A Year After Microsoft
Last night, Amber and I attended the company Christmas party for my employer, Jive Communications. It was an interesting day in another aspect also, as yesterday marked the end of my 52nd week as a Jive Communications employee. It’s been a year since I was employed at Microsoft and closed the book on perhaps the darkest and most difficult time of my life thusfar.
I’ve thought often about my time at Microsoft, those 2 1/2 years that began with mixed anxiety and excitement, and were shortly followed by a time where I wrote on this very blog how much I loved it there, to my surprise. It wasn’t long after that when the dark cloud settled in. After a year and a half of that darkness, I could see no future for me at Microsoft, no way to escape it and remain employed there. When a better opportunity came along, I left.
Before this starts to sound like an all-out bashing, let me be the first to say that it was me that brought the dark clouds in. It is admittedly a substantial oversimplification of a series of events that aren’t really all that important. The bottom line is that choices I made caused the badness to come. There were things I needed to learn about myself, really hard lessons, things keeping me from being better. I tried hard to learn them and get better, and after months and months of working on myself I thought I’d done a pretty good job. Microsoft couldn’t seem to let it go, though. I let the drizzle in, but it was Microsoft who called it a monsoon and insisted that the rain had to stay.
I went from a very large company to a very small one. At the time I joined Jive Communications there were just over 30 employees. Since that time we’ve more than doubled in size as our customer base has nearly tripled. I have never had so much fun at work, nor have I ever been so busy or productive or learned so much.
When I left Microsoft, I was told by the site management that me and Microsoft were not a good fit. I already knew that, but it seemed a cop-out for management to take that path. After a year at Jive Communications, though, I can see that they definitely were right, regardless of whether they should have accepted that excuse for their inability to keep me.
There’s a lot to like about Jive, but there are a couple of things I tend to settle on.
First, we have an amazing executive team. I know each of the executives well. They were probably the key in getting me to come to Jive. They are young, hungry, energetic, tenacious, and fearless, but among all of that, humble as well. They feel they can learn from me, and are willing to impart of their experience, knowledge, and worldview to me in exchange, and I’ve learned a ton from them.
Second, our dev team has a great culture of trust, empowerment, and execution. Trust is the key. There is no empowerment without trust, and no execution without empowerment. We eliminate distractions, we focus on the target, we empower people, and get out of their way to get stuff done as quickly as possible. We forgive people when they make mistakes so long as they learn and improve. And we have a lot of fun.
I think what sets Jive apart from other places, however, is the degree to which we care about each other.
When I’d received my offer, Jive took my wife and I out for dinner to give us a chance to meet all of the executive team and their spouses. This dinner stood in stark contrast to other company dinners I’d attended before. You could tell that all these people really, truly liked each other. The spouses knew and liked the other spouses, and everyone knew everyone else’s name. We were there at dinner talking for two hours before we mentioned anything about work, just telling jokes, talking about movies or TV shows or books or music we liked, commenting on what each other did for fun. When work did come up, it was my wife who had the spotlight, not me. She asked about things that mattered to her, and she got very candid and honest answers from the spouses, not the company line from the executive team.
She’s never felt such a part of my job before, never felt so much that my employer cared about her opinion. A year afterward she feels even more this way.
This feeling of a bunch of people trying to pull together and win is incredible and awfully unique. I love walking around the rest of the company, seeing face after face of people that matter to me, knowing that we are all doing what we can to win together. It’s pretty amazing.
My team is hiring, by the way. If you aren’t a good fit where you are, maybe it is time for you to consider a new opportunity also.