or a combination of the three.

When we reorged in July 2019, my manager, who was an M1 (I will be discussing the plethora of acronyms at Microsoft later) got promoted to an M2 and we hired our team’s new M1 in November. The news was somewhat bittersweet because on the one hand, I was happy for my former manager but on the other hand, I was just starting to get used to how he managed the team and now we would have to repeat the process and get to know an entirely new manager.

Reorgs seem to be just a fact of life in my organization, this is why it is very important to always treat everyone with respect and network because you never know who you may be working with (or for) after a reorg occurs.

Diversity & Inclusion!

Diversity and Inclusion (or D&I for short) is a subject that is talked about a lot at Microsoft. D&I conversations will come up during formal meetings, they are part of the employee review process and many employees talk about D&I at informal gatherings.

Similar to society in general, D&I is a very touchy subject and I literally have friends at Microsoft that fall on various points of the spectrum ie “We should force D&I on everyone” or “D&I is reverse discrimination” or somewhere in the middle. And to reiterate, yes, I used the word friend because I am very capable of being friends with people that have an opinion that may be completely different than my own, even if I don’t agree with their opinion.

D&I is such a touchy subject that I debated on whether or not I should even mention it in this blog, although I have written about touchy subjects in the past, like A Conversation About Majority Privilege. Ultimately, I decided to at least discuss D&I because I wouldn’t be genuine if I didn’t at least mention the subject, albeit, brief.

First, from my observation, Microsoft (or more appropriately, the organization that I belong too inside of Microsoft) is probably the 2nd most inclusive employer that I have worked for when it comes to trying to make an effort to be more diverse and inclusive.

Second, leadership has enacted tangible initiatives in an effort to make CSE and Microsoft as a whole more inclusive. CSE recently created a D&I Working Group made up of a mix of leadership and employees as another avenue to increase D&I. My former manager told me during my last review that in Fiscal Year 2020, D&I was going to be an even bigger part of the review process. Also, in an effort to be transparent, Microsoft provides a D&I report to all employees with a breakdown of how its D&I efforts are going.

However, with all the above said, one of the biggest disappointments that I continue to have in the IT industry in general is that there just isn’t a lot of people that look like me in positions of influence such as Executives, VPs, Partners, Managers, Architects, Development and Tech Leads.

When I am asked about my opinion from co-workers and some in leadership positions, I try to explain that diversity in positions of influence is important for two basic reasons:

  • First, a lack of diversity can give off the impression that maybe others that are not apart of the majority that makes up leadership don’t have an equal chance at obtaining those positions
  • Second, if young people that are members of a Historically Discriminated Against Group (a phrase I stole from Martin Fowler) rarely see people that look like themselves in positions of influence, they will tend to gravitate towards other industries that are more representative of their demographic, which just serves to perpetuate the cycle.

D&I is a tough issue to tackle because companies such as Microsoft are dealing with often times, deeply ingrained societal problems that society in general has not been able to solve. I applaud Microsoft for at least trying to solve some of the issue of how do we, as a company become more diverse and inclusive.

The Land of Acronyms!

As stated, I have never worked for a company as large as Microsoft, so maybe having tons and tons of acronyms is just a big company thing. Microsoft has a ton of acronyms and when I first started, I felt that some of the conversations were spoken in some encrypted language and you needed some type of decryption device in order to make sense of things.

People in my organization and Microsoft in general, will have conversations that will include acronyms like CSE, CTE, SEI, M1, M2, M3, ADS, EEST, ESP, WCB, ZR, IR, CSA, AIRS, LT, TPM, SDE, ROB, D&I etc etc and it can be extremely confusing for someone who is new to Microsoft or even new to the organization.

There are so many acronyms at Microsoft that there is an internal dictionary application available on the Intranet to help people decipher the meaning. Sometimes an acronym can mean several different things, for example, my organization CSE, stands for Commercial Software Engineering but the acronym could get mistaken for Core Services Engineering.

After 1 year of service at Microsoft, with respect to all of the acronyms, I believe I have graduated from a Padawan Learner to a Jedi Knight, but quite frequently, I will take part in conversations that use more acronyms that I am not familiar with, which demonstrates that I have a long way to go before becoming a Jedi Master of Microsoft Acronyms .

Pound of Flesh!

One of the things that I thought could be a potential problem when joining a company like Microsoft is that at some point, it would change me into somebody I didn’t recognize. I liked the individual freedoms that came with doing independent consulting work or working for a small consulting company.

