namanh kapur I am a rising junior at Rice University studying computer science, who for a long time has wanted to get into blogging. I'll be interning at Microsoft this summer and hope to write weekly. Stay tuned as I discuss good food, friends, and the outdoors! 9 mins read

fourth week in Seattle @ Microsoft.

Today is June 11, so I have to start off this post by wishing my mom a very happy birthday!

My fourth week at Microsoft was particularly frustrating because we were mostly blocked. Even now, we were missing various permissions and security clearances. Gaining access to one technology even required an additional background check (and maybe even fingerprints). Our main testing interface was down, and we couldn’t even send encrypted mail for a while, let alone step through code. To make matters even harder, our mentor-buddy, Vinh, was on-call this week. This was a very eye-opening concept for me, so I’ll try to describe it in more detail.

On-call is a responsibility of service teams because their code can break at any time in production. Of course, O365 IP is a service team because they have very forward-facing features. Further, they are at the heart of many companies’ core priority – keeping information (essentially the source of competitive advantage) safe.

Here’s the rationale for the on-call procedure: enterprise organizations, which make a good chunk of Microsoft profit, pay big bucks to have access to developers and upper management at all times. So, SWEs on service teams take turns being the first to respond to escalations.

It would be unfair for one person to embody this role, so everyone rotates on a weekly basis and at least someone on the team is accessible 24/7 365 days a year.
Wild, I know. From what Vinh quickly explained, this is how it works.

  • If you’re on-call and you receive an escalation, you have a predefined amount of time to respond (I think for the encryption team it’s 15 minutes)
  • If you don’t respond, the alert goes to your backup contact
  • If there is still no response, the alert will continue up the hierarchy – manager, general manager (GM), and so on
  • Note: to stop the escalation from progressing up the chain of people, you must only acknowledge the message, meaning you don’t necessarily have to start work immediately
  • Once you get on the call, which is literally a conference call with relevant stakeholders present, you must work on the request until it is resolved – the only exceptions are food and rest (if even those)

So, Vinh takes care of us three Explorer interns while being on-call. What an angel. Anyway, enough about work.

On Monday night, I watched Killing Jesus, a Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) selection. It was my first time at a movie festival and I really enjoyed watching a piece by an otherwise unknown filmmaker. Here’s the synopsis if you’re interested: “In this youthful revenge saga based on true events, an idealistic Colombian student witnesses her father's murder and is aghast at the ineptitude and apathy of the local police force. Time to take matters into her own hands.” Thanks to Neha for taking me!

My first time at a film festival movie. Above is an iconic scene from Killing Jesus.

On Tuesday, we had the second installment of Intern Game Night, complete with board games and food. Just like at the last one, I didn’t play any games and just walked around meeting new people. I even found another Texan! On Wednesday, we had our first Explorer event – popsicles from Seattle Pops. I reconnected with people I knew and met even more people. Meeting lots of people is a goal for the summer, so you’ll hopefully read about it in every blog post.

Wednesday night was one of the highlights of the week. We had our first team dinner at Pearl in Lincoln Square, Bellevue. The restaurant is known for its seafood, so after sharing a few crab cake and jumbo prawn appetizers, I ordered some salmon with a side of truffle fries as my entrée. I finished my meal with a triple chocolate cake and ice-cream. Delicious! Though the food was excellent, it came second compared to all the bonding that happened. I learned a lot more about individual team members. For example, I never knew our manager, Krishna, enjoys wildlife photography and has taken some amazing pictures of grizzly bears. Or even that Bhaswar has lived all over the greater Seattle area. It was so nice to get to know the team outside of a work environment and bond over great food and conversation. Some people even took the time to reflect on all the progress that has occurred, thanking everyone for their contributions.

Freshly prepared salmon at our first team dinner at Pearl.

After dinner, Vinh took Cameron and I to the team's previous office – in the building right next to the restaurant. It has a beautiful view of the entire city and the lights looked especially beautiful in the nighttime. I could tell Vinh missed the place.

We got a few pleasant surprises this week. For one, we are now official with our own door tag! Secondly, at our weekly intern sync, we were given brand new M365 Core backpacks. We are in the process of being reorganized under Security and Compliance rather than M365 Core, but for us interns, that just means double the swag.

A door tag makes us official right?

Right about now would be the perfect time to give a huge shout out to our two amazing admins, Kanesha and Kelli, who provide us with snacks, swag, and awesome events. They went a step further by giving us our very own snack box, filled with all the favorites. This isn’t good for me because it makes staying true to that #workoutgrind that much harder.

Our assortment of junk foods and healthy snacks refilled every week.

After the intern sync on Thursday, we all walked over to Café 31 for an E + D beach party. There was live music, snow cones, and cool ~summery~ decorations everywhere. It was yet another chance for us to take a breather. I then picked up Jarrod and Edward and we headed to a picnic with Sue, Ellie, and Patrick at Idylwood Park. We each brought some food and hung around until sunset. A Camp Microsoft group was also having a gettogether very near to us, so Edward and I crashed and grabbed some burgers. After watching half of Dr. Strange, I called it a night.

