Laid-Off Microsoft Employees Profiled

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-03-31 Print this article Print

The New York Times recently ran an article about the realities of being let go from Microsoft, a technology company not historically known for letting go of its own talent. In the past, those who left did so on their own or cashed out and retired comfortably.

Things have changed.

Earlier this year, Microsoft, one of the largest software companies on planet Earth, announced that was letting go 5,000 of its 90,000 employees between 2009 and 2010. Not a huge number, but certainly an indication that things for everyone in tech have slowed down and need some adjustment, especially when you answer to Wall Street, have had failed deals with Yahoo and consumers aren't spending dough on Vista or much of anything right now.

So, how have the changes affected former Microsoft employees? Depends on whom you ask and their personal situation. Some are quite concerned, some have moved on to new endeavors beyond tech, but some are taking it in stride and are finding the positive where possible. Take this gentleman interviewed for the NYT article:

Joshua Corneil, who came to Microsoft after college three years ago and was laid off in January, sees a silver lining in being one of the first to be let go.

"I'd rather be in the first 1,400 and get the first shot at the job market here," he said. "Right now, small companies see me as Microsoft talent, Microsoft trained, and that's a big deal to them," he said. "My performance reviews show them it was the economy and not my performance that lost me my job."

He makes a very good point. Microsoft is well-known for acquiring--emphasis on "acquisition"--top talent for its multitude of business lines. It is also known for giving extensive training and, if you got in at the right time, Microsoft had the kind of long-term perks through stock options that afforded many a technologist the opportunity to retire young. Things have changed. More from the NYT article:

When employees left the company in those days, it was overwhelmingly by their own choice. They were off to a new adventure, starting a business or a charity, or just planning to have fun, said Rob Horwitz, the chief executive of Directions on Microsoft, an information technology analyst firm that has been tracking the company for 17 years.

Notable alumni from that time rebuilt the Professional Bowlers Association; created the charity Room to Read, which builds schools in poor countries; and founded the Cranium game company (which was sold to Hasbro).

Other Microsoft alumni started venture capital firms or followed more personal dreams, creating enterprises like the Cameron Catering Company of Seattle, which focuses on green events, or the Casa Cupula, a bed-and-breakfast for gay travelers in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. One alumnus built his own airplane and another rode along with Russian cosmonauts on a space mission. The sky was literally the limit.

While things have certainly changed at Microsoft, its dominance in the office still reigns and will continue to evolve in software development. While many will argue that Microsoft is losing out to open source and Web-based development, Microsoft is not standing idly by with its technology.

The rest of the economy and job prospects are anyone's guess. |

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