29 novembro 2008

The Dark Side?

I usually write more about personal matters, about movies, about music... or better saying, about things that are my passion. So, I thought: why do I never write about work?

Well, today I'm going to fix that. I'm going to tell you a story (it's kinda long and techie, I know, but I hope you will enjoy the ride).

When I was a kid, around 6-10 years-old I think, my parents got me and my brother a MSX Hotbit HB-8000. It was heavy, it didn't have any storage, except for a tape recorder (and later we even got a 5¼" disk drive!!), you had to plug it on the TV to use, etc, etc. But it was soooo much fun!

At first we just played with the games (of course), but after a while I started playing with the MSX Basic that came with the machine. For those wondering what MSX Basic was, it was a programming language (a variant of BASIC with extended support) that allowed me to create my own programs!

One day (I really don't remember how) a magazine full with MSX BASIC program examples appeared at my house, and I quickly started testing (I mean, writing and executing) the programs from the magazine. It was pretty silly stuff indeed, just making a ball move through the screen and make a sound when it hit the corner, for example. But it was so good to see something that I created floating around the screen making sounds.

After a while I decided to try some of the "bigger" programs. Really big programs indeed, as there were pages and pages of commands for these programs, and you was supposed to type everything exactly as it was on the magazine, and all lines had to be numbered (10, 20, 30, and so on), etc, etc,. So imagine a kid spending the whole afternoon doing that (and debugging the program when something didn't work as expected) and without even the possibility to save it(!!!). It was just for the sake of doing it, for the fun of it. And what I great time it was.

Well, those were the old days, then I grew up, still using computers but not programming as much. Until I decided to do high school at a technical school, one where you have all "regular" classes + technical classes for your field of specialization, which was Data Processing in my case.

There was I playing with another BASIC variant, QBasic. Of course I studied lots of other programming languages, such as COBOL, Clipper, Pascal, but QBasic was so much fun to play with for its simple-yet-powerful language. Later I started learning Visual Basic (yeah, I really dig BASIC and its variants/evolutions since then), which was also the first programming language that I worked with when I got an internship.

At this point in my life, with so much involvement with Microsoft programming languages, one person that I really admired (as probably everybody that studied with me admired too) for his work was Bill Gates. I still remember one day when they had this special announcement on the school board about an opportunity to work in a project with Microsoft. I certainly wasn't one of the people that got it (I was still in early stages in my studies), but just the thought of doing something for THE Microsoft was exciting.

Years went by, I worked for lots of companies mostly using Microsoft technology, such as ASP, Visual Basic, MS SQL Server, etc. Then at some point I started to know more about the browser wars, then I read more about open source ("The Cathedral and the Bazaar", "The Hacker Ethic", etc), about Linux, and about lots of other things related to that that just seemed so "right" to me. Most of these texts/books/articles just spoke about Microsoft in such a bad way that after a while I started disliking the company by myself. After I got a (Mac) Powerbook for me things got even worst, as I didn't even had contact with Micrsosoft products anymore, and anytime I could I would say how good my Powerbook running Mac OS X was.

At this point, after years of involvement with Microsoft products, Microsoft had become "the evil" for me (as it had become for lots of other people before and after). It was something subtle, something that I didn't even notice, but one day I discovered that just I felt that way.

So, when the company that I worked for, FAST Search & Transfer, was bought by Microsoft, I had mixed feelings (to say the least).

To give you an idea, a friend of mine that works with me said that I was the first person he thought of as soon as he heard the news, 'cause he as sure I wouldn't be pleased with that, that I would feel like I was going to the "dark side". But I decided that my posture would be wait-and-see. After all, as my parents pointed out (that's why we have parents), when I was younger it was my dream to work for Microsoft, so why not give it a chance?

Ever since I heard the news, I started checking more about Microsoft online, about its bloggers, about its culture, about its people. Yes, people, 'cause that's what makes a company great in my opinion. Not the technology (although it's highly important), nor its shareholders (that's really important too, btw), but the people that work there, how they think and how they act, these are the most important things for me.

Then I went to TechReady (a technical conference for Microsoft employees) last July and had the opportunity to get closer to the company's soul. And it was overwhelming to see so many brilliant people together, so many great speakers, so many people talking about the same things that "outsiders" usually think that Microsoft doesn't care about (standards, cross-platform, cross-browsing solutions, etc.). At that point, I felt my feelings changing and discovered that I would love this company as much as I had always loved FAST (and for me this is a big deal, because I simply can not work for a company that I don't really love, that I don't feel totally commited to).

But my best surprise ever, to get a even better glimpse about Microsoft employees, happened when I found a blog called Microspotting, whose whole purpose is to show the world how Microsoft employees really are (check Ariel's profile to get a better idea). And I do believe that this is an amazing idea, because once you get to know all these great people that work here, them you start to feel that all this talk about the "dark side"/"evil empire" may be just nonsense.

I know it was a long post, and it was about work, and it was kinda techie, but it's just something that I meant to do for a while and now seemed like the perfect time. :)

4 comentários:

ǂ disse...

come to think of it, it's interesting to see how microsoft's image slowly changed over the years, maybe it's a good case study from a PR point of view.

more to the point, this same conference was apparently wired-cover material:)
Ray Ozzie Wants to Push Microsoft Back Into Startup Mode

another interesting reading:
Microsoft’s Leader in Web Apps: Meet Dr. Flakenstein

Léo disse...

Hey there!

I agree with you that this is a rather interesting topic from a PR point of view.

If you take into account the fact that these "new guys" (from the links you posted) may bring big changes both to Microsoft's internal and external perception, then it's something that is definitely worth following up closely.

Thank you for the great links and for the great comment. :)


Lee disse...

It still feels a little dreamy, for me at least.
We grew up surrounded by a revolution that many only realized years later.
I am always so glad to be living in times like these, with all this incredible changes happening in how we communicate, how we socialize, how we work, and how we live.
MS certainly was one of the major motivators for that revolution to happen, and it is really impressive how media and marketing changed that into an "Evil Empire".
Despite people opinion, MS is a founder and a key player. It is full of amazingly smart and genious people that talk with such a inspiring passion that almost made me want to go on stage, shake their hands and ask for a position on their teams.
Im sure we are going to have a really good time with them :)

Léo disse...

Wow, Lee! You were really inspired on this comment.

I couldn't agree more with you on the points you made. Thank you very much for such a sincere and passionate comment! :)