April 23, 2007

Four Years

Last week marked my fourth anniversary in the United States. Looking back on last year's anniversary, it looks like nothing has changed. I'm still working on the successor to .NET 2.0, still waiting for my Green Card, and still bringing in pounds of candy (this year the candy only lasted two days).

Speaking of the candy tradition, I noticed a fourth type of person who partakes in another employee's sugary offerings:

The Starer
This person sticks their hand in your bowl, grabs a maw-full and walks away silently, all the while staring you right in the face, as if eye contact were congratulations enough.

23:41 | Work | Comments (0)

June 6, 2006

Doubled Up

Due to space constraints and new hiring, it looks like I will be doubled up, once again. I've been enjoying the last year or so without an officemate (and an office move, since my last one) by playing music loudly or reclining in my Poäng while reading some specs.

Luckily for me, instead of being paired with a new hire, my new officemate is a coworker and friend of mine. We'll see how long we stay friends after eight hours a day of close quarters...

18:16 | Work | Comments (0)

April 18, 2006

Three Years In The US of A

Friday marked my three-year anniversary of working at Microsoft and living in the United States. As is the tradition, I brought in three pounds of candy, and still have lots left over (despite the disembodied candy-loving arm's best efforts).

My three years here have been great. I'm still very happy at Microsoft. We're working on version 3 of the .NET Framework, having shipped version 2 in November (you have downloaded it already, haven't you?). I'm still waiting for my green card (my application is sitting in a backlog pile in a concrete bunker three miles underground), so I plan to stick around for a while.

23:07 | Work | Comments (0)

February 7, 2006

Coffee Time

A few months ago I there was a reorganization at work, and I joined a new team. At first I was a little concerned that I wouldn't fit in, or that there may be personality conflicts, or something like that. Little did I know I would be joining a group of people whose love for coffee exceeds even mine.

My lead has a coffee maker inside his office, and every few hours brews a full 12-cup pot before sending out a blank email with the subject line "Coffee Is On <eom>". In a pure Pavlovian reaction, the team congregates around my lead's office within seconds of receiving the email.

As a way of thanking the team for making me feel so welcome, I brought in a tin of Tim Hortons coffee I got for Christmas. For the week that the can lasted, I got compliments for my choice of coffee every time we met around the coffee pot.

One developer I work with had lived in Canada for a few years and was familiar with Timmy's. I stopped by her office the first day we made it and asked her if she wanted to join us for coffee. She looked at me strange, like I was seriously bothering her in the middle of some important work. Then I told her it was Tim Hortons coffee, and before I could get the "s" in Hortons out, she had leapt up from her chair and all but shoved me aside in order to get her fix.

I guess even Seattleites get tired of Starbucks after a while.

In case you're wondering, EOM stands for "End Of Message" and is used when the email contains no body. The More You Know!

22:24 | Work | Comments (7)

April 15, 2005

Two Years, Two Lbs

Yesterday was my two-year anniversary at Microsoft, and as is the tradition, I set out two pounds of candy outside my office door for the team to enjoy. What I noticed was there are three kinds of people who take candy:

The Congratulator
Will stop by and chat, offer a hand to shake and congratulate you for not losing your job over the last x years. Upon leaving your office, will grab some candy.
The Opportunist
This person will be walking down the hall, see the bowl of candy and grab some without saying a word, or making eye contact with you. Often times it's someone who doesn't actually know you, or can't think of what to say.
The Disembodied Hand
This one is my favourite. If you watch the candy bowl, eventually there will be a hand that reaches from around a corner, silently grabs some candy, then disappears. Rumour has it the hand is actually attached to an employee.

07:46 | Work | Comments (1)

March 15, 2005

Office Shuffle

After nearly two years in the same office, I was moved across the hall over the weekend. My new office is about 10 metres closer to the washrooms which is nice, since my old office was in the furthest possible location from the men's room. This meant a mini-marathon whenever I needed to go (and also prompting Shawn to complain that I always seem to be wandering the halls).

With a new office, comes a new officemate, Peli from Belgium, who not only now shares an office with me, but lives around the corner from my apartment.

Wow, this has got to be the most mundane blog post ever. Sorry everybody.

07:40 | Work | Comments (3)

May 24, 2004

Work From Home

I have a Smartcard reader and high-speed Internet connection which allow me to connect to the office so I can work from home. I haven't decided if it's a curse or a blessing yet. Case in point:

Bad thing: 11:00pm on a Monday night and I'm "at work".
Good thing: I got to leave work early to go see another Seattle Film Festival movie.

