I closed the last chapter of Mystic Microsoft with the statement, "I quietly faded out of the Microsoft scene and into the light of a new life." As described in the biography that follows, that life has found me engaged in a wide variety of pursuits.
"Pursuits," however, is entirely the wrong word because it implies that my choice of activities has been driven by motivations like personal ambition and self-aggrandizement. It implies that I've been chasing after something that I hope will bring contentment. Truth is, I'm not really chasing after or pursuing anything of the sort because I have that contentment already.
I spoke in the latter chapters of this book how my frame of reference shifted from ego, which is to say, self-gain, to that of service. Service was, and remains, my central focus. In fact, my wife and I belong to the renunciate order within the spiritual community where we live, an order that is open to married couples and householders such as ourselves. This might strike you as odd, because renunciation within spiritual contexts has traditionally meant embracing the principles of poverty, chastity, and obedience. However, the need today is not so much renunciation of outer forms (such as material possessions and relationships) as the renunciation, again, of ego. An attitude of service in everything one does—even if that includes having children, holding a job, and so forth—is truly one of the best ways to rise above the self-preoccupation that rules so many people's lives. Accordingly, our vows are instead ones of simplicity, self-control, and cooperation.
With service as my frame of reference, I've been able to engage in all kinds of different roles not with the thought of what I would gain, materially or socially, but rather how I would be transformed, spiritually. That search for Truth—that seeking to give myself completely into the Divine, as described in Chapter 14—remains my deepest motivation. Within my community and other spiritual contexts, in fact, I go by the Sanskrit name of "Satyaki,"[*] which translates literally to "devotion to Truth" and represents the quality of devotion. When my fellow seekers call me by this name, they're subtly reinforcing its qualities and thus supporting me in this deepest aspiration.[†]
I took this name as a way of fully embracing a gentle suggestion from my most respected teacher (and our community's founder). Noting my general tendency toward intellectuality, he just said, "Maybe you should work with children." Children? That was entirely unexpected! As described in Chapter 15, I'd pretty much put children out of my mind. But in the spirit of cooperation and my continued sincerity to grow, I accepted this advice wholeheartedly. Among other things, I helped teach Sunday school and put together yoga day camps for a couple of summers. (In this latter role I made an appearance on National Public Radio, in a program about alternative camps.)
Over the next few years, I'm delighted to say that the prescription worked wonders by helping me develop much greater inner balance as well as a much deeper appreciation—and capacity!—for the feeling aspect of human nature. And most importantly, it allowed me to completely accept the next phase of growth for both myself and my wife: becoming parents, an experience for which we'regrateful beyond words.
To be honest, having a child hadn't even crossed our minds for many years. Friends occasionally asked us about the possibility, but the idea just didn't have any energy. But when it was completely clear that being a mother was what Kristi needed most, I was joyfully willing, again from an attitude of service, to embrace the role of father.
We welcomed our son, Liam, into our family in 2006, and I'm delighted to say that the inner transformation that started when I first worked with children has continued to deepen.
As we continued to live off investment income as "Enoughonaires," even with a child, I was blessed to be present during every day of Liam's infancy and early childhood. That was also when I finally found the time to get Mystic Microsoft completed and published in the middle of 2007. At that point, I'd been retired from Microsoft for nearly eleven years, and had no intention of resuming a technology career. It was quite ironic, then, that it was less than a year later, in March 2008, that I found myself once again working within the halls of Microsoft.
This had come about because Liam, even when he was but a few months old, demonstrated a clear love for travel. Although our investment income was adequate to cover our living expenses, we could clearly see that additional income would be very helpful to finance Liam's future needs, including education and travel.
Accordingly, Kristi suggested that I look for occasional work as a contractor, and that I might start by reconnecting with some of my old Microsoft friends. The first person I reached out to was—you guessed it—Bob Taniguchi, who had recently returned to Microsoft himself after a long hiatus. Right away he told me that the group he'd just left (as always!) had a perfect contractor position for me, writing documentation for a set of programming tools that were derived from the OLE technology. One of OLE's original architects, in fact, was the designer behind this new project. But technology aside, the work itself was a continuation of what I said was the cornerstone of my first career at Microsoft: helping others to succeed, and to enjoy themselves in the process!
Being handed an opportunity on the proverbial silver platter, I was able to obtain the six-month contract almost twenty years to the day from my first joining Microsoft as a college student. My intention at this point was simply to dip my toes in the high-tech waters for a bit, and then step out again. But after my contract was done, the team, very pleased with the work I'd done, asked "What would it take to get you back here as a regular employee?"
"Well," I said, "I want to work from home," (we were living in Portland, Oregon at this time), "and I want to just work part-time." The team also asked me to quote them a desired salary, so I just extrapolated from my 1996 salary by adding a modest 4% per year.
When they team came back and said "no problem" to my requests, and offered me 10% more than my stated salary, I really couldn't say no!
Thus in September, 2008, I found myself sitting in my second new employee orientation, a true "old-timer"[‡] surrounded mostly by new college graduates who were taking their first steps in what they surely hoped would become long and fruitful careers. But that's not why I was there; I was simply responding to a call to service—in this case service to my family and, once again, other software developers.
I also enjoyed the irony that for this second tenure with Microsoft, I was hired on as a Senior Program Manager. If you recall from Chapter 16, I'd ended my first stint as a PM not having ever really grasped the work. And even in my first few months back at Microsoft I was still focused on writing documentation and not really engaged in the work of program management. In early 2009, however, when Microsoft announced its first-ever large-scale layoffs, my focus shifted to serving the external developer community through a variety of activities like we'ddone in the Developer Relations Group. So I finally began doing real PM work, and flourished in it thanks to two factors. One was the wide-ranging experience of working with many different people during my twelve years of retirement. The other was the much deeper capacity for empathy that I'd developed around children.
One of the oddest parts of being an employee again was having to describe, as part of our annual performance evaluation process, how I would grow my career in the coming year. It was a natural question for Microsoft to ask as an employer, given their investment in me as an employee. It's also a natural question to answer for those who are pursuing a career, but rather awkward for someone focused on service. Fortunately, I was able to state career goals in such a way that they would deepen that sense of giving rather than gaining.
I worked in that team for another year and half or so, until upper management decided to cancel the whole project in July of 2010. This sent the whole team out looking for other positions, and myself and a number of others ended up in the Windows organization. I had to smile when I learned that, after more than a decade, I still had brand-name recognition: the foundational technology of OLE, something called the Component Object Model (COM), was and still remains the way that Windows' programming interfaces are built. Many of the engineers still had copies of Inside OLE 2nd Edition on their bookshelves!
Four years later, in July 2014, as we were starting work on Windows 10, I felt ready for a change. However, I found myself with that same quandary that I once had being the "OLE guru" as described in Chapter 16—so many people depended on my work that I would never have deliberately walked away from it. But by God's grace I didn't have to take that responsibility: the Windows organization decided to lay off all remote employees, including myself (I was now working from our home near Nevada City, California). It was a complete surprise to get the call from HR informing me of this, but, having learned the lessons I described in Chapter Four, I took the news with a big smile and a light heart. I had been given opportunity to choose my next step freely.
It so happened that, just a few days before, I'd been in Redmond and had visited one of the team managers that I'd worked with on Windows. He was a good friend, and we always made sure to keep in touch when I was at Microsoft in person. He'd moved from Windows to Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Division about a year earlier, and he told me how he was trying to build his current team of content developers, who served the external community with documentation, videos, example programs, and so on. "What I'd really like," he said, "are people like you." Imagine his delight, then, when I called him up the next week to announce my sudden availability.
After the few weeks it took to get everything arranged and to conduct a lightweight interview, I hired into his team in September, 2014, and remain there still. The sweet part is that because I'd been rehired before the September 15th deadline stipulated in the terms of the layoff, it was like I'd never left. I effectively got a six-week paid sabbatical out of the whole situation!
What will my future hold? I cannot say, nor do I need to say. I continue to offer myself into what Life places in front of me. Whether that means remaining at Microsoft or making a transition once more to a different non-technology role, it really doesn't matter. I know, as always, that with service, sincerity, and self-offering, God will lovingly bring me whatever lessons and opportunities I need, in whatever context I'm applying my energies, to grow ever closer to him.
[†] I should add that although I still enjoy reading, I'm not obsessed with taking notes like I used to be (see Chapter Five). I still have the passages I copied from all the books I read, which have been useful in other writing work, but cleaned out all of my voluminous commentaries on them. [Return to text]