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What I gained, lost and learned while working for Microsoft (medium.com)
380 points by newnoobpl 44 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 236 comments

In many ways, the piece is basically a story about someone young and naive becoming an adult, so to speak. That process gets conflated with "working for Microsoft."

I'm a former military wife. The military does a lot of moving around. Affairs are common when spouses are separated. Etc.

So that kind of thing is hardly something peculiar to Microsoft.

It also sounds like she is European and speaks English as a second language. So going to Seattle for a while was possibly a case of culture shock. That also shouldn't be attributed to Microsoft per se.

I spent most of my early life in the city I was born in. The first new place I moved as an adult was a horrendous shock. It was trial by fire and I was so, so miserable and I hated that place. I blamed that place.

It took me years to realize that place actually treated me pretty well and the real problem was the shock of leaving everything I had ever known, so I would have been miserable anywhere. It wasn't the place per se.

She seems to make an effort to not be too blamey of Microsoft and to express her gratitude for the good parts, but the framing really fails to be evenhanded about this. Starting with the title, it attributes a very ordinary growing up experience to becoming disillusioned with this one company.

She definitely seems European. And I can see that some of it is a becoming an adult story but a part of it isn't. A part of it really is about the corporate culture in Microsoft.

I've worked at startups and universities and I never had to deal with:

> The people I had on my team, were extremely closed minded. Most of them with many years of experience working in a corporation, so even more closed minded, only caring about their manager’s approval.

> I actually cared about my role, I cared about the people we were doing the Connect event for more than for my career and no one seemed to understand that.

> I found a job fairly easily with a similar salary, where they didn’t expect me to work 24/7.

I've worked long hours at a startup, but not like she is describing. The startup wasn't part of my identity, I didn't need to play politics. All I did was dev dev dev and some more dev. The communication overhead was low. Compared to her story, I had a dream job. Except that I didn't, it had good parts, and it had frustrating parts. Teaching at a coding school is more like a dream job since it doesn't feel like work and people pay you for it, except that it stifles career growth.

She definitely seems European

Seems? She worked out of the Warsaw office. Not many Americans there, I expect.

Does that imply there are no people but Americans and Europeans? Why don't you simply check where is she from? It's quite easy to check that she has polish name, speaks fluent polish, so I guess she is in fact polish. But why did you feel it's important to mention America here?

Are you made that they didn't leave open the possibility that she was Australian, a Kiwi or an Afrikaner?

Seems to me it's a story about someone who's too impressed with a lot of superficial stuff. The appearance of a "perfect life", business travel, expensive hotels, uber rides (?), overpriced seattle apartments with a great view that you can't actually afford, etc. The irony is that these things are all rather unimpressive to those that actually have them within reach, so citing them as evidence of your lavish lifestyle tends to mean you don't actually have one.

It's all relative. I spent six years at university without ever taking a single taxi and I still consider Uber rides a luxury, because I can also take the bus for a quarter of the price or bike for free.

Also, as the OP mentions, the trap of getting used to nice things is that while you soon stop appreciating them, you will feel their loss quite painfully.

I think to the typical Pole - this is all pretty big stuff and very indicative of living a life that is not available to most people.

There's a huge difference between a luxury and something that indicates you have achieved a lavish and impressive lifestyle. A cup of coffee at starbucks is a luxury.

Lavish and impressive is also relative. Your original statement about "these things are all rather unimpressive to those that actually have them within reach" is tautological: having a yacht with a helipad is not going to be particularly impressive to anyone else docked next to me in St Tropez, even if it puts all of us in the global 0.01%.

I think there's a subtlety in my point that you're missing. When you can just barely manage a yacht with a helipad, you're impressed with yourself for being that successful. When you can comfortably afford it, you cease to consider it something to boast about.

But yes, your point is valid: it's all relative.

Off topic warning.

> A cup of coffee are starbucks is a luxury.

In Melbourne, Australia a coffee at Starbucks is considered:

1. A sign that you’re a tourist.

2. A sign that you’re a masochist.

3. A cry for help.

4. All of the above.

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself :)

:) Calling it a luxury isn't a judgment on whether or not it's any good. It just means its an expensive thing you don't actually need.

For me, in Denver, it means that it is 5:30 and nobody else is open yet.

In Seattle, the corporate home of Starbucks, it's exactly the same :-)

Care to explain?

A joke in poor taste. Melbournians are notorious coffee snobs. As jpatokal said, locals wouldn’t be caught dead in a Starbucks. Basically if the cup is taller than 4 fingers 8-10cm or the ingredients include anything other than coffee, water and milk, or it was made by percolating - then it’s not coffee as far as we’re concerned. It’s either dishwater or a confection of some sort. It may be a fact that Melbourne has more coffee shops per capita than any other place on earth.

Those rules seem to eliminate both Turkish and Cuban coffee. That would be a shame.

Yeah, sorry - a modicum of sugar is allowed :)

(I love my Saturday morning Turkish)

Wellington, NZ would like to have a word

Melbourne is a mecca of coffee snobbery, and most locals wouldn't be caught dead in a Starbucks. (Although you need to try pretty hard even to find one.)

Australia is one of the only markets where Starbucks' global domination strategy failed horribly due to several factors (I'm not an Aussie so I can't explain the cultural differences). IIRC, in 6-7 years, they opened ~100 locations only to close over 60 of them. Aussies tend to deride the chain and Starbucks themselves have pivoted and tend to mostly cater to tourists so as not to go under completely.

I think you are missing the perspective of somebody in a relatively low salary country where the US is almost out of reach and visiting it /regularly/ is almost unheard of.

It sounds like you’d have to be in the 1% before this could be something you can casually afford.

At least is still sounds pretty crazy to me.

I wrote a longer response to this, but forget it. Suffice to say, you're conflating your experience with hers, you're generalizing away the problem, and you're making conjectures with little basis. This is typical material for top ranked HN comments, which irresponsibly go beyond skepticism to just blanket dismiss concerns when Big Co's reputation is on the line. This argument boils down to "that's how it is".

I am not blanket dismissing her concerns, nor am I making the argument that "that's how it is."

I'm quite surprised this has gotten so many upvotes. I generally do not feel I am responsible for how other people react to my comments. I certainly don't run around trying to figure out how to be the top comment.

I'm a demographic outlier here. I try to give my point of view as best I can, knowing that it will often be neither respected nor appreciated.

If people want to talk about BigCo, they are free to do so. But understanding how much of her story can be reasonably attributed to the company and how much to other things is the best way to criticize a company, if that is your desire. If you blame them for everything, people stop listening and won't take even legitimate criticisms seriously.

Yes nuance in discerning between these things is important but your response's focus didn't acknowledge any merit of what she had to say about her direct experiences with Microsoft in particular. And your account has huge karma count of 18000 over only a year and a half. Are you really that surprised that this ended up at the top? Is your POV that often not respected?

Yes, I am really surprised. I think most of my karma comes from posting articles, not from my comments.

My opinion is somewhat respected on specific topics, such as homelessness. This article is not on a subject where I expected anyone to care one whit what I thought.

Plenty of my comments are initially met with downvotes or strong criticism. I participate here a lot because I'm medically handicapped and don't get out much, not because I have any fantasies that the world is particularly interested in my opinions.

I generally figure if the world were strongly interested in my opinions, my various websites would have more traffic and make more money. In point of fact, I am routinely mocked on HN for complaining about how my participation here has failed to garner me anything resembling a middle class income and told to STFU and go get a real job.

Do keep in mind that probably hundreds or thousands of people have read your comment here without reacting; these few negative replies are an extreme minority of the total population your words have reached.

Thank you for your concern. But I'm fine.

Choosing to engage with a specific comment is not necessarily evidence that I'm all up in arms about it. It is an unfortunate truism that there is generally more to say when people have a difference of opinion than when they see things the same way. It is unfortunate because it tends to promote an appearance of fightiness rather than conversation in online forums, even when the explicit goal is conversation, as it generally is for me personally.

I've participated here nearly ten years. Rest assured, I have some familiarity with how the forum operates.

(Between my old handle -- Mz -- and this one, I have more than 40k karma. If it were under one handle, I would be respectably high on the leader board.)

I didn't particularly read this as blaming Microsoft, but rather big corps in general. I never worked for a company with more than a couple thousand employees, so I can't really relate to anything she wrote.

Agreed, it was partly coming of age and partly corporate culture. The issues with microsoft sicken me a bit, but its not much different than what I have seen elsewhere.

No offence, but if you’ve never worked in the particular cult-like pressure cooker that is Big Tech, then you can’t relate. The article was not about culture shock.

I worked at a Fortune 200 company for a time. It wasn't big tech. It was a very famous insurance company. It also had a cult-like atmosphere and many people there felt it was the biggest thing that had ever happened to them.