22:58 | Work

May 5, 2004


This morning I attended a four-hour security refresher seminar at work. This seminar is mandatory for all technical employees. Yes, mandatory. It was presented by Michael Howard, co-author of Writing Secure Code, who is a fantastic speaker.

I think it's great that a company like Microsoft (with the poor reputation we have for security), makes material like this mandatory. Especially in times like this. If you haven't already, please make sure your Windows machine is up to date, and update your virus definitions.

Hopefully because of the awareness courses like these raise, such problems will be a thing of the past.

21:04 | Work

April 14, 2004

One Year

Today marked my one year anniversary at Microsoft. As is the custom, I provided candy for the team, but instead of the traditional one pound for every year there, I left a kilogram (I never got the hang of the Imperial measurement system). I think some people were suspicious that I was trying to cheat them, until they found out that 1 kg is just over 2 pounds.

In my year on the CLR Team, I've learned a lot. I am now extremely comfortable with C#, and .NET in general, my knowledge of Garbage Collector technology has gone from almost zero to a good understanding of the different algorithms. I'm having a great time and hope to keep it up.

It's also been a year since I moved to the US. Seattle is a great place to live, and I've met some great friends (and even managed to make some enemies...) I'm looking forward to my next year in a new neighbourhood and another year at Microsoft.

20:24 | Work

March 22, 2004

Monday Meeting

Every Monday morning, our team meets to discuss the plan for the week. Today my manager brought with him four things he doesn't usually bring to meetings:

He asked me to grab some glasses from the kitchen, then had us pour a glass of each of the drinks he brought. He had been in Vancouver last weekend where he picked up the bottles. He noticed how the second ingredient in American pop is high fructose corn syrup where in Canada, it's plain old sugar. He thinks it's because of a sugar embargo, or something. Anyway, our team spent valuable meeting time having a taste test comparing Canadian pop vs American pop. So who's carbonated drink reigned supreme?

American Coke: 3 to 1
Canadian Dr Pepper: 4 to 0

I was pulling for the home team both times.

20:29 | Work | Comments (1)

March 18, 2004

Career Day

Yesterday I left work early and drove down to Sumner Junior High to talk to a group of 9th graders about working in the software industry, specifically at Microsoft.

I left work at 11:10 to catch the 11:23 bus to Seattle. Unfortunately I missed the bus by mere seconds, and had to wait another 30 mins for the next one. Once downtown, I rushed into my apartment to grab my things and then ran down the street to the nearest available Flexcar. I got in the car, entered my PIN, only to have the INVALID PIN light come on. Great. I tried to start the engine, but the ignition stuck, and the car wouldn't start. After calling their support line, I finally got the car started (and $10 credit for my inconvenience). I was already late, and would be missing my first session. I called and left a message with a student that I would be late. Apparently the student forgot to write down my name, and gave the message that "a guy would be late due to car trouble".

I finally got to the school and gave my talk to a largely receptive audience. There were a lot of questions about XBox and game development (of course). I wasn't surprised that no one had heard of .NET, so it was tricky trying to describe my job in terms they could understand.

I enjoyed giving the talk, and afterwards a student came up to me and asked what he could do now to prepare for a career in game development. I told him to go home tonight and start working on a game. Everything he needs is online, and the earlier he starts, the better his chances.

Unfortunately for me, I don't take my own advice.

07:26 | Work | Comments (3)

March 10, 2004

We Don't Need No Stinking Badges

At Microsoft, security is pretty tight. Employees are required to carry their ID badges at all times, and most locked doors on campus can only be opened by swiping one's badge. Often people forget their even wearing their badges, and seeing employees wandering around Redmond in the evenings with forgotten badges hanging from their hips is not an uncommon sight.

I noticed there are three ways people wear their badges:

Attached to their belts.
This is the most common, and convenient way. Most of the scanners on doors are at waist-height, and the badges are on retractable cords, so opening doors is as easy as pulling, swiping, and letting go.
In their wallets.
I guess some employees feel showing off their badges make them look like dorks, so they hide them. When they need to open doors, they either pull out and swipe their wallets (the scanner is strong enough to penetrate even the finest deer hide), or try to swipe without taking their wallets out. The latter is always fun to watch. If the wallet is in their back pocket, they do the 60s dance The Bump with the door jamb, or if the wallet is in their front pocket, they gyrate their groin in front of the scanner, giving quite the show for anyone on the other side of the glass doors.
Around their necks.
This is the least common, and most obvious way to wear one's badge. Beaming with the pride of working at the world's richest software company, these employees carry their badges attached to wide shoelace-like necklaces not unlike how college students carry their dorm keys to the communal shower.

So if anyone happens to see me at a restaurant, or maybe at the mall some weekday evening, feel free to let me know if I look like a dork. You can also tell me to take my badge off.

07:35 | Work | Comments (7)

February 24, 2004


Congratulations Mr Goyer, and welcome to the dark side.

21:04 | Work | Comments (1)

December 18, 2003

Hit Me

Saturday was the Developer Division's Non-Denominational Holiday Party at the fabulous Westin hotel in downtown Seattle (the one that looks like a giant pair of hair curlers). The party was semi-formal, so in Seattle that means people show up in suits, tuxedos or jeans. There was food, booze, a "casino" (real money not accepted) and music. I took Teresa and the two of us enjoyed ourselves. Except when we tried to play blackjack.

Our dealer was a hotel employee that appeared to only get a 5-minute overview of the game before being thrust in front of hundreds of would-be gamblers. At first it was cute, she would add up the total of your cards out loud, then compare against her total, then double check. After a few hands the novelty wore off. She would pay out to people who busted, and refused to hit on sixteen (until her manager came over and told her to). After taking half an hour to lose 3 hands, we decided to try our luck elsewhere (the dance floor -- and as anyone who has seen me dance before knows, my luck wasn't much better there).

07:20 | Work | Comments (1)

October 27, 2003

A Hard Day's Night

We've all heard the rumours that Microsoft works its employees 12 hours a day, forces them to neglect their families, and has showers installed in every building to encourage people to stay later. I'm here to say this isn't true. I only worked 11 hours today.

No, I don't usually put in such long hours, but this week I have to cram 5 days of work into 3. Why? Thursday is the Company Meeting. Since I missed last year's, I want to make sure I have all my work done so I can sit in Safeco stadium and watch Steve Ballmer jump and sweat.

Thursday night I'm hopping on a plane and flying to Toronto for a friend's wedding. It will be nice to go home and see friends and family, if only for a short time.

Wow, Canada two weekends in a row. Good times.

21:16 | Work

October 18, 2003

Double Your Pleasure

Yesterday the hardware fairies came by. Due to the "inconvenience" of having to be paired up in an office, my officemate and I were each awarded with a 17" LCD monitor. I had been working with two CRT monitors since I got to Microsoft for the productivity gains. I could never go back to just one.

The issue now is that I have one LCD and one CRT monitor side-by-side sharing the same desktop. My eyes have to keep adjusting to the difference is brightness and refresh rates, not to mention the subtle difference in their colour interpretation.

If only my officemate weren't here today. Then I could have two sweet sweet LCDs all to myself. It's only been one day... how attached to it can he really be? tents fingers diabolically

10:03 | Work

August 29, 2003


Yesterday a man I had never met walked into my office.

Man: "I'm looking for Chris Lyon."
Me: "That's me."
Man: (confused) "Um, I heard Chris Lyon was... uh... Japanese?"
Me: "Sorry to disappoint you."
Man: "I mean, uh, can read Japanese..."

I told him that I could read a little, so he brought me back to his office and showed me his computer, which was apparently running a Japanese version of Windows. In the middle of the screen was a big bad error dialog, and he asked me to translate it. I stared at it for a few minutes, trying to glean some meaning from the few katakana words I could find. My kanji reading abilities had become so rusty that about all I could tell him was that this was in fact an error dialog.

I went back to my desk annoyed at myself. I had used Japanese Windows for almost a year when I worked in Japan, and now I couldn't even translate a simple error dialog.

The next time someone comes to me with a Japanese question, I think I'll just refer them to the Japanese employee who sits down the hall.

18:42 | Work

August 22, 2003

Going To The Zoo

Today was an all-day morale event for my division at the Woodland Park Zoo. It was nice to get the day off and spend it outside before the stereotypical Seattle weather sets in. Plus, a morale event wouldn't be a morale event without monkeys.

17:47 | Work

August 7, 2003


Having worked as a co-op student and intern on and off for the past five years, I sometimes forget that I'm now a full-time employee. It's the little things that make a difference. Today I got a small box of little things. Today I got my business cards:

Chris Lyon's Business Card

When I first started at Microsoft I didn't feel the need to order any. Last week my manager came into my office and complained about the empty business card holder on my desk. He said he was sick of looking at it and told me to order myself some cards. Not being one to disagree with my manager, I complied.

Of course, since I don't deal with customers directly, I guess I'll be mailing these out to friends and family. I already tried giving one to my officemate, but he wasn't interested.

In Japan, business cards are taken much more seriously. You give out business cards the same way you receive them, with both hands while bowing. One should be honoured to receive the contact information of a potential business partner and fellow salaryman. Somehow though, I don't think anyone be all that honoured to receive mine.

19:41 | Work | Comments (2)

July 27, 2003

Fun In The Sun

The company picnic was fun. I ate a lot of free food, and drank a lot of free beer. I didn't get sunburned too badly, but it's obvious that there are spots I missed with the sunscreen. It was the most time I had spent outside in a long time. Once again, I was amazed at just how many people were there. Sometimes I forget how big Microsoft is.

00:00 | Work

June 18, 2003

Almost Famous

Yesterday as I was going into the gym, who should walk past me, but none other than Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Of course he was much too busy to talk to me, but I'm sure he appreciates all the work I've been doing.

00:00 | Work

June 17, 2003

Community Service

Today I spend a good deal of time with various communities. First, I helped out some members of Microsoft's online customer community by answered a few technical questions on some of Microsoft's public news groups. Granted, the questions weren't terribly difficult, but I'm still new and wouldn't trust my own advice.

I also attended a Microsoft weblogger panel discussion, which touched upon such important issues of what's appropriate to blog about, how blogging impacts Microsoft, and how the world will look at you in a different light due to the fact you're a Microsoft blogger. A lot of good points were raised, and I was pleased to find out that Microsoft has no plans to shut down my little soapbox.

One member of the panel was none other than Microsoft evangelist and blogging superstar Robert Scoble, who even answered my question. I asked for those of us who have been blogging since before we started at Microsoft, if, from a legal standpoint, we should scrub our archives clean of any criticisms of Microsoft products, or praises to competitor's.

The answer of course, is no. That would be a sin to the blogging world, and as I already stated, I'm against the idea anyway (besides, Google cache makes it almost impossible to destroy data once it goes live). I just wanted to make sure I wouldn't get fired, or quoted on The Register (whatever you consider worse) because I said I liked Mozilla more than IE.

00:00 | Work

May 31, 2003


I'm sure many of you have heard the rumours of Microsoft employees putting in 80-hour work weeks, neglecting their families and sleeping at their desks. This is a half-truth.

Although it's not uncommon to see people working away at their desks well into the evening, these are usually the same people that take advantage of Microsoft's flex-hour policy and roll into work sometime around noon.

Of course during crunch time (shortly before the end of a product milestone or release) the pressure is higher, but for the most part, no one works themselves into the ground unless they want to.

Microsoft is very concerned with its employees' morale. Since I've started there's been free espresso twice a week and beer bashes every month. I've been saving a lot of money on groceries by staying late and having dinner bought for me. Yesterday was a May's beer bash with free beer, wine, food and raffles (no, I didn't win).

The other companies I've worked at didn't seem to care much about employee morale. There's a reason why I didn't apply for a full-time position at Corel (besides their now penny-stock status and consecutive budgets in the red). Ask me again in a year how my morale is doing. I'd be willing to bet it's still as high as it is now.

00:00 | Work

May 28, 2003

The Interns Have Arrived

Today my team acquired an intern. It's weird because up until today, I felt like I was the team's intern. I've heard this feeling isn't uncommon, and it can take months before a new hire starts feeling like he/she actually has a clue what's going on. I've reached my 6 week mark, and I'm hoping to God the new intern doesn't show me up.

I ran into a returning intern from last summer today. He'll be interning this year in my building on some other part of the team. It makes me realize just how much older I am than my peers. Ontario's 5 years of high school, plus Waterloo's 5 years of university (including co-op) put me a good two or three years older than my fellow interns last summer. Most of my new circle of full-time employee friends are younger than me too. I warned them that the first one to call me "Old Man Lyon" will get beaten with my cane.

00:00 | Work

May 8, 2003

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Because it's crunch time here, there have been lots of free perks for the team members. Free espresso and snacks twice a week and free dinners every night. I had been enjoying dinner here for a few days, and yesterday was no exception. Indian food was ordered, and we all partook in naan, basmati, korma and various curries. Satiated, and having put in a full day of work, I went home.

