Excerpts From “Inside Out, Microsoft–In Our Own Words”

From offerings of business acumen to humorous anecdotes, the book

Inside Out, Microsoft–In Our Own Words

provides a wide variety of insights and stories from Microsoft employees. Below are some excerpts and suggested reads that will give you a flavor for the book’s content.


Bill Gates, Chairman and Chief Software Architect

We started with a vision of ‘a computer on every desk and in every home.’ This book tells the story of how we turned that vision — which many critics saw as nothing but a fantasy — into reality. Hundreds of current and former Microsoft employees were interviewed about our first 25 years — the successes and failures, the personal and professional challenges, and their dreams for the future.

Looking back at what we’ve achieved in 25 years, I feel certain that we’ll have even more impressive things to remember in our 50th year. Every day, we’re finding new ways for technology to enhance and enrich people’s lives. We’re really just getting started.

Chapter 1: Think It, Build It, Bit by Bit

Kyle Larsen, Software Development Manager, Exchange, p. 57

I distinctly recall the look of inspiration in David Fulmer’s eyes. We were under warteam control — only a few weeks from shipping Exchange 4.0. It was not the time to add new features. But we knew that someday the Web was really going to catch on, and we wanted people to be able put a Web site address in an e-mail message, which you could simply click on to link to the Web. It was 7 p.m. And we new exactly what to do.

Dave added the code to the control and I added the code in the client. We reviewed the code intensely, and sometime after midnight, we copied the binaries with the new functionality onto the machines of our managers up the chain and then sent e-mail to them with various conspicuous links.

In the days that followed, we tried to leverage the people who were most eager to show that a large change this late in the project was a mistake. On one occasion, again near midnight, a bug was reported that the e-mail client was hanging when a message was opened. I walked to the building of the person who found the bug and saw that the offending e-mail message had a single line of more than 5,000 colons. The fix required just one line of code, and in the end the new code was rock-solid, which quelled all resistance to the change.

You can look around and see all sorts of functionality in Microsoft products that is changing the world because the people here are fearless of innovation at every level.

David Jones, Program Manager, Excel, p. 44

“Eric Michelman wired a joystick to the zoom setting in Excel to make it easier to navigate large spreadsheets. He called it the ZoomLever. He demoed it at one of our team meetings and asked if anyone had any ideas for what we could use instead of the joystick. I had just bought a new VCR that had a remote with a wheel on it, and I brought it in the next day to show him. Eric asked if he could borrow it, showed it to the hardware guys, and soon we were playing with IntelliMouse prototypes with wheels on them.”

Other essays that may be of interest:

  • Bill Gates, p. 5

  • David Vaskevitch, p. 8

  • David Cole, p. 27

  • Joe Belifore, p. 30

Chapter 2: From Inspiration to Market

Mohamed Jawad Khaki, Vice President, Windows Networking and Communications, p. 82

I think writing code is the greatest profession because there’s no limit to what you can achieve. It’s the ultimate way to express your intellect. You are your only bottleneck — how much you accomplish depends on how well you work out the problem, how creative you are, and how well you enable other people to build on your efforts.

Writing code is both a skill and an art. Once you acquire the basic set of skills, it becomes an art. Your mental process happens in many dimensions. You start by thinking through the flow, as an intellectual exercise. Then you build the code and actually see and feel it as it’s working. If you’re a civil engineer, you can do a design, but you don’t have the pleasure of actually building it. With software, I can conceive of the idea, get that idea translated to a design, build the code, and actually see the code run. That is very, very satisfying…

Dean Hachamovitch, Product Unit Manager, Online Games, p. 74

The night I told my parents that instead of going to graduate school I was going to work at Microsoft, my mom put down the phone and started to cry. I remember my father sort of raising his voice, and then my mom got back on the phone to say, ‘You’re throwing your life away!’

When the moving guy was carrying my three little boxes of personal possessions into the truck, he looked down at the piece of paper in his hand and said, ‘You’re going to Microfrost in Redmond? What do they do? Make refrigerators?’

Anyway, my mom eventually turned the corner. She has pretty much figured out what I do here, and about a year ago she stopped calling me up to ask, ‘And when are you applying to medical school?’