I'm a former military wife. So I was involved in protecting national security while changing diapers and generally being viewed by the planet as a big fat nothing homemaker. "Loose lips sink ships."

So I viewed my corporate job as merely a day job of no special importance, thus I was not sucked into the cult-like atmosphere of the place. I imagine I would be equally resistant to the cult-like atmosphere at a tech company.

Maybe your experience is “another interesting perspective worth writing about or considering” and not a refutation of the author’s experience and her conclusions about what it meant.

My original comment wasn't intended as refutation of anything. It was intended to offer a broader perspective on her piece.

She waited 18 months to say publicly what she thought about it. She's still quite young and 18 months is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things.

I'm 53. I had an affair in my twenties. I then read as much research as I could get my hands on.

Some common themes:

People frequently are unfaithful while physically separated from their spouse. It's a common feeling that it somehow doesn't count if you are far apart. In fact, some people use that stance as justification to have an ongoing long distance affair.

Affairs are common in stressful situations. When things are overwhelming, humans have a weird habit of reaching for a smidgen of distraction and comfort amid the chaos.

Although popular opinion is that affairs ruin relationships, cause and effect almost always runs the other direction: Affairs don't kill relationships. Instead, relationships in their death throes foster affairs.

I generally consider 18 months to not be a whole lot of time to gain perspective on international and cross cultural experiences. Cultures and nation's tend to be far older than the individuals in them and it can take quite a long time to digest the intersection where two such things meet in one person's life and, unfortunately, all too often grind on that specific individual.

I for one appreciated your original comment - thanks for sharing your experience and perspective. It's a good point, that culture shock and dissonance, growing up and being humbled by the unreasonable chaos of the real world, are important aspects of what the author of the article lived through.

The phrase "cult-like atmosphere" of corporations is meaningful too. Having lived in different national/regional/organizational cultures, I'd agree that there's a significant correspondence between culture and cult.

That sounds JUST like USAA...


It's sad we make it a war zone

It's sadder still that attempts to promote the peace by commenting on best practices are typically received with open hostility.

I really hear you, it's hard because in my mind the solutuon would be something along the lines of going back in time a couple thousand years and starting then, it's a delicate thing to care about on both sides and it shouldn't be. We preach equality but the games don't stop- I don't really have the perfect answer here

I don't either. I decided to err in a particular direction here and take the hit for it. I routinely err on the side of respecting the male side of the equation in such matters. It's part of why I am accepted to some degree here.

I think many young people in tech learn this lesson the hard way. They get excited with all the free food, laundry services, and events that tech jobs offer. They end up spending all of their waking hours at work and work becomes an identity. Then one day something changes and they realize they spent the last N years of their life at work, not building real lasting relationships, pursuing hobbies, dating, etc. It truly is a cautionary tale and startups and big companies alike want their employees to drink the Kool Aid.

Personally, I love all the perks tech jobs offer but work-life balance always comes first.

Shortchanging non-work life for several years is not specific to "tech". The ~30yo dating pool in Boston was a wealth of people who'd been focused on grad school, med school/residency, and making partner in a law firm. Many people consider career focus a good investment, in those fields. (Though many manage to do both, and some others try but fail to do both.)

The difference is that in tech you have a choice and in medicine you don't.

Medicine also tends to have more clear career tracks. Tech will run you into the ground and discard you if you are not careful and creative about where you go and how you go about it.

I think a lot of people learn this the hard way, yes. But I kinda don't see what is wrong with this. Having work life balance is somewhat of a luxury, and it's a luxury to be able to say "money doesn't make me happy". It's a luxury to come to that conclusion.

How do you arrive at that conclusion without going through the ringer first?

> Having work life balance is somewhat of a luxury, and it's a luxury to be able to say "money doesn't make me happy". It's a luxury to come to that conclusion.

Exactly. Any time anyone says "money doesn't make me happy" what they really mean is "I already have enough money that it's no longer the limiting factor in my happiness."

The vast majority of peoples' lives and happiness could be markedly improved by giving them more money.

I think this is unnecessarily cynical. I’ve been through multiple periods of both success and extreme hardship in my life. I can confidently say that money doesn’t make me happy, because I’ve managed to be happy at my lowest points of financial stability. If losing financial stability robs somebody of all their happiness, then I’d say they should question whether they were really happy to begin with, or just comfortable. But to say that anybody who has financial stability can’t say ‘money doesn’t make me happy’ denies the possibility that they’ve lived experiences that genuinely brought them to that conclusion.

I've gone long stretches unemployed because of chronic health issues.

Money helps reduce anxiety. Health insurance even more so.

Once you have responsibilities, mouths to feed, it's no longer just about you. Now that I'm an empty nester, I care about money a lot less. I'm practically happy-go-lucky.

> I can confidently say that money doesn’t make me happy, because I’ve managed to be happy at my lowest points of financial stability.

I'm not saying that being poor makes it impossible to be happy. I'm saying that money can remove many stresses which make it harder to be happy.

Also, there's 'low income' and then there's 'financial instability'. If you get paid $100/week, spend $50/week on rent, and $25/week on enough food to keep you well fed, and have $25/week spare, and you have a reasonably reliable job (or can easily find another one) then you're financially stable.

If you're on $2000/wk but you have $1500/wk in rent/loans/whatever and $450/wk in food and transport costs, your boss is constantly threatening to fire you, and you know you can't get another job if you do get fired, you're going to have a very hard time being happy.

> If losing financial stability robs somebody of all their happiness, then I’d say they should question whether they were really happy to begin with, or just comfortable.

I'd flip that around and say if your happiness levels aren't affected by 'losing financial stability' then you've lost income but not financial stability.

That's totally fair, and I think many people can identify with what you're saying, with a caveat. I think you're talking about a different kind of happiness... I'm not you, so I can't say for sure, but it sounds like you have what I would call "joy" no matter what. Where "joy" is a sense of purpose, of maybe self worth and other things that stay with you even when you may not actually be enjoying yourself at any given time, you can even be sad, and still have an overarching sense of "joy".

I think the other posters mean happiness as the more run of the mill enjoying the moment, enjoying life, am happy about X kind of happiness.

Also, when we talk about happiness vs income, we should actually look at what many people actually say about it themselves, in data (pardon the pun :):

1. https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/gdp-vs-happiness

2. https://ourworldindata.org/uploads/2017/04/Happiness-by-Inco...

3. https://ourworldindata.org/uploads/2017/04/Happiness-across-...

I mean, it seems like there is a connection between happiness and income up to a certain level.

This isn’t at all what people by money not buying happiness. Even if your life objectively improves, it’s just a matter of time until your brain adjusts to the new normal and you’re back to the same levels of happiness you were at before the money. It’s pretty much the crowning “feature” of our biological wiring - because if an animal like us in ancient times was blissfully content the moment their lot in life improved, they would stop trying and not end up spreading their genes. So we’re pretty much doomed to never be truly happy/content because of how natural selection works.

If you're hungry, or cold, or have no safe place to sleep, money will fix that. If you're just managing to make ends meet and in constant fear of losing your job, money will fix that. If you're overworked and stressed from your high pressure job, money will fix that. In fact, until you're rich enough to be way off the pointy end of Maslowe's hierarchy, money will fix pretty much anything that ails you.

From what I've seen, there's a clear line of demarcation below what you're implying. If I remember correctly, the research says it's around $60k-$75k in the U.S. where the happiness levels out in response to money. I'd have to look it up again to make sure I'm not misremembering

Yep, that lines up with what I've read and what I've personally experienced. Beyond $75k (or your local currency equivalent), more money is more of a theoretical "can do more nice things", "drives a nicer car", "can go skiing for holidays instead of rent a beach shack." It's nice, but it's a change in degree, not a change in kind.

Below $75k combined income is where those "do I want X or Y because I can't have both" situations come about increasingly frequently. Below $45k it becomes "do I want to pay the electricity bill or the rent?"

This is commonly misreported. A 2010 study found that answers to questions like "Did you experience a lot of stress yesterday?" leveled out between $60,000 and $90,000. How satisfied people said they were with their lives continued to increase.[1]

[1] https://www.pnas.org/content/107/38/16489

Kahneman actually speaks to this pretty well in his TED talk about the two types of happiness, but the parent comment seemed to be speaking to the first type (the 'reducing stress' happiness, not the 'reflecting' happiness). You're right; I was trying deliberately not to get lost in the weeds on the details but it probably just looks lazy instead.

According to what? There are plenty of fairly trivial counterexamples to this. If what you say here is correct, what is mental illness? What is a solid marriage vs a terrible one? What is a good job vs a bad job?

For instance, lots of peoples' mental states improve when they are able to not live with their parents, for various reasons. That requires money.

