Learning from the Best: Mentorship Day at Microsoft

On July 28, the Software.org, AT&T, and Salesforce classrooms visited Microsoft’s Innovation and Policy Center for their mentorship day. The workshop kicked off with a panel on career planning, followed by a speed networking session with women from Software.org, the SAS Institute, the office of Senator Brian Schatz, the U.S. Army, Georgetown University, Access Partnership, Salesforce, and AT&T.

Moderated by Susan Mann, Microsoft’s Senior Director for Intellectual Property Policy, the panelists shared career advice. Alexandra Givens, executive director of the Institute for Technology Law and Policy at Georgetown Law, emphasized that the girls should create their own opportunities. “You must be in charge of your own journey,” she said. “You need to connect the dots of your own experience.” Mèlika Carroll, co-founder of the Global Women’s Innovation Network and senior vice president of global government affairs for the Internet Association, gave advice to the girls about networking. “It’s very important that you build your network, and you need to start now,” she advised. “It helps when you’re curious and interested in people.” NASA’s Director for Internships, Fellowships, and Scholarships, Carolyn Knowles, shared her “five Cs” philosophy for career success: competence, commitment, courage, courtesy, and caring. She went on to describe how the girls could start building that first “C” through internships. Kathy Hahn, director of federal government relations at the SAS Institute, told the students that it’s alright if they don’t graduate from college knowing the career they want to pursue. Hahn revealed that she has had four different careers, and didn’t find her calling in tech policy until her thirties. “The journey is more important than what you decide to do,” she said, “and it’s very enriching in itself.”

Following the panel, the girls put the networking advice they’d just learned to the test. In a speed networking session, students spent a little over five minutes chatting with each mentor, practicing their elevator pitches, and collecting business cards. With a diverse array of mentors, the girls received valuable advice for different aspects of beginning their careers. “I’ve been stressed thinking about what I want to be in life, and multiple mentors said that you don’t have to choose early; it’s okay to change your mind,” said Hannah. “That was really comforting.” Melissa’s favorite mentor gave her tips on being a self-starter. “She gave me the really good advice to go for it, and to not just stand in the background and wait for someone to call you.”