With Penn’s Alumni Weekend running from May 15th through May 18th this year, we’re taking the month of May to salute some of our amazing M&T alumni. This special A Day in the Life post comes to us from M&T alumna Nonie Sethi, currently a Senior Financial Analyst at Microsoft.
Please briefly describe what industry you’re in and what your particular position entails.
I work for Microsoft as a revenue analyst within the Cloud & Enterprise solutions group, specifically on Windows Azure. I am responsible for helping our senior leadership team understand how to think about the competitive health of our cloud business, the impact of our hybrid cloud offerings on our legacy enterprise products, and the role of new services (like Azure ML) in our cloud stack. The role is particularly interesting since the space is rapidly evolving with changing customer needs as more enterprises/consumers get comfortable with the idea of hosting their workloads in the cloud. It’s also pretty exciting having your largest competitor a 30 minute drive away from your headquarters.
What time did you get up this morning before work?
5:30AM. I usually try waking up early so that I can find time to read the news and go for a quick workout before the work day begins. There’s nothing like getting an hour of peace and quiet to yourself in the morning before a day filled with projects, meetings, and emails.
What time did you start working, and what time were you done for the day?
My schedule is pretty flexible but I am usually at work by 8:00AM. It is difficult to predict when I’ll be done for the day especially during quarter end. There are days I will be home as early as 4pm and weeks when I might not see my apartment till 10 or 11 at night.
What were some of the projects you worked on today?
Microsoft is currently in the middle of planning season. What that means is that each product team is in the process of setting targets for the field. As the analyst on Azure, I am currently spending a majority of my time negotiating targets with our sales leads. Outside of target setting, I am working on improving our forecast models as we add new sales channels for our products so that we can better inform our long range planning models.
Who specifically did you interact with today, besides coworkers (clients, interns, researchers, executives, founders, etc.)?
I interacted with the sales leads (aka business group directors) from Brazil, US, Canada, and Central & Eastern Europe as our team’s representative on Azure target setting negotiations. In addition, I had my quarterly career mentorship session with the CFO of our Central Financial Planning & Analysis team. This week, I hope to meet our product marketing manager for Azure ML to go over a whitepaper I wrote on a potential pivot in our approach to the product.
Are you currently traveling or about to travel for work?
I’m hoping to convince my manager to let me job shadow our Brazilian finance lead for a week (in Sao Paulo) once planning season is over. The odds of that currently seem to be slim to none since our team is pretty lean and we’ll be entering quarter end earnings madness as soon as planning is done.
What was your favorite part of the work day?
Probably my impromptu air hockey match with a colleague. We were exhausted from a hectic week and decided to take 20 minutes during lunch for an intense game of air hockey. I won 1-0. Probably because my side of the table was covered in something sticky so the puck would get stuck every time it came onto my side. But that’s just a technicality…
What are some of the challenges within your position that you particularly enjoy?
Azure is a hot topic for Microsoft right now and we are still in the process of understanding our customer profiles and needs. As such, a lot of the analyses I do revolve around finding a way to communicate the customer lifecycle on our product and potential improvements in our services. It’s a lot of foundational work with very little guidance and few readily available data points which can get challenging at times. At the same time, the fast paced nature of the role and the high visibility it offers leaves very little room for error. The great part about it is that it allows me to get creative and develop my analytical skills while also helping me educate others about the product.
How did you end up in your current position?
I originally joined M&T because I couldn’t decide between business and engineering. By the time I was looking for jobs my senior year, I still couldn’t picture myself making a choice between the two. What I did know was that I was far better at the M than I was at the T and that I wanted to use my engineering background to further my career as a finance professional. In the middle of interviewing for the regular consulting/banking routes, I happened to notice Microsoft was coming to campus to recruit for their Finance Rotation Program, a 2 year finance leadership program where I could get experience in multiple areas across the company. Somehow, it made sense to me that I would be a better finance leader if I could use my computer science background to fundamentally understand what makes folks want to buy our products. A year and a few months later, I signed on with Azure full time. My ability to understand our underlying services and their various use cases has helped me work with both engineering teams as well as my finance counterparts to help develop our business.
How did M&T help prepare you for where you are today?
M&T gave me a great opportunity to build core skills in finance/management and comp sci and those skills have definitely come in handy in my job. But that isn’t what prepared me for life after college. My four years with the program gave me two crucial skills: 1) time management and 2) the confidence to know that I can structure and solve any problem given the right combination of teamwork, logic, and patience.
What advice do you have for those who might be interested in pursuing a similar path?
Take stock of your strengths and areas of development and then compare that with what you are interested in. Doing so will go a long way towards helping you define the role that you want to pursue. Find peers/mentors who are already in the types of roles you are interested in and build your professional network. Once you find the role you want, jump in feet first: work hard, contribute to the best of your abilities, and don’t forget to build meaningful relationships with your peers.
Nonie is currently a Senior Financial Analyst at Microsoft. She graduated from Penn and M&T in 2013 with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Computer Science from Penn Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Wharton with concentrations in Finance and Management. In her spare time, Nonie loves to travel, play guitar, and read (excessively).