How do you make a difference only 3 years out of college?

New roles at Microsoft look to empower billions

One of Dane Johansen’s favorite parts of his job is talking to customers, helping them solve problems and bring more value to their businesses. And he’s helped his teammates do the same by initiating a training program from scratch that gives them the technical know-how that infuses confidence and competency in their conversations with clients looking for Azure solutions.

For someone who’s only been out of college three years, he’s made a big difference in empowering customers and his peers.

Johansen, an Azure technical specialist on the Inside Sales team based in Fargo, North Dakota says, “As a young person, whether you’re just coming out of college or resetting, you’re going to make an impact at a company that’s going to take care of you. There’s a whole range of possibilities here, skills you’re going to pick up, rare and special opportunities. I want to contribute, I want to bring value and I want to make an impact. And Microsoft offered the most ideal opportunity at this point in time to do so.”

He says, “In college, I thought of Microsoft as a really big technology company, but that you had to be pretty technically savvy to work there. All I really knew was Windows and Office. I always thought being at Microsoft would be a huge opportunity to make a big impact in the world, considering the incredibly positive effects that technology can have on our lives. I saw it as a place where I could make big contributions, start a lifelong career, and be impressively compensated. Now that I’m here, all three of these things are truer than I imagined.”

Johansen’s customers range from single employee consulting businesses to big data architects at national companies. He works closely with customers to help them take their first big steps into cloud computing on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. Each project with his customers is an opportunity to show them how to reduce costs and do things with computing they weren’t able to do before in their own datacenters.

With cloud computing being such a game-changer and business enabler for just about every business around the globe today, Microsoft is incredibly well-positioned to help these customers rise to the opportunity.

In sales, he’s always working with people, helping them look at things differently and find a solution. That approach also applies to solving problems amongst his peers and incoming recruits. At Microsoft getting the chance to empower billions of individuals each day means getting the chance to empower your peers as well and it is part of the freedom that comes with joining the company.

“There was a huge need for tech training, with so many of our team coming in fresh out of school, or from a different industry. So I thought we’d be much more effective if we formally empowered everyone to understand the basics of computing,” says Johansen, who majored in management communication and graduated in May 2012 from North Dakota University, in Fargo. “In my job, I have a lot of freedom – beyond the job description. I saw a need and my managers blessed it.”

The training has paid off, bigtime.

At this point, much of the U.S. Inside Sales team at Fargo’s Marketing and Sales Center have gone through the training.

“Ultimately, we believe this training can empower the team to be better trusted advisors for our customers,” says Johansen. “We need folks who can talk the tech and help them adopt it. I get the shot to make it happen each day! It’s a beautifully challenging effort and I savor it. I wake up every morning eagerly looking forward to diving right back in from the day before.”

Kayla Zelasney, who handles sales to local and state government accounts in four mid-Atlantic states, went through the training in Fargo soon after she started working at Microsoft in late October 2015.

“Everything I’m doing, I learned here,” says Zelasney, who has a degree in business systems analysis. “It was a growing experience, learning all the different processes.” She says they focused on solving customer problems, how to talk to people and addressing pain points in an IT environment.

“I like to be good at everything I do and feel like I’m being productive,” says Zelasney, who is eager to hop on that day’s itinerary: it’s fun, solving their [customers] needs and what their best options are. It’s like solving puzzles, finding the best deal for them and putting answers together with them.”

On the Inside Sales team, she says, there is a lot of freedom. They’re able to listen in on other rep’s calls to learn from their approaches and what kind of questions they’re using and incorporate it into their own interactions with clients. It’s a collaborative atmosphere, rather than competitive, and since they’re all so new as a team, they’re still figuring out their best practices and adopting their own way of getting things done.

And through her work, she feels like she’s making an impact that will be felt at the community level.

Both she and Johansen feel right at home in Fargo, too. Johansen, a North Dakota native says it’s an excellent place for someone like him, who loves the outdoors, camping, fishing and hunting. And in this job, he has the time to take advantage of these natural surroundings. The area has a strong economy that’s also a very affordable place to live, he says.

Zelasney is a native Midwesterner who most recently lived in Minneapolis, so she’s used to cold winters and has an all-wheel drive car. While Fargo has a “small town vibe,” it’s not as tiny as her graduating class from high school, which had only 52 people. In Fargo, she says, “There are fun things to do, so many different places to visit and a nightlife downtown.” Since she enjoys spending time with her three-year old German shepherd, Diesel, she also takes advantage of a local dog park, as well as going to see movies and shop at the mall. It’s also easy to check out concerts at the Fargo Dome and Minneapolis is a three-hour drive away.

“I’ve worked at jobs before where I was literally a slave to work—I put everything I had into my work, and I really didn’t find time to enjoy life outside of work. With my current job at Microsoft, I can be passionate about my work without taking away from my life outside of the job,” she says. “I really feel this work life balance affords me the opportunity to make an impact on the rest of the world both in my role and in my home life.”

Are you ready to be one who empowers billions? See how you can join the team, here.