Microsoft in the Mirror: 19 Insiders Reflect on the Experience, edited by Karin Carter

Reviewed by: Thomas V. Kappel, send e-mail
Published by: Pennington Books, go to the web site
Requires: N/A
MSRP: $14.95 (perhaps - see review)


It is difficult to put your finger or mind on exactly what this book is. Books like this always seem, at first blush, to be self indulgent in the extreme. It is and it is not quite history yet. Still, Nineteen people sat down and reflected on paper purposed for your enjoyment what their experiences were at Microsoft in the early years. Many freely admit that the company they knew no longer exists. The old Microsoft ain't the new Microsoft.

This book is categorized as Business/Memoir. It is close to a memoir for the writers, but it's much more like 19 reminiscences of the startup company and how most of them got rich or missed the whole damn boat, some bitterly. The only writer identified in the book by full name is the author; the other 18 are probably pseudonymous accompanied by a rough bios mostly outlining their personalities. This trade paperback book is nearly 250 pages long and its author, a 14-year veteran of Microsoft who retired comfortably at 34, started off as an administrative assistant. She moved up in the corporation to producing user documentation and kept moving up after that. She sort of gives away her user documentation background as the opening of the book is titled User's Guide. That's kind of cute.

What is also 'cute' is that this book comes with no price printed on it. One would guess that the seller can charge whatever the market will pay. The retail price is listed on the publisher's web site. Interestingly, the publisher is in Redmond, Washington (the home of Microsoft) and the next book they are publishing looks interesting and is also by someone who worked or is still working at Microsoft.


Computer programmers, switchboard operators, administrative assistants, technical writers all tell their stories about the early years at Microsoft, the fast rise to success of the company, and the riches earned by these early employees. This same book could have been written by individuals from many of the dotcom start up companies who experienced similar rises in success and fortunes before the great fall. There are a great many comparable stories floating around about those few who got out in time and those who didn't. But, this is written down and is not just a tall tale or rumor and, after all, it is about MICROSOFT and that's a horse of another color.

The tales inside this book talk about hard choices, working long hours, sacrificing family time, growing up, dealing with sudden wealth, life's values and life's disappointments. If this book were fiction and written a little differently it would have all the aspects of a great novel, but, as fact, it becomes a nonfiction read and a capture of knowledge and experience from a moment in history for the individuals involved.

The bottom line is that hard working young people pushed a company to success and themselves to great reward. Isn't that the great American story we all like to hear? That this was Microsoft is interesting, but it's the reminiscences of the people involved and their individual points of view and experiences that they share with us which makes this book rewarding.

So what we end up with in this book is 19 people sitting around, who mostly no longer need to work, reminiscing about something that happened years ago to a company that they admit no longer exists. That's probably factual, but pretty rough. Actually, when you look into Microsoft in the Mirror you definitely see the company, but it's pretty much in the background. What you see in the mirror are the people; the worker bees. This is their story. The company is a success because it went along for the ride. It's always the employees who push a company, as they did this one, to the pot of gold in the fields of Seattle.


History studies the smallest details in the lives of highly successful people. This book gives you a peek into the early years of what is probably one of the most successful company in history so far.

Buy it, read it and you'll get an early peek into what will undoubtedly be history soon and may even be studied for years in schools and businesses looking to duplicate great success and the people who made it happen.

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