Changes, Three Ps, and More Changes

A little over five weeks ago, I got a new job (one of the things I find great about MS is that one can change jobs completely without going through the hassle of filling out new forms). In that five weeks, I was in Germany for four days, and off for two days for Thanksgiving, so technically today is my (…counting on calendar…) 23rd day on the Xbox team.

Admittedly, I’m still in the honey-moon phase, but I’m having a great time. But life just doesn’t seem to be as fun without a surprise here and there, and this career move wasn’t without exception. More on that later – but let’s first consider a bit of career advice.

One tidbit of career advice I often give is “The 3 Ps”. When you’re looking for a job (or evaluating your current position), you need to consider the Product, the People, and the Person.

  • Consider the Product – You’ll be more motivated and excited about your work if you have interest in the product (or the technical challenges regarding that product). On the corporate applications side of Microsoft, I honestly think that Lync (my old group) is freakin’ cool, but there’s no understating the sexy coolness of Xbox and Kinect either.
  • Consider the People – Nobody wants to work with a bunch of jerks. I don’t want to work with people who don’t care about their jobs. I happened to know dozens of people working on XBox (I worked with many of them on Windows 95 & Windows 98), and all are great people. When I was considering the move, I chatted with people on the team that I didn’t know – and they all had this vibe of loving what they do. To me, that’s the sign of a good team to work on.
  • Consider the Person – We all have to work for someone. Take time when considering a new position to make sure that whoever you report to (and ideally, their manager) are on the same page as you; and will support you and help you grow.

To me – the Person part of the equation is critical. I’m in a rare position at Microsoft – we don’t have many testers at my level who do not manage teams. Managing someone like me, and communicating my value (or lack of value) appropriately is a challenge. Because there are few of us extra-senior testers, there are very few managers who have experience using us effectively. I selected my last manager based on this criteria, and when I moved to Xbox, I used the same criteria. It was hard to leave a team where I had the 3 Ps, but the time was right, and I took the time to ensure that I would have the 3 Ps on my new team as well.

Three days into my new job, my manager called me into his office and said, “Welcome to the team – we’re having a re-org”. The details of the re-org aren’t important, but they make perfect business sense, and I’m excited about the change. Unfortunately, the manager I had carefully selected wasn’t going to be my manager any more – and with the upcoming release of the new dashboard, I wasn’t sure where I was going to land until a day or two ago.

So – with one manager on the way out, and another yet to be defined, I fell back on what I seem to do best – I did whatever I wanted. In the land of Xbox, I suppose that could mean a whole lot of Skyrim and Forza, but I dug deep into some testing challenges, looked at engineering systems, got to know people and basically spent a whole bunch of time figuring out how the org and technology work. I once considered a position at a company full of young folks where someone suggested that I spend at least a month or two “doing whatever I wanted” until I figured out what I really wanted to do. My recent experience wasn’t quite as directed as that, but I find it interesting that concept seems to repeat throughout my career.

The good news is that I’ve met with my new boss a few times, and I think we’ll work very well together. We’re still figuring out exactly what I’ll do (which is perfectly ok), but I’m completely comfortable with how he wants to use me, and although he’s still a bit of an unknown to me, I’m pretty confident my 3 Ps are still in place. I’m excited, and a little scared (another bit of good career advice), so I know I’m in the right place.


  1. Sounds exciting, Alan! Glad to hear it’s going well, even after the reorg.

    “To me – the Person part of the equation is critical.”

    I agree. If I can’t synch up effectively with my boss, then the rest of the team and the product aren’t nearly as important.

    We always hear that “people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses”. I know that’s certainly been my experience too.

    Over a year ago, we were acquired by a much larger company. One of the things that’s worked well for me (and I believe with my team, too), is to have stability in the management. My boss remains my boss, and my team still reports to me. I don’t know if that will continue in the long term or not, so we may yet have to re-evaluate, but so far, so good.

    Congratulations on your new job.

    • Absolutely – when interviewing for a position, remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. That’s true in any situation.

  2. Good luck, I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t love their job in Xbox!

    I also have to thank you: I recently read your book on testing at Microsoft to study up for an SDET intern interview and it helped immensely. I was previously on the fence about the test discipline, but your book really got me excited and interested in the field. I can’t wait to come out to Redmond this summer.

    • I love hearing people say that hwtsam made a difference in coming to MS. Feel free to look me up when you arrive. What group will you be working in?

      • Thanks! And I will be working in Windows Phone. I’m really looking forward to learning about the specific testing techniques used in the mobile space.

        • Great! Not only is the Phone group two buildings over from where I work, but Bj Rollison (one of the other hwtsam authors) works on Phone. You’ll need to look him up too.

          • Sounds great, I will definitely get in touch when I get out there!

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