My first year @Microsoft

<TL; DR>

It was awesome. That’s it in a nutshell. Folks, this is gonna be very personal blog post. It’s kind of a journal. I won’t try to explain something or give some valuable information. Just my personal journey during the first year at Microsoft and a little bit history about myself. That’s all.  

</TL; DR>

A Microsoft Fanboy

First of all, I have to mention this. I’m a Microsoft fanboy 😊 Nope, I didn’t become a fanboy after I joined Microsoft, I have been a fanboy for a long time. Some of you already know my story. I started to work in this industry very early. I was 12-13 years old back in the days and convinced my father to buy me a computer. It was a hard decision for him because my father was a factory worker, little-middle income, hardworking man and unfortunately computers were relatively expensive. But he did it and bought me my first computer. When this ugly white box arrived at home, I literally fall in love. I got so excited. Really, I got so excited. But I didn’t get excited just because the games that I would play on this machine.

I was attracted to electronic gadgets since I was 7-8 years old. I wanted to understand how these devices are working. What is going on inside them? I started to disassemble every device that I could manage to have. Watches, small handled tetris devices, walkmans, radios… name it. Even one day, I tried to disassemble our television and my mother caught me while doing that. Result: slap on my ass 😊 I was curious to know how these electronic devices are working and a computer was literally at the top of these mysterious devices list that I wanted to understand. And finally, I got one. That was the reason why I got so excited because finally I got the dream device that I can work on and start to understand how actually is it working. I did that. I broke it, tried to understand why it’s not working, learned how to fix it, fixed it and broke it again. I learned its magic and also how to fix it. In a relatively short period of time later, I started to work at the computer shop that my father bought me this computer. This curiosity became my profession. Since then, I’ve been working in this industry.

My first computer was a Windows 95 machine. First operating system that I started to learn was Windows. First thing that I broke was Windows. First thing that I fixed was a Windows problem. First operating system that I installed from scratch was Windows. First real job that I earned money was a job where I was fixing problems on Windows machines.  For us, for my generation, computer was equal to Windows. Sometimes folks in this industry who were born and lived in developed countries don’t understand that. Back in the 90s, the guys like me who were living in developing countries like Turkey, the things that we could access were Windows and prebuilt x86 computers. Unix, Linux, free software, gnu, architectures other than x86, Apple… These were not the things that we could easily access. When we first met computers, these computers were x86 Windows machines. We were kind of the by-products of Bill Gates’s “a pc on every desk and in every home” vision. GNU was your “Free as in beer” platform. For us, free meant Windows. I’m not trying to discuss Linux vs. Windows topic. No. I’m just trying to say that the Windows ecosystem was the thing that we could easily access. I could easily find pirated copies of Windows and it was also a Turkish Language version of that. This part was also important. Language barrier is a real thing that most people don’t understand if they didn’t encounter that kind of problem before. There could be thousands of better alternatives to anything, but it doesn’t make sense if they’re not accessible. Gnu could be better approach than Windows but Windows in Turkish was a better choice for me. Long story short, Microsoft’s vision, its products and ability to access them made me a computer guy. It shaped my life. It shaped my career. It’s at the core of what I have been doing till today. That’s why I’m connected to this company and consider myself a fanboy. But that is not the only thing that made me a fanboy. Microsoft is one of the giants who built this industry. I respect what Microsoft have done so far and Microsoft’s current “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more” mission perfectly aligns with my own mission. I don’t know a better explanation of “working in IT” than this. Also as an end-user, I’m really pleased to use Microsoft products. Windows to Excel, OneNote to Surface, OneDrive to Microsoft 365. My personal digital life runs on top of that services, tools and devices. I really like them.

Last exit before MyWay

Ok, now you have learned that I’m a Microsoft fanboy and that didn’t start last year. But something has happened last year. I started to work at Microsoft on March 2nd. It’s been a full year since the day and I want to write couple of words about that journey.  

Microsoft was always on my radar as you can imagine. As a fanboy, I knew lots of things about Microsoft and also couple of my close friends were working at Microsoft Turkey. It was not a totally new world and definitely on my bucket list. But somehow our paths didn’t cross till last year. I had the privilege of working in great companies during my career but not at Microsoft. And when things started to get a little bit complicated at Docker, I decided to follow the path that is missing on my bucket list and aimed the Microsoft.

