Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Free Soda at the Evil Empire

Last month, I went through the long interview process to get a writing job at Microsoft. I've been at Adobe doing essentially the same job for nine years. I like being a technical writer, and Adobe is right up there with Apple and Google in making interesting software, so in a lot of ways it's the perfect job, but . . . nine years?

While many writers move up in the organization to become middle managers, I've never wanted to be a manager -- more meetings, more email, no sense of accomplishment. And I particularly don't want to be a manager in my department at Adobe, where, um, I better not say anything, because this blog is actually getting more popular, if you can believe that.

With nowhere else to go at Adobe, I applied for a job at Microsoft. Microsoft's main campus is huge. A flock of Priuses takes workers from building to building. It's a 20-minute walk to get from Minette's building to Andy's building, and they're not even on opposite sides of the campus. On the day of my big interview -- I had already gone through an informational interview with the hiring manager and a phone interview with an HR rep -- I sat in a room with 8 or 9 people. As I went over my writing samples, responded to their questions, and asked my own questions, I had that odd feeling of wanting something badly that I wasn't really sure I wanted. One voice said, Please, please, please let me work here, and another voice said, Do I really want to work at Microsoft? It kind of reminded me of the time when a hysterical woman at the lake told me her daughter was swimming right over there and now she's gone, so we lifeguards cleared the lake and went diving to look for a little body that we didn't want to find.

The interviews went well, I liked every single person I ran into, I liked the media projects I'd be working on, and I believed I would "thrive" in that work environment. The only problem was the commute. I live 10 miles away from Adobe and 26 miles away from Microsoft. I don't want to ride my bike 26 miles each way -- that's almost four hours of riding -- and the drive across the bridge is nearly always stop-and-go traffic. Still, I thought I could work out several commuting solutions that involved driving one way and riding the other and combining riding with a bus that has wireless internet. I decided that if Microsoft offered me a job at my current salary, I'd take it. I even started packing up my personal belongings.

Microsoft offered me a job, but it was below my current salary. I still gave serious thought to making the change, but I decided that the first time I sat parked on the I-90 bridge waiting for the white van in front of me to lurch forward a few feet, I would have an argument with myself: "I can't believe I took a lower salary for this! Just shut up and drive. No, you shut up."

I didn't take the Microsoft job. So I'm still working at Adobe. You know, living the dream.