October 4, 2004

What's in a name? Everything.

A little over one year ago, I left Microsoft to join the public sector. Do you know what took the longest time getting used to? It was going by my real name again.

Some of you may be wondering what the hell I'm talking about. "Surely," you think, "Microsoft is a professional place. Going by monikers or aliases surely isn't tolerated." Sure...tell that to Wedgemaster, Madhatterguy, Banzai, Drogo, JinxSOJO, Goose, Mr. Happy Pants, Null, Remoh and others.

"Lunchtime fun," our sacred gameplaying when we should have been eating, was a tradition at Access that carried over to Microsoft. We would usually send someone out to get the food at Der Wienerschnitzel while we played, then we would eat while testing. Oh, yeah, Wienerschnitzel...my wife would love me at night... In order to keep everyone straight, we just ended up going by our game aliases. Mine was Rom, or RomSteady.

(Background: ROM Steady was an alias that was given to me back when I was a member of the Clearfield-based Eight-Bit-Only Network, or EON for short. The meaning: I was reliable, always there, and once I got something into my head, it took an act of God to get me to change my mind. Seems pretty dead on even to this day.)

While the practice of using our aliases was common in the test department, and there were some in the development department who did it as well, management was usually out of the loop.

Now, I told you that story to tell you this one. (God, I'm beginning to sound like Ron White...)

Dave C. was Bruce Carver's right-hand man, and once Bruce was out of the picture, Dave C. began a purge of everyone who he saw as only employed because Bruce was there. During the purge, he had several one-on-one meetings with employees who may be affected.

I was one of the ones who had the occasional one-on-one with him. He'd ask me about what was going on in the test department, ask about work, etc. At the end of each meeting, he'd ask me about a bad thing he had heard about that he believed I did. The catch: every single bad thing was done by someone else.

At MGS SLC, we had a LOT of people named Michael, and a LOT of people named Russell. So I would have to correct him as to who this event was related to. Finally, I said, "Look, you keep mixing me up with other people, so from now on, just call me 'Rom.'" He did.

And it stuck. For my final three years at Microsoft, aside from Daryl Welsh (who is a subject of an entire week of blogs in his own right,) nobody at Microsoft called me Michael again...ever. It even got to the point where my wife would call me by name, and I'd be wondering who she was speaking to for a brief second.

Just to give you an idea of how pervasive it was...one of my friends who was laid off from MGS SLC in November of last year was applying for a PC Technician position here at the city. He got to the final round of interviews. He was asked to tell a story about something he had done, and he decided to relate a story about something we had done together. However, he kept referring to me as "Rom" during the interview. It led to some definite confusion to say the least.

So needless to say, it took quite some doing to get used to being called by my name again. I just celebrated my one-year anniversary here on Friday. Who knows? Will I start being called Rom again here in another year?

No comments: