Preparing for an interview can be daunting -- and James McNaul would know. The University of Miami senior came all the way from Florida to Washington for an internship interview at the Microsoft HQ last spring.
October is almost here and we will have many new visa employees joining the Microsoft ranks. Such an exciting time of year! New employees who have had a Microsoft dream for years and it is about to come true! Sometimes, I feel like the Jobs Fairy sprinkling my MS Jobs Pixy Dust wherever I go!
So much as been published and talked about where immigration is concerned. While the numbers are being discussed and there is talk about how it will all impact our economy… it sometimes seems that we forget there are actual living and breathing human beings with dreams, goals and career aspirations that are being heavily affected. I would like you to meet one of those soon-to-be new employees.
Meet Stephen Vanterpool. Stephen hails from the British Virgin Islands and actually did a contractor assignment before being offered a FTE position (so he has a pretty good idea of what he has gotten himself into). His hiring process was a bit rocky – but we worked through it together and now he is about to arrive! If working at Microsoft is something you really want – Stephen is a perfect example that persistence pays off!
Almost There (Getting a Job at Microsoft)
Well, the time is drawing near. In under two weeks, I will be back in Redmond, but this time as an official blue badge!
It has been quite the journey, and I thought I'd provide a little write-up for anyone attempting to make the same trip. Please excuse me if it gets a little lengthy, it's a story that I'm very excited about.
Almost a year ago I moved out to Redmond to start working as a contractor (orange badge) on the Windows Live Custom Domains team.
I spent the first few months marveling at my new surroundings. The creative energy, the passion that most people showed for their jobs was a new phenomenon for me. Realizing that I wanted to stick around awhile longer than being a contractor would allow, I decided to apply for a full time spot.
I went over to the Microsoft Careers site and applied for a position. After a few weeks of no luck, I was somewhat disheartened, and that's when I got a call from Angela. From the beginning, she was extremely friendly and that did much to allay most of the nervousness I was feeling. She conducted my phone screen , and after I passed she arranged for my in-person interviews.
The morning of the interview loop, I met up with Angela in person and she briefed me on the process, giving me a few tips on how to handle myself. The one that stuck with me the most was this(and I'm heavily paraphrasing):
Before you do ANYTHING in an interview, take a moment to think about it. Don't be afraid to ask questions to make sure you grasp the task at hand. And when you do start on it, make sure you narrate your thought process. How you think is often more important than specifically what you know (That said, don't go in to a coding interview not knowing what a compiler is).
This advice turned out to be invaluable as I went through a day of increasingly challenging interviews. Angela IM'd me early the next morning to let me know that the team wanted to hire me! I was (and still am) on top of the world. As a child I'd often said "Some day I'll work at Microsoft!", in much the same way that most other kids said "I wanna be an astronaut!". So, I could barely contain myself when it began to actually happen.
Over the next few weeks, Angela was my advocate. She worked hard to make sure I received the offer letter, and helped navigate some fairly obscure immigration and relocation issues. In the end, Microsoft helped me move out of my current apartment, stored my stuff, flew me home and back, and when I return to the US in a few weeks, they will put me up until I find my own place, and THEN move all my stuff back in. Truly amazing from my point of view, or maybe I'm just easily impressed....
What I liked about the whole process was that I really got the impression that my needs mattered. It may sound cliche, but I truly got the feeling that Angela and her team really cared about me, and making my hiring experience an extremely positive one.
There are areas that need improving, however. The major one that comes to mind is the immigration process. I heard many times that immigration can be a hold up for new employees. Personally, I found it hard to work through the times when it was difficult to get advice on important issues such as the steps necessary for getting my H1-B visa Finally, someone was able to take control of my case and got things sorted out. I really hope that improvements regarding immigration can be made in the U.S., as that progression was a low point in an otherwise fantastic (from my point of view) process.
Overall, my experience has been wonderful, and I encourage anyone out there who thinks they have something to offer and is just dying for the chance to really make an impact, APPLY! You've got nothing to lose.
Hello everyone, I am back and excited to share with you a great story about one of our interns who has returned to intern at Microsoft for the second year in a row. Emily will tell you what’s it like to be an SDET and a PM, and will share her experiences as a returning intern on campus. We are all very proud to have her back on campus!
Emily, please start by telling us a bit about yourself.
Well, I am an incoming senior in Math/Computer Science at the University of California, Los Angeles. I love the outdoors (hiking, cycling, kayaking), music (violin, piano), computers, and shopping. I may not appear to be the typical “techie nerd,” but one of the great things about Microsoft is how diverse it is. There are so many great people with such a variety of interests, that it’s easy to find someone who shares your passion.
