Microsoft: Town and Country east of Seattle

Saying “I’m going to Microsoft” is more specific than saying “I’m going to Redmond,” although in some circles, the two destinations are synonymous. Microsoft was a little company when it first landed in Redmond, WA. Since then, the corporation, its campus, and the town have grown mightily.

I used to drive to Redmond from Seattle every day. When I began at Microsoft, it had four low buildings in the tall woods on one side of Washington State Route 520. When the company cleared trees for new buildings, vociferous complaint erupted in letters to the editor of Micronews, the weekly newspaper (of Microsoft): bulldozers were wrecking the forest and that was terrible! In early days, the comic strip “Dilbert” also appeared in Micronews and was exceedingly popular. Like citizens, Microsofties felt entitled to their opinions and to make fun of or to complain about hierarchy. How strange, in a way, that they all couldn’t vote on Microsoft decisions, given that so many of them tended to live there, at work, almost as if it were their neighborhood.

The third of my recent trips to Microsoft happened on a Sunday afternoon. I explored the expansion of campus I was least familiar with, West Campus, location of the Commons. I watched part of a Microsoft players’ cricket match and then toured West Campus so thoroughly that I got lost. Truthfully, it doesn’t take much effort to get lost in any part of Microsoft territory. Microsofties used to joke that it took two weeks to refind your office after every (fairly frequent) group move, sometimes within the building you’re presently in—but usually to another. Maybe Microsoft lost and found employees continue to wander around the east side of Lake Washington—but I’ll bet most of them are hard at work at computers conveniently with them at all times. Happily for me, that recent Sunday afternoon when I was lost on West Campus, I had photographed the building nearest to the place I left my car. And so I found my way there and home again.

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