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June 22, 2005

Microsoft: We Are Professional Grade?

(It's a reference to GMC Trucks). Microsoft is currently holding a 3-day Engineering Excellence/Trustworthy Computing Forum on campus. This is an internal event for employees, featuring about 100 talks on basically anything you can think of about how Microsoft develops software, what the company is up to, tools you can use, etc. It's a huge event and a big commitment on Microsoft's part to teach its people how to do it right.

This brings to mind something I was discussing with Gretchen Ledgard about how Microsoft can help attract people to work here. My suggestion was that Microsoft should promote itself as the company that really knows how to engineer software: how to design it, how to write it, how to test it, how to make it secure. You won't make it in the real world (unless you are lucky) by continuing the practices you learned in college; you need to come here first. At least put in 10 years learning the ropes before you do go off on your own. Before you do your web startup, come work on MSN; before you do your end-user application, come work on Office; before you become a consultant writing kernel drivers, come work on Windows; before you set up your own security shop, come learn from the best.

How many companies are willing to devote 3 days of all their engineers' time to improving how they develop software, and with a roster of speakers that's a virtual "who's who" of Microsoft executives? Just imagine what any random software developer would be willing to pay to listen to all these talks...and here at Microsoft you get it for free. Microsoft has a vice president in charge of Engineering Excellence, and it's not just some schmo with a title, it's a guy who shipped a bunch of software and could certainly be adding value to a specific product team--but Microsoft sees the value in letting him devote his time to engineering excellence.

The problem is that for some people, the terms "Microsoft" and "Engineering Excellence" in the same sentence would inspire derisive laughter. So the message has to be crafted very carefully. But if we do it right, I think it is a message that could really resonate.

Posted by AdamBa at June 22, 2005 04:44 PM

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Ha-ha-ha-ha :)
Only 3 days? What if one want to visit all talks? 24hours*3days/100talks gives little more than 40 minutes on a talk.
I've seen firms that offer an real academic education for their employees. Including exams.

About recruiting.

The problem of MS is that it wants the best programmers just like somebody could want the best apples - by collecting them.
The real big miss is that while these developers are learning to programm they don't have an legit access to developer tools. So they are going to pirate VisualStudio or they are going to some free compiler like djgcc or mingw. Or even worse going on system that have developer enveroment build in (Unix/Linux). Be warned Linux is not ready for all mouse users, but it is an great enveroment for skilled programmer.
Well actually once I heard MS is going to release some educational version for no charge. I could not find it on the web site. Also, please note, I am talking about kids coding at home, not few classes at school.

The second problem is the way you recruit. I like the google idea of puzzels put here and there. Microsoft should do an programing competitions, on it website or/and in every eduational organization. Giving an hard enough task, some limited time (e.g. month) and then collecting peope that have done it correctly and mostly bugfree.
The very importan thing is tasks to be an real work tasks, like the one they will face when they start working.

As in internal basis I do think that recruiters rating system should be changed. Judging from your book, now it is binnary (yes, and many stages of no). I think that if 10 stages are available only the lowest 3 should allow rejection of candidate. Especilly on candidate approved by the above competition :)

Posted by: Ivan at June 24, 2005 03:29 AM