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JCSU alumni develop seminar to help students get hired with Microsoft

Aisha Davis '17
Photo courtesy: Aisha Davis
Aisha Davis '17
Charlotte, N.C. / October 19, 2020 - Three Johnson C. Smith University graduates working at Microsoft are paying it forward to current STEM students. Aisha Davis ’13, Bernard Smith ’17 and Darnell Harris ‘11 started a virtual seminar for students to increase the number of JCSU graduates Microsoft hires.

“When I started at Microsoft seven years ago, there were a few alumni working with the company, but they didn't recruit from Johnson C. Smith,” Davis, a senior customer success account manager for Microsoft, said. “It wasn’t until my second year with the company that they made an effort to recruit from HBCUs.” 

With about a dozen JCSU alumni working for the company, Davis says the University is one of the HBCUs Microsoft heavily recruits from. That’s why her and some of her colleagues are working with students to prepare them for interviews with the company.

“We’re really trying to make sure that they understand how strategic the interview process is. At Microsoft, it’s not just about how smart you are. They are looking for problem solvers.”

Davis, never imagined her first job out of college would be with Microsoft and said the opportunity would not have presented itself had she not attended JCSU. “I didn't have the best GPA in high school. I had speech issues growing up and I was in basic skills math. Nobody thought I was college material.” During her freshman year, tech evangelists with Microsoft visited the campus and ultimately changed her outlook on life. “Having them tell me about their job and spend time with me let me know that I'm important and that there is an opportunity for me,” she said.

Smith said when he first attended JCSU, he had no idea of what he wanted to do post-graduation. Through mentorship and hard work, he was able to find his path and hopes his influence will help others to do the same. 

Bernard Smith '13
Photo courtesy: Bernard Smith
Bernard Smith '13
“One of the ways I want to give back is to pour back into the University that raised me,” Smith said. “As a first-generation college student, I know all too well the power of mentorship.”

Smith said serving as Mister JCSU 2016-17 taught him to be a leader, a skillset he uses in his current role as a premier field engineer with the company.

The virtual seminars consist of one-on-one mock interviews, resume reviews and panel discussions. Davis says they’ve been able to help 30 students total and ten of them have received callbacks for interviews with Microsoft. 

“I’m grateful to be able to give back to JCSU,” Smith added.

Davis and Smith plan to continue their efforts as long as Microsoft recruits from the University. They hope their efforts help increase diversify the field of tech.

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