Microsoft Corporation

06/19/2017 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/19/2017 11:52

Meet the ‘Microsoft Elite,’ rabid about finding bugs and improving performance

Back when the world was flat, cartographers drew ferocious-looking mythical creatures to warn sailors away from unexplored territory. While every age has its map monsters, every age also has a few intrepid explorers who fear complacency more than The Great Unknown.

One of the largest gatherings of damn-the-monsters types at Microsoft is in the Elite program, where employees volunteer to be the first to use, push, love, crash, and ultimately improve untested new technology.

The Microsoft Elite program was created to play matchmaker between the company's more digitally adventurous souls and its engineers, who are eager to have their newest creations used and abused (and, yes, sometimes even broken) to help get them ready for customers. Early adopters help uncover shortcomings in early builds and give product teams valuable feedback and data.

'It's been built into our DNA at Microsoft almost from the beginning, using employees as our earliest adopters,' said Diana McCarty, a Microsoft IT program manager who created the Elite program nearly three years ago. 'We have such a breadth of technology and rapid pace of development now because of the digital transformation that the timelines are shorter for feedback, yet feedback has become more critical than ever before these things are released to the wild.'

Employees at Microsoft have access to all the digital spoils that come with working for one of the world's largest technology companies. They have access to a smooth, productive ride on virtually risk-free versions of the latest and greatest hardware and software. So why would someone choose instead to be part of a scouting party setting out ahead of the crowd to explore and map new territory?

'These aren't your typical information workers,' said Steve Reay, a principal product manager with Microsoft IT who helps manage deployment of Office 365 across the company. 'You don't join Elite because you want a safe, stable experience. Elite is for the tech equivalent of freerunners -curious, competitive, adventurous people.'

Elite is more than just a test track in today's rapid, continuous product development cycle. Elite is a competition.