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Return of the Interns

September 4, 2019

Internships at Microsoft can be lifechanging opportunities. Hear Microsoft interns tell their stories.

Windows Insider Podcast Episode 23

(Music)

JASON HOWARD: Welcome to the Windows Insider Podcast, where leaders from Microsoft and Windows Insider discuss tech trends, careers, and innovation. I'm your host, Jason Howard.

This is Episode 23, Return of the Interns.

But first, if you're not yet a Windows Insider, head over to the Windows Insider website, insider.windows.com, and register for free. Insiders get access to upcoming Windows features before they're released to the public, plus exclusive opportunities to experience all Microsoft has to offer. All right, on to the show.

Internships at Microsoft can be life-changing opportunities. Our interns get to participate in real projects, and in some cases, such as our previous episode where we spoke with Mike Pell, interns take a product from concept to shipping in just a few short weeks.

I've had the privilege of interviewing and staying in touch with some of these interns along the way, and today our guests will give us a sneak peek into what they're working on, what it's like to be an intern, the mentor/mentee relationship, and what's next for them.

Without further ado, I'm excited to welcome our first guest, Chantale Ninah. Welcome to the podcast, Chantale. Can you please introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about what you do here at Microsoft?

CHANTALE: Absolutely. So, my name is Chantale. I'm a rising, third-year student at the University of Central Florida. I study computer science, and I've been pretty fortunate to intern here now two summers. So last summer, I was an Explorer intern, and this summer, I'm a Project Manager intern.

JASON HOWARD: What exactly is a rising student?

CHANTALE: Like, in the fall, I will be starting my third year of college.

JASON HOWARD: Oh, so you're just shifting from becoming a sophomore to a junior.

CHANTALE: Yeah. Like, summer's a big transition period.

JASON HOWARD: Oh.

CHANTALE: Yeah. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: See, like, the college I went to, we didn't have a fancy name for that. Like, I thought it meant you were super awesome, or something. (Laughter.)

CHANTALE: (Laughter.) I mean, that, too, right?

JASON HOWARD: Well, yeah. I mean, obviously, you're here, so you're super awesome. But you know, I-I thought it had more context. And okay, good. (Laughter.)

So obviously, you're an intern here at Microsoft, right? This is your second go-around, as you've stated. And you know, for context for those who are listening, I had the privilege of actually doing Chantale's original interview when she was attempting to become an intern here at Microsoft. Anybody that applied for the internship program here from college and elsewhere, they go through an actual interview process, very much like if you're trying to become a full-time employee. So, you go through a panel of interviews, get asked a lot of really fun questions. Some people make it. Some people don't.

But you know, low and behold, she's here and this is her second time around. She obviously made the grade. And so apparently, I had good things to think about her, along with the other folks that spent time chatting with her. So obviously, you're an intern here at Microsoft. So, how exactly did you become an intern here?

CHANTALE: That's a good question. So, before I even started college, I actually applied online to Microsoft. I hadn't taken a single computer science class, but I knew I wanted something challenging, and I wanted to do something that's really predicting the future, almost. So, I thought computer science would be a great choice. So, I applied to Microsoft, as one does. (Laughter.)

And from that, I ended up reaching out to the recruiter from my university. I just kind of introduced myself. and then, I met him at a women's brunch panel that they did. And from that, I kind of got–I  got–heard the mission statement, and I knew–and I saw, like, an intro video–and I knew. I was like, I want to work here. Like, this is what I want to do. And then, I interviewed. Got a phone call. Got on site. Met Jason. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: (Laughter.) Amongst other people, yeah.

CHANTALE: Jason has a really good poker face.

JASON HOWARD: Uh-oh. (Laughter.)

CHANTALE: During interviews. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: Note that she says during interviews, because pretty much every other time, like if I'm on a webcast, or I'm in meetings, there is no poker face. But you know, when I have those moments where I have to be serious, oh yeah, I'm pretty good at it.

So, I've got to ask you what has it been like working here at Microsoft, right? This is your second time around. So, for those who are listening, like, how long is the internship? What is it, like three months, two and half months, something like that?

CHANTALE: So, all the internships are 12 weeks.

JASON HOWARD: Okay, so three months.

CHANTALE: Yeah. Three months.

JASON HOWARD: Okay. All right. So, what do you think of the culture here?

CHANTALE: The culture is probably my favorite aspect. Everyone here has this mindset of, like, you can accomplish anything that you want. And, so there's not really limits, and that's something that I really appreciate. Like, if you believe you can do it, you can.

JASON HOWARD: So, what is it that you've done?

CHANTALE: What have I done? That's a good question. So aside from projects, I've got some really cool opportunities. That's something that I really appreciate about Microsoft, in general.

Like, just a couple weeks ago, I got asked to be a Microsoft Ignite ambassador for one of our big conferences, and that's pretty neat. And then, the same brunch panel that I went to, I got invited back to do it the following year at my university, so I got to share about my experience.

JASON HOWARD: Nice.

CHANTALE: Outside of work, I like to make videos of my summers.

JASON HOWARD: Okay.

CHANTALE: And, like, post them online.

JASON HOWARD: Okay.

CHANTALE: Very fun. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: (Laughter.) So, at least from what I know, the two times that you've been here, you've interned with different teams.

CHANTALE: Correct.

JASON HOWARD: So, the first team, you were with last year was deployment?

CHANTALE: Yes, I was on Windows deployment.

JASON HOWARD: Okay. And what did you do while you were on the deployment team?

CHANTALE: So, I worked on optional features, so features that aren't necessarily built into your operating system, but things you can download. Like, if you get, like, a virtual reality headset, you can download, like, the application to connect your headset to your laptop.

JASON HOWARD: So, features on demand, FODs.

CHANTALE: Yes.

JASON HOWARD: Okay, okay. And then, this year, you and I have actually had some conversations about what you're working on. So, without giving away any secrets, of course, tell people what you're working on now.

CHANTALE: So right now, I'm working on machine translation. So, I work on the global team and all about making Microsoft accessible on a global scale. So, I actually never thought about the value of translations before I joined, but it's such a big role. Like, every content that we have, we have to translate, because people can't use our products unless it's in their language, and it's localized to their experience.

JASON HOWARD: Sure. Wow. So, I'm going to ask you the tough question.

CHANTALE: All right, I'm ready.

JASON HOWARD: Which team did you like better?

CHANTALE: I like them in different ways. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: (Laughter.) I was going to say you don't have to answer that, but that's actually a really good answer.

CHANTALE: Definitely unique experiences. I feel like, on the machine translation team, I've had a lot of impact, because your work–both of them have global scale. Like, Windows is a global application. Our updates go everywhere.

JASON HOWARD: Sure.

CHANTALE: But, what's interesting about the machine translation space is you get to see, after the rollout, like how did people respond to this. And you face different challenges of, like, for an example, we have something called Policheck, and like, how do we make sure things, like our content, is not offensive, or content that is offensive is properly portrayed, like in gaming. So, you face really unique challenges.

JASON HOWARD: So, more specifically to what you're working on currently, you're working on string replacement. So, when new code comes in, right, we have to make sure that that same string gets translated across all the different editions, and SKUs, and languages across the board, through all of our products.

CHANTALE: For sure. And like, the subset of strings that I work on specifically, we actually don't know what is going to get filled in because it happens at run time, and it happens on the user side in user time, like in real-time.

JASON HOWARD: Wait. So, for anybody who doesn't understand that, can you explain it a little more because I think I need a little more explanation, too.

