I remember the day I made the decision to buy a one-way ticket from Botswana to the United States to attend university. I thought back to my early days as a child, growing up in Francistown, Botswana, where I was raised by my Ghanaian parents. I first learned to type on Microsoft Word and played online games with my siblings to develop math skills. Having affordable access to this technology made a big impact on my education.
Things were tough when I first started university in Oxford, Ohio. In Botswana, we had a strong sense of community from shared meals and experiences; that contrasted with the individualism I first encountered in university. But I gradually built a new community of friends and extended family in the US. And of course, my family at home supported me every step of the way.
When it came time to pursue internship and career options, prospects were daunting as an international student. After more than 100 rejections, I took the bold step of posting my struggles on LinkedIn. I tagged an executive at LinkedIn, who then commented on the post and triggered a viral response that astonished me. Recruiters reached out to tell me their companies needed more people with my boldness. Other job seekers shared their struggles with me and with each other. The experience led to an ongoing social media conversation about job searching and immigration experiences. It also kick-started my career path.
I joined Microsoft as an intern in 2018 and pursued a full-time role upon my university graduation. I chose Microsoft because all of my interactions with the company—from my childhood education to the support I received from future colleagues during my job search and immigration process—showed me that the company truly lives by its mission to empower others.
Today, I use my social media presence to help inspire others through my profile and #theBOLDjourney. Our shared experiences show that it’s normal to go through these life struggles. Through our individual challenges and victories, our stories can build a quilt to cover one another.
That sense of sharing and bringing others along with you is part of who I am. There’s an Ngoni Bantu word from Southern Africa, “Ubuntu,” which means “I am, because of who we are.” It’s ingrained in me to build community and to help and uplift others. Even if we feel like we achieved something by ourselves, there’s always somebody rooting for you or willing to give you a chance. —Akosua Boadi-Agyemang, from Francistown, Botswana