As many of you may be aware, I was recently lucky enough to snag what I consider to be my ultimate dream job – as of 20th May 2019, I started working for Microsoft as a Premier Field Engineer (PFE) in Identity and Security.
When I say dream job, I truly mean it. It’s probably been my goal, for at least the last 10 years, to work for Microsoft…eventually. So when this job was advertised (and I have the amazingly wonderful Melina to thank for pointing me to the job ad!) I knew I had to apply for it.
So I did. And, to my extreme and utter surprise, I got it.
Remember this tweet?— Jess Dodson #AlwaysWasAlwaysWillBe (@girlgerms) April 29, 2019
Well, it's all official. I have literally just handed in my resignation.
As of 20th May, I'll be a blue badge @ Microsoft, as a PFE in Identity and Security! 💜 https://t.co/xGQR82k8hE
I truly didn’t expect to get it – and I’m not being modest, it’s the absolute truth. I applied purely so that I could get some insight into how the application process went, what kind of things I could expect and to find out what I’d need to do to improve on, train up on, skill up on in order to get this kind of role in the future. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I expected. I just wanted to know what I’d need to do in order to get the dream job IN THE FUTURE.
But that didn’t happen – I went all the way through the process. And for those who don’t know and would like a bit of an insight into the Microsoft hiring process, or at least my hiring process?
- Role is advertised and you apply – the application process is pretty detailed but you can help streamline it by pulling in all your data from LinkedIn
- A technical ‘task’ – because I was applying for a technical position, there was a technical task involved. This was not simple. I won’t get into detail (because they may want to use the same scenario again!) but the scenario I was asked to build was a complex Hybrid identity system
- If you succeed at the technical task (and success looks different for everyone!), you’ll then be scheduled for a technical interview so they can find out if you do actually know your stuff. This was a little daunting, but if you know your tech and you don’t lie and admit you don’t know something, you’ll be fine
- After that is the cultural interview – I know this gets some people’s hackles up, but I promise it’s a good thing. This is as much you interviewing them as it is them interviewing you. It’s finding out if you’ll fit well in the team, in the organisation, dealing with the red tape and processes. I actually *LOVED* this interview – it’s the first time ever in my working life I was interviewed solely by women. It was wonderful.
- After that, you’ll have a one-on-one with your hiring manager, the person you’ll be directly reporting to. This is a great time to pick over the intricacies of the team, specific guidelines that you’ll be required to follow, travel commitments, on-call arrangements, leave processes etc. Informal, casual but really informative.
- Then there’s background checks – depending on how much information you’ve given (and how open your social media is) this could be as short as 2 weeks, but could be as long as 9 months!
- After that, you may be lucky enough to get that “We’d like to offer you a job!” phone call!
On paper or screen, it doesn’t look like a lot – but that entire process took approximately 3 months for me. But it was absolutely worth it.
I have way too many people to thank for putting up with me through this process – so many wonderful people put in referrals for me, coached me through interview stuff, talked me down off the wall regarding the technical task, was patient with me while I was madly checking my phone to see if I’d received an offer…I am here because my tribe is absolutely amazing. So to my Tech Tribe (I affectionately call you my Germies!) thank you so very very very much.
I can say now, hand on heart, that this is the happiest I’ve been in my working life. Ever.
Now, I’m currently at the end of my second week, so maybe I’m still in honeymoon mode, but I am still pinching myself. I honestly believe someone’s going to wake me up and tell me this was all a dream and I have to give it all up.
So because of how awesome this is, I truly want to help others get to where they want to be. To go for their dream role, to pursue that job that they’d love to do, to do the thing they want to do
So that’s what this post is about – not just bragging (I was going to say humble bragging, but it’s not – it’s outright bragging because I am so freakin’ proud of myself!) about my new dream job, but helping others get their dream job!
Even if you don’t think you’ll get it, even if you think it’s just a pipe dream – go for it. What’s the worst case scenario? You don’t get it. Big deal. You may get great feedback on what you need to do in order to increase your chances next time. You may make some great contacts during the process. You may find it’s not the role for you, but there are others available in the same organisation that you’d be perfect for.
This is especially applicable to women, as women tend to not apply for roles that they don’t meet all the selection criteria for. Just because a skill you don’t have is listed as mandatory doesn’t mean you can’t apply. If it truly is mandatory? Your resume won’t go any further. If it’s just part of a wishlist? You never know, you may get an interview.
Technical tasks or challenges
These can be extremely daunting, especially when you’ve been sent a massive scope of what you need to do. You can feel incredibly overwhelmed and have no idea where to start and you can lose valuable time by just being freaked out.
Don’t stress – start small, and work upwards and outwards. Write out all the things that you’ll need to do, don’t worry about order. It gives you a place to start. Once you’ve done that, number them in order of highest priority/dependence to least.
Remember, for a lot of these tasks, you don’t have to 100% complete them. You just have to show your skills and that you know what you’re doing. Don’t let being a perfectionist slow you down or prevent you from getting what you *can* do done. Remember, perfectionism is the mother of procrastination!
Brush up on your technical skills
Depending on what role you’re going for, brush up on the tech that was listed on the position description and what was in your resume. If you have to go for a technical interview, you want to sound as if you do know your stuff!
Spin up labs at home, play with your dev/test environments at work, read up on tech you’ve wanted to play with but just haven’t been able to at work.
Do you speak at user groups? Do you mentor people? Have you written blog posts or tech articles on how to build something, fix something, break something? Do you contribute to tech groups online?
All of these things are really important – because they show your engagement. Similar to getting an MVP award, this stuff can also help you land a job! Don’t be afraid to sell yourself!
There is absolutely no use in hiding your true personality, they’ll soon see it! You want to start the job process the way you intend to do the job – by being you. Remember, this is a two way street – just as much as you need to be comfortable with them, *they* need to be comfortable with you. So don’t be afraid to be yourself.
There is absolutely no point in lying – about anything. If you lie on your resume, they will find it. Their background hiring process will catch you out. Don’t give yourself certs you don’t have, don’t pad your work history. Be completely honest.
Don’t prevaricate or over-reach
Don’t fudge answers – if you don’t know something just be truthful and say you don’t know…but detail how you’d find out! Technical skills can be taught, but troubleshooting/Googlefu is an artform. Show them that you know how to find the answer, whether that’s through searching, whether that’s through tools you’d use, whether that’s through your network.
Don’t be afraid to use your network
This is probably my biggest one – don’t be afraid to use your network. We all know that, in this industry, who you know is just as important as what you know. You don’t have to like it, it’s just the way it is. On the flip side to that, if you’re great at networking and have a fabulous network of people to talk to, you may be in a great position to let someone in your network help you out – or, as in my case, multiple people!
Accept help from others – that includes in referrals as well as referee reports. While your direct manager is an important referee report, your immediate coworkers/team mates are just as important because they know what you’re like as a colleague, as a team player.
With referrals, remember that the referee may get a cash incentive if you’re hired, so many people will happily recommend you if they think you’re a good fit for the job!
Listen, you’ve got this. You’re awesome. You can do it – I know you can. So, as Dona Sarkar would say, “DO THE THING!”