STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
Joshua West cites the culture as Microsoft’s biggest asset. He believes it starts at the top with CEO Satya Nadella, whom he credits with Microsoft’s focus on support, emphasis on inclusion, and openness to vulnerability. He was thrilled to see his MBA intern group return to Microsoft after their second year. It was a group that included Claudia Ortiz Albert, a Washington University MBA who accepted a finance manager position last summer.
“I chose Microsoft because of its culture and its wide variety of career growth and learning opportunities. Having the opportunity to work with very talented and diverse people was something that piqued my interest. As Newton said: “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” I firmly believe that learning from and surrounding yourself by people that challenge you to be a better version of yourself is key to having an impact in this world.”
In many cases, Microsoft MBAs are interacting with these giants. After all, Microsoft has built a deep mentoring culture where vision and values are transmitted through leaders. That’s not just a cultural ethic, with Microsoft evaluations placing great weight on how talent empowers those around them. Terrence Abrahams, the US Partner sales director, is one Microsoft executive who takes this responsibility seriously. The direct manager of Alina Everett, Abrahams is best known for asking the right question at the right time to stir reflection and spur results.
“He has a background in data and is incredible at “seeing through the noise,” drawing connections between the most intricate processes and their implications on the bigger strategic picture,” Everett explains. “He has a mindset of continuously finding the pattern, reading the data, and being willing to disrupt the status quo if things can be better. This inspires me to make braver and better choices, to not get attached to any one decision or deliverable if it doesn’t further the ultimate cause. Terrence also really cares about our team’s well-being and makes sure we have support – he’s willing to jump in and help when we need it, and he encourages us to balance intense periods of work with recovery. This approach is something I plan to emulate and pay forward.”
By emulating Abrahams’ example, MBAs like Everett emerge as “Microsofties” – a badge of honor where, in the words of Gabriel Meizner, you feel “like your family grew by 135,000 people.” What exactly is a Microsoftie? Joao Pinto equates it to the MBA community at Team Fuqua.
“To be a Microsoftie means being willing to meet new people, collaborate with and learn from others, and be tech enthusiastic. It means more than be passionate about the company and its products. A Microsoftie is eager to think outside the box to solve problems, empathetic to our consumers, customers, and partners, and promotes transformation that empowers others.”
That’s not the only definition according to recent MBA hires. Joshua West boils it down to “not worrying about looking cool, but rather how can I make those around me look cool.” For Claudia Ortiz Albert, a Microsoftie is someone who consciously lives the company’s values: respect, integrity, and accountability. While Michael Salazar wasn’t familiar with the ‘Microsoftie’ label, he views his role as the culmination of a long struggle where he remains as thankful as he is hopeful.
“To me, being a “Microsoftie” means approaching each day with empathy, gratitude, and a determination to be a net positive contributor to the mission of empowering people and organizations to achieve more.”
TAKE TIME TO LEARN THE BUSINESS
Ironically, in a culture driven to “achieve more,” the best advice to new hires may be to ‘do less.’ That’s Verlandy Michel’s advice to new MBAs (along with learning the acronyms so they can better understand conversations). This less-is-more approach – at least initially – isn’t an invitation for MBAs to simply kick back. Instead, Michel notes that MBAs are traditionally go-getters who crave making an immediate and deep impact. Instead, she encourages MBAs to take advantage of the ramp up period so they are ready when the time arrives.
“You don’t have to come in and hit the ground running,” Michel observes. “Our managers expect the ramp up period to be 3-6 months. The business is so complex and there are so many moving pieces. I remember when I got to Microsoft. I was thinking, Why am I not seeing it yet? Why is it taking so long? If you allow yourself the time and room to ramp up, you realize your impact down the line is that much stronger because you really took the time to understand the business and what it means to be a better teammate.”
Still, COVID-19 didn’t exactly make the transition easier for MBAs. In response to the pandemic, Microsoft worked closely with managers and MBAs to foster flexibility and community. To curb burnout and stress, the company added 5 employee wellness days in 2021. Managers also checked in more regularly to better coach their teams through the highs-and-lows. Online Thursday afternoons Happy Hours sprouted up to help employees de-compress. At the same time, various organizations within Microsoft launched online activities. For example, Blacks At Microsoft (BAM) led cooking classes on Zoom where attendees would make the same dishes alongside each other.
