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Real Humans of Microsoft: Jonathan Bulls, Duke Fuqua ’19, Senior Account Executive

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In today’s Real Humans: Alumni, we meet Jonathan Bulls, whose leadership skills that he developed through his military service served him well in his transition to the private sector. Learn how Duke Fuqua prepared Bulls with a complete understanding of all business functions necessary to successfully manage his customer accounts at Microsoft.

Jonathan Bulls, Duke Fuqua MBA ’19, Senior Account Executive at Microsoft

Age: 34
Hometown: Fairfax Station, VA
Undergraduate Institution and Major:  United States Military Academy at West Point, Management and Systems Engineering
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: Duke Fuqua School of
Business, 2019
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 6 years in the Army as a Field Artillery officer
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 3.5 years in technology

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I chose to attend business school because I wanted to seamlessly transition from the military to the private sector and I knew I needed to increase my business acumen to complement the leadership skills I learned in the Army.

Why Duke Fuqua? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I chose Duke Fuqua for several reasons. Firstly, my older brother attended Duke Fuqua, and his experiences and recommendations had a significant influence on my decision. I really enjoyed seeing the strong connections and bonds he had with his classmates and fellow veterans. Secondly, I was drawn to Duke’s strong connection to the military, which includes opportunities for working with veterans in the community and active duty at military bases in North Carolina. Lastly, as a sports enthusiast, I was attracted to Duke’s rich athletic history and the opportunity to be a Cameron Crazy.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
My MBA taught me to have a solid knowledge base across all business functions, from finance to HR. As a sales Account Executive in technology, it is critical for me to have an understanding of a customer’s overall business and how to solve challenges impacting different departments. It also prepared me to work with more diverse groups of people from all backgrounds.

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
My internship was at Microsoft as Operations Program Manager on the Compliance, Data Analytics & Services team. That internship got me immersed in the Microsoft culture and helped me understand all of the opportunities I could pursue at Microsoft. I got connected to colleagues in sales and learned how that could be a good role given my skillset and passion for helping solve customer challenges.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I chose Microsoft due to the company’s reputation as a leader in the tech industry, the opportunity to deliver value to customers through cutting-edge technology and innovation, and to genuinely make an impact in the way people and organizations can lead a more productive lifestyle to achieve more. I also love the #OneMicrosoft culture and “Learn it all” mindset we embrace every day. This provided a safe space for me to ask questions and collaborate with others more openly.

How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans? 
COVID accelerated the need for organizations to modernize and transform their business. Being in tech sales, COVID increased the level of engagement with customers as they navigated remote work and future-proofing their business. My career plans were not necessarily impacted by COVID except that it accelerated my learning and development with how much busier I was engaging with customers.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Talk to as many different people and companies as your bandwidth allows. People have different perspectives and experiences at the same companies in different departments, so it is critical to get as many of those as possible. I would also say the same thing about different companies within a sector you are evaluating. For me, not every tech company is the same and they all have different values and cultures, so it is important to see which resonates best with you.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I don’t have anything I would change or do differently. I was very fortunate to land an internship at my dream company and then learn about other opportunities I could pursue at Microsoft in a full-time role. I was very excited to see the “stars align” when I found out I could get my #1 choice of role, company, and location after my MBA. I know a lot of people who would be ecstatic to secure one of those three criteria.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
The only minor surprise about my current employer’s recruiting process was that they really cared more about who I was as a person and my ability to think about situations from a different perspective. I had prepared for a lot of different case studies and that was not what my employer was looking to evaluate in the roles I applied for.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
I wish it would have been more emphasized to not get discouraged when what you think is your top choice does not work out. It was a blessing in disguise when I did not get interviews or offers with other companies and roles that I thought were my number one choice. It gave me the opportunity to learn about more other companies and roles that ended up being more of a fit for me. Do not let all the “noise” about other peers landing internships and full-time roles at “dream companies” distract you or discourage you from your goals and your journey. Also, know that there are opportunities to pivot to that “dream company” after a couple years.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.