Employee Stories

Troy Sandal2:19 PM on Friday, June 7, 2013

I wrote my first line of software when I was 11 on an Atari 2600, sold my first program at 19 for $4000 and got my first paycheck as a freelance software engineer at 21. That means, to me, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a software engineer. In college, however, due to my inability to get a good grade in anything other than science and partying I was rejected from Computer Science for low grades. I easily brushed off the rejection and wound up getting a degree in Math. CS didn’t matter, I said, because I knew that after any software company met me, heard that I’d been coding since 11 and saw what I’d written so far they’d never refuse me. In my last year of school this thinking was put to the test when I applied for my dream job of Software Engineer at Microsoft. This was May, 1993. Straight away I was told, very explicitly, that they wouldn’t interview me for engineering roles, only for their Support or QA teams. This didn’t bother me and I interviewed anyways, convinced they’d see the light and change their minds. After getting multiple offers, none of them in engineering, I declined and politely told the recruiter that I’m an engineer and they should reconsider. She tried but Microsoft wouldn’t budge, they only hired CS majors. The next day I was completely devastated and utterly confused about what to do next. Had my entire plan gone that wrong? Would I see this rejection everywhere? Just as I was thinking the worst my phone rang. Someone named Susan Slaton from Visio was asking me if I’d like to interview for an engineering position. Engineering, I asked? Yes, Engineering. Weird thing is: I hadn’t applied at Visio, how did she get my resume? She said something akin to “...from a friend at Microsoft who was impressed with your interviews and thought you would make a great engineer.” Beyond excited I leaned out my bedroom window and over the sound of the 4th Street Metros yelled into the phone “YEAH, I CAN SEE YOUR BUILDING! I CAN COME IN RIGHT NOW, I’M 2 BLOCKS AWAY!!!” She said the following Tuesday would be fine. I nailed the interview and started my job the following Monday for what would be the most pivotal 6 years of my life. Visio shaped me and gave me more gifts than I could have imaged - the chance to become an engineer, time to learn from great mentors, the know-how to build great software, the ability to hire great teams, the definition of what great company culture means, a love for doughnuts, a best friend, a Best Man, a future wife and a slew of lifelong friends who I keep close today. I never took it for granted and always look back in awe of that amazing company and culture. So why bring up all this now? Because this morning my Google Calendar popped a reminder titled “Visio Start Date,” which means that 20 years ago today, on Monday June 7, 1993, Visio hired me, a 23 year old still not out of school baby fat faced chip on his shoulder rejected from Computer Science for low grades Math major as an “Intern in Software Engineering” and gave him the chance of a lifetime. That’s not something to forget.

Ted Johnson5:15 PM on Sunday, July 28, 2013

I look back on Visio of the 1990s and think we were part of the golden age of commercial software.

Connie Miller9:14 AM on Tuesday, July 30, 2013

When I moved to Seattle in 1991, I had been an academic librarian for 15 years. I was determined to change my career and focus on writing. I discovered technical communication. After a few false starts, I managed to get a contracting position (that turned into a permanent one) on the docs team at Aldus. When Adobe acquired Aldus, I started looking around and was fortunate enough to be hired at Visio (in 1994) as the first permanent technical writer. Michelle DeWilliam took a chance with me and I remain grateful to her to this day. With my very first documentation task, I discovered what a truly fine place Visio was to work. I don't remember exactly what I was documenting. What I do remember is how diplomatically Steve Frey and Steve Fujiki approached me after receiving my first draft. It sucked, and they walked me carefully through just how badly it sucked. I took their feedback and tried again and we eventually got to a satisfactory version. This baptism by fire not only taught me some things about presenting technical information. It also sewed the seeds for the principle I've come to believe is at the heart of all successful professional writing: Good writing isn't about giving reviewers what they want. Good writing is helping reviewers discover what they don't want and, through an iterative process, collaborating toward a result that really works. That's a principle you can learn only in an environment of trust. At Visio, I had the luxury of producing drafts that sucked. But the Visio experience went beyond what benefitted me while I was there. It shaped my future. All of my jobs since Visio have stemmed from connections I made and experiences I had there. As Ted Johnson put it (more poetically than I), "Funny how life follows rivers of opportunity created by things you've done in the past." I suppose it's just common sense that past experiences shape future ones (isn't that what karma is all about?). But not all past experiences are created equal and some seem to shape us more than others. When Ted was in college, he met Paul Brainerd at the Minnesota Star and Tribune. According to Ted, all his jobs stem from that meeting. When I was starting out as a tech writer, I worked at Visio and so many rivers of opportunity flowed from there.

