Gonzaga University – Public Relations, Business, Marketing
[Welcome to I Want Her Job's second Women at Microsoft Week! We're celebrating the female force behind the company as we lead up to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, beginning Wednesday in Phoenix. If you're going to be there be sure to tweet us @iwantherjob. Today's article is the second in a series of four that will help you find out what it's like — and how you can — land your dream job at one of the biggest companies changing the face of business.]
Some women know their career calling from the time they’re a little girl. Others start a job out of college, quickly departing for a gig that’s a better fit. Today’s Leading Lady found her perfect job through a career exploration class that led to an insightful job shadowing experience in public relations. After joining the industry, Angela Romei worked with Microsoft on and off for many years, as the Fortune 100 company was a client of hers. Now on the client-side, Angela has found her never-want-to-leave dream job that offers plenty of variety.
As a public relations and marketing communications manager at Microsoft, it’s Angela’s job to tell tech giant Microsoft’s story, and humanize the company to help make it more relatable to future employees. Through the stories she tells and the people she reaches on the Microsoft JobsBlog, as well as the Women at Microsoft Facebook page and @MicrosoftWomen Twitter presence, she aims to connect with prospective employees.
And if you’re a woman in tech looking for a job that puts a high priority on work-life balance, take note. “We [at Microsoft] are given a lot of autonomy and flexibility,” Angela says. “We have the freedom, independence, support and all the resources we need to chart the career path we want, to create the workplace environment that works for us and to launch programs that support and help one another.”
And although Angela will candidly tell you work/life balance is still a challenge for her, at I Want Her Job, we’re quite taken with her formula for creating balance: values, priorities and adapting. Read on to see how you can apply her tips, to see why every woman in tech should consider a job at Microsoft and how hot yoga can be the cure-all to any nonstop mind.
I get to have my corporate job – and the benefits of a nonprofit job because I can double my impact in the world with Microsoft’s generous match.
How did you initially discover PR?
Growing up I enjoyed reading and writing. It was during the 8th and 9th grades that I realized how much I loved poetry, literature and writing; two teachers stand out in my mind as igniting that fire inside me. They saw my strengths and talent.
I can (as my friends will attest!) talk and tell stories for hours. I learned how to tell compelling stories by listening to my dad, who was in sales, talk with his customers. He always asked good questions and looked for how he could help someone solve their problems.
I was on my own to figure out how to get into college and pay for it. I entered college not knowing what I wanted my major to be. I realized that if I didn’t figure it out quickly, I wouldn’t be motivated to stay in college. I’m very goal-oriented, so I took a career exploration class that revealed I had creative traits. I never thought of myself as creative because to me, ‘creative’ meant you were good at art, and my drawing never went beyond stick figures.
Public relations surfaced as a potential career that would be a good fit for me. I conducted an informational interview – and funny story: The woman told me she hated her job because it changed every day! One minute she was writing, the next minute something urgent came up and she was conducting a press interview. That sounded fun to me. I knew I’d found my calling.
Today, I know that writing is creative. Telling stories is an art. I never imagined I could make a career out of something I’ve always naturally loved.
How did you get your job at Microsoft?
It was a matter of timing – and the right opportunity. I’ve spent most of my career (20+ years) working in Seattle, and the majority of that in the technology sector because it’s always changing and I love a challenge. Almost three years ago, a friend of mine who was a recruiter at Microsoft encouraged me to consider this job. It looked fun, had a ton of variety and a great team. I was in. Almost three years later, I am still sometimes surprised that I get paid to do what I love every day: tell stories!
What is your typical day like?
The best part of this answer is: There is no typical day! I can come into the office with a calendar full of meetings and plans to write a story, but when a reporter calls, it totally changes my day – and I love it! I’ll look for the right spokesperson, do research on that reporter, pull data, draft messages, prepare the spokesperson and then conduct the interview. All within a few hours or days. It’s a rush. The reward is landing a good story that features my company and spokesperson. There’s a thrill in the challenge of trying to think like a reporter; understand where they are coming from; what story they want to tell and then working to help shape Microsoft’s contribution to the piece.
