When I first heard that I was going to be working for Microsoft, the first thing I did was to sit back and take a deep breath. If I had had the energy I would have proceeded to do a mazurka, a jig and then finish off with a pirouette, before then tearing off my clothes and streaking down the hallway.

Fast-forward to October 2010 and “hectic” was my new watchword. It’d been more than a month since I’d joined the ranks of Microsoft’s army of marketing assistants, and the work just kept on coming. If you thought your organizational skills were top-notch in university, wait until you’ve whetted your appetite at a company like Microsoft – you’ll soon be eating your words.

The reality of the situation became clear on Day One. I sat at my desk, signed into my user account and within three seconds, fourteen emails had forced their way into my inbox. I spent most of the morning fighting a hungry tide of emails, memos and meetings, only to find that I was to test and deploy a newsletter, follow-up on three pending investigations from the previous coop’s to-do list and then attend two lunch-and-learn sessions – all in just 4 hours. My saving grace was four cups of coffee, two cokes and plenty of stubbornness to keep me ploughing through my own to-do list. By lunch time I was answering emails at a rate of 6 per minute and I was receiving a new email every 8 seconds.

 

Was it worth it? Yes! It was insane. I was loving it.

If you’re expecting to read a list of personal gripes – don’t. The real world doesn’t care if you’re a coop, or an intern – it expects you to pick off right where the last coop left off – and quickly to boot.

At the end of the first day I still didn’t have a clue as to what my role in the organization was. Ok, I lie a little, but I can say that I was sane enough to realize that my job description only extended up until the front entrance, beyond which I was free to perform any manner of mental gymnastics to try and decipher how the myriad tasks being flung my way were in any way, shape or form, related to one another.  The truth is, I’m still not fully sure. Maybe they are related, maybe not. Maybe some are related, others aren’t. It really doesn’t matter. If I’m learning anything at Microsoft, it’s that I’m able to live a tangible re-enactment of the statement “reality is what we make of it.” I know my position mainly centres around metrics, reporting, deploying newsletters and managing websites (as most marketing assistant positions are wont to do), but I’ve also realized that if I spy an opportunity to get involved in a project or event that’s outside of my scope of responsibilities, and I choose to take it, or if I offer to make my manager or my colleague’s life easier by shouldering some of their workload, I will be rewarded with opportunities to develop new skills, make amazing contacts and learn more about myself in the process.

What’s more, once people saw that I was willing to devote a little extra time and effort to participate in an event that I didn’t have a direct stake in, I started hearing back from them more often. I’d be sent a quick email, often as an afterthought, but it’d be enough for me to find another way to apply and hone my skills in a new direction.

The truth is, I may come away realizing that I only carried a certain portion of my job description at Microsoft (the rest having changed or been made redundant over time), but I can safely say that I’d never have known what I would have been capable of if I hadn’t pushed myself to find out. And being on the lookout for challenging opportunities to get involved in belongs on the same long road to growth, development and – higher up on Maslow’s pyramid – self-realization and self-actualization.  I hope I can live up to that statement.  In the interim, as I progress through my work term with this organization, I’ll continue to serve you platters of my thoughts and ideas, garnished with my opinion and accompanied with my perspectives as a student.  In case you’re wondering, I haven’t yet found a way to reach out to Bill Gates, but I promise you…I’ll keep trying.