Lost in Redmond
It was a good thing that I arrived early for my day at Microsoft ("Can Microsoft Finally Kill All The Bugs?" Page 82), since I spent my first 20 minutes getting lost among its endless array of look-alike office complexes. At first, I was struck by the campus's apparent intimacy, with its low-rise buildings tucked among groves of towering Douglas firs. But after cruising through a Byzantine labyrinth of parking lots and side streets, I realized that I was at the epicenter of a place that was far larger than I had ever imagined. That's the way it is with the world's largest software company: Its gigantism sneaks up on you.
Apparently, I'm not alone in that regard. Microsoft might be a $28 billion colossus, but some of its employees prefer to think of it as something akin to a startup. Consider the reaction that Scott Charney, Microsoft's recently minted chief security officer and the former computer-crime boss at the Department of Justice, encountered when he first arrived at Redmond, Washington. A Microsoft insider reports that many employees were incensed by Charney's appointment, arguing that he would burden them with bureaucracy. Charney was dumbfounded that a global organization of 50,000 people couldn't bring itself to acknowledge that it's a big — make that very big — company. Charney's rejoinder to his critics: Microsoft is already a bureaucracy, and the fact that it doesn't want to acknowledge that reality shows that it's a very bad bureaucracy.
The upshot of the Charney story: Microsoft has grown to dominate high tech, but in terms of its culture, the Redmond giant is still working through its adolescence. Bill Breen
The Loneliness of a Long-distance Campaign Manager
Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's campaign manager, readily confesses that his dream was not to be involved in politics at all this year ("Joe Trippi's Killer App," page 109). After stewarding a brutal congressional race in Pennyslvania in 2002, he had a simple plan for 2003: "A year of beaches, beautiful women, and pi - a coladas."
So when his partners at his media consulting firm asked him to sit in on a meeting to discuss Dean's race, he couldn't have been less interested. Still, he came and was dismayed to discover himself responding to Dean's message. "As I'm watching him, I'm thinking, 'This guy really gets it.' " Then his left brain kicked in with a plea: "Are you out of your friggin' mind? They'll be carrying you away in a casket by June 30!"
Passion trumped reason, and Trippi signed on. But the flesh is weaker than the heart, and by the end of an exhausting second quarter of manic fund-raising, Trippi's body sent him a message. Standing at the counter of a café, he actually fell asleep on his feet, hit the ground, and cracked a rib. Still, he's determined to soldier on. "This is the guy I've lusted for in my heart since I was 17. That's the only reason I'm here." Then he looks longingly at the framed photo of his placid farm in Maryland and reaches for a ringing telephone. Linda Tischler
Ship of Fools
I should explain why Deb Meyerson, Steve Zuckerman, and their three children were vainly trying to anchor late one night off the Aegean coast ("These People Spent a Year on a Boat and Lived to Tell the Story," page 121). It wasn't their fault. It was Fast Company's.
Photographer Grant Delin and I, with my son Conor, met their boat, the Nowornot, a bit more than a week before the end of its voyage. Almost immediately, we sensed that we were upsetting a finely honed family rhythm. Grant was soon seasick, and I fell asleep mid-interview. Later that afternoon, we took Zuckerman and the kids ashore to photograph baseball practice near the beach. By the time we returned to the boat, night was starting to fall — and Meyerson was growing impatient.
Rest assured, we did atone for our disruption, more or less. After dropping a line into the water at an inopportune moment, Grant galantly jumped into the dinghy to help Adam Zuckerman secure the Nowornot to the rocks onshore. The anchorage ultimately failed, but we still enjoyed a pretty stunning night under the Turkish sky. Keith H. Hammonds
A version of this article appeared in the October 2003 issue of Fast Company magazine.