Microsoft Leap: The Experience
March 16, 2019
Time to read: 9 min
Working at Microsoft as an apprentice is very exciting. There's a lot to look forward to, and an awesome way to start your career.
Cross Country Adventure
I didn't start thinking about how I would get to Washington from Miami until I got my acceptance letter. Huge mistake, and now I advise others to start putting things into place as soon as you know you have an interview, because you only have 3 weeks before your first day.
There was a lot to do, kiddo had to take a break from school, I needed to get my dogs medical papers and travel crate to fly, and get all our stuff into storage. The financial aspect of all of this really hit hard because everything that needed to be done cost more money than I had and it was a huge source of stress.
Luckily, my sister and her family recently moved to Washington so we were able to stay with them, and friends did what they could to help as I prepared to leave. Without my loved ones support, there is no way I would have made it.
Home Sweet Home
Soon after getting your acceptance letter, you'll get invited to the LEAP Slack to get to know others in your cohort, LEAP alumni and share information. Make sure to check out the #relocation channel. There will be lots of leads for rooms or apartments for rent and offers for roomates.
At the time I got here, there was no relocation assistance offered. I came here with very little money, and doubt Im the only person to be at the end of my financial rope when getting this opportunity, so if thats a factor for you too, I hope this offers some inspiration. You get paid after the first week, so if you can make it though the first 7 days, you're golden.
There are hostels in downtown Seattle that are around $25/night.I didn't end up staying in one, but while doing my research a couple of them had really good reviews. Even though we were able to stay with my sister, she lives about 3 hours away from Redmond, so the commute was pretty rough. Once I got my first paycheck, I alternated weekly staying with my sister and in an Airbnb. Those range from $35-50/night.
Some people chose to get an apartment, but I think the majority booked a room with Airbnb. That really is the way to go. Many offer discounts up to 50% off for long-term stays, the ones around campus are used to hosting LEAPers and in walking distance which is really convenient. For long-term stays, you only pay month by month. Even though it shows the whole total at checkout, you only pay one month when you book. My suggestion, make sure you get a room that has wifi and kitchen access. Rooms go really fast, not only will other LEAPers be booking rooms, people swing through on business all the time so if you find a place you like, don't hesitate. If you cant find a place, keep checking because availability changes daily.
If you have a car and want to bring it with you, you'll need to sign up for a pass of some sort to park in the Microsoft garage. (Also, make sure you have a place to park your car wherever you chose to live). Traffic is pretty rough, so if you do drive, try to carpool with others in your cohort so that you can use the carpool lane.
LEAP provides everyone with an unlimited buss pass called the Orca card. The public transportation system here is really, really good. If you stay in Seattle, there's an express bus right to Redmond. Buses in the suburbs come every 30m, and in the city come every 7 or 15 minutes. They're pretty prompt and dependable.
Since I was staying in Bremerton, I was able to sign up to request a ferry pass to be added to my Orca card. The ferry is free from Bremerton to Seattle, but the return trip is $8, so having that was a huge help.
Uber is pretty quick around here...I found Lyft to be more expensive. It's all expensive though...great for emergencies but not an every day option.
Microsoft has a Connector bus, but its only available for full time employees. You can use the shuttles to get to other campus' and also the on demand ride to get around the Redmond main campus though.
Alright..the meat of things! So, here I'd like to break a misconception I've seen..LEAP is not like bootcamp. You're not here to learn everything from scratch, you're here to ramp up on the skills you need to join your team and work as an apprentice.
You will recieve pre-work to do before coming to LEAP which consists of learning C# and Visual Studio Code. There's the tempation to try and find a bunch of other things to learn and do, but I promise you, you will be better off staying focused on the material they send because you'll be expected to know it when you arrive. If you don't do your pre-work, you will be in for a world of hurt....come prepared.
LEAP - The First Five Weeks
The first week will be a lot of getting to know your cohort, getting your badge, recieivng and setting up your laptop. The first week is also when you find out what team you'll be working on and the project you'll be responsible for completing.
Lectures start right away, focused on C#, Visual Studio Code and Azure DevOps. Training is to get you comfortable with the langauge and tools commonly used in Microsoft that will help you no matter what team you join. Once you get your project, it will have the requirements specific to your team and project that you you are personally responsible to learn.
Every week, the cohort is split up into small dev teams with a C# project to complete and present to the class, so you'll have plenty of practice working in a dev team and coding in C#.
