Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.
June 22, 2009 10:40 AM
Posted by Sharon Chan
My Seattle Times colleague Lornet Turnbull wrote a story today about a "Microsoft subsidy bill" that the Washington state legislature passed granting in-state tuition rates for children of foreign professionals.
It was dubbed the Microsoft subsidy bill because most of the beneficiaries are children of Microsoft workers who came to Washington state under H-1B visas.
According to the story, the bill was passed during the state budget crisis, while higher education suffered hundreds of millions in cuts, and is projected to result in revenue loss to the University of Washington of $430,000 and to Washington State University of $215,000.
Click here for the full story.
April 13, 2009 12:48 PM
Posted by Sharon Chan
Microsoft will offer 30,000 vouchers for free software training to help people in Washington get learn how to use Microsoft software.
Gov. Chris Gregoire and Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith made the announcement this morning at a press conference at the YWCA Opportunity Place in downtown Seattle. Microsoft first announced its job training program, Elevate America, in February and Washington is the first state to roll it out.
"We have thought long and hard about how do we come out of this deep recession stronger and better prepared for the 21st century," Gregoire said.
Both employed or unemployed people are eligible for the vouchers, which can be used to take online courses, worth $100 to $300, or certification testing, which is worth $85. Click here to sign up between now and May.
Vouchers expire in July. People will need an Internet-connected computer to access the training. People without computers can get access to one at centers such as the YWCA's Opportunity Place.
"It will help people who are unemployed get skills needed to get their next job, and it will help people employed to keep their jobs and get the skills they need," Smith said. He estimated the economic value of the vouchers at $3 million at the low end.
In separate news, Smith declined to comment on reports that Microsoft and Yahoo are talking about a search partnership.
He also said there has been no change in outlook on layoffs at Microsoft. The company still plans to cut 5,000 total jobs through 2010, including the 1,400 announced in January. Smith also said the company still plans to create 2,000 new jobs in that period.
March 26, 2009 10:23 AM
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano
The Kitsap Sun reports that Microsoft is joining an effort to develop a work-at-home program with a group of businesses and other organizations in Kitsap and Jefferson counties. The Telework Pilot Project, an effort of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, aims to build a set of guidelines and tools for working from home. A Microsoft spokesman told the Sun that 50 of the company's 130 employees working in the area expressed interest in participating. The company will offer technical and human resources staff as advisers to the project.
March 17, 2009 11:08 AM
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano
After reading yesterday's New York Times report on increasing enrollment in the nation's computer science programs, I pinged Ed Lazowska at the University of Washington to see what's happening there.
"Our numbers are in fact much stronger than the national numbers," he said via e-mail, introducing the chart below, which plots rolling enrollment in the UW's introductory computer science course over the last four and a half years. (Incidentally, the data was compiled earlier this year at the request of Google.)
Lazowska added this perspective on the UW's undergraduate programs:
March 3, 2009 6:01 PM
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano
It's widely known that Microsoft has a large contingent work force in addition to its 96,000 direct, regular employees worldwide. But the company has never publicly quantified these workers, who typically work through third-party firms and do everything from mow the lawns to write software.
According to numbers reviewed by The Seattle Times, Microsoft has roughly 70,700 vendors, as well as 8,600 "other" workers worldwide. The "other" category includes mostly agency temps -- the so-called "a-" workers -- but also visiting researchers and interns.
The numbers come from HeadTrax, an internal application used to track human resources. It lists a total head count of more than 175,700 people who could be broadly described as earning some portion of their living through work for Microsoft. The figure does not appear to include the impact of 1,400 layoffs announced in January and set to take effect later this month as part of an 18-month plan to cut a net 2,000 to 3,000 full-time jobs.
Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said the numbers are "within the ballpark," but added that HeadTrax is essentially a "running barometer" for the company to keep a handle on things. He added that the vendor number "varies widely depending upon what's going on at any given time."
Vendors perform a range of functions of varying durations for the company through outside service providers. A landscaping company, for example, may get badges so that a crew of workers can come on campus to mow lawns. But even though the crew is included in the count of vendors, they might not work at Microsoft every day.
This can cause the vendor figure to appear artificially high, Gellos said.
Other functions performed by contingent staff, both vendors and agency temps, include staffing reception desks, driving the company's shuttles and Connector buses, writing technical documentation, providing security, moving offices, writing and testing software code, lending specific expertise to major projects and more.
The HeadTrax information did not indicate where the employees are located. Microsoft does report its local regular, work force. At the end of January it had about 41,555 in the Puget Sound region, about 43 percent of the total at that point.
Matt Rosoff, analyst with Kirkland-based independent research firm Directions on Microsoft, said the number of contract workers is not surprising, but is interesting to see quantified.
"We had always heard that Microsoft has about as many contract employees as it does full-time employees, so 70,000 [vendors] seems very reasonable to me," Rosoff said.
A segment of the contingent staff has been in the spotlight in recent days after Microsoft lowered by 10 percent the amount it pays U.S. third-party temporary agencies that place these workers in assignments at the company. Many of the temp agencies are passing a similar cut on to the contract employees. (The 10 percent cut, part of a broader Microsoft cost-cutting effort, has so far affected only the so-called "a-" agency temp workers, of whom there were recently about 7,200 worldwide.)
Rosoff said the total global head count figure, 175,700, may still miss some people at other companies that do most of their work for Microsoft.
"In the Seattle area, there are plenty of small development companies who are mostly dependent on Microsoft outsourcing work to them," Rosoff said. "Say an internal product group wants to build a SharePoint site and nobody has time to do it. That's the kind of thing they might outsource."
Microsoft's use of contingent workers matches the broader trend in the technology industry, said Eric Gregg, a managing partner at the Inavero Institute, a Portland firm that provides research on and for the staffing industry.
"It is no longer the case that companies view temporary and contract strategy as their 'contingent' workforce, but rather their flexible workforce," Gregg said via e-mail. "... In the technology space, this reliance on temporary and contract labor is even more pronounced than in many of the other sectors."
The HeadTrax numbers reveal that Microsoft is vying with Boeing in terms of global work force. On Feb. 28, the aerospace giant had 161,594 employees including subsidiaries and long-term contractors. It's difficult to make a direct comparison, however, because of the caveats for Microsoft's vendor work force mentioned above and different methodologies used by each company to count their various types of workers.