“Your culture is your personal contribution and helps shape how you view or solve a problem.”

Cloud Solution Architect Dylan Apera credits soft skills such as listening and a curiosity mindset, learned from his upbringing in the Cook Islands, for guiding him toward innovative solutions for customers.

I joined Microsoft a little over three years ago through its Aspire Experience internship program after studying network engineering and security at the Auckland University of Technology. Following my internship, I moved into a Customer Engineer role, which gave me the opportunity to solve specific issues that customers face.

Because this was my first corporate job, I faced some challenges early on from a cultural perspective. For example, looking people in the eye is expected professionally. But when I first started here, I was very shy and often my gaze was facing down. Being Pasifika, that’s how we are raised — to show respect.

After some time, through growing my technical ability, my confidence began to grow as well. I began to believe that what I brought to my role was unique and important. It has helped that at Microsoft, we are encouraged to create an environment where everyone in the room has a voice. My team uses a pass-the-mic method, allowing team members to speak and collectively work towards achieving a goal. That group setting, for me, feels familiar, like a cultural transfer.

I credit my mentors for supporting me during my early journey at Microsoft. My colleague Dan Walker is the person who helped bring me to the organization, and during my first year, he helped me find my footing. He was my go-to person for questions about things that didn’t make sense to me. He’s Māori, which connects us from a cultural perspective. Through Dan’s mentorship, I learned how to remain authentic and bring that authenticity to work.

When it comes to innovation in the technology sector, I’ve learned that everyone’s journey and community perspective matters. Your culture is your personal contribution and helps shape how you view or solve a problem. For me personally, listening and being curious are a huge part of who I am culturally and help me on a day-to-day basis with interacting with and finding innovative solutions for our customers. These are soft skills that have helped me understand many of our customer scenarios and that inspire innovation.

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