> Having work life balance is somewhat of a luxury,

Tell that to the history of labor unions

Talented and ambitious people would hate being in a labor union. It's a place where doing more than what is expected is actively shunned, and knowing how little work you can do is the optimization.

> Talented and ambitious people would hate being in a labor union

Doubt it. Mentorship and apprenticeship opportunities are abound. Unions provide a floor for negotiations from which you can up-negotiate.

If your categorization was true, actors would never have breakout opportunities despite their union representation. Reality disagrees with your assertion and any movie star ever acts as evidence contrary to your claim.

Movie stars are in a guild, not a union. Much like doctors.

Unions have personally screwed me out of hundreds of dollars of month in payment for pensions I'll never see because they've forced me into inappropriate position titles to the benefit of legacy members.

Are you talking about Sag-AFTRA? It's a labor union.

The Actor's Guild is a labor union and part of the AFL-CIO.

It's a tough thing being pro labor, anti union.

Good governance, fairness, accountability, responsibility, transparency remain challenges for all organizations, not just unions. Happily, we've been getting better at finding and learning from other experiments.

Reform is thankless exhausting work. It takes a special kind of crazy for a person to do that kind of policy work.

Phd Graduate students seem to like labor unions - they have been organizing and striking for them a lot recently. And classical musicians (The Chicago Symphony Orchestra recently went on strike). Are they all stupid and listless?

It's simple. When the supply vastly outpaces demand, it opens up many doors for exploiting those lower on the ladder. Both grad school and classical music are 2 such areas.

Software Engineering still hasn't reached that point. The profits earned by having top percentile employees, far outpace the compensation packages they demand.

A decent software developer might be worth three to five mediocre ones, without being particularly valuable. The idea of the 10x developer is so overwrought, but there are just so damned many people who are not capable of producing anything at all.

It's really a profession that does not scale well.

Here in (socialist/democratic) Sweden unions are prevalent for all categories of labour and have been for ages.

Even if you’re not actually an active member of one of the about 60 organizations, the work they do benefit you through collective agreements.

Look at the companies and innovations sprung from this setting through the years. It’s IMHO actually quite impressive considering the population size.

At least I believe it’s safe to say it doesn’t stifle innovation or hard working individuals in general — high performers gonna’ perform.

You aren’t typically a member of a union if you work in tech in Sweden. Some unions are also very passive, basically just an insurance.

Crediting unions with the inventions and companies seems quite optimistic. Imho, they were at best a method for avoiding a working class/socialist revolution in the early 1900s and for supporting blue collar workers in general.

Also, Sweden isn’t socialist, and socialism isn’t equal to democracy.

First off, I'm not "crediting" anything, I'm refuting the idea that unions would hurt ambition.

Second, you have quite a narrow and arguably wrong idea about what socialism is:


Sweden is for example governed like a social democracy:


Being scared of the S word is kind of silly and assuming socialism equals totalitarian Stalinism or Communism is just plain wrong.

Third -- if you work in tech you might very well be a member of for example "Unionen" (660.000 members, myself included) or "Sveriges Ingenjorer" if you're an actual engineer.

Take a look at SACO with it's 22 unions: https://www.saco.se/en/

Just some other thoughts:

The opposite of socialism is not capitalism, as is usually portrayed.

For me, the opposite is what happens when accountability towards the people and greater good is nowhere to be found. Be it through unregulated free market corporations, organisation and politics or a totalitarian dictatorship.

Both corrupt and destroy and one thing is common: lack of accountability.

Also, I like talking about ”socialist Sweden” whenever an American talks about the horrors of unions, regulations and government.

I learned this a few years into my career and made major changes to adjust it. I've never felt happier and more fulfilled than this last year where my job is a sideshow and my focus and best hours of the day are spent with my family.

That’s great to hear! What changes did you make?

Found a job where I can work from home.

Developed a healthy but firm relationship with my employer that I shall not be available outside office hours.

Hacked away at slack to permanently disable notifications and never show the blue distraction dot. Developed an expectation among the team about my responsiveness via slack or email.

Unlearned from my previous job: installing any work related software on my phone.

Adopted a financial lifestyle that prevents me from being a wage slave. This is the most important part, I think. It means all of the above can never be eroded because I'm not afraid to quit/be fired. This means I can stand by my philosophy.

I'm 53yo and worked in tech (as corporate wage slave, consultant, 1099, and self-employed remote) for 30 years now, and I do believe you have found the true path to how to handle working in tech.

I consider myself lucky that during my formative years in tech in the 90's, I was also playing guitar in a semi-professional band touring Florida during the year. I feel that due to these experiences, I was always able to see what many of my colleagues couldn't.

That tying your emotional, social, and financial happiness to your tech job is a dangerous place to be.

Glad to hear I'm not the only one who hacks out the blue distraction dot. Every time slack upgrades itself it comes back and I remove it posthaste.

Please feel free to publish it as a Firefox extension. I’ll pledge to donate $10 (via SEPA or cryptocurrency) if it’s not out yet, in honour of putting your money where your mouth is

How do you cope with spending the majority of your time being a "sideshow"?

Majority of my time?

I can't blame them.

It is the first big real world thing many of them do, their first real career job, and possibility the most important thing to them they've done to date... it's so easy to get wrapped up in that when a company steps in to fill in all the possible gaps in life.

If you don't know what else you'd fill your life with, it's easy to fill it completely with the first big deal that comes along.

It's a cult and they deliberately want to make it a cult.

This is one of the reasons they provide free food, corporate vacations, team building exercises, etc.

They want you completely dedicated.

As someone who’s worked at multiple big tech companies, I don’t think this was true, at least not on the teams I worked on.

I probably averaged 50 hour weeks. I also earned enough to max out retirement accounts and make substantial investments in my post-tax accounts. I had enough to where I could start taking bigger risks. I had two vacations per year while building wealth. I also got married during this time.

I read comments like this and I wonder if someone had a bad experience or if it’s just resentment.

To be clear, I think there’s massive room to improve gender pay gaps, diversity, etc. That being said, I don’t think these companies are as nefarious as you make it sound. It depends on your situation. I never had to travel, unlike the author of the medium post. I didn’t face sexual harassment, although I’m also a female. I do know these things do happen, just as they would at many non tech companies.

>> if it’s just resentment.

Ah, there it comes.

Having been around lots of employees of one of the tech giants, I think the cult mentality is actually very strong.

You can observe this in two specific ways:

1 Adding in a gratuitous note at every possible chance about those who are resentful because they didn't "make the cut". Now, you could have made your point without the gratuitous note, and the fact that you still had to add it does make you part of the cult, de-facto. Interestingly, you observe this attitude in a lot of ways when you interact with them in real life too, and especially when you say something critical but factual about their software (e.g. that it is bug ridden despite an entire army of folks working on it)

2 The general idea that unlike the schmucks who need to comply with laws, a tech giant is not only above the law, but rather deservingly so (Facebook being the very obvious example with its friendly fraud case, but every tech giant has a pretty shady history in this regard). If someone disagrees, "it's just resentment". Even more tellingly, almost none of these folks actually take a stand on clearly unethical practices well after "earning enough to max out retirement accounts".

Instead of bristling at such comments, you should probably introspect a little more.

You’re resorting to personal attacks with accusations of cult mentality. I’ve generally worked with people who were good to me or people I came to trust. Obviously I must be part of a cult for not hating the teams I worked with. Are you miserable at your current job? If not, does that make you part of a cult? And if you are miserable, with all the rage you’re holding up, maybe you need to take a break and worry less about us?

>Adding in a gratuitous note at every possible chance about those who are resentful because they didn't "make the cut".

I never made any statement about someone being resentful because they didn’t make the cut. You’re arguing a straw man with these things you’ve conjured up, and after making this statement, it’s probably likely you didn’t make the cut. On the other hand, making the “cut” isn’t so black and white. Great candidates sometimes fall through and don’t get an offer. The system isn’t perfect at any company.

>Interestingly, you observe this attitude in a lot of ways when you interact with them in real life too, and especially when you say something critical but factual about their software (e.g. that it is bug ridden despite an entire army of folks working on it)

There’s buggy software everywhere. Hopefully you can find bugs and address them before your users do but be transparent if something is serious. I haven’t seen anyone state that engineers at big tech companies write flawless code, so you’re arguing another straw man.

>If someone disagrees, "it's just resentment". Even more tellingly, almost none of these folks actually take a stand on clearly unethical practices well after "earning enough to max out retirement accounts".

People take stands on issues they disagree with all the time. You read about it when folks at Google, Microsoft, or Amazon speak out against selling tech to the defense department. It’s even on there news.

>Instead of bristling at such comments, you should probably introspect a little more

Your angry rant is misinformed, with personal insults and generally in bad faith. Do you have an employer and are they perfect? Even if you’re self employed, are the folks you work with or work for completely 100% objectively ethical, and if yes, how do you measure that and who/what defines that bar?

