Ten months ago I left Microsoft after close to 6 years at the company. I have many wonderful memories of my time there. I was lucky to work with some great people on some great projects (MSN Music, Internet Explorer, Microsoft CRM, Windows, etc.). I will admit that in my heart, I didn't want to leave. Unfortunately, I did not have much of a choice. The Microsoft that I loved no longer really existed. It became increasingly difficult to "get things done" and "ship" at a company where those things were once so revered.
Like many Microsoft employees, I once really didn't believe there was life outside Microsoft. The common statement among employees would be, "Yeah, things aren't like they used to be. But where else could I go and have a real impact on the world?" Eventually, I began to question this in my own mind. Certainly, the resurgence at Apple made me think there were opportunities outside of Microsoft to really shape technology and how technology is consumed by the masses. You can't look at iTunes and the iPod and not realize this. Google's success is another example.
After my first few weeks, I began to realize a new found freedom that I have not experienced for many years. I was by all accounts a very loyal employee. I used Microsoft products whenever I could. Money instead of Quicken. XBox instead of PS2. PocketPC instead of Blackberry. Windows, Office, and Internet Explorer without question. Now, I was able to use other products without feeling guilty. Within weeks of leaving Microsoft I began using Firefox as my browser and traded in my PocketPC Phone for a Blackberry (my new company doesn't support the PocketPC). Within 3 months I purchased an iMac G5. However, I've stuck with the XBox.
I began to explore technologies that I heard a lot about, but because they weren't part of the Microsoft platform, I previously avoided. You know, languages like Perl and PHP. It dawned on me that I was having fun again. I felt energized and rejuvenated learning all these new (to me anyway) technologies.