The sky’s the limit working in data and the cloud

Just a few years in, Scott McBride has valuable new skills and a promising career at Microsoft

Not long ago, Scott McBride was studying for his MBA and exploring his options. He’d served seven years in the Navy and was deployed twice to the Middle East, and now he had the chance to focus on what direction he wanted to take his career.

Just a few years later, he’s now a business program manager for Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group. He’s already leading a large team in an industry of huge growth and has gotten the chance to develop highly sought-after skills in data analysis.

“It’s always good to have a specific skill set, to be able to point to something that says ‘I have done this, and here’s the analysis that I have done, and here’s the impact,’” McBride says. “This team is at the core of two big pushes for Microsoft, both cloud and data, and so it’s a good place to be.”

McBride’s story shows how students who are new to the industry can have the freedom to explore which aspects of technology excite them and find the support at Microsoft to turn their passions into enviable careers.

“Scott possessed a variety of skills and traits that were valuable regardless of whether or not he had historical experience in the cloud — analytical skills, business sense, executive presence and an ability to communicate complex ideas,” says Ron Sielinski, director of Cloud and Enterprise Analytics and Insights. “All of that can make a candidate viable even if they don’t have specific experience in cloud platforms.”

McBride also “very quickly demonstrated leadership skills,” says Sielinski, who doesn’t doubt McBride’s service in the Navy helped him develop those strengths.

“We want people who come from different backgrounds and who have had different experiences because those often add value to the organization,” Sielinski says. “They can stretch us in ways that we might not think of on our own.”

McBride grew up in southern California and got a degree in political science from UCLA before joining the Navy. His service included, among other things, being stationed on two different ships, working as a detachment officer in charge of landing crafts and teaching in the Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to prepare officers joining the fleet.

He started working toward his MBA at Harvard Business School in 2011 and was glad to have time to regroup and reflect on what he wanted to do. He’d always found technology appealing because of “how it enables folks and organizations to be more effective and do more things,” he says.

McBride landed an internship in marketing for Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise team and, after finishing school, took part in the company’s rotational OnRamp program, which gives business students the chance to try a few different roles to help find the best fit.

“It’s a good experience for folks to figure out where they want to land and what they’re most excited about, but also give them a broader business lens so they have a better understanding of what other functions do,” he says.

He began with traditional marketing and subsequently moved to the Azure Business Insights team, which later became the Cloud and Enterprise Analytics and Insights group, and stayed there because “it was a fantastic fit.”

He’d always been good with numbers but didn’t have any professional experience in data analysis, which is now at the heart of his daily role. McBride focuses mainly on Microsoft Azure’s customer usage data to help inform business and engineering decisions, revealing what kinds of changes or opportunities could be pursued to create even better experiences for customers.

He enjoys working each day with an incredibly smart, collaborative team that has supportive leadership, as well as the fundamentals of the job itself. Data analysis is a skill “that’s applicable whether it’s for Cloud or another team within Microsoft,” he says. “Everyone’s always looking to make better decisions.”

He also thinks it’s an opportune time to be in Cloud and Enterprise. Cloud technology has become a big buzz phrase lately, but the industry is continuing to grow rapidly and only shows more potential for major expansion in the coming years.

“Azure is providing great opportunity for businesses, and that creates a lot of opportunity for people who can develop expertise in the cloud, understanding what the business value is — and also for those who are interested in getting into the technical details,” he says.

McBride will head back to Harvard Business School this fall, this time to help with Microsoft recruiting efforts and do on-campus interviews of second-year students. He says he looks for a few different things when assessing which candidates would be a good fit — and they might not be what you’d expect.

If you’re new to the industry like he was, it’s important to show that you’ve gone out of your way to learn about it. It can be hard to talk the language of enterprise technology if your only experience is as a consumer, so McBride suggests “demonstrating that you’ve done your homework and that you understand the value.”

He says he also looks for a passion for technology, skills in navigating ambiguity and a strong ability to influence others.

One of the best parts about landing an internship or job at Microsoft is that “it’s a larger company that has a breadth of different portfolios and different industries that it’s serving,” he says, “so there’s the opportunity to work on a bunch of different things.”

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