Though he’s not yet graduated from college, Zimraan H. is no stranger to the way Microsoft works. This university junior already has four internships with the company under his belt. Next June, he’ll be starting his fifth. “I’m pretty sure it’s breaking a record,” he laughs. Many students start a Microsoft internship with a general enthusiasm for technology but no specific area of interest in the field—however, Zimraan has always felt drawn to information security.
His interest started in high school, after a computer networking and security course. The technology class touched on router switch security—and Zimraan was hooked. “It caught my imagination because it was so real,” he says. “A lot of the stuff we had at home wasn’t secure.” Information security is a high-impact line of work, and Zimraan likes that he can “have a positive influence on it.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s breaking a record.”
Although it was a high school computer class that caught his interest, Zimraan has deepened his passion for information security on Microsoft’s Redmond campus. What keeps him coming back? He appreciates the company culture. He relishes the “awesome” projects he works on that “have an impact.” And, he loves how his “mentor, manager, and team members are always there” for him if he needs help. “They’ve been great to me,” he says.
“They keep supplying him with awesome projects and experiences, so he wants to come back and build on what he learned,” says Heidi Dowling, operations manager for the intern program. She and Zimraan grab lunch together every summer.
Dowling says the interns “bring such excitement to the company” that it’s palpable—over one thousand arrive on the Redmond campus every June. “I love having them here,” she says, “learning about what they’re working on, the awesome things they get to experience while they’re here—they have some amazing opportunities.” Interns aren’t relegated to performing inconsequential tasks. They work on real-world projects and “impact the business and the products that we’re shipping,” she says.
A Microsoft internship gives students a huge advantage. They have an opportunity to learn about and experience the company’s culture, and the team they’re working with has a chance to see them in action, both personally and professionally. “It’s like a 12-week interview while you’re here,” says Dowling.
But company internships aren’t just about work. Planned outings and social activities are as integral to a Microsoft internship experience as the time spent inside the campus buildings. Every summer, the company holds a big ‘Signature Event’ for student interns; last August, they attended an exclusive Ellie Goulding concert at the Seattle Center, where the singer’s strong lungs entertained the group. Every concert goer carried a Surface Book laptop home that night—Microsoft’s gift for all their hard work.
That event was a highlight of Zimraan’s summer. Another was a Microsoft-sponsored trip to Las Vegas, where he attended the ‘Black Hat USA’ security conference. During those four days, he “got to meet other industry leaders, learn about the bleeding edge in security technology, and see cutting edge hacks that will shape the future of security.”
Every internship has increased Zimraan’s knowledge of information security. He finds the field “a really cool place to be” and only sees it expanding. “It’s a crucial role,” he says. “You don’t think about your credit card or email being hacked until it happens.” He likes being one of the people who protects against a data security breach.
“If I love what I do, and my team, and coming to work every day, then why would I leave?”
Last summer, his internship involved “improving cloud security” for Microsoft Azure. As part of the Information Security and Risk Management (ISRM) team, he worked in a Project Manager (PM) role to “develop features, track issues with bugs and get them resolved, and put more stuff into production.” He found the experience to be “a good challenge” as he was adding “a lot of PM skills” to his toolbox.
Zimraan enjoys PM work more than the developer side of engineering. He likes “working with so many different people to build something” and touching “every aspect of the project.”
“He did outstanding work,” says Don Nguyen, a security architect with ISRM, who mentored Zimraan for two years. “He impressed both me and our CISO.” Nguyen has watched Zimraan evolution from “high school kid” to college junior. “I hope to see him at Microsoft as a colleague,” he says.
Jeff Miller, a senior PM on the ISRM team and a former mentor to Zimraan, finds the student “extremely mature for where he is in his career path” and “very inclusive” as a team mate. He “makes sure everybody is brought into the project and things are communicated well.” That ability to “bring people together, define a team and keep people connected” is something Miller prizes in a colleague. And it’s Zimraan’s internships that have given Miller visibility into how his former mentee works with others. When he’s hiring talent, he says, “It’s something I look for in a manager.”
In a job market where the number of tech jobs outnumber the people who can fill them, Zimraan could work anywhere—but only one employer interests him. He wants to stay at Microsoft, where he’s had “so many opportunities to do great work.” He’s a very practical sort of person. “If I love what I do, and my team, and coming to work every day, then why would I leave?” he says.