CHANTALE: So, I work on placeholder strings, and the idea of a placeholder string is when you boot up Windows, for example, you see, like, "Good morning, Jason." And "Jason" is constructed at run time because that's a variable that's kind of filled in. Like, we have this string that says, like, "Good morning," and we don't know who, because, like all our content goes to everyone. So, it's –

JASON HOWARD: So, if there's multiple users on a machine, it could be me, it could be you, it could be anybody who uses that device.

CHANTALE: For sure, and it's for everyone's experience. So, it could be someone in, like, China, or it could be someone in, like, Portugal, or something like that, so having, like, that localized experience.

But a lot of the times, we don't know when we do machine translations what actually goes in there, so we use some kind of protection method. So, we translate the content around it, and then we'll shift that after it goes through, like, a post-editing process, sometimes, if it needs to be. And due to that, we face an interesting challenge because we don't know what will go, so we don't know if our software's being translated correctly until we have someone who validates it.

JASON HOWARD: Okay.

CHANTALE: Or until it rolls out and we see, like…

JASON HOWARD: Somebody says, "This isn't exactly what you thought it said."

CHANTALE: Exactly. Our customer feedback is super important.

JASON HOWARD: Okay. Which is part of the reason we have the Insider program. (Laughter.)

CHANTALE: Absolutely. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: So, all in all, you know, your second internship is coming to a close here. Good experience? Are you going to try to come back again?

CHANTALE: Amazing experience. Absolutely.

JASON HOWARD: Good. So, one of the things that I actually want to ask you about, obviously you being here, and in our previous episode, we talked about mentorship, right? We had some folks on have done a great deal of mentorship. It's a key piece of what they do to help enable others at the company. Given that you have mentors, like, as you're progressing through your role on the different teams that you've been on and whatnot, I'd love to hear a little bit about what it's been like being a mentee, right, having somebody who's helping guide you along the way.

So, you know, you don't have to name names, or anything. It's totally fine, but like, from the, you know, the folks who were your mentors, whether they were here at Microsoft or, you know, even folks outside the company, how have they kind of broadly helped shape the direction that you're heading? Like, has it been advice and life goals, or just giving you ideas? Like, kind of, what's transpired along the way?

CHANTALE: So, I learned really early on in my internship that networking with people is super important, because hearing about other people's stories, and what they've accomplished, and how they got to their position here, helped me kind of think about what do I want to do, and, like, where do I want to end up.

And I don't necessarily have specific mentors. I kind of think anybody that I network with, and anybody who's a little bit older than me and has some experience in the field could be a mentor. I went to a talk last week, and Amy Hood was on the panel, and she said that her mentor was Michelle Obama. And like, I love that. Like, you can make anyone your mentor, and you could learn from anyone.

Some specific mentor advice that I've had from my internship currently is, like, PM mentors. Like, my PM mentor this summer was super helpful, because she would be able to point me, like, "Oh, let's do this, let's not do this." Like, "This is what's normal." Because, I think going from school to work, especially when you're young, is kind of difficult, because at school, you have a lot of free time, and you just–you do your homework, and then you do what you want. But at work, you–you collaborate with people, and it's not just like, "Oh, I just do this assignment by myself." It's like, "Oh, I need input, so I know, like, is this on the right path. Am I doing the right thing?"

JASON HOWARD: Yeah. And there's a pretty big gap between learning something in a school-based, collegiate-based environment versus coming to a work/production-type environment and actually trying to apply those skills, right? I think a lot of it with, like, math and such, like, you can go learn the routines and formulas, and things like that, but when you actually get into a field and probably more appropriately, is like, learning to code, right?

CHANTALE: Yeah.

JASON HOWARD: You can go sit through your computer science classes. You can read through your text. You can work through your problem examples, right? You can learn the fundamentals and structures of coding, but then all the sudden, when you're coding in Windows, or in Office, or in any–you know, any of the number of products that we work on here–all of a sudden, the landscape changes a little bit, right?

You know, the fundamentals are still the same, but you're working on actual live code, and you have to adjust to, instead of working on an example where it's generally fairly short, and you kind of–you kind of at least have some idea of what the outcome's supposed to be, all of a sudden, you're working in production and things are a little bit different.

CHANTALE: For sure, and especially–like, this summer, I didn't have any machine learning exposure in school, and I got put on the machine learning translation team. I was like, oh boy. (Laughter.) I got there, and we were talking about it, and I was like, "Okay, do we have, like, books? Do we have resources?" And they were kind of like, "Yeah, like we have, like, us. Like, if you have questions, like, you ask, and like, just kind of observe people and, like, see what they do, and ask people questions, like, 'What do you do?'" (Laughter.) Like make friends in, like, the kitchen. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: Yeah. Meeting people in the breakroom is always a good way to network, and you hear some interesting things in the breakroom, too–projects people are working on, problems they're facing, you know, that their dog had to go to the vet. (Laughter.)

CHANTALE: For sure. I learned that, like, mixing tea is huge. Like, there's so many tea bag options, and like, everybody makes like the most interesting combinations.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah, there's an entire rack of like, I think there's 12 different types of tea here. It's crazy. It makes me wish that I actually drank tea because I would like to sample them all, but it just tastes like leaves to me. And I'm like, I don't really want to drink a cup of leaf water, so… (Laughter.)

CHANTALE: Very organic. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: I know, right? So, when we started talking earlier, you mentioned getting into computer science, right? So, kind of what brought you into this field? Like what was it that triggered your like, "Hey, this what I should go do?" Because you're obviously a smart person, you know, you have the capability to kind of pick and choose, you know, what career path you wanted to go down, and at least what you wanted to study. So, why was it computer science? Like what–like what rang that bell for you?

CHANTALE: So, I could say, like, as a kid, this is something I always wanted, but that wasn't the case.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah.

CHANTALE: I was a senior in high school, and I was like, okay I'm going to college. I have to declare a major. I was like, what should I do? And I thought about it maybe for, like a day or two, and I was like, okay, what's the most challenging field that has the most diversity in its job, where I could work in one industry–like, I could work in, like, a healthcare industry, or I could work in something completely different, like tech, like here. And I was like, okay, that's computer science.

Like even now, like, you have such diversity. Like, I'm a program manager, but I'm a computer science major. Like I have the technical knowledge, but I also get to talk to people every day. It's kind of fun.

JASON HOWARD: So, I've got to say, with the personality type that you have, and as I've gotten to know you over the past couple years, that people thing, you've definitely got that down. Obviously, you know, those of you listening, you don't know much about Chantale, but she is–she is definitely a people person. She's super easy to talk to. She's always smiling. I've literally never seen her frown, ever. Like, I mean, I don't see her outside of work, but you know, at work, she's always, like, go, go, go, happy, happy, happy, ready to talk. But you know, anyway. (Laughter.)

So for other people that are considering computer science, or looking for a place to get started, like at this point, I still don't know how to code, right, and it's–it's one of the–it's one of the things that I, like, chastise myself about all the time, right? Between, you know, having work life and, you know, being busy with my regular pieces of my day job, which includes fun parts like this podcast, you know, making time to go and branch out and learn something new isn't necessarily easy, right?

You're in a very good position where, you know, you're still up and coming. You're a rising student, as you said earlier. (Laughter.) So, for anybody who's trying to kind of break into this field, or they want a change, and they're actually looking at this as something that they want to investigate, how would you tell them to get started?

CHANTALE: So, my recruiter actually told me this quote a year ago, and it's something that's always stuck with me. And it's, "Good things come to those who persist."

JASON HOWARD: Okay.