Rob Fahrni3:48 PM on Sunday, March 15, 2015

In 1990(not sure about the exact year) I saw an article in InfoWorld, not on the web, but in print form, like a newspaper, talking about a new startup in Seattle. Founded by two Aldus co-founders (Jeremy Jaech and Dave Walter) and the VP of Development (Ted Johnson.) Axon was poised to create a new category of drawing tool. Something for the rest of us. I knew this was going to be something special. At the time I was developing agricultural accounting software for a small company in the San Joaquin Valley of California. I was so excited by the thought of working on this project I started bugging them for a job. Ted Johnson was the target of my campaign. In late 1991 I was laid off. I found myself doing some contract work in Kirkland, WA, so I reached out to Ted. Soon after I landed and interview for a position as a Software Tester. Little did I know I'd be interviewed by a "Who's Who" of software legends. I spoke with Dave, Ted, Peter Mullen, and Mark Davison. There was a quiet guy, he looked kind of grumpy, named Richard Miyauchi. I didn't get to talk to him then, but later we would become friends. I felt good when I left the interview but didn't hear back right away. In the meantime I finished up my contract and went back to California. I eventually accepted a position. I started in April of 1992, just ahead of a crop of Summer Interns. Some of those interns would play instrumental roles in the creation of Visio's SmartShapes and become full timers. I was 25 at the time and so naive. I had no idea how special this group of people was, they were my friends. Our Wednesday pizza lunches and Monday morning Engineerinng meetings are fond memories. I remember a company lunch meeting to name Visio and Ted's impassioned speech on the merits of Graw. Thankfully we dodged that bullet (Hi, Ted!) The run up to Visio 1.0 wasn't insane. We worked normal hours, with the exception of a few Saturdays. This team was special. They knew how to engineer software and go home at night to their families. That was important and is one of many company traits I haven't experienced since. I had the honor of working on Visio 1.0 through Visio 2003, with a small hiatus in the the middle. More importantly I had the honor of working with the finest group of people in the entire industry. I'm grateful for my time at Visio. Grateful for the people. Thankful I was allowed to work with legends. Thankful for friends. Friends I'm still in touch with today, 22 years later. Most people will never experience what I experienced. I have more stories than I can share here. So many wonderful memories. As Ted rightly points out, this was the Golden Era of Software. Seattle in the 90's was a magical place. I'll never forget it.

Senaj Lelic11:07 PM on Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mid 1995 a young guy, Oliver Keizers (by then with Visio Germany), saw me presenting for Autodesk at CEBIT fair and asked me simply "would you want to do this for another company - and without knowing more, I simply said yes. What followed was a marvellous time, Trainings in the UK (with a grumpy-looking-at-first-sight guy named Jim Hoursborough) and with THE legend Dave Edson who showed me the love for the ShapeSheet (and tought me the Visio-Developer-mantra: Window->Show ShapeSheet->Tile). Over the next years i met lots of great people throughout the corporation and it's subsidiaries (Chris Roth "the bavarian US Guy", Walter Oswald (bavarian by heart), Chris Claus (the Lady which made every fair just magically happen), Barb Way, Debbie Hagen - the Visio Training lady .- and of course all the other guys who now with me make the Visio MVP crowd at Microsoft John "old Pa"Marshall, David "the Brit" Parker,, Michel "dont let the english win" Laplane .. and many more.. it was indeed a magical, funny, thrilling time .- and i am still thankful to have had the honour to be somehow part of this world.

Leslie Smith,Mailroom / Shipping & Receiving 1997-1/20001:17 PM on Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just came across this website. I worked with Carrie Cary,Tracy?,Jeff Pearson. It was very much a pleasure to serve all of Visio. In all of my work life I have never worked with so many warm and talented people.To many names to mention which would be everyone. I will always remember the kindness, very rare these days.