Why I just became a Microsoft Employee

I have been an independent consultant (IC) for quite a while now.  In an amazing number of coincidences, or just plain fate, in a matter of 17 days I went from hearing about a job opening at Microsoft to accepting their offer.  It all started when a friend of mine at Microsoft called and said “We have a job opening at Microsoft I think you would be good for, but it would require a move to NYC.  I know it’s unlikely but any chance you would consider?”.

Well, it turns out my wife and I have been thinking of moving back east for a while, as our youngest child will be graduating high school in a few months, leaving us free to move anywhere.  Since I was born in NY, have two sisters who live in NYC, have many relatives there, and had a desire for a place that had a true change of seasons, NY made a lot of sense.  Then add the fact that during my talks with Microsoft about the job, my son was accepted to SUNY New Paltz where he will play college soccer and study computer science (New Paltz is about an hour-and-a-half bus ride to Manhattan), which made it even more desirable for us to move to NY.

The job is for a PDW TSP for the North East region.  Microsoft has lots of TLA (Three Letter Acronyms): PDW stands for Parallel Data Warehouse, and TSP stands for Technology Solution Professional or just Technology Specialist.  Basically, the job entails presenting, demoing, and educating companies about PDW and its benefits, and making sure it is a good fit for the client.  Further along will be architecting, designing and modeling, and doing POC’s (proof-of-concept) which will involve working with a PDW Center of Excellence (CoE) Architect.  I will work closely with a Solution Sales Professional (SSP), also called a Solution Specialist, who finds opportunities with customers.  A TSP is about 75% technical and 25% sales.  Although it’s for the North East region, most of my time will be spent in NYC, with a few trips outside of NY to places like Boston.

Once I heard about the job I started writing a list of the pros and cons of taking the job:


  1. Work for Microsoft.  I have wanted to work for Microsoft since I was 17 years old and right out of high school.  Almost 30 years later it finally happened 🙂
  2. Work in NYC.  NYC is a great city and I have visited many times.  I have always wanted to work there and my office will be in a great location: at the Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) at 6th avenue and 52nd street, right next to the Radio City Music Hall
  3. Work on PDW.  I worked on PDW 1.0, and have been anxious to work on version 2.0
  4. Work for a company with career paths.  With most companies I had worked for, I had no opportunity for advancement unless I wanted a total management role.  There were usually no lateral moves either.  With Microsoft, there are endless opportunities that will allow me to stay technical if I wish
  5. Work with smart people.  There are lots of really sharp people working for Microsoft that I can learn from.  With a few exceptions, most places I have been at I was the “BI guy” and no one else had much knowledge of the subject
  6. Don’t work on project-based stuff.  As I have gotten older, I have been less-and-less interested in the daily minutia of doing project work (and the stress/worry about a project being “successful”).  With this new role, it will be very short engagements with many clients.  Another TSP called it sort of like “speed dating”
  7. Do presentations and engage with customers.  I will have lots of different experiences while I do a lot of presentations and demo’s and talk with clients.  That is what I love doing
  8. Meet lots of clients and potential customers.  I really enjoy meeting new people and new environments.  With this position I will be at 2-3 new companies a week
  9. Great benefits.  Microsoft is constantly ranked #1 in the USA for benefits.  The one big benefit is nearly free health care coverage.  The new health care law has tripled my cost
  10. Monetary incentive to go above-and-behind job requirements.  Part of my bonus is based on quota targets.  While there is a risk I won’t hit the target and the bonus could be less or even zero, I look at it as if I work hard and put in the extra effort I will exceed the quota and be rewarded
  11. Pay for move.  Moving from Houston to New York can be quite expensive, not to mention not having to do the packing
  12. Close to two kids in college.  My son will be about an hour-and-a-half from the city and another daughter is in Charleston, SC.  My 3rd child will also likely move to the east coast
  13. Make lots of contacts.  Due to all the companies I will present at my Rolodex will get quite big!
  14. No independent consulting hassles: worrying about the next contract (job stability), invoices, filing taxes, late payments from clients, travel reimbursement, time dedicated to speaking with recruiters and interviewing, lower rates and difficulty finding work during a down-turn in the economy, etc.  I did not mind these things that much, but they did take up a lot of time and can get old after a while
  15. Get paid to go to conferences/blog/learn/training/research.  As an IC if I’m not working I’m not getting paid.  So going to major conferences means I will have 3-4 weeks per year of not being paid, plus I have to pay for the conference and all the expenses.  That really adds up.  In my Microsoft role going to conferences is part of the job.  Also, I spend a lot of time off-the-clock learning and researching new technology.  While I will still do a lot of that, some will be done as part of my Microsoft position
  16. Have a mentor.  Every TSP gets 1-2 mentor’s within Microsoft who will help them with their career goals and how to achieve them
  17. Paid vacation/sick/holidays.  As I mentioned, as an IC if I don’t work I don’t get paid.  It will be nice to have a paid vacation and holidays
  18. Work from home on occasion.  I don’t have to be in the office every day, so I can work from home to prepare presentations and demo’s, among other things.  But I love NYC so will be there as much as possible
  19. Tuition reimbursement if I want to go for MBA.  I can’t see myself every going back to college, but it’s nice to have that option
  20. Step out of my comfort zone.  Part of my job is sales, something I don’t have a lot of experience with.  I am looking forward to the challenge and enjoy learning and hopefully excelling at something new to me
  21. Tons of resources.  I will have all of the Microsoft employees as resources if I have any questions, need someone to bounce ideas off of, need help solving a problem, want someone to review my architect solution, etc.
  22. Insider product knowledge.  I get a lot of insider stuff as an MVP, but I might hear and see more of that as a Microsoft employee
  23. No hourly billing and tracking (labor logging).  It’s not so much of a pain entering the logging, but more having to track my working hours.  If I spend two hours at the dentist one day, I’m only billing 6 hours that day.  If the client tells me I need to wait a week before I get my next task, that is a week I don’t get paid
  24. Flexible work schedule. I won’t have set hours.  I will have tasks to finish and clients to visit, but it does not matter when I put the hours in, just that I get the tasks done in time.  I sometimes get my best work done really late at night 🙂
  25. Supportive management.  All the managers I have met seem very willing to make sure I have everything I need and that I remain happy at Microsoft
  26. Getting a behind-the-scenes look at how a big and successful technology company works
  27. The ability to further ones own knowledge via learning opportunities, such as TechReady, which is a semi-annual internal technical conference for Microsoft employees.  There are also elective web and class room training such as negotiation, presentation, business and technical skills


