My Rollercoaster Ride to join Microsoft. Part II-A. Winter 2002 – Summer 2003

So after the SC talk which concluded Phase 1 in my attempt to join Microsoft, detailed in Part 1 – here is part 2A & 2B – which includes Phases 2 through 4. If you think my naming/numbering convention is weird, wait till you see some of the design documents floating around here J …When in Rome…..


My Rollercoaster Ride to join Microsoft. Part II-A. Winter 2002 – Summer 2003:

a.k.a “I (don’t) know what you did Last Summer.


Warning: This is going to be a long, bitter entry. So go get your sodas, ice creams, popcorns and reading glasses.


Well I always knew I wanted to work for MS and kept hovering around on their career website and had subscribed to the Microsoft career newsletter and always had an eye open on the Microsoft Careers events and Happenings for opportunities to sell myself to senior managers, VPs, Directors, HR ppl – pretty much anyone who could direct me towards a challenging strategy/marketing/management Individual contributor post-MBA role at Microsoft.


Phase 2 Winter 2002: Microsoft is a large firm and as with large enterprises – one hand doesn’t not always talk to the other. So days after my interview with SC, I was invited to the Tablet PC launch in Las Vegas by another Microsoft HR team, which found my technology background and Computer Associates background interesting. I met a ton of hiring managers there in Las Vegas, built a contact Database around them, followed up with them and had to deliver elevator statements to them all and had 15 min-standing screen-interviews in a cocktail setting.

In a conversation with RH, a senior recruiter, it all went find and dandy till he realized that I was graduating in Spring 2003 and the conversation stopped in mid-sentence. Apparently the MBA-school recruiting team talks to MBA students and even if the MBA student has industry experience and certifications (like I did) the Microsoft industry recruiters would not talk to you till a year passed before you had graduated.

Qn to ask ofcourse was – wasn’t this information on my resume? Wasn’t it obvious I was still a student? Wouldn’t my information be on the HR database?

Bright Side – I had a ton of contacts which I could leverage and have a conversation with no mid-sentence conversation drops – starting Spring 2004.

Either that, or as aggressive and confident (read: smart-ass & obnoxious) as I am, I had to convince the MBA-recruiting team into talking to me again.


- End of Phase 2 Microsoft Attempt -


Phase 3 Spring 2003: So I graduated in Spring 2003, and was very fastidious about the job, firm and position I accepted. In other words, I chose to be jobless and help Carnegie Mellon’s Career Center marketing team for a meager sustenance and leeching of friends (God bless them!) than working in a place that was not aligned with my goals and directions. Blame my mom for my idealistic hard-head.


So Spring is when the real mad-rush internship recruiting happens (if you dint get into Consulting/Banking). When BW, a Senior Business Manager from Microsoft came to campus to recruit for interns, my career director (this is when the pro-bono school work that one does helps) recommended that he talk to me and see if I was worth his time.

This is how it went…..


When I entered the interview room on campus, BW had made sure that my back was to the whiteboard and was sitting facing it. After the usual talk about the Pittsburgh weather (which sucks), the Steelers (who rock) and the likes….. it started.


On the whiteboard were a list of fill in the blank qns: On the left were the numericals - Stock price of MSFT, 2003 Revenue, 2003 Profits, on the right were name-placeholders with titles – CEO and CFO. Then below where a list of 5 bullet points which asked me to name 5 products I knew of Microsoft and then to name 3 competitors to each and every single one. I filled them all and BW was very impressed with the fact that I not only knew the revenue and margin numbers but also thankful that unlike some colleagues who still wrote BillG under the CEO bracket I could write SteveB for that and knew the CFO’s name too. Ofcourse products and competitors were the easy piece given my industry background.


Then the real interview commenced.

BW being a business Manager – we talked about Business strategies, value chains, revenue streams and profit margins. When asked to pick 2, any 2 product suites from the ones I had written and start listing out the margins, I said I will pick Office and Xbox for 2 different reasons – one being a super-margin-mature-cash cow product that generated enormous cashflow to the firm and the other which even though Microsoft was losing on every box being sold – was a huge bet for the future and therefore had different stories to tell.

The next 40 minutes we talked about these two businesses, their industry landscape, the revenue streams, marketing channels, issues at hand and how we can mitigate them and my top 3 recommendations to address them while refueling the revenue streams. It was one my best interviews yet and I knew it while I was talking which was wonderful.


BW went out of the way to thank my director that he was happy she had recommended him talking to me since he said – I would be his best hire yet. Ofcourse BW promised me a next set of interviews at Redmond for full time position even though he was here to hire interns.


2 months, and various phone calls after –later BW confesses that he had tried his best, raised the issue to his General Manager and VP-level but still could not overcome 2 issues at Microsoft:

a) A hire if rejected on the MBA-student track by person A – cannot be given another chance within a year from rejection

b) An person remains under the MBA-student track for a year past his/her graduation and cannot be pulled in through the industry-recruiting track.


In other words, BW was profusely apologetic that he couldn’t call me in for further interviews at Redmond, because of “company policies” but said He thought I would be an asset at Microsoft and would have to try after Spring 2004 – when the 1 yr period lapses.



- End of Phase 3 Microsoft Attempt -


What did I do wrong: I dont know. Nothing apparently.


What I did right: I thought everything. Showed my interest, research, technical/communication/leadership/business skills.


What I learnt from it:

a) Corporate policies are not easy to bend.

b) When all is lost or seems lost go to Captain Morgan on the rocks.


Bottomline: Great Interview. Great communication. Excellent Connection. No results. Bummer!