I joined Microsoft right after college, and during these 9 years I’ve learnt a great deal about technology, the tech industry and about myself. I worked on several iterations of Windows and Bing, using a myriad of frameworks and languages. Nonetheless, the people who I worked with are the highlight of this almost-a-decade, and today I want to share the biggest takeaways I got from them.
Don’t be scared of the Kool-Aid
At Microsoft, the mission of empowering everyone on the planet to achieve more is a powerful motivator; at Google, saying someone is ‘googley’ is the equivalent of measuring them against a high bar; at Amazon, their leadership principles are frequently used as jargon in meetings or documents. You might be tempted to mock or dismiss these culture bits as stupid or superficial, but in reality, a strong culture can help propel the company forward, in a single direction.
Every company has a source of Kool-Aid, and “drinking” from it consciously can help you become a more engaged employee. Analyze the culture objectively, extract its benefits and internalize them. It will motivate you and your team.
People hold the real value
I worked for about a year on Windows Phone, but that product is not in active development anymore. A product that is gold today might not even exist in 5 years. Products come and go, but the right type of engineers will adapt to whatever is next. They can make anything happen.
Empathy is a superpower
I’ve met engineers who consistently deliver impressive results. What’s their secret? They are amicable. Technological prowess is key for junior engineers to grow, but as they advance in their careers, another soft skill becomes increasingly important: collaboration.
Having a wider scope means working with a bigger team, with very different personalities. You might have a meeting with the most introverted person you’ve ever met, sitting next to the bubbliest person in the planet. Reading their body language, their tone of voice, understanding their feelings, their background… all of this becomes substantially helpful since it allows you to adapt your speech, tone and actions accordingly. Empathy can also allow you to quickly find common ground when a conflict appears, and to foresee an issue before it actually becomes a problem.
Mentorship can be helpful – if you are up for it!
Nobody is born knowing everything. Most teams will provide a ramp-up buddy when a newcomer arrives, but make sure you don’t confuse this with a mentor. A mentor is ideally someone senior than you and external to your team, with whom you can share topics or thoughts that you might not feel comfortable sharing with someone from your own team. Their advice is helpful because, most likely, they have already experienced whatever you are going through. They can guide you and provide unique insights.
The wildcard behind toxic people
Like anywhere else in life, big tech has people who only talk about themselves; they tend to magnify their accomplishments while reducing others’. They usually ignore anyone else’s feelings or personal situation. Avoid these people before they affect your work environment or personal life. Invest your time in people who care about those around them, who actively work to improve everyone else’s daily life.
There are 3 big pillars on anyone’s happiness at work: your manager, your team and your product. You can be perfectly happy if one of them fails. For example, even if you have a bad manager, you can still grow a lot if your team is full of smart and collaborative individuals and the product you work on is exciting and impactful. You can also be happy working on a boring product if you have an amazing team and a manager that gives you the right opportunities to grow. However, if any 2 of these pillars fail at the same time, it might be time to start looking for a new position.
‘Manage’ upper management
Never miss an opportunity to meet with your leadership team; pick their brains, figure out what makes them lose sleep, what they consider the top priority, etc. Talk about this with your immediate manager as well and work with them to make sure your work is as aligned or relevant as possible.
Find yourself, find success
Identify your passion and exercise it as much as possible. This will help you find your place in the company and will make you shine above those who mechanically execute orders. Following your passion will also make you a natural leader, people want to follow someone passionate about what they do because the hype is contagious.
I could talk about tens of other points, but I’ll give you one last piece of advice instead: regardless of where you work or what your role is, focus on learning. A constant personal growth not only will make you happy, but will also make you give your best self to those around you, and that’s where the magic happens.
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