in the Mirror: 19 Insiders Reflect on the Experience,
edited by Karin Carter
V. Kappel, send
to the web site
(perhaps - see review)
WHAT IT IS?
It is difficult to put your finger or mind on exactly
what this book is. Books like this always seem, at
first blush, to be self indulgent in the extreme.
It is and it is not quite history yet. Still, Nineteen
people sat down and reflected on paper purposed for
your enjoyment what their experiences were at Microsoft
in the early years. Many freely admit that the company
they knew no longer exists. The old Microsoft ain't
the new Microsoft.
This book is categorized as Business/Memoir. It
is close to a memoir for the writers, but it's much
more like 19 reminiscences of the startup company
and how most of them got rich or missed the whole
damn boat, some bitterly. The only writer identified
in the book by full name is the author; the other
18 are probably pseudonymous accompanied by a rough
bios mostly outlining their personalities. This trade
paperback book is nearly 250 pages long and its author,
a 14-year veteran of Microsoft who retired comfortably
at 34, started off as an administrative assistant.
She moved up in the corporation to producing user
documentation and kept moving up after that. She
sort of gives away her user documentation background
as the opening of the book is titled User's Guide.
That's kind of cute.
What is also 'cute' is that this book comes with no price
printed on it. One would guess that the seller can charge
whatever the market will pay. The retail price is listed
on the publisher's web site. Interestingly, the publisher
is in Redmond, Washington (the home of Microsoft) and the
next book they are publishing looks interesting and is
also by someone who worked or is still working at Microsoft.
WHY READ IT?
Computer programmers, switchboard operators, administrative
assistants, technical writers all tell their stories about
the early years at Microsoft, the fast rise to success
of the company, and the riches earned by these early employees.
This same book could have been written by individuals from
many of the dotcom start up companies who experienced similar
rises in success and fortunes before the great fall. There
are a great many comparable stories floating around about
those few who got out in time and those who didn't. But,
this is written down and is not just a tall tale or rumor
and, after all, it is about MICROSOFT and that's a horse
of another color.
The tales inside this book talk about hard choices, working
long hours, sacrificing family time, growing up, dealing
with sudden wealth, life's values and life's disappointments.
If this book were fiction and written a little differently
it would have all the aspects of a great novel, but, as
fact, it becomes a nonfiction read and a capture of knowledge
and experience from a moment in history for the individuals
The bottom line is that hard working young people pushed
a company to success and themselves to great reward. Isn't
that the great American story we all like to hear? That
this was Microsoft is interesting, but it's the reminiscences
of the people involved and their individual points of view
and experiences that they share with us which makes this
So what we end up with in this book is 19 people sitting
around, who mostly no longer need to work, reminiscing
about something that happened years ago to a company that
they admit no longer exists. That's probably factual, but
pretty rough. Actually, when you look into Microsoft in
the Mirror you definitely see the company, but it's pretty
much in the background. What you see in the mirror are
the people; the worker bees. This is their story. The company
is a success because it went along for the ride. It's always
the employees who push a company, as they did this one,
to the pot of gold in the fields of Seattle.
WHY BUY IT?
History studies the smallest details in the lives of highly
successful people. This book gives you a peek into the
early years of what is probably one of the most successful
company in history so far.
Buy it, read it and you'll get an early peek into what
will undoubtedly be history soon and may even be studied
for years in schools and businesses looking to duplicate
great success and the people who made it happen.
Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org