July 2010

July 15, 2010

20 Years at Microsoft

Today is my 20th anniversary at Microsoft. I never thought I'd be at one company so long (although my dad was a lifer at 3M.) Even during most of senior year, I had not really thought about Seattle a potential place to live or about Microsoft as a potential employer. I had, however, designed the perfect job in my mind so when I learned about the Program Manager role at Microsoft, I knew I wanted it.

I thought I blew it at the job fair though. After I left my resume with the guy at the table, I took two Microsoft pens they were giving away. He noted, "That's odd. Everyone is taking pens. These pencils are great too." I replied immediately, "We're Stanford students. We don't make mistakes." and walked off. I thought for sure my arrogance would kill the deal, but later that week I received an invitation to fly up to Seattle and interview. (It turns out that kind of "confidence" is a desirable trait at Microsoft.) The rest, of course, is history.

I feel very fortunate to have found a job I love so much right out of college. One of the many great things about Microsoft is that you can do very diverse things without having to switch companies. Among other things, I shipped perhaps the first really video intensive game for Windows 3.0 (Golf for Windows 1.0 -- I hit the only hole-in-one during testing), worked on the first new English dictionary in the last 20-30 years (Encarta World English Dictionary), was grilled by the US Department of Justice and the European Union anti-trust dudes -- on the same day, ran a very profitable $200mm business (Works), helped secure and revive Internet Explorer, spoken in front of huge crowds around the world on topics from digital imaging to computer security to internet standards to search, and now have the opportunity to live and work in China and deal with issues like Internet censorship. It's been exciting and challenging every step of the way.

More important, I've learned a ton from my managers, peers, and reports. It really is a privilege to be surrounded by some of the smartest, most creative, most passionate people in the world. There's no way this experience would have been even one-tenth as much fun without these people. I'm a bit surprised every day that the company pays me to do something I love so much.

Things have changed a lot in twenty years. Microsoft had just passed 5,000 employees and had its first year with revenues over $1 billion. (Today we have around 100,000 employees and earn around $60 billion in revenue - nice to see the 60x growth in revenue on 20x growth in headcount.) The first computers on my desk were an IBM PS/2 Model 30 (10 mhz 80286) and a Mac IIci (25 mhz 68030). Microsoft had just shipped Windows 3.0. There was no Internet (not really), mobile phones were just coming out (and were huge), and CD-ROMs were just on the horizon.

Sometimes people tell me how lucky I was to work in the "old Microsoft" and opine how much cooler it must have been then when everything in the industry was new. It was fun, to be sure, but I think today is even better. A lot of the great ideas we had back then were limited by the constraints of the hardware, memory, network, computing power, screen resolution, cost, etc. and even more by the readiness of people and companies to be a part of a digital world. Today, of course, we have computers in our pockets, nearly ubiquitous wireless connectivity, insane storage and computation available to us, and a population comfortable and reliant on technology. Today, virtually the only thing limiting what we can do is our imagination and ability to execute. Now is the time we can finally do really cool stuff.

In commemoration of my service anniversary, Microsoft gave me a ridiculously huge crystal. It's the big brother of the five, ten, and fifteen year crystals (although I never got those since they introduced them after I reached those milestones.)

Here's the huge box on my conference table. That's a 19" monitor on the table for size reference.
Big brown cardboard box on a round conference table with a flat panel display. The box is almost as long as the diameter of the table.  

The crystal comes well packed. There's a base in the box too plus some cards and other stuff.
The box with the top removed. A huge crystal lies in the box with cut foam around it.

Here are my five year (the clock), fifteen year (the stock certificate), and twenty year (the huge crystal) awards side-by-side, in order. (The ten year one looks just like the fifteen year one, so I don't keep it in my office.) Today, all of the awards are progressively larger crystals.
A small gold clock, a silver Microsoft stock certificate, and a tall clear crystal with an orange band across the middle.

Included in the box is a card from Steve Ballmer thanking me for my service. It was kind of him to pen such a personal note after twenty years...
"Twenty years marks a milestone that few at Microsoft have reached. We would like to take this opportunity to honor your exceptional commitment and recognize your extraordinary efforts over the years. Your contributions and passion have been essential to Microsoft's success. Congratulations on reaching this important, and rare, milestone in your Microsoft career. Our sincerest thanks for all you do. All our best, <signed> Steven A. Balmer"

Anyway, it's been a hell of a ride so far. I'm sure the future will be as much fun (if not more).
Posted July 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 10, 2010

The Test of True Gentleman

Categories: Random cool stuff

During college, I had the privilege of joining Kappa Alpha Order, a national fraternity founded on the principle of upholding the virtues of being a gentleman. The spiritual founder of the Order is Robert E. Lee, among the most amazing Americans in history.

We learned one quote that always stuck with me; I thought I'd share it here since it's just as relevant today as it was over a hundred years ago.

The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman. 

The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly, the forbearing or inoffensive use of all of this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light. 

The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled when he cannot help humbling others.

I hope to live up to this standard every day.

Posted July 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

2010 Oyster Wine Award Winners

Categories: Food and Drink

Once again, Taylor Shellfish (and my friend Jon Rowley)sponsored the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition to find the best wines to accompany oysters. The best wines are crisp and God-like with fresh oysters. Here are this year's winners:

Listed alphabetically:

Acrobat 08 Pinot Gris (OR)

Anne Amie Vineyards 09 Pinot Gris (OR)

Anne Amie Vineyards Cuvee A 09 Müller-Thurgau (OR)

**Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery 08 Sauvignon Blanc (WA)

CMS White 08 (WA)

*Columbia Winery 08 Pinot Gris (WA)

Franciscan Estates 08 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)

Heitz Wine Cellars 09 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)

*King Estate Winery 08 Pinot Gris (OR)

**Kunde Family Estate 09 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)

* Prior Oyster Award Winner       ** Multiple prior Oyster Awards

I'm sure these are all great, or you can always drink whisky with oysters for my personal favorite food/drink pairing...

Posted July 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 4, 2010

Beijing temperature exceeds the Air Quality Indicator!

Categories: China

This is a first for me.

IMG_0058 IMG_0057


Note the time -- it's only 10am, and it's already 93 degrees. What's more, it looks like the temperatures will keep rising and the AQI will keep dropping. Wow.

More on AQI

Posted July 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NPR Hosts Read the Declaration of Independence

Categories: Random cool stuff

The US Declaration of Independence This year, I celebrated the Fourth of July alone in Beijing. Many people who know me will know that I'm a huge fan of the founding charters of freedom of the United States: The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States of America, and The Bill of Rights (click for the full text of the documents). While this has always been true, I value the true foresight and values encoded in these amazing documents by The Founding Fathers even more living outside the US, particularly in a country that is founded on a different set of values.

If you haven't read these documents recently, I urge you to do so. They are as meaningful and powerful 234 years later and perhaps even more applicable as peoples and governments around the world struggle with the definitions of nationhood and the balance the rights of individuals with broader needs. I also hope our elected officials remind themselves of a few things, that the role of government is to secure our unalienable Rights and that the government derives "their just powers from the consent of the governed." Finally, I hope we all really take a moment to appreciate and deeply value what we as Americans have in the form of these documents. Even today, billions of people have nothing like them in principle or in practice.

In addition to the links to the full texts of the documents above, I've included a special link to the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence performed by the hosts, reporters, newscasters, and commentators of NPR. I found it even more moving than just reading the text.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone, and Happy Birthday, America!

The Declaration of Independence, Read Aloud by NPR Staff

Posted July 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)