Four years ago, I was asking myself the question in the title.  After 15 years in the Minneapolis area, my family was seriously considering a job offer to join Microsoft in Fargo.  I wasn’t really job hunting, and we certainly weren’t looking to move out of an area where we had put some roots down.  As I’m sure you’ve figured out, the decision was to pull up those roots and make the move to Fargo.

So now that I’ve been here for four years, what can I tell you?  I can tell you that I think developing software for Microsoft in Fargo is one of the best kept secrets in the Upper Midwest.  “Microsoft Development on the Prairie” has some very cool advantages:

  • You get to work for the most influential software company on the planet.  Sure, we and others joke about the ‘evil empire’, but it’s a great place to work.  Besides basics like great benefits, you get to work with some very bright people and have the opportunity to impact a lot of people with your work.
  • You get to work for that company on a campus of around 1000 people.  I worked as a Coop Engineer at 3M while in college and have been out to our Redmond campus several times.  I personally don’t like the feel at the large campus headquarters at either company.  My entire career has been spent at locations with around 1000 people or less.  That’s a nice size for me.  Our corporate culture simply feels more collaborative than in Redmond.
  • You get to work in a software engineering culture that is quality focused and always looking to get better.
  • You get to work at a place where a 20 minute commute like mine is considered long!  I leave in the opposite corner of the ‘metro’ area in a ‘suburb’ of 3,000 people.  I drive 12 miles to work.  Whew…
  • You get to live in a community that is a great place to live, particularly for families.  I bought 50% more house for 20% less money when we moved up here.  The schools are excellent and the neighborhoods are safe.  My daughter attends a small, private school where the tuition cost is a fraction of the private schools with long waiting lists in major metropolitan areas.  With three colleges and a combined population of 150,000, there’s more than sports, arts, and shopping to keep me entertained.
  • You are less than an hour's drive from Minnesota lake country.
  • There’s more, but I’ll stop here…

I’ll acknowledge that not everything is perfect here.  You have to like, or at least tolerate, some cold weather in the winter.  It’s windy.  It’s not always easy working at a remote site in a big company.  MBS is still working to get serious traction in the marketplace and the company.  The community could use a few more bike trails and a more developed park system.  But in my book, these issues are minor compared to the benefits.

So, what brings on this blog post?  Well, I was talking to Don Morton a couple of weeks ago.  Among other duties, Don is the Fargo Campus Site Leader.  Don also was the football coach at North Dakota Statue University in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  He spoke about having to overcome Fargo’s ‘reputation’ when recruiting football players way back then.  The key for him was to get them on campus and then the college, facilities, and community would win them over. 

Truth be told, it was that way for me.  I had a college friend working here and I somewhat reluctantly went through the interview process.  It wasn’t until I came up to interview that I figured out how cool the professional opportunity would be for me.  After I decided that I would want the job if it was down the street, my family needed to decide to make the relocation.  We don’t have any regrets four years later.

While there are good things about a ‘best kept secret’, we need to spread the word more.  We are always looking for top notch software developers to come join our team.  If  you are reading this and are looking for a great software development opportunity, let me know…  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.