Please tell us about your first contact with Microsoft.
My first contact with Microsoft recruiting was at the Engineering Career Fair at UCLA in the winter of 2006. The guys and girls at the booth seemed very friendly, so I decided to talk to one of the employees (who was actually a recent UCLA graduate, as well as a Microsoft employee). I had done some background research about positions available for interns, and Software Design Engineer in Test (SDET) seemed up my alley.
Note to potential interviewees: do your background research! The guy I talked to seemed very impressed that I had taken the time to learn about what the positions are, what Microsoft is looking for, etc. After a mini interview at the fair itself, I had an on campus interview. A week or two after my on-campus, I got an email informing me that Microsoft wanted to fly me out to interview in Redmond!
Can you share some of your experiences about the dreaded Microsoft Interview?
The fly-back interview was very intense, but was also exciting and interesting (the accommodations, food allowance, and rental car weren’t bad either). I went through about 6 hours worth of interviews, filled with everything from coding/technical questions to talking about previous leadership/management experience.
My best interview advice, as cliché as it may sound, is to be yourself. It’s easy to want to project the image that you think Microsoft expects, but in reality, there is such a diverse group of people here, that no predefined mold exists.
I had a great time in some of my interviews when I really got into conversations with my interviewers. Sharing my passions, and learning some of theirs, was not only useful in convincing them to give me a shot at an internship, but also for me to realize that this was the group I wanted to work in.
How was your journey from LA to Seattle?
A few months later, I was up in Redmond. A California native with a love for sunshine and warm weather, I was slightly concerned about what I’d heard about this rainy city up north. Luckily my first summer was filled with sun, and I realized that all of the rain was actually quite useful for keeping everything green. I’m back again this summer for Internship Take 2, and even though the weather hasn’t been perfect, we’ve had our fair share of beautiful days.
Tell us about your first internship at Microsoft.
My first summer at Microsoft, I worked as an SDET for the AdCenter team, doing performance testing for an ad management platform. Performance testing is challenging but fun, because the job of the perf tester is to break things really badly!
Even though I enjoyed testing, I decided to try out a new role for my second summer. Towards the end of my internship, I went through a round of interviews for a program management position in the same group. The interviews were less focused on technical aspects (since the team I’d been working with already knew my technical skills), and more on creativity, ingenuity, product design, and management skills.
What are you doing this summer at Microsoft?
This summer, I ended up working in the same group, but this time in the PM role. I’ve been working on integrating new advertising technologies and managing existing types of online advertising in an ad management platform. The PM role at Microsoft is great. It’s very challenging and diverse, and gives you a great focus on the customer and business perspective, in addition to technical issues. I’ve worked on everything from programming demo applications, writing performance and functional specifications, to integrating possible business collaborations.
How do you feel about the level of support and guidance you receive here as an intern? Have you leveraged the mentoring program?
The mentoring at Microsoft is phenomenal. My mentors both summers went out of their way to make sure that not only did I amass new technical skills and experiences, but also to really make me feel like part of a team. Throughout the summers I had their support, whether I was struggling in my test analysis or trying to come up with new ideas for my feature. My entire summer, I was never treated like just an intern.
This summer, my mentor even arranged for me to meet with one of her own mentors, another very high-powered woman at Microsoft who had some great advice on negotiation and leadership.
What is the highlight of the intern program for you?
One of the great things about the intern program here at Microsoft is how many other interns you get to interact with. Microsoft has some great events for the interns. We did a sailing excursion out of Seattle, a hiking trip to Mt. Rainier, and even a tech talk with Jay Allard, where all of the interns were given a Zune!
And even beyond the “Microsoft planned” events, there are tons of ways to meet new people. I’d made some great friendships that have extended two summers now. We’ve done everything from road trips to Vancouver, hiking all over the Pacific Northwest, kayaking, to exploring Seattle tourist attractions and nightlife. They even threw me a surprise party for my 21st birthday this summer!
Any last words of wisdom to our readers out there?
All in all, I’ve had two amazing summers. My first piece of advice is for all potential Microsoft interns, do the internship! Seek out interviews, contact your recruiters, and accept your offers! You will have a great summer, that I can promise you. Beyond that, once you’re here, strive to go beyond expectations, and don’t be afraid to fail!