CHANTALE: That's huge. When you think about it, when I first started computer science, I wasn't sure, like, is this for me because I had a really hard time. Like, it just was not something that came natural to me. I had no idea why we were making variables, and why we're signing in things, and why the order mattered. Like, why do I have to put a semicolon everywhere, and if I don't, there's like huge compile errors? (Laughter.)

But it was one of those things that, once I kind of got the hang of it, and I started working really hard, that the outcome is really rewarding. And it's something–it's not even computer science, but just in general, like, if you work really hard at something, and you succeed, the outcome is so rewarding. Like, you could say, like, oh, I did that.

And I know it's something that we have huge in our company, like, the idea of a growth mindset. And I think that's perhaps, like, the best thing you can do for yourself when you're starting your career, or you're starting an industry, whether it's, like, tech or not. And it's just, like, the idea that you can do anything, like, regardless of, like, you thinking that you can't.

Actually, I was thinking about this, in the last two years, I can't think of anyone here who has told me that they can't do something. Like, if I ask someone to do something, like one of the devs that I work with, they'll never say, "I can't." They'll just say, "I'll try." Like, even if they're not sure. Like, "I'll try, see what happens." And like, that's a great mindset.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, what's the worst thing that's going to happen, you don't get it right on the first try? Okay.

So, it's funny that you say that, because there's a quote that always sticks in my head, you know, that's very pertinent to what you just said. I'm pretty sure it was Thomas Edison who said that, so anybody listening, they're probably going to fact check me, so hopefully I got that right. And the quote is something to the effect of, "I haven't failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that haven't worked yet." Right?

So, you just keep going until you do it, right? There's–there's nothing telling you that you have to stop, right? So, it's how much effort do you want to put into it? Like, are you really going to continue pushing forward? Are you going to persist in doing something that's important to you? So far, it sounds like you have.

CHANTALE: Yeah, absolutely. Growth mindset.

JASON HOWARD: (Laughter.) You're living the growth mindset.

CHANTALE: Yeah, you feel it. Like, especially on campus, like when you step foot here, you feel like the idea that, like, anything is achievable. I feel–I feel limitless. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: (Laughter.) So you know, we've talked about a lot of different things, and so, as we're kind of winding down here, I'm going to ask you one of my favorite questions that I love asking, because I'm definitely curious to hear your answer, being that it's been a while since I've been in your position, right?

I was never an intern at Microsoft. Back when I was in college, I didn't have any internships at all. Like, my collegiate experience was much different than many people who are going to college currently. I'm sure some people will walk the same path that I did, where I was working 40 hours a week while in school, which was not the easiest of things to do. But you know, talk about character-shaping, right?

CHANTALE: Sure.

JASON HOWARD: So, your generation has grown up with technology in hand, right. I remember being a kid and, you know, staying outside, goofing around in the street until the lights came on, and Mom yelling at me for dinner. There was no computer. There was no internet. What's a cell phone? (Laughter.) Like, it didn't exist, right?

But, you know, you look now at people who are coming up in the current generation, and you know, the next generation, and you know, subsequent generations from here on out, right? Technology will be, and it already is, an integrated part of their life from, in essence, as early they can, you know, think and rationalize things, right? Whether they realize there's a baby monitor in their room that's connected via wi-fi to some, you know, cell phone in the other room with their parents, or you know, they're getting an electronic tablet that, you know, they can watch videos on, and you know, Thomas the train, or whatever, right? (Laughter.)

Like, technology is a very integrated part of their life. So, do you think that having technology available at younger ages is an advantage? Has it fundamentally changed the landscape of how people are growing up, and what they have access to, and how they're learning?

CHANTALE: I think it could go either way. Like, I think you have a choice, like, as a user, like whether you want to use technology or whether you want to give your kids technology to do good with it. I know it's super helpful to have kids, like, do educational things on, like, an iPad or like a Surface device, or something like that. You give kids, like, these devices, and like, they can have education. They can have a network.

Like you said, I grew up with technology. Like, when I was a kid, I knew exactly what Microsoft was. I knew what Microsoft Word was. I knew what PowerPoint animations were. And like, there's so much with that. Like, the skills that I got from tech exposure obviously shaped what I do now, and how I use technology, and it's kind of second nature to me. Like, I guess I don't see it so much because it's so well integrated in my life, that I don’t even notice, like, oh, I'm like talking on a phone. I'm not actually having a conversation sometimes. Like, it's so realistic.

But more specifically, I think tech could do a lot of good, like, even for people who might not be able to learn in a classroom. Like, that's great, and if they need communication, like when I was a kid, my childhood best friend, like, moved across the country. I was devastated, but I kept in contact with her, like, through her phone. So, just stuff like that.

Like, technology definitely shapes, like, the way we do things. And I don’t necessarily think it's a disadvantage to expose your kids to that at such a–such a young age because that, they're going to grow up and be exposed to it, and they're going to see it at school, and they're going to see it at home. And they can do a lot of good with it.

JASON HOWARD: So, so maybe just being careful about how they're using it, and maybe how much they're using it, you know, putting in some, you know, some guidelines around it.

CHANTALE: For sure. There's a lot of, like, configurable features where you can, like, ban, like certain–like, if you don't want your kids to, like, look at their phone after eight, or like if you have policies. Also, like confiscating, like, tech is a huge punishment. (Laughter.) That's like high-level. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: Yeah, I spent a lot of time grounded and sent to my room. "Go read a book," was a punishment. What's really funny, and I'm going to tangent here for a second, right. It's like, as a kid, like, your parents, to punish you, they would send you to your room to be alone. They would tell you to go read a book. They would put you down for a nap. Like, these are all rewards, as an adult. Like, if I can get some solo time and to take a nap, like, I'm doing pretty good. (Laughter) So, it's like, it's funny how the landscape changes between childhood and adulthood. So anyway, I realize I'm off track a little bit here, but I just thought I'd share that because it's kind of funny. (Laughter.)

So, one more question. What do you think the next big thing in tech is? Like, where do–like, obviously, you're working on some really cool stuff right now. And we've done other podcasts where we've talked about changes that are coming in Windows. We've talked about quantum computing, which is one of my favorite areas of big, up and coming things. I'm not trying to skew whatever response you might have, but what's the big thing that-that you're looking at? Like, what excites you about what's yet to come?

CHANTALE: What excites me the most about tech in the future is the reason, like, I fell in love with Microsoft. It's that we have a push for more inclusive technology.

There's a huge gap of people who are left out by everyday products, and like, just doing something simple, like PowerPoint live captions, for example, like people who are hard of hearing can just simply read along, and they don't have to feel like they're isolated from that. And there's just such small things that tech can do to help those gaps, and like, empower people. Like, that's what our company's about, and like, that's what I want tech to do for people.

When I think of the future, one of the few devices that, like, comes to my head, right, like, this is futuristic. Like, this is what people thought the future was, like, 10 years ago, and what the movies think. It's the HoloLens. Like, there's so much you can do with it. Like I heard that they were using it for surgeries abroad. Like, a HoloLens, like a device like to tell them, like, this is what I'm looking at. This is what I should do.

Like, it's crazy, and like, what it could do for people now, and in the future, whether it's like–I actually got asked this in an interview, and it was like, "What product do you think has, like, the most potential?" And I said the HoloLens, because there's so much you can do with it. You're allowing people to have, like, an integrated experience. Like, it's not like picking up a device. It's like it's right there in front of you, and like, what you see is what it sees. So that's wild.

