So here's my take on what it's like moving from a mega-company to a micro-company. My first "real" job was working for a pretty small computer company, Migent, Inc. There were maybe 50 people there. My next job was for Sun Microsystems, where the division I worked in had 200 people. In 1990, I moved to Seattle to join Microsoft, who had 3500 employees. When I left, the company was nearing 100,000 people.
Mom Central, Inc. has a staff smaller than the Global Marketing team I was on when I left. About 25% of the team I was on. So naturally, there are a lot of things that are different about the job I have now.
My old friend, and now new boss Stacy DeBroff puts it this way: It's like cliff diving into a kiddie pool. Truer words...
So in the spirit of sharing, here are:
The Top Ten Things That Are Different between Microsoft and Mom Central (okay, top 12)
Toilet Seats: Big companies have large restrooms lined with rows of urinals and toilets, and several sinks with automated soap dispensers and water and faucets and towels. This building has two bathrooms, shared by everyone. I haven't had to put a toilet seat DOWN at work as long as I can remember. Yesterday, in a move that reaffirmed that I'm working with a bunch of moms, one of the soap dispensers was nearly empty, and later in the day, I noticed the same dispenser had a bit more soap, but watered down. Gotta love that...
Building Access: Setting the code to lock the door at the end of the day. At Microsoft, everyone has a card key, and the buildings are basically open 24 hours a day. And there is almost always a handful of people working late into the night, or who come in very early. I was working past six last night, and found I was the second-to-last to leave. When a co-worker needed to head home, she let me know she had the key to the external door, and the code to set the alarms. So until I get my own key (if?), I go home when the last person goes home. And so far, it's rarely been past six o'clock.
Cafeteria: Microsoft had a Starbucks in the building I was in, and a huge cafeteria (the Commons) right next door. Here, you get to walk a block or two to a local sandwich shop, or bring your own lunch. So far this week, I've made it out of my office long enough to get lunch exactly once. And I'm thinking that's common around here.
Marketing, Advertising, and PR agencies all have one thing icommon: They all use Macs. I haven't touched a Mac since I joineMicrosoft 20 years ago. OMG. How do people work with only one mouse button? Why are some shortcuts done with the control key, and others the command key? How do I switch between open windows in the same app? Why the $#@% is the close button in the upper LEFT, not the upper right? And how do I turn off bouncing icons at the bottom of my screen? I have my PC laptop sitting on the desk next to my Mac, so when I get frustrated, i can switch over quickly.
Architecture: Seattle, especially Redmond, was completely forest just 50 years ago. Every building is brand new. Concrete, steel, glass. Mom Central is housed in a brick and wood-beamed warehouse, nicely modernized inside, but very different. In a really cool way.
SWAG Table: Ha, some things never change. Maybe every marketing company has a SWAG (stuff we all get) table. At Xbox, we had copies of Xbox games, stacks of Official Xbox Magazine, left over Halo 3 tee shirts, old mice, Crackdown mugs, Halo 3 action figures. Here, there's an equally stocked SWAG table, but with items the brands we work with are promoting. But here, you'll find kids videos, soap, and sometimes food--like boxes of multi-grain Pringles that everyone fights over...
Executive Leadership Access: One company has a CEO with double-walled security and more than one receptionist/assistant. If you need a meeting with Mr. Ballmer, it might take 3 months to get on his calendar. Here, our CEO shares her office as a conference room, and if you need something, you just call out her name down the hall.
Security: At Microsoft, we had badges that had to be worn at all times, PCs that locked with encrypted screen savers, receptionists in front of glass doors in all buildings, the usual corporate stuff. At Mom Central, everyone is careful with their work, but just yesterday I opened a window (impossible to do at any MS building I was ever in), and had to be reminded to shut it and lock it before I left. My PC is generally left unsupervised, and I'm comfortable keeping the screen saver set to 20 minutes instead of 2.
Benefits: At Microsoft, there is 100% paid medical insurance, including family and domestic partners, Vision Insurance, Dental Insurance, Psychiatric/Counseling insurance, matched 401k, Employee stock purchase program, Stock Grants for some as a bonus, Tuition reimbursement, discounted emergency child care, a free commuter bus to work (with free wifi), a Free Mass-Transit pass for buses/trains, a fully paid enrollment in the best health club in town, discounted Legal insurance, paid Life insurance for you and family members/domestic partners, Adoption benefits, Tuition reimbursement. Starbucks Coffee on every floor, stocked fridges of every kind of soda, you get the idea. At Mom Central, let's just say being in startup mode makes the benefits list not quite as robust as the other guys. Upside: We get to build the company, we earn what we make, and everyone pitches in to make the firm successful. And I'm happy trading that for the benefits I gave up leaving Microsoft.
Columbus Day!: I didn't think Columbus Day was a real holiday, but it's on the paid day off list at Mom Central. Along with most other holidays, and a few "floating holidays" to boot. Very cool.
Working Attire: At Microsoft, there basically is NO dress code (barring some HR violation...). People wear shorts, tee shirts, and sandals most days. One of my only questions before coming to Mom Central was what to wear. Business Casual. Since I only own two pair of black slacks and one pair of black shoes, and maybe 5 button-down shirts, I'm in trouble. Can't wait for "Friday Casual" day!
Fiscal Responsibility: It's one thing to own a $13 million budget. It's another thing to now own my own P&L. So I'm staying at the Red Roof Inn instead of the W, renting an economy compact car instead of a midsize, and flying red-eye economy instead of business class. But the money I save goes to the profitability of my new division. That, I really like.
SO WHAT HAS NOT CHANGED? Working with smart, passionate people. Free sodas, including Snapples in the fridge! And really enjoying the people I work with.
Best of all, this is an environment built on trust, shared goals, focus, passion, and the talent of people who really understand how to work with big brands, and with influential community members, bloggers, tweeters, and advocates. THAT makes all the change worth it.