Getting a remote position at Microsoft with Scott Hanselman
We also talk about:
- how it is to work remotely for Microsoft,
- how to get such a remote position at Microsoft,
- making tech a more diverse place,
- starting with open source,
- and productivity.
Microsoft’s careers website
feeling like a phony
Rethinking how we interview in Microsoft’s Developer Division
talk about productivity
Scott Hanselman, is a partner product manager at Microsoft. Since years, Scott is one of the most successful tech bloggers, he has three podcasts and actively works on making tech a more diverse place.
Other episodes you'll enjoy
Read the whole episode "Episode 2: Getting a remote position at Microsoft with Scott Hanselman" (Transcript)
Michaela: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome the Software Engineering Unlocked podcast. I'm your host, Dr. McKayla and I opened the doors to software companies and thought leaders around the world. Today. I speak to Scott Hanselman about how it is to work remotely for Microsoft. How to get such a position about making tech and more welcoming place, open-source and productivity. I'm super thrilled for this awesome second episode. I hope you enjoy it. If you like it, support my work by spreading the word. Tell your friends about this podcast, shared Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. I promise you I will do a happy dance each time you do it. So I'm really happy that, uh, today I have Scott Hanselman on my show. He's a real role model to me. And I think to many others as well. If you look at his profile, you're probably just left wondering how does he do it all? Yes, three podcasts. He writes books, he live codes and he teaches and has a day job at Microsoft. He also has plenty of side projects, but the main reason why I admire him so much is that he actively works on making Tech, more welcoming place for everybody. I've never came across a more diverse podcast that inspires me over the years. So, yeah, I'm a big fan of Scott and I'm super happy that he joins me today. So welcome Scott. Thank you for being here.
Scott: [00:01:15] Hi, thank you. That was a very kind introduction.
Michaela: [00:01:18] Yeah, really a big fan. So Scott, there's so much that I want to talk with you and maybe let's start with the fact that you're actually working remote from your home office for Microsoft. You did that already many years before it was sort of cool. Right. And yeah, I listened to many tips that you actually had online, how to make that work, but. I also want to pick your brain today because I'm also working remote and, um, I'm a big remote advocate. What I wondered is how did you actually come to work remote for a not really remote company? So how did you manage to get that remote job?
Scott: [00:01:56] Well, it really kind of depends. I mean, Microsoft is 130,000 people. I think it was 90,000 when I started. And, um, it isn't fair. I think, to take a company that big and say, Oh, it's remote friendly or, Oh, it's not remote friendly. Microsoft is like a hundred thousand person companies, or it might even be a thousand hundred person companies and each one, yeah, it has their own kind of like style. Well, there's the larger Microsoft you know culture. Different groups are remote friendly. Are they and others. And I happened to work for the developer division. We're about, I think the numbers are 22% of our folks are remote and I just happened to be one of them. I was one early because I work here in Portland and I just did not have any interest in moving to Seattle. All my people are here. My parents are here, grandparents. My wife's family is here. So leaving Portland would mean leaving 20-30, you know, relatives. So it wasn't, I just insisted basically I think is the, the, the, the answer. And I was fortunate enough that the bosses, uh, agreed with me insisting.
Michaela: [00:03:07] So I'm also working remote from Microsoft, but my story was a little bit different. I actually joined the team for some time and then I went to work remote it's even a little bit more complicated than that, but yeah. So you started already applying for a remote position at Microsoft, or did you have sort of a time where you were actually on a team and then you started working remote?
Scott: [00:03:29] So I have, I started remote and have always been remote, uh, but it is worth pointing out that I, I happened to be about 250 kilometers away from Microsoft headquarters, maybe 300, so I can drive up there in about four hours. So. It's a long drive and it takes, you know, a good part of the day, but I'm remote, but I wouldn't say I'm like remote, like a New Yorker or I'm not Germany remote. Right. It's not a full day and a half of travel. So, well, it's inconvenient if I left my house around six, uh, I could get there by lunchtime. So if my boss called me, like right now, come and have a meeting with Scott Guthrie, uh, you know, I could probably get there before the middle of the year. Yeah. So that is a bit of luck that I've got in my location.
Michaela: [00:04:13] Okay. Yeah, that sounds much easier than for me working from Oregon. And you're working from your home office and you said you're, you could actually drive there, but how often are you driving to the Microsoft headquarter?
Scott: [00:04:27] Well, like I said, four hour drive is a long drive. Right. And it's, it's also quite bad with traffic. So it's about six hours on the way back. I think I go there maybe every six weeks, maybe every eight weeks. It really depends. Right. I mean, like what kind of thing has to happen in person? That's the question you have to ask yourself when you're doing it. Remote work, white boarding, you know, collaborating, really seeing someone leaning forward and seeing their eyes in more than just a web cam. When, when do those conversations have to happen? Certain, certain HR conversations, certain, you know, deep collaboration, long, you know, full day architecture sessions can, can work better in person, team building. But most day to day what I call administrivia, you know, administrative work, trivial work, uh, I don't need to be there to delete email. Yeah,
Michaela: [00:05:18] that makes total sense. And while you are also a lot on the road, I imagine, um, how much of your work day is actually traveling and giving presentations probably throughout the United States or even the world.
