Retrospective: Leaving Microsoft

27 March 2012

Tuesday, March 27th was my last day at Microsoft. After 8 years I am finally taking the plunge and switching companies. I have been doing a lot of reflection about my this job, and wanted to share my conclusions.

Smarts

  • I love to work with smart people; I am always be learning, if only by osmosis.
  • A strong engineering group has effective mentors. Lose that, and we're doomed.
  • I can never know enough smart people.

Pride

  • I take pride in my work. It is a personal thing; I have private standards of quality and performance that I am not willing to compromise.
  • The colleagues I trust most take pride in their work, also.
  • I try to admit when I make mistakes. I don't try to play politics. I am proud of this, because doing this requires a constant struggle to stay honest with oneself.

Curiosity

  • I always need to learn something new. If I am not learning some new trick, best practice, or language, then I get restless.
  • I like to play with my work. I like to experiment. I am not happy if I don't have the time to do that, and be recognized for it.

Trust

  • Trust is my ultimate currency. I have a very hard time working with people I do not trust and respect. A good software and IT team will have professionals that trust each other to do the right thing.
  • The best technical people I know have a finely tuned BS meter. They recognize spin and buzzwords instantly. You can't fool them.

Balance

  • Work-life balance is critical. I am taking a 30% pay cut in order to work 35% less, because the hours were so long. It seems a wise trade.
  • A study has shown that the #1 regret by seniors was they had worked too much, and didn't spend enough time with their friends and family. I do not want that to be me.
  • Other studies have shown that working your staff more than 40 hours a week doesn't improve productivity, and in fact harms it in the long run. A smart business doesn't overwork its employees, because it knows that doing so makes no business sense.
  • Email, Visio, Powerpoint, meetings, planning documents, etc...the overhead is necessary in any company. But it should be kept to a necessary minimum. Customers don't pay us to be in meetings all day.

Joy

  • I like to celebrate victories. Especially my teammates' successes. I want to be happy for them, and not jealous.
  • I like to work in an environment that's fun. Ideally one with NERF gun battles
  • If possible, I like to work with colleagues that have a complementary sense of humor.
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Car Buying Best Practices

22 February 2012

This is a collection of best practices for buying a car, compiled from several dozen Internet sources.

Process

  1. Write down what features you must have, want to have, and don't care about.
  2. Do Internet research on which cars fit the bill.
  3. Eliminate all cars that don't have your list of must-have features.
  4. If there are more than 8-10 cars remaining, eliminate the ones that barely fit your list.
  5. Test drive the remaining cars. Take notes about what you like and don't like. Remove any cars you don't like.
  6. Collect information about specific cars. Find the top deals.
  7. Call car dealers and sales folks, make them bid for your business
  8. Test drive the specific car you like. Inspect it carefully. Have a professional mechanic to inspect it for problems.
  9. Buy the car.
  10. Celebrate!

When test driving a car, check on:

  • Acceleration from a stop
  • Engine sound when cold
  • Engine noise
  • Does the car drift left or right when driving straight?
  • Hill-climbing power
  • Braking
  • Cornering
  • Turning radius
  • Suspension
  • Rattles / squeaks

Before Arriving:

  • Agree to the price on the phone, before arriving
  • Run a history check on the car
  • Ask salesperson to email all of the taxes, fees, and price first
  • Call your state DMV and ask about liens against the vehicle

Car Inspection

  • Ask about the warranty
  • Ask about return policy
  • How worn is the brake pedal? Too much, and it's shady
  • Check outer edge of driver's seat for wear
  • Go under the floor mats. Check for water damage (leaks)
  • Check the outer edges of the tires. If they're worn, the front end is out of alignment
  • Check for paint on the moldings/lights. Sign the car has been re-painted
  • Check the engine. Is anything dirty, rusty, or worn?

Negotiating

  • Always be ready to walk out
  • Don't get attached to any car
  • Dealerships - end of the month is better
  • Don't sign up for add-ons
  • If you don't get it in writing, it does not exist.
  • With a finance-and-insurance person, don't get upsold. That's their job, after all.
  • Read the contract carefully
  • Make sure you get a clean title
  • Ask about return policy, get it in writing.
  • Do not sign an 'as is' paper. Anything that says that needs to be removed
  • Ask for the car's maintenance record.
  • Only go for normal fees
    • License fees (title, registration, price set by each state)
    • Documentation fee
    • Smog (price set by each state)
    • Sales tax
      • Based on average fair market value of the car
      • Not the purchase price
      • Comes from Price Digests
      • Rate is .65% from the state, .30% from King County
      • Clark County is .12%, for a total of 0.77%
    • Fees to question/call BS
      • Dealer fees
      • Dealer Prep
      • Shipping
      • Advertising fee
      • "Internet" fee
      • Window VIN etching

Considerations:

  • Still under factory warranty?
  • Does warranty transfer to new owner?

Tactics:

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