Rangers Sabbatical, part 5 - Microsoft City

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Thu, 02/11/2010 - 10:48

800px-Microsoft_sign_closeup For more in this series, please visit the series index.

The second part of my trip, was a short stay in the city of Redmond (near Seattle, Washington, USA) which is where the worldwide headquarters of Microsoft are located. I knew it was big, but I suspected it would be more a big office park… I very quickly stopped thinking of it like an office park but rather like it’s own city, a Microsoft City because it is MASSIVE!

Let me take a step back here, I got off the bus from Vancouver and caught a cab to Microsoft. I expected to have to tell the driver where the Microsoft Campus was, but he knew – in fact he knew it so well, he even asked which building I wanted too (which did not help, since he still got lost looking for the building). Coming off the highway to Redmond all you see is the Microsoft Connector busses and shuttles (they have almost 60 busses alone) which are used to help the staff get around the massive place. A good review of all the transport, which is not just the busses and shuttles, is on the Microsoft Alternative Commuting page

I didn’t think to take a photo of the busses so here is one I found.

Once inside the buildings, for me that was building 41 (.NET Framework) & 25 (Team Foundation Server) you suddenly feel like you have stepped through the looking glass. Outside Microsoft looks very corporate, even sitting in reception in building 41 looks corporate (except the the people in shorts that walk past every so often); but inside the individuality of people and the passion of the teams shine. Everyone’s office there is different and reflects a lot of personality, be it covered with Australia themed items (like boomerangs) or Star Wars or cats there is plenty of variety.


Looking out of my temp office in Redmond, that is building 42 where ASP.NET finds their home.

The team passion also shines through when you walk around. There are monitors on the passage walls showing burn down charts, information on the number of outstanding bugs for releases and inspirational items. An example of the inspirational items I saw, was with the reporting section for TFS. This team have a section of the passage wall with a dozen or so different looking reports up there. I can imagine a developer standing there looking at them and getting inspired on how to improve their reports, or getting an idea on a different way to show data. For security and NDA reasons there are no photos of this, but if you looking for what it is like you should watch the a Channel 9 video where they tour the SQL Reporting Services team – it is EXACTLY like that.

In Vancouver I stayed with Willy-Peter and his family, which meant I needed a new family for Redmond and Charles Sterling agreed to open his family and house to me which was brilliant! Charles gave me deep insights into Microsoft life and the history at Microsoft which you would expect from someone with his depth of knowledge. However I did not know that Charles is also an AMAZING cook – the dinners at his house are some of the memories which I will remember for a long time. He also showed me what the life in America is like, things like shops being open at 10 at night, Netflix (which is a pipe dream in South Africa), self checkout (that is a dream for many criminals in South Africa) and played a lot of Halo 3 with me! It was a very enlightening experience and has really helped me normalise my views of America, which until then were very based off South African media and American movies and TV shows (oddly there is not nature disasters everywhere as shown in movies) so I owe Charles a huge thanks for all of that!

Unfortunately the time there was too short and too busy for me to do sightseeing, but I will fix that soon!