Guy Shahine works at a multibillion-dollar company that has dominated
the software industry for decades and has nearly 98,000 employees worldwide.
Yet, he insists, he also works at a startup.
Shahine, in Microsoft's Online Services Division, believes a just-launched project his Bing Advertising team is working on -- linking customers' credit cards to discount deals offered by restaurants and retailers -- is essentially a startup.
"We have these ideas out there that, to some people, might sound awesome, and, to others, they think might not work out," he said. "The only way to know is to put out those ideas, see how the market, how the customers, react to them. It's all about experimenting, learning from those experiments, iterating."
That sort of thinking is beginning to take hold in certain pockets at Microsoft, some there believe, as the company becomes one that provides devices and services, rather than just traditional software.
That transition is one Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been beating the drum on for almost a year now. It's the reason the company is expected to announce soon a major reorganization to better align its divisions along devices and services lines.
And it's a reason its culture is beginning to shift.
The company has long had a reputation of being a stodgy organization full of infighting where getting something done might require battling through layers of bureaucracy.
Now, some employees say, the company culture is becoming more collaborative, faster paced, and infused in places with what some are calling a "startup vibe" -- a sense of being the underdog, of creating something experimental that has to be tested in the market, and a willingness to incorporate feedback into those experiments quickly.
"I would not say it is yet prevalent across the entire company or even consistent. But I would say you see it in a lot of spots and with a lot of people," said Scott Pitasky, a Microsoft corporate vice president in human resources.
The change has come about partly because of direction from the top.
Ballmer, in his recent appointments to key positions, has emphasized the importance of cooperation across the whole company as its products and services become evermore intertwined: Skype on Xbox, for example, or Yammer in Office.
He also has stressed the importance of picking up the pace on updates as the company increasingly focuses on providing services.
These days, people are used to getting new features frequently in their services and apps. If those innovations don't come fast enough, or if there's a void in the market, competitors rush in.
Part of the shifting company culture has also bubbled up from the bottom.
More job candidates and employees either have experiences with startups or are attracted to their flatter hierarchies, high energy and sense of urgency and ownership.
In a market where Microsoft is fiercely battling for top-tier talent against newer tech giants such as Google and Amazon.com, as well as nimble startups, having that sort of vibe can be a recruiting plus.
And it appears Microsoft is realizing that it can learn from the cultures of the startups it acquires.
That hasn't always been the case. For instance, several years ago, after it
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