By Anne Cheng
Interesting fact – our US interns attend 216 different universities and are from 29 different countries. A great group of interns that are as diverse and varied as the internships they filled. Being a global company with a global customer base makes it even more important for us to have talent from all around the world to help us create our next generation versions/products. As promised, I asked a few of our international interns about their experiences – what were their interviews like? How did it feel to relocate to a new country? What were some of the things they worked on during their time here? All questions that I receive frequently from candidates around the word interested in our internships.
In today's post - and the next 2 posts, I'll introduce you to some of our International interns and their thoughts on their experiences ... Hear from Eugeni from Brazil below, and check back later this week to hear from Ioana from Romania and Bulut from Turkey.
Meet Eugeni from Brazil – Softwre Development Engineer intern within Core File Systems team
Q: Hi, Eugeni. Thanks for joining us today! To start, tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I was born in Moscow, Russia, and lived there until 1996. At that time, my parents changed to Brazil, and I came along.
I get used to programming when I was around 8 years old, when my father bought his first computer (a 286-based laptop, with CGA screen and MS-DOS 3.3). At that time there were almost no possibilities to learn anything about computing in Russia, so I had to learn all by myself. I started with batch files programming, and soon learned Pascal. After that, I learned a couple of other languages, like Basic and C, and since that time I had no doubts about my future profession.
Besides computers, I also have a few hobbies. I like reading, listening to music, martial arts (mainly Tae Kwon Do and Muay Thai), and I also study music since I was 7 years old.
Q: What were your reasons for applying for an internship here?
A: I guess that the main reason was the curiosity about how the computers really work internally. I always tried to learn everything about computers by myself, but with Microsoft-related products it is quite a challenge :). Since I started my under-graduation, I was mostly working with Unix and Linux related systems, but I was always curious to find out how Windows work. So probably the chance to understand how Windows really works, and - who knows - maybe even contribute something back were the main reasons.
Q: How were your interviews? Were they what you expected? Any tips for future candidates?
A: The interviews were really interesting - they actually were much more interesting then I was originally expecting. From what I was reading about Microsoft interviews, I was expecting several coding-related questions, but the interviews were much more interesting than that. Of course, there were code questions :), but the whole goal of the interviews - from my point of view - was to see how the candidates would solve unexpected problems.
I mean, the interviewers didn't want the candidates simple to say "ahh, I can use this algorithm with these parameters to solve this problem", but wanted to see how would they solve a completely unknown problem, or how would they behave themselves in front of a new situation.
On my free time, I often program something, just to see if I can solve a difficult computing problem. Thus, I was really enjoying the interviews, because I had the feeling that the interviewers had the same passion about computers, just like me.
The interviews were more interesting for me because I had very limited experience with Microsoft products and whole Windows-related programming styles and techniques. So I tried to solve the problems from a different point of view, and this has resulted in some interesting discussions.
Q: You relocated from Brazil. How was the relocation process for you?
I relocated from São Carlos, Brazil, a small city near the center of São Paulo state. I did my under-graduation and master degree there, at UFSCar university, and after that I changed to USP university, also in São Carlos, for my PhD.
I guess that the biggest challenge - at least for me - was the distance. When you are working at Microsoft you have plenty of free time, but it is obviously not enough to travel back home for a weekend, or at least once in a few months. So definitely this proves to be a problem - when you have to stay away from you family, and friends, for a long time.
Besides this distance, the relocation was great - everything was scheduled and prepared for me shortly, including the housing, rental car, and during my whole stay in the US I had no complains about the relocation. Good job guys :).
Q: What did you work on in your internship and how were you able to apply your learning from school?
A: During my internship I worked on NTFS file system. It was really interesting for me because I managed to obtain just the kind of knowledge I wanted (I mean, how the things really work on a low level). NTFS is a huge (or better, really-really HUGE) file system, and it has a LOT of code. And it is also completely different from Linux file systems that I was aware of, so it took me some time to learn how it work.
After few first weeks, however, I was able to understand most of it. Obviously, I couldn't get to that point without help of my mentor, Daniel Chan, and manager, Neal Christiansen, who helped me greatly and were able to answer any tough question I had.
During my internship, I worked on NTFS performance evaluation and tuning. We managed to improve the performance of all directory-related operations greatly, and our changes are in Vista and Longhorn server branches right now.
I also had a chance to work with some additional Microsoft teams on a few other projects. It was a really interesting experience, and I don't think that every intern had the chance to work on so many things :).
