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Role Rundown: A Conversation with a Corporate Strategy Manager at Microsoft
by
Sydney Maxwell
, 13th July 2020
4 min read
Insights
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Can you explain a bit about your journey into Corporate Strategy?

My story is somewhat unique. I came out of a bioengineering PhD programme and then moved into Management Consulting with a focus in biotech. After doing that, for a few years, I decided that pharmaceutical/biotech consulting was limiting because the industry is so heavily regulated. So any kind of creative solution that you'd come up with might not go through because of national regulation. 

I wanted to move to a tech company and do strategy there. Because as you know, tech is much faster moving and obviously there are fewer regulations. Larger tech companies like Microsoft, Google or Amazon touch multiple facets of society and they have their hands on a lot of different things and I found that to be a really great and wide-open space to be in.

What does a role in Corporate Strategy at Microsoft look like?

The corporate strategy team at Microsoft is focused on growth, and for a company as large as Microsoft, the scale of needle-moving growth is quite large. In order to achieve that in the day-to-day, I would say that it's very similar to Management Consulting, in the sense that there’s really no set schedule. A lot of it depends on the project that you're on, the meetings that you have, how close you are to various deliverables. And so I think for anyone transitioning from consulting to a Corporate Strategy role, they would feel pretty familiar with the cadence and the pace of things.

What does a typical week look like?

It’s highly variable and it depends on the projects we’re working on and how many we have going on at the same time. Every week looks very different, but a breakdown of what one week might look like is this:

  • Mondays are focused on setting the schedule for the week with the team (Microsoft’s Corporate Strategy team is ~30 people in total)
  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday are working days, meetings, a lot of reading, putting together decks and discussion of how do we tell whatever story we’re trying to drive
  • Fridays are a kind of a wrap-up day to summarise the week and discuss a bit what we’re going to be working on the next week.

Do you have any tips for getting into Corporate Strategy?

The main difficulty of getting into Corporate Strategy lies in getting your CV noticed. I would recommend reaching out to current members of the team and setting up coffee chats. During the interview, really think about how the company makes money and what the avenues for growth are. Then take that train of thought and apply it to the company's competitors. A lot of what makes successful consultants translates almost exactly to what would make a successful person in Corporate Strategy. This is one of the easier transitions, someone looking to move from Management Consulting to Product or Operations would require more research and work to make a smooth transition.

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