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Microsoft 4Afrika initiative celebrates change
By: Whitney Cubbison
The Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative is a new effort through which Microsoft is actively engaging in Africa's economic development to improve its global competitiveness. It focuses on three pillars: innovation, skills and access. In honor of Africa Day (May 25), we are delighted to introduce you to the women helping to lead this important effort.
Amrote Abdella recently joined Microsoft from the World Economic Forum and is responsible for VC and start-up projects. Originally from Ethiopia, Amrote has worked in the US, Europe and various African countries before joining the Nairobi office.
Q: Amrote, what made you decide to join Microsoft and the 4Afrika team?
A: There is no better time to be involved in Africa than now. As I assessed my opportunities to work in Africa, the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative presented the biggest opportunity to have an impact on the continent. There is growing optimism around Africa's ability to become innovative and competitive, but no other company has developed a holistic strategy around ways to harness technology with a long-term investment view in Africa. And it's this technological readiness and innovation that the 4Afrika Initiative is addressing today. It's a great opportunity, as an African and as a professional working in Africa, and I'm very excited about the impact we will have as a team!
Mariam Abdullahi is responsible for 4Afrika business development in the telecom sector. Somali by heritage, Kenyan by birth and British by education, Mariam has had the good fortune of living and working across Africa, Europe, India, Middle East and the United states.
Q: Mariam, what advice do you have for other women who are considering a career in technology?
A: I have a confession to make. Even as a Computer Science and Business graduate, I am not the most technically advanced person in the world. I very occasionally worry that I will be called out as a fraud when in a room full of my counterparts and colleagues discussing how many megabytes are in a gigabyte.
What I do know and would say to anyone looking toward a career into the technology sector is that what you are creating, developing, marketing or selling is not a few wires in a metal container, bits and bytes flying up in clouds. Products and services created in our sector are tools of empowerment. At Microsoft, we change the way people interact to bring the world closer together. I get excited every day knowing that what we do will shape how people learn, communicate, integrate and work.
Technology is bridging gaps in the social, political and economic spheres. Being part of an industry that allows my mother in Nairobi to email, Skype IM, voice and video-conference her eight children spread across Europe, the Middle East and Africa at no or little cost is the thrill of why I am in this industry. My advice to anyone looking to join the world of technology is to look beyond the mere mechanics but rather to the effect that our work has on real people’s lives. This sector continues to be the biggest revolution since the industrial revolution and will continue to shape the world.
Leila Charfi is managing the partnerships with incubation centers and community hubs for Microsoft 4Afrika to support the growth of African startups. She is a proud Tunisian, and she is engaged in a political party, various NGOs and artistic projects.
Q: Leila, what was your best-ever day at Microsoft, and why?
A:It was during the closing ceremony of an annual program for startups, when I was running the Microsoft Innovation Center in Tunisia, where startups that benefited from the program presented their projects and gave testimonials on how the program changed their lives, boosted their companies and helped them grow their businesses and create jobs. At the end of the event, some of them came to me thanking me for believing in them and for allowing them to have such great support that made them successful entrepreneurs. It made me feel so proud of the impact of the job I’m doing for employment and SME development (small and medium-sized enterprises). I felt and still feel that I have the best job in the company!
Perry Kamel is an Egyptian national and as part of the 4Afrika team, she is responsible for helping small and medium enterprises across Africa get online.
Q: Perry, what is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
A:It was about following your gut feeling when choosing your next job rather going for the best “logical” move in your career path. Sometimes it’s important to take a leap of faith for an opportunity that you feel is going to make you passionate and energized in coming to work every day. I believe in giving my job my all, every day, so that passion is what enables me to constructively deal with the ups and downs of the job over the long term. And isn’t it just more fun to do what you are passionate about on a daily basis?!
Tonia Kariuki is the Marketing Director for the 4Afrika team. She is a Kenyan national and a long-time Microsoftie.
Q: Tonia, what is it that keeps you engaged and passionate about your role here?
A:I am on a constant journey to reinvent myself, create new experiences and build new competencies. I look at each challenge and ask myself, what is the craziest solution, and then I work backwards to reality from there. The amount of learning you pick up that way is simply amazing, plus, you force yourself to think differently each time and you end up surprising yourself.
I also like to surround myself with smart people, which here I get to do every day. You know that moment when it feels like you're the dumbest person in the room? Those are the best times. I take those opportunities and soak in everything, learn, absorb, I'm like a sponge. Later on, I will have time to filter and pick my learnings.
Never underestimate what you can learn from other people and how far that goes towards keeping you on the constant journey to be better at what you do. The day I'm the smartest person in the room, is the day I'm done. On a recent trip home, I saw this quote at an airport: "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together." There is no better feeling for me than when the people I am with are part of my success and I am a part of theirs.
Women all over the world are making a difference at Microsoft.
Meet Juliana Gomez, a native of Brazil who now leads Microsoft’s Extended Quality and Business Excellence organization in Europe.
Jessie Gertzin San Francisco considers Microsoft’s commitment to health and community especially fulfilling.
4 ways to get the job you really want
By: Anthony Rotoli
With summer right around the corner, many of you are preparing for an exciting internship. While you’re doing everything to make the most of it, here are some tips that will also help you leverage your summer experience to prepare for your full-time career:
Learn from industry experts
During your internship you’ll be working side-by-side with industry professionals who have various areas of expertise. Just as you look to your college professors for guidance, you’ll want to take advantage of the career knowledge these experts can offer. Find the full-time employees working on the technologies that excite you most. Ask them to lunch: Find out more about their career path, what they might have done differently, and the true pros and cons of the work they do now. In your day-to-day responsibilities, with your full-time colleagues, always be inquisitive: Ask for advice, and listen.
