Lessons learned from my time as a Microsoft intern

  • You can learn from everybody — yes, everybody. Journalism taught me this lesson a long time ago, but it’s important to remember that everyone has a story to tell — you just have to take the time to listen. Get in the room with your role models and co-workers, and don’t be afraid to ask things like tell me more about what gets you out of bed in the morning, who your role models are, what motivates you, and how people can be a cheerleader for others.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask — most of the time people say yes. I’ve met with my role models in the hopes that I can learn from them and teach them. I’ve learned about disciplines that I initially never dreamed of entering like software engineering and creative directing, and worked at a company that created the software I’m using to write this story. I’ve realized that it’s important to be honest about where you want to do or what you want to do, and fight for it. If you know your ask, you might find yourself inching closer to a dream career. And if someone says no, ask them why.
  • Follow your interests with intensity, and search for moments when you feel like you’re in the right line of work. If someone’s work piques your interests (bonus points if you find yourself thinking, “wow, I can do that as a full-time job?”), ask them about it! Get in the room, schedule a meeting, and engage with your field in whatever ways you can. Someone on my team is a content writer who dreams of being a creative director who can hire really talented people to contribute to her projects, so she finds ways to engage with people who are currently in this role.
  • The road to a career is seldom linear — and that’s OK: While at Microsoft, I’ve talked to people who came here from a wealth of backgrounds — from teaching English in South Korea to a B.A. in criminal justice and internships at the state department. This is especially comforting for me to know that I don’t have to know exactly where I’m headed in a year, let alone 5 or 10 years down the road. Given how fast technology changes, I’m not sure I’ll know what jobs will exist in a few years, but I will focus on looking for supportive workplaces and roles that value storytelling, inclusion, and education.
  • The hardest thing to learn is enabling other people to be great: This is something that I’m still learning how to do, but I’d like to think that my mentors have done this for me. It’s the way that our mentors give me the tools that I need to succeed, but also ask my questions about how my projects are going so they can help me troubleshoot.
  • Offer a fresh pair of eyes to familiar problems — as an intern, I was able to do this because I new to the company and still learning how things work. Don’t be afraid to leverage your unique disciplinary background when solving new problems.
  • Be bold, especially as tech continues to change. We could have never imagined the influence of the iPhone, Snapchat, and virtual reality just 10 years ago, so we’re all preparing for innovations that might not exist yet. We all contribute to creating engaging customer experiences, but we have to be willing to enter new problem spaces, and maybe even set the precedence.
  • We need to have underrepresented minorities in the room when we’re trying to solve complex problems: In order to achieve innovation, need people of color, women and women-identifying people, and the LGBTQ+ population to be present and encouraged to participate in the conversation. By demonstrating a commitment to diversity, we can start to create products that will work in places far removed from our office spaces.
  • Writing will always be a strength: Whether you’re evangelizing your feature area or convincing executives that your project is valuable to the company’s business goal, communicating is half the battle. Writing, like design, is a user-centered process because you have to recognize the perspective of your target audience to anticipate their needs and respond in a relevant manner.
  • Mentorship is a two-way street: Whether I’m meeting with an entry-level content developer or the chief storyteller at Microsoft, I always try to make the conversation valuable for both of us. When seeking mentorship, have clear goals for yourself and what you want to get out of it, but remember that your insight or perspective might be a teaching moment for the other person as well.
  • Make room for new memories and opportunities to grow, so don’t settle for a place that doesn’t honor your skills. Like my friends often remind me, never come this far only to come this far.
  • Tech is an amazing industry to be in right now: Perhaps this is a simple notion, but everyone is really aware that we’re lucky to be working on digital technology at a time when what we do shapes every part of life and the economy, worldwide. How cool is it that our jobs involve building products and features that will (hopefully) be used by people around the world every single day?
A few notes from my inclusive design sptinr
Go Dawgs, amiright?

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