(Soon-to-be) Alumna Spotlight: Manuela Gonzalez Y Gonzalez

Hello, my name is Manuela Gonzalez Y Gonzalez and I am a graduating senior studying English Literature at Purdue. My journey has not been a linear one; I have had many majors prior to selecting English as my final destination, but I am fortunate to say that I am graduating with a full-time position lined up at Microsoft.

What was your path to and through the English major?

I always loved literature growing up, but I was really confused about what I wanted to major in when I got to college. Somehow, I ended up choosing Biomedical Science as my first major. One science major led to another and another. While taking the classes for one of these majors, which was Physics at the time, I decided to take a course for fun called “Great American Books.” It changed my whole perspective on English.

The class helped me realize that, sometimes, it’s okay to follow your passion. That semester, I decided I was done with science. I have always loved reading, talking about books, and asking big questions; the English major aligned perfectly with these interests.

By the time I became a junior, I decided that I wanted to see what I could do outside of college. I did not want to go to graduate school. I also did not want to be a teacher. One day, I decided to look at Microsoft, because I always loved technology. As I was looking into their internships, I found a position called “Programming and Technical Writers” and I decided to apply.

What was the application and interview process like for your internship at Microsoft?

The week after I applied online, Microsoft emailed me for a phone interview. They wanted to learn about my passions, why I was studying English Literature, what kind of writing I was doing, and if I liked creative writing. They also let me know that the position that I was interviewing for was actually not as a technical writer; they were looking for a content publisher intern, which basically means writing all kinds of stuff for Microsoft.

A week after our phone conversation, Microsoft asked if I was interested in flying to Seattle and doing an on-sight interview. They emailed me on Monday, and I flew out on Wednesday.

My interview was from 8am to 5pm. In the morning, I had to do an hour-long presentation about myself. They asked me for a portfolio of my writing, and they wanted me to talk in-depth about three of these samples. Then, I had lunch with the recruiters and, after that, I had three back-to-back interviews. Every interview was so different. In one of them, I talked about my passions the whole time. They wanted to know who I was outside of school and work. I found it interesting that they were really trying to get to know me. My second interview was full of mind-trick questions. There were a lot of extremely weird hypothetical situations proposed. My third interview involved brainstorming, talking about features from my favorite technologies.

What was your day-to-day routine like while you were at this internship?

My job was divided into three main tasks: working with marketing, writing, and program managing. I had to balance all of them, but every day was different. One day may be full of meetings where my team was trying to solve a problem or decide on specifics for a product. The next day, I might be writing the whole time. I also had to compromise a lot because I was working on a team. Everyone needed to be involved and everyone’s ideas needed to be heard. Just knowing that it was a safe environment to do this was amazing.

My team never had an intern before so I was like the guinea pig for them, which was actually good because, instead of treating me like an intern, they treated me like an actual employee. The expectations were the same. They gave me authority and freedom. By the time the other interns got there, I was someone they could come to if they didn’t know what was going on.

By the end of week 12, which was my last week, I had a finished prototype. I was really excited but scared at the same time because I had to present to my manager and my manager’s manager and the manager of my manager’s manager. They were all watching my presentation for this product. I truly felt like it was a great end for my internship. And, from there, Microsoft decided that they wanted me to come back as a full-time employee after graduation.

Is there anything that you learned through your internship that you want to share with other English majors?

One of the most important things that I learned is that there is a place and a need in the tech industry for liberal arts majors. Really, it was incredible seeing 1,200 people all from liberal arts backgrounds at Microsoft working together to advocate for tech. In the past, this was not that common, as companies tended to believe that their products would speak for themselves. Now there is a shift where companies are recognizing a need to have a voice for their brands—a bridge between the engineers and the customers. That’s what we do as English majors; we tell stories. Companies need that. Otherwise they don’t survive.

We are the voice of the company. What we write, everybody reads. Learning this was empowering for me. I really wish more liberal arts students would realize that, if they are passionate about technology, there is a place for them in the industry. I hope that, with my experience, I can shine light on opportunities for Purdue students. I want people to understand the prospects an English major can have after graduation. I want them to realize that we have valuable skills that can be applied to any field.

I encourage students to do internships. I feel that getting real world experience can make all the difference. Don’t be scared to apply to things. I never thought I would get this opportunity, but I did. Don’t be discouraged. Just keep trying.

Ally Geoffray is a Junior in English Literature and Professional Writing at Purdue.