How Working for Microsoft as a "V-" or "A-" Is Like Being Black In The 50's

One of the joys of working for Microsoft as a vender or contractor is you are not a full time employee, which of course means you are treated as such by the full time employees.

Every employee/vender/contractor is provided a badge. The badge has a picture of the person. The badge is used for many purposes such as entering the building and security. It is to be warn and visible at all times. For venders and contractors it's orange. For FTE's it's blue. You are either a blue badge or an orange badge, so know your place.

The company store is one the perks Microsoft provides it's employees. An orange badge will allow you into the store, you just aren't allowed to purchase anything once there. Unless you are friends with a blue badge and can talk them into it.

Microsoft provides it's own bus service called the Connector. The service picks up at select locations around King and Snohomish county. This provides employees a ride to work on a bus with WiFi and the ability to avoid the general public, as it's for FTE's only. No orange badges allowed, not even in the back of the bus.

Both FTE's and Dash Trash are allowed to sit at the same table in the cafeteria, and purchase the same food. But for the most part the FTE's prefer to sit it groups together.

By adding a v- or a- in front of someone's e-mail alias, it allows the recipient the knowledge that they don't need to respond to that person.

When working on a project with deliverables, since you aren't an employee, they obviously don't report to you or even have to deal with you, so there is not reason to attend the meetings you set up or complete the items assigned to them.

Most venders aren't provided a place to sit or an office. Since they don't work for Microsoft there is no reason to provide them a place to sit at Microsoft. Usually they have to find an empty office, sit in the cafeteria, or wherever they can find an open seat. Contractors are provided a seat, but it's usually crammed into an office with a handful of people even though the office was designed for only 1 or 2 people. Some are grouped into a larger seating area often referred to as a coral or CSG Bay. They get a small desk, and that's about it.

If you are a early riser don't plan on working before 7:00am. Vender and Contractor badges won't let you in the building that early. Apparently Microsoft figures if you are coming in early, you must be up to trouble.

Ever talk to a Microsoft employee in the real world? Notice how when they say they work there, their nose kind of raises a little in the air. Just like they are a little bit better than everyone else. It's like that to work with them as well. Why bother picking up after themselves in the break room, that's what other people are for. Why even bother flushing the toilet?

For familiarity and safety, they tend to live in the same neighborhoods. Few non-Microsoft employees allowed. Most employees once they've worked for the company move to Sammamish and Issaquah. Close to work, matching McMansion, and no matter what your race is, you fit in because you can take the Connector together.

I've thought about hanging signs that say "Blue Badge Only" or "Orange Badge Only" over the taller and shorter drinking fountains, as it would seem appropriate.

For those who don't know:
Vender (v-) - is someone who is employed by another company yet reports to a Microsoft manager. They can't work on the assignment indefinitely. Yet Microsoft has the option of ending the assignment whenever they want.
Contractor (a-) - is someone who is also employed by another company, but due to a lawsuit many years ago, they can only work 12 months on an assignment at Microsoft. After the 12 months they must take a 90 day break before they are allowed another contract or vender assignment.
Alias- this is a unique name assigned to each employee. It's used to accessing information, logins, e-mails etc. it's usually derived some shortened combination of a person first and last name. a- and v-are added to the beginning of each contractors or venders alias, so to further clarify who they are.
FTE - Microsoft Full Time Employee
Dash Trash - This is slang for v- or a-


Anonymous said…
- and Microsoft have influenced many companies around them to treat people likewise: thoroughly poisoning the work environment all around.
Anonymous said…
This is not how it is at Microsoft, don't believe half of what is being said. I was a former a- and am currently a v-. I have been offered an FTE (twice), but like to work on different projects with different teams.

1. Just like any FTE, you need to sell your/the project's value. If you do this, people will respond. This is a major key to being successful at Microsoft.

2. Intelligence and hard work is noticed at Microsoft- no matter what. I am asked to drive meetings and strategic projects all the time-- FTE, v- it doesn't matter so long as you know what you are doing you will get noticed.

