Jobs in IT: Surface marketer Jack Cowett declined his “dream job” for Microsoft


Jack Cowett never considered a job at Microsoft. A Montana native, this MBA grad landed his “dream job,” a position he coveted, in the fly-fishing industry. But instead of saying yes, Jack accepted our offer—without even knowing the actual role.

Now the product marketing manager for Surface RT, Jack chose a road he had never imagined…and to his delight, that has made all the difference.  These days, it’s a pretty exciting time for Surface: The team launched Surface Pro with Windows 8 Pro last weekend.  So let’s hear how Jack wound up at Microsoft. In his own words:

I grew up in Bozeman, Montana
I spent my early years exploring the great outdoors. My dad ran the rental shop at the local ski hill so I spent almost all my free time at the mountain.

When it came time for college I made the tough decision to leave Montana to pursue a history degree at the University of Notre Dame. Upon graduating in 2005, I decided to take some time to consider my career direction.

As an avid sportsman and travel enthusiast

I went to work as a whitewater raft guide near Glacier National Park, spent several months in an intensive language school in Costa Rica, and helped manage a ski shop in northern Montana.

After working for a number of small businesses and exploring some of the world’s most pristine wilderness areas, I came to two conclusions: One, I wanted to work in the outdoor industry, and two, I would need strong business skills to move from customer-facing positions into strategic marketing roles.

After networking with human resources managers
It soon became clear to me that the most effective path to achieving my ultimate career goals was through business school. The Notre Dame Career Center recommended Stanford’s Summer Institute for General Management. The program is designed to expose non-business students to the Stanford MBA curriculum and the fundamentals of global commerce.

The Stanford experience
Stanford proved to be a tremendous learning and networking opportunity. Moreover, it confirmed my decision to pursue the MBA. After completing the program, I accepted a position with Schwartz Communications, a tech-focused public relations firm in San Francisco.

I enjoyed working at Schwartz because I had the chance to build my marketing skills and learn about exciting new technologies at the same time. I worked at Schwartz for a couple of years before heading north to complete the full-time MBA program at the University of Washington.

I chose the MBA program at the University of Washington
I was impressed with the program and the businesses with headquarters in the area. I also wanted to live somewhere that allowed me to pursue my interests in the outdoors.

After completing my MBA
In the spring of 2011, my goal was to follow my heart and go to work as a marketing executive for an outdoor equipment company. After several months of applying and interviewing I wound up with a “dream offer” from a fly-fishing equipment manufacturer.

Around the same time I received my “dream offer,” I also heard back from a recruiter at Microsoft regarding a vague product management position I had applied for several months before. While I was pretty sure I was going to accept my “dream offer,” I decided I should complete the first phone screen with the hiring manager just to be prudent.

Everything began to change

After that first call, I had a phone conversation with Robin Seiler, the senior director of marketing for all Surface products and accessories.

That call got me really excited. At that point, I made a decision to hold off on accepting my dream job offer until I saw the interview process through with Microsoft.

During the interview loop, I met with Robin and Panos Panay, the corporate vice president at Microsoft who works on Surface. That’s when I made up my mind that this is where I wanted to work.

I found myself at a crossroads. I just could not believe I was so impressed with the team and its director that I was about to turn down my dream job for a position I still knew nothing about.

I took that leap of faith
I turned down my dream job and joined Microsoft in September of 2011. But I didn’t know what I would be working on until my first day in Studio B.

You can imagine my surprise when Robin brought me in to the hardware labs and revealed that I would be working on Microsoft’s first foray into the hardware business.

I was humbled and intimidated by the opportunity, but I was also inspired by Robin and Panos. They told me they believed in me and that they wanted me to be part of their team. Just 14 months after turning down my dream job, I could not be happier with my decision.

Coming soon: Jack will talk about working at Microsoft—an experience that’s already been full of great surprises.

Meet some other employees who love an active lifestyle.
Exciting times: Here’s more information about Surface.


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