Recently we received a news release about a new book called Stack Rank This! Memoirs of a Microsoft CoupleApart from the subject, what caught my attention was the fact that the book was published anonymously, with the authors referring to themselves by their employee numbers, 154160 and 191855, and using the first names Jason and Melissa.

It’s a personal story about the couple’s encounters with difficult managers, an unfair review process, bullying, burnout and other forms of dysfunction at the company.

The book would have benefited from a strong edit. I found myself agreeing at times with reviews on Amazon about it reading like an extended version of a comment on the Mini-Microsoft blog, or like eavesdropping on a therapy session.

That said, the content shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The underlying issues raised by the authors are important for anyone working at Microsoft or anywhere else in the industry, for that matter.

The story was written, in part, to help others in similar situations, but after finishing, I felt like it needed more takeaways along those lines. So I reached out to the authors to ask them a few questions. Continue reading for their answers.

Q: Why the anonymity? 

A: We decided to use our Microsoft employee ID numbers for a couple of reasons.  First, to provide anonymity to the people in our stories.  Second, we thought it would make a statement of how you can be reduced to a number in the workplace, especially at larger corporations.

It was also for our protection as well.  While Microsoft would know who we are, we did not want this book to stand in the way of future employment with other companies.

Q: Do you think the dysfunction you encountered was unique to Microsoft, or something that’s common across the tech industry?

A: We don’t think that the dysfunction is unique to Microsoft, per se; we have seen certain personality archetypes across different tech companies.  However, we do think that the size of the company and the Stack Ranking system does contribute to the elevated level of dysfunction that we had seen there.

Q: What would you tell someone who asked you if they should work for Microsoft? (Would you recommend the experience?)

A: We would not want to stand in the way of someone’s choice.  We would tell them the good and the bad based on our experiences in the hopes that it would help them navigate the environment.  Not everyone is going to have the type of experience we did.

Q: What tips would you give for survival at the company?

A: Our Tips:

  • Understand the assessment process and compensation model
  • Be flexible but have boundaries
  • Don’t ignore the importance of social connections
  • Address concerns right away, don’t let them incubate into serious situations
  • You need to manage your own career – no one is going to do it for you
  • Know when it’s time to move on (a new role, a new team or a new company)

See the Stack Rank This site for more info on the book.

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  • CaliperCowboy

    Sharing valid Microsoft employee ID numbers? Your identities will be in the blogosphere in DAYS. All it takes is one publicity hungry HR intern to share something with a peer and it’s done. 

    Also, paragraph two of the story of “Jason” has a sentence with sixty-five words. Is this a record?!

    • Guest

      Yeah, they’re very naive if they think those won’t be resolved to actual names shortly.

  • Guest

    Wow, a book about how MS’s culture is full of backstabbing employees and useless managers? Never saw that coming.

  • Guest

    Congratulations to Jason and Melissa for being brave enough to tell their story! Fortune favors the bold.

    • Guest

      Yeah, but fortune rarely favors the stupid. And as others have said, this pair’s names will be out there within a day or two. Add in an apparent inability to write, more axes to grind than the average blacksmith, and no useful conclusions… I’d say these guys won’t be working in tech again any time soon.

      • Guest

        I expect that they’ll be able to find work at Google soon. A Googler friend of mine writes, albeit with more skill, about companies for whom he has worked. Google has not fired the man; rather, they allow him to speak out.

        I think Jason and Melissa will be just fine.

        • Guest

          Yeah, Google would probably spring for a couple new recruits if they were prepared to trash MS. They’ve done it before.

  • Guest

    Understand the assessment process and compensation model
    And the most important part of that is: realize your results are actually the least important aspect of it
    Be flexible but have boundaries
    Just make sure those boundaries are never verbalized. Otherwise it’s the surest way to be labeled a “non team player” and managed out.
    Don’t ignore the importance of social connections
    See item #1. Because what people think of you will be far more important than what you actually do. And one of the best ways to make sure they like you is to make sure they never feel you’re smarter or more capable than they are.
    Address concerns right away, don’t let them incubate into serious situations
    translation: apologize quickly, even if you’re not wrong.
    You need to manage your own career – no one is going to do it for you
    And whatever you do make sure you manage “up”.
    Know when it’s time to move on (a new role, a new team or a new company)
    And if you got on someone bad side, particular if they’re in your management chain or know them (though it can just be a peer if they’re vindictive enough), that time has arrived.

  • Jonah

    Forgot the bullet point (or could have replaced all other bullet points with):

    – act like a grown up and not a self-entitled, over-indulged tech worker.

  • OK

    You guys really want to know they are? ??? 

    just look at the domain main in a whois database hint hint

    • Stannnnnnnn

      Melissa Alarid. Oh heeeeellloooo google.

      • Guest

        Like we said above, it was only a matter of time…

      • Guest

        Which likely makes it Jason Alarid.

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