Near the end of your 5 weeks, there will be a day where you get to meet your team for the first time. They are invited to come in, tell you about your teams org and what they do. You'll also go to your teams office to meet your manager and mentor, talk about your project and dicuss your goals.
Get To Work!
Now for the exciting stuff! Once your apprenticeship starts, you'll head to your office to work on your project. There are actually 5 Microsoft campus', the one I ended up working from is in Issaquah. Most of us had no idea going in that there were other locations and would not be spending the whole time in Redmond, so just an FYI.
I've beent talking about projects, so let me finally tell you what thats all about. Each person is personally responsible for a project they are to complete during their apprenticeship. Mine happened to be a client-facing front end project but most in my cohort had back end projects and needed to learn a range of languages from R to C++. No matter what, you are going to be challenged to push yourself and learn new technologies.
Your project will have something to do with what your team is working on, so you'll be attending stand ups, involved in meetings and working with other developers on your team. You'll also have regular meetings with your manager to stay on top of your overall goals to make sure you are reaching them. I feel really lucky to have had the most amazing mentor and met with him weekly. My entire team was made up of awesome people who were curious about LEAP and pretty excited to work with me, which was really cool.
It is VERY important to take charge and be self-directed. You need to take the initiative to set up the meetings with your manager and mentor, to speak up in stand ups if you need help and reach our to others on your team to learn from them. You're in control of your career...take that bull by the horns and do it.
Another thing, don't feel like you are expected to know everything. Everyone knows you are there to gain experience and learn from your team, and are really into doing what they can to help you succeed. A really cool thing about working at Microsoft is if you have an issue with anything, you can literally talk to the team responsible for developing that technology.
The Final Week
For your last week, you leave your team and return to LEAP to wrap up your project and get your presentation ready. Its super casual, everyone has their laptops set up on indivdiual tables and hiring managers from various teams are invited to swing by and check out what youve done. Everyone is required to have a project to present, but this is a great opportunity for those who did not get a job offer to get some exposure to another team.
The final day of LEAP, you return your badge and laptop, then its time to party! Ours was at Lucky Strike, we had our own private bowling lanes, with catered food and drinks. It was both awesome and bittersweet since it would be the last time our whole cohort would be together.
Getting the Full Time Offer
The ultimate best case scenario is a job offer from your team. Halfway through and at the end of your apprenticeship, your manager and mentor sumbit reports to LEAP about your progress. Key things they are looking at ar your ability to communicate, initiatve, technical skill and dealing with ambiguity.
At the end of your apprenticeship, your team may choose not to extend an offer, or move forward to next steps. For next steps, they may do a feedback loop, which means you have a meeting with the hiring manager and they decide whether to extend an offer, or you'll do an interview loop, which means you'll do 3 or 4 interviews, and then meet with the hiring manager. If you are extended an offer, you'll need to complete a background check and then...you're in!
Odds and Ends
Even though you are with your team you still have the support of LEAP. My instructor held after hours a couple times a week after work to answer questions and for interview practice, which was invaluable.
Microsoft has a bar at The Commons, and my cohort would meet up there for happy hour every Fri to connect up and see how everyone is doing and LEAP almunni dropped in often. (No big deal if you don't drink..the food is aawesome there) It's a pretty solid network to be a part of and worth keeping in touch.
Before coming to Microsoft, I was concerneed it would be "corporate, stuffy and enterprisey." I was pleasantly surprised by the vibe of the company and everyone working there. I got there with the goal of getting the most out of my time there, and in the end I loved working there and did not want to leave.
So, as far as how things went for me, I did not end up getting an offer from my team. While that was a huge bummer, I learned and grew so much and it was an incredible experience that as absolutely worth it. Having Microsoft on my resume definitely opened up doors and opportunities, and having worked there really threw fuel on my fire, so Im more determined than ever.
Having Microsoft on my resume and the experience of working there as an apprentice has thrown doors open and presented opportunites beyond my wildest dreams. A year ago, if someone told me Id be interviewing at Microsoft, Amazon and Google, I would have thought they were crazy. I've come a long way, and there's more to come.
I'm going to make it no doubts about it, and I hope anyone reading all of this finds some inspiration to take the leap (pun not intended, but it fits!) of faith and go for it.
If you have questions about anything at all, please reach out, email me at HeyaCandice@gmail.com to let me know. I love hearing from others and want to help any way I can, so don't hesitate to drop me a line!
Featured image by Tolucreations from Pixabay