Hello my name is Greg Jaworski. I am a Transactional Premier Field Engineer with Microsoft. A very common question is what it takes to join Microsoft. What kind of skills should I have? How many years of experience do I need? A comment from one of our blog posts is what it takes to join PFE. While others have probably posted some tips it never hurts to post this information again. I will provide some of my own personal background as well as some of the things that we look for. While this does not guarantee you will get hired by Microsoft it will give you a general idea of what we are looking for.
Before we even get into becoming a PFE we probably need to go over exactly what PFE does and some of the terminology that we use. Many of the people who read this blog may have never even heard of us. In future blog posts we will go over the life of a PFE in greater detail.
Premier Field Engineering is a part of the Microsoft Support organization. Our primary focus is to go onsite to customers that have Microsoft Premier Support and either provide a Proactive Service (we may assess an environment for potential issues or deliver training as well as many other things) or a Reactive Service (troubleshooting a DC that is not replicating). We also may do remote case work as well. Generally these are 1-2 hour calls where we answer questions about a technology a customer is implementing. We don’t handle reactive cases over the phone since we have an entire group at Microsoft that already does that. We are available 24x7x365 to go onsite and provide assistance to Microsoft Premier Customers. We provide solid guidance and advice to our customers on how to run and support their Microsoft software.
We have two facets of Premier Field Engineering. We have transactional PFEs and dedicated PFEs. Transactional PFEs generally go on a different engagement every week. This role requires a fair amount of travel. Transactional PFEs get to see many different environments and one week could be troubleshooting a down DC and the next week delivering a workshop to a classroom full of students. Dedicated PFEs are assigned to 1-4 customers. This role tends to travel less since they have a dedicated set of customers they are working with. In this role the PFE is much more familiar with the environment since they typically are working in it multiple times a week, up to five days a week if they are local. In some cases we have DSEs working out of our support centers. They provide support remotely and will travel to the customer location(s) when needed.
This blog is a Platforms blog and all of the PFEs who post here are Platforms PFEs. Microsoft has a wide range of products and technologies so our resources are broken into skillsets. Platforms PFEs handle items related to the Windows OS and components that are installable as a part of Windows. We also have PFEs for SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, and so on for the products, solutions, and technologies that Microsoft produces.
I will just provide a high level overview here, but this will give you an idea of how we hire in PFE.
We have a group of recruiters here at Microsoft dedicated to PFE that look at the resumes and online applications. If they find a candidate with the skills we are looking for they will contact that candidate. The recruiter will discuss the role with the candidate as well as ask some technical questions. If the role is a fit for the candidate and the candidate did well on these technical questions the candidate will be setup with an interview with one or two PFEs.
This process can vary some based on scheduling but the candidate will have one or two technical screens with a PFE or two PFEs in that skillset. If we are trying to fill a Platforms role the PFE will be a Platforms PFE. As mentioned above this is a good place to be honest with the recruiter and yourself. While you may be excited that you are in the interview process maybe you have some Platforms skills but are stronger in Exchange. I have interviewed candidates that are being interviewed for a Platforms position, but based on their resume were stronger in Exchange. They did not do well on the Platforms interview, but maybe they would have been a great Exchange PFE. Another tip here is that the Platforms interview is generally very Active Directory heavy since this is a high demand area for us. If you are stronger in clustering or something else Platforms related you want to make that known especially to the recruiter so the right PFEs are assigned to perform the interview.
If you make it through the technical screen(s) then you will have a manager interview. The managers are the ones gauging your communications and leadership skills. If you are highly technical, but can’t convey your message then this can be a problem. The managers are looking to see how well you will interact with customers as well as with coworkers and other teams inside Microsoft.
As I mentioned at the beginning I will provide some detail on how I came to Microsoft as well as PFE. Most of what I have listed above is based on my own personal experience both in the hiring process as well as being someone who interviews candidates.
My first tip above was to apply. Microsoft was a dream job of mine since I had gotten my first 486 PC running DOS 6.0 and Windows 3.1. For some reason though as I progressed in my career and my own personal passion for computing I never applied. Maybe it seemed like one of those unattainable dreams or I didn’t think I was good enough. Finally at the company I worked for previous to Microsoft one of my coworkers was hired by Microsoft. I then thought to myself I should be working for Microsoft. I asked him how it was to work for Microsoft and what kind of jobs they had, but due to how busy he was we were never able to connect. My wife finally prodded me and said why are you waiting for him just go and apply yourself and I did. Several months went by and I didn’t hear anything. My wife happened to make a comment and said I guess you aren’t good enough and ironically they called me that day. So long story short apply and see what happens.