3. Accenture, Bain, McKinsey and other top consulting company workers on campus are Orange Badges-- yes even Harvard MBA's wear the orange badge.

4. Remember you are a consultant/contractor for Microsoft, so don't expect the FTE benefits. This is not a bad thing, as v- usually get great benefits from their employer. It's just common sense here.

5. I get invited to off-sites and dinners all the time at FTE/Team gatherings.

6. I work 90% from home.
CM said…
Sure there are exceptions to anything, but based on multiple contracts and vender assignments at Microsoft, I’m speaking from experience. This blog post is also based on opinions I’ve heard from other contractors.

This post isn’t about getting noticed, or knowing how to do your job. Any monkey can set up a conference call, run a meeting, or kiss the right managers ass. It’s about equality. Just like there were some whites back in the day who treated blacks as equals, there are going to be blue badges who treat orange badges as equals. I’m speaking on regards to how it works most of the time, not some of the time.
Anonymous said…
Once again I will preface that this is coming from an orange badge.

I should have added this in my last entry, but your argument is flawed.

You state that being an orange badge is like being black in the 50's, but race is something that you cannot change, you born into this and have no choice or say in the matter-- the outcome remains the same throughout your life.

However, being an Orange Badge is a choice, and you can change your status to a Blue Badge by simply applying to an open position at Microsoft. If you want equality then become a Blue Badge- it's that simple. Unless you dont have what it takes to become an FTE, then it seems like a case of sour grapes to me.

FYI - a- and v- are very different at Microsoft. v- are mainly consultants working with the management and development teams to accomplish set goals and objectives. I have yet to come across a v- with the experience you are claiming. A- maybe a little different, but they can become FTE's as well-- Yes this does happen!

In either case, you come off looking like an idiot by writing this blog. Probably why you are not an FTE now.
CM said…
FYI – I’m aware of the difference between A- and V-, as stated in the post I’ve done both and worked with both. And I’m not an FTE because I’ve never applied for an FTE position, and when people have asked me to apply I’ve said I’m not interested. I enjoy my in-between contract vacations that involve travel, and the variety that goes along with contracting.

Now, any retard (except apparently you) knows that working for Microsoft in any capacity is nothing like actual segregation. The blog post is a commentary on differential treatment based on an individuals status in a hierarchy. The fact that you are getting so worked up about a blog post that is obviously intended as sarcastic commentary means you fit in perfect with the rest of the holier-than-thou FTE’s who’s dicks you so badly want to suck.
Anonymous said…
Really, then why do you back up my first comment with the same analogy? I was just feeding off of your own logic, which makes perfect sense, since you wrote it.


I’m not an FTE because I’ve never applied for an FTE position, and when people have asked me to apply I’ve said I’m not interested. I enjoy my in-between contract vacations that involve travel, and the variety that goes along with contracting.

Now isn't that a nice trade-off-- getting treated like a second class citizen with first class perks such as vacations and travel. I'm sure minorities got that treatment as well in the 50's, right?

Thank you for adding that!
CM said…
WTF man, I posted this nearly a year ago. You really should consider getting a life and letting it go.
Anonymous said…
I think that coming into a CSG or vendor role is all about your attitude. If you assert yourself into the community as any FTE would and participate then you will not get treated like you described in this post. I am a serial a- employee despite being asked to loop for FTE roles because I am young and love to travel and enjoy the flexibility.

I have never encountered the dash trash you speak of, I have several great FTE mentors and have fun participating in events for the employee giving campaign etc. I think this post is very one sided.

Also in many teams I have worked for 2 if not more FTEs started as vendors or CSGs and understand the value of a strong contract employee.
CM said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
CM said…
Once again, not all FTE’s are arrogant douche-bags. Just like not all contractors are lazy slackers. I also know v and a dash people who choose to stay that way. It can be because of money or any number of other reasons. But I do stand by this article as a general stereotype.