Recognize what you don’t like–but keep things in perspective
During college we get used to our areas of focus re-shifting every few months as semesters change and those less-enjoyable classes get swapped out for new ones. When you enter the work force it can be intimidating to think about focusing on one area for several years. Because of this, new grads may become ultra-sensitive to the less desirable areas of a particular job.
During your internship it makes sense to identify the areas of your current work that you don’t particularly enjoy, but at the same time it’s important to be thoughtful about the big picture. Even for those of us who truly love coming to work every day, there will always be a few aspects of the job that excite us less than others. At the end of the day, if you’re passionate about the larger goal of the work you’re doing, make sure you don’t let slight undesirables scare you away.
Even if you are less than thrilled about your initial assignment, let your work ethic, determination and intellectual horsepower shine for those around you. You’ll build a strong reputation that will follow you as you pursue other opportunities.
Explore different products and business groups
Most likely, you’ll spend your internship working within one specific division. Get to know everything about that department, and explore your interest within the area you’re assigned. Beyond your assignment, learn more about other groups across the company. Get a broad view, and then dive deeper in an area or two that might really interest you. Understand how different technologies function and evolve. Think about what you’d be passionate about working on with your current company or another employer.
Do really well at the work you’re doing now
One of the most valuable pieces of career advice I’ve ever received is: The easiest way to get to the job you want next is to do exceptionally well at the job you have now. You might think this is a no-brainer, but it’s important to highlight how valuable it is to build the strongest-possible track record for yourself in the work you’re currently doing.
Enjoy the sunshine—and think about the resume you’ll be writing at the end of the summer.
Get ready to tell your internship story by using strong words.
Explain the specific technologies you worked on, and areas where you showed the ability to turn your own great ideas into a tangible result.
Then start looking at New Grad Jobs.
Master personal branding and the secrets of Search
By: Kevin Lamsback, Staffing Consultant
Personal branding and Search: How does this help you land a job at Microsoft, you ask? Good question.
In this post, I will map out a three-step formula for you that will increase your chances tenfold. However, it comes with a disclaimer: “This formula requires work.” So if you are not really, really, serious about Microsoft, no need to read any further.
1. You have to be proactive in using social media to your advantage.
When it comes to personal branding via your social network, as the saying goes, “content is king.” You’ve got to know your audience. People on LinkedIn, for example, don’t really care whether you just grabbed the world’s best caramel macchiato at the corner coffee shop (then again, I’m not sure if anyone really cares…but to each his own, I digress).
Start by paying attention to the days of the week your social network is most active and make a note of it. Next, find an interesting article that isn’t getting much airtime, then post it during peak social-networking times. This simple technique will increase your reach, bolster your brand and attract attention to yourself.
Remember, be sure your information is current, descriptive and readily available. Don’t just wait for a recruiter to call you about the perfect role, be proactive and get out there and network.
2. Do your research.
Here at Microsoft we see resumes from a lot of applicants … so prepare yourself for a social introduction by doing your homework. Research our openings by accessing our Careers site online, then thoroughly vet the openings that look like a fit. Hint: Pay particular attention to the “requirements” section.
Once you’ve identified those ideal roles, research the groups or organizations that they are a part of. For instance: CSS (Customer Service and Support), PFE (Premier Field Engineering), corporate headquarters, Bing, Xbox, and so on.
3. Use the Search feature.
Run a variety of simple searches using the search function on LinkedIn to look for recruiting contacts within the organization you’ve identified. Example: “Microsoft” and “recruiter” are two good keywords to get you started. Drill down based on the organization research you conducted in the last step.
Note: If you can’t find the exact recruiter who supports the group in question, the next best option is to start connecting with any of our recruiters/staffing consultants. Be sure to keep your message short and concise while including the position number(s) you’re interested in. This shows you’ve done your homework and you’re not just throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.
If you are in the introduction phase, do NOT just send a resume with a one-liner saying, “Let me know if you have anything.” This = ‘Delete button’ in the recruiting world.
So, if you want to take ownership of your career and get proactive about Microsoft, give this approach a shot and see how it works! Start searching for your next exciting role. If you never envisioned yourself at Microsoft, you’re not alone… Check out Jack’s surprising story about taking a leap of faith here.
By: Michelle Feder
1. DON’T speak in the passive language. DO use words that show impact.
Rewrite statements that convey any trace of back-seat driving. Instead: Amplify your leadership experience. “When I’m reviewing a resume I’ll sometimes take caution when someone suggests that they played the role of an almost passive observer, less involved in leading solutions to challenges,” says Anthony, a university recruiter.
“Words such as maintained, contributed, helped, and participated make it difficult to understand your unique contribution,” Anthony says. “Even when you’re a team member of many, there’s always something that you’re likely tasked with leading. It’s easier for me to imagine the impact you’ll be able to make when you share what you personally delivered.”
By Sandeep Sood
When it comes to balancing work and life, including a rewarding, impactful professional role, can women have it all? YES, says recruiter Sandeep Sood, who has hired hundreds of women in tech over 14 years, after his own five-year career in engineering. In Sandeep’s own words, as we get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day, here’s why we need more women at Microsoft: