Like my partner, my first job out of college was with a large corporation. When I started job hunting I had absolutely no thoughts of leaving the Bay Area, where I had spent my entire life and built up a large group of wonderful friends. My tentative plans were to join a local startup in the hopes of striking silicon gold, or at least getting cushy job offers like my elder peers got. These hopes were attributable in part to having interning for Scient Corp. at the height of its lavish, money-burning glory.
Then Microsoft called. Honestly, I took the interview almost solely for the free trip to Seattle; I had no intention of leaving home, especially to work for a company as “evil” as Microsoft. With little sleep but lots of coffee I got through the interviews and got an offer to boot. Deciding to leave home to move to Seattle was not easy, but given the tech economy at the time it offered me two solid things: (1) a job and (2) an opportunity to see how software was developed in the real world.
During my time at MS I worked as both a Developer and a Program Manager (responsible for feature design, plus all the miscellaneous crud not Dev and Test related) in the Mobile Devices division, working on successive releases of the Windows Mobile platform. Microsoft is interesting in that every group has it’s own unique culture and personality; landing in the wrong group would make life hell. Luckily the mobile group was a good group for me, though it had its share of ups and downs and growing pains.
While working with neat gadgets and learning solid development practices was great, the thing that impressed me the most about Microsoft was its employees. Yes, many people there are damn smart; enough’s been said about that already. What was really cool was how everyone was so capable; there’s a small but significant difference between the two. Being able to trust that the people you’re working with will do what they say, in the right way, gives you the confidence (and lots of motivation) to bring your own game up a notch. Plus people were generally nice and down-to-earth; Microsoft might have a reputation for corporate sin but the individuals there are very genuine.
So if I liked the group and I liked the people I worked with, why did I leave? My decision was based almost 100% on the opportunity that presented itself; having a good idea, enough in the piggy bank to support the effort, and a willing partner and friend to chase it with was something too good to pass up.