E + D threw us a beach party with snow cones, drinks, and music.

On Friday, most of the team got lunch together at the Commons. It was a nice outing and change of scenery from our usual café. While eating, Jitender and Bhaswar started talking about a white water rafting trip. I was intrigued. It was supposed to rain all weekend, so I had no plans. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue my streak of outdoor activity on weekends. I asked Uche, who worked on a neighboring team, to join. A few fun facts about Uche: he just finished his first year at Microsoft, he lives 5 minutes from me in Capital Hill, he cannot really swim, and he doesn’t particularly enjoy adventure sports. Still, we could carpool, so after I convinced him the odds of death were low, he agreed. It was done. Later that night, as a nice end to the week, I hosted a little dinner party. I brought Edward, Ellie, and Neha together and we all bonded over shrimp scampi, edamame, and chocolate covered strawberries. Cheers to friendship!

The next morning, on Saturday, Uche picked me up and we were on our way to the Skykomish River. Upon arrival, we all went through the classic rituals – signing waivers, listening to safety talks, and gearing up. We then all boarded a school bus and headed to the river.

One of the guides remarked white water rafting is always more fun in the raft. I have never agreed more with a statement before.

My team and a few others (from the left): Bhaswar (2), Me (3), Uche (4), Jitender (5), Vinh (6), and Cameron (8).

The water was cold. The guides mentioned it was around 45° Fahrenheit. We were all split-up into different boats and my team, for the most part, stayed together. I volunteered to sit in the front of the boat (left side), where I was told most of the action took place. I was also warned I would get wet. We began our river-trip by practicing how to steer the boat as a team. Tanner, our guide, would yell commands like 'forward 2' and 'left-back 2' and we would all do our part to move the raft in the desired direction.

The calm before the storm of white water rapids.

It was hard to synchronize everyone, while also executing the correct action, but we all eventually got the hang of it. Once we were all confident in our paddling abilities, we straightened the raft and let the current guide us. It was a 10 mile trip, full of white water rapids of varying classes (from level 3 to level 5). The highest classification of rapids are level 5s so we were in extreme waters.

In fact, Tanner, who had been a guide for 6+ years and had rafted over 10 different rivers, said the Skykomish River was one of the hardest he had ever done. We were in for a ride.

After just having conquered the first part of a level 5 rapid: Boulder Drop, on the Skykomish River.

For the most part, we faced level 3 white water rapids while moving down the river. There was one notable exception: Boulder Drop, a level 5 white water rapid. For context, level 5 rapids are the most extreme, because any number higher just means it’s impossible to raft down without serious risk of death. I remember this part of the trip extremely well because it was traumatic. Boulder Drop stretched for 0.25 miles and we started strong. At one point, however, we started going backwards and got stuck on a boulder. Tanner kept shouting, ‘back paddle’ but we were mostly in the air so there was nothing to push against. We finally entered the water again and reorienting the raft quickly meant we were sideways for a few seconds. The raft began to tilt, and I fell backwards into the gushing white foam. I was underwater for a bit before my personal flotation device (PFD) pulled me up.

Not so fun fact: the name was changed from life jacket to PFD because the vest doesn’t save your life. You save your life. The jacket just pulls a body upwards, even if it means the body is lifeless.

I had never thought I would panic in water. I was a strong swimmer, having swum on swim teams all my life. I loved water, even from a very early age. This instant, however, I started to panic. As I surfaced, I heard Tanner screaming “keep swimming.” I tried to kick and move my arms, but I was stuck. No matter how hard I tried to move in the raft’s direction, I couldn’t. The rapids had violently pinned me near a rock. Soon enough, the current continued pulling the raft downstream and there was no one around me. Even though my head was technically above water, the water was thrashing in all directions and kept hitting my face, so it was challenging to breath. I kept moving my arms and legs, but they were exhausted. Somehow, I finally displaced myself enough for the current to pull me away from the rock and down away from the white vortex. When I was finally pulled back into the raft, I was panting.

Right as a I fell into the might of level 5 white water rapids.

Other than a later level 3 rapid lovingly called ‘Aquagasm,’ where a giant wave of water swept everyone off the raft, the rest of the trip was much calmer. Uche kept asking the universe for different weather and the universe heard his call because we saw sun, rain, hail, and thunder (in that order). Our surroundings were stunning, with low hanging fog surrounding mountains and trees. It was straight out of the set of Avatar, on the planet Pandora.

Sunday was thankfully lazy. I went grocery shopping and stopped by a small kickback in the evening, where I met some other interns. This week has been slow in terms of work, but that just means I had more time to bond with my pod and team as a whole. Also, I played a lot of with Kira's service dog, Arrow, so that's been great (Kira is a fellow intern so I guess Arrow is an intern too?). Lastly, I finally enrolled in the Pro Sports Club, so I'm about to get on that #workoutgrind bigtime!

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