Microsoft Intern Day in the Life - Zain

by Zain Luke Ali – Internal Communications Manager

Hi, I’m Zain and as well as being one of the Content Leads for Be Your Future, I am also the Internal Communications Manager for the Microsoft UK Services business. Among other things, the UK Services business delivers strategy, consulting and support to Microsoft’s Enterprise customers – some of the biggest UK organisations in the private and public sector. It is a very customer focused part of the company, but my role is almost completely internal.

I work within the Marketing Team and it is my responsibility to manage communications channels within the business and continually develop a communication strategy to enhance cross-team collaboration. I do this by managing the weekly internal newsletter, the intranet and all aspects of internal communications, including business updates. Essentially, it is my job to know everything about the amazing work Microsoft UK Services is doing, whilst making sure that the rest of the business knows about this too. This makes me the storyteller of the business.

On top of my main responsibilities, I also manage events, the various employee awards programmes and something I really love – creative media! I have also had the opportunity recently to work with some big enterprise customers to help them with their own internal communications and media strategy as well as a local school to show them how technology can help productivity of the school.

In my role, there is no such thing as a typical day; no two days are ever the same. This is great because it means I have plenty of variety, but I do tend to get a lot of surprises thrown my way too! At Microsoft, you manage nearly all of your working day and keep on top of your own calendar. I know what I have to do in my role and how to do it best so I will decide what I do during work to successfully fulfil my responsibilities.

If I did have a typical day, here’s what it might look like, with pictures! This is probably a Monday for me and the rest of the week will be slightly different. These are just some of the things my role involves from the moment I wake up!

My Typical Day

07:30 – First alarm.

Press snooze.

07:45 – Second alarm.

Press snooze again.

208:00 – Third alarm (with music this time).

Right it’s time to get up. This gives me an hour to get showered, get dressed, have some breakfast and get to the office. The dress code at Microsoft is smart casual. Most of the time I lean towards the casual end, but sometimes it’s nice to suit up! I live in a house with other interns just on the edge of Reading; we’re not too far from the office so it doesn’t take us long to drive in, so an hour before work is all I need. If for some reason we have to make our own way in, our local train station is only one stop away from the free shuttle bus pick up stop. It’s really easy to get to the office!

09:00 – Arrive at the office

At Microsoft, there is no strict rule that you have to be in as soon as the clock strikes 9am. There is flexibility around this and you also have the option to work from home too! I like to be in at 9am though and most of my team do too so I’ve go into that routine now. I don’t often have meetings at 9am so this is my time to get settled, check my emails, check my calendar and prioritise my day.

09:30 – Time to get in the zone

I’ve had 30 minutes at my desk now to get myself ready to take on the day. I now take a look at my story pipeline and plan the stories of the week that should be shared with the business in the next weekly newsletter which I send on a Friday. I will create a rough plan of the newsletter and what stories will go where. I will look at what content and information I already have and where I am missing anything. I will then set up meetings and calls with the relevant contacts to get a clear picture of the story. This will also populate my calendar for the duration of the week.

10:00 – Story interview

I was told last week about a great story with Microsoft Services doing something awesome for one of our big customers. These are really important to share with the rest of the business as they not only increase awareness of the work we are doing, but other teams can learn how to do similar things with other customers. I set up time to speak to the key contacts and find out more about the story.

This works like an interview – I have a set of questions I will ask which help me get the full picture and I will be making notes and usually recording the conversation too. Firstly I ask about the customer and their business situation. Then I find out how they became engaged with Microsoft. Then I find out all about the technology solution Microsoft is providing them with and how it will help their business. I will also ask about the value of the deal with the customer, and this can sometimes be big numbers! To make the story really interesting and useful for the rest of Microsoft, I ask all about the approach the team took with that customer to provide them with a really successful solution. I will then ask about how all of this has strengthened the relationship with this customer. Finally it is then important to call out the key people that made it all happen!

10:30 – Start writing the story

Story interviews usually only last 15-30 minutes and I like to put half an hour in my calendar afterwards to start pulling together all of the information and plan how the article might look. Sometimes this can happen really quickly and I might already have an article written before 11:00. Other times it can take a lot longer if it’s a more complex story. Once I have finished a first draft, I will send it over to the key contacts to review it and make any changes before it is ready to be communicated with the rest of the business.

