Amr Abaza, an IE Alumni from Cairo, Egypt, always considered himself as a Financier, but what he didn´t know was that starting his studies at IE could be what he defines a “life changing experience”.
Amr obtained his Bachelor Degree in Business Administration and Management with a Finance Concentration at The American University of Cairo. One year later he joined the largest Private Bank in Egypt, The Commercial International Bank of Egypt.
After working for almost four years at CIB, where he started his career in the Financial industry and had the chance to work within both Corporate and Credit departments, in 2016, Amr came to Spain to start the International Master in Business Administration (IMBA).
This experience introduced him into a new world, the Tech field, “because of IE’s start-up and tech focus but also because of the dynamic nature of the industry which changes overnight and requires companies to adapt continuously to those changes” and drove him to start looking for opportunities in the sector.
Amr applied to the Microsoft’s MBA Mach Program and today he works as Licensing Sales Specialist at Microsoft’s Dubai offices. If you want to know more about this perfect example of a successful career shift, keep on reading:
Q: Could you please let us know your job title, the date when you started working in Microsoft and the city where you are based at?
A: I’ve joined Microsoft in March 2017 and I am currently based in Dubai covering the Gulf Region (United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar)
Q: Can you please tell us briefly what your previous job was about? Did you make a significant career change on any of those?
A: I started my career in the Financial Services Industry working at the largest Private Bank in Egypt, The Commercial International Bank of Egypt (CIB). I joined them as a Corporate Specialist as part of the Corporate Banking Department. I am a financier by study and this was a great place to start. I progressed in my role and moved to become a Credit Analyst covering Manufacturing and Resources Industries to later become a Senior Financial Analyst in that industry focus.
Then I embarked on my life changing experience at IE Business School. The reason I say that my experience at IE was life changing is because it allowed me to make the most significant career change of all as I changed function, company, industry and geographical location after graduating. I moved from Finance at CIB in the Financial Service Industry in Egypt to Sales & Licensing at Microsoft in the Technology Industry in the Gulf region.
It is anything but easy to land in a new organization, function, industry and market, but it is doable with enough hard work and luck.
Q: Can you please tell us briefly about your new job?
A: I joined Microsoft as part of their MACH MBA program, which stands for Microsoft Academy for College Hires. It is a great program which aims to recruit fresh grads into the company who can bring in energy and new ideas as well as focuses on the development of the candidates until their successful contribution in their new roles.
Microsoft boasts a very inclusive culture where the biggest focus is on learning and growth and I think that’s one of the things that help make new joiners like myself feel both welcome and able to contribute.
I’m currently a Licensing Sales Specialist covering Microsoft’s Enterprise Customers in the Gulf Region focusing on customer in the Financial Services and Manufacturing and Resources industries. This allowed me to capitalize on previous experience in my banking career.
In short, what I do is support Microsoft’s sellers in translating our customer’s software requirements into licensing solutions to enable our customer’s digital transformation journeys. It is a very exciting role from which I can touch and interact with almost all of the business functions at Microsoft and Microsoft’s Enterprise Customers. I would say it’s a role that bridges the gap between Sales and Operations.
Q: Has your personal career strategy always been focused on this job? How does this new job fit into your career strategy?
A: Soon after I started my professional career I realized that I need to be in an organization and a role where my learning curve is constantly upwards sloping, and the steeper the better. I found this in my banking career and am very proud of and grateful to the organization from which I learned so much. I was also able to join IE as an IMBA in January 2016 given my background with that organization.
I started to see technology as an appealing industry shortly after joining IE. Partly this was because of IE’s start-up and tech focus but also because of the dynamic nature of the industry which changes overnight and requires companies to adapt continuously to those changes.
Joining Microsoft was exactly what I was looking for without knowing. The company has a wealth of knowledge to offer and the industry dynamics keeps the flow of new information and learnings coming constantly, so surely it fits in my career strategy.
Q: How did you find out about this job opportunity? Where did you apply for the job?
A: I remember my last 3-4 months at IE, the pressure was mounting, and the graduation finish line was looming. I remember how worried I was about finding a job post-graduation and how sad I was that my IE experience was coming to an end.
I remember that most if not all of my graduation class felt the same. I remember applying for job opportunities daily and my final count was 284 roles. Yes, 284 job applications submitted and I assure you I was not the job application gold medalist in my class, others I learned had an even more impressive count. I remember all the standard rejection emails I received with the standard “we regret to inform you that we will not be moving forward with your application at this time … etc etc.”. I also remember how those emails made me feel.
I was invited to apply to Microsoft’s MBA Mach Program maybe 3 months into my IMBA year via the Talent and Careers team along with many other IMBA candidates. Undoubtedly, I accepted. In late November, one month before graduation, I started my interview process with Microsoft and after some long and grueling interviews I was accepted.
The irony here is that I ended up in the only role which I did not apply for. Sometimes a little luck is needed with the hard work.
Q: How did Talent & Careers and your IE experience help you during the recruiting process? Did you use specific career resources or did you come across useful information via an Advisor or Alumni?
A: Talent & Careers organized a conference at the time where some of the IMBA students got shortlisted for Microsoft’s MBA MACH program with an IE Alumni who had landed a role in Microsoft Italy. It was great to see someone who’d made it to the other side and it was a great opportunity to ask questions regarding the program, the recruitment and the interviewing process at Microsoft.
I reached out to multiple Alumni who were working for Microsoft and their insight was invaluable to my recruitment process.
The lesson learned here is that the IE community does have each other’s backs. I’ve been approached by multiple aspiring graduates since I’ve joined Microsoft and I will always try to assist them in whatever way I can.
Q: How was the recruiting process: stages, tests, interviews, etc.?
A: The recruitment process was long, started in March 2016 and ended in March 2017 when I got hired. But the actual interviewing process was rather shorter as it kicked off in November 2017.
It is a very standard process including an analytical test and an assessment center until you get to the interviews. The interviews ranged from friendly chats to exhausting and stressful cross examinations. Also, part of the interviews were roleplaying exercise based on MBA MACH candidates suggested track in joining the program (sales, operations, marketing etc..)
Q: Would you want to share any tips or advice with students interested in applying to Microsoft? To your job position in particular?
A: If applying to Microsoft, make sure you come with a growth mindset. The expectation is not that you know everything but rather that you are willing and able to learn anything.
I was hired in Microsoft with virtually no industry, role, market or company knowledge but they tested by ability to learn this. They are looking for driven, coachable, energetic candidates who can be dropped in the ocean and quickly find their way to the nearest shore and I’m sure that IE preps up its students to that.
I would love to have a more 1 on 1 conversation with anyone who is interested in joining Microsoft and hopefully be able to help them in their future careers.