Why I left Microsoft

It’s been a few months of settling in at Pluralsight, and Microsoft Ignite is on the horizon, so it seems like a good time to chat about a question I’ve received from people over the last few months. And one I expect to hear in the more in the coming week.

‘So Michael, why did you leave Microsoft’

Well, there are a few ways I can answer that

The easiest would be to say ‘It’s not you; it’s me,’ and leave it at that. That’s not very satisfying and probably would lead to further questions.

The short answer is I left Microsoft to continue doing what I love, sharing my knowledge and teaching, and do it in a way that allows me to be fully present in my life. Now that’s a bit better, but still there are probably questions so I’ll try to elaborate

‘Was it all of the Travel? Because you seemed to be all over the place.’

In part, yes. The travel had a more significant impact than I expected. Going into Microsoft, I had never done international or large amounts of travel, so I had no idea how it would work out. I don’t travel well. Even after spending a lot of time focusing on ‘travel hacks,’ it had a profound impact on me mentally and physically. I reached a point in March where the idea of getting on a plane (for work or pleasure) gave me high levels of anxiety.

‘Was it Rick? Because he seems really cool.’

Absolutely Not! Rick is one of the best managers and friends I’ve ever had. He provided an amazing work opportunity and was supportive of everything I did. Telling Rick was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. As I watch what his team is doing in year 2; I’m happy to see the team flourishing under his direction.

Was it your #AZOps Team? Because they seem pretty cool.’

Nope. Not the team. While we had our ups and downs as any team does, I worked with an amazing team, many of whom I still chat with and consider good friends. They are doing amazing work, and I’m very happy to see all of the progress they are making for the Operations communities.

‘Was it for more money? Because I’d assume MSFT pays $$$.’

Nope. It wasn’t for the money. It’s never been about the money. I’ve been well compensated for a long time, so that’s always been the last thing on the list. It’s always been about the opportunity to help others in a way that is rewarding to me.

 ‘Was it the work? Because it seemed like your jam.’

Honestly, I loved the work. Sure there were internal politics and other things, but I enjoyed much of what I did. Blogging, presenting, building content and connecting with communities is all stuff I love to do and value. Our mission was one I found engaging, and I was generally happy to get up each morning. The challenge was that the travel and time zones made it hard to build content and dig deep, at least for me.

‘Was it Microsoft? Because they seem to be pretty awesome.’

Microsoft is an amazing company to work for. I truly believed, and still do, believe in their mission, and I’ll always follow the work they do. Working for a company of 130k people can be challenging, especially being remote. I had some struggles networking and feeling connected to the greater Microsoft. Along with struggling to make the connections I thought I needed to be successful long-term there. I was never going to move to Redmond, and a part of me missed not being able to have that experience.

‘So let me get this straight, you left a job where you were well compensated, you loved the work, you loved your boss, and you liked your team, right? What am I missing?’

Honestly, it goes back to ‘it’s not you; it’s me.’ When the opportunity at Pluralsight came up, I originally passed on it because I was happy with my role at Microsoft. After returning home from my trip to Dubai, I got to thinking that I should explore the opportunity just because you should always keep your options open. After a lot of conversations and long deliberations, I took the role of an Author Evangelist at Pluralsight.

I did it for several reasons:

  • I was challenged by the context switching in my role at Microsoft. The compound effects of time zones and travel schedules made it very difficult for me to know what I need to do when I needed to do it, and what was important. My role at Pluralsight allows me to be singularly focused on content building when I need to, and other endeavors when the time is available.
  • I had a hard time dealing with a global team and time zones. Weekly meetings during family hours were a normal part of the job.
  • I felt like I was constantly working. Much of it was my own doing in not knowing how to create the balance of all.the.things.
  • My wife has a great career, and being away was hard on her & my son. Working from home allows me to put my son on the bus, see him when he gets home, and watch him when he’s sick. When I was traveling, it was a strain on our family.
  • Traveling for business made me not want to travel at all. I made the best of the opportunities, and I’m thankful for the amazing people & places I got see. But it’s just not for me.
  • And last but not least, I took a role that I had wanted for years! I’ve been a Pluralsight author for a long time, and I’d hoped an opportunity would come up to go work for them fulltime as I truly believe in the amazing work our company does. The opportunity had come up another time, right after I had accepted the role at Microsoft. Had it come a couple months earlier, Microsoft may never have happened.

In the end, I left Microsoft because I believe it was the right thing to do for my family and me.



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