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<Stuff I have learned at Microsoft ⁄ >




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Coming up on five years (and many teams) at Microsoft, there are a few things I've picked up along the way that I definitely didn't know about when I left college. Call them core values, things I've learned, lessons learned, things I scream at my friends to do more of, whatever - they've served me well.

Some of these are Microsoft-specific but most will apply to any team/corporate environment. Some of these are tricky - they can get you fired (or worse) if you don't know what you're doing.

Ask for forgiveness, not for permission

Any sufficiently large institution has something to lose. Credibility, money, power, you name it. Ergo, any request for something new and risky is met with caution. Be it a new proposal or a new project, it is safer to say 'No'. Corporate systems are optimized for saying no. Maintain the status quo. No risk of failure and a spectacular blowout.

This is exactly why you are better off going ahead and doing something without asking first. If you don't ask, no one can tell you to not do it. Have an interesting idea for a side project? Go code it up. If you ask someone first, you'll probably get told "Go consult with team X,Y and VP Z" and face an endless spiral. Want to write a blog post on something you care about? Go do it.

Obviously, you need to know what you're doing. Don't do something obviously stupid. Making a post about unannounced feature X? Bad idea. Checking in code without telling anyone? Very bad idea. Sending an angry flame mail to the wrong VP? Depends (but typically not a bad idea). Like with any risk, there are downsides.



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