Leaving Microsoft

Leaving Microsoft

On Monday, February 28, 2001, at 10:30 AM, I started my first interview at Microsoft. About 25-minutes in (10:55 AM), the ground started to shake. The Seattle area was being hit by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake. While the interviewer and I discussed climbing under his desk for shelter, we did not. We rode it out. In fact, I was so focused on the interview process that one-minute after the shaking stopped, I was ready to proceed. I wanted to work for Microsoft. As it turned out, March 19, 2001, was my first day. Tomorrow, January 11, 2013, will be my last (4,314 days later).

Microsoft receives a lot of bad press in the media and negative commentary from people; some of it is deserved and some of it is not. The vast majority of my experience over the last 11.8 years was very positive. That said, there is no question the review system can be tough, the decisions made by senior leadership can be puzzling and the bureaucracy can prevent speed and innovation. However, working with great people, helping customers solve problems and delivering (what seemed like) impossible results every year was meaningful and made it all worthwhile.

The greatest lesson that I learned at Microsoft was the importance of attracting, developing and retaining the best people possible. Great people make great things happen. As a leader, my style has always been to set the bar extremely high and do everything in my power to help the team and people win. Helping people win and move toward realizing their full potential is the greatest satisfaction of leadership. You really do lift yourself up by lifting others. Advancing and serving others is the biggest opportunity for leaders. It should NEVER be their biggest liability.

When it was announced that I was leaving Microsoft, I received a lot of moving emails, telephone calls, etc. One of the emails read: “I really appreciate the time you invested in me and wanted to let you know you have made a dramatic difference in my life.” After 12 years of delivering results, being promoted, etc., in the end, what I was most interested in remembering and being remembered for was helping others. It is the relationships you build during the journey that truly matter most. People may forget what you did or said, but they NEVER forget how you made them feel.

In 2001, Windows XP was being launched into a world where Microsoft had a favorable market position. Today, Windows 8 is the new operating system, but Apple’s iPhone (iOS) sales are greater than Microsoft’s total sales and the most popular laptop being sold on Amazon is running Linux (Chromebook). In 2001, Office was the leading productivity software. Today, while that statement is still true, Google is making serious inroads with GoogleApps. That is the challenge and fun of technology – change is constant and the competition never ends. I wish Microsoft the best.

All contents copyright © 2013, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.


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