I am thoroughly embarrassed to admit that I have worked, in one capacity or another, for a certain behemoth software company for nearly 22 years. That’s right, I was a child prodigy.
When I was first hired, Microsoft was in its heyday. As I walked around campus I was awestruck by the happy youth wandering the hallowed halls playing hacky sack and wearing inappropriate footwear in February.
I was giddy at the sight of the free drinks served on every hallway. And when Bill Gates showed up at every ship party riding in on a unicorn, well, I couldn’t believe I was actually being paid.
It was a Utopian society swathed in a golden haze where things moved in a soft-focus sort of slow motion and we privileged few were not of this world. We even had our own ultra-hip language – a blend of three-letter-acronyms, grunge slang and a few 1s and 0s. It was both literally and figuratively, Nirvana.
This was my life until I had to work on my first product release and there seemed to be a line- up of emergency vehicles queued up in front of various buildings carting collapsed employees out on stretchers. The young lions were dropping like flies.
In the caste system of Microsoft at that time, I was definitely an untouchable. I was in the User Education department relegated to “Documentation Assistant” which is just as glamorous as it sounds. I basically took a bunch of content that people much smarter than I had written and made it look pretty. Or, as we liked to call it, we polished the turds.
As turd polishers, we were secreted away in dark, inside offices like Morlocks. Many times I emerged at midnight to see my fellow Morlocks, confused and stumbling, in the hallway to make our way to more Mountain Dew and Twizzlers – you see, we had to hunt at night.
The good and bad of Microsoft is that there are constant re-organizations so you either end up losing a wonderful team to turmoil or you get to escape the insanity of a highly dysfunctional team. The latter was far more common than the former.
So, my days with my Morlock brethren were destined to be numbered as I was re-localized to the Localization and Translation group. Somehow I was both moving up and down in my career at the same time. I did get exposure to a lot of different cultural work styles in this time period. The Germans always did impeccable work and were on time though didn’t get most of my jokes. The French didn’t fess up to an issue until it was too late to fix and then they blamed it on the Germans. The Irish could not be found after 3:00PM though you forgave them because they were just so damned fun. So I had a crash course in international studies.
Before you ask: No, I do not speak any foreign languages other than Microsoftian. Though I can say “Click the button” in French. And, I’ve actually gotten to use that in an elevator in Paris one time when I told my husband to “choisissez le bouton” to our floor. I even said it with an affected roll of my eyes to seem appropriately annoyed, just like the locals!
In our next installment, Chapitre Deux – Irene Does Europe.