Dylan wearing a blue button-down shirt and smiling in front of a brown background with colorful hues.

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

Cloud Solution Architect Dylan Apera leverages the power of soft skills learned from his small island upbringing to build relationships with customers. 

I’m from the Cook Islands, which is just off the coast of New Zealand, part of the Pacific region. The island lifestyle, which means living off the land, was a very simple, humble environment for me to grow up in. Being Pasifika, my morning routine consisted of waking up to feed the livestock and tending to the garden, then getting ready for school, and a similar routine after school—cleaning the house and doing other chores. Although it’s a very strict culture when it comes to education, I was a bit of a rebel in school. I loved to prove people wrong! In high school, when a computer science teacher told us we could only build an app using code, I rebelled. I built a fully functional app that could store data and work with other applications using only PowerPoint.  

Fast forward to my move to Auckland, New Zealand—I studied network engineering and security at the Auckland University of Technology and then joined Microsoft through its Aspire Experience two-year internship program. Following my internship, I moved into a customer engineer role, which gave me the opportunity to work on very specific issues that customers face and solve them.  

This was my first corporate job, and I faced some challenges. I didn’t understand the day-to-day of a corporate environment 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 as a sign of respect. That’s how we grow up in the Pacific region. But while I was quiet at first, 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. I think having diversity and inclusion as part of our company strategy empowers and encourages diversity of thought.  

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 toward 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. These are soft skills that have helped me understand many of our customer scenarios.  

Deanna wearing a black jacket and smiling in front of a brown background with colorful hues.

“There’s a comfort in knowing there are other people out there who are proud of their heritage. People who want to shout to the world, “I am Indigenous, and this is my tribal affiliation.”

From housing development officer to 18-wheel truck driver to support escalation engineer, Manitoban Deanna LaJambe shares her story of navigating a nontraditional career path.
Venus wearing glasses and smiling in front of a brown background with colorful hues.

“Being that Microsoft is at the forefront of change, I’ve learned in my time here that it’s important to have the Indigenous voice strongly represented.”

Surface Specialist and 2022 Pinnacle Award winner Venus Taare channels the support she’s received from mentors and allies into advocating for more Māori and Pasifika representation in the tech sector.
Joseph wearing a blue and white checkered button down with a colorful campaign overlay on top.

“I believe that hiring people from all cultural backgrounds and all gender backgrounds makes for such a rich story overall.”

For Colombian-born Joseph Sefair, curiosity is a critical skill—one he’s honed through creating moments of surprise and delight for Microsoft customers around the world.
A man walking in a tall corn field

“No matter where we are in the world, this will always be our home.”

Adonis Trujillo and his wife, Mona, returned home to Taos Pueblo for the birth of their son to introduce him to his forever home. For Adonis and his tribe, cultivating a connection to land, family, and community begins with the very first breath of life.