Saturday, May 20, 2017

365 days at Microsoft UK

I completed my first year at Microsoft UK earlier this month. The fact that I haven’t been blogging is probably the best evidence for the best summary I can give: it’s been busy!

I work in a team dedicated to help some of our larger customers go to the cloud, giving guidance and architectural support across almost the entire range of Azure Services. I have retained one of my focuses from before joining Microsoft, on Azure Service Fabric, and have effectively become the go-to person in the team for this technology.

Working for a large American company – in the largest subsidiary after the US - with a deep hierarchy, moving from a small and agile company, was a big change. One thing I have found curious is that I have more autonomy and freedom in the way I approach each customer engagement or manage my time and where I work than I ever had at my own company. The culture of autonomy and collaboration runs deep, with everybody being encouraged to grow, rely and help others, and the fact that I’m working in what is by far the most interesting area of what the company is doing – Microsoft Azure – is a large part of what makes the challenge interesting. I have to admit I miss some things: working in close knit teams, having more technical depth with concrete problems, and having more participation in decisions that affect me personally.

I not only changed company, but also countries. I quickly noticed some differences between Portugal and the UK:

  • I have spent more time on the phone and conference calls in this last year than in the entirety of my career! The headset is always with me. Most of the meetings, either with colleagues or customers, happen over Skype. Even if f2f is important, traveling is expensive and time consuming.
  • The meetings start on time and very rarely overrun;
  • No “solutionizing” in meetings – most of the meetings I attend are either to communicate or to make decisions. Work is done offline. Most of the meetings, either with colleagues or customers, happen over Skype. Even if f2f is important, traveling is expensive and time consuming.
  • A lot can be achieved with 20 or 30 minute calls, if people are disciplined and focused. This was unheard of, back in Portugal.
  • When I came, my lunch slot was almost always hijacked by meetings. Days where I have 6 calls back to back are common, and if I want to protect my time (and sanity!) I have refuse meetings at lunch time, and make sure I reserve time for things like travel [to London or other places] or to do self-training.
  • A lot of work is done remotely, and the company doesn’t really care where I am physically as long as I am working towards reaching my targets and goals.

Regarding being in the UK in an extra professional environment, I do feel a big difference in scale and challenge, but not everything is positive: Brexit affected me (personally) a lot and hurt my image of the country massively – even if London is a world apart. Also, this country has a serious problem with infrastructure, from telecoms (e.g., GSM or 3G coverage) to public transportation with constant delays, problems and strikes. Comparatively, in Portugal there is a a service to be proud of! 

I had been lacking the inspiration and time to look back at this past year, but today I had by evaluation meeting, and thought it appropriate to retrospect. So there.