Coincidence or career kismet?

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Geek in question: André Alfred
Job title: IT/OPS Program Manager, Online Services Division

This fall, Microsoft hired a 30-year-old engineer from Lafayette, Louisiana, named André Alfred. In spite of his relatively young age, André has a deeper resume than many middle-aged professionals. This is due to the fact that André started working in tech at the fresh age of 16 and built a remarkable career on his own terms.

While André was interviewing at Microsoft, he emailed his recruiter to say, “You know 14 years ago I was featured on Microsoft’s TechNet as ‘Web Doer of the Month,’ and just this weekend I found the print-outs as I was clearing out some shelves… Fate?”

I think that it is fate. (Check out André’s 1997 interview here.)

Microsoft acknowledged André for his talent and drive at a young age. He spent the first part of his career exploring the technology industry and learning its various facets, but now he’s come around to the place where he can create his long-term career and push his talent and drive to their limits.

I recently checked in with André at his new Redmond office to find out about his journey from a prodigy recognized by Microsoft to a Program Manager at Microsoft. I was also fortunate to be there when he got the good news that he and his family had just closed on their first house in the Seattle-area.

How did you become so interested in technology?
My dad brought home a Tandy when I was just 5 years old. Originally, we were both really into playing games on it.
But then my interest just grew and grew. I started taking the computer apart, swapping boards and RAM and driving my dad crazy by breaking and rebuilding everything.

I bet that got in the way of his gaming.
For sure. And when I was 16, my dad told me that I needed to get a job or start cutting the lawn. We lived on three-and-a-half acres; which is no joke to mow in the Louisiana sun. So, I applied for a job at the helpdesk of a local ISP.

That’s when Microsoft recognized you a “Web Doer of the Month?”
Yeah, I was only getting minimum wage, which was something like $4.75 an hour at the time, so I also starting running my own web consulting business on the side. I won first place in Desktop Publishing at the Future Business Leaders of America Conference and then Microsoft got in touch about an interview for TechNet.

And you went to college after that?
I’m actually still working on my degree. Slowly, but surely.
I guess I was very fortunate in that I always knew what I wanted to do. I started at that ISP and soon I was training in Cisco systems and next I had engineering, IT manager and PM jobs at Lucent and Aggreko.
Eventually, I married my wife, relocated to Richmond, Virginia, and went to work for Capital One. That’s when a Microsoft recruiter “re-discovered” me on LinkedIn.

Did you think that you would ever work at Microsoft?
I was definitely always interested as I am a tech geek at heart and, whether they admit it or not, every tech geek dreams of working at Microsoft at some point.
Plus, I like working with other people who are kinda nerdy. At other companies, I was “the engineer” or “IT guy,” but this is a whole company full of people like me.
I can talk about gaming or code with just about anybody in the hall here.

You’ve had a very entrepreneurial career. Did you have reservations about working for a large tech company?
Honestly, I maxed-out in some of my earlier jobs. I don’t consider myself to be a job hopper so I wanted a place that would really give me the potential to grow and move in the next stages of my career – and at Microsoft there is no limit.
If anything, the idea of supporting so many customers is a little intimidating, but – at the same time – it’s a very exciting challenge.

Congratulations on the new house. Was it hard to move to the Northwest considering you have such deep roots in Louisiana?
Now that I am married and have two kids, Microsoft’s benefits and relocation were very attractive for my family. The company couldn’t have handled the move any better.
And it also helps that my wife is always up for an adventure.

So, what’s next in the adventures of André Alfred?
My job is to deliver major initiatives across teams that have many different skills. So, right now, I’m looking forward to heading to Tallinn, Estonia, to integrate the Skype team into Microsoft.

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