JASON HOWARD: So, it's interesting that you mention the surgery thing because something quite literally just popped into my head as you said it, right, was like–like, you think of a doctor who's been practicing for 50 plus years, right? Tons of experience, very hard to replicate that kind of knowledge and the number of people that he's seen, and the number of, you know, scenarios and illnesses that they've worked through.

But you know, the nature of the human body being, it's not the same when you're 80 as it was when you're, you know, 20 or 30, right, so presuming that you have somebody with that giant level of knowledge, but their hands are shaky now, right? They're not as delicate, and you know, as measured as they might have once been, right?

You have somebody who's up and coming who happens to still have steady hands, and whatnot. Having both of them with HoloLenses together, so they can see what's actually transpiring, and having one doctor help guide the other person, like, that's just–it's just a fascinating use case that kind of popped into my head. I'm like, wow. Like the future really is crazy, but in a good way.

Like, it's–it's awesome what we're going to be doing, what we're already doing, things that are being developed that we haven't actually talked about eternally yet, because there's always something.

CHANTALE: Yeah. Like, imagine if you could see, like, the person's vitals, like, in your display so you never have to look up, and you never had to redirect your attention. It's right in front of you.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah. Heads-up display, right? (Laughter.)

CHANTALE: Yeah. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: So last but not least, what's next for you? Obviously, you know, this round of internship is coming to a close. You know, I know you're hoping to come back here again, from some of the conversations that we've had. But outside of, you know, interning at Microsoft, and you're obviously going to continue your education, like what is it that you want to do in tech? Like, where do you–where do you want your career to go?

CHANTALE: As soon as you said that question, one word popped in my mind: CEO. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: (Laughter.) All right. Hey, hey.

CHANTALE: Satya, 2020, Chantale, 2030. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: So, you think, 11 years, huh?

CHANTALE: (Laughter.) But all joking aside.

JASON HOWARD: I don’t think you're joking. Like, I've got confidence in you.

CHANTALE: Thank you. Aw. Thank you. Rising star, right? Rising star. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: Hey, there you go.

CHANTALE: But all joking aside, I kind of see opportunity as it comes. So like, I don't have–like, maybe I do have a goal, like where I'd like to end up, but it's not so important. It's more important, like, am I enjoying what I'm doing in the moment and like, as I see things. So like, Microsoft Ignite is huge. I get to be an ambassador this fall. So, that's the most, I guess, immediate thing. I'll go back to school. I actually was extended a return, so I'm very excited about that.

JASON HOWARD: So, you will be back here a third time.

CHANTALE: A third time.

JASON HOWARD: Congratulations.

CHANTALE: Yeah, third time's the charm, right?

JASON HOWARD: Looking forward to seeing you again.

CHANTALE: For sure. And yeah, I'm just really excited for everything that's to come, and I have an open mind, growth mindset about any challenge, any opportunity. I think that's, like, the best part about working here, at least, is there's so much opportunity. Like, you could be asked to do, like, a brunch panel at my university, or like, you could be on campus doing something, even like the Hackathon–like, so many opportunities just to elevate your voice. Even this. Like, you know, you have opportunities to, just to share what you're passionate about.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah. And in one of our previous conversations, there's one thing that you said that stuck with me.

CHANTALE: Oh. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: Is just say yes. You never know what's going to happen when you say yes.

CHANTALE: Yeah. For sure. That's like my–one of my two life mottos. Always say yes to everything.

JASON HOWARD: Well, obviously, you've got a big–you've got a big future ahead of you. You're doing some pretty great things. You've managed to be here twice, and obviously you're coming back a third time, so you're doing something right. It sounds like you're inspired by the culture that we have here. Obviously, you're putting in the hard work and you're achieving the success that you want.

So, I've got to say, just you know, on a personal note, congratulations. Obviously, you know, you've done a lot and there's a whole lot left to come. So, I'm personally looking forward to seeing that. I know you're looking forward to seeing it, right. You're the one that has to do the hard work, though, so I just get to sit back and admire the progress that you make.

And so, I hope that, you know, anybody out there who's kind of listened to the things that you've said or is potentially in the same position that you're in that's trying to figure out what they want to do next, or you know, working through troubles, you know, obstacles that they're trying to overcome, and-and, you know, hitting a wall, thinking maybe I can't do this, don't give up. Just keep pushing at it.

CHANTALE: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.

JASON HOWARD: No, it's been a blast. I'm glad you were able to stop by, and we were getting–you know, had a chance to chat.

CHANTALE: For sure. Thank you for always believing in me. It's big. It's huge.

JASON HOWARD: Hey, you're the one doing what you're doing, you know. I'm just here to play cheerleader, so…

Well hey, hopefully we'll have a chance to have you back on in the future, right? We've had a few guests make returns, and there's a few guests we've had on before that are–plan to return, right? So, for those who are listening, you know, some of the familiar names and, you know, if you've seen their faces before, we'll have some back. So hopefully, Chantale makes that list at some point. She's got a lot to do, and you know, it won't be another–you know, another year till she's back, but you know, maybe we'll have her back on again.

CHANTALE: For sure, I'd love to be back.

JASON HOWARD: All right. Well, thank you for being on the show.

CHANTALE: Thank you for having me.

JASON HOWARD: And best of luck over the next year.

CHANTALE: Thank you.

(Music)

JASON HOWARD: Next up, we have Dasha Pushkareva to talk about her experiences as a Microsoft Intern. Welcome to the show, Dasha. Can you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about what you do here at Microsoft?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: I'm Dasha. I'm a Program Manager intern here at Microsoft, and I work on the Microsoft Managed Desktop team.

JASON HOWARD: So, what exactly does that team do?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: So, we're an IT management and security monitoring team for enterprises, and we enable our enterprise customers to empower their IT to do more than just manage Windows update and patching, and our slogan is "Loved by users and trusted by IT." So, that's what we try to do.

JASON HOWARD: That sounds cool.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah.

JASON HOWARD: So obviously, you mention that you're an intern. So how did you become an intern at Microsoft? How many do–how many times have you been here? Give me some background there.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: So, this is my fourth internship at Microsoft. I started as an Explorer intern in the summer of 2017. And I actually got into Microsoft because I was a Microsoft Student Partner on campus at Waterloo. And then, the head of Microsoft Student Partner Canada reached out to me and was like, "I think you'd be a great fit for the culture. I know the recruiter. Let me pass your resume on."

JASON HOWARD: Okay.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: And I was like, "Yeah, sure." This is, like I'm 18. I'd love to work at Microsoft. (Laughter.) So yeah, I went through the interview process, got the offer, and I was like, this is the best I could possibly do, and have been coming back ever since.

JASON HOWARD: So, have you worked on the same team the entire time, or have you switched teams along the way?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: So, I started on Windows Fundamentals, and then I switched to Microsoft Managed Desktop and have been on that team since my second internship.

JASON HOWARD: So, one with fundamentals, and now three with your current team. Have you enjoyed it, been a good time?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah. I mean, I keep coming back, so I hope it's been a good time. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: (Laughter.) I was going to say. So, you talked a little bit about kind of how you got to become an intern, like what the process was like. Do you think it was easy? Was it hard? Was it surprising in any way?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: I'd say it was as to be expected, not too challenging. I think Microsoft with their interview questions never tries to screw you up on purpose. So, they won's ask you something that they know you don't have an answer for, which I know a lot of big tech companies do. So, my interview specifically was–my resume was mostly web development–and that's what they asked me about.