At 2:30am I woke up with a terrible stomach ache. At 3:00am, the Indian food, having been plotting its escape from my stomach for the past 7 hours, made a break for it. And again every hour until 7:00am. At 8:30 I phoned my boss and left a message about how I may or may not show up at work today. Microsoft policy states that those infected with a contagious condition stay home. Since I didn't think my experience would influence the Indian food in the stomachs of others, I rolled into work around noon (I was feeling much better at that point).

Between the time I got up and the time I went to work, I felt like crap. Worse than crap. I felt the way crap feels when it has a hangover. Between the nausea and the aching joints, I debated going to work at all. To soothe my aches, I drew myself a hot bath and soaked for a while. This brought back memories of Japan, where I made a habit of soaking in the 40°C furo (Japanese hot tub). I love when I first come out, and it feels like I'm radiating warmth.

The warmth was only temporary. The aches are back, and I'm about ready to call it a day (a very short day, mind you). Strange that no one else seems to have had the sickness I experienced. Maybe I shouldn't have come in to work at all today.

00:00 | Work

May 7, 2003

Knowledge Accessiblity

One of the things I like most about working at Microsoft is how there's a huge human knowledge base. In every building there are managers who dremt up exciting projects, architects who sketched them out, and a ton of developers and testers who made it a reality. The other great thing is how readily they are willing to share this knowledge. Just about every week presentations and seminars are held about different products and emerging technologies, and they're open to every employee (seating is limited, so you need to sign up early).

Today I sat through a presentation about the .NET CLR (the product I'm working on). The speaker was one of the head program managers for the product. Although I already knew most of what was covered (hey, I had to do some research before starting), it was nice to have explained how all the parts fit together.

I think one of Microsoft's strengths is it's ability to recruit some brilliant people (no, I'm not talking about myself), and their willingness to make those people's knowledge accessible to everyone in the company. After all, knowledgeable employees are good employees.

This contrasts sharply with some of the other companies I worked at, where I didn't know what the guy in the cubicle next to me was working on, let alone other teams.

And no, I'm not praising Microsoft simply because they pay me. Although that does help...

00:00 | Work

April 29, 2003

License To IL

Today I waded knee-deep into Microsoft's Common Intermediate Language, which is an instruction set for the Common Language Runtime. I'm still far from writing entire programs in straight IL, but I think I have enough general understanding to tweak existing ones (of course, I still need the 125-page specification by my side).

I have a feeling that in a few months I'll be more fluent in the .NET languages (IL, C#, VB.NET, etc) than I am in English.

00:00 | Work

April 24, 2003


Today marks the official release of Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Visual Studio .NET 2003. There was a small event in the cafeterias where they gave out free local music CDs and screwdriver sets (although Robertson heads were notably absent).

00:00 | Work

April 18, 2003

Lose Some

Microsoft employees get a free discount card, called a Prime Card. It gives us discounts to hundreds of restaurants, stores and services around the United States and British Columbia. Even interns are entitled to this great benefit. Last summer I happily used mine until my internship was over. Since I was no longer working for Microsoft, and I knew that the Prime Card was not accepted in Ontario, I threw mine away. Big mistake, it turns out.

As a new employee, I requested my shiny new Prime Card. Human Resources regretted to inform me that I was already issued a card, but I was welcome to purchase another. It didn't seem to matter that I had not been a Microsoft employee, nor had I lived in a Prime-friendly area for nearly eight months (at the time, it seemed indefinitely).

I know I shouldn't really complain, after all, it is a perk. Still...

00:00 | Work

Win Some

Today I found two particularly annoying .NET bugs, one of which causes Microsoft's J# compiler to crash. I'll post a link to the Knowledge Base articles if and when they come out. Not bad for day 5 on the job.

00:00 | Work

April 16, 2003

I Shot The Sherrif

Last night's release party was fun. It was most definitely Western-themed complete with line dancing and a mechanical bull. No, I didn't ride it, but I did get to take home a cowboy hat and a sherrif's pin. According to the pin, I'm a Developer Division Deputy.

00:00 | Work

April 15, 2003


I couldn't have picked a better time to join the team. Tonight is the ship party for the Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 (codename Everett), and I'm invited. I guess it's only fair, since I missed the ship party for Notification Services, the team I worked on during the summer. Tonight's party is rodeo-themed, which makes sense since both my manager and my officemate are from Texas. Yeehaw.

00:00 | Work

April 14, 2003

Born In The USA

Well I made it. The flight here was pleasantly uneventful and I had an enjoyable weekend meeting with friends and going grocery shopping. It has rained every day since I got here. I guess that's just something I have to get used to.

