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A Reflection of the Microsoft Explore Internship

thejameswang profile image James W ・7 min read

On January 11th, 2019, I was given an explore internship offer from Microsoft. Given four days to decide the offer, I determined that I would be in Redmond, Washington for my 2019 Summer, and last week, I ended that experience, returning to university.

Background

A little about myself - As I was applying for the position, I was a 2nd year at the Georgia Insitute of Technology (or if you're a cool kid Georgia Tech University). I was studying Computer Science focusing on Artificial Intelligence and Info Internetworks.

I have had previous internships/start-up jobs @GEDigital and @AnoraAI. I also participate heavily in a student organization/nonprofit Bits of Good.

What is the Explore Internship?

Overview

Microsoft offers, like a few other large tech companies, a first and second-year program for college students. Unlike those programs, the new interns will learn program management and software engineering. Placed on teams throughout the company including products like Xbox, Bing, One Drive, and M365, students will be put into teams of 3 and work together to finish a project.

Locations

  • Redmond, Washington
  • Sunnyvale, California

Qualifications

  • Must be a freshman or sophomore enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program within the United States, Canada or Mexico, demonstrating an interest in majoring in computer science, computer engineering, software engineering or related technical major.
  • Must have completed the introductory computer science class (or equivalent) along with a semester of calculus
  • Lastly, must have an interest in the software industry

My Application Process

My process had three steps.

Disclaimer! This was purely my experience while others(including maybe you) might have a completely different one!

  1. Application
    • I initially applied online early in the Fall 2018 semester with a referral from a friend who participated in the program the previous year.
    • The application process is always a bottle in the ocean, hoping someone is reading your words of hope. I was surprised when I got the on-campus interview
  2. On-campus Interview
    • In early October, I received a 30-minute interview where I was asked a design question. example: How would you design an online tic-tac-toe game?
  3. On-site Interview
    • In early January, I was interviewed in Redmond where I was greeted with 2 45-minute interviews. I was asked about both behavioral and basic technical questions.
    • Technical topics example: array manipulation, basic data structures, etc.

I was sent my letter a couple of days after my final interviewed, and a few days later I made my decision.

The Actual Internship

I started my internship on May 13, 2019. I was flown out, given a car, and given a place to stay. For the next 12 weeks, I'd be in Microsoft country where Satya Nadella is our god, and we're angels living off of expensive farmers markets, only drinks in our buildings, and C#.

All jokes aside,

I received advice before the internship that perfectly embodies what everyone should take into consideration going into all internships.

"You have the power to make your own internship experience"

The internship program embodies this by trying to empower all interns to achieve their personal goals through Microsoft.

My team

I worked on the One Drive Sharepoint team, specifically their Service Fabric team. We worked on the infrastructure of One Drive Consumer, and I dealt with a low-level problem. My part of the project solely worked with C#, building configurations and an API.

Day to Day

Agile is still a practice that is hitting every team at MSFT at a different rate. My team had a "stand-up" twice a week in which we talked about updates on our project. I had the opportunity to be very flexible with my hours. Some days I got in at 6:30 am while others at 10 am.

My day was split between meetings, development/product management, networking, and intern events. A lot of intern events.

I typically left the office between 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Though, I would use the office for non-Microsoft activities after hours.

My Project

Placed into my team of three, we split our project into three parts based on our interests. The internship itself had two sections which were based on software engineering and program management.

For the first four weeks, we learned to be a program manager, which is different a Microsoft compared to most places. For these four weeks, meetings, communication, and detailed understanding of our project was necessary.

The next eight weeks revolved around developing our feature. While one worked on the frontend, another worked on data collection. I aggregated configurations and created the aggregation method to be served as an API for the frontend to consume.

At the very end, we presented our project in front of CVPs, managers, and other interns. Personally, I think our project did a good job!

Obviously, there were bumps along the way to this point, but overall this was the scheme of how my project progressed.

Networking

No, not that networking.

That's a bit better.

A high point of this company is how everyone treats interns. If you want to meet anyone under the CVP level, all you have to do is message them on Teams.

Networking with FTEs(Full Time Engineers) is very easy . . . if you can find the right FTE you want to talk to. Microsoft has several systems to find people, but they're all incomplete. It's on you to figure out the best way, but I suggest first talking to people in your building to find out! Early in the internship, I met with a new FTE every day from all over Washington (mainly Bellevue and Redmond).