  1. Corporate politics.  Every company has it, but I’m glad they got rid of the stack ranking system
  2. With a TSP, it involves sales, and I am new to sales (but this could be positive due to the challenge)
  3. I will lose my SQL Server MVP status.  I have only been an MVP four months.  If you are a Microsoft employee you are not allowed to be a MVP.  But I look at the positive side: at least I became an MVP beforehand
  4. No OT pay.  Not that I worked much OT, but now it won’t be paid.  But with Microsoft, putting in the extra hours can pay off in other ways
  5. I will need to work to stay on top of my technical skills.  This is because I never get to do implementations (other than maybe help a bit with a POC).  However, I currently spend a good deal of time at night learning new technology anyway

As you can see the pros far outweighed the cons, so the decision became easy, especially with our desire to move to NY.

In the end I am extremely excited about the position and looking forward to getting started on Feb 18th.  I will be traveling every other week to NYC until we move their permanently around June.  I will continue my normal blogging of two posts a week, and will continue to attend the major conferences (hopefully attending even more conferences than normal).

And if your company if interested in finding out more about PDW, email me and I’d be happy to do a presentation for you!

About James Serra

James is a big data and data warehousing solution architect at Microsoft. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence architect and developer. He is a prior SQL Server MVP with over 25 years of IT experience.
This entry was posted in Career, PDW/APS, SQLServerPedia Syndication. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Why I just became a Microsoft Employee

  1. Dave DuVarney says:


    Great post and best of luck! Sounds like a fantastic opportunity.


  2. Andrew Notarian says:

    Congratulations and best of luck. But what really got me to post was that my great-grandparents lived on just about the block you will be working. There used to be small apartment buildings on 6th Avenue (and an el).

  3. Krishan says:


  4. Jim Lenz says:

    Congratulations sounds like a tremendous opportunity and great timing.

  5. Jim Lenz says:

    Congratulations, this sounds like a tremendous opportunity and comes at a great time.

  6. Congrats James! Perfect fit for you.

  7. I am super excited for you! You will LOVE it. The Microsoft internal technical community takes great care of one another. There is always someone around the globe that can help. Steve Busby out of Alabama is someone to get to know. He is a rock star PDW TSP and a wonderful person too.