Once I was called by the Microsoft recruiter they lined up the first interview. This first interview is an interview with someone in the PFE role as mentioned earlier. I thought ok no big deal I am the go-to person at my company and I am strong in Active Directory and Windows. Well I was not as strong as I thought however as I mentioned above I had a solid base and a wide range of experience in my resume. I had a second technical interview. Where, again I had some weaknesses, but was honest if I didn’t know the answer to the question. I then had the manager interview as I had listed above and did very well. So as I mentioned previously we will provide deep technical training. We look for people that have a solid technical base, can clearly convey their message, and who are willing to learn.
Interview tips are frequently posted here.
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So to recap and close out this blog post if you are a strong leader with great communications skills and a passion for technology we would love to have you join our team. It is a rewarding career that changes almost every week.
Thanks and I hope you found this useful. We are hiring and it is a great place to work.
Oh yesss....Many many Thanks Greg..for writing this info.
Greg, i'll advise this post to all my familiar who want to become PFE.
Hi from PFE from Russia!
Perfect advice. Cannot agree more.
Just one question, in the "Microsoft’s official site for applying for jobs", as part of the "Desirable Qualifications" for the job, it's mentioned "Minimum BS/BA".
I have the experience, the Technical Abilities, the Communication Skills... but not a BS, only a Associate Degree (not University). How important is that? Am I directly excluded?
Thanks in advance and sorry for my poor English
@David The answer is no. Usually a description like that says or equivalent experience. Which I know is subjective. If you have industry experience, strong technical and communication skills then that is what we are looking for.
"Minimum BS/BA + 2 yrs relevant experience or BS/BA including relevant internships." This is what the description says... but If you say that there are posibilities it's enough for me :-)
Now it's my job to follow all the tips.
Thanks so much.
Great post! Here's a related link from the AskDS blog:
Good post, I'd also tell people don't be nervous. A lot of folks have this dream of working for Microsoft, Google, Apple <insert big worldwide company here>. In the end these are just people that are trying to make it through life like everyone else and support their families and have a little fun at the same time. If you don't know something just say that.
...also if you fly to Charlotte and Stewart Cox walks in the room....know SMTP replication cold :) He hit me hard on that...brutal but fun.
@Mike Great advice...Many people get nervous in the interview which is completely understandable. It is acceptable to be nervous keep your composure and be honest about your answers.
@Ashley Thanks and that is a great blog post on ASKDS.
@David Let me answer it this way. I don't have a college degree. I've been playing with computers since my Apple IIc and then that 486 I mentioned. I have a passion for this industry. I did have "years" of experience, but like I said that is subjective. Many jobs that I have seen ask for 10+. One company I worked for asked for 10 years of AD experience. At that time AD wasn't even 10 years old. This was a disconnect between the HR department and IT department of that company. If you are just out of high school and you have been working somewhere resetting passwords you probably need to continue building your skills. If you are managing an AD or other Windows infrastructure at a 3rd tier level then it is worth pursuing.
Very much informative & thanks for sharing your thoughts :)
Much earlier in my career I came to know about PFE. Good to know this. Thanks for sharing.
Great post, thanks for sharing this with the world!
Definitely some tips in here that I plan to use to freshen up my resume before applying this week, there just happens to be a Windows Platform PFE position open locally that my Job Agent alerted me to. :) I've interviewed once or twice before, and the invariable lessons are: Be humble, and know there is always someone who knows more than you do, and you don't know as much as you think you do.
@DavidReller Good advice and good luck (I'm not sure why people wish good luck on an interview, but hey thats what they do)...
Great post. In addition, you might want to state that transactional and DSE is not the same in each region. E.g. in Europe a DSE can be on a different engagement every week and actually perform the exact same tasks as a transactional does, except for being on call.
Instead of "Europe" I should have said "at least in some countries in Europe".
In these countries the word dedicated in DSE, is to be interpreted as "dedicated to country". So in general no foreign deliveries/engagements.