Kayla Carmichael, ’19, a student employee of University Marketing, wows us with how she spent her summer as in Microsoft’s New England Research and Development in Boston.
A typical day: Waking up behind Fenway Park, taking the T into Cambridge, learning the ins and outs of a marketing and communications operations for a Fortune 500 organization, experiencing local life in Boston and lots and lots of coffee. That’s life as a Microsoft intern.
Affectionately dubbed NERD, New England Research and Development is Microsoft’s Boston location, just steps away from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. Cambridge is a historical district, and a place where some of the best discoveries have happened. The discoveries during my summer internship weren’t exactly new — the beautiful Charles River, amazing local food, live music venues — but they were vibrant, exciting and unforgettable.
I was part of the Microsoft Garage intern cohort, a wicked-smart group of 45 students who work in teams to create a ready-to-ship product in 12 weeks. My role was as the first mar-com (that’s marketing-communications) intern and not part of a team, so I was able to lay groundwork for future interns. The Garage is a space for employee-led innovation, where Microsoft employees are offered a full array of resources to work on projects or ideas they have. All Garage interns are considered full-time employees. Being able to work with both the equipment the Garage offers to its employees and the educational communities influenced what I wanted to do in my role.
I was expected to be the chief storyteller about the Garage at NERD, so knowledge of their makerspace was crucial. In lieu of sitting in on presentations to community groups such as the Girl Scouts and Boston Public Schools, I was able to see the impact of innovation on the community. I wrote stories about the culture change NERD supported in the Boston community: for example, a group of Boston students built a boat that measured the pH levels in the Charles River using the makerspace. Some of my proudest moments were when these stories were posted on the corporate blog.
My biggest achievement, however, was being the main communication lead for NERD’s Hackathon. Every summer, Microsoft hosts the world’s largest private hacking event for its employees in every Garage location. This includes the main campus in Redmond, Wa.; in Silicon Valley in California; Vancouver; Herzalia, Israel; Hyderabad, India; and Beijing. The Hackathon is a three-day event where employees are encouraged to use the Makerspace to hack out any ideas they have outside of their day job during the workday that could potentially lead to implementation at Microsoft. My job was to draft a communications plan, coordinate with the global locations, execute internal marketing strategy and make sure Hackathon at NERD was well-documented.
After nearly two months of preparation, Hackathon was just the coolest couple of days. I was able to use my direction and marketing skills to direct entire operations. Getting to know other employees and learning what makes them unique added to my overall experience. As much as I loved getting to visit the Garage teams every day, having the chance to show it off to other employees was just as satisfying. We had more than 4,000 participants just at NERD.
Interns can participate in Hackathon, too. Assisting intern teams with identifying their core marketing strategy was a huge highlight. During a trip to Microsoft HQ in Redmond for Intern Week, intern teams were able to share their progress with other Garage intern programs outside of Cambridge. It was so cool to discover Seattle with other teams and explore the beautiful main campus. Did you know the first Starbucks location is at Pike Place Market, right in downtown Seattle? Did you also know the line to get in is incredibly long, too long for 90-degree July weather?
Other than a surprise performance by Pitbull at the end of Intern Week, there were tons of other cool outings I did with the cohort. We went to a game at Fenway Park, took a cruise to Spectacle Island, attended team dinners and saw Blue Man Group perform. Being able to meet outside of the office — even though it’s the coolest place ever — really contributed to our fluidity and tight-knit bond during work hours.
My biggest lesson this summer was a personal one about career development. Living outside of the Midwest, where I’m from, for an entire summer to work in a corporate setting was invaluable. It solidified in my mind that this career is the right one for me, and I made so many lifelong connections, including mentorship from powerful individuals I look up to. Before the internship, I couldn’t see myself working in technology; now I can’t see myself not working in tech. The appreciation I gained for Microsoft and its mission, “empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more,” will carry me through the rest of my career.