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First Summer Working at Microsoft

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This summer I got an awesome opportunity, thanks to Dan Fernandez and Clint Rutkas – I hung out and contributed to a bit of open-source software as an kinda-intern on the Channel9 Coding4Fun team. Now, if you are not aware of what Channel9 is about, then you are totally missing out on a portal dedicated to everything Microsoft (with a focus on dev tech), so check it out.

At this point, I am not going to go into detail about the project I was working on, but I would like to highlight some important points learned during this somewhat short period. Obviously, this list is nowhere close to being complete – I tried to focus more on the social aspect of the job. It definitely was one-of-a-kind experience, in a one-of-a-kind team. What I wrote below is just a small part of everything amazing that I experienced in Building 40 and outside of it. The points might be useful for perspective students who consider interning at Microsoft.

Network. And once again – network. From the very first day in the office, I realized that one of the most important things to do is to get to know the people around you. There are so many interesting things they can tell and show you. That way I met such awesome Microsoft employees as Mark DeFalco, Josh Allen, Steven Salazar, Arthur Yasinski, Geoff Knutzen and Mike Sampson Your adventure starts in the office, make the most out of it!

Learn outside your area. So you know people. Wouldn’t it be great to also learn more about the work they do? Ask them questions, be curious. Even if it their development stack is not closely related to yours, you can learn so much simply by talking about the work done on tools and services that you might already be using.

Events are you opportunity. If you get a chance to go to an event, such as TechEd, make sure that, once again, you talk to people. Ask them questions about their work there and how it affects what your team does. Usually, I found out that the work developers and organizers do is much more complicated than what it seems from the outside, with points that I, as a developer, neglected to realize. Special thanks in this context go to Denise Begley and Jeannine Wisniewski – thanks to you I am now aware how event planning and logistics work on a much lower level. Also thanks to Larry Larsen and Golnaz Alibeigi for showing how video work becomes art during “peace” and “war” times.

Stuck looking at a piece of code? There is probably someone in the hallway that can help. While working on whatever I was working, I did hit roadblocks, and that’s where I could just go to Charles Torre or Mike Sampson to get a quick “here is how it might actually work” review. Brian Peek and Rick Barraza were also very helpful with their insights on the internal and external design. Forums come last, attempt to solve problems with in-person communication first.

Do go to after-work events with your team. There were often little “offlines” with Duncan Mackenzie and the rest of the team. It was a chance to see what’s going on outside work and what are some opportunities and places to discover around the Seattle area (when I had some free time, obviously). Same applies to team lunches. Spoiler alert: Mark, you get on this list too with Lucky Strike.

Discover Microsoft outside your building. That is, go and talk to people in other divisions, go to Microsoft events, visit the Microsoft gym and the surrounding areas. Getting around on campus is fairly easy with the existing shuttle system. If not – you always have the option of a bus (public transportation is pretty well organized in the Seattle area).

Meet other interns. They will probably be in your apartment building, or in the next building on campus. Each of them has their own story on how they got to work at Microsoft and it’s always interesting to hear about their experiences and work.

Microsoft offers free coffee and soda/juices at work, so why not drink those? This is probably one of the most well-known perks, but regardless – it is a great addition to an already creative work environment. I wish I stacked all those coffee cups to see how much I drank. Maybe I need to write an app for that.

Do stuff outside Microsoft. Burning out might be your ultimate productivity killer, and if you are not pressed by a deadline, discover Seattle, the mountains and the lakes. Visit landmarks, take pictures, go kart racing and make/meet friends – there are plenty of opportunities in the area.

If the team makes fun (in good spirit) of what you do, you are probably doing good.

Bottom line: Microsoft builds a very social environment, take advantage of that. I love it.

Stay tuned and keep checking Channel9. Time for me to get back to college and work on more awesome things. Until next time!