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Published June 06 2011

Profile of Tracy Faleide: ‘The informal off-ramp person’

FARGO – More than a few of Tracy Faleide’s exchanges with former co-workers go something like this:

“I’ve decided to leave Microsoft,” they’ll say.

“Can I buy you a beer?” she’ll say.

Faleide, who herself left in 2005 after a 19-year run that spanned into the early days of Great Plains, is something of the unofficial gatekeeper to life after Microsoft. “I’ve become kind of the informal off-ramp person,” she said.

She left for a handful of reasons. As a manager of a variety of projects, she felt like she was drifting away from writing, her passion – “All I wrote were emails that nobody read.”

She felt more engaged in a young, growing company than she did in an established one. Traveling was becoming a drain, and she found herself jaded by the political aspects of the merger.

But she found unplugging from a high-powered environment like Microsoft easier said than done. “Microsoft kind of has a centrifugal force of its own,” she said. “When you shoot off, everything else is rotating more slowly.”

Faleide said some newly departed employees find it difficult to adjust to the new pace, feeling restless and fumbling for ways to keep busy – even if recognizing the need to slow down was one of the reasons they left in the first place.

“What people often do is they just jump in too fast, too deep to whatever endeavor they’re going into,” she said. “They say, ‘I’m not even going to choose my next job for a few months,’ then they’ll jump into all this crazy volunteer work.”

Her advice: “Breathe.” Look up old contacts, get engaged in the community, and take time to sit still.

“We tend to judge our importance sometimes by the number of meetings you’ve been asked to go to and the number of emails in our inbox,” she said. “You need to learn to get your sense of value a different way.”

That’s not to say Faleide has divested herself fully from her Microsoft days. She still does writing on occasion for the company through her own consulting firm, and still gets together with her former Great Plains contacts every few months. It’s an informal network, held together by a few emails and word-of-mouth, but an important one.

“They’re some of your oldest and dearest friends, and colleagues that you trust,” she said. When someone needs work, they’re often an effective starting point.

And these days, they’re also an opening into a talent pool of a different kind. “I need an intern,” someone will email the group once in a while. “Does anyone have a daughter or granddaughter?”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502