What is your favorite part of working at Microsoft?
Microsoft’s focus on giving. Microsoft gives generously to the nonprofits we care about; the company will match up to $15,000 in giving per employee, per year. I get to have my corporate job – and the benefits of a nonprofit job because I can double my impact in the world with Microsoft’s generous match. It’s not an either or – I get to say ‘yes’ to both. I’m not sure if you can do this anywhere else.
Speaking of college students, what advice do you have for them?
That’s easy: Follow your passion and your natural interests. You might be surprised that you can actually make a career out of doing what you love!
Why do you feel Microsoft is a great environment for women in tech?
We are given a lot of autonomy and flexibility. We have the freedom, independence, support and all the resources we need to chart the career path we want, to create the workplace environment that works for us and to launch programs that support and help one another. We have a lot of flexibility to manage our work and our lives in the way that is best for us and our families. I can leave early just about any day, run my kids to a doctor’s appointment, and get back online while there, or later in the evening, if necessary.
It’s not “either or” at Microsoft – it’s “AND.” I get to say “yes” to an exciting and challenging career and I get to say yes to taking good care of my daughters. My daughters benefit from me having a rewarding career at Microsoft; they’re very proud of me, the work I do in the world and that I work for such a great company.
What are your tips for getting a job like yours?
Get all the experience you can while you’re in college. Do internships. Do work-study. Volunteer. When I graduated college, I had a resume that showed not just my degree, but real-world experience too. And I got a job right away.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Work/life balance is a daily challenge. Any parent who says it isn’t a challenge is lying to you! Microsoft is a demanding environment. Before I started here, a couple people told me that I wouldn’t make it as a single mom. Now, with almost three years at Microsoft, I think it’s safe to say I’ve proven those critics wrong.
I think it’s about values, priorities and adapting.
- With regard to values, I used to think my company/team/job couldn’t live without me, but they can. We’re all replaceable at work. That might sound harsh to say, but it’s true. At home, I’m not replaceable. My daughters have only one mother.
- It’s my priority to work at a company and on a team that offers a supportive and flexible work environment. At work, I’m super focused and my daughters know not to contact me unless it’s urgent. I also conduct as many work calls as I can during my commutes to and from the office, and lunch is either at my desk or with a co-worker discussing business. On the flip side, when I’m at home and we’re eating dinner, there are no cell phones at the table. That’s family time. If I have to work in the evening, I fit that in around what my daughters need from me.
- I’ve always been told I’m really adaptable; I think this is key to how I run my life. I do my best to balance work and family and how that looks varies every day.
One way I seek balance is through hot yoga. The lessons I learn on the mat – deep breathing, balance and focus, deleting negative and critical thoughts and letting go of perfection – help me so much at work.
What is your favorite Microsoft product?
My new Surface Pro 3. It’s a writer’s dream. I’ve been waiting for years for a notebook with a pen, all the software I need to be productive, a real keyboard, all with the power of a computer. I wasn’t willing to spend money on a tablet that would end up being a toy for my kids to play games and watch movies on.
What qualities do you feel it takes for someone to be successful in PR/tech?
First, you have to be a “people” person. You must be genuinely curious about people and the world. As PR practitioners, we must love our company so much that it becomes contagious to the people around us. Through the stories we tell, people develop an image of the culture of our business; it’s an intangible element to those not living and breathing it every day as an employee. We have to be creative and translate this story to an external audience.
You must also be a strong communicator – both written and verbally. Finally, you should be a multi-tasker, able to flourish in a changing environment, and you must thrive on bringing order to chaos.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Don’t do what others or the negative voices in your head tell you what you “should” do. Do what you want to do. Each day is a gift. Don’t waste it. Follow your heart – go where you dream of going.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to work at Microsoft?
Microsoft is such a broad company that gives you the resources and opportunities to create what you want at work. Network to find the right fit where your passion meets a business need and you’ll thrive and have fun!