After my meeting with all four of the contestants from the web-based reality series, Be the Next Microsoft Employee, I felt stuck: I thought each of the four would have made an excellent hire. Fortunately for all four of the contestants, me being stuck didn’t hold anything up because the judges moved forward, as judges do, and offered Michael Kett a job.
Kett is now a program manager with Microsoft IT, an in-house tech services group. Kett manages and designs technical solutions across approximately 1,000 servers that are used by Microsoft employees. He loves it.
But it’s how he got there that I wanted to hear about. “Winning the show was very strange,” he says. “The whole week was very intense, but I’m elated. I’m very excited to be working at Microsoft.”
Working at Microsoft, he says, is something he’s had his eye on for a long while. Throughout Kett’s career, he’s worked in an IT capacity for organizations that provide services and/or products he believes serve as a catalyst on some level for positive momentum. “In terms of Microsoft, I’ve worked on the products throughout my career,” he says. “It’s what I’ve learned on, and I believe that Microsoft builds great products.”
Kett’s journey to the show took a somewhat circuitous route. Kett moved across the country with his wife, who had just landed a job in Seattle, and once there applied for a job at Microsoft . A week later he was contacted by recruiting and encouraged to put his name in the running for not only the job but the show as well.
In terms of reality television as a recruiting channel, Kett had his concerns. “I didn’t want to go through a hypercompetitive show where we’d have to vote people off, and I didn’t want to be in situations where I’d be personally embarrassed,” he recalls. “For all of us, our worst fear was that we’d make idiots of ourselves in front of Microsoft. At the same time, I was pretty sure I had the technical skills for the job.”
Once he found himself in the thick of shooting for the show, Kett had a bit of a change of heart about recruiting via a reality show. “We could showcase our technical skills plus our ability to express ideas and be socially integrated with other people, which was something I didn’t think I needed to worry about going into it,” he says. “But being able to collaborate across groups is definitely important in a huge company like Microsoft.”
Of course, what draws Kett to Microsoft – and what he says will keep him fully engaged – isn’t the show but the company. “The most important thing to me is the career opportunities, and that doesn’t necessarily mean moving into management,” he says. “It means stimulating growth, and for me that’s intellectual pursuits. I love learning new things and new technologies. That, plus doing something people believe in, is key to attracting talent.”
Of course, having fun with reality television doesn’t hurt. “Overall, the experience was fantastic,” he says. “It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. It was very emotionally charged, but we were a good group. We didn’t cause much drama interpersonally, and we got along really well, which was good.”