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Microsoft Kool Aid

Karl Palachuk

Karl W. Palachuk
July 15, 2007

As a technical consultant, I get to work with lots of nerds. One of my favorite nerds is Vlad Mazek. Some time ago he started using the phrase “drinking the Microsoft Kool Aid.” Whenever he talks to someone from Microsoft he asks them what flavor of Kool Aid they prefer.

We have adopted a similar theme in our business as we push Managed Services, a great system for delivering higher-level technical support to small businesses. Sometimes clients resist the new approach until we feed them enough Kool Aid.

But Microsoft Kool Aid is a lot more complicated than that.

I’ve worked with dozens (maybe hundreds) of Microsoft employees over the last twelve years. And while every human being is different, I’ve noticed some traits that tend to be consistent across MS folks.

First, they’re really nice people. Really nice. I’ve only ever met one true jerk who worked for Microsoft, and he didn’t last long. I have only met one jerk who worked as a contract employee.

Second, Microsoft obviously places a great deal of value on balancing personal and business lives. It’s no secret that I’m a big advocate of that. I’ve met people who moved thousands of miles for their family, and Microsoft has figured out a way for them to stay “on the team.”

Third, MS employees tend to really get into their jobs. I know I haven’t met all of them, but the ones I have met seem to have hobbies and work that are related. Server nerds have servers at home. People who work with resellers tend to do little consulting job with schools and churches. As a result, they learn what it’s like to be on the delivery side of the business.

Fourth, there’s a lot of change built in. People move up, down, and across the various divisions of Microsoft. They move from city to city, and occasionally from one country to another. They take on special projects. It seems that the organization is very vibrant and that people who want to excel are given every opportunity.

Have I worked for Microsoft? No.

Do I know what it’s really like to work there? No.

But from the outside, I see an organization that places value on people. I don’t know whether they just screen people heavily, or whether they work to mold them into the kind of employees they want. Maybe a little of both. But the result seems to be an organization in which really nice people work together, aware that personal and family matter are important. It seems to be a place where work and “life” are balanced, where people enjoy their jobs, and where people feel they have opportunities to grow.

I hope, as my business grows, that we can serve some of that Kool Aid.

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