I'm not the sort of person who believes all good things must come to an end. Microsoft has been an incredibly good company at which to work. I have, however, a chance to do something that is extremely meaningful, all the while pursuing interesting technology into which I have a unique input as one of the company's co-founders. For that reason, I am choosing to bring this current good thing to an end as I pursue life with a communications-related startup.
This startup will require regular travel to Africa in the near-term, an exciting prospect that will rack up frequent flyer miles even as it sends me into a permanent state of jetlag. We have larger ambitions, to be sure, and I certainly see us bringing our products back to this hemisphere once they are more fleshed out over the coming year. For now, however, Africa makes a lot of sense, and so that is where we are going to concentrate our efforts.
Microsoft is a hard place to leave, and it isn't just because of the stellar benefits. Microsoft is a company full of really bright people with a keen interest in technology. Hallway conversations during trips to Mountain View (my corporate office home for this LA-based migrant worker) are different than any I have had at any other company. The intensity can sometimes translate into weird meetings where participants engage in the verbal equivalent of intellectual chicken, but I'll take intensity over sleepwalking any day of the week (in case you hadn't noticed, I'm a rather intense person myself). To be frank, if it had not been for this new opportunity, I would likely have stayed at Microsoft for a very long time.
I am, quite simply, a different kind of programmer after three years working at Microsoft. My father described going to work at Microsoft as akin to joining the major leagues after a career spent in the minors, and that comparison holds true still today. Working at a company of the size and importance of a Microsoft boosts your confidence and steels you to situations you never have to face as a contractor or an employee of a smaller company.
I've had some of my most humiliating moments as an IT person at Microsoft, such as the time I had to give a presentation to a group of content industry suppliers only six weeks after joining the company (six hours of being flayed alive is how I describe the experience). I've also had some of my proudest moments, such as the fact that Bill Gates responded three times to Thinkweek pieces I have authored.
Even bad situations, however, are extremely useful. That painful meeting, though grueling, served as a backdrop that made future meetings seem like a cakewalk. In the end, it has made me better positioned, mentally, to tackle the challenges of a small startup. That is a debt I will always owe to Microsoft.
I will continue to have a strong interest in the company, an interest that predates my employment by many years. That interest will continue to be reflected in this blog.