11:00 – External event meeting

I am currently managing an important event that we will be holding for some of our big customers. There is a lot of planning involved and I have regular meetings with the event team to make sure good progress is being made in the planning stage. As the event manager it is my job to run the show, hosting the meeting, working through the agenda and giving actions to the various people, making sure everybody knows what their responsibility is.4

12:00 – Lunch

Microsoft HQ in Reading has two restaurants with great food choice so it’s great to go down and grab lunch with the other interns. Sometimes I work over lunch and eat while I work – I can use this time to fit in some writing for my stories. Sometimes I might even have a meeting over lunch and everybody will have their lunch in the meeting room. Either way, I rarely take the full hour for my lunch and this is quite common across Microsoft. You are of course entitled to, but there is usually a lot I want to get cracking on with and there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is so it’s nice to grab some time back.

13:00 – Lights, camera, action!

I am involved in a lot of creative media in my role and as well as writing stories, I also tell them on video. I have a lot of experience in video production and I love that I can bring this to my role. Microsoft have provided me with some great filming equipment meaning I can create some really high quality material. The other week I filmed an interview with Chris Caposella, the Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Microsoft. His interview was about leadership – that was pretty cool! The week before that I also interviewed Charbel Fakhoury, the Vice President of Microsoft Services in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, so he’s a pretty big deal! He’s new to this role, so the interview will help us get to know him and hear his perspectives on the business. Today I am filing some interviews with people across the business on their various business areas, their roles and how they can help the rest of the business. This is useful to educate and inform the business about areas they may not know much about. If I have time in the hour, I will make a start on the editing process too, but I won’t usually have time to finish filming and editing in the full hour so the editing comes later. Most of the videos I produce are for internal use, but sometimes they go external too and might end up on the official Microsoft YouTube too!

14:00 – Business update with the top boss!

In my role I work quite closely with the general manager of the business – much closer than any other intern at least. It is time for his monthly business update which tells the whole business about where we are at and what we need to do to get to where we need to be. I have been working on the presentation deck and the content for this update – important stuff. I will then go through this with the general manger to make sure everything we need is there. He is now using this to update the business. This might take the form of a call or all-business meeting. I will set up the update and be alongside throughout the update, making sure everything runs smoothly and nothing is missed. This is a big responsibility as it is important to everyone so I have put a lot of work into this.

15:00 – Helping the community

As well as my role, I am part of an intern project team working with a local specialist school to help them become more efficient and have better ways of working using Microsoft technology. I have a meeting with the rest of the project team now to take a look at how the project is going and plan our next steps. We discuss what we have done with the school now, how far along we have got them, and start planning our next workshop with them. The next workshop is tomorrow morning. This is where we go into the school and work with the leadership team there to introduce them to some fantastic Microsoft technology that will really help them work better and give them more time to really engage with the pupils there. The project is going really well and they are already using the technology really well. Tomorrow we will move them onto some more advanced skills that will really benefit them, the school and most importantly, the pupils.

416:00 – Be Your Future

As content lead for Be Your Future, I spend a lot of my time during the week planning content for the website. I will reach out across the Microsoft community to interns, graduates and apprentices to tell their Microsoft stories, which is really useful for people like you, who want more of an insight into life at Microsoft, as well as all of the application advice! The team also has a weekly call, to sync up and go over the progress of the website and what we should all be looking to work on in the coming week. As you can imagine, last week we thought it would be a good idea to write a piece about our typical working day, and here it is!

17:00 – Nearly there

The day is coming to an end but I’ll usually stick around for a bit longer to do some work. This is where I get most of my writing and video editing done. People are starting to go home, meetings don’t often happen this late in the day, and I have less distractions to get my work done. I will often take some of this home too. I don’t have to do this but I enjoy this part of my role so I enjoy doing it at home when I can really get in my own zone. On some days, I often block out whole chunks of time just for me too. This gives me time in the office when I can focus.

317:30 – Gym time

We have a great gym onsite (In my building too which is great!). I like to find time at the end of the day to pop to the gym and do at least some exercise before I go home. Its great exercise to burn off the huge lunch I probably had and it’s also a great escape and stress release too! I don’t always hit the gym, but I like to as much as I can.

18:30 – Home time

Finally it’s time to leave the office. I’ve had a productive day and got a lot of work done. When I get home, I’ll make some dinner and then maybe do some writing and editing in my room or at the table with my housemates if they’re doing some work too. We don’t have to work at home at all, but often we do and we don’t mind that at all. It sounds strange, but it becomes really important to you, so you will happily do some in the evening too before switching off completely. Eventually I’ll put it to one side and enjoy my evening watching TV or a film with my housemates. We’ve made friends with a lot of interns too and often, some friends will come over and spend the evening at our house. I always enjoy that.

I hope you have found this interesting and useful. Tomorrow is likely to be completely different, with different jobs, different meetings, but still the same awesome Microsoft magic! I love my role; I think it is one of the best roles available and it really does allow a lot of creativity so I’m so happy that it’s mine!

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