By Ben Vijayakumar ’18 MBA
This summer, Sonali George ’17 MBA/MS MIS had the opportunity to follow her dreams working as an intern for Microsoft. After completing her MBA with a concentration in entrepreneurship from the McGuire New Venture Development Program, she is currently pursuing her second master’s, the MS in Management Information Systems.
Before arriving at Eller, Sonali volunteered for many nonprofit organizations in India. She aspires to one-day start her own NGO where she can leverage the best of innovative technology and management practices for the benefit of the community. She figured she would need to work for at least 10 years in a corporate setting before she could break into the social impact domain. As luck would have it, this internship brought her dreams into reality far quicker than she imagined.
During her Eller MBA Consulting Project, Sonali had the opportunity to interact with multiple Microsoft associates including Mike Miles and Bill Pardi. At the time, she was also president of the Eller Net Impact Association, when she approached Miles, general manager for cloud infrastructure and operations and datacenter community impact and guest lecturer at the University of Arizona, to discuss corporate social responsibility initiatives. She expressed interest in Microsoft’s Timmy Global Health initiative and joined the Microsoft fall 2016 volunteer effort with Timmy Global Health in Ecuador. This expedition helped her connect with many Microsoft associates and deepened her commitment to community development (Read more about the expedition here.) She is grateful to Miles for giving her the opportunity to participate in the Microsoft initiative, which in turn, motivated her to apply for internship opportunities. By spring 2017, she received an internship offer to work on the new Datacenters for Good initiative. This was the perfect opportunity to align her personal and professional interests.
Sonali worked on this project as a program manager intern at Microsoft HQ in Redmond, WA for the cloud and enterprise services team. The Datacenters for Good initiative is an offshoot from the idea of A Cloud for Global Good by Satya Nadella, CEO, and Brad Smith, president and CLO of Microsoft. Though she was the only MBA intern on her team, she worked among a hundred other Microsoft MBA interns and more than 1,300 interns in the Seattle area.
Her internship was served primarily with community development of datacenters, and included job shadowing, interacting with a manager and a mentor and participating in cloud engineering team operations. Over the course of three months, she assisted with developing “Theory of Change” and measuring impact for the socioeconomic environment analysis of datacenter communities. This internship was unique, she says, because her learning curve was steep. She had the chance to work alongside associates with more than 15 years’ experience and collaborate with colleagues like Director of Sustainability Tamara Dicaprio, Director of Community Development Tim Griffiths and Miles.
She is grateful to all the Microsoft associates whom she connected with before and during her internship. She felt at home working with Microsoft, where everyone cared about the community. She describes the work culture as more collaborative than competitive and a place that welcomes new comers and encourages risk taking. She benefited from their Elevate program, where she connected with mentors from different domains weekly.
The internship was also an avenue for an intern Q&A session with Nadella, watching the Chainsmokers at the internship signature event, micro-volunteering and matching contribution initiatives and receiving an Xbox as internship swag. Above all, she is happy to be among the few interns who had the chance to present and receive feedback from Suresh Kumar, corporate VP for cloud infrastructure and operations.
During her time in Washington, she travelled to Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks and the San Juan Islands, and enjoyed the waters around the Seattle area.
In her final semester at Eller, she looks forward to attending the Net Impact conference in October and eagerly awaits her second trip to Ecuador with Microsoft this November.
Sonali’s advice for students reading her story is to “share your genuine interests and passions to make strong connections.” She recommends students take part in experiential learning opportunities such as the Eller Business Consulting program to learn critical business and client management skills. Sonali also recommends an internship with Microsoft for those who wish to utilize technology and social enterprise for empowering people and organizations. She is happy to connect with other students who want to learn more about her internship experience.
Header image courtesy Pixabay.