Learning Lessons Working at Microsoft

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Tharum Bun

Jul 26, 2023, 12:26:12 AM7/26/23
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By Mao Sreypich on July 25, 2023
Source: https://kiripost.com/stories/cambodia-khmer-american-shares-lessons-working-at-microsoft

Cambodian-American, Neak Sopheak, shares his journey to Microsoft
after being repeatedly rejected by multiple major tech companies in
his attempts to secure employment

Cambodian-American, Neak Sopheak, was raised in Seattle, Washington,
after relocating to the US with his family at the age of 12. He
believes moving to the US gave him the chance to hunt for good

After earning a degree in computer science from the University of
Washington, he initially intended to go into program and product
management as he couldn’t picture himself as a software engineer. He
sent applications to several tech companies in the US but was met with
multiple rejections.

Nonetheless, he was recruited by Google as a product strategist
working on Google AdSense and, in particular, Google Ads Trademark,
with a focus on advertising.

“If people create software, for example, a mobile app, and they want
to run ads into that, I have to define some privacy and brand safety
to control with those,” Sopheak said.

His interest in working in the IT industry as a program manager was
spurred by the job at Google. After working at the tech giant for
three years, he decided to return to his family in Washington. He also
wanted to explore different industries outside advertising.

While several major companies, such as Starbucks, Amazon, and
Microsoft, were headquartered in Washington, he was drawn to Microsoft
due to its significant cultural transformation and strong network in
terms of business models.

Opportunities Arise

However, securing a job at Microsoft wasn't easy. In the United
States, there are several ways to find job opportunities in the tech
industry, including online applications, networking, and referrals.
Sopheak applied online for several different positions at Microsoft
and was turned down by multiple times.

Despite receiving several rejections, he remained undeterred and
continued to apply. One day, a recruiter at Microsoft contacted him.
He said he considers himself lucky to be able to work at Microsoft
without a referral from anyone; instead through his own efforts.

“I was lucky enough that the role I have today was not even through
referral or connecting with the hiring manager,” he said. “But through
an interview at Microsoft from my online application.”

As a business program manager at Microsoft, he gets to work with a
variety of device partners, including major original equipment
producers including HP, Lenovo, and other companies in the computer
industry. He also supports the development of tools for the Microsoft
team, as well as groups of partners outside of Microsoft.

Working Culture at Microsoft

When Sopheak was in high school, he had the opportunity to take part
in an internship at Microsoft. However, at the time, he noticed the
culture there was a little more traditional and hierarchical, with a
focus on driving outcomes and less on creating a safe space for the
community and workers.

He said that today, it focuses more on employees and makes significant
investments to ensure that everyone belongs and is included. “I think
Microsoft has gone through a huge evolution in terms of culture,” he

In addition, he added, it is competing in a fair and inclusive setting
rather than trying to copy competitors, instead, finding ways to

“So, I think that tone and shift really help the company grow in a way
that is more manageable and also a little bit less cutthroat,” Sopheak

Prior to working at Microsoft, he pursued a job placing a strong focus
on working hard. He devoted himself to work for 10 to 12 hours a day,
which made him feel as if he was losing his identity.

“Sometimes, I felt like a robot,” he said.

Sopheak added that he felt pressured to finish everything and would
often lose all sense of existence and doubt himself. “What are some of
the purposes that I want to do in terms of my life? Also, how do I
want to grow my career,” he said.

When he switched to Microsoft, he told himself to have a better
understanding and set better boundaries. He also ensures that he
schedules time to relax, rather than working for 10 to 12 hours every
day for several months.

He said that he began to place more emphasis on taking care of himself
and focusing on his mental health in addition to his physical health.
At Microsoft, there is a specific community called “Asian in
Marketing” that gathers to celebrate and share a common area.

“It’s an opportunity to host an event, share food and culture, and
then talk about the story. I was invited to host an event called Dig
In,” he said. “I hosted one for Cambodia and I brought stuffed chicken
wings and sticky rice.”

He added that after hosting it, he had the opportunity to show his
peers what typical Cambodian food looks like. He was also able to
share Cambodia's history and culture, which gave him a sense of

Passion Creates Opportunity

People can take his advice as a small data point of a lot of data,
Sopheak said, adding he believes that there's always a different
context and background in terms of how opportunity arises.

He suggests people look for the opportunity to partner and work on
projects they are passionate about in any sector, such as technology.

“I would say the advice that I have is essentially focus on the
project that you find energizing for you and work on those without the
intention of it making a lot of money,” he said.

Previously, Sopheak questioned if the idea could generate money.

“The more that I question it, the less energized I get, and it makes
me stop wanting to do it.”

He advises people to follow their passion projects, whether creating a
mobile app or another project on their own. “This is because there is
always room for learning along the way,” he said.

“I think the more you stay on that path of passion, the more attracted
you are to people who have similar ones,” he said. “So, there will be
an opportunity to come together and celebrate, and it feels good to be
in that space.”

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