Microsoft: A Whole New World

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked, “Why tech?” or “Why Microsoft?” No, it’s not because the CEO is a Booth alum (Hi Satya!). My answer is that I was seeking an experience completely unlike any other I’ve had before. Microsoft represented the greatest departure from my past professional experiences that I could find.

I began my career as a strategy consultant and then spent three years as a technology growth equity investor. These were both amazing experiences that literally taught me everything I know about business today. However, I identified a few gaps in my professional toolkit.

First, I was very familiar interacting with small companies through my growth equity experience, but had never seen how large companies successfully operate at scale. Additionally, both consulting and PE are largely advisory roles. I’d never worked within a company as an operator or got my hands dirty building and bringing products to market.

I also primarily worked with small teams of people just like me—other consultants or other investors. I’d never had to truly work cross-functionally towards a common goal with stakeholders who may have wildly different incentives. Finally, I’ve worked in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland. The west coast work culture was foreign to me.

Big company exposure? Check!
My first day at Microsoft was like stepping back in time to where it all began. My team sat in Building 1, which was the first building ever constructed on campus and where Bill, Paul, and other OGs created global products such as Word, Excel, and more. As I walked around the building, I kept thinking, “Bill walked these same steps…Cool.”

I soon learned that there are over 100 buildings in Redmond (headquarters) alone with over 40,000 employees! That’s bigger than the suburb where my parents live…

Cross-functional operating experience? Check!
After the initial awe wore off, it was time to get to work. I had two projects—one focused on new product monetization and another focused on the broader strategy of our Analytics offerings within the premium Microsoft 365 suite.

Both required me to work not only cross-functionally with marketers and engineers, but also cross-business with the Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 teams. It was challenging to coordinate and align across so many different stakeholders, and I experienced firsthand both good and bad examples of cross-functional and cross-business collaboration.

West coast lifestyle? Check again!

As always, the moments I’ll remember most are not the work-related ones, but rather the social experiences with new and old friends. Microsoft organized many activities including bowling, boating, and, of course, the famous annual Signature Event. This year for the Signature Event, they brought Julia Michaels and Pitbull (dale!) for a private concert just for us interns.

Additionally, I took full advantage of the Seattle life by getting together with other Microsoft and Booth interns in Seattle almost every week! I visited Vancouver with fellow Microsofties, explored Leavenworth (a gorgeous Bavarian town in the Cascades) with Boothies, danced at the Capital Hill Block Party, built a bonfire during a gorgeous beach sunset, became a professional model for a VR start-up (shouts out to Pixvana, Inc. and Raina and Juliana), and went on so many hikes I may as well be a park ranger. I even had my bachelor party in Seattle and made my buddies climb Mt. Storm King in Olympic National Park (definitely counts as leg day).

Experience unlike any I’ve had before? Double check!
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Microsoft was something I was neither looking for nor expecting—the company’s culture is truly inspiring. From day one, I heard leaders promoting not just innovation and growth, but also diversity, inclusion, and family. Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organization to achieve more, and I believe that expands beyond just work, but to our personal lives and passions.

Whether I return to Microsoft or not, this ideal will remain an inspiration for me in the future.

I’m now just a week away from heading back home to Chicago. While I’m excited to go home, this summer was everything I expected and more, and I can’t wait to exchange summer stories with the rest of my classmates come September!

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