JASON HOWARD: Okay.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Any questions about white boarding, writing code, it was about, how would you build this website, how would you do this and that? So, I think the interview process was pretty straightforward, streamlined for Waterloo students specifically just because they treat us special. With our school, they actually fly recruiters out to interview us on campus at school instead of flying us out to Seattle to interview, which is different than most interns, but yeah.

JASON HOWARD: Okay. Being international, it's probably a little bit easier that way.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah.

JASON HOWARD: Makes sense. So, what's it been like working here at Microsoft? Obviously, you've been here four times, a little bit different experience. Even though you're on the same team for the past –

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yup.

JASON HOWARD: Three cycles, I'm sure there's things that you've learned and done along the way. Can you talk a little bit about that?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah. So, every time I come back onto this team, I think there's nothing more I could possibly learn, which is not the smartest thing to be thinking. (Laughter.) But every team, I end up doing something widely different from my–the previous internship. And I walk out being like, wow, I can't believe I learned this much.

So, my first time on this specific team, I did PM'ing for UX/UI, so user experience and doing interfaces for our portal, which is now used by all our customers. And then, after that, I did data architecture and pipelining, so we worked on, how do we get better data and diagnostics from the devices we're deploying

JASON HOWARD: Okay.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: And this last time, I worked with our customers directly, so I actually talked to customers, went with them onsite, learned about the problems they were having, and helped them deploy our devices.

JASON HOWARD: And you got to do some traveling, which is always fun.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah, I did. Yes, I got to do some traveling. That was really cool.

JASON HOWARD: So even within the same team, obviously you've had three very different experiences, kind of get some of the depth and breadth of what this one team is doing, right?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: And that's why I kept coming back, the fact that I knew there was still a lot more I could on this team. I never felt the need to change to somewhere else because I always felt like, I was getting that new experience, even though I was coming back to Microsoft and to MMD.

JASON HOWARD: So, it sounds like, obviously because you keep coming back, there's things that you've really enjoyed about the experience. The process seems to be at least fairly straightforward, at this point. What are some of the challenges that you've found, you know, having been here and done this several times over now? Like, what are some of the things that kind of, like, get you thinking, and you're like, this is something that's difficult, or something that we should work on and change?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: I don't know if this is specific to working at Microsoft, but just with internships in general, it's always–I'm from the East Coast, so the move itself is always difficult.

JASON HOWARD: Sure.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: I've gotten used to packing two bags and doing that quickly, and not bringing too many pairs of shoes. (Laughter.) But it's always you get here in the first two weeks, it's exciting. I'm living on my own. I have my own place, while back in school, I'm sharing an apartment with five people. So, that's always great. And then, by week three, I'm like, wow, I'm lonely, and I miss people. And so, every time I do this for 16 weeks, dealing with just missing family, friends, everyone I have back home is always hard. But I always get to meet a lot of new people here, which is really exciting.

Yeah, so I'd say that's one of the most challenging things I've found in general, was just internships and traveling, and never being in the same place for too long.

JASON HOWARD: Okay. Yeah, it's a–it's definitely different when you, you know, you get used to your, you know, regular college life, your courses, your friends, and you know, being at least–I think you're fairly close to your family, like you know, distance-wise, and you know, just in a relationship perspective. You know, you come out here. You know, obviously a different country, completely different side of the continent, right? It's–you can still talk to people, but you know, just the physical separation, it's–it definitely feels different.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yep.

JASON HOWARD: Right? It's–it's a good opportunity to kind of learn and grow, though, right? You talked about meeting people and making new friends. It's–it's definitely a change of pace, and it's–it can be difficult, like, if you're not ready for that kind of culture shock, so to speak, just on a personal level.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah.

JASON HOWARD: So, in our last episode, we focused a lot on mentorship, and the guests that we had on talked about their experience with the culture at Microsoft, what it's like to be a mentor, their interactions with their mentees, you know, the people they were actually mentoring. So, part of your internship falls into that bucket, right? You go to a team, you have somebody that is kind of assigned–not, that's probably not the best word to use, but you know, that you, that you're partnered up with–that becomes your mentor for that time period.

So, in the role that you're in currently, you have one now, and you've had one each of the times you've been here. How has that process been different, right? Can you tell me, like, has it been the same person or different people, the difference in personalities, how you've interacted with them? Like, what has made that process good? What are some of the challenges you faced in that process? And do you think we're doing it right?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: So, my first time around, I was in Explorer. We had two mentors, actually, because the internship was doing both PM and software engineering. So, we had a PM mentor and a software engineer mentor. And that felt very by the book, just you ask the mentor questions about how to be a PM, how to be a software engineer, and they help you with the technical aspects. And that was really helpful for my first internship when I was–just, day one, my goal was don't get fired. (Laughter.) And I think honestly –

JASON HOWARD: (Laughter.) Well, you succeeded.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Halfway through my second internship, my goal was still don't get fired. (Laughter.) So early on, that was super helpful.

And then, when I started on this new team, I started with a mentor who was in my space, so I was picking up the work that she had started, and it made sense that she was mentoring me. And then, about halfway through that internship, she stopped being my mentor because our team got super busy. So back then, our team was 15 people, and we were trying to do a lot, and it was–in a gentle way, she didn't have time for me, but it wasn't a problem. So, we just–instead of doing our weekly one-on-ones, I talked to her whenever I had questions, rather than that formal setting.

JASON HOWARD: Okay. Sure.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: And since then, my mentors have been more like that, at least the ones that were assigned to me by the team, that we just talk when I have questions. I kind of shadow them in their work until I feel more confident, and I can do what I've been told to do. I've also had mentors at the company that were more–there's an intern mentorship program. So, you can just sign up and they will pair you with random people across the company, and you get to talk to them either once or then keep continue talking to them, up to you. And then, also in my org EEM, which is now I think CMX, we had –

JASON HOWARD: There's acronyms galore here at this company.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: They keep–they keep renaming our org, too. Like, this is the fourth name I've been around for. (Laughter.) So, it's hard to keep up.

JASON HOWARD: Every time you have an internship, you're going to change the name.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah.

JASON HOWARD: It's your fault. (Laughter.)

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: (Laughter.) But they have a squad for Early in Careers.

JASON HOWARD: Okay.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: And then those Early in Careers were also our mentors this time around. So, I had two mentors there that were for me and another girl on my team. And so, that was really interesting, talking to people in the same org working on a–not the same product, but a very similar product. And it was interesting just seeing people who had started at Microsoft in the past year or two, which is different than the mentors that I've had before.

JASON HOWARD: So obviously, you've had some very different experiences, right, some very hands-on, this is kind of how a role functions, this is how you should operate, this is the technical, and then the kind of, the day-to-day aspects of it. And then, some that were directly, "Hey, this is what you should be doing," almost like an–instead of being a mentor, it sounds like it was more like a–kind of like a loose management-type style.

But then, you talked about some of these other groups where it's very laid back and casual. There's no formal, direct assigned relationship, and that is one of the things that we did talk about in our last episode, is in relation to how people meet up with other people when they form the mentor and mentee relationship, whether it's just you were introduced to somebody, you bumped into somebody and had a random conversation, you were assigned, you know, a mentor, and things like that.

And it's interesting to hear the differences in the relationships based on how you met or encountered someone, and kind of what comes from that relationship, based on how it was formed originally. It's something I find fascinating, and it's one of the things we talked a lot about. But you know, hearing your experience kind of confirms some of what I was thinking and some of what we talked about last time.

