Wouter de Blank, IE International MBA 2017 candidate, will be starting as a Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft in the Netherlands, part of the MACH MBA program, in September 2017, right after graduation. He has shared with Talent and Careers his recruitment story and how he achieved a two-fold career success.
Q: Can you please tell us briefly what your previous job was about? Did you make a significant career change on any of those?
A: I have experience working in Hospitality Management. After graduating from Hotelschool The Hague in the Netherlands, I started in a leadership development program within the Swissôtel hotel group. Since then, I have worked my way up to the parent company FRHI hotels & resorts. In my previous job, I worked in the European corporate office overlooking the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel brands. I was working in the Sales & Marketing department and held a dual role of the Director of Revenue Strategy (acting) and Manager, Sales Programs & Systems.
The hospitality industry is dynamic and interesting. Due to the expansion of online travel agents, such as booking.com, and disruptors, such as Airbnb, the hotel margins are under pressure. In order to sustain, hotel chains have to be creative. Another result of these shrinking margins is consolidation within hotel chains (e.g. Marriott and Starwood and Accor with FRHI).
In terms of change, I find it two-fold. I will change industry and geography.
Therefore, I look forward to getting into the Tech industry, which always piqued my interest and played a pivotal role in my career path. I believe that when technology is well implemented and used in a good way, we can achieve great things. I love to continue helping others with technology.
Although I am Dutch, it will actually be the first time I take a full-time position in the Netherlands. I’ve previously worked in the Caribbean, Germany and Switzerland. It feels good to go home where I have a lot of friends and family. My Swiss girlfriend will also move with me and she is looking forward to improving her Dutch and experiencing a new country for her.
Q: Can you please tell us briefly about your new job as a Product Marketing Manager?
A: In my new role, I will be working with the product Microsoft Dynamics 365. My aim will be to drive the success of this product by focussing on the customers. I want to establish symbiotic relationships with them, and by having a 5+ year experience in luxury hospitality, I hope to leverage a lot of my previously obtained skills in that regard.
The role itself perfectly marries strategy, analytics and people skills.
Q: Has your personal career strategy always been focused on this Product Marketing, or rather in the technology industry? How does this new job fit into your career strategy?
A: I started the international MBA at IE Business School with an open mind. There are many opportunities for non-tech people doing an MBA (like myself) within the tech industry. I particularly focused on Microsoft because the company is going through a very exciting transition since the new CEO Satya Nadella came on board. It is the perfect time to join the company.
Q: How did you find out about this job opportunity? Where did you apply for the job?
A: Microsoft came to our campus to present themselves and promote their MACH MBA program (Microsoft Academy for College hires). The company and the program seemed amazing. Moreover, as a part of my MBA, I am doing the Wharton Global Consulting Practicum. One of my mentors is a very inspiring individual and also works at Microsoft as a Senior Product Marketing Manager in the UK. He gave me good insights on the role itself.
Lastly, I connected with many Microsoft employees. It is one of the tech giants, employing over 100 thousand people, so it was easy to get in touch. The employees are all very passionate, professional and willing to help.
Q: How did Talent and Careers and your IE experience help you during the recruiting process? Did you use specific career resources or did you come across useful information via an advisor or alumni?
A: IE career services helped to bring Microsoft to Campus and nurture the business relationship with Microsoft insofar that IE students have a very smooth recruiting process.
On top of that, I used a lot of services, such as mock interviews and resource documents provided by the career center. In my experience, they do a good job in providing you with the toolkit; however, you have to take ownership of the rest.
Q: How was the recruiting process: stages, tests, interviews, etc.?
A: It starts off by sending your application and passing the initial screening. From what I have heard, there is not much of a standard in the sense that they look into each candidate and role. From that point on, Microsoft tailors the process to each candidate. One thing is guaranteed – candidates will have a wide range of unique interviews. In my case, I had around 7, which was a great opportunity to learn more about the company, as well as future co-workers. I also had to present a case study to senior people within Microsoft.
Q: Would you want to share any tips or advice with students interested in applying to Microsoft (to your job position in particular)?
Make sure you know the past, the present and the future of Microsoft. Stay up to date by reading the Economist, Financial Times, TechMeme, Bloomberg Tech, etc. This article from the Economist is a great start.
During the interview, show that you are passionate about technology, demonstrate that you have been able to innovate and embrace a customer-centric mindset – these are key skills that contribute to Microsoft’s mission.
Know answers to the standard interview questions (why Microsoft, what value do you bring, what do you want to learn/improve, etc.). Prepare yourself by going deep into all topics. Ask the WHY three times, have examples for every statement and structure your answers by using the STAR method.
Practice, Practice, Practice. Make sure you give yourself ample time to prepare and practice with a diverse group of people in one on one sessions. The more diverse the group, the better you will be able to gauge the general perception of your answers and tweak it to perfection. One note: You can never be 100% prepared, but you can do your best to improve your chances!
Give yourself time. I applied in October and signed the contract in April. You can do the math and conclude you need time.
Leverage the LinkedIn Alumni tool to get in touch with other alumni of IE (or your previously attended university/universities). Use the filters to get in touch with those who can help you in the recruitment process. Ideally, you will get in touch with a myriad of people to get a holistic view: (1) Someone in the position you are targeting. (2) A senior person who is hiring for these type of positions. (3) Someone in the team who can give you the team perspective on these positions.
When approaching people trough Linkedin, make sure you send a personalized connection request. What I found to be helpful is to find a common ground (e.g. same university, background, hobbies, etc.). It easily starts conversations and works towards building trust.
Lastly, feel free to touch base with me as well. People have been very helpful in my recruitment process, so I would do anything to return the favour.
The Microsoft MACH Program
The MACH program is a customized learning experience designed for our newest university hires in various full-time roles within the Evangelism, Finance, IT, Marketing, Operations, Sales and Services organizations. This two-year development experience complements your job and the support you receive from your manager and team. We do this by offering you world-class training, online resources, coaching from some of the brightest minds in the industry and a global community of MACHs from more than 70 countries. The content focuses on starting strong, accelerating your impact, building your network and driving your career at Microsoft.
Source: Microsoft Careers website