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Microsoft Careers: Manasi Priya on culture and work-life balance

When Manasi Priya came to Sydney, she never thought she’d stay.

Manasi had grown up in India and completed her schooling there, as well as her undergraduate studies in computer science. India was her home, and she fully intended to return once she’d gained her Masters in Business Information Systems from The University of Sydney.

But then life happened.

Manasi was offered a job as an agile scrum master at the university and found she loved it – the work of creating solutions to improve student experience, the people on her team and, crucially, the office culture, which she felt was different to India’s in many ways.

“There was a much bigger emphasis on work–life balance,” she explains. “Yes, work was super important. But it was equally important to relax and have a bit of time for yourself to essentially enjoy life. I found it really refreshing.”

Manasi liked the culture so much, in fact, that she decided to stay. In Australia, she embarked on a new journey – one that ultimately led her to Microsoft in 2019, where she now works as a Business Applications Specialist for Microsoft’s education customers.

Microsoft Careers: A welcoming culture

After Manasi graduated from Sydney University, she worked in consulting roles for organisations including NTT and Empired Ltd. Then, having spent so much time in Microsoft’s partner ecosystem and focusing on Microsoft applications, moving on to Microsoft seemed like a natural progression.

“I always had a desire to join the best company in the world, of course,” she says.

But Manasi wasn’t just interested in the professional opportunities a role at Microsoft offered. Since her university days, culture had been a guiding light in her career progression, and she’d only ever heard good things about Microsoft’s – an impression that was confirmed as soon as she began.

“I wouldn’t go home and look at policies,” he explains. “I just wanted to know what Microsoft was doing, and what the other tech companies were doing. Realising that was a real ‘aha!’ moment.”

“It’s a very supportive culture, and there’s a lot of emphasis on people settling in,” says Manasi, who was assigned a buddy to answer her questions, show her how things worked at Microsoft and share tips on useful resources. “She was really wonderful. And having an incredibly supportive leader definitely helped as well.”

New names, new faces

Manasi had the hang of the role in no time. Specialising in Dynamics 365, Microsoft’s portfolio of intelligent business applications, and Power Platform, which empowers organisations to innovate, Manasi’s new role saw her working with customers to develop solutions that would help solve their business challenges and make better decisions.

She became a trusted advisor, helping Microsoft’s education customers find the best way to transform and grow. “It’s about being a strategic thinker, a problem solver,” says Manasi, who quickly grew to love not just the work itself, but the people it brought her into contact with.

“Constantly working with new customers, partners and broader Microsoft teams, you build an amazing network just as part of your job,” she explains. “The network that I’ve grown in the past two years has been incredible.”

Manasi is particularly passionate about Women Rising, a leadership program for the women of Microsoft and its partner ecosystem. “I’ve met these amazingly talented women who come together to network, to share their experiences and to learn from each other. It helps me reflect and understand which areas I need to work on.”

Another network became particularly important when COVID-19 cases began to peak back home in India.

“It was a terrible amount of emotional stress,” says Manasi, whose father was ill and whose mother contracted the virus. But the Asians at Microsoft employee resource group helped her through. The group organised weekly coffee chats and check-ins where Microsoft employees impacted by the pandemic could share their experiences, assisted by a qualified counsellor, helped her through.

“We would come together, talk it through and help one another,” she says. “Just having an outlet to share my own distress and connect with people across the globe who were facing something similar was so comforting.”

Work-life balance and finding a creative outlet

This support for mental and emotional wellbeing is something Manasi values deeply about the culture at Microsoft.

In early 2021, for instance, Microsoft announced that its employees could take five additional days of paid leave, on top of their standard annual leave, to ease stress and anxiety amid the ongoing pandemic. “Our leaders are really conscious that people have enough time to relax and recharge,” says Manasi. “There’s a lot of emphasis on wellbeing, and we even receive a sum of money every year to spend on physical and mental health, in whichever way we see fit.”

For Manasi, the key to recharging lies in creativity. She decided to try her hand at painting when lockdown hit in 2020, and since that first piece – a seascape of her local beach – she hasn’t looked back. In fact, she continues to sell out the work she shows at her local markets and now often paints for commissions.

“Painting has had an amazing impact on my job,” she says. “Sometimes, we tend to look at things in a linear way. But that creative energy helps me clarify my thoughts, see the bigger picture and release the contents of my mind without restrictions. I have a very different perspective when I sign back in to work on a Monday.”

Creativity has become a crucial part of who Manasi is and she’s grateful that her work gives her the freedom to pursue it.

“Microsoft provides a lot of support for work–life balance,” she says. “Particularly around COVID where there has been more pressure, leaders have been very explicit about balancing that and organising downtime.”

Manasi Priya with a quote that says ‘There was a much bigger emphasis on work–life balance,’

Coming full circle

So what’s next for Manasi? Will she pack up her passion for technology and become a full-time artist? Not likely. Manasi says that working with education providers, particularly in the high-pressure climate of the pandemic, is an opportunity she gives thanks for every day.

“We get to empower students and educators, and that’s a fantastic thing,” she says. “It’s an extremely fulfilling role, to see the solutions we put out there helping students to achieve more, helping education providers to deliver more.

“I feel like life has essentially come full circle. The university system here gave me these incredible opportunities, to learn and progress and embrace life in Australia. And now, Microsoft has given me an opportunity to give back to that same education system.”

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Do what you love every day.
Illustration: #BeTeamMicrosoft