It’s been 365 days at Microsoft since graduating college, and it went like…
It’s been 365 days since starting my first full-time job as an Product Marketing Research Manager at Microsoft’s ACE Rotational Program. As I wrap up my first full year, I want to take the time to reflect on key learnings and express gratitude to those I’ve met since starting.
What is Microsoft’s ACE Rotational Program? The Microsoft Accelerated Connections and Experiences (ACE) Rotation Program is a two-year program designed to broaden perspectives, build strong communities, and strengthen participants’ marketing skill sets.
My Microsoft Journey
As someone who has lived in the greater Seattle area all of my life, I was surrounded by my friends who had parents that worked at Microsoft. They would bring in Microsoft swag to the classroom and talk about the wonders of technology and software. Without explicitly knowing, I was immersed in the Microsoft ecosystem since elementary school — playing with Wordart, designing really pretty PowerPoints for class, and creating my first ever business card in Publisher.
In June 2019, I graduated as a Interactive Media Design and Business major and received my first Microsoft ACE placement in Customer Market Research (CMR) starting that fall.
My first reaction to my placement in CMR was filled with excitement but nervousness. I wasn’t sure if the world of market research would align with the skills I had acquired over the years. Side bar: Looking back I remember sending a frantic email to my amazing recruiter, James, at that time about my uncertainty:
Now 365 days in and about to rotate to my next role, I couldn’t have been more wrong about my nervousness. I’m grateful to have started my career in market research and credit Microsoft’s recruiting team for pushing me outside my comfort zone to find an area I really love.
Five Key Learnings I’m Taking Away
- Questions to ask yourself: At my first 1:1 with my manager he shared questions to ponder on, which now looking back has contributed to having such an successful year. What is your brand? What do you want to be known for? What brings you joy? What are you anxious about? These questions became guiding principles on how I wanted to develop professionally and personally. Throughout the year, I consistently went back to these questions to shape the type of projects, learning opportunities, and company wide initiatives to prioritize.
- Relationships and allies matter: What brought me joy was connecting with others — On my team, in my org or across the company. I set a goal to speak with 1–2 new individuals weekly and learned there is no “right” journey to approach work and life. Through conversations, I found previous stand-up comedians, researchers, personal fitness trainers, professors, and environmentalists who bring their unique perspective to the work we do. With every new person I met, there were more opportunities to seek constructive feedback and build trust to have conversations centered around growth.
- Confidence takes time: I put pressure on myself to be perfect, speak at every meeting or have this constant need to contribute something. Through regular check-ins with my ACE community, my manager(s), and mentors I learned that confidence takes time. I wasn’t the only one who put pressure on myself, and luckily had supportive individuals share their experiences of finding their voice at the meeting table. Pro tip: A extra special shout out to Spotify’s Confidence Boost playlist for always being there to calm me down before major presentation readouts.
- Users need to be at the center of it all: When it comes to building breathtaking products there needs to be a deep understanding of consumer unmet needs. Starting my career in market research I built a strong foundation to approach qual and quant research methodology focused on revealing the customer voice and perspective. This taught me how to drive product discussions forward by connecting the dots with data points and insights collected.
- Learning doesn’t stop ever: My team encouraged creating a learning journal via PowerPoint to document market research skills, business impact, and personal development. Entering a culture that fostered learning and growing enabled me to celebrate the little wins with myself. I also found this innate passion to learn new skills and technology monthly — I built my first SharePoint, email newsletters, AR filters, virtual whiteboard spaces, demo video, and Figma wireframe.
Thank you to: Angela Dunham, Kevin Hacke, James Spaan, Sameer Sankaran, Annemarie Callahan, Cameron Allison-Sadjo, Humayun Rashid, Laura Cyran, Kate Weymer, Jenny Reece, John Nukunya, Ben Loeb, Diana Ortiz, Kajoli Tanka, Jon Derome, Andrew Kennelly, Simon Hough, Adam Deis, Romani Patel, Marian Anderson, Jay Victor, Liat Ben-Zur, Annie Smith, Molly Hallahan, Ryan Khademi, Ashlynn Tucker, Sutton Wunderle, Chris Nachman, Keishiro Iwasaki, Charles Wartemberg, Alan Yu, Gloria Sun, Customer Market Research, Modern Life PMM, and so much more.
While it’s incredibly difficult to say goodbye *cue Remember Me from Coco* to my M365 Consumer Research team and Customer Market Research, I’m looking forward to what new areas I’ll drive impact and grow as a PMM for the Windows Insider Program and Modern Life Search & Devices Storytelling Demos in the next 365 days.