Now that I’m out of the acute new-person phase I am trying to make time to reflect on this first year and some of the interesting or surprising aspects of working at Microsoft as a security and identity consultant.
- Remembering what made you good at your last job – This is something I found helpful at the moments where I felt the most ignorant. There are tons of crazy smart and accomplished people at Microsoft but don’t forget that you were hired because you have valuable skills and experience that they wanted. Learnings and perspectives from outside Microsoft can be very valuable since, believe it or not, Microsoft doesn’t have everything figured out 🙂
- Constant learning – Something that got me the job, and which continues to pay dividends, is that I love to learn. It is cliche to talk about the need to be a lifelong learner and have a growth mindset, but the importance of this cannot be overstated. This is driven home in Microsoft at every opportunity and is hugely important given the pace of innovation at Microsoft in general, and in cybersecurity specifically.
- Uncertainty and open-ended problems – Interviewing for the position I was self-conscious that I didn’t bring ten+ years experience managing Microsoft systems or implementing specific Microsoft tech. What I found, and it has proven out during my first year, is that there is increasing value placed on being able to handle open-ended, non-tech-specific problems. The technology will change year to year, but the ability to “handle whitespace” (as a former colleague put it) I would argue has been a more important skill vs. tech skills (but it must be paired with constant learning to keep up with the tech).
- The importance of writing – I am constantly having to upskill in certain tech areas but I can always write. Not that I don’t have room to improve but I’m comfortable (and I enjoy) writing and explaining complex topics to a broad audience. This might be the most valuable skill I’ve brought to my projects, and it is a skill that is durable, whereas skills in specific systems and programming languages (for example) will erode in value more quickly over time.
So far, the job has been fantastic. The work is interesting, I’m focused on cybersecurity and digital identity, there are hundreds of interesting projects and people I encounter every month, and my team and manager are awesome and supportive. I’m starting to get settled but there are still plenty of areas where I’ve got lots to learn. It’s exciting and daunting at times to be in such a learning mode in mid-career, but I feel that I’m in the right place.