Today was my first day of my career. Most of it was spent in the new employee orientation, which was pretty boring. There were about 50 new hires who attended, and we sat and listened to presentations about technologies, benefits and employee perks. Then the surprise speaker showed up: Bill Gates. The room buzzed with excitement as he calmly walked on stage. He welcomed us to the company, gave a quick speech and then fielded questions (no, I didn't get to ask mine).

After the orientation, I was introduced to my team and shown to my office (which I share with another teammate). I'm excited to start work, which is a good thing according to my manager, because he has lots for me to do.

00:00 | Work

March 27, 2003

Run For The Border

My visa application has been approved. My new new target start date is April 14. That means two more weeks in my home and native land.

00:00 | Work

March 25, 2003

Survey Says

Today the moving company representative came to the house to do a "Pre-move survey". She was surprised to see I had no furniture, cars, pets or spouces to be shipped. All I had were a few boxes of books, CDs, clothes a bicycle and my computer. The entire survey took 20 minutes.

I told her that I travel light. She just shrugged.

00:00 | Work

March 17, 2003

Target Start Date

Today was my original target start date at Microsoft. As you can probably tell, I am not in Seattle, but instead enjoying the slushy spring Southern Ontario offers every March. My new target start date is March 31, but I'm not holding my breath.

00:00 | Work

February 13, 2003

The Big News

Today I accepted the offer from Microsoft. I am the newest Software Design Engineer in Test for the Microsoft .NET Common Language Runtime. My start date depends on how long my visa takes to complete (my guess is about a month). I apologise for not blogging about the offer, but I didn't think it was appropriate, considering I had pending interviews with other companies (you never know who's reading your website).

My plan for the next month: studying up on .NET, celebrating, spending the money I haven't earned yet, and doing the Dance of Joy every fifteen minutes.

I'm guessing now that I got the job, my interview advice will be the most popular page on this site.

00:00 | Work

November 25, 2002

I'm Back

Well. The bad news is, I didn't do very well during the interview. I was visibly nervous, managed to annoy one interviewer, and during the 5th hour became mentally exhausted resulting in brain freeze trying to reverse a linked list.

The good news is, they want me to come back and interview again sometime in December or January, so my adventures in Redmond aren't over yet.

Later this week I will include a rambling detailing my gruelling 6 hours of interviews for your reading pleasure.

00:00 | Work

August 30, 2002

Last Day

Today is my last day at Microsoft. I've packed up my desk, deleted all my personal data from my PC and took down the Canadian flag from the wall. Soon the scavengers will come and claim my 21" monitor and desk. *sigh* I had a great time here, putting in some late nights at work, eating with the richest man in the world, crazy weekend adventures, and playing lots of pool. I can't wait to come back.

00:00 | Work

August 29, 2002


I've received a few emails congratulating me on the HIRE recommendation. Thanks!

But what does that recommendation mean exactly? It doesn't mean I have the job. It means I have been approved to interview for a full-time position on an as-of-yet undetermined date. Microsoft will fly me over, and I will be interviewing up to three teams that day. Since I got such a favourable review I have a definite advantage, but I could still screw it up. I'm meeting with my manager either today or tomorrow to work out some details.

00:00 | Work

August 28, 2002

The Decision

As I type this entry, my mentor and manager are discussing my final review. In less than an hour they will make the decision whether to hire me. My hands tremble as I think of what they could be possibly saying:

And so on.

I'll post the verdict here as soon as I find oot.

Update: As it turns out, my manager was MIA for the past hour and my mentor was chatting with another employee. But I've been assured they are now together and discussing my review. In the meantime I've been surfing the web, and to my horror, found out that I had been banned from Slashdot! Maybe this is a good sign. Surely Microsoft employees are first on their ban list...

00:00 | Work

August 20, 2002

Signed Off

We signed off on our product yesterday! In less than a week, Microsoft SQL Server Notification Services will be on the web, ready for the world to enjoy.

00:00 | Work

August 12, 2002

Patience And Appreciation

Today my team took the four interns out to an Intern Appreciation Lunch, since two of us are leaving this Friday (I will be staying on until Aug 30). We went to a South-Western restaurant and were given the following parting gifts:

We also each got a good-bye card, signed by each member of the team. It's obvious which team members didn't know me very well by their generic signatures. Messages like "Best of Luck -Steve" and "Great Work! -Bob" tell me that Steve and Bob won't remember me 3 months after I leave. It's kinda like when you passed around your yearbook to everyone in the class, even to the kids you didn't know, and you'd get back signatures like "Have a great summer -Suzy". Sometimes I look back into my yearbook and wonder who the hell Suzy was.