    Working for Microsoft was also my technical dream come true. The experience at Microsoft exceeded my wildest expectations personally, professionally and financially. I always joke that I will never, ever make that kind of money again though it sure would be nice. Enjoy the AWESOME life of stocks, bonuses, technical perks, brain food and amazing peers. They will stretch you to be the very best you can be. As for sales: just do what you do, delete annoying quota emails and before you know it you are selling and surpassing your quotas.

    I wish you the best and confess that I will miss your funny recruiter posts.


  8. They’re lucky to have you! Best of luck and congrats! Looking forward to what comes out of PDW 2.0 and hoping to get my hands on PDW in some form.

  9. Wow James! Congratulations 🙂

    I am sure you’ll do well. Looking forward to working with you from the other side. Hope to still see you at PASS Summit and other SQL Server events.

    All the best.

  10. Arturv says:

    Hi James,
    After all these years of bit and bytes, you now move into Sales

  11. Lance says:

    Congratulations. Great opportunity. Happy for you.

    We are loosing Jeter but getting Serra – see you at the stadium.

  12. Hi James,
    Congratulations, sounds like a win-win for everyone and you still get to work on PDW!


  13. Congrats! Also thanks for your posts on independent contracting, which I found to be a valuable resource!

  14. Yalcin Gülas says:

    Congratulations ! Your blog letters are valuable i’m süre you Will put great value in PDW

  15. Mo mawla says:

    Congrats James!

    We hope to bring more PDW to NYC area; I just attended a course for PDW/APS and pretty excited to know more about the platform

  16. eugene says:

    James, congratulations!
    I discovered your blog when doing some research about employee vs consultant. You reason to became Microsoft TSP resonates with me very well. I love to do a lot of research and helping customers, but sometimes project work takes all my days.
    Thanks you very much for sharing.

  17. Kevin Murphy says:

    Hi James,
    I just read the news (yes, it does take me 1/2 an hour to cook a 3 minute egg)….
    Congrats and after hearing you speak and present I believe you to be a natural salesman. Microsoft will do well with acquiring the talent you bring to them. I wish you all the best and look forward to your future advice.

  18. Pinal Dave says:

    Congratulations – you will for sure love it in NYC!

  19. Alan Pinach says:

    Hi James
    Sounds like the same pro list i had when i considered in becoming an Msft employee after years as an independent. Still interesting that there wasn’t a fit, I actually missed all the shenanigans of the independent life and felt quite insecure with some else handling my business (like getting contracts, doing benefits, doing taxes). It was quite an unsettling time and my creativity was limited. I would like to hear your opinion now, although you probably cannot voice any misgivings you may have. We all have our creative nest, I don’t think it was Msft par say, I think it was just the FTE thing, not my nest.

    • James Serra says:

      Hi Alan,

      Thanks for asking! After two-and-a-half years at Microsoft, I have to say I am having more fun each and every day. I am still learning at an incredible pace (probably 5x faster than when I was a consultant) and have never been bored. If you have a passion for learning, like to present, like to have the ultimate in resources, like to have unlimited career choices, and like to be surrounded by really smart people, this can be a good fit. But a lot depends on which organization you are in at Microsoft (I’m in pre-sales, or technical sales). It has a great culture, but of course not everyone will like it. My only regret is I did not join Microsoft sooner 🙂

  20. Kevin says:

    Hello James. I am awaiting a potential offer from Microsoft that may require me moving from Charlotte, NC to Dallas, TX. I like everything that you laid out regarding your rationalization for making the decision. I do not have much experience presenting outside of doing a couple of lunch-and-learns among my team members at my current company. I will become and SME for the data platform. Considering your time at Microsoft what do you like most and least about your job? Do you consider the benefits and bonuses lucrative enough to have justified your move to your new city? Do you find it easy to move to other areas if you actually wanted to do that? Can you provide a little synopsis what a daily routine is in your life as a TSP? How much impact has the position had on your work/life balance?

    Thank for writing such a great post that is beneficial to helping me to make a huge decision.

  21. Jason says:

    Hi James,
    Read your post and I like the way you illustrated the pros and cons. I actually have an interview for a TSP position on the Mid-Atlantic Team on 9/6/16. I know it’s late in the game, but I would love to get some insight on your experiences. Let me know if we can chat soon. Thanks again for the post; very insightful.