I never stated tech companies are above the law, that engineers at these companies write bug free software, or that everyone else is only upset they didn’t make the cut. If I had to guess, it sounds like maybe you didn’t make the cut, which is why this idea even came to your mind.

My experiences have been good. It seems like you came here hoping I would have insulted my previous teams.

One piece of unsolicited advice -

You won’t be successful and people generally won’t respect you or want to work with you if you’re the person who tries to pull the most negatively possible interpretation from others so you can use it to put others down. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or think you are.

Good luck!

> I probably averaged 50 hour weeks. I also earned enough to max out retirement accounts and make substantial investments in my post-tax accounts. I had enough to where I could start taking bigger risks.

I'm in a similar situation, and feel sad that a "bigger risk" for me - and probably a lot of employees in tech - is putting my foot down and working only 40 hours a week. Without having money saved, I'd have a much weaker hand in sticking up for myself.

Do you really need to? Or do you think you need to?

I left my first company after college only after 3 years, despite the pay being great. I moved to a tech company, which longer term ended up being absolutely the right decision. At the time, I only left because I felt burned out. In retrospect, I worked nights and weekend, pulling in closer to 60 hours, but it was never expected of me. If anything, I set that expectation, and it wasn’t fair to my colleagues who couldn’t work more than 40 hours a week because they had a spouse, kids, or other responsibilities that I didn’t have outside of work.

If you do feel like you have no other way, my suggestion would be to find a different team or different org at your company if possible. Otherwise, time to move on elsewhere.

Keep your skills sharp - changing jobs is stressful and can suck, but never end up in a position where you absolutely rely on the job you have now. Build your nest egg early.

This is especially true if you’re young. I only wish I had someone give me this advice but my parents both worked their entire lives, and I saw them both work sometimes two jobs at a time. I didn’t know better having grown up in a home where that was the norm (they didn’t have a choice because they were trying to support 3 children, pay rent, car payment, etc).

I really think that just spreading more awareness of this goes a long way. I worked crazy hours my first few years too but it wasn’t company pressure, it was me wanting to prove myself.

I didn’t change til I literally worked myself into a hospital. I do wonder if knowing more about how often this stuff happens would have made me more aware of the pattern I was falling into.

Perhaps overly impersonal, but I think of it as an investment profile: you need diversity.

Invest in your education, invest in your career, invest in your family, invest in your friends, invest in your hobbies, invest in your health.

Not all of those are sure to succeed, but if one fails or you realize is overvalued, you've still got a lot left.

I have two comments.

You want you career path to follow; what you can learn, what you can do, what you know, who you know.

Every job should pay you in, experience, money and connections. If a employer is short changing you or blocking you on any of those, LEAVE.

This sad story is common but usually happens to people who weren't going to build a life anyway, who'd be home on the computer in their free time instead of getting paid to do something profitable with it.

And its these people who stick around too. Saves the company plenty of money giving them 3-5% yearly raises.

I don’t think that’s necessarily bad though. Learn all these things when you are 23~ish

Reading articles like this always makes me wonder where all this crazy drama is going on. I work at one of FAANG, and I go in each day, code/analyze things from 8-5, chat with some people about their cycling or cooking hobbies, then go home. If people are having affairs and flying to resorts, then I'm just totally oblivious to it. Either that, or I'm the most boring 28 year old that works there.

I think to some extent the drama people find each other and only see other drama people so it seems like "everyone is doing it".

I was told by someone once about how much drama there was in our office... I was pretty sure we worked in the most boring office ever, but I finally figured out that a small group of people happened to find each other, conflict, immature decisions followed. It wasn't the office that was full of drama ...

I actually saw some of this first-hand at a previous consulting job. One of our contracts in Phoenix was rowdy with drinking and strip clubs, and one of my coworkers got busted for DUI and had to live in Sheriff Arpaio's tent city jail for many weeks of nights and weekends (he was on work release during the day!). He was probably our cheapest consultant at that point, since he wasn't billing hotels or dinners.

I'm at a FAANG now and it's very boring. Someone died at my office recently and some random uninformed online comment was trying to blame it on widespread Adderall abuse, which is so disconnected from how things actually are at the office.

bsder 44 days ago [flagged]

> Either that, or I'm the most boring 28 year old that works there.

You are, presumably, male and doing technical tasks.

It's much easier to get into drama when you are a 1) young female, whom lots of people want to interact with, hired to do 2) marketing, where your job is to be extremely social with semi-strangers.

This is simply the way of the world.

Spot on, different roles and different "reasons" let's say

Excellent point and well made.


Since you're mostly just breaking the guidelines, we've banned this account.


None of the engineering teams I was on at MS had any of this stuff going on.

Heck I was surprised she was being flown first class, with all the cutbacks everyone I know at MS for the last ~4 years has been flying coach even for their first N international flights each year! (I forget what N is.)

Sales people often fly biz class because their customers are. I don't know if it is the same here, and overseas offices have different rules than Redmond (MS China we never got biz class even though many of us flew way more than N times a year on 12 hour flights).

Friend of mine in auditing had her pre-arrivial days to resolve jetlag cut.

Because that's who you want reviewing the books, someone who can barely keep their head up...

Penny wise and all that.

(My info is several years old, hopefully that policy was changed back!)

> Because that's who you want reviewing the books, someone who can barely keep their head up...

Depending on how carefully I've been keeping those books, quite possibly :)

I work at msft and wonder where this drama is too...

how hard is it to work at FAANG and do you make $300k/yr* total comp?

same, and I can't lie, it kind of makes me sad. Going from working at a restaurant to working at a FAANG made me sooooo bored, the people are all NPCs except for the one time a year they show emotion or communicate about their values

I've worked for both startups and corporations. Corporate jobs are soul-crushing because everything about the environment seems to hinder you from producing real value and from learning new useful things. Corporate jobs hurt your inner creator and they destroy your sense of pragmatism.

Most of the stuff you learn in corporations are anti-patterns that you have to unlearn after you leave.

The reason why corporate jobs feel so meaningless is because most tech corporations have had a long term monopoly over their respective markets. They haven't had to really struggle on the market for several decades in some cases... Inside a corporation, mediocrity is the definition of success. If employees can produce something mediocre that only just works, it will translate into disproportionate revenue gains due to centralizing and monopolistic market forces. I think that this is what is meant when people talk about the "golden cage".

That's why I try to avoid corporate jobs. They pay well and you do learn some stuff in the first few months but after that your skills start degenerating and a lot of people don't notice it when it happens to them; then they get stuck in that job (or other corporate jobs) because no efficient company exposed to normal market forces will hire them.

Also note that the definition of 'normal market forces' is relative. Most startups which don't go through the normal corporation-controlled VC funnel (e.g. bootstraped startups) have a really tough time working against centralizing and monopolizing market forces.

I think about the case study of Borland's Quattro Pro a lot.

TLDR: There's a core group that "get's it". Per Pareto and organizational psychology, most people have no idea what's going on.

The initial Quattro Pro team was just 4 people. They all had prior experience. Were colleagues who worked well together. They had management meat shields who fought off the rest of the org, so the core team had enough time and space to finish a thought uninterrupted. As the product progressed, the "surface area" increased, they brought in people to help.

None of my corporate jobs have been like that. They've mostly felt like a "choose your own adventure" games, where you wander around asking NPCs for help to accomplish the latest quest, hopefully finishing before someone gives the ant farm another good shake.

I really don't know why I read what I just read.

There's a lot of red flags - going to clubs, going to burning man, having an affair, renting a penthouse apartment in freaking Seattle.

I'm not passing judgement on those who wanna live life to the fullest, but the failure of achieving the white picketed fence type of life she originally wanted to live is totally on her and not on Microsoft at all.

This comment is close to how I feel. Whilst things happened that weren’t great, some self reflection on her own behaviour might be worthwhile.

I say this as someone who was once in this situation.

There are always good reasons why people decide to do things the way they do. At some point in people's lives there come times where you have to make a decision and learn that there are consequences for it.

I think I didn't have much to compare to in my 20's (like social media posts) so I made plenty of bad decisions in my life. I was lucky to survive, learn, and calibrate my decision making process.

I'm glad you came out okay. It seems that the auther of this post may not learn or is possibly susceptible to being in this same situation again.

You may be forgetting that her job was to socialize with potential clients (developer evangelist). That's a pre-sales marketing job, completely different from the typical life of a developer at Microsoft.

The job means you have to go out most evenings to every possible hackathon or meetup and talk to everyone.

