Re: What's MS Experience worth on your resume?

Subject: Re: What's MS Experience worth on your resume?
From: "Jerry Kindall" <j -dot- kindall -at- tecplot -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2008 09:50:59 -0700

Just to fill in some background on the mechanics of contracting at

There are two types of contractors at Microsoft: agency temps and
vendors. (These are often referred to as "a-dash" and "v-dash" because
all agency temps have aliases beginning with "a-" and vendors have "v-".
"Alias" in this context is Microsoftese for your network account ID.)

Agency temps are subject to the 100-day rule: after 365 days of
continuous service, you must take 100 days off from Microsoft. Vendors
are not subject to this rule. However, you must take a 100-day break
when going from agency temp to vendor, specifically to rule out
continuing as a vendor after your year as an agency temp. (Going from
vendor to agency temp is no problem; your 365-day clock only starts when
you start as an a-dash. And of course you can go from either status to
employee with no hiatus.)

What's the difference between the two types of contracts? Vendors must
provide all their own equipment (computer, etc.) and often work mostly
or entirely off site, often at home. Vendor contracts are typically for
the duration of a project rather than for a specific period of time.
Agency temps, on the other hand, are provided their equipment and
on-site office by Microsoft. Their contracts are time-limited.

To further confuse matters, it is possible to do a vendor contract
through an agency. They provide your equipment, benefits, and so on,
and you are their employee, just like as if you were an agency temp. I
was recently an a-dash through Volt, but they also have a division (VMC)
that does v-dash contracts. (I worked with Lesli Sager at Volt's
Bothell office, which specializes in placing writers and other
"creatives," and highly recommend her.)

Steyer Associates is a small agency I've had some dealings with that
specializes in placing technical writers on vendor contracts. There is
also a company called Workforce Logic that just takes a modest
percentage off the top -- you get no benefits, but you get to keep a lot
more of the cash, and you don't have to deal with incorporating,
becoming an approved vendor, and so on. (This can be a good deal if you
have insurance through your spouse's employer.)

Getting back to the matter at hand, I had no difficulty getting a
non-Microsoft contract at a small non-MS company after my first year at
Microsoft was up. That contract was intended to be open-ended, but the
company ran low on money and let all their contractors go right about
the time I was eligible to go back to Microsoft. I can, however, see
this being more of a problem if you are young and don't yet have a lot
of experience.

My advice in that case is not to waste your hiatus just collecting
unemployment and making the required three job contacts a week.
Instead, work on something that can serve as a sample while you're
looking for a job. Contribute documentation to an open-source project,
pitch in at a community forum, or start a Web site -- something that
will increase your visibility, show off your skills, and demonstrate
that you are motivated. This will look good regardless of where you end
up working in the future.

In my experience, employers do like to see full-time employment rather
than extended contracting, although Microsoft is a bit of an exception
to this rule, since everyone knows they use a lot of agency temps.
Still, if you do two or three contracts at Microsoft and aren't offered
a full-time position, you may face pointed questions at interviews at
other companies about why you continued contracting. There are ways to
explain this (actually, if you're just out of school, you have a great
excuse: you're trying different things to see what you might like) but
you should be prepared to address it.

If you do want a full-time position at Microsoft and are currently
working with an agency, you should definitely tell your recruiter that
you are interested in temp-to-hire contracts and preferentially take
contracts with that potential. As far as I can tell, it is not a faux
pas to ask about open headcount at a MS interview your agency has sent
you on, either. Definitely bring it up when they ask if you have any

Good luck to Microsoft job hunters!

Jerry Kindall - Tecplot

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