I didn’t apply at Microsoft for my first contract. In fact, I didn’t even think that technical writing was a thing. I’d been a software developer for about 10 years and found what I liked best about that experience was documenting and training end-users when I delivered my software. So I jumped at the chance when I was called and asked if I were interested in working on a contract with the number one selling software company on the planet.
I was writing a paper rag magazine on desktop publishing and my first boss saw my work and thought I’d be a great hire. I first went to work at Microsoft in 1987 as a contractor on a Windows 3.1 project first as an editor and later as a writer. I worked with MS32. This means I worked with employee number 32. Bill Gates was employee #1 and Paul Allen was #2. She knew him personally and her people skills were similar to how we’d heard Bill Gates was as well.
My first official assignment was to begin editing the Software Developer’s Kit (SDK) which consisted of a 1000+-page Software Development Kit, a 581-page API Reference Guide, Code Snippets, and more. I was responsible for editing or writing all of the content with the assistance of two other senior writers.
Some of my other responsibilities included verifying each reference with the legal department to verify that each product had the correct copyright, trademark, or registered trademark listed in the front matter of each book in the Software Development Kit and I also updated the Microsoft Manual of Style while it was version 2.x and used internally only. It was in version 3 that it was released as a product for public release.
After my first contract, I was invited back and ended up working on 15 contracts for Microsoft. My last contract was around 2006. After that, Microsoft had their first layoffs and would only deal with local people. As I had moved to San Diego in 2003, they stopped using me directly.
Microsoft Services Delivery Methodology Library
I was the online help developer and backup technical writer for this project. It was a library containing templates, frameworks, reference material, and more to help any external vendor propose solutions using the same materials from start to finish.
Microsoft’s objective was to make it easier to review external vendors if they were looking at similar material and organization when receiving proposals, and the site accomplished this by operating as both a delivery system for the resources they needed as well as a knowledge base to assist them in completing material using the same language, procedures, processes, etc.
I did work on one more contract with them indirectly, writing and editing white papers for MSDN. That was a perfect job for me because every white paper was on emerging technologies, always on the bleeding edge, and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the agency I worked with, lost the contract and that was the last time I worked with Microsoft. I always liked the variety of work I did for them over the years. It was never boring to work for them.