I am born and bred in Cornwall. It’s a beautiful place to grow up, but it’s also one of Britain’s most deprived counties. I spent time after my A-Levels travelling and realised that university wasn’t quite aligned with my career aspirations. I was really interested in pursuing a career in Human Resources and was given the opportunity to come and do a week of work experience within the Microsoft HR team. The experience has totally changed my perceptions of what it is like to work at a large company.

A culture of togetherness

Open office work space; engineers in their workspace with office dog.When imagining the structure of Microsoft and attitudes between employees, I presumed it would be hierarchical with a really strict corporate structure. I thought every employee would have their place within the pecking order. But I could not have been more wrong.

The relationships I saw were that of a team, or even a family. Microsoft has adopted a culture which places employee’s comfort centrally. Employees are told to “come as they are and do what they love”. There’s no dress code. Instead, employees have the chance to visualise individualism and are given the freedom to truly be themselves.

I pictured the whole building to be siloed into different departments with each team being very separate. I imagined the HR team to be in an isolated, closed off space due to the sensitivity of the work involved. However, what I saw when arriving on my first day was an open and inviting space. This embodies the message that a space can be both confidential, but without the need for barriers.

As an external visitor, I felt the physicality of the building was reflective of Microsoft’s attitudes and also creates an atmosphere of approachability, enabling me to chat to a range of employees without having to knock on doors.

Having a range of spaces that mix cooperative environments with private spaces for meetings or focus work means that it’s easy to find a place where you feel comfortable to get your work done, while keeping it open enough to help unlock creativity and encourage collaboration.

A diverse and inclusive workforce

An employee in the tech industry with a mobile disability meets with coworkers in common area of U.S. office.I had two beliefs about the requirements needed to secure a job in Microsoft. The first being that to work here you needed a degree to even get you in the door. The second was that that degree would have to be in an area specific to Microsoft or technology.

This couldn’t be further from the reality. During my work experience I spoke to a range of people from across the business and there was a real mix of backgrounds and experiences to get them to their current role.

For instance, I spoke to one apprentice who did not finish her A-Levels prior to joining Microsoft. She knew what her career aspirations were from an early stage  and Microsoft saw that potential in her. I also spoke to an employee, who was once an intern, then came back here to work as a graduate, then has been employed by the company in one department for several years and is now doing an apprenticeship in HR.

The whole experience really opened my eyes to Microsoft’s culture and how they empower their workforce. There’s an open-minded attitude towards talent, where potential is of a higher consideration than credentials. This also means that the workforce is filled with people of diverse backgrounds, of all abilities and experiences. A workforce who are diverse are more likely to be collaborative, innovative, and happier. For Microsoft, this means better business outcomes and an increased retention of their top talent.

Finally, I learned never to volunteer yourself during an all-team meeting as this is what has led to me writing this blog! Or perhaps, I should say volunteering yourself leads you to new experiences and challenges!

Creating opportunities

Female enterprise coworkers collaborating in an open office space, working on a HP Elitebook touch screen device.From my experience, I cannot think of a more amazing place to grow a career. The open ‘come as you are’ culture at Microsoft is reflected not just in the people who work there, but in the spaces as well.

On reflection, my advice to anybody wondering what the Microsoft world is like, would be to check out the Apprentice or Graduate Programmes. Personally, I will certainly be looking into these programmes myself.

At Microsoft, people are given the ability to be their true selves. Together, with spaces that inspire collaboration, ideas and devices that let them work the way they feel best makes for welcoming employees who are more creative and productive.

I really think you will find that behind the preconceptions we may hold about corporations, Microsoft is a company with a nurturing culture and the upmost care about realising potential.

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About the author

Image of a woman smiling at the camera with dark hair, Paola FishI was born and raised in Cornwall, just outside of the small town of Penzance. I spent a year travelling through Europe and North Africa with my family when I was younger which instilled in me a love of travel and enabled me to appreciate other cultures and experiences from a young age.

I enjoyed school but was particularly passionate about English, Media and Dance. Having been immersed in dance from a young age and becoming a member of several youth dance companies, I had always envisaged myself going to a dance conservatoire post A-levels. However, whilst studying for my A-levels, I came to realise that dance was a love of mine but not something I wanted as a profession.

I greatly enjoyed the English and Media but having focussed on Dance for so long could not imagine myself specialising in either of these, which lead me to decide not to go to university and instead focus on finding something that I would inspire me whilst utilising my skillset.

Having worked in the leisure and tourism industry since my first Saturday job, I discovered the enjoyment I found from interacting with the general public. I would consider myself an organised, sociable and intuitive person, which has led me to my current role as an Administrative Supervisor for The Cornish Way – a holiday-letting agency based in West Cornwall, with an eye for detail and focus on the ultimate Cornish escape experience.