So, shifting gears a little bit, what sparked your interest in computer science, right? Obviously, you're–you're in college, you're taking courses. You're–you know, you've had the opportunity to be an intern here at Microsoft, but what got you started? What sparked that for you?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: So in Grade 11, I took a computer science course, and honestly, I credit all my interest in computer science to the one teacher I had, because he was at our school for only that one year in Grade 11, and I know the other teacher that taught it, and if I had had her as my teacher originally, that would not have worked out. I would've dropped it. It would've been bad. So, this one teacher, he actually taught the basics really well, so he laid a good foundation.

And what really sparked my interest in it in terms of actually studying computer science was, my first program that I wrote wasn't "Hello, World!" as it is for most people. It was actually a calculator program. And I was like, "Wow, I built something," and it was just, the coolest thing for me was, I can build cool things.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: And that's how I decided to go study computer science, so that I can go out into the world and build cool things.

JASON HOWARD: Wow.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah.

JASON HOWARD: It's interesting. Any time that I ask somebody that's in the industry, right, there's a story. There's a moment in time that kind of got them going. And like, just personally–I don't think I've ever actually talked about this on air–like, for me, when I was in seventh grade–we're talking way back in the day–there was the game, Oregon Trail, right?

And I had this computer science class in seventh grade. It was very rudimentary, basic, at that point. And the hardware was nothing like what it is now. And you know, just the interactions and being able to do stuff, and you know, it was–it was a completely different interface. It was different than anything I had ever put my hands on or interacted with.

And then, I mentioned Oregon Trail, right, just the fun of the game. I was like, okay, I get to do this productive-type stuff, because we did a lot of printing and, like, made banners for the school, and whatnot, and then, you know, we would have this, you know, study hall where it was computer-based, so we get to go. And if we didn't have anything to do that day, then, you know, like, "Hey, we need banners for this event," then it was like, "Hey, you have free time. You can go and explore the computer."

And so, we'd be poking around and opening programs, and all this kind of stuff, and of course I would always go play Oregon Trail. But study hall was so short, I rarely got to finish the game. (Laughter.) So, it's always, like, "Oh, your, you know, your daughter has died of dysentery," you know. (Laughter.) It's like that kind of stuff, right? I used to love that. There's a t-shirt of that now, it's so funny.

So, I would get, you know, like to Colorado or whatever, and then boop, had to, like, turn the computer off and take the disk out, or whatnot. And this was–these were the old five and a quarter floppies. Like, these were not even, like, the small three and a half inch ones. Like, that's how old this was. (Laughter.)

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: That's how old you are. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: Thanks, I appreciate that. But it's true, right? (Laughter.) But it's like, for me, that was that moment in time where I really got interested in computers. And then, you know, the first time I had a computer in the house, and I can remember–I'll tell one more story real quick–I can remember when we actually upgraded, right. We got the-the second desktop that we ever had in the house. And of course, at this point, desktops were not ubiquitous, like laptops weren't a thing. So, like, you would go spend two and a half or $3,000 to get a desktop, and it was big ordeal.

And so, my dad brings the boxes inside. I am super excited, right? I am freaking out. I'm like, "Yes, yes, yes!" And I'm in high school at this point. And so, disconnect the old computer, whatever. And I just start ripping the new box open, and I'm throwing the components together, and my dad freaks out, like, not really in a good way, either, right? (Laughter.) Because he’d just spent all this money, and he's like, "You're going to break it, and na-na-na-na-na,” and I'm like, "Dad, I've taken classes at school. Like, I know what I'm doing." And he's like, "Really?" Like, it was–it was foreign to him that there was actually a way–a place that I was actually learning and studying this stuff. And I was like, "Yeah."

And so, actually instead of me just flying through it and hooking it up, like, I slowed down. I was like, "This is what this is. See these colors," because PS2 ports back then, you know, the colors matched and everything. So, I'm like, "This is the mouse, and this is the keyboard, and this is how this goes together." And so I–he was never the tech type, right, but at least kind of including him in the process took away the, oh, I’m just going to rush through it and break stuff. I tried to include him, right?

So, that's–that's one of the things that kind of leads me into, you know, like last episode, and this episode of the podcast really is trying to, like, bring others along in the adventure of technology, and you know, the mentor and mentee relationship, and building people up, and working together. It's like, that kind of how all of this comes together for me.

And I realize I'm kind of, you know, droning on a little bit, right, but it's, it’s really important in that regard, and I think that's why I wanted to, like, connect with people on these two episodes, because there's a lot of people that have been in tech for a while, and they have a lot of what I knew was kind of just colloquially called, like, tribal knowledge, right? There's a lot of stuff in their head that isn't necessarily on paper. It's not something that they kind of talk about broadly. They just know it, and they do it, day-in and day-out. And it's-it's hugely beneficial when you can kind of tap into that and bring others along on the adventure.

So having said all that, right, I realize it was a big long-winded, what advice would you give to other people like yourself, right, that are either starting out, or even people that have been in their role for a while that don't have a, you know, the opportunity to go do an internship. They don't have the opportunity to kind of, like, quit and go do something different, right? What is it that they can do to kind of bolster their–their learning, and trying to find a mentor? And then, kind of what can they do as a mentee, if they do have a mentor to kind of get more out of those relationships that they're building? There's a lot of questions there, I realize.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah. So, I guess the way I see it is there's, like, two types of answers to this question, and can I give you both?

JASON HOWARD: Sure.

 

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: There's the technical things that you can go do, and then there's the inspirational stuff, I'm going to say, about, like, don't be scared to ask questions. But, like, on the technical stuff, I know if you're already in a–in the industry or in an industry and you want to switch into tech, a lot of people are doing coding bootcamps, which I hear are really great in terms of just getting you that basic skillset that you need to be able to get the interview, and then ace the interview.

And once you're here, honestly, someone once told me this, that the big four companies aren't the big four because they hire the best engineers, but because an average engineer can get a job there. And that's with–when Microsoft has 120,000 employees, I don't know if we have 120,000 best engineers across the world. I'd like to think we have some great ones.

But overall, I don't think Microsoft is looking for talent as in, like, a coding god born to be fantastic. More so, they're looking for that ability to learn and the desire to learn. So just doing things like coding bootcamps and then trying, that's the best I suggest. On the technical side, there's a lot of books you can read. Cracking the Coding Interview is a big one, and I'm sure everyone's heard about it at this point, really helpful for technical interviews.

And then, as a mentee, to get the most out of your relationship I would say is asking questions. Honestly, not being afraid to ask that question. And that's something that people ask me as an intern, like what advice would I give to other interns. And I always say, "Question authority."

JASON HOWARD: Oh, that's an interesting one. (Laughter.) I mean, it resonates well with me, right, but I mean you should just watch one of my webcasts. I would love for you to elaborate there a little bit.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah, so there's a lot of people at Microsoft that have been here for 20, 25, 30 years, which is great. They have a lot of experience. But also, the reason you bring in new talent is because new talent has new ideas, and they look at the world differently. And our generation sees things differently than the generation before us, and then the generation before them, right?

And so, when you're sitting in a meeting and someone's saying that we're going to do this, and this is because this is how we do things, and that's when I go, okay, if it makes sense to me, sure. But if I'm sitting there just, and I don't understand why we would go about doing things that way, it's a straight up, "But why?" And honestly, I find that people react very well to that. Like, don't be rude about it, obviously.

JASON HOWARD: Of course.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: But just asking people to explain why they're doing things that way and bringing in new ideas, that's the reason you were hired. Like, Microsoft could have a bunch of super senior principle people working on it, but then we wouldn't have those new ideas coming through.