Anyway, reading that card I found my boss' signature, and this is where things get exciting. He wrote: "Best of Luck! See you soon."

What does this mean? Did he mean "See you soon, like after graduation," or "See you soon, back at the office this afternoon." I guess I'll find out in a few weeks...

00:00 | Work

July 29, 2002

Company Picnic

On Saturday I went to Microsoft's company picnic. It was held in a remote location at the base of Mount Si. Since there are 50,000 employees at Microsoft, and each employee was allowed to bring their families, the picnic had to be spread across two days. There must have been at least 10,000 people there on Saturday.

There was lots of free food, beer, fun for the kids and fun for the adults. The theme was "America the Beautiful" and all the food stands had stars and stripes painted on them. Over top of each one was a different virtue, presumably that the American people share including (but not limited to): Democracy, Tolerance, Wonder, Generosity, etc. I think the booth labeled Patriotism was serving ribs.

I had a great time. I got a massage, tested my skills on the portable climbing wall and played some Bingo. Oh yes, and consumed a large amount of beer. I also took some great pictures that may one day make it onto this site.

Unfortunately for me I forgot the sunblock and now have a red, tender nape. Sometimes it sucks being white.

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July 18, 2002

Dinner With A Billionaire, The Aftermath

Ok, short blog entry. The BBBQ was great. Huge house, good food, nice lawn, private beach, sweaty billionaire. Best of all, I didn't get kicked out, even after stealing a length of toilet paper (3-ply!) as a souvenir. What more could I ask for? I'll get to writing a Misc Rambling about it right after I put in my token 3 hours of work today.

In case my managers are reading this, that was a joke...

... am I fired?

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July 17, 2002

Dinner With Bill

Yes, tonight is the night I go to Bill Gates' home for a BBBQ (the extra B is for Billionaire). Unfortunately security is pretty tight, so I won't be allowed to bring my camera, backpack or purse (assuming I even had a purse that went with these shoes). I will also have to empty my pockets, and possibly undergo a body cavity search. But it will all be worth it to sit with the upper-crust of society and dine on condor-egg omelettes and Komodo Dragon cutlets. A guy I met here at Microsoft thought the animal was called a kimono dragon. I guess that's the Japanese equivalent of the trouser snake.

But I digress. I just hope Bill won't skimp on the food and serve us hot dogs and potato salad.

I'm under the impression there will be a Q&A session, in which I had better ask a real doozy of a question. Maybe if I impress him enough he will immediately hire me on as Senior VP. Or maybe he'll just nod and smile knowingly right before releasing the hounds on my ass.

00:00 | Work

July 15, 2002

Billy G Is Not My Lover

Now don't think I worship Bill Gates or think he's the leader of the computer revolution or anything. I just like the feeling of peering in on the life of someone so rich and powerful he could own a small island nation. It's kind of like having my very own Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous outside my window (minus Robin Leach).

A few weeks ago a fellow intern and myself decided to go on a scouting mission in the building next door. It was a Saturday afternoon (don't ask why I was at work on a Saturday), and the building was practically empty. We went exploring, looking for the fabled "second pool table" in that building. We found one table, but as luck would have it, it was in use (by people who came to work for the sole purpose of playing free pool, I might add). So Wan Li and I searched floor by floor, finding nothing. We then decided to check the Forbidden Executive Floor. Pushing the elevator button sent shivers of excitement down my spine. What would we find there? What kind of pool table does Bill Gates use? A solid-gold table with ivory cues? As the elevator doors opened we were immediately greeted by a very large, very muscular security guard.

Security Guard: "Can I help you guys?"
Me: "Um.. we're... uh... just looking for a pool table."
Security Guard: "There's nothing like that on this floor."
Silence as the big man stared us down.
Me: "Well, I guess we should be off then."

I never got to see if the carpet in Bill's office really is pure cashmere, or whether or not he keeps a live caged Oompa-Loompa in his office. I guess some things were never meant for mortal man to know.

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June 21, 2002

An Honour

We had our weekly team meeting today, and were told that since beta 2 finally shipped (two weeks late), we would be celebrating with ice cream (to mark the first day of summer). After the meeting, the team manager came up to me and asked me if Canadians knew anything about beer. I thought he was kidding. He then asked me to help him pick out the beer for the celebration. I told him it would be an honour.

