I am a twenty-one year-old student pursuing a Bachelor of Computer Science degree at Dalhousie University and, for the most part, I am exactly like my peers – except that I also work full time at Microsoft. Now that I’ve officially started my career, the question I get asked most is “how?” It’s very rare that companies will hire you before you graduate, much less let you work from home until you finish your degree, and every day that passes I am grateful for all Microsoft has invested in me. I often get asked how I landed this gig, so it’s about time I tell the full story here. This is how I went from student to full-time in two years.
In April 2013 I was invited to Redmond, home to Microsoft’s main campus, alongside thirty students from around North America. I had been a student at Dalhousie U for two years, and was nominated for the opportunity by the dean and associate dean of Computer Science, presumably because of my good grades and emphatic participation in the school community. The opportunity was “Experience Microsoft,” a four-day recruitment event that brought us to Microsoft HQ, where we learned from developers, project managers and people with titles we didn’t even know existed, and took part in mock interviews (read: real interviews that were only less real because they were not attached to a job application) with real hiring managers. It was at this event that I first saw Microsoft’s personality. I fell in love with the feeling of collaborative innovation that I felt in Redmond, and set my sights on a full-time position.
After Experience Microsoft (which predates Trendy Techie by a month and so is not covered on this blog), I applied to become a Microsoft Student Partner in Canada. Microsoft Student Partners are student evangelists who share their deep knowledge and passion for technology in their communities. They run hackathons, host demo camps, create games and apps, and maintain a relationship between Microsoft and their campuses to promote opportunities for students and share their excitement about what Microsoft has to offer. Being an MSP opened the doors to my career with Microsoft. As an MSP you gain access to an incredible network of what Microsoft has identified as elite student evangelists around the world. You also get face time with Microsoft employees and access to special opportunities for personal and professional development. Some of my best friends I met through the MSP program, and the caliber of this global community of students continues to impress me every day.
The process is different in every country, but in Canada we have a Technical Evangelist internship position that is typically filled by an MSP. Four months into my time as an MSP I secured that position and joined the Developer Experience and Evangelism (DX) team at Microsoft Canada in January 2014. During that first internship at Microsoft I worked day and night to ensure that I would not be seen as “just another intern.” I’ve seen so many students land an internship and become complacent, as though that was the ultimate goal and they no longer had to work to prove themselves. But an internship is really a long-term interview, and should be taken as an opportunity to prove to yourself and the company you work for that you are an invaluable asset. When I was a TE I defined my niche (Windows Apps, young developers, beginner coders, and later Kinect for Windows), and took on as many engagements with as many different teams as I could manage. That’s how I ended up doing Microsoft Virtual Academy courses and flying across the country to host and support events and hackathons.
After my first internship, I returned to school as an MSP and continued to grow Microsoft’s presence on my campus. We brought on a second MSP at Dal and worked together to create meaningful opportunities for our fellow students by incorporating Microsoft technologies into our events and providing them with free software through DreamSpark, which is free for all students. In September 2014 I returned to Microsoft for my final co-op term, which was extended from four to eight months so I could carry out the projects I started. In those eight months I had the opportunity to be part of some big projects, the most prominent of which was Microsoft’s global Hour of Code webcast, for which my teammate Susan and I teamed up to teach students around the world how to start learning to code using TouchDevelop. The webcast reached over 16,000 views – you can watch it here – and led to two full-length courses on Microsoft Virtual Academy.
Throughout my internships, my desire to work at Microsoft full time only became more real. Every person I met had something to share, and every project felt so important and impactful because of the sheer reach that Microsoft has around the globe. I had the opportunity to apply for full time roles while there, and a few weeks before the end of my internship I received the official offer to join Microsoft’s Learning Experiences team (LeX), the team responsible for Microsoft’s educational endeavors, as a Content Developer. I accepted the position exactly two years after Experience Microsoft, and I count myself fortunate every day for the opportunities I have to contribute to Microsoft’s education platforms.
Working full time while attending school full time is about as difficult as you imagine, but absolutely worth it. I can’t imagine a better use of my time than investing it in the growth and education of others, just as others have invested their time in me.