On June 3, 1991, I began my career at Microsoft. Today is also the one year anniversary of my brain surgery. Both have provided incredible experiences yet only one left me permanently scarred.

For the first four years at Microsoft, I worked in research to bring Windows to fax machines so you could send files from floppy disk via fax:

Unfortunately, email took off right about that time. But, I had time to work on designs of the first touch screen user interfaces and personally argue with Bill Gates about whether the buttons were big enough for people’s fingers. Though the project wound down to ultimate failure, I had the opportunity to sing karaoke in Japan (Young MC’s Bust a Move) and learned everything about successful project management that one needs to know.

Interestingly, my first manager at Microsoft was one of the company’s earliest and most successful female executives, Karen Hargrove. I’m greatly appreciative for having had a strong woman leader as a mentor. Another member of our team even went on to become a U.S. congresswoman and her lowly husband, only the head of Microsoft Office.

After Microsoft At Work, I helped build the technology team that launched MSN News and MSNBC.com; the first major story covered was the explosion of TWA Flight 800.

I left Microsoft in 1999, with one of our At Work team members to launch GiftSpot, now GiftCertificates.com. After leaving GiftSpot, the Wall Street Journal quoted me as saying, “It’s weird not having a reason to shower and shave.” I’ve come far.

In all seriousness, the anniversary today reminds me how grateful I am for my best friend Kerry who stayed with me through surgery (I was required to shower for it, twice!), my neurosurgeon and her team, and the nurses that supported me in ICU last year and for the overall outcome.

I’m also grateful for my experience and time at Microsoft, my friends and mentors, and the privilege and opportunity it’s helped provide me. My time at Microsoft’s allowed me to orient my focus towards making a difference in a variety of different ways.



Posted by Jeff Reifman

Jeff is a technology consultant based in the Pacific Northwest.

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