From average student to MSP to Microsoft Program Manager


Ever wondered how a student ends up becoming an MSP or ends up working at Microsoft? Here’s the story of the path that took one Canadian Student from Montreal to Seattle.

SimonSeaThe following post is about how I personally experienced the ascension from my average day to day course in university to working as a FTE (Full Time Employee) for Microsoft. The reason I say average in the title is because I want people to understand that anyone who’s passionate about technology can achieve the same thing.

Before the MSP program

Let me tell you my story, I studied in École polytechnique of Montréal in Software Engineering and like everyone, did some internships at various locations. I and a bunch of friends started attending the Computer Sciences Games because it just seemed nice. Well that choice turned out to be the first of a series that shaped my path in the professional world. Not only did we win the 2012 event but even before the big victory, I was approached by Susan Ibach (the one who is always blogging on GoDevMental) to become the first Microsoft Student Partner from Polytechnique. Let’s be honest, Susan approached everyone in my team and most of us weren’t really interested because, to us, it represented working for nothing to promote Microsoft brand. Well most of us didn’t really understood what it meant because we had never met one.

 Simoncscup Being a Microsoft Student Partner

There are 2 things you need if you want to be an MSP: Networking skills to some extent (The People Skill, not the packet exchange) and technology and programming interests (You don’t need to be a Microsoft fan boy). I felt, by my experience, that the program was more beneficial for the MSP than for Microsoft. You will develop a nice network of contacts, probably learn a lot and be more ready for the job world. Remember this program is more about Microsoft helping the students they partner with than the opposite.

What does an MSP do?

Promote tools that just makes development easier like Dreamspark, host events for developers and help them get in touch with the right person when they need guidance. That’s what I say when I talk about it in an interview and its true. The reality is there won’t be that many people at your school in need of help, there is no one forcing you to host events but you will probably do it anyway just because Microsoft pays for the event and people always like free gifts and food. An event could be as easy as presenting an already made power point while getting free food to hosting hack fest where people compete to win a surfaces. All those are up to how devoted you want to be and how busy your semester is. Sometimes the timing is just not right to host something and the MSP program understands that. The really important thing is that you keep yourself active in the community and sometime posting a blog post or helping another MSP is the right thing to do.

Why be a MSP?

I was approached by Susan but really anyone can apply to become MSP and I would recommend it and here is why:

  1. Add the word Microsoft to your resume.
  2. Microsoft send you specials gifts
  3. You get invited to awesome events.
  4. Don’t miss out the opportunity to have food and gifts sent to people at your school.
  5. There is no such thing as an expectation bar (I never read the fine print so don’t hold me accountable for this). Basically, the more you do the more you get.

After the MSP

SimonLizardAfter school, I already had a few options of employers where I had done internships that wanted me back full time. To be honest, I realized what I really wanted to do in software engineering only toward the second to last quarter of my road toward my diploma. I feel like the Program Manager role at Microsoft is the one that reflect the most the personality of someone who was an MSP but Developers can also benefits from having done the MSP program. The MSP program helped me confirm that it was something I was really interested in and that’s how I got to the point of applying to Microsoft. The MSP program would probably have grown your curriculum and confidence also required for those highly demanded jobs that some students consider dream jobs. I would say once you did the MSP program you will probably have grown an identity of your own. This identity will push you forward in your career in order to either start your own business or get the job you really want.

Being a Microsoft Full Time Employee

I now work in Microsoft headquarters as a Program Manager for SharePoint Experience. It has been a tough choice at first to leave Canada since I also had other opportunity but now that I am living it I would recommend it to anyone. I would say, I am not your typical Microsoft Fan Boy, but I am a fan of what they do for their Employees. This is a great experience for anyone to work on the latest technologies that will be used around the world. Since the company is so big you get to encounter a whole new kind of universe. The Seattle Area is also a nice place to live with a lot of variety from Bellevue to Redmond to Kirkland etc.

Benefits of having been an MSP

Each year I think I heard some MSP being taken by Microsoft to intern or work full time in the country that they studied in. Being a MSP will not guarantee you a job at Microsoft Redmond but it helps. Basically adding that Microsoft Student Partner in your resume helps your resume stand out from a lot of other applicants and that is true for all jobs. Adding this to your résumé make interviewers ask question about it and whatever the job you are applying for it will bring some interest by the interviewer. In real life, grades don’t do much, it’s what you can really do that will get recognized. As proof, I can say I never attached any grades with my resume mainly because I never felt they were relevant to what I was able to do.

SimonObamaMyths about the MSP program:

  • The MSP can get flights to visit other countries: True (See Imagine Cup Strike Team)
  • The MSP can get free gifts: True
  • The MSP gets a free MSDN account with office: True
  • The MSP is a Microsoft advertiser: False
  • The MSP is like an intern at Microsoft: False
  • You get to meet the president: False

(PS NOTE FROM SUSAN ,yes, the Susan mentioned in this post: If you are a student interested in becoming a Microsoft Student Partner visit MicrosoftStudentPartners.com to apply. If you are a student interested in applying for a internship or full time position at Microsoft visit careers.microsoft.com)

Simon Bourdages was an MSP at École polytechnique in Montréal and now works as a program manager on the SharePoint team in Redmond Seattle.

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