> A few guys working both for Microsoft and Partners were treating me like a cute puppy or telling me they wanted to have sex with me while drunk, but all of it seemed minor and acceptable — I was getting so much in return.

jesus, how is this minor and acceptable? i'm a woman in engineering and I can not even imagine having to deal with something like this. Is it that Marketing is that much different? Or am I just lucky to be working with human beings?

I’m a man and don’t have direct experience with this, but a few female friends, my wife, and both of my younger sisters have had unwanted sexual experiences at work.

It was a sobering moment when I realized this. I’ve been in the tech industry for over 10 years and I don’t think that anything similar has happened to any of the people I have worked with, but honestly, I have no idea. I’m not sure if I’m oblivious or just lucky to have never worked at anywhere like this. It’s terrifying how common experiences like this are.

I know there are a lot of shitty people out there but one should also note that the workplace is one of the places where people tend to meet their partner. There is a lot of flirting going on in general and some of that by nature will be unwanted.

As an example early in my career I used to work with a woman that was also pretty new and we had some chemistry. Nothing really came out of it but we did spend some time together at work and outside work. But that started as professional attitude -> friendly -> flirty. She was the one that pushed flirty at first and for example after a while when I sent her a message that she forgot an attachment I could get a "Oops, sorry! You will have to spank me!" or something similar.

I'm not trying to defend that 45 year old married guy that drunk walks up to the new 20 something hire and tells her that she has a hot body but at the same time you will have people looking for a partner spending a lot of time together. And if you also add in office parties with alcohol you are bound to also have a few misunderstandings where Guy/Girl thinks that they are hitting it off with other Guy/Girl and wants to try to take to the next level while the other person only thought they were friendly co-workers and wants to stay that way.

The worst case scenario for you is you don't get a date. The worst case scenario for them is their work environment is now unsafe because they had to reject you. I encourage you to listen to women's thoughts on this issue, which are almost universally negative toward workplace romance.

Why would it be unsafe for them just because they rejected me? And of course people are not universally against it. Most people seems to be meeting their partner through friends but the second largest group has met their partner at work.


Should I ask this of the women I know dating and marrying their coworkers, or the other ones?


Do you realize that most of us can't remove our breasts in the morning for work & put them back on for a date?

Having a female body is not a mixed signal.

I’m not sure exactly what you’re trying to say here, but if it’s any kind of context-free victim blaming it just shows how difficult the world is for women.

It’s definitely much more common in sales/marketing. It goes both ways though. As she says, there is a lot of consensual hooking up. Any environment where a significant portion of the folks are willing and reciprocal is going to lead to people testing the waters, so to speak. Especially if you’re getting drunk together.

yeah, I always wondered if it's something to do with type of personalities too that typically go into sales/marketing vs. engineering, extroverts vs. introverts type of thing (I am simplifying here greatly). Because I don't even understand how it can come to these situations, when me and my team drink together we just talk about science/tech stuff or something dumb like, does a bagel qualify as a sandwich.

> jesus, how is this minor and acceptable?

I suspect working in an Eastern Europe satellite office far more regressive than your typical US west coast office. Not that it makes it either minor or acceptable, just... different.

My cousin works in tech in Poland and I get the impression from her that workplace culture is changing rapidly to a more "international" style where this kind of behavior is not acceptable. Then again, she may not tell me the worst stuff.

I would love to hear from people on the ground about their experience, and whether that's true across other tech workplaces in central and eastern europe.

This is my (anecdotal) experience. I work in Poland and I have seen multiple cases of behavior in the workplace that I would have never considered to be acceptable. Here, most often, they're done in public just shrugged upon. And really, being a southern European, it is not that before coming here I was used to the highest standards of gender equality. I just have the impression sexism and cases of sexual harassment at the work place are much more common here.

Yes, it's pretty much very common. You need to attach your photo with a resume as well when applying to a job.

I've never had to deal with anything like this at work (no surprise there, I run my own company and my only employee is my brother) but in my other life as a classical musician I've experienced sexual harassment from drunk colleagues. On one occasion it was followed up the next day with "I said some things when I was drunk which I probably shouldn't have said... but you know, let me know if you change your mind", which is rather impressive as a non-apology.

I don't think of this as being minor or acceptable, but I don't think it's any more widespread in computing than in other fields either.

I'm only surprised it was happening at a long established company like Microsoft because of the legal ramifications in the United States (it's not totally clear from the blog post where all of these infractions were happening) - IMHO the news stories about Google's dealings with Drummond and Rubin sound worse because they had a lot more power in the organization.

Use it to your advantage, use your sexuality as your weapon.

I'm not sure what is so wrong with politely telling someone that you want to have sex with her or him. I mean I want many things but that doesn't mean I'll get them.

There's a big difference between "would you like to go out for a drink?' and "I want to have sex with you". One poisons a working relationship, the other doesn't (if done with tact).

Basically, if you wouldn't do it in front of your mom, don't do it to a colleague.

It's not appropriate at work, full stop. HR will have to discipline if not fire you in order to limit their legal liability for this. They will certainly have to fire you if you continue doing it after being asked to stop. They could be on the hooks for a lot of money in a nearly-guaranteed workplace harassment lawsuit if they allow you to persist.

And anyway, if your intent is actually to get laid, then randomly asking people in professional environments is the worst way to do so. It's not even a good tactic in nightclubs, let alone in the workplace. So you're not actually accomplishing your intended goal; you're just harassing your female colleagues.

Good god man, ask people out for drinks first, don't just jump immediately to asking for sex! Did no one teach you how dating or hook-ups work?!

They were drunk, so probably not at work. Not saying it's right or wrong. But probably less wrong.

You could still easily get fired for it, and the dumb shit you do outside of the office to your co-workers will haunt you once you get back to the office. It's not Vegas rules.

Well, maybe if someone record it and put it on social media. Otherwise, I doubt it. Actually, even then I doubt it, I've never seen it happen. From the article, it does not look like they got fired.

I've seen it happen. There are plenty widely publicized instances of it happening, too.

Anyway I said "could", not "would". It depends on how coarse you are with it, how dogged you are in doing so despite being told no, how many different people you do it to, and of course if you're reported.

The overall point is, though, that it's not a good idea.


> And if it is wrong, then so is wearing make-up at work.

Women I know wear makeup at work because many people view makeup as a "professional" or "put together" look, the same way a man might neatly comb their hair, not because they want to look sexy.

Similar exit experience. I left to go to graduate school and my skip level (a MS lifer), who was a mentor and a role model for me, with whom I had regular meetings for years, didn't even say goodbye, he pretended he didn't see me while walking past me down the hallways. It was a serious breach of company loyalty in his mind. Ironically a few months later he was out himself working at a different company, as the project we were on was panning out poorly and people started to jump ship. I don't miss it there.

Like the OP said, I'm sure there are plenty of great teams at the company, and you can still have long, fulfilling employment there, but I could never relate to that experience.

Lots of fuss and fury about what is basically just another large company. They're not your friends and never will be. Dunno why there's so much surprise here, I guess it's just another youngster hitting the immovable object of the working world.

A friend of mine who went and got a job at Microsoft (a rarity in my circle, they don't seem to be heavyweights in the graphics or video world) and made a smart move. His deal was they he got the job but that he didn't go through any kind of interview rigmarole. The gig didn't last forever but at least someone was spared a bit of craziness.

The Microsoft interview experience remains awful, Satya or not. I’ve tried a few times but with one exception I was treated like dirt every time by recruiters and interviewers.

(Edit) One interviewer blew cigarette smoke in my face, for example. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of decent people there.

I interviewed with most of the "tech giants" and Microsoft's process was by far the best (professional and down-to-earth). Maybe this was due to the target (language team), maybe due to the location (Redmond), but at least with me they left a great impression.

I think it really depends on the individuals you interview with. I've been through Google's supposedly infamous interview process and had a very positive experience (even tho I didn't get an offer).

One interviewer blew cigarette smoke in my face, for example.

Literally? That sounds like something you'd experience in the first half of the last century, but not with a tech company today.

Literally. It was outside between buildings, as punctuation for declaring that if I wasn’t an expert on X, I couldn’t know anything about Y. X being a common tool in some areas of Y, which I’d done for several years.

"One interviewer blew cigarette smoke in my face, for example"

lol. Usually that costs extra.

It felt like the key parts of the story were being left out here.

From her telling, it sounds like everything was going well for her in Poland. Then she did a very short stint in Seattle where everyone was "extremely closed minded... only caring about their manager’s approval". I'm not sure what that even means, but it sounds like that triggered in her a major depression. After which she spent a lot of time "pretending to work", which eventually resulted in her being fired. Clearly something major happened in Seattle, but we have no idea what.

Is there anything that MS could have done differently here, to avoid the problems she ran into? Or is this just a case of her investing too much time into her career and burning herself out?

