Headquartered in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft began there just about 45 years ago. In the mid-1980s, it grew to dominate the personal computer operating system space, and has since maintained its stature as a household name. Through decades of diversification, hundreds of millions of people now use Microsoft’s products. From development to delivery, their products require a range of talent from a slew of sources—particularly from MBA graduates. An MBA can provide diverse and versatile skills, allowing you to transition from such industries as finance and real estate, to a role combining consulting, tech and sales. That’s just the path that Steven Lipner, Wharton MBA ’18 and account executive at Microsoft, took. His story in this edition of Real Humans: Alumni is full of dreams come true—his first being to land at Wharton, and another to build a career at Microsoft. Read on for how his MBA experience and culture at Microsoft allowed him to fulfill other dreams as well.
Steven Lipner, Wharton MBA ’18, Account Executive for Commercial Enterprise at Microsoft
Hometown: Long Island, New York
Undergraduate Institution and Major: The Cooper Union, Mechanical Engineering
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: The Wharton School, 2018, Entrepreneurial Management, Marketing and Operations
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 5 years, Finance and Real Estate
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 1.5 years, Technology
Why did you choose to attend business school?
I was at a point in my career where I wanted to make a change. While my work was intellectually stimulating, I felt that I wasn’t reaching my potential in making a societal impact. By pursuing an MBA I’d be able to return to my engineering roots by focusing on the business side of technology, something that, in my mind is important to society. Today, I’m fortunate enough to work at Microsoft – an organization whose mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. Had I not pursued an MBA, I would’ve never had the opportunity to make this vital career switch and unlock my potential.
Why Wharton? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
It had always been a dream of mine to go to Wharton. Most people know about Wharton; its name and brand are dead giveaways of the institution’s greatness. When I stepped on the Wharton campus, my dreams were realized immediately. I witnessed the Wharton network with my own eyes. At Pub, a food and social fest that takes place every Thursday evening in an old warehouse, I had some of the most magnificent and compelling conversations of my life with people from all over the world.
The tremendous diversity of the student body moved me given my small-world upbringing in a Jewish community on Long Island. It took me no time to realize what the Wharton “brand” is. Not only were these individuals “different” and “special” in an intellectual kind of way, but they were also authentic and kind, spending as much time—maybe even more!—asking my wife how she is as they spent with me. Despite how large Wharton is, these conversations lent it a familial edge that I experienced nowhere else.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Though sales is not a typical post-MBA path, Microsoft approaches sales in a consultative way—challenging all companies to transform themselves with the use of Microsoft’s technology. My MBA experience gave me the leadership and communication skills that are necessary in my role at Microsoft as an account executive, where I lead a team of technical specialists that help enterprises digitally transform. Working hand-in-hand with senior leaders and helping them re-envision their existing business models to embrace a different way of bringing together people, data, and processes, I have fostered these skills to create value for their organizations.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I worked at Microsoft as a program manager in operations during my summer internship. It was easy to fall in love with Microsoft. Despite how huge Microsoft is, with its many campuses spread out all over Redmond, it had a similar comfortable feel to Wharton. The people were extremely bright, but also caring and warm. These were not merely added bonuses; I was looking for this type of environment for my post-MBA career. Furthermore, after speaking to some of the MBA hires from previous years, specifically ones in sales, and learning that I could be on the front-line of seeing how our technology helps customers digitally transform their business, I knew I found the perfect job for me.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
As mentioned earlier, I had spent my summer internship working at Microsoft. When looking at several tech companies, I was immediately inspired by Microsoft’s mission as well as its growth mindset culture. Microsoft’s mission–to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more–resonated with me strongly as I wanted to see the impact of the work I was doing on a daily basis. Furthermore, Microsoft’s growth mindset culture attracts constant learners. Knowing that I’d be part of a curious culture of individuals that are always looking for the next “how” and “why” was exhilarating.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Remind myself why I came to business school. It’s easy to get caught up with the incredible opportunities that an MBA offers you with companies coming to campus and “coffee chats” taking place every single day. By focusing on what interested me, my job search was narrowed, but so much more effective. Personally, during my 2nd year, once I knew I wanted to be an account executive at Microsoft, I would come into our NY office on several Fridays connecting with as many past MBAs to learn more about the role and ensure that this was the perfect job for me.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
I can’t say I’d change anything. After my summer internship, I knew I wanted to work in sales at Microsoft and this job has been everything I could’ve imagined and more. I’ve been happier at Microsoft than I’ve ever been.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
During my summer internship, I realized I wanted to switch to a sales role. Although I had to go through the interview process again, I was amazed at how many former MBAs in sales were willing to take the time out of their busy schedules to help me in my journey.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Make sure you take the time to get to know your classmates. It’s easy to break off and connect with people that have similar interests to you, but I’d strongly encourage you to take your time to get to know as many people as possible. Given the global nature of business, the diversity of thought during your MBA experience will be unparalleled.
What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
While there are so many things that have been incredible about my experience so far, I’d say the best thing has been my work/life flexibility. Although I work similar hours to when I worked in finance, I love that there’s no “facetime” culture. Microsoft gives us the tools to be productive from anywhere and entrusts its employees a certain faith to be effective in our jobs. When I had my son this past year, Microsoft encouraged me to take 12 weeks of paternity leave to strengthen the bond with my son. Growing up, I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to take this time off–but now that I did, I’ve built a connection with my son that I never thought was possible. Without Microsoft’s investment in its employees, this could’ve never been achieved.