Top 5 things I’ve learnt in 5 months at Microsoft

“Time flies when you are having fun” Anon

Just sitting on the sofa tonight and looking back at the calendar its nearly the end of August and I started at Microsoft March 31st, nearly 5 months ago.

I think anyone who joins Microsoft corp without working in the field is going to have a unique experience in their first year. Microsoft as a company is also going through changes with the Mobile First, Cloud First directive from the new CEO, Satya Nadella, who joined in February. The division I’m in as a Technical Product Manager, Office 365, is also going through significant change by moving a extremely successful “box product” with a 3 year cycle to a subscription service.

People have asked me how it has been; after all, I did relocate from Hoboken, NJ, working for a 1500+ Microsoft ISV to my first large corporate company. I’m absolutely loving it and although I wish I did it sooner I learnt so much from my role at AvePoint and contracting days in Australia.

I thought I would list the top 5 things I’ve learnt since I joined. A lot of these things are relevant to any job I guess, but they have been key rules I stuck by.

1. Nail your “30 second elevator pitch”

“You are a small fish in a big pond”

This was something that was discussed in the New Employee Orientation (NEO). It’s amazing how many new people you meet on a daily basis as you get pulled into meetings around particular initiatives across engineering, marketing and beyond. Having your 30 second elevator pitch ready at all times is very important, especially when you happen to literally bump into people who report directly to Satya or a few levels below in elevators. You never know when your pitch, face and name will go in your favor at a later date.

2. Set 3 “big rocks” to live by

My team is very broad in Office 365, we essentially own the Office 365 development story all up, led by Chris Johnson (@loungeflyz) who is a great friend and also a very good mentor. Chris and Arpan Shah (his manager) gave me very wise words of wisdom to set 3 “big rocks” to aim for in the first 6 months to a year. There are a lot of things going on day to day, and sometimes taking a breath and understanding whether it leads to me successfully hitting my 3 big rocks really helps. It is extremely easy to get distracted and start chasing shiny objects at Microsoft. This technique also works really well when people are looking for someone with accountability in areas, it’s  not quite pigeon holing but making it clear on what you do and understanding what others do is key.

What are my 3 big rocks and how is it going?

3. Network, network, network

Microsoft is a HUGE company with many other small fish and big fish. One thing I have found valuable is reaching out to other areas of the organization to network. There are some natural touch points in Azure, Windows, Windows Phone due to the developer stories that align with Office 365. There are also some fun people outside of that sphere in Xbox and Microsoft Research too 😉 I’ve already joined a few dots and made introductions to people in my division that have really helped us succeed as a company and division.

4. Email Management

At AvePoint I ran Zero Inbox pretty much the entire time I was there, which I’ve blogged about before. Believe it or not, I’ve successfully managed to do this since I joined and it isn’t for lack of email (at least 300 a day of which 50 are actionable). I’ve also found myself using 2Day for Windows 8 that syncs with Exchange Online Tasks to keep a track of my to dos that I can’t get to with a simple email reply.

5. Meeting brutality

People aren’t shy to invite you to meetings, mainly for the right reasons to keep you on top of things, but unfortunately the Office 365 development platform is extremely broad and if I attended every meeting I’d essentially never get any work done.  I still attend at least 4 meetings every day without fail. Using the 3 big rocks as a guide, I often reject meetings or suggest someone else to attend. I also block out time to prevent people from booking meetings as soon as they can which tends to spread them out a little.
I couldn’t keep up without my trusty Surface Pro 3 and OneNote to take notes in EVERY meeting I attend. Its invaluable to be able to search through previous meeting minutes and track actions with attendees, especially in recurring meetings.

I’ll keep blogging about my experience working for Microsoft where I can. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments too.


4 thoughts on “Top 5 things I’ve learnt in 5 months at Microsoft”

  1. Tip I got that worked for me was to have 20 coffees with 20 different people a month.. The amount of insights and experience I got from doing this still haunts and is used still to this day.

    There is work meetings and then there is “learn from others” meetings and whilst your passionate about what pays the bills don’t forget your surrounded by some of the worlds best overachievers who have a lot of wisdom to pass on that you may miss in just your roles day to day comms

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