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June 18, 2002

Life At Microsoft

Ok, I've had several (!) requests for more entries about life at Microsoft. Ironically, most of these requests came from hard-core Linux users, so I guess they want to see what they're missing.

Like I wrote earlier, every employee gets an office, not a cubicle (with the exception of the new interns who are sitting in what was once the lounge). I share an office with my mentor, Jeanine. Every intern gets a mentor. A mentor is supposed to be a person who an intern can ask questions and turn to for guidance. My mentor is great, I can interrupt her anytime and ask her questions. Some interns aren't so lucky, and have mentors who don't have time to deal with them. I even heard of one mentor who said "Don't ever ask me the same question twice." Ouch.

Each team is divided into three groups: Product Managers (PM), Developers (Dev) and Test. PMs make design decisions, Devs implement them and Test makes sure Dev did a good job. I'm in Test, but it's not strict black-box testing. I write programs that test the product for me. Test is also supposed to be the customers' representative inside the company. Basically, we refine the PMs' design and give Dev more work.

Unlike my internship at Corel, I don't feel a sense of adversity between the teams. There is nothing personal about finding a bug, or criticizing someone's design. We work together to make a better user experience, instead of against each other to save face.

I sit in on a lot of meetings, and my input is both appreciated and expected. No one is too high on the ladder to listen, and no one is too low to speak their piece. There are also numerous "hallway meetings" where employees discuss work or whatever in the hall outside their offices.

So far this has been the most fulfilling internship. Both my teams at Corel and at AISoft had no clear direction, so I didn't feel like I was making any real contribution. Here, I know my product is important, and my work feels worthwhile. People care whether or not I get my work done on time, and before I leave, our product is going to ship.

What a time to be alive.

00:00 | Work | Comments (1)

June 12, 2002

Free Soda Pop

If sure you've all heard about Microsoft's generous "free pop for employees". If you haven't, or if you care to hear about it again, here it is: every floor has a kitchen, and inside are two convenience store style display coolers, chock full o' pop, juice and milk. They have the usual suspects: Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper, Fresca. In the juice department, they have a wide variety: grapefruit, V8, apple, cranberry, and the mystery orange juice. It's mysterious, because it's really hard to identify, since the can has two large apples on the label.

They also have free coffee, and a large variety of free teas. They even have cold filtered water. Wednesdays are free specialty coffee days. That's the day I get my free latte instead of paying $1.75 at the Starbucks in the cafeteria.

Then there's Talking Rain. Worst pop ever. They're going for the whole "all-natural ingredients" which means it tastes like fountain 7up that has run out of syrup. Not my idea of a refreshing drink, but some people like it.

Unlike at one of my previous co-ops, the employees don't have to stock the fridges themselves.

00:00 | Work | Comments (1)

May 6, 2002

The Reverse-Midas Touch

Today I was praised by one of my superiors for finding a deep-rooted bug in our product. This was about the third time my office was full of developers, all prodding at my computer, wondering what the hell the intern did to break their precious product. One of the founders of the product put his hand on my shoulder and told me I had the Reverse-Midas Touch. Instead of gold, everything I touch turns to shit. In the world of software testing, that's a compliment.

I wonder if he'll say the same thing when he sees me program.

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May 2, 2002

Go West

Well, despite Rod Serling's warning, I arrived safely in Seattle. I'm living in a sweet 3 bedroom apartment in beautiful Redmond, Washington. Flying over the mountains was one of the most beautiful sites I had ever seen. Because of the near-constant rainfall around here, everything is so green. Small parks and wildlife preserves pepper the landscape with lots of winding hiking/biking trails connecting them. I'll have to take some pictures.

So far work has just been introductions and setting up, but I'm sure next week will be busy. As noted earlier, my original team (Hailstorm) is gone, so now I'm working on Notifications. I would fill you all in on exactly what I'm doing, but I'm afraid that would bore most of you into a catatonic state. Email me if you're really curious.

I'll try to keep blogging as much as I can, but I'm not making any guarantees. I'll try to write down all the silly things Americans do around here to keep you all entertained.

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April 11, 2002

Out Of The Job?

According to this news article [expired] Microsoft is shelving the very product they hired me to work on (Hailstorm). Where's the justice?

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February 19, 2002

Mr Lyon Goes To Washington

Yes, I'm going to Redmond, Washington to work at Microsoft.

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