Unfortunately I've been bad at writing Blog entries the last two weeks. :-(
One of the distractions has involved moving my office again. This is a standard event at Microsoft, and happens regularly as different product teams grow or reorg in size. According to a recent MicroNews chart (our weekly Microsoft newsletter) there were 25,155 office moves at the Microsoft Redmond/Issaquah buildings alone over the last year (which translates into a lot of packing/unpacking).
This particular move was a very welcome one for my team -- since prior to it we were distributed over two wings of a large building. I find proximity one of the key things to building team focus and energy, and so jumped at the chance to consolidate all of us in one place (we now own an entire south wing floor of the same building).
At Microsoft, we use the word "campus" to describe where we work -- since the buildings are spread out somewhat like a university setting. The campus includes a baseball diamond and soccer field, various outdoor basketball courts, and a small pond (appropriately nicknamed "Lake Bill") which is nice to lunch next to in the summer. Various senior execs have either been dumped into the pond, or forced to swim across it, by cheering employees to celebrate key moments during the company's history.
All but two of the buildings on campus are new ones that have been built by Microsoft over the last 20+ years we’ve been headquartered in Redmond. The location before Microsoft arrived was a sparse forest primarily used by people doing dirt-bike racing on the weekends – although you’d never guess that if you saw the sprawling campus today.
Building numbers at Microsoft are based on the order in which the company received planning permission to build them – not the order in which they were actually built or the numbers of their surrounding buildings. This tends to confuse the heck out of people who expect that Building 25 would be next to Building 26 – when in reality they are on completely opposite sides of the campus from each other (Building 25 non-intuitively sits between Buildings 20 and 21).
One of the fun games that used to be played with new hires was to have an anonymous person call them late in the day telling them that they had to pick up a new security badge in Building 7 – and that they had to hurry because they closed in 20 minutes. The poor person would then frantically run around campus trying to figure out where the building was (usually expecting it would be in the vicinity of buildings 4, 5, 6 or 8, 9, 10). After getting very lost, confused and anxious, someone would finally take pity on them and explain that there was no Building 7.
Building 7 was originally slated to be next to 6 – but was never built. Because the company was expanding so quickly, it was decided to make Buildings 8, 9 and 10 twice the size of the previous ones (which involved using up most of the space originally intended for Building 7). Sticking to the building permission naming pattern, the new buildings were named 8, 9 and 10. Building 7 lives on only in mythology (it was a location in the fictional MicroSerfs book). Sadly – the increased prevalence of campus maps in every building lobby prevents this game from working as effectively in recent years. :-(
Different buildings at Microsoft tend to have slightly different atmospheres depending upon their size, shape, and the era in which they were built. The original 1-6 buildings tend to be laid out a little more close and intimate (they also only have two floors). Buildings 25 and higher are a little more corporate and spacious. I’ve worked in 5 different ones over my career at Microsoft: Buildings 26, 6, 31, 10 and 42. With the exception of Building 10 (whose mirrored double X wing layout scheme was so hopelessly confusing I sometimes had trouble finding my own office), they’ve all been great.
Building 42 has been my home for last 4 ½ years, and is probably my favorite (lots of space, tons of conference rooms, and a great view of the Cascade Mountains). It is also a little unique in that it straddles the line between the cities of Redmond and Bellevue. This was apparently something of a challenge when getting planning permission – since Redmond had a town ordinance that prevented buildings from being more than three stories tall, while Bellevue allowed an unrestricted number of building floors to be built.
Microsoft wanted the new Building 42 to be a nice four stories tall -- but despite the fact that 2/3rds of it would have lived in Bellevue, the planning permission folks in Redmond apparently insisted that it not be more than three. After a lot of wrangling, they finally reached a compromise whereby the 1/3rd of the building that lived in Redmond was built to be 3 stories tall – and the 2/3rds of the building which lived in Bellevue was built to the full 4 stories in height.
If you are ever driving past campus on 156th Avenue, you can spot the exact Redmond/Bellevue city border by seeing where an otherwise normal, professional looking building suddenly changes height.
As of last weekend, I now live in the part of it which is 4 stories tall….