The purpose of this blog is to understand the flaws in my thinking. As part of that, I encourage criticism of my ideas, as well as the ideas of others. While this blog started before I began as a student at Nebraska, I have been very fortunate that this habit of criticism has been reinforced. My adviser once said, “It may be a Midwest thing, but people here would rather help make something better, rather than just write and be read.” Both online and offline, I am happiest when dealing with serious people who want things to be better. (I am also temperamentally unsuited to being a yes-man, especially when it comes to stroking someone’s ego over getting to the truth.)
So it was that, after repeatedly complaining about a ‘feature’ in Microsoft Office, a friend who worked there came to be, and suggested that if I was so sure I was right, I should actually bother to demonstrate how Microsoft could be wrong. Using information available from official Microsoft sources, such as Channel 9, Microsoft Research, and MSDN Blogs, I did exactly that. Specifically, I conducted a simulation study to show how Microsoft could be getting the positive results from its statistical tests, while in fact the most reliable users of the product where the most hurt. I was able to meet with a PhD working for Microsoft who had one of those titles that just sound cool.
Given my upcoming graduation, I was of course nervous. Was my friend correct, that Microsoft (like my blog and University friends) was interested in doing things better? Or would I be told that there is crazy in your own house and then there’s crazy on my front lawn, and asked to leave?
The meeting went very well.
I was given the name of a more senior researcher at Microsoft. I searched online, and found his program of research at the company. As much as I want an exciting workplace, I do not want to waste my time with vain people who cannot take friendly criticism, so I tried the same trick again. Another simulation study, another finding which was the opposite of the ‘right answer.’ I sent it in.
30 minutes later, I receive an email. We need to talk.
Long story short, the folks at Microsoft I have talked to seem to be my type of people. I will begin working at the newest wing of the campus in Redmond next month.
Before then I am having the time of my life. I have already added Wyoming and Montana, Idaho, and Oregon to my list of visited states. I am going to a Major League Baseball game in a few minutes. I will fly to China tomorrow. I will get to act as tour guide to other Nebraska who are working in Beijing this summer, attend a wedding in Taiwan (“The Free Zone of the Republic of China”) and visit a friend in Singapore, traveling across the Strait to Malaysia, and visiting his family in Thailand.
I am really excited to be working with this collection of very sharp and bright individuals. I am looking forward to the rest of this ‘summer vacation’ before work officially begins — and I could not leave out my brother’s wedding in Niagara Falls.
This is going to be a great summer!