Rising stars: Helen Reidy, EMEA Product Marketing Manager, Microsoft
I have always been ambitious and I have long been determined to work for a big multinational, so I was very proactive about jobhunting in my final year. Just getting into Microsoft is an achievement I’m really proud of. I joined the September 2008 graduate training programme straight after college. It was a grilling process to get in, involving an online assessment, an assessment day and interviews, but once on the training scheme graduates are regarded as potential business leaders of the future. The training was wide-ranging and comprehensive, with regular sessions in areas including Excel and other Office tools, problem solving, presentation skills, cross-group collaboration and career development.
A turning point
As a trainee I was rotated through several different areas within the interactive entertainment business (IEB) department. I've worked in the channel operations team as an operations account manager for Germany, I've been EMEA demand planner for XBOX accessories and I’ve also worked on XBOX bundle manufacturing. It's been fantastic to experience these different roles.
Coming over to the UK (Reading and London) to do a rotation in Marketing was an unmissable opportunity. My general manager back in Ireland was very supportive of graduates and of people who work hard: he was a great mentor and encouraged me to do the marketing rotation in UK. I was then lucky enough to be offered a permanent position with them after my rotation finished. I was absolutely delighted to get the job, partly because people who applied externally for the role had at least five year's solid marketing experience behind them. I would never have been eligible if I wasn't already on the inside. If you work hard and prove yourself, in large companies opportunities will come to you.
I'd say being relentless about pursuing my professional goals. That's a vital skill for anyone who wants to get ahead in business. Get your head down, stay focused and don't let anything throw you off course.
I've always been a driven person, but having exposure to senior colleagues at Microsoft on a regular basis and the guidance I've received from my mentor (my old manager) has helped me to identify my key business skills and develop as a professional. Getting a mentor is very important.
There are many soft skills that you just don't get taught at college, and working with lots of different people from different cultures has been a big learning curve for me. I'm always trying to improve on my people skills. I think I've learned more in this area during my first six months at Microsoft than during four years at college.
Advice for graduates
Work hard and take feedback on board. Take advice from senior colleagues and adapt it to your own situation. This will enable you to grow professionally and encourages respect.
I would also say that if you've done your degree and you're not happy in your job, go back to college and do postgraduate study in an area that appeals to you. Further education could set you on the path to a new career if you're not where you want to be.
Skills for future graduates
Languages are incredibly useful. I don't think enough emphasis is placed on this at school, but so many doors will open up for you in a global company if you can speak another language or two.
Helen Reidy was interviewed for Ireland's 100 leading graduate employers 2011/12.