Audience Marketing Manager, Microsoft
Shaina Morrison is a fighter. No, not the Ronda Rousey UFC kind of fighter, but the persevere against all odds type. Whether it’s bouncing back from a layoff or dealing with business school rejections, she is the embodiment of grace under pressure. Shaina and I met as fellows in the Management Leadership for Tomorrow MBA prep program. Though we attended different business schools, our connection was reignited when we both studied abroad at ESADE in Barcelona. We formed a closeness over our love of travel, not taking ourselves too seriously and oh yea…the fact that we were both still recruiting for full-time jobs while living in another country! Shaina taught me a lot about keeping the faith and staying hopeful all while sipping on cava and eating tapas. Now thriving in her role as an Audience Marketing Manager with Microsoft, Shaina spoke to me about her non-traditional path to tech and lessons learned.
Tell us about your role at Microsoft – what’s a typical day?
There is no typical day! My role is focused on inspiring and educating K-12 and university student developers through leadership of marketing strategy, channels, and programs. My day can range from determining our training strategy for our U.S. Microsoft Student Partners, which is our university student technology ambassadors, to reviewing social media copy, to planning the U.S. Imagine Cup Finals, Microsoft’s premier technology competition. The most challenging part of my day is prioritization as I must keep a constant balance of planning and execution to keep things moving!
How have your previous roles prepared you for your current role as Audience Marketing Manager at Microsoft?
My career in advertising and MBA experience definitely prepared me for my role today. Prior to business school, I worked as an account manager in advertising, developing marketing campaigns for music, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, retail, and beauty business categories. My time in advertising gave me a love of integrated marketing and prepared me with the ability to project manage multiple high-priority initiatives. My MBA experience rounded out my skill set by providing me with marketing research and strategy training and a deeper understanding of job opportunities that would allow me to positively impact people’s lives through marketing and technology.
What made you decide to get your MBA and how has it propelled your career?
I decided to get my MBA because I fell in love with marketing and enjoyed my career in advertising but I yearned to go beyond the execution of marketing campaigns. I wanted to own marketing strategy and understand the data decision-making process that informs successful leadership. I knew pursuing my MBA would provide me with this exposure. It did just that and more. An MBA gave me an inside perspective of the technology/entertainment companies that I loved. Also, it taught me the business frameworks that I needed and a greater perspective of the world through my classmates and of course, travel!
Let’s talk about the lowest moment in your career thus far. How did you push through?
The lowest moment in my career was a year stretch of long advertising hours, GMAT studying, b-school rejections, and a layoff. As I kept telling myself that I could achieve my goals, if felt like the universe kept loudly telling me no. It was painful and the only things that helped me persevere was unwavering faith, supportive friends, and this persistent hope that it would all work out. The greatest lesson I learned is that in dark times you have to speak your future into existence and hold on to that mantra, because in transitions everything will try to pull you away from your goals including self-doubt. It eventually worked out through a new job and an acceptance to my dream school.
The lack of diversity in tech is a huge issue, yet you are thriving at one of the biggest global tech brands. How did you penetrate the industry and what advice do you have for those aspiring to be in your shoes?
I consistently researched the industry and immersed myself with thought-leadership publications, not just online but in person. My time in business school gave me access to companies through trek visits and alumni chats. What was critical about my entry into the industry was using every conversation to deepen my understanding of the respective company’s objectives so that I could determine how I could contribute. My advice would be to remain passion-led and scrappy. If you are passionate about technology and innovation, even if you don’t know how that translates into a career, use that as your fuel to be scrappy; to do as much as you can to gather knowledge of the industry and the career paths available. This can take shape through coordinating conversations and coffee chats with people in the industry or facing your fears and approaching someone you admire at a conference. There’s no one size fits all approach to grit but it must be tied to a purpose that is authentic to you.
What are the biggest career lessons you would give to a young Shaina?
- Your instincts were right about humility! It’s essential. Remaining humble in all that you do allows you to become a student of life. You’re able to constantly learn and grow and it makes you gain a deeper appreciation of your life and everyone around you. Always listen to advice, thank people who support you, and reach back to help others come up.
- Calm down – It will work out but not necessarily how you expect. I often would be super stressed about the future and all of the things that I needed to do to get there. But stress inhibits your ability to think. So breathe and tell yourself that greatness can’t be built in a day, it takes time. As you keep chipping away at your future, enjoy the ride and know that the end goal may take shape differently than you expect, and that’s not a bad thing; it’s a growth thing.
- Life truly begins outside of your comfort zone – Packing my things up in less than two weeks to move to Chicago, studying abroad in Spain while recruiting for US jobs, and now moving to Seattle as an east coaster with no family in the area seemed incredibly risky, but my life has been shaped better than I could’ve imagined because of it. Living a risk taking life is not easy, sometimes it stirs up fears and insecurities that you didn’t know existed but you will always end up on the other side, stronger and more self-aware than ever before.