About once a week or so, after teaching a Data Science class or at an event, I’ll get asked “Hey – I’ve got a lot of experience and training in technology X – and I’d like to work at Microsoft. What do I do?”
I’m in Germany this week teaching, and instead of sleeping I decided to check e-mail. 🙂 I heard from someone who attended one of my workshops and just completed the Microsoft Data Science Degree – a lot of work! This is the advice I gave him, and I thought I would share that here.
The first thing is to decide the kind of work you want to. There’s everything from technical roles, to management, marketing, and every other facet of technology. There are so many areas where you can use your talents, so you want to focus on what will make you the most enthusiastic about your job.
Microsoft is about making sure you really love what you do and you’re enthusiastic about the technology and how it helps people around the world – we’re very entrepreneurial. In fact, that often trips a lot of people up – they come in thinking there will be a very established way of doing things and a lot of hand-holding, when in fact it’s often the case that you’re asked how you would run the role and how you think about moving it forward. That varies from group to group of course – some roles do have a more strict process you need to follow, depending on what you’re doing. In general, however, when you get here you dive in and get to work. You’ll research what you need to do, leverage our internal training and tools, create a network of folks to ask questions, make mistakes, fix them, and learn what to do next.
After you decide the area, you need to decide on where you want to live. If you to move to the Seattle area in the US, you’ll find lots of roles on the Product Group (the people who write software), the Business Group (people who decide what we’re going to sell and how we’re going to do that) and many other teams. By the way, when some people hear “Sales” or “Marketing”, they don’t think “Technical”. That isn’t true here. You can find a technical or business role in almost every group. We also have development groups in Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world, so Washington state isn’t your only option.
If you want to live somewhere else, there are various field roles for a technical professional. Each regional office covers a geography, and there are roles for sales and marketing (technical). There’s usually one or two technical folks for each major technology we sell, or area of technology (like Data Science). There is also a “DX” group – technical evangelism – that travels in their area and develops software and demos to show off what our products can do. They work with real-world examples and integrate lots of technologies.
There are also at least a couple of kinds of roles in Microsoft Services in field offices – Consulting (MCS), and Premier Field Engineering (PFE). In general, MCS does consulting-kind of work, and a PFE focuses on a specific area of technology in engagements with clients. These last anywhere from a day or so to many months.
The best route to follow is to talk to folks in these roles. To make a contact, visit the Microsoft location where you would like to work, and attend the events they offer – user groups, learning days, whatever. Ask around at those events for the Microsoft person, and offer to buy them a coffee. Chat with them about how they see their role, and ask if there are any openings. It’s a big company – and different people have different experiences here. You want to hear the good and the not-so-good before you start.
Then hit up http://microsoft.com/careers and search for what you want.
My history has usually been 2-4 years at a company, and then to move on. I came to Microsoft with that same idea. I moved to Seattle to join the Product Group working on writing SQL Server. Ten years and five roles later, I now live in Florida and I’m still here at Microsoft – and still excited about what I do. I love being on the Data Science team, and hope you find a place here with us as well.