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Microsoft speaks on unique internship opportunities | The Triangle

Microsoft speaks on unique internship opportunities

Three Microsoft representatives visited campus Feb. 19 for an information session in the University Club Sky View lounge to speak about the Microsoft Information Technology Group and internship opportunities and to give advice.

Photo credit: Ruan Wenfeng
Photo credit: Ruan Wenfeng

The session welcomed Josephine Mooney, staffing consultant and college recruiter, Alex Vo, a senior service engineer at Microsoft, and Anya Stitz, a Drexel alumna who is working as a program manager of Microsoft Office Mobile.

Mooney mentioned the diversity of opportunities in Microsoft’s internship program.

“No matter where you are as an intern, Microsoft is super great about letting you speak up at the table,” Stitz said. “Microsoft is really good about listening.”

Mooney stated that the internship program not only serves for the benefits of students, but also for the company. The company consistently looks for fresh and invigorating ideas from new hires to push its innovation forward.

“There’s a joke with hiring managers at Microsoft that calls hires ‘stem cell transplants.’ So you guys are really that fresh blood in those new ideas because sometimes when you work so closely with something for two or three years, it’s hard to really get that outside perspective,” Mooney said.

Microsoft designed a performance model through the internship program. Despite not putting out any work during the first three weeks of joining the program, all interns have to learn as much as they can about the technology that the company uses and develops on.

At first start, students get to sit down with managers and come up with five to six core accountabilities, or “commitments at Microsoft” as pledge on what they can contribute throughout their internships. After six weeks, there is a check-in where students receive feedback on their operation from their managers. The final review in the end revisits students’ commitment and their accomplishments throughout the entire program.

“I think Microsoft has really given me the ability to figure out what it is that I want to do when I grow up and really [gives] huge support along the way,” Stitz said.

Mooney said that one of the unique advantages of working at Microsoft is that any offered internship is backed by a full-time position.

She said, “If you’re a junior or approaching graduation at the end of the summer, you will know if you have a repeat offer to come back and work for Microsoft full-time, you will know your compensation package, and you can tell your start date before you even leave town.”

When asked about what qualities a college recruiter looks for in an intern, Mooney highlighted students’ extracurricular project work that manifests their intellectual curiosity and could be the number one quality that disqualifies a candidate.

“If you don’t participate in clubs, you haven’t gone out and tried to get internships or mentors or anything like that, that’s a flag to me that you maybe wouldn’t enjoy the software development career,” she said. “If they can’t speak about something that they have done outside of the classroom on their own, have taken the initiative to go and do, they team is going to say ‘Where is this person’s passion for technology?’”

Mooney encouraged students to find ways to get involved on campus and with local company activities and to start their own projects.

The second important factor that Mooney stated is advanced coursework, such as advanced data structures or discrete math. These courses might not guarantee a 4.0 GPA but elicit students’ interests in the content. Mooney emphasized how students push themselves and how curious they are in software development distinguishes them from other candidates and demonstrates a better fit in Microsoft.

Vo added that the initiative to engage in additional work and think of what students can do to improve themselves and the business also makes them an outstanding applicant.

“It was helpful to learn what the recruiter was looking for in an applicant, mainly the personal projects and the hard classes,” Rory O’Kane, a senior in computer science, said.

As a Drexel alumna who had three, six-month co-ops, Stitz gave advice on building personal relationships with friends in class, mentors on campus and in the work place.

“Try out the different classes. Philadelphia is a huge city and you do your internships in different places for co-ops. Make sure that you grab those contacts and have them as mentors. Whatever internships you do, try to soak up in it as much as you can,” she said.

Stitz graduated from Drexel University in 2009 with a degree in information systems. She began her career at Microsoft with an internship in her third co-op after two other internships in the Philadelphia area. Moving to Seattle from Philadelphia was completely different, according to her, but Stitz received a lot of assistance and support from her manager, other permanent employees and a big group of interns from different universities, inside and outside the U.S.

According to Mooney, the perks of doing internships at Microsoft, besides a decent salary, also include housing stipend, service discounts and transportation support.

“Microsoft helps you make the transition, make the move, find you a place, make sure you have the transportation you need,” Stitz said. “I felt really supported, and also my best friends that I have even to this day, seven years later from doing my internship were from the internship program. So it’s kind of a small community.”

When Stitz came back for full-time employment, she had the opportunity to go through the Microsoft Academy for College Hires, where employees do a six-month rotation in different places inside the information technology department. The rotation has given her a chance to get to know more about Microsoft’s campus and exposure to tasks that she had never done before, including as a business performance engineer, marketing and IT program manager.

Devin McGinty, a pre-junior in computer science, said, “The most interesting thing was the Microsoft Academy for College Hires. I thought it was interesting how they teach the new hires about the entire aspect of Microsoft as a whole.”

“It was really interesting. I wasn’t really sure what to expect because I guess I’m more interested in the development side but I figured it would be worthy to come anyway to learn about subjects that I don’t know much about,” McGinty said.

Divya Paramesh, a graduating senior studying management information systems, said, “As a graduating senior, I think it was really cool talking to them as a business major. I’m not as IT-oriented as some of the people here. … When you get a personal account of what they actually do on a day-to-day basis and what they actually love doing the most about their job, you can get a real feel of how the company works and what kind of fit a person needs to be to work in the company.”

The information session was hosted by the Steinbright Career Development Center.