This blog was written by Microsoft Product Marketing Manager, Joshua West as part of the Amplifying Black Voices blog series. Joshua takes us through his career journey to Microsoft.
I used to think my journey into technology started on a late-night while completing a homework assignment for my MBA coursework. Or at least that’s the story I told myself or to others. It would go something like this.
Late night study sessions were common during the first semester
It was early September in Rochester, NY, a time when the late summer breeze coming over Lake Ontario made you forget the crisp cold air and first snowfall were waiting right around the corner for you like a freight train coming around the bend.
I flipped open my Surface laptop and the bright backlight illuminated my already dim bedroom. I started on the assigned business case that we had to read, but the split screen quickly diverted my already short attention span to an article in The Wall Street Journal. The article spoke about how MBA graduates were increasingly moving to post graduation careers in technology rather than traditional paths in finance and consulting. The sector was looking to hire more graduates and offered competitive compensation as well. I was curious so I said, "why not me?"
University of Rochester's River Campus in Fall 2019
But that’s not where this story begins. It starts on a cold November weekend as the last of the fall foliage whittled away leaving bare trees and piles of leaves awaiting to be picked up by the city sanitation department. The dogs’ ears perked up as the familiar sound of the doorbell caused a flurry of rampant barking as he rushed to the door to investigate our visitor. My dad opened the door to the delivery driver who dropped off a large box with the words “fragile” on top. We opened the box and carefully lifted out a Windows 98 Gateway 2000 PC. My eyes instantly lit up as I stared at the computer. My mom came over and explained how she had looked everywhere for the right computer to order and that it was finally time for our family to have one after her job introduced computers to her workplace two years earlier. We immediately set the machine up and watched the green pasture come to life on the desktop.
That computer became the foundation for learning to type with Mavis Beacon, book reports, photo editors, train simulators, tying up the phone lines with dial-up internet, and so much more. It represented the first step into a technology that would change my life as I knew it. I suppose you could say the rest is history.
My dad in front of our first computer, a Windows Gateway 2000
Two decades later, I found myself as a Product Marketing Manager MBA summer 2019 intern with the same company that made it its mission to put a PC in every home. What I found was an organization that was truly working to put its culture into practice and was seemingly committed to advancing diversity and inclusion to make all voices heard and welcome.
With MBA final round internship interviews complete, I could finally take some photos
For me, that truth manifested through an opportunity to co-lead a team discussion around Bryan Stevenson’s book, “Just Mercy” and share perspectives of my personal experience of growing up Black in America. It was a moment of open vulnerability for the team that gave everyone the opportunity to share how their unique personal experiences growing up in America contributed to their beliefs or misbeliefs about others.
Final presentations for 2019 M&O Summer interns
That journey has continued into my full-time experience, having the opportunity to work with two incredible teammates to lead our US Business Applications team through creating a culture of daring leaders who lead with vulnerability and courage through the work of Brene Browns book, “Dare to Lead.”
But when I think about my journey, I must note that it wasn’t always easy. Starting any new job is difficult but starting a new position remotely during the apex of a global pandemic with the responsibility for marketing a product to an industry I had no prior experience working in, brought with it an entirely separate set of challenges. I struggled with imposter syndrome, wondering if I was truly the person for the role. I doubted that I would get up to speed and truly understand what it meant to be a product marketer and that I could be successful at my job. To put those notions to rest, I continued to talk to friends and mentors, realizing that the more I shared, I was not alone.
Two decades after our first computer, I find myself working for the company that started me on this journey
Within three months, that feeling was gone, and I realized that my job wasn’t to bring that knowledge of an insider, but that of an outsider to provide a new perspective on how we could grow the business. That has helped drive success in the beginning of my career journey with Microsoft. The ability to think differently, provide a new perspective, and incorporate my lived experience into my work are what gives me the ability to empower myself and those around me daily.