Rob Relyea


Job search brought me to Microsoft R+D

I ran across a blog post complaining about the site.  I found it because my feedster search for WinFX found it.

I commented on his blog, he used my Contact link to email me, and I just fired off an email that might be useful by others?  (of course, now that I start to post it, I spend more time on it...)

Todd said that he was thinking more about the advice I had left in my comment of his original blog:

"My tip: figure out the set of products or problems that you are passionate about and look for jobs on those teams. (As you mention, it isn’t always easy to map from a product to the job listings…)"

He said:

"...when your passion is developing any and all software and you're relatively open minded around what you want to work on, you're bound to get a lot of results. I was just hoping that there was an easier way to narrow down my search results."

I replied:

Groups are going to think you are more attractive if you have more background, expertise or passion in their area. You know about their product, you have ideas on what they do well and what they can do better, etc...

I had similar problems when I got my first Redmond based job at Microsoft...

After college (B.S. '93 Computer Science at Michigan) I started off as a Systems Engineer in the Microsoft field (worked in the Chicago Office.) I was lucky to be in the first round of hiring that Microsoft had ever done out of college for that position. That position is now called Technical Specialist. I worked with a variety of customers and on a variety of technologies. I built a great set of skills dealing with customers, public speaking, and learning many technologies.

Although I knew a good amount about a lot of things, I wanted to get closer to product development.  I had a bunch of exposure to Program Managers...and I yearned for a role like that.  I wanted to be the absolute expert in an area.  I wanted to help build great products. I didn't exactly know which group to go after.  I decided to start with Visual Studio as I was very interested in developer technologies.

2 interviews in the Visual Studio group didn't pan out - the product manager interview said I was too technical...the program manager interview said I was too marketing.  :-)

I realized I had to do some more preparation.  My coding skills were 5 years rusty, so I went online, did a few C++ projects from a Computer Science class at some school, and re-read a few books about COM/OLE2.  That preparation sharpened my skills for the next job I would go after.

I understand Todd's frustration with the job site.  Back in 1998, I wrote a tool to keep track of jobs posted in an access database, because the internal online system was inadequate.

I rolled up my sleeves and continue my search for a great role for me.  I found two great jobs where I had strong knowledge and passion:

  • program manager in the COM group
  • program manager in the IE group

In my Systems Engineer role, I had become an Internet Specialist.  At the time, I was giving 3 hour training sessions to midwest developers about DHTML, IIS programming, MTS and more.  Both areas excited me...and I was fairly deep in both areas.

I pursued both of those jobs and ended up getting an offer from both groups.

I chose the IE job...and spent 1998-2001 working on DHTML in IE5 - IE6.  I've been working on the Windows Presentation Foundation ("Avalon") ever since then.  I love buidling software.  I love working with a bunch of hard working, brilliant people.  I love working at Microsoft.

Some lessons I took away:

  • Do soul searching as part of any job search.  What do you want out of your job?  What are you passionate about?
  • Learn from failures, don't give up.
  • If you don't have all the right skills, go find roles where you can grow in that area.  Or go polish your skills on the side.
  • Follow your passion.

Good Luck!



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    January 14, 2006 1:16 AM

  • Like the Vista beta 2 so much you want to work on the OS for real? You're in luck. Microsoft's career...
    January 14, 2006 1:16 AM

  • Like the Vista beta 2 so much you want to work on the OS for real? You're in luck. Microsoft's career...
    January 14, 2006 1:16 AM
  • Rob Relyea said:

    I stumbled on this channel 9 thread about a developer interviewing at Microsoft for a job building a

    February 15, 2008 7:48 AM
  • Job search brought me to Microsoft R+D - Rob Relyea

    December 3, 2014 4:13 AM