It’s 11 a.m. on a January morning, and Software Engineer David Machaj is “waiting on a build.” Consider a day in the life of this developer: “Every day I install a new version of Windows.” And every night, over a period of eight to 12 hours on a set of servers, the code syncs and rebuilds Windows. Then he continues.
As a member of the Windows Shell team, David is charged with coding the Start experience for Windows 10. “A lot of the time it’s really cool,” he says, especially “when you see something working for the first time.” If the tiles look a little speckly, or not quite right, he’ll need to go deeper. David’s work packs a huge impact: The start of his day refreshes your first impression of the new generation of Windows.
Windows 10 marks a historic moment for Microsoft. “All your Windows devices—desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, Xbox—will all live on the same operating system, providing a consistent user experience that is easy to use but tailored to the device you have,” explains Li-Chen Miller, Principal Group Program Manager for the Windows Shell team. In her role, Li-Chen designs the Start experience that you see on your Windows devices as well as other new features like Action Center. The “shell” is what customers see when they crack open the box, turn on the machine, see the lock screen, and Start. Li-Chen says, “It’s an amazing engineering challenge.”
Windows 10 represents not only a shared codebase, but an obsession with the customer that’s unified our businesses and disciplines. “There’s a lot of talent working on Windows 10, and for the first time in history, we have engineers with experiences from all over the company collaborating on this user experience together as one team,” Li-Chen says. There’s an energized team spirit, talent is welcome, and Li-Chen emphasizes, “Opportunity is totally available at Microsoft.”
What does it take to create a new operating system? We’ll take you on a mini-tour of OSG, our Operating Systems Group, to meet a few people who are living it. They’re building the software, syncing it with customer needs, and ensuring the user experience is world-class.
First stop on our tour: A visit with David, who began his road to Windows 10 as an intern at Microsoft. Between college and grad school, he interned on a team that focused on the Windows user experience for documents, including print drivers and viewers. “I had a great time as an intern, which helped my perception of Microsoft as an employer,” David says. In June 2009, after he finished his master’s degree in computer science and applications at Virginia Tech, he rejoined the same team. “I liked knowing that my full-time situation would be one where I was comfortable and got along well with my coworkers.”
David’s path to Microsoft — from intern to full-time employee — is a common route to the company. An internship is a great way to see what it’s really like to work here, and pick up real-world skills. When David started his internship, he was new to Windows programming. He says, “There’s a big difference between what you learn about programming when you’re in college and when you do it for a living. My internship was beneficial because it was a good opportunity to learn a lot of what I needed to know about win32 programming and development in general without the burden of writing production code.”
Opportunities knocked, and David applied many of those lessons. He landed on “a hot new team for the upcoming Windows 8,” creating tiles for the Start screen. Four years later, he shifted to the Desktop experience team for Windows 10. Today, as a Software Engineer II, David enjoys a stage in his career when “you’re more independent; you’re trusted more. Code will be reviewed, of course, but it’s a spirit of, ‘Hey, go make it happen.’”
Next on our tour: To get a sense of how we make sure Windows 10 meets customer needs, we checked in with Tim Griswold. He is a principal software engineering lead in quality for Windows Shell. In this area, Tim says, “We’re dealing with objective and subjective feedback from our customers to make change to desktop and phone.”
For Tim, what’s different about Windows 10 is the communication with customers, such as the Windows Insiders who participate in the tech preview. His team considers ways to improve the user experience, whether it’s winnowing down a list of applications that’s perceived to be too long, or suggesting elements to include in the default Start layout. “We sit down with our PM counterparts,” like Li-Chen and her leads, to discuss design decisions. Tim says, “We’re trying to integrate customer feedback in an agile way, rather than waiting for the next major shipment of Windows.”
Tim’s own road to Windows 10? In 2001, he joined Microsoft as an application developer consultant based in Denver. He traveled to customers to offer best practices, review and provide sample code, and help with technologies by Microsoft and other providers.
Ready to leave a role that involved heavy travel, in 2004, Tim transitioned to Redmond. In 2013, while working on Windows Phone, he was tasked with incorporating into the product more customer feedback. With Windows 10, he says, “We get to listen to customers, anticipate their needs, and invent. We have millions of customers. How do we distill their feedback to make it actionable?”
A wise sign on Tim’s desk offers a clue. In gold, bold letters it says: “It can be done.” This axiom encapsulates Tim’s Windows 10 experience. With the last stop on our tour, we’ll find out how.
Finally, we want you to hear more about how Windows 10 will be stellar, across all devices. One team that’s instrumental to its implementation is the OSG Media Team.
For this group, it’s super-satisfying to engage with technology that’s genuinely on the bleeding edge. “We have so many technically sound engineers,” says Partner Software Engineering Manager Steve Seixeiro, “and we make change that couldn’t be fathomed at other companies. The way we’ve built the parts of our operating system together has been an opportunity to build something even more incredible as a whole.”
The Media team’s leaders came from different parts of the company: Windows, Windows Phone, and Windows Store. With Partner Group Program Manager Ian LeGrow steering program management, Steve overseeing software engineering, and Akshay as guardian of hardware experiences, these arenas now come under one umbrella. “When we brought these teams together,” Akshay says, “we brought together mindshare, codeshare, and quality share. Working across platforms brings out the best in each device.”
To make it all happen, sounds like there’s a bit of fun on the docket. A day’s work might also include playing videos and music, or “testing” on the Xbox. According to Ian, “Some folks get to work with the latest audio and video gear: prototype tablets and phones, early Xbox features, the latest UHD TV screen with the highest-resolution and more colors than you or I might get. It’s like a preview into the future. We get to play with the crystal ball every day.”
To finish our tour, we visited with University Recruiter Anthony Rotoli to learn how you can be part of the next generation at Microsoft. A team of university recruiters, like Anthony, travel to campuses worldwide. They are eager to meet students who would be a good fit for internships, which frequently lead to full-time roles after graduation. What qualities are we looking for? Motivation and technical chops, for sure. In addition, Anthony says, the students who stand out are people who passionately pursue their interests. Besides attending a Microsoft info session or tech talk, he says, it’s noted when “they are active in student groups, attend hackathons, or even mentor other students.”
In interviews, communicate your enthusiasm and how you solve problems. Anthony advises, “Don’t be afraid to let your passion shine! Even though the setting can seem formal, it’s easy to get your interviewer excited about you when you show your excitement.” Students might take inspiration from David: He rowed crew at university, and his thesis project gave him plenty of talking points.
On his journey to Windows 10, David has been in good company along the way. The best part of working at Microsoft? “The people. Everyone among my peers is smart and competent. The caliber of people here is very high.”
If being part of a team that’s innovating the future sounds inspiring to you, visit the Microsoft Careers Site to start your journey.
Have a question about this post or about starting your career at Microsoft? Reach out to @MicrosoftJobs on Twitter.