MBA Program: University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross
MBA Concentration: Sustainability, Human Capital
Hometown: Ridgewood, NJ
Undergraduate School and Major: Colgate University, Environmental Economics
Current Title at Microsoft: Official Title: Learning and Development Consultant; Unofficial title: New Employee Orientation Wizard
How would you describe your role to your mother? I do everything I can to welcome the 22,000 new hires who are joining Microsoft this year, help them feel like they are valued and belong, and set them on a path to be their authentic, best selves at Microsoft.
A fun fact about me people would be surprised to know is…Horseback riding is my biggest passion; it feeds my soul. I was an avid equestrian and national competitor from age 9 through 23. As a junior rider, I took five lessons with the at-the-time Olympic equestrian coach, George Morris, arguably one of the most influential figures in the sport. I fell off my horse in the first five minutes of my first lesson…talk about growth mindset in action. I then took a few years off while living and working in New York City, but I am so excited that I am back riding, competing, and living my dream.
What was your greatest personal or professional accomplishment? One of my greatest personal and professional accomplishments was leading the Women in Leadership Conference at Michigan Ross, with my amazing co-chair, Sara Faurer. This 300-person conference included student, alumna, corporate sponsor, and local entrepreneur attendees. Sara and I decided to make the focus of our conference, “Positive Deviance and Challenging the Status Quo.” We brought in the incomparable Angela Rye as our keynote and I even convinced La Tasha Byers, Microsoft’s Director of Succession Management and my summer intern manager, to moderate the keynote and share her infinite wisdom! We designed workshops on risk-taking, mindful mentorship, fighting imposter syndrome, compassionate leadership, and unconscious bias. Building this content was an incredible learning opportunity but nothing compared to the feeling of inclusion, belonging, positive change, and empowerment we were able to create!
Why did you choose to work at MSFT? Two people are responsible for me choosing Microsoft:
Salonee Shah has been an advisor and dear friend for almost three years now. She was my peer mentor at Michigan Ross and has guided me, empowered me, and been that person I repeatedly call at midnight to explore my questions, concerns, fears, victories, and crazy ideas every step of the way. She created a space for me to believe in me! Without her, I would not have been able to make it through my journey of exploring HR as a profession, finding Microsoft, falling in love with Microsoft, and ultimately joining the company full time.
The second person responsible for me choosing to work at Microsoft full-time is La Tasha Byers, my manager during my summer internship. I worked with La Tasha when she was the Director of Talent Management in Microsoft’s Marketing and Consumer Business. She was such an incredible and empowering manager to me that summer that I actually built my own framework around her behaviors. Here’s what I believed made her so powerful as a manager: she was deliberate with her time, adaptable to my needs, interests, and development areas, trusting and trustworthy, and always coached me to find the answers I was looking for from within. She helped me find my voice, see the power in my insight and set me on a path towards consistently challenging the status quo and infusing positivity into everything I do at Microsoft.
What did you love about the business school you attended? At the University of Michigan, I was a student of the Erb Institute, which means I was a dual degree student at the Ross School of Business and the School of Environment and Sustainability. The Erb community was one of authenticity, honesty, advocacy, and strong connection. Here I was able to feel a deep sense of belonging, explore leadership, create and build inclusivity, and forge life-long bonds.
I was also a +LAB Fellow at Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations. Here I was able to explore how to help employees, leaders, and organizations innovate, engage, and create collective value, positive culture and leadership practices, navigate challenges and change, and move from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
I will also always cherish Michigan Ross for leading me to my current roommate, officemate, and future president, Ariana Almas. More on her in a bit.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far at MSFT? My current manager, Charles Morris, is a mindfulness pioneer and leader. He uses the personal, career, and inner journey that he has been on over his past 15 years at Microsoft to help others connect their personal passion and purpose with Microsoft as a platform. From him, I have been able to witness and learn that there is always time and opportunity to job craft, to take your current role, responsibilities, relationships, and tasks, and redirect them towards what drives you, your personal mission. Satya believes that Microsoft should be used as a platform for us to find deeper meaning, derive meaning from work, and use work to drive the change we want to see in the world.
Which manager or peer has had the biggest impact on you at MSFT and how has he or she made you a better in your role? Stefani Okamoto has had such an impact on me, I wrote an article about it. I simply don’t have enough space to explain how she has made me better as a person, as an employee, teammate, and leader at Microsoft, but I’ll try. She embodies the values, expectations, behaviors, and actions that allow her teams to feel empowered and be our best. She immediately created a sense of psychologically safety, extensive support, and genuine caring that allowed me to take big, bold risks. She gave me full ownership and autonomy over my work and ensured I have a seat at every table. She understands my superpowers and repeats them to myself and others at any every opportunity, championing me and creating opportunities to be boundary-less. I would not be able to grow, learn, thrive, and challenge the status quo at Microsoft without her.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work for MSFT? My answer to this isn’t necessarily specific to Microsoft, but is a key part of how I personally was able to become a Microsoft employee and thrive here: find that person who will encourage you to be authentically you and remind you how uniquely talented you are every step of the way. Let’s get back to Ariana Almas. Ariana was my classmate at Ross and I am lucky enough to call her my roommate and officemate today. I must add that we did not choose to be officemates: we were assigned to the same office…we are convinced that Microsoft is doing some sort of social experiment to see what happens when two people spend 100% of their time together. Her support, eagerness to listen, and willingness to coach allows me to be creative, resilient, and boundary-less, whether that be energetically refueling me between each of my final-round interviews at Microsoft, workshopping every single crazy idea I have and want to immediately present to our CVP, or coaching me when elements of doubt creep up, and so much more,
Finding a person that will play this role for you is vital in empowering you to achieve more!