This blog was written by Bobby Akinboro, M365 Program Manager, as part of the Amplifying Black Voices blog series.
I remember my first "internship" at Microsoft. Actually, I remember my first job as a vendor at Microsoft. May 2014 marked the end of my junior year in college, and I was hired as a SWE vendor because the internship program was full. At the time, I was unaware of any vast differences between FTE and V- designations, so my excitement knew no limits. This changed shortly upon my arrival to the main campus.
As happy as I was to be at Microsoft, I quickly was met with barriers due to the color of my badge. I missed out on FTE specific events, different speakers that were invited to campus, and probably the most upsetting to my 21-year-old self, I missed out on the intern concert and gift. I can recall watching all of my friends get on the bus to go enjoy a night with David Blaine, while I walked back to my hotel. Although that night was disappointing to say the least, it was a pivotal point that I consider the change catalyst for my mentality towards my entire career.
The following week, I heard Satya speak during 'One Week' and the majority of his message was centered around the necessity to not just be an employee of Microsoft, but also, to use Microsoft as a platform to further your personal passions. That was exactly what I needed to hear. I realized two things during that keynote, first, I knew I needed to experience Microsoft in full and earn a blue badge and second, I needed Microsoft to experience me in full - beyond the the characteristics that got me the badge.
After hard work and a successful interview, I came back the following summer as as blue badge intern. One out of my two goals had been checked off and I was determined to accomplish the other. To be honest, I struggled trying to find ways to express that I was more than an employee, which made the challenge of turning Microsoft into a platform to further my passions even more difficult. Nearly two years passed by before that goal came to fruition, and it happened in the most unexpected of ways.
I had picked up a side-hobby of DJing once I moved to Seattle and it was one of my favorite things to do. I started off with small events around the city, which began to pick up steam. It didn't take long for my colleagues to recognize that Bobby at work was also DJ BLAST in real life. Before I could even grasp the momentum I was experiencing, I was asked to DJ Microsoft's intern day concert. This was the same event that I was denied entry to two years prior, now I was the headlining DJ. I'll never forget the feeling of DJing for a sea of Interns, and seeing Pitbull take over the stage that we both shared. Interestingly enough, that single event is what propelled my DJing career and enabled me to travel all over the continent doing shows. Microsoft was no longer just my employer, it became my platform that was furthering my passion.
Often times, when we are challenged to do more at work we immediately think of going back to school or learning a new skill. I challenge you to think outside of the box; think outside of your job. This exact mindset is how I am able to truly be a proud employee that brings my full authentic self to work. How can you make Microsoft YOUR platform?