So to back it up, check out some current posts over the next few days (first week November 2010). I’m going to have a series titled Dash-Trash Tales. All true stories from the Empire.
Anonymous said…
Hey CM - just wanted to back you up on what you're saying. I'm a v-, and I indeed feel like a 2nd class citizen. I had never thought about the analogy you brought up, but I think it's applicable. I don't think the blue badge-orange badge signs at the drinking fountain is such a stretch. Anyway, all for now but keep up the good writing.
CM said…
Thanks for the backup
Anonymous said…
I make more money and have more flexibility in an a- role. A driend of mine went from a- to FTE and as soon as his status changed, they paid him less and worked him more.
Anonymous said…
check out
Anonymous said…
I like how the guy who has the most complaints that this article is false blatantly stated he works from home 90% of the time. Obviously these nuances are felt more by those of us working on campus full-time. I agree with most of the points in this article. I've been dash trash for 4 years and and quite familiar with the "politics" behind FTE vs. Vendor.
Anonymous said…
As a V- or Orange badge over the last 6 years, I can confirm that this is all true. In short, you feel like a second class citizen. Sour grapes you say? Perhaps a little, but it doesn't have to be this way. I've been an FTE at other companies and we always treated Contractors as respected colleagues. And we didn't have the "perma-contractors" roles that are common at Microsoft. When the contract ends, either the person is hired or they are not.
Rev. Spaminator said…
I was an orange badge for a year and I have to say the best part was knowing the blue badge cleaning the toilets got more respect.
Anonymous said…
I'm an admin, and in my group, in particular, everything you said is true for admins as well.
The emails are rude and we are even sometimes asked why we "get to" do something or "got to" receive something when we're "just an admin".
There is a culture of arrogance permitted at Microsoft, and it hasn't overtaken everyone, but I would say the vast majority participates in it.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
The badge labels on food/drink idea has already been Intel.
Notices specifically forbidding non-blue badge (blue badge = FTE at Intel too) from drinking the free coffee/soda exist over all the soda/coffee stations here. I do understand that vendors/contractors are not technically employees, but such practices are unwantedly mean! After all the work location is shared and contractors and vendors are actually helping the company..and how much is Intel saving from this anyway?
And if like they claim, contractors and vendors are 'outside visitors' should visitors not be treated even better to keep up the company's image? (!!)
Obviously they know that no one can or will object, since what option do the vendors/contractors have? and everyone is lured by the siren call of 'converting' to a blue badge
Anonymous said…
Intelligence and hard work is noticed at Microsoft - I noticed you didnt say "rewarded"
Anonymous said…
I agree - most blue badge holderss are aware they cant function without the orange badge people. The blue badgers know they were hired in entry level right out of school probably from overseas and that they havent gained any on the job experience other than saying via and per and sync and ramp and resource and other buzz words in the 11 am meeting the 2 hour lunch and the 2pm meeting before going home at 3 so they definitely all know that the orange badge folks are more experienced and write better code.
Chris Travers said…
Having worked at Microsoft both as an A- and an FTE, I want to point out that the article here is purely an orange-badge perspective. FTE's have their own issues that A- and V- folks don't have to deal with, most notably (at least when I was there 2001-2003), the tyranny of the levels system.
Korea said…
Can't wait to put in an application!
Anonymous said…
I was an orange badge for 1 year 1999. Maybe things have changed since then, don't know. What I do know is everyone has the power to choose how they feel. When you don't take responsibility for your own feelings, then that is when you direct that others make you feel a certain way. Give up your power to choose, live with the consequences.
Anonymous said…
whatever written above all are correct . I am working in microsoft as vendor same things i am facing now. No body want to interact with a- and v- even if any events happened for the refreshment dash id guys never involved in all these we are also the part of team but when team sport,outing on that time they ignore a- v- guys.
I think if we are working in a team we also need the enjoyable environment with work like parties,sports and all
Anonymous said…
What about interns?
CM said…
Interns don't count as people :)