Scott: [00:05:32] That's, that's funny that you mentioned that because there's a little bit of a, like a. I think there's a perception when you follow people on social media, that they travel more than they do because time compresses. So there's people in my neighborhood, my family and who, not my, not my family in the house, but like my parents who think I'm on the road every other week, I'm on the road about three to four days a month. So that's about 10%. Michaela: [00:05:58] It's okay not that much Scott: [00:05:58] about 10% of the time. Thrice month is 30 days. It's about three days, you know, sometimes four, if I'm going to go somewhere farther, but I'll go to Europe and I'll be there for four days and I'll come back. But if you don't think about me for three weeks, and then you see me on Facebook and then you don't think about me and you see me on Facebook and I'm in another country. You go, Oh my goodness. That Hanselman is always on the road. What's the deal. Exactly. Yeah. So I think there's a little bit of a, of compression of time, but no, I wouldn't say on the most, most, most busy time would be a week a month. And that would be for something like build or ignite or one of those kinds of things. So I find it quite manageable.
Michaela: [00:06:36] Okay. And, um, if somebody would like to interview for Microsoft, do you think that their standard chance for interviewing for a remote position from the beginning on
Scott: [00:06:47] Oh yeah, definitely. It just, again, it depends on the, the
hiring manager and it depends on the group.
If you go to careers.microsoft.com and you search for the word remote though,
very often, you won't find anything. I don't think that our careers website has
caught up. With the things it needs to do to be friendly to remote. I recommend
that people interview the regular way, get as deep as they can into the process,
convince them that, that you're you're necessary, that you're required.
That you're the best. And then, you know, as you move your way forward into the
process, bring the remote issue up. And if they love you so much that they can't
not, they can't imagine not living without you then. Then they would hire you as
Michaela: [00:07:35] Then you have your remote position, right?
Scott: [00:07:37] Yeah. Yeah. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but you
know, that's what I think.
Michaela: [00:07:42] No, I think that's a good, a good strategy. What I was
wondering, especially for the hiring is. Well, you also talked about that in one
of your blog posts and you're, I think you're talking openly about that, that
sometimes people have these imposter syndrome or they feel like a phony and
especially for hiring, or if you're, if you're on the job hunt, you have to
present yourself in the best light.
Right. You have to give the impression that you can handle it all that they
can't live without you. And then, well, even for. Applying to jobs maybe are not
a hundred percent fit to the job description, but you still should still apply.
I think hiring being in this job hunt position is a really hard one because you
have to overcome this imposter syndrome, that feeling of being a phony and just
present you in a very.
Positive light, even though that can be sometimes a little bit tricky. What's
your thought on that?
Scott: [00:08:37] Yup. A hundred percent
Michaela: [00:08:40] just get through it.
Scott: [00:08:41] Um, no, I'm agreeing with you. Like I'm feeling like you
understand the challenge and the problem with this kind of thing. If you do well
in an interview, I had to, well, let me, let me give you another, let me back
up, I'll give you an example of someone who just got hired.
I've had about 14 people that I've encouraged to come to Microsoft and about 11
of them, Memphis and remote, and will most recently, one of them got halfway
through the interview process. They were starting to get an offer. They brought
the remote thing up. They thought the offer would disappear. But then they, he
said, well, I could come and live in Redmond for two months in an apartment, and
then I will be remote.
So they, they compromise, they negotiate. And then that worked out. Does that
Michaela: [00:09:18] Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. It, that, you're also showing
that you're well understanding the problems that come with the remote world,
because if you're starting with a team and you don't know them, right. It's,
it's quite a challenge.
You don't, you don't get it as easy if you're onsite and you can work through
like those two months and get to know everybody, get to know the processes. I
mean, Microsoft isn't, it's a big cooperation. So you have to also understand. How
people work, how the organization works and all of that. I think it's much
easier if you are onsite than if you're in your own home office and trying to
catch up, uh, what's actually going on around there.
Scott: [00:09:58] Hmm Exactly.
Michaela: [00:09:59] So are you, are you hiring, bring yourself, are you
involved in the hiring processes at Microsoft?
Scott: [00:10:05] So there's, there's two different things there there's that
when people say, are you hiring Microsoft, always hiring. Um, because there's
always people coming and going. There's always this seasonal come and go.
Like we're coming up on review time right now. And that's a very common time for
people to move to other, other projects, other divisions, or sometimes leave the
company. Uh, am I personally hiring? No, I have a team of four, but I do get
involved in the hiring process. So I'm very often on, what's called an interview
So if you come to Microsoft and do an interview, they call it a loop. Cause
you're kind of going around and talking to lots of different people. So I am a
very often when one of the loop, the looping interviewers
Michaela: [00:10:48] and what are you looking for? Um, in interviewee, what are
you looking at qualities? Are you looking for in a person that interviews at
Scott: [00:10:57] I've always said that I cared about problem solving. And
everything else can be taught. You know, if you come in, you're able to break
problems down. I am not interested in trivia or that, you know, MSDN or you've
memorized and API or, you know, everything there is to know about some keyword.
You know, I want to know that you understand systems thinking and how systems
work together and the recognition that there is a system.
Um, I gave an example recently where I was, I was helping volunteer at a, uh, an
event for some young people and they thought we were going to talk about coding
toaster's broken. Can you tell me how to fix my toaster?
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