I met interns after work to both meet new people but also new friends! Eventually, I became a part of a group filled with Amazon, Qualtrics, and the occasional other Big 4 intern.

I see networking as another way to make friends, and just like friends, you have to keep talking in some sort of fashion to be invested in each other! That means I had to follow-up occasionally.

Events

The summer is filled with many activities for interns and FTEs, some more exclusive than others

Intern Events

There are many intern events, and on the average, they're not very well organized and advertised. You can meet great new people, but it'd be best to find other outlets to get in touch with cool interns.

My year the intern program stopped hosting the intern signature event. Instead, we had "intern day." From my knowledge of the signature event, the main difference is that it's now on Microsoft's campus and there is no gift (previously all interns were given an Xbox or Chromebook).

Your organization, mine being One Drive, will also have special events. These are better!

Regular Events

From One Week to the Amazing Race (another FTE event), events run by Microsoft as a whole are all well done. They take everything into consideration, and I suggest everyone participate.

Non-Microsoft Events

The best way to find events in Seattle/Washington is to network your way through the city. Through friends at other companies, be unafraid to explore new sights and meet strangers. I used facebook events to help me go to local get-togethers, but Microsoft also has several suggestions at the start of the internship to also help you, like the app "living social."

Struggles

Technical

  • Documentation

    • Due to the nature of large companies and how old my team was, documentation was not present regarding how to deal with existing code.
  • Flexibility

    • Having no choice in your technology in a large company can be frustrating. Learning new technology is nice, but if interests don't align, you're stuck.
    • C# is Microsoft; Microsoft is C# - at least for the backend.

Team

  • Explore

    • Being an explore intern has challenges with different skill levels between team members. Due to the lower technical barrier of entry, teams will have wonkier skill sets and experience. This can be frustrating.
  • 3 person teams

    • Being on a team where a project hinges on three individuals can be limiting. Many projects can be based on another's result which can limit your involvement until they're finished. It can mess up deadlines.

Overall Pros, Cons, Regrets, and Positive Takeaways

Pros

  • People
    • Individuals at Microsoft are some of the nicest in the Tech industry, and as an intern, you're treated very well by full-time individuals.
  • Networking
    • Full Times and other interns are your biggest resource and takeaways from this internship. Some of the smartest people in the world are working with/near you every day, so it is definitely something that needs to be taken advantage of!
  • Amenities
    • Nearly everything is taken care for you from living to transportation. It takes a large amount of stress from you.
  • Return
    • Return offers from Microsoft are very normal. You will most likely have the security of being able to return one way or another.
    • You will have the opportunity to change teams by your interests and efforts for your return.

Cons

  • Variability
    • There is no structure with determining what your team will be. You will have no choice. It is a frustrating situation.
    • Your interests aren't taken into consideration with your initial internship, and it's hard to get any information about your team until you arrive on your first day.
  • Finding People/Opportunities
    • Social Impact is very important to me, and Microsoft loves to talk about their contributions. That being said, it's very difficult to navigate around to find opportunities and people based on your interest.
    • It will take networking and time, but eventually, you'll find someone. It depends on your efforts.

Regrets

  • Overbooked
    • I loaded my schedule with extra projects both from university and programs I found at Microsoft.
    • Instead, I would've used more time to bond with teammates and peers and to visit more hiking trails

Positive Takeaways

  • Connections
    • The people you meet will truly be able to follow you for a long time. Meeting so many great people was definitely a highlight that I would not trade.
  • Exploration
    • I visited Portland, Vancouver, and multiple hiking trails throughout Washington. These were definitely what I miss the most from this internship

Conclusion

I went into the internship with an open mind. Though my experience was more mundane than what I'd hoped for, Microsoft did a good job with fostering a favorable culture that helped me grow and learn. It was a fun summer, and it gave me a better understanding of traditional developer life. I don't regret taking my offer, and it's a great way to learn more about how I felt working at a large company.

Aside

This is also my first post, so let me know if you want me to add any parts to this! I had a hard time choosing what I should include and exclude.

Posted on by:

thejameswang profile

James W

@thejameswang

Georgia Tech student passionate about Tech and Social Impact!

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