December 14, 2004


I forgot to mention this occurance, so I figured I better get it out of the way now before I forget.

At 12:40pm Mountain on December 2, I faxed off my acceptance letter to Ritual Entertainment. Three hours later, I received an E-mail from Microsoft Recruiting wondering if I would be interested in interviewing for a position as an SDE/T for the ASP.NET team.

Now, here I had a bit of a quandry. Even though I was anxious to return to game development, I loved my time at Microsoft. To be dead honest, if it wasn't for the actions of two individuals at Microsoft, I never would have left. So I had a choice: do I go back to the industry that I love, work with industry legends and respect the agreement I made; or do I go back on my word and throw the opportunity away for a change to work on a technology that I admire greatly and for a company that I admire greatly?

I guess it says something about me that my decision took me less than five seconds. I made a promise, and I intended to keep it. I wrote an E-mail back to the recruiter telling her that she was three hours late.

While I'm glad that Microsoft was still interested in me after I left, and I may try to return to Microsoft sometime in the future, I think that what is best for me now is to stay out in the world and gain more real-world (as opposed to the strange reality vacuum inside most Microsoft studios) experience so if I do return to Microsoft, I do so as an ambassador of reality as opposed to a technogeek with a passion.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing what you're doing your part to fight the creeping tide of whatever the opposite of integrity is. Keeping one's word is important!

Michael Russell said...

Well, not only is keeping one's word important, but so is being responsible.

Ritual, benefit and pay-wise, is vastly superior to where I'm working now. I have a family I have to look after. It would be irresponsible for me to toss away something better for the "hope" of getting something else.

Anonymous said...

Rom wrote: "...if it wasn't for the actions of two individuals at Microsoft, I never would have left"

Isn't that a poor representation of the truth? You were to be terminated along with 35+ of us. To later say you left on your own because of two other people seems really false.

Michael Russell said...

Not necessarily. True, the layoffs were looming over everyone's heads, but prior to D.W., I'd been doing informationals and the like with other teams. Plus, I received a bonus during my final review.

I had good enough reviews that I probably could have stayed at Microsoft had I started interviewing with other groups prior to the layoff. Of course, having the interviews is no guarantee of success. Also, after D.W.'s decision (if you were there, you know what I'm talking about), Microsoft had been soured for me.

That being said, I had been interviewing outside of Microsoft since "Carrera" was repurposed. I received a few offers prior to the city, but they would have either been going to similar situations with worse pay/benefits or contract positions only.

Am I looking back at my time at Microsoft through rose-colored glasses? Quite possibly. There were a lot of painful memories that I'd love to block out completely. Does that mean that I want to forget my time there? Absolutely not. Microsoft was, and is, a wonderful company to work long as you don't work for a satellite office.

Besides, I made many friends and learned many lessons during my time there. Time and distance have a way of eroding memories of flaws, don't you agree?

Anonymous said...

I do think time and distance affect people's memories of events and how they see themselves.

As far as I know not a single person who was laid off that did interview up in Redmond (or even over the phone) was actually extended an offer (I could be wrong, but I'm 95% sure). And as painful as it seems to admit, I think that the group of people down here don't measure up to the core Microsoft standards outside of the MGS group.

The ones that did leave on their own (who were not fired) like Hao, Steve C. and even D.W. interviewed and were offered positions which they each took. Coincidence that they were able to interview and get hired and were not terminated? I don't think so.

I think for anyone terminated it was brutal to try and get another position at Microsoft, as getting past the first question of "Why are you looking to change groups" was so akward. The reality, whether fair or not, was in everyone's eyes in Redmond is that we were untouchables. Who'd want to hire someone that another group just fired.

Also, almost everyone who got terminated got a bonus. At least from the 6 or 7 people I've talked to they all did. So that is a bad example to leverage.

I use to rationalize what happen to us just like you have done in this blog a lot, but its taken a lot of time, effort and self-realization to come to grips with the fact that as good as I may have thought I was, the fact is that business decisions were made and the organization felt they were better off without me. I don't begrudge those who made the decision because I see now that in business often times the guys on the bottom have no clue as to the why's or how's big decisions are made. I'm doing some of that now in my own business and it has opened by eyes.

I only write all this as I think you are still very deep in denial about what happened. I've come out of that space that you are in and I'm able to live with myself without placing undue blame on others. I might be wrong about you being stuck in denial, if so I'm sorry, but I read your comments and you sound like you are pulling the strings with regards to working for Microsoft. A phone call to look into interviewing is a far cry from actually doing them or getting an offer.

Michael Russell said...

Well, I can understand where you are coming from. I'm not fully without fault with regards to me leaving Microsoft. I made plenty of mistakes during my stay there. We all did.

However, I learned from my mistakes and grew. D.W.'s choice was the final straw for me, and even though it soured me on Microsoft, it did light a spark under my ass. I've spent my time since leaving Microsoft proving to myself that not only was D.W. wrong about me, but that I still had the ability and drive to do whatever I set my mind to.

However, as for us not being "Microsoft quality," I prefer to think that we were mostly lacking the polish. While we had combined the best parts of the Microsoft and Access processes, we had also combined some of the worst parts of both of the cultures. While our skills may have been up to snuff, several attitudes (mine included) needed some serious adjustment.

We were, as a group, the equivalent of Eliza Doolittle. Tons of raw potential, but lacking in the polish and refinement needed to make it in "Microsoft society." Our training consisted of a few Redmond-area Henry Higgins-types taking us in for a few weeks, teaching us how to walk and talk, showing us the view from atop Mount Redmond, and then sending us back to our flower shop wanting more.

So yes, I may be in denial. However, I remember succeeding more often than I failed. I remember the accolades from Mayo and Alderman for my victories. I remember the taste of success. I also remember "Carrera" and "Mobius." I remember disappointing those around me because of my actions when I was burning out. Those defeats will stay with me for a long time.

So in short, this is my story as I choose to tell it. It may be one-sided. It may be jaded. It may be biased. It may even be incomplete. But come on, what autobiography isn't?