Blue Badge - A Microsoft Memoir

Hi, I'm Eric Lawrence!

I was a Program Manager Intern at Microsoft in 1999 and 2000 (working on what became SharePoint). I joined full-time in 2001 and worked on Office Online before moving to Internet Explorer from 2004-2012.

In this book, I'll share what it was like to work at Microsoft during this period, as well as giving a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Fiddler and the authoring of my first book.

 If there's a topic you think I should cover, please drop me a line (@ericlaw on Twitter).

I hope to finish the book in the spring fall of 2015 2017 2018 202x?. With any luck, it'll be on Kindle and available for Amazon Prime members to borrow for free.

Thanks for your interest!


Authoring Notes

Jan 30, 2024

I've now been back at Microsoft for six years, with 17 years total tenure. I still daydream about finishing this book some day. I haven't given up yet.

June 26, 2017

I started full-time at Microsoft sixteen years ago.
Writing remains hard. But the misery of not finishing is building and I haven't given up yet.

September 16, 2016

Writing is hard. Especially with a toddler, a new baby, and a new job. I haven't given up yet.

July 21, 2015

I wrote up an anecdote about Organizational awareness on my blog.

January 15, 2015

After delivering my "Lucking In" talk early this month, I've decided that I will most likely publish on LeanPub. You can visit the page today to sign up for notifications when the book is published.

Slides and audio from my talk are here.  

January 2, 2015

Unfortunately, I've fallen quite a bit behind schedule in writing, but I'm hoping to catch up this month. I'm giving a talk, called Lucking In, loosely based on the book thus far.

June 23, 2014

One of the most effective ways to procrastinate while writing is to read other authors' work in related areas. The book that originally started me down the path of writing a memoir was Paramedic to the Prince. The book wasn't a work of great scholarship, but it was a proof point that a "normal person" who had some unusual experiences could write a very entertaining book. More recently, I read Stephen King's fantastic On Writing which is half-memoir, half-advice for aspiring authors; the book was somewhat intimidating (as it demonstrates how fantastic authors can generate work so much better than the rest of us) but I enjoyed it and learned from it anyway. This morning, I finished Rob Lowe's Stories I Only Tell My Friends; while I'm not really interested in celebrities or acting per-se, this was a well-written and entertaining book that chronicles both Lowe's career as well as the changes in the entertainment industry over the last three decades.

Now, back to my own writing.

June 22, 2014

As preparation for my memoir, I've started reading through old journal entries to help set some context around my employment history. Two days stood out in setting up my appreciation of the cushy life that Microsoft offers.

Aside: I'd never write anything this rude now and I'm sorta embarrassed by it but I like it as a reminder that I've actually toned the snark down a bit over the decades.

In my early teens, my dad, having decided that my older brother and I didn't have a proper appreciation for a hard day's work, arranged with a local farmer (I'm not sure how) to have us work on his farm for an afternoon. I spent a miserable afternoon on the back of a truck slowly tailing a tractor mower/baler, collecting and stacking its output of freshly-baled hay.

Over two decades later, I remember three things I learned that day...

1> Freshly tied bales of wet hay are really heavy,
2> I would not survive as a farmer,
3> I am, indeed, extremely allergic to hay

Six years later, a small software company that Anson and I worked for folded and I found myself without work in mid-summer. A journal entry from the period suggested that I needed to get back into software ASAP, before my snarky sense of humor got me killed:

Monday, July 27, 1998...

As you may have heard, I was let go by DiGioia and Associates (motto: "Save the company, fire the talent!") at the end of June. Being out of work quickly got boring-- see one daytime soap, you've seen 'em all, so I registered with a temp agency. Anson and I signed on with TeleReject Staffing (motto: "One company's scrap is another company's temp") with the hopes of a two-week assignment in August. Waiting for that assignment to begin, they offered me an 8 hour job for today, which I of course accepted, being an unemployed college student (motto: "Will work for ice water").

At the crack of dawn this morning, I eagerly fell out of bed to prepare for a day of "easy lifting and light cleanup," as my manager described it. It took a while to find the jobsite, located in Frederick County's industrial park, near Frederick Airport (motto: "Film at Eleven"). As an industrial park, I assumed I'd see children in hard hats on merry-go-rounds and jungle gyms, but alas, none were to be found. Eventually, however, I located the address, and rolled into "Automated Fabrication and Tractor Grease" at 7:15am, without a hint of the fun that awaited me in the day ahead.

I immediately met my colleague from TeleReject, a rather nice fellow named Danny, who confided in me that he already knew a guy named Eric. I remarked on the incredible coincidences found in life as we walked up to the office to meet our boss. Jim Bob Jones was obviously a major figure in the company: not only could he spit through the large gap between his front teeth, but he was permitted to do so indoors. Introductions were made all around, but they weren't really necessary; Danny and I were immediately given swell nicknames by our friendly coworkers for the day. I became "You," and Danny became "And you."

