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Microsoft related thread


Premium User
Nov 24, 2023
Abuja Nigeria
In the 1990s, I worked for Microsoft as an executive. Yes, I would say that Bill was Microsoft's smartest employee at the time.

Bill preferred to surround himself with high IQ individuals and hire based on IQ. Bill enjoyed "high bandwidth" discussions with really intelligent individuals.

Steve Ballmer is also incredibly intelligent—he passed the Putnam exam better than Bill did. I would place Steve next to Bill. Among the smartest was also Nathan Myhrvold.

Did any individuals possess a higher IQ than Bill, Steve, or Nathan? Yes, given Bill and Steve's intention to hire based on IQ, I wouldn't have any trouble accepting that. But Bill and Steve, in my perspective, were the smartest guys in the room.

The fact that Bill was so intelligent in so many areas is what, in my opinion and the opinions of many of my colleagues, truly set him apart. Only a few others in the company have the same amount of knowledge in their own area of specialization, and he was able to delve into the most profound and obscure technical areas. He was an expert on the product, inside and out.

Except for the person in command, no one knew the marketing plan as well as he did. He was aware of commercial matters, etc. His foundation has demonstrated his capacity to delve deeply into a variety of fields, including both the science and the financial aspects of non-governmental organizations. He reads a great deal and picks things up quite quickly.

In addition, Bill had a remarkable talent for knowing just what toughest, most perceptive, or illuminating questions to pose in BillG assessments. Bill would quiz you on your knowledge, therefore you had better be knowledgeable on the subject at hand, or else he would say, "I don't know, but I'll find out." Bill wasn't joking around. Alternatively, you either paid a heavy price only once or you vanished.

Working with Bill was both exciting and enlightening. For instance, I would meet with him to talk about a strategic issue that had been bothering me for a few months, and it had taken me that long to understand and formulate a recommendation—and to be prepared to defend it. Using the same baseline data, Bill could usually obtain the same insights that took me months to obtain in a matter of minutes. I possess fresh insights that I never had. While I'm not Bill, I'm also not a moron. Bill is simply incredibly intelligent.
Steve is the same. Although he didn't go as in-depth technically, Steve was more familiar with the company's big businesses' financial information than you were, including the one you were running. He can recall things like pictures. Steve's intelligence was equally appreciated by me as Bill's.

PS: During my time at Microsoft, I did discover, however, that intelligence is not the same as correctness.

PPS. There were individuals at Microsoft who are/were extraordinarily intelligent and could be argued to be among the "smartest," such as Butler Lampson, Chuck Thacker, Jim Gray, Leslie Lamport, and Charles Simonyi. I'm sure I'm missing others that should be mentioned. It's Bill's depth of intelligence that truly sticks out in my opinion.

PPPS. As I was composing my response, it occurred to me that Bill's business acumen extended to the way he established the company. It's something that doesn't attract enough attention or discussion. Under Bill's direct leadership, the company made significant investments in attracting outstanding personnel straight out of college. Most tech companies at the time, in the 1980s and early 1990s, didn't hire in this manner.

Experience was not as important to him as raw, intelligent talent from the top schools. He thought that intelligent people would figure it out. Every year, he welcomed summer interns into his home. The college recruiting initiative by Microsoft was a major strategic asset at the time. At a period when most tech companies were frugal and only granted stock options to a select few, he was extremely giving. Many recent college graduates who worked at Microsoft were offered stock options even though they had no idea what they were. Annual performance reviews were accompanied by extra equity payments. More seasoned workers received below-market pay but significant stock options. And for those at Microsoft in the 1990s, it proved to be beneficial. The tech industry now takes all of these stuff for granted.

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