She never said she was very good at what she did. Yes, she was working like crazy but that is a different thing. Being overly invested in career mostly makes you very good at what you do.

> One of the first things I noticed is that almost everyone working for Microsoft had this perfect life???a spouse, kids, nice houses, good cars.

I'm continually surprised how often this kind of life is considered 'perfect'. Every item in this list adds more liability and commitment to your life which is something very few 20-somethings (including myself) have enough experience with to handle it let alone know it's what they enjoy.

Beyond financial security, investing time in what you actually want to do with your life and your own hobbies is going to be much more rewarding and important than nice cars and houses. Even kids can become just another status symbol intended to virtue signal to your class appropriate 'friends' that years latter downgrade to just peers and colleagues.

> Huge campus, nice cafeterias, woods, a pond, overwhelming space. Everything seemed great....

Ugh, this trend to make work environments indistinguishable from a university campus is just the latest trend to warm up new employees until their fully committed to the boiling sewage that is a life that is all work and ass kissing. You only have to remember that FAAMNGS are committed to their shareholders to know that for every dollar invested in their campus, they need two back from you.

>> Huge campus, nice cafeterias, woods, a pond, overwhelming space. Everything seemed great....

>Ugh, this trend to make work environments indistinguishable from a university campus is just >the latest trend to warm up new employees until their fully committed to the boiling sewage >that is a life that is all work and ass kissing.

Every feature that you are complaining about happens naturally when you have as many employees as MS has in Redmond. It has nothing to do with malicious agents planning to boil employees alive in ass kissing.

Well, maybe not the pond. Clearly THAT is the infernal device of campusness that entrances the innocents.

Disclosure: walked to that pond from time to time during lunch when I was working in the area, probab ly already brainwashed.

> You only have to remember that FAAMNGS are committed to their shareholders

By committing only to shareholders, they miss out on other stakeholders: employees, suppliers, customers, community. (Jonathan Haidt discusses at 18:50 onwards in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOu_8yoqZoQ When the company emphasises only shareholders, they miss out on building cooperative relationships with the other stakeholders).

I say that meaning their fiduciary responsibility is to their shareholders. Their other stakeholders are by nature secondary. I'll have to check that video out but unless the shareholders themselves vote to prioritize employees and others above profit, the company and, more directly, upper management risks lawsuits and loosing their own lucrative positions.

Not a lawyer but it seems like in practice, the fiduciary responsibility thing seems like more of an ideology that some people buy into than a legal constraint? Management can choose to do all sorts of crazy things and argue that it's in the company's best interest. (But also read Matt Levine on how everything bad is also securities fraud.)

The thing that really aligns employee incentives with shareholders is restricted stock and options. Employees directly benefit when the stock goes up, so of course it creates a culture where most people want it to go up and aren't happy when it goes down.

It's not an ideology it's an excuse for board members and CEO to do what they want without being called on it. Namely loot the company.

The guys in the mahogany suite say look the only people we are responsible to are the stockholders. Who most of them it turns out have very little coherent control. That's very convenient.

Work is trading money for time. Some will offer more time (show up earlier, go home late), others less time.

With your time, you can make small contributions or large contributions: a high quality decision that saves time or money, close a big deal, an efficient and reusable process/abstraction that saves effort, recruit the right person for the right job...

Or you can be counterproductive: have redundant meetings, waste people's attention, be toxic and make people feel like shit and less productive or engaged with their job, be closed minded and waste valuable opportunities, create a shitty abstraction that people's wastes time and makes people feel frustrated, recruit a jerk, interrupt someone that is about to say something important.

What you do with your time can be vastly more important than how many hours you work.

I'm not sure what to make of this post.

3.5 years of which 2 years or so are in dedicated program to rotate jobs across the world seems like an amazing deal to kick off a career many would dream of. Not much responsibility but a lot to learn and observe!

More objectively reflecting ones own performance and actions might good to understand reasons for what happened.

This is business and work, not family and friends. I see a lot of younger people struggling to make that distinction.

The point IMHO was that this business and work swallowed up all time from family and friendships.

If one chooses a career that requires travel or is in a foreign country altogether while your family & life long friends are at home - maybe the initial decision to accept the job is to blame and not the job or the company? In my experience finding close friends later in life is more difficult compared to childhood, teenage and college years.

But that just amounts to using business and work as your family and friends. Which is still kind of a failure to distinguish and is all the more tempting if your "work family" provides all the validation your regular family used to, plus throws in a bunch of perqs.

That’s not even close to fair to put the “family and friends” mentality onto young employees.

Tech companies are notorious for baking this into the culture to churn more hours out of employees. The usage of company values, tons of on-site perks to keep people there longer and of course if you’re going to spend the vast majority of your waking hours at/around the “campus” you’re going to consider co-workers friends.

> you’re going to consider co-workers friends.

Why is that a bad thing? In a normal 9-5, you spend 1/3 of your waking time with those people.

I'm a few years out of University, and I've now spent more time with co workers than I did with most of the people I went to university or school with. I don't know what's going on in their lives for the most part, we catch up a few times a year and that's that.

You're probably interested in some of the same things outside of work as many of your colleague, and may have more in common with them than other friends You don't need to consider every co worker a friend, and it's definitely sensible to draw the line between working and personal life, but it seems like a total waste to spend a huge amount of your waking time with people and actively refuse to be friends with any of them.

I don’t think it is at all, as long as you realize some co-workers are only work friends and when you or they leave that you won’t really do much of anything together anymore.

I was responding to the parent post that seemed to insinuate that it’s young employees at fault for believing their work friends are friends and that’s more of the culture of technology companies.

I’ve made a handful of good friends over the years from people I met at work, but I also have seen the nasty side of that when it comes to promotions, people leaving, drama/gossiping and so forth.

So it’s best to just go in eyes open and realize that some people may be your friend on the surface but they’ll fuck you over first chance they get (same can be said for real life as well)

I am dumb or everyone is missing the point in their comments.

It's not about disillusion or work-life balance. It's about how smart people go into submission of the corporate b.s. so quickly and for so long. You can count on your fingers, if you actually know, a place where you can work and derive from it your own fulfillment and generate a real impact to real human beings.

People get lost along the way, put money first and use politics as a mean to get that. That's the cause of all shitty jobs you may have and all shitty services you have as a consumer. This capitalism overfitting. There is no real mission behind people, except for the cold hard hash or power over other humans.

I invite you to think, even for a minute, about this statement written on Simon Sinek's website: "Imagine a world in which the vast majority of us wake up inspired, feel safe at work and return home fulfilled at the end of the day."

How come this statement is simply reversed nowadays AND people don't make an effort to change it. Holy Moly ...

People are animals before they are humans and life is a battle for survival. Money and sex always come before morals and values. Classic red pill vs blue pill and hardest lesson I ever had to learn.

> How come this statement is simply reversed nowadays AND people don't make an effort to change it.

They do.

https://www.kaporcapital.com/ https://socialenterpriseinstitute.co/ https://bcorporation.net/

In the "Lab rats"[1] Dan Lyons tried to give a perspective on the "new kind of capitalism" after he gave a perspective on the current state of the Silicon Valley capitalism. Links above are from his book.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Lab-Rats-Silicon-Valley-Miserable/dp/...

I find her story fascinating as many glimpses into big corporates are for me.

I've spent my 20s constantly oscillating between going broke trying to build a scalable startup and earning good money by working freelance. I was breaking my back getting things off the ground but also managing the freelancing projects, the effort left little place for holidays/friends or parties. I basically never went to conferences as it was either way to expensive or time that could be potentially billable.

After realising how toxic my lifestyle focused on "making it" had become I decided to join a profitable SaaS company that needed my skills to build a future proof software platform out of their legacy system.

Now at 31 I've got a good position in that company with a good chunk of stock options, I'm awaiting my second son.

Reading her story to me makes me wonder how much I've missed, just finishing University and applying to a large tech company might have been equally backbreaking, but at least I would have seen more of the world, networked more and maybe ended up with some usable savings to show for it. Typical greener-grass situation I guess.

> I've spent my 20s constantly oscillating between going broke trying to build a scalable startup and earning good money by working freelance.

I think the "scalable startup" fixation is the worst legacy of our industry.

There has always been an enormous professional world of people in many fields start either a solo consultancy or an agency/firm/practice and by their 40s they are paying themselves somewhere in the six figures.

"Will it scale" in the VC sense is not one of their concerns. They still get rich.

College students are falling all over themselves, learning each FAANG's interview process, drilling large numbers of problems for the whiteboard tests/hazings, being frontloaded with a bunch of VC dogma about startups, learning lousy frameworks before they have to, etc. But I'm not sure they have much idea what industry and particular companies are actually like.

For the people who don’t believe this is the case (and downvoted you), just lurk over at r/cscareerquestions on Reddit.