Before getting started, Jim Bob signed TeleReject's employment agreement. The fine document, written neatly in crayon on the back of a paper napkin, contains a stern warning about the treatment of TeleReject's employees: "Warning: Killing a temp, either intentionally or <giggle> 'accidentally,' while a commonly accepted (and often quite humorous) practice, incurs certain charges. Wasting a temp will result in assessment of MD State entertainment tax and an EPA mandated disposal fee." Jim Bob looked disappointed as he clumsily scrawled an X on the dotted line.

"And you" and I began our day by moving the large objects in a warehouse/workshop onto pallets for transport into the workshop next door. The steel shelves weren't too heavy alone, so they were welded together for our inconvenience. The jugs of carcinogenic chemicals weren't heavy, especially after Jim Bob dumped most of them in the parking lot. You'd never really expect 55 gallon drums full of scrap sheet metal to be heavy, but they actually are. The large metal closets full of equipment would not have been too heavy, if not for Jim Bob's insistence that emptying them for transport was a waste of time. To keep things interesting, the entire floor was carpeted in loose nuts, bolts, and washers.

Today, I saw my first forklift. Actually, I didn't see much of it-- when Jim Bob caught me looking, he informed me that temps were not qualified to look directly at such a magnificent and complicated piece of machinery. Apparently, we are only allowed to view such a marvel from our peripheral vision. On the other hand, it was probably fortuitous that I got quite good at doing so, since Jim Bob tried to run me over no less than 5 times.

After a long morning's work, I ran to my car and sped to the gas station down the road for lunch. I never knew the hot dog & sandwich line at Sheetz has a dress code-- I was politely asked to leave without disturbing the lunching auto mechanics and homeless people. I whipped my car into the gravel lot at AFTG with seconds to spare, eager to get back to work.

Upon return from lunch, most of the heavier equipment had been removed, so "And you" and I began to clean up the smaller items. To make up for their lack of bulk, each smaller item was coated in a delightful mixture of grease, oil, and grime. Box after box of miscellaneous supplies went on pallets for removal; all threatened to fall off with each bounce of the forklift.

Once everything to be saved was removed, "And you" and I were left with the task of cleaning the half-full warehouse. We began with the scrap wood, keeping all "pressure treated stuff longer than yay." (If anyone knows a redneck that can translate "yay" into feet, please let me know.) There was quite a bit of scrap wood laying about; even the 4x4s shorter than "yay" were a convenient tripping size.

Jim Bob helpfully deposited a dumpster in the middle of the work area; to make our job more interesting, he tracked in several pounds of mud in the process. In a fit of brilliant leadership, he ordered: "You. And you. Sweep the whole floor, one end to the other," and then he was gone. The pleasant breeze which blew through the warehouse started to become something of an annoyance. Imagine, if you will, sweeping sawdust across a half-acre factory floor, with a 10 mile an hour breeze blowing against you. I entertained myself by chanting "Would you like fries with that?"--training for a more lucrative and rewarding line of work.

The job would have taken an hour under good conditions, as it was, I have three hours' worth of blisters. By the end, I was promoted to Apprentice Broomsman, 2nd class... with proper training and the completion of my college education, Jim Bob thinks I could make Master Certified Sweeping Technician. After a completing our sweeping, "And you" and I were somewhat startled to uncover a white 1959 Chevy, mint condition. Jim Bob's boss/father Billy Bob was quite excited to have it back-- with 4 of his 5 pickup trucks up on blocks in the yard outside his trailer, he was starting to worry about how he'd get to tractor pulls.

TeleReject has a strict policy on safety, as described in the employee handbook: "If there is a lawyer in your family, don't touch *anything*. Immediately call your supervisor and await termination. Everyone else, do what the boss toldja." Being the good TeleReject employee I am, I followed the rules to the paragraph.

Overall, safety at AFTG was quite good-- an errant engine tried to sever my leg, but a conveniently timed fall limited the damage to a ripped pair of new jeans. The toxic chemicals we wiped up were not labelled, as to reduce the hazard. The water fountain passed a check for lead in 1973. Dangerous machinery was marked to OSHA standards, bearing faded cardboard signs reading "Keep the fuck off!"

Today was the second hardest day of work I've ever had. The first, baling hay on a farm in Michigan, required three weeks' recovery in the intensive care ward, as I'm extremely allergic to hay. But it was not without its fun moments and rewards. For instance, for about an hour or so, I got to lubricate small holes in machinery with my index finger coated in grease, which was almost as much fun as you'd expect--The machinery squeaked with pleasure.

All told, the cost of work today was merely a pair of new jeans, and the use of my thumbs for the next three months... although the doctors say the blisters may never heal after being soaked in oil for hours. I had a lot of fun, and I plan to recommend the "Labor" sector to all of my friends.

©2024 Eric Lawrence