What is a Linux Guy doing working for Microsoft?

If you would have told me that I'd ever end up working for Microsoft, I'd have laughed at you. Sure, I'm a Linux Guy, but honestly, I've never been one of those "we must hate all things Micro$oft!" zealots that you see all too often in IT. I'll admit, back in the early days, I viewed Microsoft as "the evil empire" but I think plenty of people that werent't Linux Guys felt the same way.

So what changed?`

Well, Microsoft launched Azure, and I have been a huge fan of the Cloud since it's inception. As I type this, Azure is the second largest Cloud Provider in the world, trailing Amazon AWS. Third place is a very distant ways off. So that was a big part of the potential interest. Secondly, I think it's great that Microsoft has embraced Linux, and more, Open Source the way it has. I hear people say that it's all smoke and mirrors, well, we'll see. But from where I'm sitting, I just think Microsoft realized that Linux isn't going away, it's a fantastic option for people that know how to use it, and they just embraced it. I have used both AWS, and Azure, and I'm not in any position to say what's better, but Azure offers more Linux options than AWS does, and I have found the overall dashboard easier to use. My experience with both platforms has only ever been as an end user, so take that for what it's worth.

So one day in October of 2019, I was contacted by a Microsoft Recruiter on LinkedIn, and asked if I'd have any interested in supporting Azure customers for Microsoft, that came as a shock, as I said, I would never have guessed I'd ever work for Microsoft, but we chatted, he told me all about the incredible benefits at Microsoft, I did some research and knew the money would be good, and really, after my last few positions, I wanted something stable.

I thought there may be other "Linux Guys" out there that might be wondering about working for Microsoft, and curious about what the recruiting process is like, so I created this page to answer some questions, and who knows, if you are considering a job at Microsoft as a Linux Guy, you may find some value in this.

October 11 (approx.), 2019

I was contacted by a Microsoft Recruiter, and we had a 30 minute call. We talked about what I was doing, and what kind of work I'm interested in. The Recruiter talked about the position, which would be supporting MS Azure customers running Linux. This is the kind of work I have done for the majority of ny career, but what really interested me, was seeing how Microsoft did Linux. A Technical interview was scheduled as a next step.

October 15 (approx.), 2019

The Technical Interview was conducted by one of the Senior Linux Engineers on the team, and a Senior Network Engineer. We talked about the kind of work I've done, I was asked to describe how I accomplished several tasks. From a strictly technical perspective, I thought this part of the call went really quickly, they guys interviewing me were personable, and I thought I did pretty well, but definitely did not answer 100% of their questions. At the end of the call, the Interviewers explained that they would provide feedback to HR, and that I would be contacted within two weeks. One of the really nice things, is that they explained that Microsoft would absolutely contact me, even if they decided not to move forward with my application. I have always felt that is such a professional way to handle things. It's a shame so few companies actually make that same effort to let Applicants know how'd they'd be moving forward, even if things didnt work out.

October 23, 2019

It took less than two weeks, and one of the Senior Recruiters at Microsoft contacted me, and wanted to chat about how the interview went. We spoke for about 30 minutes, I let her know that it sounded like interesting work, and that I felt like the interview went fairly well. She asked if I would be interested in pursuing the position and I confirmed that yes, I was very interested. I left the call with her explaining that she would be following up in the next few days with additional updates.

October 28, 2019

This is the day the Senior Recruiter contacted me to inform me that Microsoft would be moving forward with extending an offer to me. This process could take up to two weeks to get through all the various departments and approvals completed.

November 5, 2019

I was contacted on this day, to confirm that an offer was being extended, I had a brief call with the Recruiter the following day that included the actual paperwork for the offer, with a lot of documentation to do with benefits, annual bonuses, and stock options. I got all of this signed off on the same day, and the last step would be waiting (again, up to two weeks) for the background check to be completed.

November 22, 2019

This was the most frustrating part of the hiring process. But to be 100% fair, it had nothing to do with Microsoft. Nearly every portion of the background check (this includes things like previous employment, criminal records, and education verification) was completed in less than 72 hours, however the miserable city of Cleveland took 17 days to respond to the criminal & offense check.

November 25, 2019

The Background Check company confirmed with Microsoft that I was cleared, and now we just needed to nail down a start date. My Manager was on vacation for the week of Thanksgiving, and Microsoft has a policy of not scheduling a start date less than a week into the future, so my actual start date was scheduled for December 9, 2019.

