Supporting Youth in the Bay Area: Working With Year Up Interns

I never expected to move countries when I first started as an Escalation Manager at Microsoft back in 2011.

When I was asked to move to Microsoft’s Yammer office in San Francisco in 2015, I was excited, but also a little sad to be leaving the great team that I had worked with behind and also the project I had been a very big part of for the past 12 months.

I had been working with our University Recruitment Team at Microsoft UK on defining an education path to bring in apprentices between the ages of 18 and 24 to work with my SQL & Developer Teams for an 18-month term. Our view was to make them full-time employees at the end of it, with all the relevant technical and business skills that my mentorship would give them.

No sooner had I accepted the position that I was approached by our Philanthropic Advisor Cristina Fink about supporting the Year Up program in the Bay Area. This entailed working with the Year Up team to identify the types of skills that an intern would require to grow and obtain real-world business and technical skills at the same time as working with my new team Internal Service Engineering (ISE).

On assessing the work in my new team, we decided to choose an intern from the IT Helpdesk track. The candidate typically spends six months at Year Up on their chosen track, and then six months in a corporate environment where they apply their skills; at the end of this it is their ‘Year Up’!

My team changed focus at the end of 2016, becoming Computing for Infrastructure, and took on a much bigger focus in the world of Cloud and Security. This changed my focus on the Year Up track I had been using: the past three YearUp interns have all come from a cybersecurity program, and each time they have all made a wonderful contribution to the work we are doing here at Microsoft.

Each intern has always had a weekly one-on-one with me as well as being assigned multiple mentors from not just my team, but our security team too. I wanted to ensure that there were always mentors that could challenge the intern in many different areas technically and keep them on their toes, as well as giving them the confidence to take on the next big project.  One piece of advice I have always passed on to each of them is that it is okay to get something wrong! By figuring out how it went wrong and then fixing it, they will always have learned something and become a better engineer for the experience.

The learning experiences for the tenured engineers on my team on how to coach or teach are also invaluable, as it allows them to grow and learn, and then move on to their next role or higher level knowing they have brought someone up to take their position.

To date, I have now hosted six Year Up interns. Being one manager with one intern every six months, I was making a small contribution, but it wasn’t quite enough. I was fortunate to be introduced to Jakob Rosenberg who was able to secure budget and really help to grow the program by adding two additional Interns to the San Francisco Office and one to our office in Mountain View. We are hopeful of growing it again next year and making a bigger impact to our community in the Bay Area.

My favorite part of this process is seeing the Interns on their graduation day, which I am honored to attend and celebrate with them and their families.  This last graduation saw three out of our four interns earn special awards of achievement, which gives them support for further education.

It’s incredibly rewarding for me personally to see these young adults thrive under our mentorship and support at Microsoft. I look forward to continuing to grow this program in the future and to continue to give back to our Bay Area community.

Deborah de Hallé moved with Microsoft from the UK back in 2015 to head up Internal Service Engineering for Yammer! She has managed successful technical teams for over 20 years and now lives in San Francisco with Her Husband Paul and Alaskan Malamute Nika. For fun Deborah used to play polo, ride Western style in shows with her horse and occasionally do some dog sledding! She is now working on Customer Experience at Yammer as well as continuing to work as both an ambassador and a mentor for the Year Up program.