I was working at Docker before Microsoft. I started there as a Technical Relationship Manager in 2108 and moved to Solution Architecting couple of months later due to an internal reorg. But things started to collapse at Docker. I won’t tell all the details about that and this blog post is not about Docker. But in a nutshell, after multiple C level changes, poor execution, market pressure… bla bla bla and board decided to divide the company into 2 pieces and sold the enterprise part of Docker to Mirantis. That was something I didn’t like and decided to move. But this time I wanted it to be my final run. As I said, I had the privilege of working in great companies during my career. I wore lots of different hats. I learned a lot and I enjoyed nearly all the opportunities that I had. But I always have desire to build my own organization. Back in November 2019, there were 2 paths in front of me. I had to quit Docker. It was obvious. And I had to either find a new job at another company or build my own, but I was not ready to follow -building my organization- path back in the days. “I don’t know when I will be ready but that’s another topic 😊” So, there was only one option in front of me. Finding another role. But I wanted it to be my final run before my own company. I had to find the last exit before the My Way. And the answer was really simple for me. Microsoft. If the next step after this will be my organization, this was the only chance to clear my bucket list.

I applied for several positions at Microsoft Germany but got only rejections for a while. And to be honest with you, I also applied for lots of jobs at other companies too during that period. I attended the interviews, even got couple of offers. But rejected them because I wanted to join Microsoft “also I got rejections too as you can imagine”. And finally it has happened. In early December 2019, Microsoft HR called for an interview.  After couple of interviews with HR, my line manager and couple of other solutions architects from my current team, HR reached out to me and offered “Cloud Solution Architect (CSA) for Cloud-native Application Development” role at Microsoft Germany OCP Organization. Background checks, work council approval, paperwork etc. and finally signed the contract in Feb and started on 2nd of March. A dream came true.

Working at Microsoft

It was the history part so far. The real thing that I want to write is this part. How it went and how I feel after one year? There are lots of things that I want to cover, thus I’m gonna use bullet points format instead of trying to connect each paragraph 😊

