First Week In the Northwest

Okay. I’ve been in the United States Northwest for a week, worked at Microsoft for 5 business days and took a trip to the Boeing wide-body factory in Everett. I’ve experienced sun and some rain. I’ve driven around the area and now understand why Seattle is called the Emerald City. I’ve come to worship SlickDeals and the Zune Pass. Now, it’s time to put down some thoughts.

The Northwest is a dark, gloomy, wet, and dreary place to work and live. Being in the Northwest has upset many of my preconceptions of the region. I’d read about how few days of sun Seattle gets each year. I heard about constant clouds and rain and complete utter misery. Granted the amount of precipitation will increase throughout the months that I’ll be here, I can’t help but be so excited about being straddled by the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic Mountains/rainforest to the west and Mount Rainier and the Cascades to the east. There is simply too much fantastic nature to take in over the next 4 months. The Labour Day long weekend is shaping up to be a pretty rainy one, but Monday should be sunny and I’m planning a photo trek out towards Lake Wenatchee. The new camera backpack is purchased and ready to go (a Tamrac Aero Speed Pack 85). It also helps that the entire area, the city included, is filled with lush trees. Driving on the local freeways gives the air of being in the middle of a forest. Hence the Emerald City nickname; the color green permeates the region.

The first week at Microsoft consisted of drinking lots of the corporate kool-aid, which is a very tasty drink, I might add. It’s hard not to feel good about working for a company that’s so successful. The perks are awesome (Microsoft Prime, health benefits, private offices, car rental subsidies, and a generous salary) and the people all top caliber. Microsoft gets painted in terrible light, almost everywhere in the world, but being on the inside, there’s no indication that they’re out to destroy lives and businesses. Yeah, there are jokes and banter about the competition, but it wouldn’t be normal for that not to exist. Subpoenaed communications between employees taken in the contextual vacuum of a courtroom means the interpretation can be quite different from the intention. That’s not to say Microsoft hasn’t made some poor decisions in the past. Just don’t mistake Microsoft for Godzilla. There is a reasoning behind the madness.

I’ve started settling in with the Office InfoPath team. Security permissions are still a mess and I don’t have access to any of the internal Office resources, which is putting a damper on my knowledge ramp up. In the meantime, I’ve been using InfoPath and learning the ins and outs. As a PM, I’m discovering that much of the day is filled with meetings. It’s not so bad right now, since I don’t have too much to do yet, but I foresee it as a challenge to attend these meetings and still get all the necessary work done.

The team in general is quite young, with three PM’s hailing from the University of Waterloo. Everyone’s been super supportive of the new intern, and I’m beginning to feel comfortable. I’m eager to get to work with some of the devs on real tasks, but that’ll have to wait until I can do more benefit than damage, with my limited experience with the product, for now.

Yesterday, I, along with some fellow interns, journeyed north to the Boeing wide-body aircraft factory in Everett, where we partook in the Boeing factory tour. I stood in the world’s largest building by internal volume and watched as Boeing 747-8s, 777s, and the new 787 Dreamliners were built. I often take my flying safety for granted, but seeing today the extreme engineering marvel that is aircraft construction, I’m going to say a little prayer of thanks to those workers every time I step on a plane from now on. Business Process Management? You haven’t seen it until you’ve witnessed the assembly line in Everett. I can’t imagine the kind of pride an engineer at Boeing must feel when the first plane of a new line makes its inaugural flight safely.

Pratt and Whitney at the Future of Flight

I signed up to the Zune Pass trial, something that I’ve always wanted to do when I was in Canada, but couldn’t due to region restrictions. I fully intend on continuing with the paid subscriptions once the 14 day trial is up. The value proposition is fantastic and I’ve been itching to discover some new music. The internet connection at the place I’m staying at is quite slow, 1Mbps, so we’re trying to get that upgraded. Once that’s done, I’ll have nearly uninhibited access to a wide selection of music. That reminds me, Pandora should be available as well, now that I’m in the US.

Looking forward, next week will be a shortened work week, both due to the Labour Day holiday, as well as an all-hands company meeting on Thursday. I’m excited to see the executives talk about Microsoft’s progress over this difficult year, and perhaps even Steve Ballmer jump around on stage. On a more serious note, I’m very curious as to how Ballmer is as a CEO. Every time his name comes up, most people probably see the generic fist pumps or awkward facial expressions. I’m more interested in the untainted person who has such a large say in running one of the world’s most successful companies.


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