Categories: ArticlesPublished On: October 1st, 2022

Next Level Mentorship: Microsoft Reach reaches for the stars

Kim Grant


Turazo has long focused on coaching and mentorship as a piece of the recruiting process. But Jim Sanders, Senior Design Manager, and his team at Microsoft Reach have taken it to the next level.

Microsoft Reach connects students and prospects interested in the UX and design world as a career through one-on-one, advice-oriented conversations with Microsoft employees. It helps people navigate into the industry with confidence. Sanders summarizes: “Helping prospects understand what it takes to become a top candidate moves the needle in a huge way.”

The grassroots program focuses on underrepresented groups and recruits from a wide swath of schools where internship opportunities are nonexistent. It targets boot camps, organizations focusing on mothers returning to work, and HBCUs.

“We create an entry ramp for inclusivity, diversity, and opportunity that sets mentees up for success anywhere they go,” says Sanders.


Is candidate diversity a pipeline problem?

Microsoft found that diversity is an access-to-opportunity problem at a more fundamental level. Increasing knowledge and awareness is top of the funnel intervention. They wondered about making connections with people outside of Microsoft, outside of places they typically recruited from.

Sanders added, “We wanted to help people discover what they can do and how to do it. We were looking for non-traditional people who were really driven, curious, and open to learning.”


Light touch mentorship or the Microsoft Reach model?

Light touch mentorship is like going for a walk-and-talk together versus working with somebody an hour a month for six months.

“Our model is different. Both the mentee and mentor are meeting different people each time. It would be tough to ask mentors to commit to one person for a longer period of time,” says Sanders.

Microsoft Reach ensures mentoring conversations build on one another, and they offer mentees four mentor perspectives.

“Mentees wanted to go wide, to meet different people after reading different profiles, to hear a little bit about this or that during a 30-minute call,” said Sanders.

On the mentor side, a huge core of mentors was excited to participate in additional calls because of “the potential to make an impact in someone’s life in 30 minutes,” according to Sanders. Everybody wins with this one-on-one method.


Awesome outcomes

Nearly 50% of the most active mentees were non-traditional prospects who became Microsoft prospects.

Of the mentees in the workforce who completed the certificate process, 86% are in design or an adjacent role.

What was the most surprising aspect of the Reach program? Sanders: “How well it’s worked and its amazing impact. In the startup world, it doesn’t always go the way you want. But we have had awesome outcomes, especially for those who moved further along the program. And I think we can go bigger.”


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