It's hard to believe it has already been 3 months since I joined BEMO as our Customer Success Manager. Prior to joining the team, I worked for the tech giant that is Microsoft for nearly a decade! In my time with them, I wore many hats, including multiple interim Program Manager roles at HQ in Redmond, WA for both the Windows and Office 365 teams. My final role was special: Cloud Technical Expert. "Why was it so special?" you ask? Not only did I get the honor of being be one of the first people in the role, but I also helped to create it! I've been lucky to have a great career filled with different roles and settings so let me share the highlights and differences between working for a partner like BEMO versus working for Microsoft.
Working for Microsoft vs. Working for a Partner
If you read my colleague's post prior to this one (See: Life After Microsoft: What It’s Like to Work For a Microsoft Partner) you know that Josh was also with Microsoft in the same role. I remember meeting him at our initial onboarding training event, never thinking for a moment that we would eventually end up working together outside of Microsoft! What a small world. Like Josh, I will compare different aspects of working for the giant that is Microsoft with over 100,000 employees versus working for a much smaller, but dare I say, just as effective company. I really like how he laid it out in his blog, so I'll be using the same format for mine, comparing and contrasting working for Microsoft versus working for a partner in the following areas:
Oh, the dreaded drive to and from work. I can’t say I miss it one bit, but no commute means no people and there is something to be said about being with co-workers. So, let’s look at both experiences.
Working at Microsoft
I’ve got 2 different experiences when it comes to the commute with Microsoft. When I was with the Microsoft Store I, like Josh, was based out the store closest to me. I helped small business and education customers move to the cloud. The closest store was in, what is referred to in Cincinnati, as their "5-star mall", the Kenwood Towne Center. My home was only 10 miles away but what made the drive terrible was the amount of traffic between me and my destination on any given day. This also isn’t counting the holiday traffic I had to deal with, and with Cincinnati’s unpredictable weather (that can be a whole blog topic itself) the drive time could easily double, sometimes triple. Still, it meant getting to drive this beauty so...was it all that bad? 😂
Then there was my experience in Redmond with HQ. During this time, Microsoft was kind enough to house me at The Carter on the Park in downtown Redmond, only a couple miles from the Microsoft Campus. While the commute distance was comparable with my Cincinnati route, the traffic was nearly double. I guess traffic issues go without saying when more than half of the 100,000 Microsoft employees reside in Redmond (according to Microsoft, roughly 53,576 employees, to be exact). The weather, however, was hardly ever an impact to my commute, which was a plus. Still, with the campus sitting on 502 acres, home to 83 buildings and another 42 in the Puget Sound area, I spent a lot of time commuting on campus, trying to find the correct building for a 1:00pm meeting or a 10 am presentation somewhere on the other side of campus from my office.
Working at BEMO
Now, working for BEMO, I am completely remote. No car commute required! My daily commute now consists of moving from room to room instead of building to building. My office (which doubles as my PC gaming/Content Streaming area when I’m not working) is where I usually hang out when I’m home anyway, so it doesn’t ever really feel like a work commute. My dog Koda might stop me on my way if he feels he didn’t receive enough attention prior to me becoming “heads down”.
Still, I'm sure he's vastly happier with me working from home versus missing me for 8-10 hours a day. My son doesn’t mind either. We get to see one another right when he gets home from school rather than waiting for me to get home from work.
Daily Workload (The Grind)
“Work smarter, not harder” my Dad always said to me growing up. I didn't fully grasp the concept until I embarked on my professional path. Then I learned the lesson quickly, in order to keep up with the busy life that came with the different environments I found myself in.
Working at Microsoft
Again, this section lends itself to two different experiences. As a Cloud Technical Expert with Microsoft Stores, a typical day for me would entail conducting workshops for Small Business, Education, Non-Profit and Enterprise customers. In between workshops you could find me working side by side with the Business Sales team doing on-site visits to assist with the technical gaps that would slow a potential customer’s move to the cloud. I would also be the lone engineer deploying and implementing cloud solutions to said customers that didn’t have an IT team, or working alongside the slightly larger businesses that might not have a “team” but might have that one guy/girl in the office that has more technical knowledge than the rest, making them de facto IT Admin person (sound familiar to anyone? It's pretty common!). Additionally, I was also responsible for training my peers around Microsoft’s long list of cloud solutions.
While my focus was the commercial clientele, this didn’t stop me from being there to help support our everyday consumers with their technical needs. I was always there to back up my fellow store technicians by getting in the trenches with them to support consumers. Retail was tough at times but I do miss working side by side physically with my fellow coworkers, especially the team in Cincinnati.
During my 8 years with Microsoft, most of my experience was with a group who were the backbone of my professional development. They had a way of making me feel like I was “their guy”, the “jack of all trades”, in their own little ways, which mostly consisted of giving me a hard time or cracking jokes at my expense 😊. I wouldn’t have the confidence in my work I have today if it weren’t for their support.
On the other side, my Microsoft HQ workload experience was VERY similar to BEMO, outside of the daily commute and most of the time running from building to building to make the next meeting. At HQ as a Program Manager, I was responsible for myself, my work and the work of my team. I was given a project, with the information and tools needed to complete it. Where this was different from the hourly CTX role, was instead of being told how to complete the project along with my schedule and no real set in stone deadlines, I was told that it had to be ready by a deadline, with everything in between (how I worked, when I worked and how long I worked) being entirely up to me. It’s like that Spiderman quote, “with great power comes great responsibility”. I controlled my schedule, but if I were to fall behind, I would only have myself to blame. I learned a lot from both styles.