December 9, 2019

First day at Microsoft. I live in Texas, so the New Employee Onboarding took place at the local office. NEO is about half a day, our group only had 7 in it, but this was because how late in the year it is, and so close to holidays. NEO had a quick video from Satya Nadella, then the HR person explained the benefits, just in case it needs any explanation, microsoft pays the medical premiums for employee, as well as their family, however the insurance is the HSA type, ie: You pay for all medical costs until you reach the deductible, then the insurance covers 90% of costs till you hit the maximum out of pocket costs, then it's fully paid for.
After NEO I was met by my Manager and taken to where the department is located, I had a collection of boxes waiting in my cube, which included a shiny new MS Surface 3 laptop. I have heard other folks say they were given a choice of Windows or Mac, I wasnt given a choice, but I'm not complaining.
I unboxed the laptop, monitors, and the rest of the stuff and hooked everything up, then got started on training. Microsoft is a huge company, and some things take a bit of time, so I didnt have access to all of the training modules, however that was all sorted by Wednesday.
There is a LOT of training to take, I was told to expect this all to take 4-6 weeks.

December 14, 2019

Finished my first week here. I spent most of the time taking the self-paced Azure Bootcamp classes. So far, so good!

December 16, 2019

Today starts several weeks of additional classes, these are all Instructor-led, and take place using Microsoft Teams. The first week concentrates on Azure VM IaaS Fundamentals. The end goal of the training is to be able to successfully achieve the AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals Certification.

December 23, 2019

So just a quick update. In case anybody wanted to now about what cool features are located at the satellite offices (ie: not the main Redmond Campus) I thought I'd talk about what the Irving, Texas campus has available.

  • There are two buildings on campus, known as LC1 and LC2, both are four-story buildings, and are 100% occupied by Microsoft, each floor has areas that you can just chill in.
  • There is a 'cafe' here, I haven't eaten there yet, so I don't know if the food is good, or what lunch costs, but I have walked past, and it does look nice.
  • There is NOT a Microsoft Store on campus, but there are Microsoft Stores in the local area.
  • Do we get discounts at the Microsoft Store? Yes, as long as we have our Microsoft ID, we get a significant discount on software, and less of a discount on things like XBox, and Surface Laptops.
  • As a Microsoft FTE, we get some pretty cool perks, a few that stand out: All Microsoft Certifications are free, this includes free access to practice exams. We also have free access to LinkedIn Learning, Pluralsight, and Oreilly.

  • January 2, 2020

    There is a lot of training that happens as a new Microsoft Employee. I started with some self-paced Bootcamp material, and then began a three-week long, Instructor-led course of material that includes very relevant material, some examples: Azure Architecture, Troubleshooting, Azure Networking, Deployment, Windows, Linux, etc. The final week deals with all of the Support Tools we use, and how cases (MS doesnt call them tickets, they're 'cases') are worked, then final Labs and actual Shadowing. I'm not sure what happens when this current round of training is over (I'm just about to wrap up the second week material) but my Manager did say it'd take about six weeks before I could start doing any real work. Next week will be my one-month anniversary, and it feels like I just started yesterday.

    January 8, 2020

    I'm halfway through the third week of training, this week focuses on handling cases, and this is good because there is a specific formula that Microsoft uses to deliver a common framework for technical solutions. We don't send out useless ticket responses like 'We've received your support request and will have an Engineer investigate.' (I've worked for several companies that waste everyone's time with useless communications like that.) Instead, there is a process that we all follow to deliver what Microsoft calls a 'First Quality Response' that actually includes personally tailored information, and (hopefully) a solution to the Customers problem.
    The biggest thing for me to get used to, is that we don't make any changes on Customer resources, ie: we don't login to servers and change things, we don't change firewall rules, or expand disks, etc. We provide the solutions to the Customer, who then implements the solution. I'm a bit on the fence about this, because for my entire career, I've been the guy logging in, fixing stuff.
    From the technical side, nearly all of the labs have been working on Windows boxes, and that is definitely not my strength, I'm hoping we get more time on Linux servers before this week is up.

    January 13, 2020

    Last week we finished up Azure IaaS Foundations training, a long three week class. This week we start a new class for most of the week, Business and Culture Training. It's similar to the training I got at Rackspace a million years ago, and so far it's been really interesting. I think there's going to be some overlap of materials from what I learned from my last class, but no big deal. Next week is yet another training class, a Technical Foundations class. I really don't know what that will be all about, but am curious. At that point, I -think- I'm done with training for a while.
    I will say without hesitation that Microsoft invests more time in training new hires than any other company I have worked for. Also, if you think you have to know all the technical things, you don't. The training eally emphasizes that. Sure, you need to have the ability to learn technical subjects, but this company invests in building the skills you'll need to be successful.

