Former Microsofties, Can I Tell Your Story?

One of my blogging goals is to shift the focus away from dry technology to people, whether they be innovators or consumers. Focus should be the people and the stories they tell. That’s what Oddly Together is really about. Today’s unexpected Microsoft layoffs—800 employees—is good opportunity to tell stories.

This afternoon, I blogged about the layoffs at Betanews; late last night, TechFlash first reported that layoffs would come today.

For perspective, massive layoffs are fairly new to Microsoft, which announced the first ever of 5,000 in January. The axe fell again in May, with signs that the worst might be over. Sadly, there is another round, with perplexing timing and ominous overtones. In May, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wrote to employees:

As we move forward, we will continue to closely monitor the impact of the economic downturn on the company and if necessary, take further actions on our cost structure including additional job eliminations.

If Steve’s statement is taken as written, Microsoft’s fiscal 2010 second quarter may already be rocky, despite first quarter results that beat Wall Street expectations. There is always the question of where more cuts will fall and, gasp, will anonymous insider Mini-Microsoft be among them?

I’m now more concerned than ever that Microsoft will cut more muscle than fat, something I expressed in January 2009 Microsoft Watch post, “Microsoft Cuts Its Future.” What of today? After I posted to Betanews, hasanamad tweeted: “don dodges firing was most stupid.” I’ll agree with that sentiment. In personal blog post, “Goodbye Microsoft, the next chapter,” Don wrote:

Microsoft announced more layoffs today, and I was one of them. This was a total surprise to me, and management offered no explanation. This is pretty standard procedure, mostly for legal reasons, but none the less left me with a cold feeling…but only for a minute or two.

Don had been responsible for business development in Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington aptly expresses my sentiments:

“Letting Don go is a huge mistake for Microsoft. He nearly singlehandedly defends the Microsoft brand in a fairly anti-Microsoft developer and user community. For many people in the startup community, Don is the face of Microsoft. He travels constantly, speaking at events whenever he’s asked, and makes a big effort to give young startups the attention they deserve.

I expect other layoffs will cut close to the bone, as Microsoft trims more muscle than remaining fat.

Can I tell your story? You can be anonymous, as to not risk losing severance. I’m not looking for angry “get-back-at-Microsoft” stories, but true ones. What can you reveal about working at Microsoft and the company culture. You can reminisce about your time there, for good or bad. Anonymous or identified, the choice is yours.

If you are a former Microsoft employee, whose identity can be verified (but not necessarily publicly revealed—that’s your choice), please contact me:

Your story should be heard, and mine is a sympathetic ear. On October 30th, I crossed six months of unemployment. I feel your pain, and hope you find a permanent position faster than me.

Update March 30, 2010: I chose to post the stories at Betanews, to give them greater exposure. There were four stories and one analysis posted in early February 2010:

Do you have an econolypse story that you’d like told? Please email Joe Wilcox: joewilcox at gmail dot com.