Such events, Michel notes, has enabled MBAs to quickly showcase their talents and build connections in ways that may have taken longer in the office. “Teams are finding fun ways to have offsite and engagement. [The pandemic] has definitely shaken up our world. It has also shown us that we’re incredibly agile and adaptable. We’re learning how to be better teammates and fill in the gaps.”
One way involves the traditional 9-to-5 work day. The disruptions enabled MBAs to strike arrangements with their managers. In turn, they gained more flexible and productive work styles, writes Joshua West.
“It’s taught me how to continue to practice resiliency and the importance of taking time out of each day for myself. Work will always be there and will take as much as you give to it. If you want to work 8-10 hour a day or more, you can do that. Still, you need to find time to devote to yourself and your well-being. Productivity in a virtual environment does not need to come in the form of a traditional 8 hour work day. If you find working from 7-10 AM works for you and getting a workout in from 10-12 PM re-energizes you, then do it. If you get the most done between 6-10 PM, do that. Find the hours of the day when you can be most productive and exploit them.”
Not just be productive. The pandemic also freed MBAs to be more authentic sooner in their work lives, adds Joao Pinto. “The pandemic showed me that we shouldn’t take everything so seriously, especially when our colleagues’ dogs and kids show up on the call asking for attention. It is our work invading our personal lives and not the other way around.”
LOOKING FOR ENERGY
More than bringing together the Class of 2020, the pandemic showed them what they were truly capable of doing. Not only did the Microsoft team pull together and accelerate team-building, the past year also cemented a resilience in MBAs – a reflex to act and never look back. That’s what Cathy Zaragoza took away after moving across the country to start at Microsoft.
“There was a point where my fiancé and I were sitting in an empty Seattle apartment that we leased sight unseen. We had no Wi-Fi, no possessions other than what we could fit in a suitcase each, limited funds because neither of us had worked since before business school, and nowhere to go because of COVID restrictions because we were quarantining after our flight from Connecticut. This went on for 16 days because our moving company was delayed. I had to start working at Microsoft the day after our delivery finally arrived. I was mentally exhausted and reeling from the experience, but I got through it all because that was honestly the only option. I’m looking forward to using that experience on my future kids as my “back in my day, we walked three miles to school in five feet of snow” story.”
Microsoft can be boiled down to virtues like customer-obsessed, growth mindset, and empowerment. When it comes to recruiting MBAs, Verlandy Michel looks for something very specific. She recalls a recent MBA hire who’d already been turned down in the past. Rather than skulk away, the rejection made her ask questions and stay in touch. She worked on her gaps and explored more deeply how her journey aligned with Microsoft’s purpose. In the end, Michel explains, the candidate demonstrated the growth mindset in her internship to make Microsoft her home. More than that, Michel adds, she brought a positive energy to the team.
“Energy is huge. When we think about how our teams are created and balanced, so many different types of energy come together to make a really great team. When I go to campus, people come up to me and so many have such great energy and so much of it is authentic. There are some people who can rave about our products and why they want to be at Microsoft. I love that energy they are putting forth.”
Why did these Class of 2020 hires choose Microsoft? What types of work are they doing at the company? What did they love about the MBA programs they attended? Find answers to these questions and more by clicking on the links below.
|MBA Student||Hometown||MBA Program||Role At Microsoft|
|Olu Akande||Silver Spring, MD||Howard University||Product Marketing Manager|
|Teni Ayo-Ariyo||Los Angeles. CA||Duke University (Fuqua)||Human Resources Business Partner|
|Robson Esposito||Sao Paulo, Brazil||Purdue University (Krannert)||Business Program Manager|
|Alina Everett||McCall, Idaho||Cornell University (Johnson)||Territory Channel Manager|
|Olivia Henshaw||Tulsa, OK||Duke University (Fuqua)||Cloud Specialist|
|Gabriel Meizner||Mexico City, Mexico||Northwestern University (Kellogg)||Finance Manager|
|Claudia Ortiz Albert||Valencia, Spain||Washington University (Olin)||Finance Manager|
|Joao Pinto||Sao Paulo, Brazil||Duke University (Fuqua)||Partner Channel Marketing Manager|
|Loretta Richardson||Los Angeles, CA||Georgetown University (McDonough)||Marketing Communications Manager|
|Michael Salazar||Salt Lake City, UT||Texas A&M (Mays)||Business Program Manager|
|Joshua West||Philadelphia, PA||University of Rochester (Simon)||Product Marketing Manager|
|Cathy Zaragoza||Los Angeles, CA||Yale School of Management||Services Architect|
DON’T MISS: MEET MICROSOFT’S MBA CLASS OF 2018