Personally I would die a million deaths working at a large tech company or living on the west coast. I worked at one F10 (at the time) non tech company for two years and said never again.

I guess I would make an exception if I could get in on the in house consultancy side for AWS/Azure/GCP just for enough years to make some money. Especially since they hire in many major cities - I don’t want the travel requirements right now.

I admit that it does sound crazy. My only knowledge of that kind of situation is anecdotal via places like the reddit careers group, so who knows...

A strongish opinion I'm starting to hold is that we are hitting peak software engineer and that with all the weirdness going on in terms of interviews, ageism, lotsa people getting pushed through college, lotsa general buzz, it's probably time for people to look elsewhere.

The tricky thing is to ferret out the business and skill set that is still young and getting ready to take off...or become a plumber instead.

That's because big tech companies are the new IB/MC. You see the same types of behaviors there.

I've been wondering that, and there's evidence.

Tech does still get traditional nerds, who'd do CS even if there was no money in it.

But I wonder how many of the traditional nerds are choosing other STEM fields partly because of the perception of current CS jobs.

There is definitely a lot of cautionary tales here. I especially relate to the working 24/7 part ;). You'll see the same problem with offers that require you to go to other countries to work. If you're a young person you'll probably think its an amazing opportunity and want to go straight away. But the reality is from the moment you touch down, to the moment you leave, the company basically owns you.

If you think separating work and life is hard now try doing it when a company is directly paying for the place you go to sleep. No space or time will really be "yours" in any sense. They'll virtually know where you are at all times and be paying for you to be there. Hence, its strongly implied you live and breathe for the company.

Btw, I'm not saying people shouldn't do this. It can honestly be a really fun and motivating environment. But the trade-offs are something to keep in mind when accepting offers that seem too good to be true. I've found that constantly traveling and spending all your time working is super unproductive for me. All it leads to is burn-out and I usually end up doing far more when I'm happy, healthy, and in control of my own life.

Remote positions are god-tier for this. It's hard to beat being able to lie in bed writing code for something you love. I'll take that over other perks any day. Also, side note. It's always depressing reading about the sexism that women have to face in tech. If you're a women dealing with this at the moment I hope you continue to flourish and don't let stupid remarks get to you. Not everybody acts like this

What I would recommend to everyone in their 20s is to get a mentor who has been in the workforce for 30-40+ years.

You will learn and hear invaluable stories on how companies treat employees, how firing works, how being fired is and generally just meaningful information that will put your own present misery into perspective and prepare you for the things to come.

I’ve been in the workforce over 20 years, and I can barely relate to someone just starting out:

- I have no idea what is expected from a junior developer starting out in the workplace. I was self taught before going to college and my first job I was the sole developer writing a decently complicated networked data entry system. What should I expect the typical junior developer to know? I’ve only worked at companies who don’t hire junior developers.

- If someone’s dreams and aspirations are to “work for Big N” (the stereotypical r/cscareerquestions poster), what do I know? I’ve never studied leetCode/“Cracking the Code” in my life and don’t plan to.

- I’m not sure someone who has been in the industry 30-40 years will be able to relate to someone just starting off. Things are different now. Things are different from when I first started. Technology was just another decent paying, middle class career field when I entered it.

Someone in the industry 30-40 years is probably a company man and still believes in company loyalty.

Well, as a start you should share exactly what you are writing here. You dont have to tell young people what they should or should not do - just how things evolved throughout your career and how companies you worked for evolved (mergers, acquisition, crazy reorgs,..) and things like that. Invaluable stories I always appreciate to hear from more experienced people.

EDIT: and that you dont care about leetcode probably also says something about how important that stuff is in the grand scheme of things :)

I’m much better at advising people who have been in the industry for 8+ years who want to stay active, hands on developers about how not to get stuck in “expert beginner” mode (been there done that), how to stay relevant, and how to exercise “soft power” without going into management.

But as far as your edit....

ME: I’ll never spend a year of my life grinding at leetCode to work at a FAANG

ALSO ME: I’m going to spend three years of my life grinding through all things AWS so I can work as an SA at Amazon (or a partner).

I can't say that I know anyone in the 30-40 year range (including myself) who caries much in the way of company loyalty. Maybe there's some super long term folks still out there buried at IBM, but there sure aren't many.

Heck, scarcely anywhere I've ever worked still exists. They either faded away or were merged/bought into oblivion.

I hear what you are saying about the leetcode interviews. No thanks. Also, I agree on the decent paying middle class career angle, it was also quite a lot rarer.

Counterpoint: When I was in my 20s, I was given career advice from an executive at Sears who had been in the workforce for 30-40+ years. He’d never touched a computer (this was in the early 2000s) and he recommended I check the want ads in the Wall Street Journal to find a job.

Ahh.. But young people are so much smarter/s

I guess most of young people learn this the hard way, myself included!

One story that stuck with me was how one of my mentors got fired out of the blue at Christmas Eve after being at a well known tech company for 15+ years. Explaining that to your family that day is probably not fun.

Care to share the story, omitting personal details?

Yes a lot of big companies are like that. Everyone’s friends, but when your time is done, it’s done. In many cases like this one people are conditioned to push through bad situations, and the company does a favor by terminating the relationship.

Absolutely. If you're thinking about quitting, but keep putting it off, and they end it instead, they've done you a couple of favors:

1) They supply all the initiative you can't muster.

2) Having been involuntarily terminated, you can usually collect unemployment if need be, and sometimes a severance package.

If even, say half, of your emotions about it consist of relief, it was the right thing; it needed to happen.

I worked for two years at Microsoft, and I saw nothing like this. Maybe the most telling part of this post is where she says many people had (she says fake) pleasant lives, presumably the same people she criticizes for being “closed-minded”, apparently for being focused on delivering for their manager.

It was a no-drama workplace full of great people who come in to work every day to do their job well and then go home and do what people are supposed to do, build a fulfilling family life. And if anyone had a disastrous personal life, it certainly wasn’t something they brought into the office.

I left Microsoft because I wanted to go a totally different direction with my career (I’m in law school now), but it really was a delightful place to work full of great people.

Wow, seems like most of the comments here are just blaming the author, trying to find all the flaws with her story, or dropping truth bombs about big companies and jobs in our society ("coworkers aren't your friends", etc). I still think it was a worthwhile read for me, since I'm about to start working at MS next month. Good to be aware of stuff so I can keep an eye out for it, and try to make things better.

I agree that it's good to be aware of & I enjoyed the read. But honestly it would have "prepared" you just as well if you were starting at amazon or google - there was nothing MS specific about the experience.

I think the hardest part for me to think about when I read these articles is that this is an industry with a purpose of making quality of life better for people. If the people involved in designing these products can’t figure out how to make a 40 hour work week work or be compassionate to their coworkers what kind of expectations are going to start slipping into their products?

I do get that right now that a modern tech company is competing under “winner take all” scenarios so this stuff is hard to avoid. But it really does seem like we need to stop and reflect a bit on what the importance is of the things we are building.

I always thought Microsoft was one of the tech companies with the best work life balance. Is this not the case? Is it because of the gender disparity/sexism? Can any share some insight how it's to work for MS in Mountain View? Is it a bad idea for someone starting a family?

Microsoft has a great work-life balance most of the time. The writer of the article was in DX, which used to be an evangelist group, and they were one of the unlucky groups due to travel and preparing for events.

DX has now become CSE (Commercial Software Engineering) and instead of evangelizing, they now mainly write code (with some exceptions). One group in CSE works with customers on short-term hacks which span a couple of days, and another group works on long-term projects alongside engineers at external companies, helping them build cloud solutions.

These jobs do have travel, but it is not very much since remotely working with customers is a viable option. There is also a strong focus on ensuring they don’t work or travel too much because no one wants to burn out engineers.

CSE is actually a really cool org at Microsoft, and you can see some of the stuff they work on here: https://www.microsoft.com/developerblog/

Microsoft is probably one of the best options you can pick if you want to have great WLB but still do worldwide impactful work - and majority of teams have good culture and are fun. At least that's the vibe I get from friends that work there.

I got a job at Microsoft through acquisition (not located in Redmond) and I gotta say, I am kinda loving it. Very challenging and good tools. Happy to be here. I think the Satya era is an improvement, from what I hear. To me they seem pretty serious about being a good environment for women.

Like any company, it varies quite a bit from team to team, organization to organization. I and most of my engineer friends at MS work 40 hour weeks consistently, but I do know a small handful of people (usually PMs or other non-tech roles) that work 50+ per week.

Yep. This sounds so different from all of my peers at Microsoft.

Across the board, the common thread among everyone I know at bigN, is how mundane it can feel.

I am joining MS next month, so I guess I will find out in time.