One thing I learned from my internship is that the education you receive at college is fundamental for each and every job you'll have. Of course, each job requires different techniques and knowledge, but unless you have a solid theory basis (like basic algorithms, data structures, and all sort of "boring" things you learn) you will have a really hard time.
As a clue for future interns - if you think that the concepts and techniques from the decades of 70 and 80, like sorting algorithms, data structures and so on, are useless and you are never going to need them on you job, you really should think again about it :).
I guess I just have to thank my teachers at UFSCar and USP universities, to give me the base to do all the great things. Even while at some points during my graduation I was really thinking that some computing, theory and math classes would be pointless, my stay at Microsoft have proven that I was wrong :).
Q: What were the top three things you enjoyed about your internship?
A: 1 - The possibility to work on real code, and contribute to a real-world operating system.
2 - The chance work with and learn from really brilliant programmers.
3 - The coffee machines at Microsoft were really good :).
Q: Is there anything you would change about your experience?
A: My internship was a really great experience. I managed to learn a LOT, and it definitely was a unique experience.
Readers, if you have other questions for Eugeni, be sure to leave them in the comments section.
Hope this encourages some of you to apply! As you can see from my previous post on Microsoft internships, our internships are extremely fun as well! Let me know in the comments section if you have more questions about our internships. We have most of our interns here in the summer, but for some of our International candidates, we occasionally will have some off-season opportunities as well. For more information on our US based internships, including more profiles of previous interns, check out: http://www.microsoft.com/college/ip_overview.mspx.
And check back later this week to hear from two more of our international interns!
By Anne Cheng
On Monday, you met Eugeni, one of our interns from Brazil. Today, meet Ioana. And check back later this week to meet Bulut from Turkey!
Meet Ioana from Romania – Current Software Design Engineer in Test within the Fundamental Test team in Windows
Q: Hi Ioana. Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I am a student in the 4th year at Computer Science Faculty of University Politehnica of Bucharest, Romania. Last year I participated as part of a team to Windows Embedded Student Challenge and our project, Forest Watcher, won the first prize. It was one of the best experiences I had, because I learned a lot about developing a project and about working in a team. We still believe in the idea and we hope that we will implement it someday.
In my free time I like to read, meet my friends or watch a movie with my fiancé.
Q: What were your reasons for applying for an internship here?
A: Last year, when I was to Windows Embedded Student Challenge, I had the chance to meet people from Microsoft, to see how things work here and I was really impressed by how professional they were and how friendly. It also seemed like the right place to come if you wanted to get to work with the latest technologies or if you wanted to impact a lot of people with your work.
Q: How were your interviews – were they what you expected? Any tips for future candidates?
A: I had both a telephone interview and then an “in person” interview, which contained both technical and non-technical interview. This way I was able to both prove my technical knowledge and to speak about myself and about the things that I was interested in. I think that during the interview it was important to prove not only the knowledge I had, but the way I was reasoning, the way I got to the answers.
I thought to the interview as to an exam, so I prepared for it, for example by revising the algorithms course I had at faculty. It was a great experience and although I was a little nervous before, when the interview started I relaxed and everything worked fine.
Q: You relocated from Romania. How was the relocation process for you?
A: It was much better than I expected. Microsoft made all the arrangements and all I had to do was to come in my nice new house. I also met a lot of people at Microsoft that came from outside US, so I didn’t feel like a stranger. The only thing that I miss here is my family.
Q: What are you working on this summer, and how have you been able to apply your learning from school?
A: My project is to do the testing for an application that will facilitate test automation. This way the tester will only have to record the steps of the testing and he’s (almost) done, instead of having to hard code the steps. It is very interesting, because I get to write testing specifications, which I haven’t done before, and to actually do the testing. I know that my work will impact a lot of people by allowing them to work more efficiently and that makes me really satisfied.
Q: What are the top three things you enjoyed most about your internship?
A: I like really much the people I work with. The team is very dynamic and always ready to help you. I also like that at the end of the summer I will be able to say that I had an impact on people and the tools they use. The third thing would be that you learn a lot of things. You get to work with the latest technologies and you experience the new tools before they are released.
Q: Is there anything you would change about your experience thus far?
A: I would probably sleep less and go instead to more intern events. There is a lot of fun here this summer and a lot of nice things to do, but the day has, unfortunately, only 24 hours.
I know the feeling. Thanks, Ioana!
Like last time, if you have any questions for Ioana or me, please leave comments. For more information on our US based internships, including more profiles of previous interns, check out the internship section of our college website.