Tuesday, May 16th

If I had three words for the company visits this trip, they would probably be these: AI, AI, and AI! Artificial Intelligence has been a hot topic the past two weeks, and we have gotten varying perspectives from the different businesses we toured. At Microsoft, we explored the future of AI for every day applications and explored how many impressions it makes on their business. Victor was very excited talking about AI, and presented all the ways it can be integrated into every day activities to assist with mundane tasks. Copilot, a new feature that will be launched soon, will be added to Outlook, Word, and so on and will feature helpful tools such as summarizing meetings, creating PowerPoints, and scheduling meetings. I have been listening in a bit to the conversations buzzing around AI online, but artificial intelligence is still a pretty foreign concept to me. Victor’s presentation was a bit mind-blowing to me, and it now has me anticipating the assistance it will have in making day-to-day tasks expedited. I think I’ve had this idea of larger implications, with extremely advanced applications, but the Microsoft visit has made AI seem more user-friendly for the ‘average Joe’ and easier to digest. At Thinkhouse, on the other hand, AI has a very different relationship with the company since artistic ability builds the foundation of most, if not all, of the products and services they offer. I have seen conversation circling on the internet for the past few weeks about AI’s rule in art and creativity, and some ethical concerns surrounding it. Our hosts at Thinkhouse noted that while many people fear that AI will rip jobs away from people, it is rather people who are familiar with AI and know how to utilize it that will be ahead of their colleagues. Thinkhouse has tested the waters in AI and have even formed an AI team, since many companies are starting to recognize that AI is integrating itself into society and you can either be a player or fall behind. Lauren said that AI will probably weave its way into marketing; she suggested that future ads may have disclosures that AI was used for a campaign in the same sense that beauty companies will note that facial retouching was used in makeup photoshoots. I find the cross-section of art and AI very puzzling, because it’s hard for me to grasp the idea of technology having creative capabilities.

I think out of the five company visits, I think that Microsoft and Thinkhouse’s company cultures stood out to me the most. Thinkhouse’s industry requires imagination and originality, but they truly raise the bar. The company has the capabilities for employees to push the envelope and branch out in terms of artistic freedom, and the office environment was very warm and inviting. I have to say, though, that I think Microsoft would have to be at the top of my list in terms of appeal.

Over the past year, I have tried to hone in on what I want while I search for jobs: industry, company mission and values, work/life balance, room for growth and learning opportunities, and so on. The tech industry piques my interest, as I have so much curiosity surrounding its innovation and competition, but I definitely do not have the technical skills or desire to work in tech hands-on. (My single semester in engineering taught me very quickly that a career in math or science would be the death of me.) I think that I am rather inquisitive, and I like to try to wrap my mind around things that are fascinating but don’t entirely make sense to me. The tech industry positively baffles me time and time again, and I would like to have a career that intertwines technology with my role; Microsoft checks this box. Additionally, the work environment and culture that Microsoft provides seemed very promising. When visiting different floors of their building, I saw many employees collaborating and receiving support from one another. I saw several TVs in common areas that promoted steps for disability assistance in the workplace; I find this incredible, as many companies will ‘promote inclusivity’, but that promise is often empty. Our guides gave us a glimpse of the new CEO’s life story and how personal experiences have helped him shape Microsoft’s values. Learning of employee bonuses that are influenced by soft skills and humanity towards others, such as being quick to help peers and having a positive attitude in the office, appeals to me as an HR person, who finds this as a very interesting and rewarding approach to promote empathy in the work space. We were shown a resting room and their wellness facilities, supplementing employee health and hinting towards care for work/life balance at Microsoft. (This differed from Google to me, as both companies had features like this, but Microsoft’s felt like an addition to benefits whereas Google pushed theirs to a point where I questioned in-office productivity.) Finally, as I said, the biggest opportunity I look for in a company is fostering learning. I am only 21, and my professional work experience is slim to none. Most of my business knowledge is limited to what I have been taught in the classroom, and I know that what the corporate world has to teach me is endless. I feel that, for me, the most rewarding roles are those where I can come home at the end of the day with questions about what I experienced in my work day (such as a new company product or HR technique), ask about them the next day to my coworkers or superiors, and be able to apply what I learn down the line and feel that I understand a section of the business better. I believe that Microsoft not only provides learning, but promotes and encourages it. I find it really cool that the onboarding process is a year long, because I think that this gives new employees room for trial and error and time to obtain a deep understanding of the company. That’s a pretty loaded answer, and all over the place a bit, but that’s kind of what my mind was like during the company tour.

I believe that company culture is created by so many different influences, but I also believe that the employees that make up a company is a clear indicator of workplace attitudes. I know that sounds pretty straight-forward or a go-to answer, but it’s wholeheartedly true. I saw the personalities of the companies we visited embodied by those we talked to. For example, Thinkhouse is an insanely creative space and that is needed to thrive in the company’s industry, but the employees were likewise; they were energetic and witty, and probably had cooler clothes than most of the items in my own closet. When their previous ads and campaigns were played or shown to us, I remember thinking ‘Yeah, that makes total sense. Seeing people walking around the office, I am not at all surprised that they were the ones to create such trendy and on-point content’ to myself. The company has a vibrant and fun energy, and this was mirrored by those who spoke with us yesterday. At a place I previously worked for, the company had many ERGs and had been recognized in multiple ways for the work culture and inclusivity. This stood out to me during the application process, but many companies boast about how they have a fantastic work environment and are very inclusive and fair to all employees. Just a few weeks into my internship, I saw employees in our office happily take part in Pride Month celebrations, everyone in our area of the office enjoy lunch together and invite those who had nowhere to sit, and be quick to offer help to others. I quickly felt that the company’s awards were very valid, and that the employee population played a large part in making that possible. Cultures are influenced and created by the people that are involved in them, and their attitudes and actions have a direct impact on what direction that culture goes.

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