Practice saying “yes”, especially when it feels like you are taking a step sideways or even backwards. Take the unusual roles, walk the off-beaten path, and lean into your discomfort. Ask not what the title is but how much will it allow for your personal and professional growth.
It’s a new year and a fresh start for many of us who may not have had the best of times in 2020. So much has changed and will continue to change in our lives, but we can always look forward to our personal and professional development!
For today’s blog, I had the pleasure of meeting with Priya Priyadarshini, General Manager of Employee Career & Development at Microsoft. I am excited to share Priya’s inspiring life journey and some of her best advice for crafting a fulfilling career full of passion and purpose. This conversation will be great for those who are early-in-career and are either at Microsoft already or are interested in joining!
Career Path: From Intern to General Manager
Originally from India, Priya graduated with a degree in engineering and technology before she pursued an MBA in the USA in 2000. Despite her technical background, she found enjoyment in teaching others and wanted to learn more about business, marketing, and HR. After starting at Microsoft as an HR intern in Diversity & Inclusion, Priya never found a reason to leave and has recently celebrated her 15 year workiversary (which consisted of 9 different roles).
Priya believes that she is very lucky to be part of Microsoft, which she describes is “a company within companies” and has offered her diverse experiences across the continuum, from hardware and software to manufacturing and supply chain. These experiences allowed her to build a wide network across the company. When it comes to building a professional network, Priya states that you don’t always need to know a specific person directly, but you just need to know someone who knows them!
I want to discourage you from choosing anything or making any decision simply because it is safe. Things of value seldom are.
What opportunities does Microsoft offer to “early-in-careers”?
It’s crazy to think that I’ve already grown a year at Microsoft as an Aspirer, and I am more passionate than ever about the personal and professional development of myself and my peers. There are a million companies and opportunities out there, but there is a reason why people love Microsoft, stay at Microsoft, or come back to Microsoft (they are called “boomerangs”).
The new graduate experience was named “ASPIRE” because the program is aspirational and meant to help any university hire achieve their goals and ambitions. The 3 objectives are to build a strong network around the world through authentic connections, accelerate growth and exploration of passions and interests at Microsoft, and discover new opportunities inside and outside of the organization.
In Year 1, Aspirers attend the Start Strong conference to learn more about the organization and meet their cohort. Aspire Talks, featuring remarkable individuals and industry influencers, will also take place to inspire and instill action in ambitious Aspirers. In Year 2, there are Aspire Focus Days to help with career development and skills training; as well as the Stay Strong conference to deepen connections and map the journey forward (Watch Video).
For those who are still in university, Microsoft is currently offering Virtual Internships in North America. As someone who has mentored 2 interns, I can tell you that you won’t “just be an intern” at Microsoft. You are empowered to take on high visibility projects and collaborate with stakeholders around the world. You will have access to many of the same training, skilling, and resources that employees do, and there are so many opportunities to have fun while absorbing the complex community of Microsoft (Watch Video).
You can also apply for the Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors program to develop your technical skills, contribute to the community, and solve real world challenges. As a Student Ambassador, you will become a student mentor and leader who can amplify your impact to help others learn. This is an opportunity to join a global online network and learn important skills that will help you land your dream job!
We also have an annual event Imagine Cup event that is more than a competition for students. You can work with your friends, network with professionals, and gain new skills to make a difference in this world and win great prizes. There has been over 2 million participants in over 100 countries, so this is a unique event that you don’t want to miss (Learn more and Register)!
The “secret sauce to success” is that there isn’t one
Career paths are a thing of the past, they don’t exist anymore.
We live in a “VUCA” world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous), and the nature of our jobs are changing every year. Building your agility and foresight are essential for thriving in this type of environment. Rather than seeing career in the more traditional way of progression through job titles, think about exploring your market value and employability both within and outside of an organization.
Employability consists of your capabilities, skills, knowledge, experiences, and achievements that make you more valuable and likely to succeed in an organization. Reflecting on your passion, purpose, fears, and anxieties will help you develop self-awareness, which is a critical skill that determines career direction.
Closing Words of Advice
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Viktor E. Frankl
Firstly alluding to Viktor E. Frankl’s quote above, it is important to adopt a “player” mindset rather than a “victim” mindset because we always have a choice in how we respond to situations. We should accept responsibility for our roles in all situations, even those that may seem out of our control.
Furthermore, rather than defining your career as a series of job titles, look at it as a trail of opportunities for discovery, connection and growth. Always think about the skills, networks, and experiences you have yet to gain that will support your personal and professional development.
Lastly, you grow through stretching yourself beyond the comfort zone. If you are not failing or feeling challenged, then you are not learning something new. Say yes to opportunities that make you uncomfortable because you will learn the most.
I would like to say thank you so much to Priya for taking the time to meet with me to share her story and words of advice. Sometimes we feel lost, especially as students or new grads, but leaders like Priya give us hope and inspiration to light the way before us! Here is to your career success in 2021.