Went through a similar experience like hers many years ago working for a consulting company. In big corporations, it sometimes feels like there are many little smaller companies within. Often they have very distinctive and rigid cultures which could make one feel like you're just a cog in the system, and because they are so big it's difficult to make any significant individual contributions that could generate real impacts. You either fit in or you don't. Besides, the corporate culture is usually being dictated and passed down from higher level management executives who are not really involved in your office day-to-day so it could feel a little foreign at times.

I used to work at a big oil company where its culture was obsessed with safety and they took it very seriously. It's actually a good thing and I get it if you're one of the workers at an oil extraction site because those jobs could be very dangerous. However, we were just the business operation team working in an office located deep inside the city. We still had to follow the same corporate culture and rituals about safety, so without fail every week we had to conduct meeting where team members would discuss various topics related to safety. Since none of us has actually ever worked down at the oil fields, we slowly ran out of topics over time and people started telling random stories like tripping on electrical wires, spilling hot coffee while they were driving, etc... I think it's such a perfect example of how some passed down cultures could feel a bit foreign at times, depending on which unit or team you belong to. Great company though!

This sounds like I was like about 10 years ago. Wrapped up in a company. I don't do "work friends" anymore.

Work friends one on one outside of work are fine but avoid the group social. Anyone part of that will drop you because your connection is the social.

Yes, this was one of the things I learned in Big Co after a few years. You end up realizing most work relationships (not all) are what I now call "proximity kindness".

Think two people walking into an elevator together.

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Be thankful with what you got. Looking back and ruminating on my failures and my bad actions that make me overlook opportunities (like joining coding competitions because somehow my mother managed to get me a free teacher) and being an unthankful stupid kid with many perks and ways to succeed but failed

It's strange to see this story on HN (I read the post). If anything, this shows HN's bias against MS. If there was no MS, it would still have panned out in similar fashion. Young person's first job, leaving home and relationships, realizing there's more to life. There was no reason to mention MS

Hmmm, there's no mention of burn-out in the article, but it sounds a lot like that was involved too.

eg too much time focused on one thing ("overdose" on it) -> burn out -> lack of motivation/focus -> needs 5 week (or more) break to gain perspective. (etc)

I’ve worked at the stereotypical big SF tech co and agree not everyone can thrive at that kind of place...including me. I can’t drink the koolaid and I don’t like feeling like I have to fake excitement to fit in.

I'm curious about what she means by "community leaders", who are these people, like software influencers or famous conference speakers?

"...focusing on politics, I would do great there". The story of too many workplaces.

Reading it I can't really sympathize with the author too much. Having affairs doesn't speak much to her character. Neither does staying home and pretending to be on Skype.

Because of that I'm somewhat skeptical of some of her claims. For example:

>The people I worked with were extremely closed minded. Most of them with many years of experience working in a corporation, so even more closed minded, only caring about their manager’s approval.

If these co-workers or managers could share their side, what would they say? Your manager is the one giving your performance reviews, bonuses, promotions, etc. If you worked hard to deliver good results, could that be interpreted as "sucking up to your boss?"

>If these co-workers or managers could share their side, what would they say?

Can't agree with this more. The Seattle bit feels incomplete, there was something there that I'd tentatively describe as 'culture shock' or 'cognitive dissonance event' and I really really wonder what would the 'seattle co-workers' say about this piece.

Given how frankly the author said that, that suggests the culture is not identical to what's familiar to me. How many Americans would write that honestly, on a professional topic? So I will try not to read too much into that part.

I'm not sure what the takeaways are from this article, if anything concrete. It sounds sad and frustrating that some supposed friends inside the company didn't say goodbye when she was let go, but I guess I don't see that as surprising or noteworthy at a large company. Maybe there's a warning sign to not go all-in on a company, but she doesn't sound remorseful for having done it? I hope she finds satisfying and balancing work in the future.

The key takeaway is to be wary of cognitive dissonance. She just casually got into an affair at the office, while claiming to want to build a relationship with her existing boyfriend, for example.

The key part was when she called everyone at Richman fake then said proceeded to tell us she was pretending to be nice.

It sounds like others more experienced actual developerd wanted her job with the perks. Microsoft wanted a different face, younger/well spoken/diverse gender/etc. Because she drank the cool-aid she was able to do great at her job without being a developer. The social aspects that supported her start changing. Meanwhile Microsoft responds to the public outcry and makes everyone like her learn to code and things aren't fun anymore. She quits and finds out her support system is gone and thinks everyone is fake.

Yes, it is a young person coming to grips with the working world. I still found it interesting, and reminded me of a few events in my career.

It's a cautionary tale, don't get too excited and in love with your job or company.

Am I not jaded enough to believe this? "in love" is perhaps extreme but I have made meaningful and lasting friendships by being "excited" about my job, moreover earned people's respect by having a positive attitude.

If that excitement stems from the relationships you have with your colleagues then that is a good thing. Keeping in mind that those relationships might unexpectedly end when you leave the company, which gives some indication as to their quality.

I do think that people should more highly value positions in which they will have better professional relationships with their coworkers. It's a force multiplier to growth and productivity.

> The people I worked with were extremely closed minded. Most of them with many years of experience working in a corporation, so even more closed minded, only caring about their manager’s approval. I was devastated. My team members were the most fake people I have met still to this day. I cannot even explain how terrible it was for me to have to help them, show interest and pretend that I support what they’re doing. You might be thinking — why weren’t you honest with them instead? I tried, but no one cared and my role was minimised, so at the end I was only doing a 1 Excel file.

In my experience when someone says everyone else is the problem, it’s more likely they’re the problem but they lack the introspection to realise it. I mean really which seems more likely, that everyone else was awful, or that something she was doing rubbed people the wrong way? It sounds like Microsoft was just a backdrop to a turbulent few years.

Also after cheating on her boyfriend and spending large periods of time faking doing work (which I’m guessing contributed to her firing) her takeaway at the end is.. to focus more on herself and blame Microsoft and her former coworkers for her mistakes? How is that not just narcissism? I mean self care is important, but maybe her takeaway should be to act with integrity..

I don’t know her, and I don’t anyone else from the story, but this part

> the most fake people I have met still to this day

followed immediately by

> I cannot even explain how terrible it was for me to have to help them, show interest and pretend that I support what they’re doing

Taken out of context at least, there is exactly one person that seems exceptionally more fake than anyone else...

I dunno, maybe I have just been lucky to have sufficiently many sincere people around me in my life, but if I perceive someone as being insincere I will avoid those people — not stay around them and pretend that I like them.

Of course, if you perceive everyone at a place to be fake then you can’t really avoid them.

I don’t know what to do in that situation really. But I agree that some introspection would probably be in order. Though personally I have in the past had the opposite problem — being overly harsh on myself and critical of myself.

Yuk. What a horrid pair of comments!


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> more likely

Both? A coworker at a former job comes to mind. He kept pointing out a problem that everyone else was ignoring, and they kept ignoring it. He gradually got minimized until he left on his own, and the problem remained.

He definitely rubbed people the wrong way. The problem definitely existed.

What kind of problem was it, did he/she try to fix it on their own, did others acknowledge that was a problem and needed to be fixed?

I think it was "to have or not have CI systems"; yes; no.

It's the sort of thing you can "fix" on your own, but if you don't get any buy-in from everyone else, you're kinda SOL.

I'll just throw this one in:

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." - Marcus Aurelius

It seems like this was known in antiquity already.

I don’t know which post by “The Last Psychiatrist” I want to recommend, maybe you need to read his entire blog.

I love Last Psychiatrist, I pretty much have :-)

This has nothing to do with Microsoft, and instead reads like a blog entry of a narcissistic, selfish young lady. Good riddance.

I think the crazy infighting along Microsoft teams is fairly well known at this point.

Do you know of any recently successful teams that were not built up from entirely new people isolated and protected from the old teams?


"Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents."


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19888683 and marked it off-topic.

There are a remarkable number of unsupported assertions in this comment.


She acknowledges that not all teams are the same:

> P.S. I know there are teams at Microsoft that are different (shout out to VS Code engineering team!), but I just wasn’t lucky enough to work at one ;)

This last part confuses me. She admits she lacks in technical experience. Why would she ever work on the VSCode team?

She also mentions that many people at the company didn't respect her position in the beginning. I wouldn't either. Shes paid to party and network and doesn't seem to have any of the technical knowlege to work at a very technical company.

Well, in my team there were people working long hours, and people not doing that.

And that final remark does not explain the lack of examples.

Welcome to capitalism, little bird.

There's a truth to your quip, I think.

Phrases from the article that jumped out for me were: The real world will eat you alive. Everyone was fake.

Much of that cruelty and superficiality arises from the dominant ideology driving corporate culture. It can be tough and heart-breaking growing up in such a world.

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