My last day working at Microsoft will be December 1, 2017. I'm not taking another job right away. Instead, I'm blocking off time to pray, to invest in my family, to study, and to work on some projects. As I've shared this news in recent weeks, I sometimes get confused looks. "Why?" is the general question. "Why leave a perfectly good job with no other work lined up?" Great question! What follows is my answer.
I began working at Microsoft in the fall of 2000, a few months after finishing a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee. My first role was as a Support Engineer for Windows. I can easily remember how excited I was to get this job! Microsoft was the only software company I interviewed with; all the other companies I considered were hardware-focused, which was more aligned with my education. And yet… Microsoft… what an opportunity! This was a company that was changing the world, and I wanted to be a part of it.
Over the next 17 years my career at Microsoft as a software engineer took a variety of interesting turns. Some highlights: I debugged Windows and worked on hotfixes, helped develop "Fix it", led a team of engineers who built diagnostic tools and services, and led an engineering team building services for Microsoft's financial systems. Through all of this I found that not only is Microsoft a place to do incredible technical work, but perhaps more importantly the people at this company are amazing. They are intelligent, technical, collaborative, driven… these are my kind of people, and I've learned so much from them over the years.
Why would I want to leave a company like that? There are actually several reasons, but when distilled down it comes to one thing: I want to be intentional. Microsoft has been incredible, but I came to realize that I've allowed myself to be swept along in my career, taking each opportunity as it came, without stopping to consider where I'm going.
I'm choosing to be intentional in how I spend time with my family. My wife and children are the most important people in my life, and they deserve more of my time and attention than they have received in recent years. As I've taken on more responsibility at work I've found it increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy work / life balance (or just "life balance" as a leader I respect calls it). Right now, all four of my kids are at home, and I've come to realize just how precious, and limited, this time is. It won't be long before my oldest kids are in college. If I wait until normal retirement age to take a career break, my kids will be grown. I'm choosing to spend time with them now, even if it means I have to work more years overall.
I'm choosing to be intentional in what work I do. Software engineering has been a good fit for me, but right now I've lost much of my passion for it. I still have a love of technology, but I'm no longer excited about the day to day details of my work. As a manager at Microsoft, I cannot lead effectively if I'm not genuinely excited and passionate about my team's work. I have other interests and abilities outside of software, and I plan to use my time to study and grow those skills, and consider other career paths. Or perhaps doing so will lead me back to software engineering as my true calling, and I will be happy in the knowledge that I took the time to make a deliberate career choice.
I'm choosing to be intentional in how I seek after God. I'm a Christian, but too often I trust in my own abilities rather than in God. I make too many decisions just based on my own logic, and not on faith. As I leave my job and step out of the comfort of regular income and a clear plan for my career, my intent is to be more deliberate in the time I spend in prayer and study of the Bible, seeking God in how I may be involved with the work of his kingdom.
All of that said, I realize that leaving full-time employment is not a prerequisite for being intentional! However, as mentioned above, I need a change. While I could jump to another similar position at Microsoft or elsewhere, in doing so I would miss the opportunity to pause, fully consider what is next, invest in my family, and seek God.
I'm thankful that I had the chance to work at Microsoft; it truly is a great company full of exceptional people. I don't take my decision to leave such an organization lightly, and I recognize that I am blessed to even have the option to take time off from regular work. I plan to make the most of the opportunity!