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Microsoft: The internship story

One programme. 200 applicants. 18 interns chosen. Outspoken, young and BURSTING with ideas (some not workable), U! writer Kimberley Lau met with a few of Microsoft's apprentices to get the scoop on their six-month Microsoft adventure so far.

Kimberley Lau
The Experience Microsoft Programme (EMP) - an internship programme where Microsoft Malaysia takes in university graduates under its tutelage for 12 months.

Sounds like any internship? That's where you're wrong! It's more fun, you get more responsibilities (yes, that's a good thing) and there's a chance you'll get hired after the end of your internship.

But not any Tom, Dick or Harry (or Sue, Jane or Mary) can get in just like that. You've got to fit in, you've got to be competent and you've got to have a passion for technology (much like The Apprentice except you get to work for Bill Gates instead of Donald Trump).

"We're looking for people who have the requisite skills for the job they're applying for. They've also got to fit in. Adapt. Be one with the company and the people working in it," said Microsoft Malaysia Public Sector Strategic Engagement director Abdul Rahman Abu Haniffa.

"We don't want to waste our time and their time trying to make them fit into an environment that they're not comfortable with," he said.

Sounds scary? It isn't, really.

At Microsoft, the interns refer to Abdul Rahman as just 'Abdul' (such insolence!), have monthly breakfast get-togethers with the senior management and sometimes they even hang out after work.
All non-obligatory. Unbelievable? Well, it's true.

The reason for EMP
"We wanted to help groom Malaysian talents as well as build human capital, which is something our prime minister has always vowed. Human capital is the most sustaining capital," Abdul Rahman said.

"The programme is perhaps also our answer to unemployment in the country.

"We also hope to impart our corporate culture to our interns. This doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be boring or stodgy," he said.

"We hope to teach them Microsoft's new set of corporate values, which is the eagerness to take on big challenges, passion for whatever they do, self-critical of everything they take on, accountable for all actions, open and respectful to peers as well as integrity in all matters.

"We feel that on-the-job training is more impactful than other methods of learning like formal training or self-study," he explained.

"The problem with young graduates"
Are jobs really that hard to come by? Are accusations that "fresh graduates are too picky and lazy" misplaced? Maybe.

It's definitely unfair to generalise and taint the 'good name' of all graduates just because a few black sheep were being, well, black.

"There are some companies out there who employ interns or fresh graduates just for the sake of cheap labour," Abdul Rahman said. "In some bad interning experiences, the trainees only get to learn the art of photocopying, stuffing envelopes or coffee-making."

Which is why those looking for a job or an internship should snoop around to see what the company culture is, and try to bank yourself a spot in a company like Microsoft that lets you be as much as you can be.

Microsoft Malaysia's public relations intern Vanessa Miranda shares how she handles and 'overcomes' difficult interning experiences.

"I've been in numerous internships and I, too, have been stuck in impossible situations.

"You've just got to ask yourself 'what's the point and objective here,' and learn how to get around those problems and get what you set out to achieve. That in itself is a lesson," she quipped.

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. And when your boss tells you to make coffee, you darn well make a cuppa that's worthy of a Starbucks stamp of approval.

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