New! Industry Guest Bloggers: USC Viterbi Alumni working @ Microsoft

Watch out for postings throughout the semester that will include posts from guest bloggers including Viterbi Alumni and Company representatives. They will be giving our students insight to what it’s like to work at a particular company, tips for a successful internship/job search,  and much more!

See our first post for the semester below from MICROSOFT!


Hello Trojans!

My name is Alex DeDonker and have the pleasure of representing Microsoft as USC’s University Recruiter! I have thoroughly enjoyed my times on campus and cannot wait to get back and get to know you and all things USC throughout the school year. I get the pleasure of working with USC Alumni who have joined Microsoft and am excited to introduce my good friend/role model Rodrigo Santos!


Rodrigo has been back to campus several times since graduating in 2013 with his CSBA degree. While at USC he grew his network and developed his core skills of which he has brought to Microsoft as a Program Manager for the past 3 years. I sat down with Rodrigo and asked him several questions that we feel will help you gage opportunities at Microsoft as well as understand our culture and passion for technology.

Tell us about your role at Microsoft, what’s a day in the life of Rodrigo like?

“Being a Program Manager is pretty challenging, but equally rewarding. You get the chance to work with a lot of people to make products come to life. Nothing is accomplished alone, and the fast paced environment helps you grow in technical depth while teaching you to rely completely on teamwork. I work as a Security Program Manager in Cloud and Enterprise (a fancy name for Azure) with a number of design and static analysis tools (such as the Threat Modeling Tool and Roslyn Analyzers) and also coordinate customer events with the Azure steering committee throughout the year, both here in Redmond and Israel, designed to gather customer feedback and put them in action.

What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion at Microsoft?

“The diversity at Microsoft is incredible. Each meeting I go to has a number of nationalities represented, which is essential to a well-rounded discussion. When I was in the process of coming out, I wasn’t sure whether or not I would be accepted here. To the contrary, not only was I fully embraced, I also found a second family, filled with brilliant people who wanted to see me succeed and reach my potential. GLEAM (Gay and Lesbian Employees at Microsoft) is a terrific group that is active in the LGBT rights cause, something I’ve been fully vested in since joining.”

How have you witnessed the changing culture at Microsoft?

“A thought I had before interning at Microsoft was one where millennials had to prove themselves before contributing to their teams. That wasn’t the case when I got here, and it became even clearer when Satya became CEO and paved the way to what Microsoft is today. Your ideas are heard, and you do make an impact. Hackweek, one of the newest inventions here at Microsoft, is an open invitation for all employees to spend a week doing what they love most. Projects can be related to your job, but they don’t necessarily have to be. Walking around campus and hearing people talking about their projects reassures that openness, creativity and excitement runs wild here.”

What kind of advice would you give to the USC students when considering Microsoft?

The advice I would give students today is to develop mastery in 4 areas:

  1. Time management – I work on 4 consecutive projects (sometimes 6) at a time and have to deliver all of them to the best of my ability. Add my personal life, along with some non-profit work I do on the side and you can imagine how tough things can get. If, as a student, you develop a system to live by, where you allocate time for school, homework, part time work (or internships) and social commitments, you’ll be ready for corporate life. The key is to know how to manage your time. If you don’t, things might get a little crazy before you can breathe again.
  2. Teamwork – nothing here at Microsoft is a “one person show.” You might do well submitting projects and working on ideas by yourself, but if you don’t develop the teamwork muscle now, you’ll have a hard time integrating into the workforce. This is crucial. If you can’t work in teams effectively, it will be tough delivering quality features to the millions of customers we serve daily.
  3. Communication – solving tough decisions require a lot of critical thinking skills and awesome communication to let everyone know how you got there. Take a communication class, practice pitches, make sure you exercise that muscle so when you start your new chapter as a full time employee, you’ll hit the ground running.
  4. Technical Depth – This is key. Program managers at Microsoft are deeply technical. You don’t get to write code often, but you must understand and read it. In my work, I have to understand security coding flaws in C# so I can architect tools to find coding issues and alert developers of potential security risks. This is non-negotiable. Take a coding class, take a summer to work on an app, just make sure to expose yourself to coding.


Lastly, what has been one of the coolest things you have done at Microsoft?

“The coolest thing was getting involved in the Azure Security Steering Committee. We got to spend a few days with over 20 companies from all over the world to learn about the problems they’re facing today with Azure and general cloud security. Each Azure team talked about potential solutions, and customers would either validate them, or suggest different ones. At the end of the event, some of the investments we had for Azure were modified and new ones created. It shows deep customer focus, and I couldn’t love this concept more.”

Thank you for taking time to get to know Rodrigo; we cannot wait to hear your stories this year on Campus, Fight On!

Alex DeDonker


M. Lilian Barajas

Author M. Lilian Barajas

Lilian Barajas, assistant director of the Viterbi Career Connections office, is responsible for advising students, managing student communication including social media, the lead for large scale events such as the Career Fair and Career Conference, and connects Viterbi student organizations with employers. She has worked at Viterbi since 2007, first as a graduate assistant and now as the assistant director. Prior to working at USC, Lilian spent a number of years teaching. Lilian received a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences from California State University, Long Beach, and a master’s degree in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs (PASA) from the Rossier School of Education at USC. She is also a member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and the Mountain Pacific Association of Colleges and Employers (MPACE).

More posts by M. Lilian Barajas

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