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Microsoft expansion opens career opportunities in Fargo, ND

Microsoft FargoIn a previous blog post, I reported on Microsoft's news in May to expand its Fargo campus. Since I was raised in Fargo/Moorhead, this expansion was pretty exciting news! I decided to contact the Microsoft office for a guided tour when I went home in July for my high school reunion.

The Microsoft Fargo campus is located right off of I-29 and 32 Ave South. From the interstate, with the speed limit of 75 mph, Microsoft's campus doesn't look like much. However, the inside and common grounds are spectacular. In order to better share the experience with TechRepublic, I captured the tour in a photo gallery: Take a tour of Microsoft Fargo.

My tour guide, Maggie Orseth, is a Student Experience Program Intern of the Microsoft Fargo Site Council. Maggie was a high school intern last year, and she graduated from Fargo South in 2006.

Here are some things that I learned from Maggie during the Microsoft Fargo campus tour (some of this information was later confirmed and/or corrected by Microsoft's Katie Hasbargen):

The first building on Microsoft's Fargo campus, called Horizon, was originally Great Plains Software. Great Plains existed since the early 80s, and Microsoft acquired Great Plains in December of 2000. Currently, Microsoft Fargo is the second largest field campus — Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus is the largest field campus.

What services and operations take place at Microsoft Fargo campus? Here's a fairly comprehensive list:

  • Inside Sales - SMS&P
  • MS IT
  • Operations
  • Customer Service & Support - Microsoft Dynamics / Microsoft Office / Microsoft SQL Server (pending)
  • MBS R&D (Dynamics GP / Dynamics AX)
  • MBS Marketing
  • MBS Finance
  • Americas Shared Services — The Americas Shared Services organization consists of Microsoft's Global Headcount Operations (Head count for the world); Global Contingent Staff Operations; America's Procure-to-Pay Operations (Accounts Payable, Procurement Transactions, Credit Card Administration), U.S. Payroll, Royalities Accounting, and Payroll Accounting
  • Miscellaneous, smaller teams
  • Tech Labs: There are approximately 700 machines in the Vista building and approximately 400 machines in the Horizon building. Katie Hasbargen says, "If we were to have one person sit down and manually execute all of the tests we run in one night, it would take him five years or greater. These labs are accessed by Microsoft development personnel in Copenhagen, India, and Redmond, in addition to the Fargo personnel. The resident customer service and support teams also utilize the labs."

How soon will the Microsoft Fargo campus expand, and what are the details of the expansion plans?

  • The ground breaking for the new building will take place in the fall of 2007, and it will be completed in 2009.
  • The new building will hold 575 employees. There are 1,315 team members today. (960 full-time and 355 vendors)
  • A 65,000 square foott amenities addition will be added to the Horizon building, housing a new café (a larger area to help foster employee inter-relations), meeting rooms, the Executive Briefing Center - Fargo, a company store, and a covered walkway between the Horizon and Vista buildings.
  • There's a five-year plan for the campus, estimating the capacity for 3,900 people by 2012. According to Katie Hasbargen, "This is simply the best estimate of the long range growth for Microsoft Fargo; however, business plans can change."
  • The Microsoft Fargo campus has room for six new buildings, five of which are already planned out and will encircle a grassy space called Burgum field. As explained by Hasbargen, "Burgum field is a multi-purpose green space that makes up the ‘backyard' of the campus. It is used for events like the annual campus picnic as well as for team member dodgeball and flag football games."

Ok, with so many open positions in the near future, I know that you're wondering what kind of perks Microsoft Fargo campus offers. Here are a few of the perks that I learned about during my relatively brief tour with Maggie Orseth:

  • Relaxed dress code provides a casual workplace.
  • Microsoft subsidizes the cafeterias on campus to provide team members with economical food options.
  • The Fargo campus provides free drinks, including soft drinks, OJ, V8, milk, and Starbucks coffee.
  • Microsoft has negotiated discounts with several national daycare providers.
  • Microsoft encourages healthy options and weight loss programs. Not only does Microsoft have a partnership with Merit Care, but it also offers free health club memberships to all employees.
  • There is soft and natural light throughout the Horizon and Vista buildings. The campus is designed so inside offices are against walls, providing the maximum amount of people with the maximum amount of light.
  • Company picnics (they just had one in July, with games to go, cotton candy, old-time photos, etc.)
  • Cost of living in Fargo, North Dakota — Maggie gave me the lowdown on why it's great to live in Fargo: "To compare, 86.4 is the cost of living in Fargo, while the national average is 100 (in Redmond, cost of living is 144). For pay, 50K in Fargo is equivalent to 62K in Redmond. Fargo has great healthcare. The downtown area is amazing, with recent renovations, cute boutiques, and restaurants.

Yes, Microsoft Fargo actively recruits IT pros. Tech giants are all vying for the best and brightest in the field, which is why Microsoft Fargo participates in the MACH (Microsoft Academy of College Hires) program, where college students work as interns and then are hired a year after they graduate. So far this year, Microsoft Fargo has employed six high school interns and five R&D college interns.

Microsoft Fargo also recruits heavily in the Midwest, nationally, and internationally. Hasbargen says, "We had five Microsoft interns working in development this summer. Two of them were from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the JDE Honors Program. We also hired four University of Nebraska-Lincoln spring (2007) grads to work on the R&D team at Microsoft Fargo."

To find out more about career opportunities at Microsoft Fargo, visit Microsoft's Careers page.

About Sonja Thompson

Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.

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