GOVERNESS SIMPSON, as the powerful name suggests, a woman with dreams and ambitions from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities is here with Scholarship Track to share her experience as an Intern at Microsoft. Aspiring to shatter the status quo, she is re-inventing the normal for representation and talent within the fields of STEM and business administration. A combination of “a passionate public speaker” with the ability to use her words to inspire those around her and “a collaborative engineer” with unconditional love for computer science, design and analytical thinking is what makes her unique and special. From working in Facebook, Google, Microsoft, VMware, Bank of America, IBM, Goldman Sachs and many more proves her identity as an exuberant achiever with remarkable skills and talents.
- How did you prepare for the program?
In preparation for the phone interview, I had spent time polishing my responses to interview questions and research other students who had been in the program. For the on-site technical interview, I read through “Cracking the Coding Interview” by Gayle McDowell about a month before my on-site interview and reviewed key concepts the night before.
- How long did it take you to prepare?
I spent around two months preparing for interviews (this was concurrent with the actual interview process, which spanned from late-August to early November).
- Tell us about the application and recruiting process.
I filled out the initial application, which asked basic questions, such as my education and relevant work/technical experience. From there, I was scheduled for a phone interview (in some cases, this might be an on-campus interview – it’s the same part of the process), where they asked about some of the projects I’ve done, my favourite technologies, and my tech journey. Finally, I was invited to an on-site interview at their headquarters in Redmond, Washington, for a half-day of interviews. This consisted of three back-to-back interviews (focusing on both software engineering, which are coding questions, and program management), as well as a lunch break (either before or after the interviews). The on-site interviews focused on basic data structures and evaluating the runtime of the code, as well as some PM-based questions. After interviewing, I waited exactly one week until I got my acceptance email!
Click here to watch the recorded version of the Live Q&A session – Program Manager Intern at Microsoft by Governess Simpson.
- Why do you think you were selected?
I think what stood out to them the most was the fact that I had a paper published at an international conference after my freshman year of college. In addition to that achievement, I was also able to demonstrate my love, energy and passion for working in tech, as well as my problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Overall, I was energetic, grounded in my purpose in tech and had technical projects/credentials.
- Any failures or rejections?
At the time, I struggled in Computer Science. I didn’t think I was going to chase a career in the field because I was convinced it just wasn’t for me. This made me not want to apply for programs, as I didn’t feel as though I deserved them. It took encouragement and motivation from my friends and my mentors to pursue this opportunity, and I’m glad I did!
- Describe your experience in this program. Could be your story. Feel free to write about anything fun, deep, emotional, or motivating!
Before starting the internship, I was insanely nervous. Impostor syndrome was kicking in and I didn’t know if my programming skills would be enough to complete the work. All the other interns hailed from prestigious schools, so coming from a non-target school, I felt a lot of pressure.
Once the internship started, however, I started to feel more at home. First, the team I was in, was absolutely amazing. I had a great manager and mentors who were invested in my personal development (and whom I’m still in touch with!). They helped and supported me when I needed guidance. Second, the overall intern experience was catered to finding community. Explorer interns are placed in a pod of 3, so right from the start, you develop a kinship with other first-time interns. Microsoft hosts intern events throughout the summer – from bringing in accomplished people to speak on their campuses, to workshops and hackathons, to the annual Intern Event, there were always opportunities to build relationships with other students.
My favourite experience was being able to explore all the buildings on the Microsoft campus! Each building has its own unique feel, and it was exciting to get to explore the campus. Outside of seeing the campus is the opportunity to tour Seattle! There were countless events in the lively city; it was rare to be bored on a weekend.
More than anything, I was able to make an impact, which Microsoft emphasizes on its interns. The company pushes the notion that we all have gifts and talents that can empower and motivate others to perform their best. By the end of the summer, I had created a feature that was launched in Visual Studio! It’s crazy to know that something I made has a tangible impact on hundreds of thousands of users. I left the internship feeling more empowered and confident in my abilities as a software engineer, and I’m incredibly grateful for the experience!
- What are some of the tips that you would like to give?
1. Find resources to learn more about the PM questions (Cracking the PM Interview, Glassdoor.com, etc.). For many people, this is the first time they have a PM interview, and it’s good to have a baseline understanding of what they are like and how to develop a framework to answer those types of questions. Don’t spend too much time on this, however, as the interview focuses more on SWE.
2. Review your data structures! All my coding-based questions revolved around them (though your mileage may vary). You’re in a good spot if you have a strong understanding of strings/arrays, linked lists, and hashmaps (knowing trees/graphs are a bonus!). Make sure you understand Big O notation, as well as how to evaluate the time and space complexity of an algorithm.
3. Always send a thank you email to your interviewers/recruiters (get their names) after an interview – between 24-48 hours afterwards! It shows that you’re considerate and respectful of the time and effort, and it ingrains your name into their minds and makes you stand out from the other applicants.
4. Work on Leetcode problems! I didn’t know what Leetcode was when I interviewed, and I wish I did. It’s essentially a database of coding problems ranging from easy to difficult – it’s a great way to prepare for interviews, as the interview problems tend to be very similar to what’s on the site. I’d focus on Leetcode Easy/Medium for the Explorer Program.
5. Start early! I didn’t start interview prep until September when in reality, I should’ve been practising in late July/early August. The more familiar you are with coding interviews and answering non-technical questions, the better!
- Any advice for future applicants in the same program?
Tune into why you want to work in the tech industry and the impact you want to make. As an underclassman, they know that you’re still starting in your career and that you don’t know it all. Having passion, curiosity and purpose for working in tech, and being able to communicate that in interviews is just as important as your technical skills.
Now, that’s all about Governess Simpson and her inspiring and interesting story in Microsoft as an intern. Scholarship Track is extremely delighted and proud to witness young women prepare and work for turning their dreams into reality so as to achieve their goals and ambitions. We encourage more students to grab on to various opportunities and improve your skills to make your dreams come true.
Click here to visit her LinkedIn profile to know more about her works and projects.
Also don’t forget to check out our article on Microsoft opportunities in technology, here!
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