Cheers to Year One at Microsoft

It’s fascinating, how the small steps we take, have a significant impact on the future we create for ourselves and others. My journey to the technology industry has been a compilation of small, but bold steps that I never knew would lead me to work at an incredible company like Microsoft. 

Recently, I celebrated my first anniversary at Microsoft. I cannot believe how fast time has flown! It seemed like yesterday when I packed my two giant suitcases in Texas to travel to Seattle for the first time, to embark on an unknown, but exciting journey. 

While celebrating this milestone, I couldn’t help but reflect on what an incredible year I had at Microsoft. As I think back on the amazing things I learned and experienced over the past 12 months, three primary thoughts come to mind.

Community: Find Your People

As a Black woman studying Computer Science in college, I experienced firsthand how challenging it was to grow in an environment where I was the “only one.” So when I moved to Washington, finding a supportive community was a top priority for me. “Community” was not optional. It was essential. I knew if I wanted to grow and succeed in this new environment, I needed community. When I started at Microsoft, I was excited to discover the many Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Employee Networks our company had to offer. By actively being involved in internal communities like BAM (Blacks at Microsoft, Africans at Microsoft, Women in Azure, LEAPers, Azure Ascent, etc., I was able to interact with senior leadership, find incredible mentors, discover volunteer opportunities and learn from so many incredible people within our company. I also took time to join wonderful external communities like Lean In Seattle, Future For Us, Women Who Code, Anita Borg, and a few other groups. By participating in these inclusive communities, I found a safe space where I could ask candid questions, meet like-minded people, challenge myself to grow and expand my professional network.

Tip: If you're early in your career or transition into a new career, I would highly recommend finding your people through 'community'. It might be scary at first to put yourself out there, but it will be worth it in the long run. If you can't find your community, then build one. Chances are they are other people like you with the same needs who desire to connect, learn, and grow just like you. Remember, you're not alone.

Mentorship: You Don’t Know, What You Don’t know

“Mentorship” is more than just a buzzword.

I didn’t realize the importance of having mentors, especially a career mentor when I was younger. Maybe, it was because there wasn’t a push for it in my computer science classes or because I was unaware of how to find great mentors. Whatever the case may have been, I didn’t fully understand the need to have a mentor [or being a mentor for others] until I started my tech career. When I on-boarded to my team, I was assigned a mentor whom I could ask questions about our team, company, or anything I wanted to know. As someone new to Microsoft, I appreciated the fact that my team took the effort to invest in my growth by providing me with a great mentor. Throughout my first year, I have been fortunate to discover wonderful mentors both inside and outside Microsoft.  I am grateful for the mentors, including peer mentors that have taken time to share their knowledge with me.

Tip: Let's be honest, when you embark on a new career, there is only so much you might know about your chosen career, company, or job role. Sometimes, you don't know what you don't know. Having a mentor(s) is vital to your career advancement because you can learn from their successes and failures, get candid feedback, find out new opportunity within your company or industry and so much more. You can have a successful career without having a formal mentor. However, if you have access to people you admire and they are willing to share their experience with you, then take advantage of that awesome opportunity.

As you learn and grow in your career, don’t forget to pay it forward.

Say Yes to Opportunities: You’ll Never Know Until You Try

The best way to grow is to get outside your comfort zone. You can’t truly get out of your comfort zone if you don’t try new things.

 I will admit as an introvert; it was difficult for me to put myself out there and say yes to things that I haven’t done before. However, by actively engaging with my community and mentors, I was given the opportunity to do things in Microsoft that I wouldn’t have tried on my own. 

Last year, I was able to attend and volunteer at the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC 18) with Microsoft. I met so many talented and bright women who are passionate about working in tech and giving back to their communities.

I did my first moderating session with senior leadership. I got the fantastic opportunity to moderate a Q + A Session with Scott Guthrie, the Executive Vice President of the Cloud and AI organization at Microsoft. 

I had the opportunity to practice and advance my communication skills by being involved in different panels at events such as Microsoft Build 2019.

I also had the opportunity to volunteer with some of my favorite non-profits organizations like Black Girls Code.

Tip: Be bold. Say yes to growth opportunities. You'll be surprised where those small steps of courage might lead you.

Being part of Microsoft over the last 12 months taught me so much about myself. I have been challenged to grow personally, technically, and professionally. I am beyond grateful to be in an environment that empowers me to the best version of myself, that allows me to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” 

Cheers to year one!

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Talk Soon!
Michael Berhane, Founder of POCIT
Grace MacJones
Grace MacJones

Azure Cloud Engineer | Mentor | STEM and D&I Advocate | Content Creator | Speaker

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