A former Microsoft employee is facing heat after several Twitter users pointed out that his description of the time he spent at the company amounted to glorification of a toxic work culture. Hadi Partovi, CEO of the education nonprofit Code.org, joined Microsoft more than 25 years ago. As a 22-year-old, he was part of the team working on developing Internet Explorer, Mr Partovi revealed in his now-viral Twitter thread.
“25 years ago Microsoft released Internet Explorer 3.0, its first real salvo in the Browser Wars’ This launch taught taught me how a giant corporation could move at the speed of a startup,” he wrote.
His Twitter thread went on to describe how Microsoft, at that time, was trying to compete with Netscape Navigator, the web browser which held 95% of the market share. The Internet Explorer team had only 9 people and was “trying desperately to grow as quickly as possible.”
Mr Partovi expounded upon the various lessons he learned during his time at Microsoft – including the time his boss spoke to him about the importance of learning to say no. “I also learned the value of motivation. Bill Gates wrote a memo to all of Microsoft, saying the Internet Explorer project is critical and asking every team to reorient their work to help us. Our inboxes exploded, but it made us feel important, and we worked even harder,” he said.
However, two of his tweets in the thread caught the eye of Twitter, and not in a good way. In the tweets, Mr Partovi said that the Internet Explorer team was the “hardest working team” he had ever been on. The team ate all meals together in office and held foosball tournaments at 2am so they could “get the team energy back up to continue working!”
The work was so hectic, it led to divorces and broken families, Mr Partovi admitted. “Sadly, there were divorces and broken families and bad things that came out of that. But I also learned that even at a 20,000-person company, you can get a team of 100 people to work like their lives depend on it,” he wrote.
While he went on to talk more about Internet Explorer – the web browser that saw initial success before becoming a “sad joke among web developers” – it was his tweets describing the work culture at Microsoft that had Twitter enraged.
Several people called Mr Partovi out for “glorifying” the toxic work environment.
“Glorifying ‘divorces and broken families’ as an acceptable trade off to build a product (largely to enrich one’s bosses!) feels like it’s absolutely devoid of any compassion,” wrote one Twitter user.
“As a former Microsoft employee, I know this win at all costs mentality. It’s both toxic and makes you feel important,” a Twitter user said, warning others to not fall in the same trap.
Hadi Partovi issued a clarification after the barrage of criticism that came his way. In follow-up tweets, he said his claims of broken marriages were exaggerated.
“Footnote to my mention of divorce (which I don’t glorify, but to note repercussions, and I must admit I exaggerated): there were 2 divorces, both in leadership, one due to gender reassignment surgery,” he said.
The former Microsoft employee added that his “poor word choice gave a very falsely exaggerated impression.” He noted that one person who got divorced was 25, with no children, and the other got divorced 10 years later.
“Considering how young this team was, the main repercussion wasn’t on families, it was self-imposed sleep loss, which is bad for health. (Had I known this tweet would blow up I would have written that bit differently!)” he said.
However, Twitter users were not buying the damage control. Reactions to his clarification were largely negative too.