On Thursday, May 25, 2023, seventeen students from West Valley Innovation Center in Yakima, WA, attended Get a Job in Technology, a virtual IGNITE Work-Based Learning Experience led by volunteers from Microsoft. Liz Bander, Senior Program Manager, led students through a discussion of the many different career opportunities available at a company like Microsoft, what internship interviews are like, and then practiced answering simple interview questions.
Students enjoyed the workshop, learning about how tech companies like Microsoft need both engineering and non-engineering employees and how many jobs, like architecture or law, can be done in many places—including tech! During the interview practice, students got to practice answering questions with their group, starting simply with “What is your favorite class?” and “What’s something interesting that you’ve learned in that class?” Students learned that, like any skill, interviewing gets easier the more you do it!
After the breakout session, the groups came back together for a panel, which included:
Stephanie Vasiloff, Customer/Partner Engagement Manager, has worked many different jobs in many different areas, from consulting to retail and healthcare, before coming to Microsoft. She loves working with customers and partners to build cool things together. Stephanie loves to work with so many different teams and people.
Natalie Seaton, Principal Product Manager, manages a team at Microsoft that was responsible for building our newest data centers. She started her career in criminal justice and worked for a magazine before coming to work at Microsoft…the first time! She then worked for a university before coming back to Microsoft in a different role. Natalie said that she wished she’d known earlier in her career that your job is supposed to be fun and that you get to define your own happiness.
The students asked various questions, and the panelists shared their thoughts and stories with them. Some of the questions were:
Q: Was it hard to get the jobs you’re in?
- A: It gets easier as you get further in your career, but keep trying, attend career fairs, and connect with colleagues wherever you are.
Q: Did you ever quit in the middle of this pathway?
- A: Yes, Liz and Natalie changed majors in college, and everyone has had multiple jobs in different areas. Natalie mentioned that as a people manager, part of her job is to help her early-career employees be successful, even if it isn’t with her team.
Q: Have you always known that you wanted a career in tech?
- A: Nope! We all figured it out along the way.
Some additional advice the Panelists offered the students included:
- Embrace your passions.
- Understand that everyone is different.
- It’s up to you to make the best of what you have.
- Be real.
- Stay curious.
- Keep growing.
- Create a network.
The Facilitator and Panelists were very passionate and provided a lot of hope and positive energy to the students. Their stories and teachings were very relevant, and students could see themselves in their shoes! Sharing their failures allowed the students to relate and not be intimidated by their own failures or setbacks. It was wonderful how much they enjoyed sharing their stories with the students!
Thank you to Liz Bander for facilitating this event, and a special thank you to the Panelists, Stephanie Vasiloff and Natalie Seaton, for sharing their stories with the students!
After attending this event:
Here’s what the students thought of the event:
“I really felt listened to and comfortable during the event. I could relate to the speakers and got to learn about them and their lives in a way I personally felt was very engaging. I came out of it wishing I could meet the speakers in-person and continue talking. I feel more confident in myself and my aspirations now. It also helped me consider more career options and make me think on how I want to move forward next. I want to thank all the speakers for making this experience so memorable.” – 10th grade
“Today’s event really inspired me to keep going and to not give up. Thank you for the event today.” – 8th grade
“I loved hearing everyone’s different stories in STEM; their stories inspired me in many wonderful ways – it made me believe that girls can do anything! I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this STEM meeting and learn about different jobs I could do in the technology field.” – 8th grade
“Today’s event helped me feel more confident in pursuing a job in CS & IT. It prepared me for interviews and helped me feel more comfortable speaking. A big thanks to the speakers who did an amazing job of presenting today! You encouraged me to continue on in the STEM field.” – 8th grade
“This event encouraged me to pursue technology and opened opportunities for me in technology. The panelists also shared what I could expect, and opened my eyes to the positives and negatives in technology and I really appreciate that. Although I’m unsure what’s going to happen in the future, this meeting has definitely encouraged me!” – 8th grade
“It was nice to know other people’s perspectives on tech and to learn more about the people talking to us.” – 9th grade
“The way they told their stories impacted the way I thought about careers and impacted my mindset. I’m ready and excited for future meetings.” – 10th grade
“Today’s event inspired me to take a deep breath about everything and really pursue what I actually want to do with my career. I have learned that one decision won’t define me and I can change my mind. My biggest takeaway was the way they worded all of their responses and thoughtfully answered every question we had. The main one would definitely have to be how I was ensured I have time to really do what makes me happy.” – 7th grade
“Today taught me that I don’t have to go straight into tech after school. Thank you for your time and it was really interesting to hear about everyone!” – 9th grade
“It was so nice to talk with the volunteers and be so inspired. I loved how they talked with us and answered our questions.” – 7th grade
“The event inspired me because of the way the volunteers described all of the information. I like how they would answer all of the questions they gave me. Thank you so much for giving me the speech and for answering my questions.” – 7th grade
“I thought it was really cool. I learned about different jobs you can do.” – 7th grade
“I felt very seen when one of the women talked about how she never knew what career she wanted to be in, and that she still doesn’t truly know. I relate to this a lot because so many jobs interest me and I have no idea who I want to be yet. When she talked about how she trained as a pilot but currently works in Microsoft, I felt very inspired because those careers are so drastically different. Something important I heard from the panel was that for at least one of your many jobs in life, you will work at a job solely for the money. You may not even like the job, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do in order to get by.” – 9th grade
“Today’s event inspired me to have hope to have a good future in STEM. As a trans man, it’s a bit weird, but I feel comfortable because even though I’m not a girl the speeches you guys gave made me feel more appreciated.” – 8th grade
“It was pretty fun being in the zoom with the 3 volunteers and getting to know about everyone. It was inspiring getting to know how the volunteers got their jobs.” – 7th grade