Editor’s Note: Lisa Wong, 2016 Microsoft Student Partner (MSP) of the Year and guest blogger for the Microsoft Imagine Blog, shares her wisdom on how to be a successful MSP. MSPs are student technology leaders, empowered to build Microsoft communities on their campus and share their deep knowledge and passion for technology with their fellow classmates.
I developed a fascination for writing code in my senior year at the University of British Columbia, and I wanted more of it. I had already decided that I didn’t want to go into health care like I’d previously planned, so once I finished my life sciences degree, I applied for, and then was accepted into my school’s fast-track computer science program.
I met an MSP at my first hackathon, and though I didn’t know much about Microsoft’s student programs, I knew I wanted to help other students nurture their love of coding. This is especially true for students like me who find the idea of coding interesting, but might be scared to try it.
So I signed up to become an MSP. I was prepared in knowing that being an MSP might be challenging at times, but I didn’t realize at the time how much it would teach me.
10 things I’ve learned so far
Sharing your experience and knowledge with others can make all the difference between giving up or trying again. These are the top 10 lessons learned through being an MSP that will help me be successful for the rest of my life.
- Learn from mistakes: When registration opened for the first event I organized, only one person signed up. I was so nervous that I’d blown it, but I realized there were many other avenues to tell people about the event than the school’s newsletter. I reached out to friends and faculty and posted on social media, and 90 people signed up the next day!
- Get hands-on time with the technology: I found that this is the best way to learn about the Microsoft technologies available to student developers. I would also walk through the set-up instructions to make sure that the steps were correct and to anticipate where I or another MSP might have to help students troubleshoot. It’s also a good idea to know what Microsoft offers in terms of developer tools for students. Many students I talked to didn’t know about the student offer for Microsoft Azure.
- Go to events: Attending hackathons, demos and meet-ups helped me get an idea for the kinds of events I could organize and how I could organize them. This is also a great way to network – for future event resources, or to learn more about the world outside your major.
- Believe in yourself: Be confident in your capabilities and knowledge base while remembering that it’s OK to not have all the answers. What you don’t know already, you can learn along the way through hands-on experience, asking questions and solo study.
- Identify your resources: You will work and collaborate with Microsoft employees, other MSPs and faculty to make an event come together. If you’re doing a demo or introducing students to technology for the first time, make sure you have handouts that guide participants through the process. After events, I often had students asking how they could learn more about the technology they’d seen or about Microsoft, so it is important to know where students can find job listings or how to get in touch with their school’s Microsoft representative.
- Collaborate with your event network: The MSPs, employees at Microsoft and faculty that you work with to run an event can also be your lifeline when you run into a problem you don’t know how to solve. For events that I helped with at other schools, I always got in touch with that school’s MSPs to learn the best ways to advertise and run the event smoothly. Most importantly, remember that you aren’t alone in the event—you can call on your network for support, encouragement and problem-solving.
- Step outside of your comfort zone: I started my journey as an MSP as a generally shy, quiet person, but being a successful MSP required me to take initiative. It meant connecting to students outside my major, from all around the world and who might have a different level of technical expertise than me. While I was often nervous about not being taken seriously, I learned to trust in my abilities.
- Have a plan: Before events happened, it was critical to make sure that everyone involved had a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities. It was up to me and the other MSPs to make sure we had everything we needed to run the event and to communicate those needs to our Microsoft resources. Having a timeline to work from helped us make sure that all the right pieces fell into place at the right time. Make sure your timeline includes room for advertising the event – you can’t advertise the day before and hope to get a good turnout.
- Know that nothing ever goes according to plan: No one’s perfect. Even if part of your plan fails, it doesn't mean your whole event was a failure (or that you are a failure). Most of all, don’t let a bad event or experience scare you from trying again.
- Be understanding and supportive: Your biggest responsibility as an MSP will be providing encouragement and support to the students at your event. A good place to start is to figure out what kind of events and technology students are interested in. What motivates them; what are they interested in? Then, practice and develop your listening skills – understanding someone else’s point of view can help you learn how to best support and encourage them.
Rules to live by
I hope to use what I’ve learned as an MSP to support the next generation of MSPs at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver as I take on the role of Lead MSP. I’m looking forward to being a resource to the Microsoft Student Development team, too, by making connections with more students and faculty.
And I hope my experience helps you, too!
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