I always thought that Microsoft was an amazing company; it was the original software tech giant, and becoming a software engineer there was my dream. Growing up, I looked at maps and tracked highways to the Pacific Northwest and thought to myself, “One day, I will work at Microsoft.”
I am a 1.5 generation Korean American. For me, that means I grew up moving back and forth between both countries.
My sister and I grew up with lots of difficulties. When we were in grade school, we shared a bunk bed in the living room. My family had three generations living in a rapidly deteriorating neighborhood. My grandparents moved to the US—not knowing the language nor culture—and worked manual jobs well into their old age. My mother, who graduated from an elite college in Korea, did manual labor while taking night classes.
Despite those disadvantages, I did well in school. In high school, I was on the math team, participated in all sorts of academic competitions, and took college-level STEM classes. But I still never felt I had the same opportunities that my friends did. I watched as my friends all went on to elite college programs, internships, and jobs. I felt like everyone had access to resources, programs, and connections that I didn’t, and I was left outside looking in.
Those systemic issues were a daily struggle for me—but I kept working! In college, despite not being admitted into the school of engineering, I overloaded myself with advanced engineering classes on top of all the classes I took for my mathematics major.
After college, I took jobs that let me slowly build up my resume so I could keep climbing. I worked late into the night and then went home to work on side projects to help raise my profile and to learn more technologies. I worked various consulting jobs, too, to supplement my income and to make connections to help me achieve bigger things.
And while it is undeniable that I did so much work to become the person I am today, I owe even more of my success to the sacrifices that my parents and grandparents made. I carry those within me.
Years after I looked at those maps and dreamed Microsoft, I finally found myself stepping out of a rideshare in front of the building where I attended new employee orientation. I looked up at the Microsoft sign.
“I am finally here,” I said.
Sophia—identifiesas 1.5 generation Korean American
Learn more about Sophia, her other identities, and her experiences at Microsoft.