Leaving Microsoft

The Beginning

I was still in college when I read this article titled “Two Stories” by Joel Spolsky. Here a couple of quotes from that article (the bold highlighting was added by me):

“…

At Microsoft, if you’re the Program Manager working on the Excel macro strategy, even if you’ve been at the company for less than six months, it doesn’t matter – you are the GOD of the Excel macro strategy, and nobody, not even employee number 6, is allowed to get in your way. Period.

Who doesn’t want to be king of their own domain? Software, by its nature, is very easy to divide into smaller and smaller components, so it’s always possible to divide up responsibility among people and let people own an area. This is probably THE reason why software people love working at Microsoft.

I’d turned down an offer to work as a Software Design Engineer at Microsoft when I was graduating in 2001 because I had an opportunity to be working for one of the fastest growing companies at the time based in the Valley (I would have been working on MSN Music if I’d accepted Microsoft’s offer back then!) But Spolsky’s article had a profound effect on me and I’d always wanted to work at Microsoft. As luck would have it, my recruiter called me back in 2004 and told me about this awesome opportunity in this team called “Developer Evangelism”. The best part – I could continue live and work in the Valley!

I started in January 2005 as a Developer Evangelist based in the Valley – my job was to “sell” developers on the idea of .NET. One of my first assignments was Visual Studio 2005 and Team System (this was Microsoft’s foray in to the ALM space). Then there was Vista. And then there was Silverlight. And then Azure. Throw a little bit of Open Source and/or Interoperability into that mix. And then BizSpark – my crossover from being a technical evangelist to focusing on marketing a “program”, a program that was really aimed at getting startups, especially in the Valley, to be able to acquire Microsoft software at no cost. And of course for the last 15 months or so as a Product Manager on Windows Phone 7’s developer platform.

The Valley

Switching gears – some time back at a Startup2Startup event, Dave McClure lined up ex-Paypalers (the “Paypal Mafia”) for a panel discussion. The takeaway from that discussion was that something about Paypal bred innovation. Later on, the audience was polled to see who they thought was a company that bred innovation, like Paypal did, and the options were: Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Apple. No mention of Microsoft. (FYI, Facebook won that poll).

I’ve spent some time over the last 6 months or so thinking about why it is that I moved to the Valley in the first place, and this quote in The Valley of My Dreams … by Vivek Wadhwa sums things up very nicely:

“Most entrepreneurs and engineers that come to Silicon Valley, come to experience this network and to embrace the culture it has created. That’s why I came, too.”

In reality, that’s why I came, too. Then I started to realize that I was working at Microsoft, a technology company that couldn’t be further removed from the Valley, in every sense of those words.

The End

I had a candid conversation with my management. I was told that while I was doing well (paraphrasing ;) in order to move ahead in my career, I needed to move to Redmond – it was a matter of ‘when’. I would have to give up my home, my family, my friends and move from one of the best cities in the world to, well, Redmond. To quote John Wood:

“There are two ways to remove a Band-Aid : slowly and painfully, or quickly and painfully.”

A couple of weeks ago, I told my management that while my career is super important to me, what Microsoft has to offer to me (in Seattle) isn’t lucrative enough for me to leave what I could make of what I have been offered here, in the Valley.

I’m sad but I know this is absolutely the right thing for me to do. I’ve met the most amazing, most diverse and by far the most intelligent group of people over the last few years. The opportunities that Microsoft has helped create for me are truly unbelievable and I will be forever grateful. Everyone I’ve met and dealt with has and will continue to have a profoundly significant influence on my life.

To Microsoft and all my colleagues: Thank you for an amazing 5+ years.

Now playing in my head: “Dead and Gone”, TI

@ai

PS: A New Beginning

I’m not ready to talk about what’s next right now since this post was mostly an ode to Microsoft, but there are a couple of things right now that really excite me – one of which is mobile gaming. This industry is exploding – Gartner predicts that the end-user revenue forecast for this market is going to hit around $11.4B in the next 4 years. That article goes on to talk about how app stores have opened this market up, however, there is still an issue around discoverability of apps and games – something else I’m really passionate about. I believe I’ve stumbled upon an incredible opportunity that melds these worlds. Stay tuned…

26 thoughts on “Leaving Microsoft

  1. Tough loss for Microsoft. Everyone in this industry has come to see you as the face of MS in the Valley. Too bad they undervalue the strategic advantage of a greater presence here.

    But great to see you have your priorities straight as usual. When you consider your ever-growing family (I’ma need a nephew soon btw) and limitless career potential here, it really isn’t even a decision. Congrats, and best of luck on your new endeavor!

  2. Anand, bummed to see you go. Had a great time knowing and working with you in the DPE days. I wish you the best of luck on the next leg of your journey. I’m down there frequently. Would love to meet up. I’ll ping you before my next trip.

  3. kudos for your new adventure, it sounds quite exciting ! Mobile gaming has only just begun when you think about the implications of a connected mobile device as a joystick for the real world, so I'll be very interested to see where you land. FYI, I'm also on the move, announcement soon !

  4. “[...] there is still an issue around discoverability apps and games” Bingo. Enjoy plowing into that VERY wide open field. Having researched all the major X, Y, Z app store announcements (fwiw), I think you are dialed in on perhaps -the- single greatest issue of the coming hyper breadth online retail boom and the en masse fear of developers: how will customers find me.

  5. “There are two ways to remove a Band-Aid : slowly and painfully, or quickly and painfully.” – thats awesome.

    I cant believe im reading this today. I'm parting ways with a group of people. i randomly picked this tweet from Justin Angel..

  6. Best of luck. Having read and noticed some of that same inspiration when joining the company in 2004, I am happy that you've been able to make a true decision and move on to more exciting things. Even when niches in the company become interesting, the true passion just isn't here and it has seeped into everything, hasn't it?

  7. Oh poochee. Damn Anand, I wish you weren’t going but I know you’ll rock elsewhere. Let me know if you ever need anything. Good luck in the Valley!

  8. Anand;

    You sound very conflicted in your decision, but as someone who has spent time in both Silicon Valley and Redmond, I agree with your view that the cultural divide is significant. I blogged about this 2.5 years ago, in the context of the proposed Yahoo acquisition (849: Is that miles or light years? – http://www.martinsuter.net/blog/2008/02/849-is-that-miles-or-light-years.html).

    I’d love to get your thoughts on it sometime.

    Good luck on your next big thing!

  9. Its sad that in this day and age, companies are so tied into having employees in a certain geographic location. I wonder if that will change and if so when…

  10. i understand your sentiments about Microsoft and its Silicon Valley exactly. I wouldnt move to Redmond either. I like living in Surrey, UK more than I liked Microsoft at the time. I wish you all success.

  11. Hey Anand – This post reminded me of the time when I was at PlaceWare and we got acquired by Microsoft. Even though everything looked exciting – I just could not see myself leaving this great valley to move to Redmond. And you know what – have not regretted that decision ever!

    Wish you all the best in your future endeavor.

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