The Microsoft campus in Charlotte, NC, roared as the activity buses unloaded students for the 25th annual “Blacks at Microsoft Minority Student Day.” As the conference room quickly filled with current and future minority college students, the excitement was palpable with students, mentors and teachers beginning to fellowship with each other. A growing chatter could be heard among the sound of Kendrick Lamar’s “We Gon’ Be Alright” playing over the speakers.
One of goals of this conference was to do just that – let students know that they will be all right. In fact, if they use their available resources, they will be more than all right. The event introduces students of color to technology careers with the hope that they will explore becoming the innovators of tomorrow.
After the students settled into their seats, they had the opportunity to witness a panel discussion that included a current Microsoft employee, several entrepreneurs from the technology industry, and YOUniversity Drive’s founder, Michelle Horton. You may wonder why a Career Services guru was on a technology panel – I’m sure some of the students did. The answer quickly became clear: no matter what profession one wants to pursue, one must become a professional. Becoming a professional can be an intricate journey, and some students are often clueless about the correct path to take.
Michelle Horton has dedicated her career to helping high school and college students blaze their career trail. Michelle opened her discussion by describing some of the ways that she helps students. She described how it’s imperative to have a “well-dress resume,” a tool box full of resources, and to dress and act “the part.” As the students developed googly eyes over the million-dollar businesses described by some of the other panel members, Michelle promptly reminded them, that those million-dollar businesses come with one prerequisite – professionalism.
Later in the afternoon, the students met in small groups with Michelle, which provided the opportunity to ask more intimate and personalized questions. Michelle addressed issues ranging from “how to deal with haters” to “how to avoid academic probation in college.” One of the most striking aspects of this exercise was Michelle’s ability to actively engage her audience of energetic teens and young adults by utilizing avenues to which they could relate. She told her personal story of being the first in her family to attend a four-year university, she referenced hip-hop lyrics to hammer in her point, and she treated the students as professionals.
Most importantly, she instilled the message that with hard work, passion, and discipline, they too are “Gon’ Be Alright.”