And so, as an intern, I know it's often scary because you don't know the product, you don't know the team. You're just sitting there on, like, day two, being like, "I'm going to speak when spoken to," and that's definitely not the culture Microsoft promotes. And for me, the first week back is always a little bit ramping up, learning what the team did since I was gone, don't want to ask questions about things that are just self-explanatory, although first time around, ask the dumb questions.

JASON HOWARD: You have to. You have to learn the process because it's something you've never done before.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Especially with Microsoft and our acronyms, and everything. It's–people will say an entire sentence which is just an acronym.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: And yeah, if you don't ask questions, you're not going to learn anything.

JASON HOWARD: Of course.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: But then, once you feel more settled, ask the more–not just, "Oh, what does this stand for?" but, "Why are we doing this?" Don't be scared to question the people who've been here for 20 years. Yeah, and that's my question authority. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: It actually makes sense, and it's actually super useful, right, especially in a context that you, as an intern, bring to the table. You're bringing in a different way of thinking, right? You don't have the long-standing history of the–I think the way you say it was, "We've always done it this way," coming in with those new ideas.

And it's not even necessarily challenging authority, right? I-I love the phrase, it's totally fun. But sometimes, it's–not even sometimes, quite often, it can be healthy to say, "Yes, we've always done it this way. Is there a reason to continue doing it this way?" The answer may be, "Yes," right? The process may be, like, really good as it stands and there's no reason to change.

But sometimes, taking a step back and saying, I'm working through this process. I've done this process the same way. Why do I continue to do this? What value is it adding, right? What are we getting out of doing it this way? And is this process even functional anymore, and should we continue doing it?

It's very healthy to ask those questions, and I'm really glad that you brought this up because it's not–it’s not as common as you would probably think for people to be comfortable in doing that, right, especially people that are junior, either new to their job or, you know, people that are in an intern role, things like that. Like, you come in, you expect everybody else to be the experts, and they're just kind of doing things, and you're trying to, you know, find your little slice and fit in.

And all of a sudden, you're asking some of these questions, and what it does is it actually–it helps you develop. It helps other people develop because it will get them thinking, as well, rather than just, "Hey, this is how we're going to do it. I said it, so let's go." Sometimes, it's good. Sometimes, you just have to get stuff knocked out. But a lot of the absolute long-standing processes, it's very healthy to go through and reexamine and reevaluate those to make sure that the right decisions are being made, and that it's still providing business value to do the thing itself and to continue doing it that way.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah.

JASON HOWARD: So, having worked at Microsoft for a while, you know, through the various internships, and obviously having been–you said earlier you were a Student Partner prior to your first internship here–I've got to ask what is your favorite Microsoft product, service, and why is it that you love this particular thing?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Okay, so I feel obligated to say that the service my team produces is my favorite, but because I'm not an IT manager at an enterprise, like level company, I'm allowed to not say that.

JASON HOWARD: Okay.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Microsoft Managed Desktop is great, but you know, Surface. Like, I love our Surface line. (Laughter.)

The first summer I got a Surface Pro as my device for work, and since then, I've had the Laptop and the Book 2, and they're all amazing. My personal device is the Laptop 1. It's the blue one. I love it. Like, Surface, by far is just the best thing that ever happened to computers. I don't know if I can say that for marketing, but it's fantastic. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: (Laughter.) I’m sure marketing appreciates it. So, specifically about it, why do you love it, right? Obviously, it's a laptop, right? You know, if you talk about the Pro and the Laptop and the Surface Book, so these are all laptop-category devices. But compared to–I won't start naming other specific OEMs and models–but compared to the other op-options that are available, why is it that Surface is, like, resonates so well with you?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: So, I love the touchscreen, and I know that, now, there's a lot more OEM partners that are doing that, but that started with the Surface line, as far as I know. Okay, I might be wrong on that one, but I love the touchscreen. It's also the form factor. It's super sleek, and that's I think what was missing with Windows PCs when I first started on them in probably middle school was my first PC. And I was–they were just bricks. Like, it was brown or silver. It was kind of ugly. It was, like, weighed like three kilos, or something, and you were just dragging that to school. And now, I have this device that is so smooth and light, and it's just, like, I'm proud to be like, "Yeah, this is my device." And that's just not even as a Microsoft employee, just like holding it up and being like, "Yeah, this is mine," is just, makes me smile.

JASON HOWARD: That's awesome. Like, it’s nice, it’s-it's interesting to see how far the hardware technology has come. Obviously, software continues to evolve and always will.

But the hardware, if you go from the old brick desktops that you were talking about, and I can–you know, I'm having flashbacks to my seventh-grade conversation from earlier in our discussion. (Laughter.) To the desktops that I put together at home. And then, for the Insiders for the webcast that I do, I documented the build process of that computer, and you know, there's a blog post out there about it.

Then, looking at the laptops, right, and it's all about somebody-everybody's trying to dupe something, right? And you know, the–you know, the Microsoft corporate slogan, you know, empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, there's–it's, it's more than just a slogan, right, because the hardware is the means to get to the software. And if, you know, the way that you're connecting into do things, it's just another layer in that process.

And if you can connect with it and it feels personal to you, you like it, right, it's way–it's way more–this is going to be a funny word to use, but it's way more engaging or exciting to use something that you're like, "I’m passionate about using this hardware to go do something that I want," rather than just grabbing some random equipment and doing the same thing, right? It's almost like it can change your mood about the whole thing.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah, and that was–my device before I had my Surface Laptop, I don't remember which one it was, but at the–at the end of its lifecycle, it got to the point where when I would open Chrome, it would crash, just because all the RAM was eaten up, and it was just every time I had to sit down and work on that device, it was like, okay, brace yourself. You got this. You're going to wait five minutes for Word to load. And I used to think that it was like, wow, you know, Microsoft should really fix Word. Like, what's up? And then, I got this new device, and I was like, wow.

JASON HOWARD: It wasn't Word. It was the–it was the actual equipment. (Laughter.)

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah. And now, I'm excited to open this device. Like, I won't shop on my phone. I'll shop on my laptop when I'm doing online shopping because I want to be using that device.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah. So, that kind of leads me to the next question that I want to ask you, right? So, I asked Chantale earlier in this episode the same question, so I'm going to ask you the same thing, because it's, it’s really interesting, and I would love to hear your answer about it.

So, over the course of time, technology has changed a bunch, kind of as we've been discussing, right? For, we'll just say younger generations today, tech is ingrained. Like the first thing that they're handed, they're not handed, like–you know, they get, you know, toys when they're really young, or whatever, but the next thing you know, they're getting, like, a LeapPad, or they're getting, you know, a tablet of some sort where they get to sit there and play interactive games, and watch videos. And I can't tell you how many kids in–that are like four, five, six, seven years old I see watching Minecraft videos on the internet, right?

None of that existed when I was that age. (Laughter.) I didn't get a tablet and sit in the back seat of the car and watch Minecraft videos while we were taking a road trip. None of that happened.

So, tech is now ingrained in their life. It will be part of their life from the first time they, you know, have something put in their hand till, you know, the end of time for them at some point in the future. So, like, what is next for technology, right? You know how it's changed for you in the course of time, and you're seeing how it's changing for younger generations now. Part of the generation that you're in, which is driving what's going to come next, what do you think's going to happen?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: I think probably the biggest change will be–I used to think it'd be augmented reality, but then that's kind of slowed down in the past couple years. And I'm thinking now it would be artificial intelligence and machine learning. And I know I'm just throwing out buzzwords at this point.

