Looking back upon a year gone from Microsoft

It came so quickly when it all happened.  A calendar request from my manager the night before just saying we need to have a meeting at 9am the next morning to discuss organizational changes.  Considering my manager lived in Delaware and having read a lot about Stalin’s purges in 1927-28 and then again in 1936-37 I understand the meaning of short and unexpected requests.  Funny how Kevin Turner kind of looks like Stalin, but that’s another blog ( I promise not to throw anyone else under the bus during this blog, but for the record I enjoyed that jab).

When I got to the office I knew it was coming.  I was pulled into the conference room my manager was there and a woman from human resources.  It was short and sweet.  My manager said next to nothing.  The HR person just issued directives. Here is your paper work please read and get back to us.  Now go home.  It was November 4th, 2009 and at 9:15 my 18 year career at Microsoft was over.  I started at Microsoft on November 4th 1991, the irony.

With the sad and cold part of the blog over let the light begin to let light shine once again.  How Microsoft handles letting people go is very gracious.  You get a severance package that takes into account your years of service.  They get you set up with an employment councilor.  Get you on COBRA for health care coverage for a specified amount of time.  And for the first time in my life I started collecting unemployment.  It was a lot of paper work, but all in all it went pretty smoothly. 

Probably the most asked question for me since I departed is “What is life like outside of Microsoft?”.  It is a fair question after so many years inside Microsoft’s walled garden.  At Microsoft your are indoctrinated into Microsoft’s view-point of the world of technology.  Especially early on when the vision was sound and the direction clear.  The last 8 years I cannot say the same.  There are significant cracks in that wall.  When I left on the corporate network there were 7000 iPhones and finding people who owned and used a Zune was difficult.   As I have said before in a technology company having technical visionaries is important.  There are lots of them outside of Microsoft – in fact I rarely here any type of visionary statement from Microsoft.  The exception being Ray Ozzie, but he is leaving.

Are there jobs?  Yes.  There are a lot of companies hiring.  Locally Amazon is big however I have yet to talk to anyone who likes working there.  Other companies of note are SalesForce.Com, VMWare, Google, Facebook etc..Then there is the contractor route.  Many former colleagues have gone back in this capacity but I never considered it an option.  However it is a good deal.  You get better pay for jobs with less stress.  Not challenging work but a good lifestyle change.

Another benefit was I had was the 7 months where I did not work and I loved every moment of it.  I walked my kids to school everyday. I got involved in their school.  I visited my mom a lot (she has Alzheimer’s, but time well spent).  I worked out a lot and got in good shape,  I even did some of the classes available at my local YMCA.  I started this blog, which I continue to enjoy writing to this day.  I got caught up on a lot of reading.  Visited with friends over coffee.  I took my youngest son with me to Denmark with stops in Iceland and Sweden.   I got my Soccer National “D” Coaching License.  Life was great.

Is there a downside?  One word…healthcare.  If you have not followed the healthcare debates in this country when you leave Microsoft you will understand far better the sheltered life you have been living.  For 18 years as both a single individual and married with children I simply provided the hospital my card and was pretty much done.  I did not have huge premiums come out of my paycheck.  It was simple and I and my family were taken care of.  Once you are gone you have to pay.  My Cobra payment had I had to pay everything out of my own pocket (MS and the government were helpful here) would have been $1700 per month.  Today I pay about $450 a month out of my paycheck and the coverage is not nearly as good.  I have talked to others who have thrown out numbers as high as $750 per month per paycheck.  If I made 40k per month I would have to pay at least 10%-15% of my paycheck for healthcare.  Cost will continue to rise and the percentage of our paychecks will either go more towards healthcare or we will have to accept less.  There is no end in sight.  We live in a country where healthcare is not a right, but simply a fear to feed our nightmares.

I cannot tell you what my post Microsoft life holds for me, even though I am a year removed from it, but lifes adventures move me forward.  After 18 years at Microsoft I knew what each day would hold, despite its fast pace, when game changing events occurred there was a certain formula behind how to react to it. Having been gone a while I am enlightened by day-to-day life’s challenges and emboldened and inspired by the people doing the simple things in life but enjoying them immensely.    Maybe that is what life is about, not the protection of the big corporate walls, but living and exploring the uncertainty of it day-to-day.  Just try to enjoy the ride and take it all in.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann Nov 4, 2010

4 thoughts on “Looking back upon a year gone from Microsoft

  1. I have a slightly different view about Health Insurance. I maintain that we have outstanding Health Care, but poor Insurance.

    Dave and I had to buy coverage back when individual plans were quite scarce in Washington. This situation has fortunately been reversed. The coverage we bought didn’t cover doctor visits. Although this gave the office staff at every doctor’s office fits (they’d whisper, “Will you be covered soon?” as if they were willing to change the date on my forms), the doctor and I got right to business.

    Which drug worked best at the lowest price? Can I try the cheaper one first, and then go to the more expensive one as a last resort? Which tests cost less? And then as I left, the price of the visit was slashed….sometimes by 5% or 10% or 20%, but once by 50% for cash that day. Of course, the office staff often couldn’t figure out how to accept my payment but I waited until they could.

    I became convinced that the solution is to remove every layer we have built up between patient and doctor.

    1. When I say HealthCare I am referring to the System overall – but you are absolutely right in your point we do have excellent healtcare – in fact having lived abroad I would say the healthcare we receive (when available) is second to none. But the cost and question of access is more daunting.

  2. Hans: I was given Cobra for the ist 12 months and it was subsidized by the Obama stimulus act- so the monthly premiums were only $450/month for my wife and I (no kids). Now in September, we received a notice from Blue Cross/Blue Shield -the Msft carrier that they were raising the monthly rate to $1800/month and also that they were back dating the rate increase to June. So we owed BC/BS $4050.00 and they wanted to be paid for premiums 3 months total in advance. So they wanted $9050.00- because of pre-existing conditions we can’t get insurance any where else- so we forked over $9050.00 for ccoverage til the end of November. Highway robbery. Jerry V

    1. How many people in this country make <50k and have a family to support – what do they do? Not sure many in that category read my blog but it would be interesting to find out.

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