Microsoft employees beam and pose beside it. Visitors at the Microsoft Campus can also stand in a line to get a smiling snap beside it; what is it? It’s a company portrait of Microsoft – taken just before the then-startup left for Seattle in 1978, featuring the Microsoft folks who ran the show at that point of time.
Microsoft’s first 11 employees
The young, smiling teen at the bottom left and the geek with a heavy beard are known to us, Bill Gates and Paul Allen respectively (the former dropped out in the middle of his studies to start Microsoft and later convinced Paul to do the same). What about the rest of the people in the portrait? Do they still possess an active Microsoft-employee badge? Let’s find out.
Being a Technical writer for Microsoft, Andrea Lewis wrote documents explaining Microsoft’s software. However, in 1983, having quit Microsoft, she changed tracks and shifted to a career as a freelance journalist/fiction writer.
So she is the one people talk about, for suing Microsoft for sexual discrimination after immediately saying ‘I Quit’. She is Maria Wood. She was a book-keeper at Microsoft while her husband, Steve Wood also had the Microsoft-employee badge. Microsoft later settled the sexual discrimination case filed by Maria.
Paul Allen is a very live example of people who say that age is just a number. Being the co-founder of Microsoft, Allen worked quite hard during the initial days. But after the entry of Steve Ballmer, Allen found a shift in Bill’s focus, favorably towards Ballmer. This led to quite-a-many clashes between the two founders and finally Allen thought it was in his best interest to surrender his badge. Today, Paul Allen is counted among the richest person in the world and owns Portland Trailblazers and many other firms based on his hobbies while also being the owner of a fleet of the biggest yatch fleet in the world.
Bob O’Rear was one of the oldest employees at Microsoft and had the honor of being in NASA – Mission Control when we landed on the moon. His work at Microsoft was that of a chief-mathematician and is credited with reworking code in DOS, and getting it onto IBM PCs. Bob also left Microsoft in 1983 while today, he sits on the board of a few local businesses.
It was thanks to Bob Greenberg that this portrait was possible. He won the free portrait after calling in a radio show and guessing the name of an assassinated president! Greenberg is credited with helping develop a new version of BASIC at Microsoft. However, he too said left Microsoft in 1981 and went on to help his family’s company, Coleco, develop the Cabbage Patch Kid dolls, which became a huge hit.
Employees are usually happy when their company grows big over time. But Marc McDonald was different. He hated the expansion progress of Microsoft and in fact, that was his reason for leaving Microsoft in 1984. Might sound absurd but yes, that was it. However, professionally it was a circle for Marc when Microsoft bought Design Intelligence in 2000, a Seattle Design company where marc used to work after having quit Microsoft. And guess what? He ended back in Microsoft again. Destiny!
After Bill Gates, Gordon Letwin stayed with the company for the longest period until 1993. A programmer by profession, this charming person wanted a break from the grind of the company and finally left Microsoft as an employee. Gordon now has a ranch in Arizona and is a strong environmentalist.
Steve Wood is the husband of Maria Wood, who eventually left Microsoft under bad circumstances. Steve left Microsoft in 1980 and went on to work with Paul Allen on a few companies. He founded Wireless Services Corp., a mobile messaging company, in 1996. It’s been renamed SinglePoint, and he’s now the chairman.
This early member of Microsoft died in 2002 from pneumonia. After leaving Microsoft as an employee, Bob Wallace spent time and money researching psychedelic drugs and also founded a software company called Quicksoft. R.I.P Bob Wallace.
From a distant, he looks like a member of a rock band. But he is not. Jim Lane was a project manager at Microsoft and was instrumental in helping with the Microsoft-Intel partnership which later worked wonders for both these companies. However, it was Jim who said the now-famous dialogue, ‘Microsoft beat the enthusiasm out of me’ while saying I QUIT in 1985. Jim later started his own software company.
And the following is the group photograph of this ‘gang’ when Bill Gates left Microsoft as a regular employee.
Hope you enjoyed reading the post!