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April 21, 2011

My Experiences with UCrew – Janelle Manuel

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The following blog post is from Janelle Manuel who is a member of the Windows UCrew. As a member of the UCrew, she spreads awareness about Windows products at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She is a Film & Digital Media major who will graduate this May. Originally from Dallas, Texas her love of Windows is surpassed only by her love of shoes. She considers herself an addict.

Janelle Manuel is a participant in Microsoft’s UCrew program, and receives Microsoft software, hardware, and financial compensation as part of her participation in the program.

After a less than spacious plane ride, I landed in Seattle on the afternoon of April 8th. Golnaz and I were dropped off at a nice hotel planted smack in the middle of a shopping center and had some of the best cheese fries I have ever tasted. This made my plane ride just fade away. After food, our rehearsal began.

We met up with our go to girl for every little thing, Christina St. Pierre. She shuffled us to the rental car and then we headed to campus. Up until then we’d had three rehearsals via conference call but now it was time to actually sit face-to-face and work through things to make an exciting and memorable demo.

We met Marlo Menti, the woman who had the idea to bring regular students to conferences as a means of giving a first-hand look at how students really use Windows products. She has also become sort of our surrogate mother when we are in Seattle. Then we met up with Leila Toplic, the keynote guru. The two of them had the vision to make a demo that was realistic and true to our experiences. We went through run-through after run-through of the demo. We had a script that was just for reference points but the stories and information had to come from our everyday observations. It is surprisingly difficult to stay natural when you know you will be speaking to Microsoft leaders. In the end, we worked through it and came up with a demo that soon felt like Golnaz and I were just having a conversation.

We were sent to do a demo inside the keynote of Tami Reller, CVP and CFO, Windows. She is one of the most down to earth CFOs I have ever met. In fact, she may be the only CFO I have ever met actually. At the final run-throughs on stage Tami gave us a pep talk and told us to just be ourselves because she knew they would just love us. After that long day, we went back to the hotel and had a Chinese food feast and went to bed. Day-of-show came and Golnaz and I were so excited. We hurriedly checked out of our hotel rooms and grabbed some Starbucks, and then we were off to campus for show time. We walked in the conference center and had one more run-through with Leila before we were instructed to put it out of our minds.

We nervously waited for 11:30 to come around. When Tami stepped on stage it seemed like Golnaz and I couldn’t stop moving. We kept giving each other mini-pep talks. We finally went out on stage and the crowd was so welcoming and eager to hear from us. The demo ran by in a flash and then we were off stage. We got a bunch of laughs but what was most important is that we felt like people were actually listening to what we had to say. People tend to discredit college students but this room full of very important people wanted to hear how their products had affected the scope of college life. After our demo we were asked back on stage and offered jobs right on the spot in the Windows evangelism sector. I don’t even remember saying anything. My mouth just hung open. It was totally beyond my reach to even think that I could have a place within this huge company, and I was just grateful for the opportunity to even fly up there and do a demo.  After the demo they took us to lunch and we had a few meetings and we were shuffled to the airport because we had to go back to school.

It was such a great experience and we could not have done it without Christina, Marlo, and Leila. At Microsoft, I notice that there is a team for everything and they are truly our team. I am so happy that we got to get on that stage and show people that students really do believe in Windows products. They help us power through life and communicate. This is the message that I try to drive home to students on my campus every single day. Golnaz and I really do have a sincere message and we are so thankful every time someone takes the time to listen.