Less than a year after donning his cap and gown, David Klock ’10 is putting in 12-hour days at Microsoft. And loving it.

“You’re not told from the top down what to do here,” he says. “You set your own direction.”

Klock, a political science and computer science double major at Macalester, is working on the company’s Bing search engine as a software development engineer, on the testing side. What that means is that he doesn’t create the search engine but rather tests it to find and fix any bugs before the public uses it.

It all started at a Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science Department-sponsored alumni event, held the fall of his senior year.

Specifically he’s working on the TV section of a feature Microsoft calls “Answers,” which is more sophisticated than a typical Google search. “We’re a search engine but we take a different approach. We’re better for helping people make decisions,” he says.

So how did the Philadelphia boy and St. Paul collegian end up working in a 26-story office tower in suburban Seattle? It all started at a Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science Department-sponsored alumni event, held the fall of his senior year. There he met David Sielaff ’90, a principal software development engineer for Microsoft who has been with the company 11 years. Sielaff encouraged the computer science seniors to consider Microsoft, returned to campus to conduct mock interviews with them so they’d know what to expect, and got their resumes to the right people at his company.

“Mac students have a lot to offer employers like Microsoft that are continuing to solve new problems and drive innovation in the industry,” says Sielaff. “One of the things I value about my Mac education is the focus on a breadth of thinking rather than a strict focus on skills. Problem-solving ability is vital to success at innovative companies.”

Sielaff’s tutoring obviously worked because by last July, three Class of 2010 graduates were working for the Redmond, Washington, behemoth—Klock and Kayton Parekh in the home office and Sami Saqer at its Fargo, North Dakota, site. All enjoy the perks of Microsoft, which include excellent health coverage, pet health insurance, tuition reimbursement, and—at the Seattle site at least—several gyms and a company cafeteria with what Klock describes as “great food.”

The pay and perks may be great, but “they expect you to really work for it,” says Klock. “We have free soda, etc. but there’s a strong work ethic too. I regularly get emails from people at 2 a.m.”

Despite the long hours, “I can see myself staying for awhile,” says Klock. He says hard work is noticed and rewarded at Microsoft, and people can be promoted quickly.

As for the transition from college to workplace, Klock credits Macalester with making his possible. He only added the computer science major at the end of his sophomore year, when he realized he was most interested in computers. “Mac accommodated me,” he says. “Where else could you add a computer science major at the start of your junior year and two years later be working for Microsoft?” 

January 17 2011

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