In the late 1980s, Microsoft’s reputation as a work-hard, play-hard tech company was novel. Now, it’s the hallmark of every success story in Silicon Valley.
Hey, bae, remember when Microsoft was cool?
Perhaps that’s a question Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is hearing from co-workers Thursday after the company sent a “poorly worded” email inviting “bae” interns to a party with “hella noms” and “lots of dranks” lit up the internet.
The email follows a series of corporate-culture faux pas. Earlier this year, the company launched a millennial-emulating chatbot that quickly began parroting racist remarks. The company also held a party that included go-go dancers dressed as schoolgirls.
In recent years, Facebook and Google have carved themselves reputations as trendsetting companies in attracting millennial workers. Once, though, it was Microsoft that had a reputation for its corporate benefits and work-hard (often too hard), play-hard culture for 20-somethings.
In a 1989 profile of the company’s workforce, Seattle Times reporter Paul Andrews captured the environment. Employees wore what they wanted, worked the hours that suited them and each had two (remember, it’s 1989) computers.
The health club was free (perhaps to work off the free 7-Eleven beverages offered). Younger employees with stock options apparently wore buttons that read “FYIFV,” which stood for “F— You, I’m Fully Vested.”
After a charity contest back then, Microsoft executives, including future CEO Steve Ballmer, swam across a frigid artificial lake in front of his fellow employees. Ballmer wore red bikini shorts.
Novel among tech companies now, Microsoft’s seemingly laid-back culture was coupled with intense demands, long hours and cutthroat internal competition. One worker described Microsoft as a “velvet sweatshop.”
If it’s anything like that now, we wouldn’t blame the “bae interns” for needing a few “dranks.”