I’ve always been very ambitious. Ever since I was a child in Denmark, my dad told me that he would support my fencing career just as long as I did well in school. This lesson has always stuck with me, and it has made me strive for excellence in both fencing and in school. I never accepted the idea that practicing an elite sport should keep me from a high-level education, good grades, and, later, a career.
Today, I am an elite fencer on the Danish national team, competing at the highest level against professional fencers from all over the world. I also began working full time as a consultant with Microsoft in February 2015.
Seems impossible to be able to both, right?
As a consultant for Microsoft, I interact with clients, partners, and colleagues. We work together to find the best solution to solve a given technical problem. This role has given me a lot of technical experience, but also interpersonal experience as I have the opportunity to interact with many different people in very diverse roles.
I was always interested in and fascinated by Microsoft, even as a student. Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services, devices and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. We truly have a full range of resources here, and that type of reach deeply appealed to me. The idea that the work Microsoft employees are doing is empowering billions of people around the world made me dream of joining the company.
I didn’t have a relevant student job prior to Microsoft however. I was always very engaged in my fencing club, and I was both on the board and working as an instructor. One of the disadvantages of studying and training full-time is that you have very little time for anything else.
But in March 2014, I began to consider that a career at Microsoft might be a possibility. At that time, Microsoft was going through cultural transformation. The company promoted a strong work-life balance as well as stressed the idea of the importance of a ‘digital workplace’.
To me, this meant that Microsoft values the lives that its employees have outside of work. They understand that the freedom to work flexibly can contribute to amazing results. This type of work-life balance made me feel like the company trusts its employees.
After attending a job fair at my university, I learned more about an available opportunity as a Technical Consultant, a role for someone with the ability to work hands on with technology while also having great communication skills. I knew I had to apply.
It’s very important for me as a person, and as a consultant, to manage expectations. It’s not always easy, as that might not always put you in the best light. In the long run, however, I believe it’s better to be honest from the start, show courage, and earn respect from having discussed potentially tough topics.
This is the attitude I took to my Microsoft interviews. I was fully transparent about my sporting career, and how I had no plans to let it go. This, of course, would mean that I would be unable to work 50+ hour weeks, and that I would need to be away from work for a few days many times a year.
My Microsoft interviewers made it clear that they appreciated my honesty. They told me that Microsoft fosters a strong ‘work-life balance’, and there wasn’t an expectation that I would work more than 40 hours a week.
This also meant that my future manager was aware of my situation even before I even started my new role. Because fencing was such an important factor to me, both personally and professionally, I knew that it was important to discuss any possible future conflicts with him from day one. His attitude was totally positive and open-minded. I understood that I had his support and encouragement to work hard while also continuing with my fencing career.
In Denmark, fencing professionally is not an option, and support for travelling and equipment is very limited. This means that my role at Microsoft has had two functions: career development and income. And you could even say that my job at Microsoft helps keep my fencing dreams and ambitions alive.
To stay on top of the fencing game, especially as a competitor, I need to train at least once a day, often twice a day. The flexibility of my position at Microsoft allows me the ability to work from anywhere and to manage my time effectively and efficiently.
I am proud to say that my role at Microsoft, and the work-life balance it allows, contributed to the biggest accomplishment in my life: a bronze medal at the 2015 World fencing championships.
In addition, after my bronze medal win, I was recruited to participate in the biggest TV show in Denmark: “Vild med Dans” (from BBC’s program “Strictly come dancing”). This was very exciting for both myself and my sport as it’s an acknowledgment of my hard work as well as fencing’s esteem in the sporting world. It also meant that while it was going on, I needed to train three hours a day to learn several different dances each week. I went straight from work to dancing, and from there, to fencing!
It’s true, I manage my life through serious prioritization. I devote myself full-time to my work and fencing, and I squeeze in a TV program where I have the time. Work-life balance is not something you get, it’s a choice.
But for me, Microsoft really has been as a place where I could begin my career, grow and move ahead, and achieve my highest goals and wildest dreams outside of working hours.