Other essays that may be of interest:

  • Charles Simonyi, p. 83

  • Sue Parker, p. 117

  • J Allard, p. 122-23

Chapter 3: What It Takes

Yusef Mehdi, Vice President, MSN Marketing, p. 153

“We aren’t a bureaucracy, we’re a meritocracy. This is a place where the most prized things are ideas, not titles. Honesty and hard work, too. And it all runs on open communication. Very fast, very free.”

Deborah Willingham, Vice President, Human Resources, p. 153

“Employees sometimes write email and send it to the alias that goes to every executive in the company. I love it when they do that. I’ve never seen retribution or complaints. For the most part, the execs say, ‘Boy, that was right on. We really need to think about that.’ So we just take it on. We’re a company that’s very willing to take on criticism, and I like that about working here. I like that about the culture.”

Other essays that may be of interest:

  • Steve Ballmer, p. 129

  • Zeke Koch, p. 154

  • Jeff Raikes, p. 170

  • Ed Fries, p. 187

Chapter 4: We’re All Swimming in the Same Pool

Christopher Jones, Senior Program Manager for Community Affairs, p. 231

“We’re discovering that technology can help Native Americans in many ways. For example, a lot of tribes are on the verge of losing their oral language, and many don’t have a written language. There was a period in the 1940s and 1950s when the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools discouraged kids from speaking their native languages. So most of the people who are now in their 40s through 60s never learned it and thus haven’t been able to pass it on to their children. Now, when these ‘elders’ pass on, so do the languages. Technology offers great hope for preserving both oral and written language as well as cultural traditions. We’re supporting several projects that are helping with this. It’s very cool.”

Emily Hine, Program Manager, Community Affairs Department, p. 240

“Microsoft employees take their community giving as seriously as they take their jobs. One of the coolest things I’ve seen here is just how entrepreneurial and innovative people can be around their philanthropy. Just as people don’t do anything halfway in their jobs, their philanthropy is also strategic and intentional. Instead of just throwing money at a problem, they really get involved in the solution…”

Other essays that may be of interest:

  • Hubert Daubmeier, p. 204

  • Marcia Kuszmaul, p. 219

  • Frank Schott, p. 234-35

Chapter 5: Where to Next?

Craig Mundie, Senior Vice President, Consumer Strategy, p. 251

“Part of my job is to think about what people do every day, how they use technology now, how they could be using it in the future, and what Microsoft can do to help make it easier for them. A lot of everyday activities are pretty complicated, but people need to perform them to live. Take groceries. Imagine that everything you buy has ‘smart’ packaging. This would allow sensors in your pantry, refrigerator, trash compactor, and recycle bins to keep track of everything as it comes and goes. You can also apply this kind of technology to other activities, like washing clothes. Today, most clothing has an itty-bitty label with washing instructions, which most people never look at. If the labels were smart, they could tell the washing machine to regulate the water temperature as well as the amount of soap. Just as an electric motor acts as an ‘amplifier’ for your muscles by enabling you to physically do more, the computer is an amplifier for your brain. It’s hard to predict exactly what we’ll do with that power. I like to think that by creating the software that makes the most of it, we’re ultimately going to make a big, positive difference in the world.”

Lyndsay Williams, Researcher in Hardware Systems, p. 268

“These days, you need an instruction book to use a computer, but I want to make devices that are simple to use. When you get a new pen, you don’t expect some instruction booklet with it. You pick it up and use it. Making a computer small enough to fit inside a pen is just a matter of eliminating things that are too big. A few years ago, I came up with the idea of using an accelerometer inside a pen to record handwriting movement. Accelerometers are used in car airbags. When you crash your car, the motion is detected and the accelerometer triggers the airbag. In the pen, it will detect the movement of your hand on the paper and use pattern recognition to determine what a particular set of movements represents. It will learn about your writing style as you use it, so it will get smarter over time. Whenever I sit down at a desk and use a computer, I’m struck by how limiting it is. Who says you have to sit in a chair to use a computer? Really, you should have the computer with you all the time, so it’s there whenever you need it.”

Other essays that may be of interest:

  • Bill Hill, p. 264-265

  • Eric Horvitz, p. 290

  • David Weise, p. 301

  • Gordon Bell, p. 293

For more information, press only:

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Microsoft, IntelliMouse and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.

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