Linking learning to life
Along with sandwiches and snacks, Rocky River High School students received a taste of what it takes to work in a hi-tech industry. It is part of a new program that links students and business professionals once a month during lunchtime. Called Lunch and Learn, the mini sessions are designed to give students exposure and insight into real-world career possibilities. 

Rocky River held its first Lunch and Learn on Oct. 29 and treated approximately 30 students to a conversation with Brian Lewis, beta manager for Microsoft Corporation in Charlotte.

“I discovered my passion for computers when I was a student at Independence High School. At that time, I wasn’t thinking about making it into a career,” said Lewis.

Lewis explained that although he had planned for a career in theatre design, even going so far as to major in it at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, those plans changed when a friend told him about a job opening at Microsoft.

“It was supposed to be a temporary job but I found that I liked being a support engineer. I was able to learn about new technologies, help customers, solve problems and I was good at it,” said Lewis. “When a full-time job in Seattle came along I applied for it, interviewed and got the position.”

Lewis emphasized that his theater background helped him learn valuable skills like time-management, public speaking and creative thinking and problem-solving that have been useful to him throughout his career with Microsoft.

“We want our students to know that there is not one set pathway for success,” said Jennifer Gunn, dean of students. “It is important for them to hear it from people who have done it and who know what it takes to get there.”

Now Lewis is back in Charlotte and is a beta manager for the pre-release programs division. His team consists of 24 support engineers who live in seven different cities around the world. They are responsible for giving thousands of customers the latest version of Microsoft Office programs to test.

Lewis asked what the students thought the biggest challenges might be for his team. One student said communications while another said the difference in time zones. He showed them how he and his team used email and video conferencing to communicate. He added that traveling was also sometimes necessary.

“It is interesting how you can communicate with people around the world using different programs. I had never seen or heard of some of the tools he showed us,” said Moe Moustafa, a senior.

At the end of his presentation, Lewis held a video conference with Manas Biswas, one of his team members located in Bangalore, India. The students had a chance to ask Lewis and Biswas questions. Some of the questions were about what degrees and certifications were needed, what other types of jobs were in the organization and how the team interacted and impacted other divisions.

“I am interested in a career in athletics but this session made me realize that there are other possibilities,” said Lamar Hood, a senior. 

After the session, students were asked to provide their feedback and indicate their areas of interest.

“It is important to know what business professionals the students want to hear from. Our goal is to make it as relevant as possible,” said Gunn.