Mindset & Culture at Microsoft
App Dev Manager Robert Schumann reflects on the pace of innovation and how the culture at Microsoft is changing to adapt with our customers.
In recent travels, two co-workers crossed paths who hadn’t seen each other for a while. There was excitement of suddenly seeing one another, cursory hellos, then how are things going yudda yudda…eventually one of them said something like “approaching overload”. Without hesitation I chuckled and thought, “Wow! No kidding, there’s a lot to keep track of.” For a few days afterwards that moment kept replaying in my head making me think about the mindset and culture of a company like Microsoft. How being part of a community of learners who are encouraged to “stretch” one’s skills and experiences really does make a difference both personally and professionally. From a psychological perspective, embracing a growth mindset and participating by giving and receiving knowledge is truly rewarding.
As an Application Development Manager (ADM), we’re expected to stay apprised of Azure services and offerings. We follow certification paths and participate in various Azure groups and training solutions. We deliver directly to the customer certain Azure related services like application modernization and migration, workshops, architecture, security, and lifecycle assessments. While we’re not expected to know every aspect or change to Azure, we must have a sound understanding about Azure at any given time. This is one product in the portfolio that constantly evolves and changes which ADMs must understand well. Others include TFS/Azure DevOps, Visual Studio, Windows OS, and potentially any combination or multitude of OSS and their platforms. Back to Azure, sampling data from Azure Updates between January 2014 to current, there has been roughly 1,443 availability updates. Divided by years since equals 240.5 changes annually over almost six years. Which is roughly one update every 1.5 days. Within this period some 827 features went into preview, equating to about 138 new capabilities per year, almost one every 3 days. Realistically, these changes happen more frequently over time as practices and technology improve and become more efficient.
What is all this leading up to? First, the pace of change in technology is fast and can cause information overload. A study by the University of California, San Diego estimated that through technology adults are exposed to and process the equivalent of about 100,500 words every day, or about 34 gigabytes of digital information. That number is expected to increase by 5.4% per year. Second, the nature of jobs and how people work has fundamentally changed because of technology, causing a new reality for both organizations and individuals in how to process information. Futurist and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve” and estimated that up until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century, but was doubling every 25 years by 1945 and then by 1982, doubling every 13 months. IBM estimates that digital information in the world now doubles every 12 hours. It stands to reason, therefore, that to remain effective and relevant companies and their resources must be agile and able to adapt quickly.
A lot of people at Microsoft understand this and welcome company support to foster a learner culture and to enable growth mindsets. The feedback loop, especially between peers, is embraced to foster growth and discovery. The “know it all” genre ceded to a “learn it all” generation. Through concise directives leadership creates clarity and energy in how to deliver success. New principles, values, and strategies are designed with the brain in mind. And while it can be daunting to “keep pace” and have work-life balance, it truly is an amazing experience and ability to be able to learn something new and adapt often.
If you thrive in a fast-paced environment surrounded by a diverse community of “learn-it-alls” and have a growth mindset, then consider a career at Microsoft.
Slow down. If Microsoft actually expects everyone to keep up with such a pace, then everyone will burn out eventually. I get that we’re in a culture that’s work-focused and driven by always advancing so you can acquire more stuff than the next guy, but it’s not sustainable. You don’t have to know everything. Slow down. Have dinner with the family. Take the kids fishing.