This month’s blog topic covers customer-facing experiences at Microsoft. Luckily, I have these near-to-daily and cherish them.
This year is an exciting year for the Surface business, one I am wholly grateful for. With seven new product announcements recently, I feel incredibly proud of the company I work for.
A different challenge every day
As a Surface Specialist Intern at Microsoft my role manages the front-line commercial and technical aspects of sales opportunities. Whilst it sounds cliché, no two days are the same. Every customer and every opportunity is different and while it can be a challenge to feel comfortable in front of a customer – it is extremely rewarding. With each day comes a new challenge and that is precisely why I enjoy it so much. My biggest challenge to date was one I was least expecting: hosting a VIP event for our enterprise customers.
Presenting the digital workplace
The Microsoft Store is a fantastic place, where we can entice and educate our customers and partners – from market-traders to multi-nationals, no matter how big or small, all of our customers are welcome. For the launch of the devices, a room was developed in the Oxford Circus Store comprising a modern apartment with a variety of modern workplace set-ups. The modern concept of work is something we do, not somewhere we go, and the loft room captured this perfectly. There’s a Surface for every user and every role, no matter where they work.
On October 21st, we welcomed over 30 customers from a range of public sector and commercial enterprises to our event. They received 25-minute presentations on Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Managed Desktop, Surface Hub 2S and the Surface PCs which they were able to play with at the end. I was able to host the morning and then present a demonstration on the Surface Hub 2S. This was particularly exciting as it was my largest audience to date, full of customers as well as over 15 Microsoft staff.
In terms of the products showcased, it was a fascinating day. Microsoft Teams is transforming communication in firms across the globe. While customers move over from Skype, it is great to see features like private virtual teams, background blur on video calls and the cross-device compatibility really excite and empower our customers. Microsoft managed desktop enables organisations to spend less time setting up and securing devices and more time empowering their employees with great, premium devices. Surface devices give users unrivalled productivity as well as the feeling of value – a premium device signals the organisation has invested in its employees. As an employee, there is nothing better than feeling valued. As a business, an engaged workforce is a productive one and you’re more likely to retain your top talent.
Collaborating across teams
As an intern, it was really exciting to work with different stakeholders to bring this together and I have learned a lot about teamwork and collaboration across teams. For the event to work, I had to co-ordinate the goals of the Marketing/PR, Surface and Store team to make the event a success.
It was challenging at first to make connections and it was difficult to initially identify the correct stakeholders. As an organisation, Microsoft is very supportive of those who are early-in-career so after a few polite requests I was able to pull a plan together.
But no matter how perfectly you plan something there will always be something that goes wrong. In my case, the bacon sandwiches for breakfast got trapped in the lift! Amusing in hindsight but very stressful at the time.
The ability to look at problems without emotion is often hard but being able to see an end goal, having to alter your course and changing your approach to get there taught me a lot about the way people work. What I am most thankful for is the amount of people I have connected with to help set-up the event and they have continued to stay as close comrades since.
It’s all about thinking on your feet and taking advantage of all the opportunities available to you.
Here’s my top pieces of advice for new starters in any business based on learnings from my own journey:
1. Ask for help when you need it
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or explain that you don’t understand – no one is expecting you to understand everything, but people will respect you more for asking than making it up. It’s not a problem if you need to come back to a customer or colleague at a later date if you don’t know the answer.
2. Develop connections across the business
Take the chance to meet your team and people you work with face-to-face at the start of role. It will really help improve team relationships later if you understand how your team fits into Microsoft and you’ll be able to understand the goals of different teams.
3. Maintain your network
Message colleagues you would like to engage with and ask if they would like to grab a coffee. Structure the conversation by having thoughtful questions – this will result in conversations you can both learn from. Be interested not interesting.
4. Think before you type
Take emotion out of email conversations, you might be stressed about an event or project you are working on but with email there is a lack of syntax which may cloud your message negatively in stressful times.
5. Identify a mentor early on
My advice to anyone starting at Microsoft, or any company for that matter, would be to secure a mentor figure early on. Make sure this mentor isn’t a ‘work-giver’ and they can approach your problems with pragmatic and unbiased solutions. Using a mentor as a sounding board for actions helps coach you into a better colleague and can also help a colleague with their teaching skills – a valuable trait.
I would like to give a special thanks to all of those involved in my onboarding process at Microsoft and creating a great employee experience – especially for somebody who is early on in their career. You know who you are.
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