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Saying something

July 10, 2008

I mentioned the other day that I couldn’t say anything… and at the time I couldn’t.  But that’s since changed.  :-)  The first couple days of the week I got to help with a couple ISA Server exam refreshes, so there’s part of the mystery.  And here’s the other part…

I’ll be in the New Employee Orientation session at Microsoft’s Redmond campus on Monday, July 28th.  :-)  I’m joining the Global Foundation Services group to help run the infrastructure behind behind a little program you may have heard of called Live Messenger (it does instant messaging, or “IM” as they say – evidently all the kids are doing it these days).

I’m truly honored and humbled to have even been considered, much less offered a position on the team and with Microsoft.  I’ve always had a goal to work for Microsoft, going all the way back to college (I even interviewed with MS my senior year).  I thought I’d gotten as close to that as I was going to when I spent 2.5 years working at Cascade Investment (I received annual “head-nods acknowledging my existence from Bill Gates during my tenure).

About 6 weeks ago I read a blog post by Dare Obasanjo talking about the availability problems of Twitter of late, and how the architecture decisions they made in the beginning lead to some of their issues today (and limit what they can do to easily resolve them).  At the end of his post he throws in something that really grabbed my attention: “If this problem space sounds interesting to you, we’re hiring. I’m specifically looking for good operations folks.”

That got my mind running … designing and implementing systems at huge scale has always been an area of interest for me, but I’ve never found myself in a spot to actually be doing it.  After a day or so of mulling things over in my mind I bit the bullet and sent an email to a friend who’s been on the Live Operations team (now GFS) for a couple years to get his take on things.  His reply was a shocker: “I work directly with Dare on a current project I would love to have you onboard.”

I don’t know if that was a sign or not, but things sure did go quickly after that.  All told I had about 9 hours of phone calls, lunches, and onsite interview sessions.  These were perhaps the most grueling interviews in my life (I really haven’t interviewed cold for a new job since January 2000), but at the same time it was a lot of fun! 

There’s something to be said for asking someone a demanding question they have no way of knowing the answer to (or maybe there is no answer) and evaluating their thought process, analytical skills, and ability to ask good questions.  The next time I have to interview someone I definitely have to work some of this technique into the mix.

I’ve always heard and known that Microsoft’s interview process is a gauntlet that is exceptionally difficult to pass.  I never thought I’d have what it takes to make it through, especially interviewing for a position that runs such a large-scale system when my background is clearly in the SMB range (small/medium business).  A couple of the folks I spoke with, though, said that if they went looking for people with experience in the scale of systems GFS deals with they wouldn’t be able to find anyone; find a smart person who fits the team and they can learn the details.

So that’s the challenge for me in the coming months … get up to speed on a completely new system, scale, architecture, paradigm.  It’s going to be tough, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work.  But I’m excited for the challenge; to be outside of the comfort zone that I’ve built up over the last 10 years.

I can’t wait to get this next chapter act in my career started!  Wish me luck!

PS – a special thanks to Alicea, Barton, Brian, and Bryce for sticking by me through all this.  Your insights and simply just being there to listen have been invaluable.  YOU ROCK!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. July 11, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Who’s your friend in GFS?

  2. July 15, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Yay! Congratulations, Nathan! 🙂

  3. July 20, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Great info – keep up the great work.

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