My main project was to work alongside the Microsoft Stores HQ technical team aka the Answer Desk team to build the Cloud Technical Expert role from the ground up. My responsibility was the support side of the role. This task had me reporting to the Office 365 support (aka the Amplify Team) Senior Business Program Manager. I was the liaison between the Answer Desk team and the Amplify Team, helping to mold the tools and knowledge that would be used everyday by Office 365 support engineers across the globe and then used in Microsoft Stores by the new CTXs. This meant a lot of long days cross collaborating, presentations, travel, meeting prep, and so much Power Point.
Working at BEMO
In my Customer Success Manager role with BEMO, my days are never boring! Like my Microsoft HQ experience, I’m responsible for meeting deadlines, but also have creative freedom to get the job done my way most of the time. A typical day will be working with Brandon and Josh to onboard our new customers and be there side by side with them on their journey to The Cloud. This means reaching out and setting up a “Kickoff Call” to welcome them to BEMO, and growing our relationship and their business as time goes on.
I work with our customers not only to understand their current needs but to help them build a plan for their business for the next 10 years. I'm also their point of contact for questions, concerns and training while assisting in support scenarios with our support and implementation engineers to make sure their journey is smooth.
Some days may consist of back to back (to back to back) meetings with customers, other days might be spent on administrative tasks and customer or personal training to continue to expand my technical knowledge to better support our customers. Being remote, all of my meetings, both with customers and co-workers, are virtual. It's a different kind of workplace interaction versus that of the retail or office life. Both have their perks and drawbacks.
My virtual office setup:
Technical Skillsets Required
Both workplaces require a solid set of technical skills and knowledge of Microsoft’s products and solutions to get the job done. In my experience so far, I’ve found that I came in with a really good foundation. I've also found that I needed to widen my scope. There is a wider area of expertise required when working for a Microsoft Partner versus a more limited scope to master in the CTX role with Microsoft.
Working at Microsoft
As Josh stated before, there is likely a misconception regarding the amount of technical knowledge needed to work for a large company like Microsoft. The reality is that due to its size, there are so many specialized roles that work together making it so one person doesn’t have to know everything. When it came to the CTX role, it really centered on 3 pillars of Microsoft licenses: Selling, Deploying and Supporting. If additional support was needed, Microsoft housed HUGE support teams for escalating issues beyond our scope.
Working at BEMO
With BEMO I had to widen my scope of technical knowledge and expertise, very wide, very quickly. It was humbling to say the least, but also great because I have built so much on top of what I already know! In a few short months, I've run the gamut from complex licensing scenarios, to the finer details of file and email migrations, to nuances of migrating from on-prem to the cloud or hybrid setups to the very wide world of Microsoft Azure. I believe my greatest gains in the knowledge area so far have been around Azure and Microsoft Teams Business Voice options.
Workplace culture has always been a huge thing for me when I look at employment possibilities. I’ve walked away from a couple of great offers due to a bad workplace culture. I'd always heard that smaller companies had a better handle on workplace culture, and with BEMO, it's definitely been a great experience. Actually, great would be an understatement.
Working at Microsoft
I’ve worked for a few large companies, but none of them compared to the workplace culture of Microsoft. It is rare to find an organization of that size as people friendly and supportive of their workforce as Microsoft is. One experience defined I how I felt about Microsoft early on. Both myself and a fellow coworker's son were born while working for Microsoft. Within a week of both of their births, we received a package in the mail, addressed to our sons, containing a blanket made by Nanny and Webster and a letter to the newborns stating this :
“You signify a very powerful factor we have been working towards: the long run.”
That experience alone told me all I needed to know about the workplace culture of Microsoft: that not only was I important to them, but so was my son. It’s the little things that help define workplace culture.
The Answer Desk:
This on top of having all the tools you would ever need to grow yourself professionally for your next role, be it at Microsoft or elsewhere, makes it an enjoyable place to work. Heck, even if and when you decide to move on to your next endeavor, Microsoft still invites you to become a member of the Microsoft Alumni, allowing you to retain a few of the great perks you had while you were an employee, even when you're not one.
Working at BEMO
Just because BEMO is a much smaller company, doesn’t mean it lacks in workplace culture. If anything in some ways, it’s much stronger than a larger company. We are a close nit group of individuals with a family type vibe. Our BEMO Team is spread out all over the globe. Because of this, we experience the “water cooler” conversations in a whole different way than I was used to: virtually! During these Virtual Water Cooler get togethers, there this weird thing that happens where its actually discouraged to talk about work. Go figure, right?!
When the day comes that travel is easy again, I can't wait to meet our team in person at BEMO’s company retreat to Mexico (fingers crossed for 2021!)! But seriously, with my Customer Success role being so new to BEMO recently, the company has given me the ability to have a lot of say in defining what Customer Success means to BEMO and its shape in the company. Like I stated in my comments about being at Microsoft, it’s the little things, right?
So, if someone were to ask me how I feel about my move from Microsoft to BEMO, or if it was an adjustment (especially given not only are they different roles, but a completely different lifestyle switch) I'd say: Great and YES, respectively. It was a big move for sure, but one I am glad I made and I don’t regret it one bit. I love what I do and the employer I represent. My only drawback is that we haven't had any in-person interaction but...as soon as the world turns right on its axis, that will be taken care of. Mexico, here we come (I hope)!
Still curious about working for Microsoft or a Partner? Leave me your questions or comments below! 👇