But just, with the intelligence in the software we write, and how that will change the landscape of the world, and just the opportunities in terms of employment and everything, just because, at this point, software engineers are writing code so that, in the future, they don't need to write code. And that's–it's interesting to think that you're writing code that will replace you in the end.

JASON HOWARD: I was about to say you're making it sound like they're writing code that's going to write themselves out of a job.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yes, and hopefully write themselves into a new job, into a better, cooler job, and that's–you think of the Industrial Revolution, and everyone was terrified, but then it brought about all these new jobs, right? Like, things that no one could have imagined back then.

And so, it could either go that way, or so–I brought that up, the Industrial Revo–Revolution argument recently with a friend, and they go, "Yeah, but what about the horses?" And I was like, "What do you mean, what about the horses?" And they said, "Okay, so imagine two horses in the early twentieth century talking to each other, and going, ‘Yeah, cars are coming, but don't worry. We'll–it'll be great. Like, we're going to have all these new jobs. We won't have to carry around heavy people,’ and just all this stuff. And now the population of horses in North America is 20% of what it was at the beginning of the 20th century."

And so, there's always that possibility with tech and with innovation that it could go really great, and it has in the past, or we could build a society where we don't have jobs for ourselves. And if that happens, there's a lot of really interesting YouTube videos about this online, but it'll be a different world on how we motivate ourselves to actually do work when–maybe it'll open more opportunities for people to go into the arts, and all the careers right now that it's–a lot of people don't have the opportunity to do just because, financially wise, they don't provide a stable income. Like, to be an artist, you have to be really good at it.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah, that's where the phrase "starving artist" comes from.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah. And so, maybe we'll build a world where all the tasks right now, like software engineering, all of it is automated. And so, a lot more people will get to go into those passions rather than careers, and maybe that will be a shift.

JASON HOWARD: And it's one of the interesting things, even going back to the Industrial Revolution to talk about that point, where technology frees people up, right? Where doing tasks that were manual at one point, now you're using machines to do them, right? And the concept is switching from horses to cars, you know, and the freeways that were built to, you know, enable all that, and whatnot.

Everything that we use technology for is to accomplish something, right? And even as we drive what the next step of technology is, it's going to help us free up time when it's–you know, we were talking about, to achieve something even more, to achieve something greater, right? The more time that we can buy back and, you know, stop some of the routine–some of the things that are just time-consuming–ends up making it to where you have more time to go and explore.

And you were talking about, you know, getting into the arts, and whatnot, to let people explore their passions, and things that are important to them, and spend time with their families, and whatever they–whatever may be important to them. It's interesting. But you know, to talk about the, "Will I have a job?" versus, "How much time am I going to be spending?" you know, "How's the future?"

Not only Microsoft, every company that's working on technology, and every company that's, you know, connecting with people anywhere in the world together, everybody is driving what that future's going to be, and obviously, software's kind of the heart of it, right? There's the–the physical aspect of moving things and making things, you know, because it actually has to be constructed. But then, there's the software driving all of that and trying to automate it and make it faster, and smoother, and better.

I don't know. This is one of the things, like, we could do an entire podcast about this topic, but it's-it's fascinating to kind of look through that lens. And I will say, obviously, you know, asking the same question earlier to Chantale, like, your response is very different. (Laughter.)

So, it's like this is now going to become a question that, you know, I want to ask people just in daily conversation because of the difference in mindset and thinking, and you know, some of what we talked about earlier about doing things the old way just because that's how they were done versus, you know, taking a new look and kind of questioning, and asking, and "Why are we doing it this way? Could we potentially change?"

That's at the heart of everything that we are doing as a company. How can we be better? What can we do to enable people? What can we do to drive the future and make things more simple, and faster, and I don't know, just make technology better in general? How can we enable people to do the things that they want to do?

 

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah.

JASON HOWARD: It's kind of awesome.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. At the end of the day, that's what lies at the heart of this company. And if you do tech right, I think that's what lies at the heart of tech, as well.

JASON HOWARD: Yeah, I think so. I agree. It's-it's-it’s part of the reason I love working at Microsoft, because having that is being the guidepost of what we're all working towards. It's very noble, but it's very driven, at the same time. Like, there's purpose behind it.

So, one more question, right. I know we're kind of winding down here. So, before we wrap, I'm going to ask you one more question. What's next for you? Like, you have big dreams of what you want to accomplish. You know, your current round of internship is drawing to a close. If I recall correctly from one of our earlier conversations, you were offered a return to come back yet again, so, you'll have opportunity number five. I'm sure you're excited about that. So that's the next step, but what's beyond that?

 

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: So even before that, I have to go back to school. I have to do some more computer science classes. I'm doing game theory next term, which is not a computer science class.

JASON HOWARD: Interesting.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: But I'm really excited about that, just because of how relevant it is in the world, and society, and economics is cool, so I'm excited for that one.

Yeah, internship number five, probably going to come back just because there's–I feel like there's still a lot I can do on this team, and a lot I can contribute to, so I want to come back. After that, wow. I need to graduate at some point.

JASON HOWARD: Okay. That's an important step.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: I need to finish my degree. I've been–it's a five-year program, so I still have the fifth year left after I do this next semester.

Settle down, get married, have kids at some point. (Laughter.) That sounds super domestic, but I don't know, family values–you brought that up earlier–are super important to me, so building my own family is something that's always top of mind.

But also, career-wise, I think I want to go into PM'ing, be it Program Management, Product Management, Project Management, whichever P you choose for it to be. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: Sure. (Laughter.) More acronyms, right?

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah, more acronyms, Just because I think, while it started with me–for me with coding in high school, since then I've realized that coding is not the way I want to let out my creativity, and that I feel, as a PM, I get to do more of that creative vision, and building, and that I build cool things. I switched from actually being the person who does the building to the person who does the ideating, and to me, that's aligns more closely with what I want to do.

So, become a PM somewhere in the industry, hopefully Microsoft. I do love this company. I keep coming back for a reason, so.

JASON HOWARD: Fingers crossed.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: (Laughter.) Hopefully, here. Yeah. Do something with my career. I don't know. I don't really have a five-year plan. It's taking this one day at a time.

JASON HOWARD: You have a few important things to do in the next year, year and a half.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Yeah, graduate. Graduate. That's the big one. (Laughter.)

JASON HOWARD: You'll get past that with flying colors. I have no doubt. I mean, obviously, you've done a lot in the time that you've spent both here at Microsoft, as well as through your, you know, academic career so far. So, knock that last year out, and maybe we'll have you back on to talk some more.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: I'll do my best.

JASON HOWARD: Awesome. Well hey, I've got to say thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It's been great chatting with you. Wish you all the best, you know, in your next round of classes, and look forward to catching back up with you when you return yet again.

DASHA PUSHKAREVA: Thank you.

(Music)

JASON HOWARD: And with that, Windows Insiders, this episode's a wrap. We hope you enjoyed the inside look at the role of interns here at Microsoft. Thanks again to Chantale and Dasha for joining us.

Thank you once again for tuning into the Windows Insider Podcast. Join us for a new episode each month, and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite app. Until next time.

NARRATION: The Windows Insider Podcast is hosted by Jason Howard and produced by Microsoft Production Studios and the Windows Insider team, which includes Allison Shields, that's me, and Michelle Paison.

Listen to our previous podcasts and visit us on the web at insider.windows.com. Follow us @windowsinsider on Instagram and Twitter.

Support for the Windows Insider Podcast comes from Microsoft, empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Join us next month for another fascinating inside look into Microsoft, tech, innovations, careers, and the evolution of Windows.

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