Chances are, your first interaction with Microsoft was at a desk, on a computer with a monitor that probably seems comically large now, your leg room narrowed by a tower to power up as well as to store data. That tower now functions in the “cloud”–that mystical platform for data storing and sharing that transcends borders and makes global business seamless. Jessica Goldberg, Chicago Booth MBA ’19, serves as a product marketing manager for Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure. She identifies key cloud trends, seeks to understand the customer, and contributes to Azure strategy projects.
In this Real Humans: Alumni, Jessica highlights how the Chicago Booth MBA prepared her for product marketing at Microsoft, shares advice for current MBAs and much more.
Hometown: Plainview, New York
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Washington University: International Studies in St. Louis, Missouri
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 2019, Strategy, Economics & Entrepreneurship
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 4 years, market research and digital advertising
Post-MBA Work Experience: 2.5 years, technology
Why did you choose to attend business school?
I chose to attend business school to support my pivot into the technology industry. Prior to Booth, I wasn’t getting interviews at my dream companies, and I didn’t have a substantial network in technology. I wanted an MBA experience that would refine my business acumen, give me strong decision-making frameworks and help me develop the network I wanted.
Why Chicago Booth? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I chose Chicago Booth for the Chicago Approach, the flexibility and the network. The Chicago Approach is a data-driven and evidence-based method that helps students learn how to ask the right questions and think more strategically and analytically. Technology changes over time so I wanted to learn tools that I could adapt to whatever business challenges came my way.
Booth’s flexible curriculum enabled me to own my education and customize it to best suit my career aspirations. And the national network with many alums in my target companies made me feel confident that I would have the support I needed to thrive in my career. It also helped that my then-boyfriend, now husband, Louis Ernst, was also admitted and excited to attend Booth.
In the years since I graduated, the Booth network both at Microsoft and in the broader tech industry have been invaluable to my professional growth. My classmates have become so much more than a network, they are lifelong friends. I get to go to four Booth weddings just this year and am looking forward to celebrating together.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
I can’t say enough about the coursework – whether Professor Schrager’s New Venture Strategy for getting to the heart of a problem quickly, Professor Tebbe’s Entrepreneurial Discovery to get the voice of the customer, Professor Middlebrook’s New Products & Services Lab for practical marketing applications, Professor Bertrand’s Firm and the Non-Market Environment for decision-making that considers the regulatory, legal, political and social environments, or Professor Shah’s Negotiations class, which is useful both personally and professionally. Additionally, the networking skills I learned at Booth have served me well in navigating Microsoft’s large organization.
What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned in Product Marketing at Oracle in their Cloud Business Group in the Bay Area. I deepened my knowledge in cloud strategy and confirmed that product marketing was the right path for me.
Why did you choose your current company (Microsoft) after your MBA? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, also a Booth alumni, came to campus to speak early on in my second year. He spoke about his book, “Hit Refresh” and his take on the power of empathy to drive products that truly impact people’s lives. He also spoke on growth mindset, and the idea of being a “learn-it-all” versus a know-it-all. These values aligned to my own. Additionally, I wanted to begin my product marketing career at a large technology company with a variety of products I could learn. At Microsoft, you can work on hardware or software and B2B or B2C. Since joining Microsoft, I have had the opportunity to work on marketing strategies for Surface devices in the United States to Azure global strategies.
How has COVID-19 impacted your industry/career plans?
I was at Microsoft for about six months before offices closed due to COVID-19. I’ve been remote since then. When I switched roles within the company, I had to learn how to cold call, do coffee chats and interview completely remotely. I even had a slide with key points I would share in informational interviews about my career experience and goals. I think my move was a little slower because we were remote, but ultimately everything worked out.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Find your team. These could be folks with similar career aspirations as you, people coming from your target industry, folks you admire and people you have fun with. I learned so much from my classmates – both first- and second-years, full-time and part-time. Their clear-eyed and constructive feedback was the best preparation for recruitment.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
Budget more time for self-care. I had an absolutely fantastic experience, but taking time to exercise or just relax would have been healthier.
–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
I actually didn’t get my Microsoft offer right away. I got feedback that I was the right fit for the company, but not the specific role for which I interviewed. By staying in touch with my recruiter and being persistent, polite and concise about why I was a great fit, I got another opportunity to interview and ultimately landed my dream role.
–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Focus on your journey and not anyone else’s. It’s not about being the first to get a job, it’s about getting the right job for you and your career path. When you stay true to your own goals and passions, you know what opportunities to focus on and what to say no to.