Derek Denny-Brown has left Microsoft. I was fortunate to be able to PM for Derek for about a year, and I learned a ton. Derek worked on the very first XML stack at Microsoft, and touched pretty much every XML product we shipped, from the time it was unknown to all but SGML-heads up until today’s XML-everywhere. Most recently, he’s been working on XML tools (which you saw at PDC) with my friend Stan, and his absence will be felt, but I think he left the team in good shape.
When I talked with Derek before he announced his exit, one of my concerns was that people would see it as him being fed up with Microsoft. I had talked with him a number of times over the years, and knew that he really wanted a smaller environment with more direct engagement with customers. It’s a shame we couldn’t find something like that within Microsoft, but he is working with a good team at his new place and this is no huge surprise. It’s just unfortunate that his announce coincided with BusinessWeek’s “Troubling Exits” article.
Speaking of the BusinessWeek article, I have to say it was rather disappointing. The article takes some one-sided anecdotes and tries to paint a picture of crisis, but also admits that, objectively, turnover is low and morale is high. If turnover is low, and morale is high, then why is there even a story? I actually think it’s worth doing a story on Microsoft’s challenges, but pointing to a couple of employees leaving is the wrong starting point. The fact is, Microsoft has always had a very open and self-critical culture (as I’ve explained from day one on this blog), so at any point in time you’ll be able to write a whole news story about employee complaints. Other companies have developed reputations for silencing and/or firing employees who blog critically. That doesn’t mean that their employees are any happier.
And speaking of morale, just wait until you start seeing the “biggest innovation pipeline in Microsoft’s history” roll to RTM. Through some strange accident of history, and after years of delays, several product units are poised to ship simultaneously. People are already getting giddy, and I predict by springtime the local authorities will have trouble dealing with the spillover of irrational exuberance. I also predict prozac stock takes a hit.