Jessica Wicklund

[Welcome to I Want Her Job's Women at Microsoft Week! Today's article is the fourth in a series of five 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.]

Although Jessica Wicklund has followed an unconventional career path – moving from roles in reporting, to public relations, advertising and now, retail – one thing has remained constant.

“I love communicating and working with people,” Jessica says. “I’m a very social person, and if a career didn’t involve both of those elements, it wouldn’t be for me.”

Now, as a community development specialist for the flagship Microsoft store in Bellevue, it’s Jessica’s role to lead efforts to connect her store, brand and products to the local community. Through in-store workshops, free summer camps and sponsorships, she forges key partnerships with community stakeholders, consumers and even pro-athletes. While her days are anything but predictable, she’ll tell you each one is worth the hard work she puts in, because she’s making an impact on behalf of the brand she loves in the place she calls home.

Microsoft has the foresight to look forward to how to give back. It’s not just about the bottom line; it’s about looking for ways to make the community thrive.

What inspired you to switch from the PR industry to Microsoft retail?

I began my career as a reporter, which tapped into my passion for communications and people. At one point, I started to notice that when I wrote articles about people, I would receive thank you notes and gift cards from them. This made me want to put a positive spin on what I was writing about, which isn’t what you’re supposed to do when writing hard news stories!

After realizing that I wanted to infuse positivity into my writing, I switched directions and went into public relations and marketing. I ended up at an advertising agency working on the Papa Murphy’s account. In that role, all of my passions were combined, including my love of a public-facing role, because I also served as the client’s local spokesperson.

When I moved up north to Seattle, I started Grey Horse Public Relations. This role allowed me to stay home with my daughter just after she was born. A few years later, even though my firm was thriving, I missed being a part of something bigger and giving back on a larger scale. When I heard about the community development specialist role at Microsoft, I had this gut feeling that I had finally found my career “home”. It’s a position that combines all of my passions on a bigger scale — and it allows me to make an even bigger impact.

What is your typical day like?

One of the things I love about my role is that it’s different every day, even though there’s also a constant to my role — giving back.

I have an 11-month-old daughter, Stella, and I’m typically woken up by her in the morning. My husband and I co-parent through her morning routine. During that portion of my day, I try to focus on my family. I arrive at work around 7 a.m. I like having the early morning hours to respond to email and focus on my day, as I have a very people-oriented and email-based job. Every day, I receive emails from people in the community who want to work with Microsoft.

In regard to responsibilities, I oversee hour-long workshops in the Bellevue flagship store that help customers understand our product more; from Office 365 to PowerPoint to transitioning to the new Windows. They’re intended to help grow a comfort level and understanding of our product. And of course, we always encourage our customers to come back into the store if they ever need help with an item they’ve purchased.

I also work on our Microsoft retail store summer camps. Our stores are working to bridge the gap between summer and the start of the school year by offering a series of free summer camp courses for students ages 8-13. The courses, which are part of a Microsoft global initiative called YouthSpark, teach skills including game coding, design, filmmaking and photography.

Another aspect of my job is sponsorships. I receive a lot of requests to sponsor various events and projects. Just last Sunday, I was standing on Safeco Field at the Richard Sherman Softball game with my counterpart promoting Madden 15. Microsoft also was a sponsor of the event. Just the other day, we had a couple other Seahawks players in the store discussing the Surface Pro 3 launch.

As you can see, my days have variety, but the common thread is that they’re very people-oriented and focused in giving back to the local community. And I have counterparts in all of the Microsoft Stores around the country doing the same work I’m doing, only focusing on their own community.

Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

I think anybody who’s a working mom struggles with this. It’s one of those things where at work we can feel guilty for not being with our family, or when we’re with our family, we can feel guilty for not working. I feel very lucky that I work for a company like Microsoft that values work/life balance.

Recently, I received the dreaded daycare call that my daughter had a rash that might be serious. I got off the phone and returned to an email I was working on. My boss turned around and said to me, “What are you doing? Go!” It turns out my daughter was fine, but I appreciate that she let me go. Later, I even received a text from her checking in on my daughter and me. I feel so supported in my job.

Something that I feel has really helped with my work/life balance is being honest with my boss about my life outside of my work. I’m also incredibly blessed to have a husband who supports my career. My motto has always been: I’d rather miss sleep than miss an opportunity. But even so, he knows that on occasion, I almost do too much and hold myself to impossible standards. In those moments, he reminds me I’m human, and I need to take a breath and take time for myself. And in that downtime, I’m able to renew my energy.

What is the absolute greatest aspect of working for Microsoft?

For me, it’s the people, the experiences and the ability to give back. From Microsoft’s free summer camps to the company’s matched donations to nonprofits (Microsoft matches employee nonprofit donations and volunteering year round up to $15,000 per employee), I’m excited to work for this company every day, because it’s one of those rare jobs where I feel like I get to make a difference in our community. I love knowing that each day we’re doing a little good, which is especially unique in a retail organization where the main goal is sales.

Microsoft has the foresight to look forward to how to give back. It’s not just about the bottom line; it’s about looking for ways to make the community thrive.

What is your favorite Microsoft product?

Can I have more than one?!

The Surface Pro 3 is amazing. I’m obsessed with that device. I love how portable it is and how it feels like a notepad when you want it to work as a notepad.

Piggybacking off of that, I also love OneNote (a productivity tool in the Microsoft Office suite, which also syncs with any device, regardless of manufacturer). I didn’t know OneNote existed until I started working here. I wish I would have known about it sooner! I use it for everything now — from my grocery list to notes of where I parked in a parking garage. It syncs your entries to your phone and you can easily pull it out, jot notes and put pictures in there.

What qualities do you feel it takes for someone to be successful in retail?

You definitely have to be a people person. You need to be willing to go the extra mile, because you’ll learn in a lot of instances that it’s most important to get to the “yes” and get to what’s going to help a customer the most.

I just experienced a moment like this. As you can imagine, our free summer camps are extremely popular, so I often receive extra requests for those who want to get into one. I just worked with a mom who signed her daughter up for the wrong store location, so we found a way to make it work and get her into the summer camp at our store. We’re always focused on the customer.

What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?

I wish I would’ve known the importance of networking. When I graduated from college, I thought that with good grades and a plethora of extracurricular activities, I’d land my dream job right away. But, I learned quickly that networking — and its focus on relationships — is paramount to being successful in your career.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to work at the Microsoft retail store?

It’s a great place for people who want to be the face of the company. It’s one thing I love most about being on the retail side of things. The retail store is a wonderful place for people to get their foot in the door with a large corporation like Microsoft. Because we’re the flagship store, we hire based on personality. We look for those candidates who are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We can teach a person about the product, but we can’t teach them to have a great personality.

Establish relationships with someone who works at a Microsoft retail store. If someone I knew was interested in working at our store, I’d be happy to sit down and have an informational interview with them to talk about that. I feel putting a face to a name (and a resume) will always help strengthen your case for a job!

Does Microsoft ever hire out of its stores for corporate positions?

Great question. Yes, Microsoft does, and those numbers have grown exponentially. Working at a store location is a great way to start your career at Microsoft.