    January 17, 2020

    We finished up this latest week of training and feel like it ws really useful, this kind of material, while it can't apply 100% to each department, provided a lot of value with regard to the Microsoft CSS mindset of taking ownership of an issue, even if, ultimately, you can't provide the solution yourself. The idea is to reach out to your peers, particularly your peers that have expertise in the vertical that is challenging you (for me, anything Windows related.) and they will help you out. In the end, the customer experience is better because their case isn't bounced from one Engineer to another without any progress on their issue. So far, this has been the best training I've had at Microsoft.
    Next week, I'm taking a Technical Foundations class, which will concentrate on technical areas that I am clueless on. It's a bit unexpected, and if I am brutally honest, I've been working in IT for a long time, all of that time has been working with Linux, so I don't really have any interest in learning Microsoft technologies, but if I can learn enough in this next class, I won't feel utterly useless about Windows.
    It's also important to make this clear, I am not being forced to suddenly be a Linux/MS/Networking guy. Everyone in our department has their own strengths (verticals), and we support the cases that play to those strengths, so I have no expectations to be expected to take Active Directory, or other MS magic, ultimately, our department supports the IaaS platform for Microsoft Azure, and as I said earlier, we don't ever actually login to these servers and make any changes, we empower and provide technical guidance for our customers to resolve those issues. I'll just be focused on providing that service to our Linux-based customers.

    January 29, 2020

    It's been almost a week without more training, nd I think I'm starting to experience withdrawal symptoms. I strongly believe there is such a thing as too much training. We've covered so much ground, that I've already forgotten some things, and now it seems clear that my day-to-day will include plenty that we haven't had any training on. So it's a challenge, but a good challenge. The plan for tomorrow is to shoulder surf as much as I possibly can, and get a better idea of the scope of what we do in this pod. Truth be told, I thought there was a lot more of Azure on our plates, it appears that may not be the case.

    February 3, 2020

    I'm finally at the point where I can start poking through the support queue and grabbing issues that I think I can solve. Unless you are hired in as a OS-specific Escalation Engineer, there aren't Engineers assigned to Windows, or Linux issues. That being said, the huge majority of Support Engineers in the CSS department are all Windows-focused. Linux Engineers are absolutely in the minority here. You can view that like not having a huge safety net, or, if your mind is right, you can view that like an excellent opportunity to make a positive impact, and demonstrate value.
    It's important to note that your reviews are, in part, based on how you add value to your team. It's just as important that you take advantage of all the expertise in each department. If you dont know something, it's expected that you ask for help. You won't make a great impression by solving an issue after several days of research, if you could have solved that same issue by asking your co-workers for a helping hand. As a Linux Engineer, you should expect to either take Linux cases, that might otherwise be difficult for your Microsoft peers to solve, or be available to those peers when they reach out for help.
    As I said, this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate value.

    February 11, 2020

    So last week I was informed that I needed to complete the AZ100 and AZ200 assessments by the end of the month. I panicked because:

  • I have spent nearly my entire time here taking training, and the AZ-103 certification is not trivial, no way to even get that one this month.
  • The training I have had, while it's been "okay" to "very very good", truthfully, it hasn't happened in the order that would have benefitted me most.
  • So yeah, I was freaking out.
    As it turns out, these are NOT the external-facing Microsoft Certifications, these are internal assessments to verify understanding of many things.
    Panic avoided.
    While I was able to complete AZ 100 last week, AZ 200 has a LOT of videos and the course works takes dozens and dozens of hours. I kind of thought I was through with the training, at least for a while, but apparently not.
    The good news is, I am now also actually working cases, and have closed one so far, which was rewarding, I'm used to fixing stuff, and moving on. But here, cases can linger in an 'open' state for very long periods of time.
    I'm catching myself here, and reading back on this entry and to me, it reads a bit like the kool-aid is wearing off, but honestly, I'm still excited about being here, I suppose, for me, I am used to being one of the Senior guys, and doing the most technical work, here, I'm new, and my job isn't about handling the biggest customers, working on the biggest dumpster fires.
    You'd think this is a good problem to have, but it just all feels very.... different.. to me.

    *** update: I was just told I have more training all of next week.

    <this is a work in progress>