I’m shortly going to be coming up on the miniversary of my first 3 months at Microsoft and thought it might be fun to reboot my blog and also give my experience in getting hired by Microsoft for anyone thinking of joining.
First and foremost just do it. If you’re thinking of applying then do it! I honestly had been looking to make a move from the federal agency I was working at for ~4 years, and thought I would be going to another agency in the DC area. I happened to be browsing LinkedIn when I got one of those ads that said my resume was a good fit for a position at Microsoft and I should apply. Since it promoted a one click apply, I thought “What do I have to lose?”, not to mention I have always wanted to work at Microsoft but thought because I didn’t have a college degree it would never happen. The role I matched for happened to be Cloud Solution Architect, the algo at LinkedIn did not lie I really did have the skill set for the position at least on paper. I clicked “Apply”, submitted my resume and promptly forgot about it.
Use your time wisely
Fast forward two weeks, I had pretty much secured my position with a new federal agency and was just waiting on paperwork to be processed when I got a call from the Microsoft global recruiter. A note about the global recruiters it seems they are an outside group that is a Microsoft vendor, that wasn’t something I understood at first but becomes relevant later. After a general interview with the global recruiter they told me they had actually 3 teams where I would be a good fit for and that they were going to reach out to the hiring managers to start the process, but because most managers were at the Ready conference it might be delayed a bit.
That bit turned out to be a few weeks, but my other offer was moving steadily so I reached out to the recruiter and basically gave an ultimatum that if the teams were serious and wanted to take a look at me it had to happen in the next two weeks or I would take the offer I had from the new agency. This would be a good time to mention that when dealing with the larger tech companies it is ALWAYS better to have competitive offers. I highly recommend you interview with some other companies that you are not as invested in going to during the time between your first interview and team interviews, not only will it help your final offer from the company you decide to go with, it gives you a chance to practice your interview skills and get comfortable interviewing before doing the ones that you really are pushing for.
After letting my global recruiter know my timeline, things started happening much more rapidly. I wont go into to much detail about the actual content of my tech interviews, but I will say I had 3 separate interviews in total within a few days of each other, all remote via Teams. Honestly, I felt I did well but I wasn’t sure if I killed it, but a few days later I had an offer laid out by the global recruiter so I must have done something right. I will say I just went in being honest, if I didn’t know something I said so, I felt being honest was better than BSing my way through an explanation.
Friend with benefits
When I got my offer I was very concerned on the total cash incentive for better or worse than the benefits, if you are interested in how some of the larger tech companies stack up there are some repositories of info out there (TeamBlind & Levels.fyi). My offer was the largest I have gotten in my career which isn’t surprising since I have mostly stuck to working for small companies in the private sector and my time in the public sector, while having amazing benefits and retirement, does not really compete in pay scale for its technical people.
The one part I wish I had paid more attention to is the health insurance benefits, quite frankly they are weak when you are outside the WA state area compared to what I was getting from the federal options, they talk about it being 100% funded by Microsoft but outside WA you only have a HSA option which means you pay the deductible before the insurance really kicks in for copay. Microsoft subsidizes part of this, and while technically you don’t have to fund it out of your check, if you want it pretax you end up doing just like you would with a HMO. For a family that was covered so well under the federal blue cross plan with low copay, it took a bit to get used to. Also the one point which I would have asked for more money if I had realized it, is that Microsoft prorates its contributions to your health care fund for when you start in the year BUT YOUR DEDUCTIBLE FOR THAT SAME TIME FRAME IS NOT PRORATED. So if you need to use your benefits before the start of the new year you could be out of pocket quite a bit more than advertised. As the say the devil is in the details, and I blame myself for not looking at it more in-depth instead of being excited with the “no monthly paycheck deductions” part to see the fine print and limited options for those not working at HQ are in WA.
The dental is also very weak compared to anywhere else I have been, I am glad my kids braces were already covered while I was with the federal government as I would have paid substantially more out of pocket than I did, again something I didn’t really look at until I was already doing my onboarding. Its something that actually is pretty surprising to me.
Drinking from the fire hose
When you see some of the posts on twitter from new employees you often see the quote “Drinking from the fire hose” when they talk about their first year, and they really are not kidding but you don’t realize it until you are in. Between onboarding training, just the amount of internal training options you have access too, and learning your job/clients it is overwhelming at times to keep track of it all to manage your time. These first 90 days have FLOWN by, and I had some training and client obligations that had me traveling to no less than 5 cities for around a total of a month or so out of those 90 days in hotels.
