Surviving Hurricane Irma: Microsoft is a great place to work!

Developer Support

This post is provided by Senior App Dev Manager, Paul King who shares a personal story about what it means to be part of the Microsoft team and Premier Support for Developers.

I have a fun hobby outside of work where my wife and I work on a Christmas light display at our home. You can see a sample video here, or check out our Facebook page for more information. Each year, we add something new like a different prop, or add songs so that the display is fresh each year. Anytime we make a change, there is quite a bit of programming that needs to be done to bring it all to life so the visitors that stop by can see the display choreographed properly. From building the props, sequencing of lights, laying out networks and setting up the display, it’s a ton of work, but we do it to bring a smile to people’s faces when they stop by to enjoy it every year.

For the last 5 years we have been vacationing in St. Thomas in September. We both get a chance to relax and I get a chance to complete any sequencing for our light show while we are there. What better way to channel the holiday spirit of these songs than with this as your background?

Before Hurricane Irma

This year was a different story. I had completed the sequence programming before we left for St. Thomas, so I was looking forward to a nice vacation with another couple we knew. Unfortunately, we were on the island when Hurricane Irma hit. We always knew that going to St. Thomas was a risk in September, but never thought we would ride out a category 5+ hurricane while on the island. For those who don’t know, a category 5 hurricane has sustained winds of 155+ MPH. We have read that the wind speeds with Irma were 167+ MPH sustained. The one weather station on the island had recorded wind speeds to 228 MPH before it broke. This was a fierce storm. The last weather snapshot I had of the system is below.

Satellite image of hurricane eye

The location flag is close to where we were located on St. Peterborg Road. You can see that we were going to be in for a pretty tough time. The home we were renting was of masonry construction, and located near the top of the ridge tucked up against some rocks for protection. The villa was located about 20 feet below the roadway, so you park your car above and walk down some stairs to this view of Megan’s Bay.

patio before hurricane

After the hurricane hit, the view was somewhat different.

patio after hurricane

The patio roof, parts of the patio and the stairs to the road were all destroyed along with many windows in the villa as well as our rental car. In fact, the patio roof had hit the rental car and was somehow wedged underneath it.

patio roof wedged under rental car after hurricane

So, why is Microsoft such a great place to work? Because the people there truly care about their employees and their safety. Since the stairs to the road were destroyed, our wives would not be able to scale the wet and muddy rocks to get up to the road; we needed help. Fortunately, we were located about a tenth of a mile from the AT&T microwave center on the island and we still had cell phone coverage. I called my manager at Microsoft and explained the situation. He in turn reached out to the Global Security Operations Center and explained that I was on vacation in St. Thomas with family and friends when hurricane Irma hit and that we were OK, but we needed assistance to get out of our situation and return to the mainland of the USA safely. Within an hour he was contacted via Skype for Business by a Fusion Center Intelligence Monitor (FCIM). My manager gave him my cell phone number and he contacted immediately after that. The person who contacted me is part of a small team of 8 emergent threat intel analysts that are part of the Microsoft Center of Intelligence. They are currently assigned to the Fusion Center, which is an operation center located on Redmond Campus that handles worldwide life safety and security issues, operating 24/7. As FCIMs it is their job to provide real time collection and analysis on emergent threats to Microsoft and its personnel. This team of FCIMs used GPS location, mapping technologies, social media and many other resources to assist us in securing a rescue from our villa and transportation off the island. They were there to monitor our situation and help however they could with the advantages of complete power and internet connectivity on a regular basis until we had safely been rescued and off the island. This team normally just tracks business travel, but with the bad hurricane season this year and the ability to locate and contact me, this team assisted my family, our friends and two other employees and their families that were visiting St. Thomas. There were about 6-7000 visitors on the island and the local government wanted us to all get home safely, so they could begin the process of rebuilding. Using additional information received from the FCIMs and our rental owner, we secured passage on a cruise ship back to Miami, FL where we were then able to fly back to our home.

Without the great people who work with me at Microsoft, our rescue and transportation home would have been much longer and dangerous. I never knew that this team dedicated to our safety existed, but I am so glad it does, and I am so thankful for their assistance. I feel proud and assured this group exists to keep Microsoft employees safe when faced with dangerous situations. Obviously, I feel Microsoft is a great place to work and I invite you to join me. We are always looking for people to join us in helping our customers digitally transform their businesses to the cloud. If you would like to be part of my Team I Premier Developer, click on the ‘Careers’ link above and send us your resume. There are many opportunities available across the entire company right now.

Premier Support for Developers provides strategic technology guidance, critical support coverage, and a range of essential services to help teams optimize development lifecycles and improve software quality.  Contact your Application Development Manager (ADM) or email us to learn more about what we can do for you.


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