*Note: This is a guest article by Paul Kotylo for the Spotlight on MACH series. The writing is entirely his own. No edits, other than formatting, have been made.

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Before I begin:

The past year and a half of my life have been extraordinary.  I’ve met people I never thought I’d meet, made friends that I never thought I’d have, learned things I never could have imagined, and been an integral part of many projects that were far bigger than myself and the teams they were comprised of.  To me, the key to all of this came from one simple quote: “Change the World or Go Home,” and truer words have never been spoken (Kudos to you if you know where that came from without having to look it up). 

First and foremost: Who am I?

My name is Paul Kotylo and I am a Premier Deployment Consultant (formerly a MACH 10 Associate Consultant).  I attended college at the University of Michigan and graduated with a BBA in Management Information Systems. 

How Was I Accepted in to the MACH Program?

When someone approaches me that hasn’t heard of the MACH Program, this is one of the first questions they ask.  While the typical MACH Hire is recruited through an application process starting with a College Recruiter, I started off quite a bit differently.

When I was in college one of my semesters had a strong focus in Business Development.  When the semester was over, a professor reached out to me and insisted I enrolled in his graduate class.  After a long conversation with him, I began studying business plans and just about everything that is involved in developing a meaningful and well thought out plan.  One day I decided to take what I learned and apply it to something I was passionate about: Technology. For as long as I can remember, I always had the idea of developing a Microsoft Retail store; so I started developing my Business Plan based on that concept.  After 9 months I had developed a 25+ page Business Plan, 10+ pages of supplemental materials, a mock rewards card and a very detailed 3D model (using 3DSMax) of my conceptual store. When I felt that my plan was complete I presented it to my professor and we both thought, “Wow, this is something I could actually market to Microsoft” – so I attempted to do just that.  I did some research and found “Steve Ballmer’s email address,” verified this was actually his addressed, bundled up all of my materials and off it went to his inbox.  To be completely honest with you, I had no real expectation that I would get a response back; but no more than 2 days later I did.  Then, two weeks after that I had a phone conference with the VP of Operations and the head of the Microsoft Retail Initiative.  We talked for about 1 hour, mainly about me, and at the end of our conversation he had one last question… “Paul, what were you ultimately hoping to get out of this conversation?”   By the time the call ended, he had my resume in hand and fired off an email to his Director of Staffing, and from there the rest was history.

What Do You Actually Do?

I started off as the first MACH Associate Consultant in Microsoft Public Sector Services; and after the last two promotional periods my official title became “Consultant, US Services – O365”.  Working in my current role as a Premier Deployment Consultant, I consult with customers (who are State and Local Government) by helping them make the transition to the Microsoft Cloud.  As a consultant I am a key resource for our partners and customers and bridge the gap in understanding how the process to get to the Cloud works.  Some of my responsibilities include (but are not limited to) customer environment validation and remediation, tracking progress of a given department, and reporting issues when they occur while providing technical assistance and seeing each issue through to resolution. 

One thing that is important to know is that in my experiences, no single consulting engagement is ever alike.  You definitely won’t get bored, but you also have to enjoy a challenge.

What Do You Think About Working at Microsoft?

At Microsoft (or at least in Public Sector Services) I’ve discovered that just about everyone is willing to lend you their time (you might only get a few minutes because they are busy but nonetheless).  One thing that people often ask me is, “What do you like most about working for Microsoft?” and to be honest with you, the one thing I like most is that there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new.  The company and its employees have such a wealth of knowledge – and they love an open mind to share with.

What Kind of Opportunities Have You Had For Growth?

One of the reasons the MACH program started was because Steve Ballmer wanted to bring in a younger workforce that is right out of college with new, fresh ideas; a workforce that doesn’t feel constrained to do just what’s expected of them but a workforce that is willing to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new.  Part of being a MACH is to find these opportunities for yourself or make one where it doesn’t really exist.  Managers will expect you to open your mind and think outside of the box and make your mark on the company.

I can tell you firsthand that the opportunities are endless.  Since I started I have led and worked on a number of major initiatives and received awards for some.  You are the only limiting factor.

What Did Your First Few Months as a MACH Look Like?

One word: Insane! By now the MACH program has gone through a few iterations since I started but the concept remains the same – training, training and more training. The MACH program is designed to help students right out of college who have never had a career or even worked in a remotely “corporate environment” succeed, and the training Microsoft provides is second to none. To be complete honestly, I spent day and night learning new products, reading materials and growing my overall technical and business acumen.  I was excited, exhausted, and wide-awake all at the same time (by choice of course).

When I look back at what I learned in college and compare it to what I have learned on the job, I discovered this: In the first 6 to 8 months of working at Microsoft, I had learned far more than I did in my 4 years of college.  Now, I’m not saying college was useless, but what I am saying is that college taught me how to learn and gave me the building block that I needed in order to develop professionally and obtain a meaningful and successful career (that, and I worked all day and all night learning anything and everything I could in my first 8 months – I still do!).

They say that working 1 year at Microsoft is the equivalent of working 4 years anywhere else because of the diversity of the company, the technical challenges you come across, and the opportunities that are there for you.  In the past 1 ½ years I have relocated and lived in 3 different states, worked with 4 different customers, worked on 5 major internal projects, attended 11 different conferences, visited 18 states, developed 22 pieces of Intellectual Property, given 42 presentations to customers and partners, flown over 200k miles and accumulated over 1.2MM Hilton Reward points; I’ve loved every minute of it.