The operational tempo within Microsoft was different than any other job I have had in the past and such a stark contrast to how it was at the federal agency I was with. It was an adjustment to just that speed of work even outside the knowledge part of working with some of the smartest people I have ever worked with in tech. I thought I was pretty good on Azure, but watching the internal distribution lists for Azure and Cloud Solution Architects its amazing the level of discussion. Its been a long time since I have had a team that exceeds my knowledge of my working subject that allows me to fallback and ask questions whiteout having to do a ton of research on my own. It’s a great feeling know that there are people that can and are willing to help with the drop of a quick message on teams.
Speaking of my team, they have all been amazing, and I was lucky enough to get a great person for my “onboarding buddy” so a huge shout out to Tim Verbist for helping me make the transition as painless as possible into Microsoft. Thanks Tim!
One of the major shifts I had to make coming from the federal space to Microsoft was the concept of “making an impact” for our customers. My manager (Hi Ron!), has been great and one of the first things he explained was “impact”, that for Microsoft just showing up for 8 hours or doing 8 hours of “busy work” a day isn’t going to make me successful, it’s about doing work that makes a positive impact for our customers success first and foremost. When I joined Microsoft I talked to some current and past employees, some prior to the Satya era of customer centric service, that talked about how it was all about squeezing the most cash you could out of clients in the past via licensing. While I have seen some people at Microsoft still subscribe to this, the vast majority talk about how we can help the customer even at times if it lowers the amount they spend on Azure by making sure the customer is as optimized as possible. In my interactions the majority of internal FTEs that subscribe to this is pretty remarkable, and I think that contributes greatly to the sharing of knowledge and training that the internal staff has access to so we are knowledgeable enough to make those recommendations for customers we serve.
Something else that comes out of that is the FREEDOM to make that impact. When I was at my federal agency literally every 6 minutes of my time had to be accounted for, even though I worked almost 99% in the Azure cloud for my day to day work, I was expected to drive 1.5 hours in each direction to sit at my desk because that is what is “required” for most of the week. It didn’t really matter what I did for those 8 hours at my desk, I could have literally sat there doing nothing and my job would be protected for the most part (and sadly there are federal employees who do just that). When I asked how often I should go to the Microsoft office when I started, I was told as often as I felt was necessary to do my work. Same with visiting the customer sites, there were no fast rules, I was to be an adult and use my judgment in what was needed to make the most impact for my customers. It was such a refreshing change and really allows me to be responsible for my own work and decisions. This personal responsibility makes you really value your work and not feel like you are just punching a time clock.
The government of Microsoft
I have a coworker that talks about the bureaucracy of Microsoft being a government type layer of red tape, and coming from the government I don’t feel he is that far off. One of the most frustrating things sometimes is trying to track down where to get an answer to a particular program or HR issue (Even using the built-in HRweb helpdesk has bounced me back and forth a few times before landing with the person who could answer my question). I think that is an issue with any large corporation, and especially working remote from the HQ exacerbates that issue, but I have heard from a few others with much longer time in than I that it is much better than it has been.
Microsoft is very much a company of connections, and its important to network at every opportunity at all levels. They good news is that the majority people I have met are very friendly and always willing to help and share their knowledge and contacts to help you resolve issues. Sometimes it just takes a bit to get to the right person.
Excited for the future
I am very happy with the decision I made to move to Microsoft. I had other offers, and it was definitely take a chance moving back to the private sector compared to the almost guaranteed position I had with the government, but for now I am enjoying the level of training and working with a team that is as technical if not more than I am, that isn’t something I have always had in the past. Also it is quite satisfying to actually make impact with your customers as you do workshops and give demos, to make sure they are kept up to date on the Azure platform and how it can help them.
There are a few things I wish I would have researched more and gone in a little bit better prepared but overall I would recommend you just go for it if you are looking to make a change. Submit your resume and give it a shot even if you don’t think you are 100% qualified, let the recruiters and teams make that decision after talking to you.
Go to the Microsoft Ignite events and get to know some of the FTEs, talk to them because you never know who might know a team that needs someone with your skills or experience that isn’t posted yet, but also make sure to setup alerts on the Microsoft career site for positions you might be interested in.