My first week at Microsoft

Well I survived my first week at Microsoft. It wasn’t exactly an easy week, mainly because there is so much for me to learn, but overall I’m very happy with how things have started off. I like my team, and I really like the fact that I’m working on a big website. For comparison’s sake, all of the projects I’ve worked on over the past few years at Amazon and Scrollmotion were applications (web and mobile), so this is a bit different, but in a good way.

Although I’m going to try to keep the comparisons between Microsoft and Amazon to a minimum for now while I get up to speed, there is one observation that already seems fair to make: my new team at Microsoft is more organized than my old team (and the other teams I worked with) at Amazon. The general process my new team uses is to have a weekly meeting with the engineers (towards the end of the week) to discuss what each of them will be doing the following week. When you come in on Monday morning, all of your tasks for the week have already been assigned by a project manager in an online tool. Each task has a priority level associated with it, along with an estimate of how long the task should take to complete. Obviously new things can pop up throughout the week, but for the most part, this is what you’ll be doing this week, so you can plan accordingly. Further, time has been allocated for certain engineers to review your work and provide feedback. I love this format because its so much more organized than what I became used to at Amazon.

At Amazon my team didn’t have a project manager. My new team has three. Work wasn’t tracked very closely, and priorities were always an estimate. Plus they never allocated time for code reviews and feedback. Consequently we would regularly have ‘fire drills’ where something urgent needed to be done immediately. This led to lots of peaks and valleys in terms of your effort, and there just wasn’t a lot of foresight. Obviously I can’t speak for the entire company, but that was my experience both as a full-time employee, as well as when I was a contractor.

I love the fact that I know exactly what I’ll be doing each week, and what my priorities are. There’s no question that a lot is expected of me, and I’m planning on working considerably more hours now than I ever used to, but that’s the tradeoff I was willing to make. For example, yesterday I worked 12.5 hours in order to stay relatively caught up. This means that I put in 50 hours my first week, but that’s fine because its exactly inline with what I was expecting. Like Amazon, the bar is very high at Microsoft, but unlike Amazon, no one really talks about it; its just implied. At Amazon they constantly toot their own horn about how high their bar and standards are. At Microsoft its just a given.

Enough about work. This morning Ava and I attended our first Saturday morning soccer class. The class is held at a nice park about five minutes from our house, and its designated for very young kids like her, as well as their parent(s). Its only a 30 minute class, and its entirely focused on the fundamentals. Today we practiced dribbling the ball (aka Little Kicks) to various landmarks on the field. At the end of class each kid gets to dribble up towards the goal and give it a Big Kick to score a goal. It may be too early to tell but my initial observation is that Ava’s biggest challenge will be paying attention and staying engaged. From a physical perspective, I couldn’t believe how well she did. She seemed to have a lot of natural talent, and I don’t think I’m just saying that because I’m her Dad. As long as she’s enjoying herself I’m happy.

I accidentally made the mistake of parking the car next to the kids playground, so getting her engaged in the soccer class was a bit difficult at first. Throughout the class she kept asking me if she could go play at the park, so once we were done with soccer we headed over to play on the jungle gym and go down the slides. Soon enough most of the other kids arrived to play, so I got a chance to chat with a few of the parents. There was one little girl in Ava’s class who was all decked out in a full Adidas soccer suit, complete with shin guards and cleats. Personally I thought it was a bit overboard, but after class I chatted with her parents for a bit and found out that her name was also Ava, she’s three months older than our Ava (although much smaller), and they live fairly close to us. I remember as a kid that my parents became friends (or at least friendly) with the parents of other kids that I played sports with, so I’m sure that will be in our future soon enough. The class goes for another five weeks, then we’ll have the option to move up to a new class.

It seems like everyone has been sick around here lately. A couple weeks ago Ava had a bad stomach flu that lasted about a week. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, but she powered through it like a champ. We thought we were in the clear with her, but then this week we got a new surprise. Wednesday night around midnight I woke up to the sound of Ava screaming and crying. I went into her room to check on her and saw that she had a very high fever. Jessica came in to take her temperature but then realized that our digital thermometer was broken. I got dressed and jumped in my car to go buy a new thermometer. I went to four different drug stores but all of them were closed. Finally I was able to find a Safeway nearby that was still open, and luckily they had thermometers in stock. When I got home and took her temperature, it read 103.8. This was very concerning so we called the on-call physician at her doctor’s office and explained what was going on. He told us to give her some children’s tylenol, keep her well hydrated, and keep a close eye on her.

The next morning her fever was gone so we thought we were in the clear, but then that afternoon around 4:00 I got a text from Jessica saying her fever was back and was up to 104.6! This was pretty alarming, but she said they were already on the way to the doctor’s office. I left work about 20 minutes later with a plan of meeting them at the doctor’s office, but traffic was so bad that I was still 15 minutes away when Jessica called me at 5:15 saying the doctor had diagnosed her with an ear infection and had prescribed her liquid Zithromax. Today is her third day on antibiotics and she seems to be back to normal. We’ve still got two more days to take it, but that should be about it. Unfortunately now Elise is sick, plus Jessica and I woke up this morning with sore throats. It’s always something, but at least Enzo hasn’t come down with anything.

Jessica injured her ankle, most likely from running, and hasn’t been able to go lately. She’s been doing yoga at home instead but is hoping to get back out there once her ankle heals. I’ve still been going running regularly and am enjoying it. I’ve come to the conclusion that running is the exact opposite of drinking alcohol. With alcohol, you feel good up front, but later you feel like crap. With running, however, its the other way around. You go through the hard part up front, but then later on you feel amazing. The only issue I’m facing right now is that with me getting home from work later than what I’m used to, its not always going to be feasible for me to run in the evenings. I guess tonight is daylight savings time, so that should help me out a bit, but still, after I’ve been at work all day I’m looking forward to coming home and spending time with my family.

Consequently I’ve decided to start running early in the morning before work. Tuesday morning I got up at 5:30 and went on a 4 mile run. It was only 25 degrees outside and I didn’t have gloves on, so by the time I reached the entrance to my neighborhood my fingers and ears were numb. It took about two miles before they came back to feeling normal again. By the end of the run I was going by cars parked on the street that were completely frozen over and I was confused because to me it had warmed up considerably, but obviously that was all due to the run. As it turned out it was still only 27 degrees.

Even on the mornings that I’m not running, I’m committed to getting up at 5:30 because it gives me some quiet time to take a guitar lesson online, practice guitar, or read. The early morning is pretty much my only time to do my own thing, so I’ve come to embrace it. The flip side to that coin though is that I’m exhausted by 9:00 every night. I think its worth it though.

I know that was a long update but its been a very busy week. Oh one more thing; Jessica and I bought plane tickets to go to Austin, TX in November. We’re going the week before Ava’s birthday because Amy and Tom will be in town to watch the kids. We’re looking forward to checking out a new city, seeing some live music, eating out, etc. I told her my only requirement was that I get my picture taken with the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue. Other than that I’m wide open. I’m currently reading a biography on SRV and its turning out to be quite the story. We’ll be there for five days, four nights. Neither of us have been to Austin before, so it gives us something to look forward to. Here’s a few recent photos of the kids.

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