  • Let me start with my role. I’m working as a Cloud Solution Architect for Cloud-native Application Development at Microsoft-Germany under the One Commercial Partner “OCP” organization. Uhh, it seems complicated. Isn’t it? No, actually it’s that simple;
    • OCP is the Microsoft’s partner organization. Maybe you know maybe not but Microsoft has a huge partner ecosystem. There are thousands of influential Microsoft partners all around the world include diverse organizations such as digital transformation agencies, OSS-focused development partners, business consultancies, and startups. OCP manages that side of the business and I’m working in this organization. That was the OCP Part.
    • Cloud Solution Architect is also simple. I and my colleagues, we work with our partners’ development and operations teams very closely. We provide them hands-on assistance. We enable our partners to build practices and solutions and provide them with guidance and handholding in their customer projects to make them successful. We provide them with architectural and engineering guidance down to actual code, pull together required expertise from relevant teams including engineering to quickly resolve technical challenges. We also create and deliver technical content “workshops, trainings, webinars, articles etc.” to grow technical capacity and capability of this ecosystem.
    • Cloud-native Application Development is even simpler than this. It means that my area is all the fancy words that you started to hear during the last couple of years. Docker, Containers, Kubernetes, DevOps. Name it.  
  • I started at this role on 2nd of March last year. Last free days before the whole pandemic madness. I went to München for 2 days onboarding event. I’m part of a big CSA team, roughly 15 solution architects. All spread around the Germany. Some are working in München, there are couple of folks from Köln, Hamburg, Berlin etc. But I could only be able to meet with only 2 of my teammates in person during the onboarding event. I turned back to Berlin after these 2 days. And one-week later lockdowns have started. Since then, I’ve been working from home.
  • It is really a hard experience, starting a new role like that. Please don’t understand me wrong. Pandemic hit hard. We lost lots of people. Lots of people lost their jobs. People are struggling with financial, physiological and mental problems each and every day. I don’t have any right to grumble. I have a good job, working at a good company in a wonderful and supportive team. But still it was hard, especially first couple of months.
  • It could be harder If I didn’t land on this wonderful team.  All my teammates and my manager were super helpful from day one. They guided me, answered even my stupid questions, helped me a lot during that remote period. They are good people, kind of people that you want to spend time with them. But not just only that. They are really smart and all of them are subject matter experts of their areas. I have been learning a lot from them each and every day. Amazing team. I’m really grateful.
  • A big benefit of working at Microsoft is that you’re surrounded by lots of talented, clever and good people. Everyday I meet with one of these people and really feel lucky to be part of this experience.
  • I like Microsoft and its products as a consumer. But I like it more as an employer now.  Lemme give you couple of examples to explain why.
    • You know that, all that size of companies have lots of principles, vision-mission statements etc. But sometimes they are just PR endeavors. I saw lots of companies that they are doing exactly opposite of what is written as their principles. But Microsoft is not an organization like that. You can access to core values of Microsoft via that link Company Values | Microsoft. Let’s take “Diversity and inclusion” as an example. You feel like it’s not just a buzzword when roughly %20 of your onboarding event time is dedicated to that topic. Or when your manager regularly asks “hey Ozgur, we know that German is not your native language so please let us know if there is anything that we can do to improve our meetings for you”.  Or there are tons of mandatory trainings that help you to understand the topic deeply. I can give you tons of examples related to each principle. These principles are not just words written in someplace. They are the principles that each and every employee and each division at Microsoft follow and I’m very happy about that. 
    • It’s not a secret that if you work in IT industry, you have to learn lots of new things regularly. Because tech changes so fast. This is a harsh reality. But if your organization doesn’t allow you to dedicate time for learning, it will never happen. There is no time that you can dedicate to learning if you work 40 hours and have a family in the meantime. Therefore, organizations must allow their employees to dedicate time slots to learning from their working hours. Microsoft allows and encourages us to do that. We have dedicated “learning days”. We have all the resources that we need for learning and we can dedicate time and resources. Even we have predefined learning paths for each FY that we can follow. Microsoft helps us to know which direction we need to head for next and which parts of the ecosystem are important for our roles.
    • I won’t talk about the details of benefits and salary, but I can say this. It is top notch even for the IT industry standards.
    • Work-Life balance became a buzzword but it’s an important topic. Microsoft really respects that. We are flexible. Especially during the corona. I have lots of options to balance my home and work life. Management encourages us to do that.
  • Pandemic. It forced us to create the “new normal”. I hate this sentence actually. It is not normal. We are pretending like it’s normal. But at least it is the new reality, it’s the fact. We can’t fight with facts. We need to accept and adapt. Microsoft helped me a lot to accept and adapt.
    • From day one, both senior leadership team of the Microsoft mothership and senior leadership team of the Microsoft Germany provide us transparent and data-driven information related to pandemic in a regular basis. What is going on, how are we responding, what is the current situation around the world and which decision have been taken and why.
    • They provided us lots of well being resources. Guided us to handle mental issues and pressure. Encourage us to block focus times on our calendars to avoid back to back meetings. And lots of options to avoid burnout. If you have kids and needed to homeschool them, you could take paid vacations. Or recently Microsoft introduces the “5 paid wellbeing days” in addition to our vacations that we can take to rest and recharge.
  • Another thing that I like is “give back” opportunities. Microsoft supports and encourages us to giving time, money, and skills to address the issues facing our world. There are tons of ways to contribute to community and non-profits that we care. Microsoft matches employee donations of time and money to nonprofit organizations, up to $15,000 per employee, per calendar year. For example, If I donate 1000 $ to a non-profit organization like code-org, Microsoft matches that and donate 1000 additional dollars.

Long story short, It was a fantastic first year for me. I learned a lot and I’m gonna continue to learn more. I enjoyed every minute of this journey despite pandemic made it hard.  There was a sentence under the “Qualification” section of my role’s job posting last year; “If Microsoft would not exist you would consider starting your own company.” I think that really summarizes my experience so far. I don’t know what the future will bring, life has lots of surprises for all of us. But probably one day I’ll either retire from this company or will leave only to build my own. I don’t think there will be a third option.

Leave a Reply