I didn’t really want to become the proverbial Corporate Animal, which I believe is someone who uses others for their own personal gain, that has contacts, not friends and plays the big corporation game just to get ahead.

One of the biggest issues that quickly arose was that at work, I am an Extravert but in less structured environments, I suffer from social anxiety and this turns me into somewhat of an Introvert, so at past employers, I avoided social gatherings like the plague.

I had a very naive mindset when joining Microsoft in that I certainly wasn’t going to change this behavior on account of Microsoft because, you know, that would mean I was being fake and well on my way to becoming one of those Corporate Animals I tended to criticize.

Surprisingly enough, the CSE organization within Microsoft had other plans for me. In CSE, we have a lot of social events and networking is a huge deal. When we would go to Offsites (Conferences), to learn and meet other colleagues in our org, it isn’t your typical Death by Powerpoint meetings, there are tons of social activities, where you have to interact with people that you don’t even know, which was one of my biggest hurdles.

What I found out about myself was that it wasn’t so much that I had social anxiety but why there was anxiety in the first place. At Microsoft, we have something called the 10 Inclusive Behaviors and one of the behaviors revolve around examining assumptions.

See, I would avoid going to social events because I erroneously assumed that I didn’t have a lot in common with a lot of those people. I would literally think, well most of these people don’t look like me, not from Texas, they probably went to better schools then I did, they are probably smarter than me, I don’t drink blah blah blah and so I just wouldn’t go to social events out of fear of being found out as an impostor, which I spoke about in my blog about interviewing at Microsoft.

However, I quickly found out that you must give Microsoft a part of you ie a pound of flesh, it literally demands it in the form of being social, networking, examining behaviors and personal growth.. However, as I started to become more social, I realized that many of the assumptions that I was making were flat out wrong and that I had a lot more in common with people than I had originally thought.

Because I decided to give Microsoft this pound of flesh, I was literally forced to grow in areas that I completely ignored because I didn’t think it was important. Like most engineers, when I saw that I had a problem, I put together a strategy and slowly implemented it to get over some of my fears and put to rest some of the assumptions that I have been making my entire professional life.

I now attend many social events when we have conferences because I like meeting new people and the key was to examine assumptions and to make it a point to be comfortable being uncomfortable in a setting where I don’t know 90% of the people (remember, we reorg a lot, so the org is constantly changing). The legendary motivational speaker Les Brown calls this uncomfortableness, The Danger Zone and according to him, entering this zone, is the only way for a person to grow.


In Microsoft CSE, they have what are called OpenHacks, where you and a group of maybe 4-6 people will work together as a team to solve existing technical problems on a real project and/or work through a set of simulated challenges to acquire new skills.

Prior to joining Microsoft, I had never attended a hacking conference and I had a lot of preconceived notions about OpenHacks based upon my own Impostor Syndrome complex. I got the opportunity to attend my first OpenHack in October 2019 for DevSecOps and prior to attending, I made a lot of assumptions such as:

  • Everyone in attendance were all hacking geniuses
  • Everyone would judge you if you didn’t know something and had to google a solution
  • Everyone would judge you if they felt that you took too long to work through a challenge

Of course, once I participated in the OpenHack, none of my assumptions were remotely true and I had a lot of fun working as a team, trying to work through technical challenges. The OpenHack Coaches make it a point to tell everyone that the primary goal is for learning and that OpenHacks aren’t a contest. You realize very quickly that the people on your team may have just as little knowledge as you do on a subject and they are just trying to learn just like you are.

I can be very self-conscious when it comes to people watching me as I work but I got so comfortable during the OpenHack that for the majority of the time, my desktop was shared on the screen for all to see and it didn’t even bother me. OpenHacks are also another great way to network (my teammates were from Brazil, China, Japan and Taiwan), meet experts in a particular Tech Domain and find out what new features are about to be released for a particular product.

Final Words!

My first year at Microsoft was definitely eventful, stressful, fun and full of growth opportunities. Now that I kind of halfway know my way around the place, I hope to continue to grow as a person and as a professional.

Picture taken with co-workers and friends, Andrew and Dexter in front of Building 92, as they accompanied a noob like me to the Microsoft Campus in Redmond for the very first time:

Blogs - Michaeldeongreen
(From left to right: Andrew, Dexter & me)