“All of these different experiences are bricks that have built the foundation of who I am and how I show up to work every single day.”

First-generation Filipino American Director of Product Marketing Mia Reyes has found a role where her non-traditional career path is not just accepted but celebrated. 

As a first-generation Filipino American and lifelong Seattleite, I’ve always identified with multiple cultures. My siblings were all born in the Philippines; I was the first one born in the United States. I like to say that every life I’ve lived before joining Microsoft has impacted how I engage with my work at Microsoft

Growing up, the role of grandmothers, aunts, and uncles were just as important as the role of parents; that multigenerational way of living shaped me early on. My family also tried to replicate what life was like in the Philippines: children taking care of elders, families having meals together every day, and all of us living only minutes away from each other. This notion of being raised by a community is a lived experience for me. It’s a very Filipino thing.  

I worked in the music business for a while, then in the nonprofit world, foreign policy, and now in the tech industry. I used to try to hide or make excuses for my diverse career path, but now I’m able to see that all of these different experiences are bricks that have built the foundation of who I am and how I show up to work every single day.  

As the executive director of a domestic violence organization for many years, I became deeply compassionate and empathetic to the emotional and mental well-being of individuals navigating various life challenges. From years of working in foreign policy, I learned skills around negotiation and building alliances. Now, as a parent of a three-year-old, juggling and balancing so much has given me a deeper sense of understanding of the challenges people may be managing outside of work. For those of us with all these varied lived experiences, we bring a unique perspective to building processes and solving problems.  

Joining Microsoft was a big shift for me, having never worked at such a big company before. When I think back to my college and grad school years, the first thing I did was find my community of people with similar interests to help make the journey more personal. So, when I started here it was important to me to join employee resource groups (ERGs). I’m very involved in Women at Microsoft, Asians at Microsoft, and a newer group, Fillipinos at Microsoft. There’s also a group called FLI, First-generation Lower Income, that I relate to a lot as someone raised in a lower-middle class background.  

In my role at Microsoft, I’ve shifted into cyber security even though I don’t have a traditional cyber security background. But what I bring to the role, given all my previous careers, is a great deal of storytelling and thought leadership knowledge.  Now I get to communicate with our customers the importance of things like ‘built-in security’ in a way that’s relatable, approachable, and relevant to them. It’s fulfilling to work in a field,  where the skills I’ve accumulated through my years of working in non-tech spaces are making a positive impact in tech.  

If you want to truly innovate, you have to actively honor and look for people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. You need people who challenge your thinking and bring new ideas. It’s really not that complicated. If you want the most interesting approach to problem X, would you rather have 10 people who think exactly the same or 10 people with widely different perspectives?

Discover more stories like Mia’s by visiting: https://aka.ms/InclusionIsInnovation/Asian