By: Michael Erickson
Last summer Michael was an SDET on commercial services for the Xbox Live team. He then went back to Montreal’s Concordia University to graduate as an electrical engineer. He will return to Microsoft this summer. Michael’s internship made an impact on what he wants to get out of his education. He shares some insights on this new point of view.
In Michael’s own words:
At the end of the internship, most of us went right back to school. It was different. During the summer we were used to high-pace, demanding engineering. By comparison, school was simple.
Why did school seem easier after my Microsoft internship?
During the summer you have a project that needs a specific set of requirements and features. You start out strong. You think quickly and work efficiently. You imagine you’ll achieve your goal way before the end of the summer.
But when you start getting down and dirty with it, you realize your project is bigger than you expected. Sometimes your project will wait on someone else’s work, and sometimes, your team will be waiting for you to submit your few lines of code. It is up to you to decide what needs your time and effort.
If your code is shipping next week, you have to make it the top priority in your life. In turn, this reinforced for me that homework takes time, and so should school projects and preparation for exams.
My relationship with my manager changed how I saw my professors
During the internship, your boss and mentor guide you toward finishing your project. They want you to succeed and come back to work for them. They set high expectations and want to see your best work.
But isn’t that what professors want too? When I returned to campus, I started appreciating (or at least, understanding) why my professors bombarded us with homework and quizzes, lectures and labs, and it all made sense: I could see how they want to pass on as much knowledge as possible.
You learn to challenge yourself
Your professor and your boss were (probably) students at one time, and are as ambitious as you are now. Imagine why you need the information they’re conveying and try challenging yourself with it. Find loopholes, fixes and improvements. After all, it’s only a bunch of humans that built a shuttle and sent it to space! Why not you?
You learn to be efficient
As an intern, you have to extract the information you need and remember it. During the first week, your mentor and boss will be patient; they will provide all the information. From the second week on, the pace keeps going faster and faster, but you become efficient. You learn how to read, analyze, sort, and remember information so efficiently that when you are back at school, preparing for a whole course will seem easy.
The only question you’ll ask yourself is: “Why haven’t I done this before?”
Ask yourself: What do I really want to learn in school?
I’m graduating soon, and I can’t wait to be back at Microsoft. I’ve realized that the education system was built for me to learn as much as I can. So when I returned to school for my final year, I chose courses about what I wanted to learn. And I sought out the right professors.
What are you doing to make the best of your education?
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