Why I quit Microsoft

My first job out of college was at Microsoft. I showed up at work everyday, and for the first year or so I was bright eyed and excited to be working on a product that I’d always admired, Excel.

Microsoft treated me well, but something was missing, and it wasn’t until I left that I fully figured out what it was. Seems kind of a no-brainer now, but here’s what I was missing: I wasn’t having fun.

I can hear it already, people saying that my generation is so entitled thinking that we deserve jobs that are fun.

In fact, here’s some feedback that I got from a coworker in my annual performance review (I have no idea who):

“Karen needs to understand that there are parts to everyone’s job that they do not enjoy doing.”

In China we have this saying called “chi ku” which literally translates to “eat bitterness.” And it is something to proud of. We are proud to suffer and do the unpleasant work.

Well I don’t believe in being proud of how much bitterness you can eat. I believe in recognizing that you’re eating the bitterness, and then figuring out how you could be eating a delicious steak instead. If that’s what people call entitled, I am entitled.

So I left Microsoft and took a job at Exec. It was really scary to make that decision. The decision to figure out what I wanted to do, to teach myself to become a designer, to go to dreaded networking events, to fly on my own dime to meet startups.

I’ve been at Exec for 2 months. I am having fun now. I wake up everyday with a fire in me. I’m eating my delicious steak.

I was told many times that I should stay at Microsoft and be grateful for the job I had there. And I believe in being grateful. But don’t let gratefulness hide the hunger that you have within.


  • People who give advice that work should suck normally took their own advice and want to justify it. There are people who are perfectly content working 9-5 and are just there for the paycheck. There are plenty of sucky jobs for them. There are also a lot of jobs that if you work really hard for, you’ll get burned in the long run. But then there’s the 3rd type, the jobs you work really hard for, and you get rewarded accordingly. These are the great jobs, and they’re really not that hard to find if you’re prepared to hit the other 2 and move on. :)

    Best of luck in your job!

  • Know exactly what you mean… :)

    For several reasons last year resigned my position in AZ…been to a lot of interviews…had one or two proposals…but still none seems “fit”.

    Its been a year…actually has been a great year :) … still looking and there might be one project that seems to fit. but if it does not…well…then it might be time to create my own project.

    “chi ku” can be a phase but cannot be a way of life…

    p.s. considering high unemployment here and euro-crisis…many people told me (and certainly think) that i’ve lost my mind…. :)

  • You did the right thing. I’ve made career decisions based on three criteria: 1) building something novel and interesting, 2) having fun doing it, 3) being compensated well. These have worked well for me, over 30 years. (They also convinced me to pass on an extremely lucrative offer from Microsoft in the mid 90s.)

    You obviously can’t do this in many fields, but in software you can. It tends to keep you doing work that will be attractive to your next employer.

  • AND you’re sending a good message to all the little boys and girls who look up to you 😀

  • I am glad you have found a job that you love. That’s how it should be. And good luck!

  • Many people does not get the opportunity to choose where they work nowadays. We go to work to a boring job 9 to 5 in order to support ourselves or others. There’s bills to pay and in this kind of economy having a job is good enough and quitting to follow our dreams is just impossible. Its a big risk because to some they might lose everything.

  • I don’t think you’re entitled at all Karen!

    It reveals much more about the generation before us when they talk about how entitled we are, just because we’re striving for something more than just a paycheck. Our generation can see how unhealthy and unsustainable our way of life has been because we’re going to experience the consequences harsher than anyone else.

    There’s nothing entitled at all about trying to find meaning and discover that fun in our lives and work. There’s nothing entitled about not wanting to have to make a decision between meaning and money.

  • How were you able to figure out what you wanted to do (become a designer)? I’m thinking about switching careers from a financial consultant to an interaction designer…but I’m also contemplating business school or a phd in psychology. Did you consider or think of any other careers before settling on designer?


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