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Tulalip Tribal Youth Day participants visit Microsoft Corp.

REDMOND, Wash. – About 55 college interns and staff from Tulalip Data Services, along with some high school students, were treated to the latest demonstrations in technological advancements from Microsoft Corp. at the second annual Tulalip Tribal Youth Day Sept. 11.

The one-day event featured presentations from one of the corporation’s diversity advisory councils, Native Americans at Microsoft; a visit to a mock home of the future filled with computers and technological gadgets; and presentations on emerging technologies such as Surface, Virtual Earth, Silverlight and new Xbox games.

Employees from diverse backgrounds can join a social network through the numerous diversity advisory councils, including the Native Americans at Microsoft.

Photo by Babette Herrmann Interns listen to a presentation while enjoying lunch.

Three such employees shared with interns on what led them to the nation’s leading software giant. Scientific Engineer Tracy Monteith, Eastern Cherokee, told interns that he was one of those students who never enjoyed school, although he maintained a B average. In college, he was indecisive about his degree choice, studying up to five different subjects. His saving grace was his passion for reading and learning all that he could about personal computers.

With some perseverance and sheer determination, he worked his way into the doors of Microsoft, which employs more than 71,000, about 10 years ago. His position requires that he travel the globe to work with a multitude of engineers on various projects. “I don’t make software, I just make it better,” he said.

“I wouldn’t trade my experiences here for anything.”

Caroline Williams, development technologist specialist, said she went from slinging luggage at airports to Microsoft. She credited her education and sheer determination to improving the quality of her life. “I can’t tell you how important it is to take those risks for yourself,” she said. “There are some positions in technology available here, and your unique identities and skills are what we need.”

Photo by Babette Herrmann Tracy Monteith, Eastern Cherokee, and a scientific engineer with the Engineering Excellence Group, shares with interns the career path that led him to Microsoft.

Although she possesses no tribal affiliation, she has ties to the Native communities through her work with the IWASIL Boys & Girls Club in Seattle for urban Native youth, and participation in the National Native American Youth Mentoring Program; she is also a senior in the University of Washington’s American Indian Studies program.

Tawish Jerry Huaute, Chumash and a senior field technical account manager, has worked for Microsoft for the past 14 years. He told interns to take in as much learning as possible to increase your value as an employee in a high tech field. “Don’t let an opportunity pass you by,” he said. “You need to invest in yourself.”

And speaking of possible opportunities for interns interested in a position at Microsoft, Human Resource representative Amee Treadwell presented some details about internships and employment.

She said that during the 12-week internships, interns are assigned a mentor and receive extensive training, coupled with hands-on assignments and the opportunity to rub elbows with the brains behind Microsoft. “No full-time employment is guaranteed, but it gives you a leg up.”

Treadwell also said recent college graduates can apply at the Microsoft Academy for College Hires, known as the MACH program.

Federal Account Manager Don Lionetti, who helped spearhead the event, said while there are a countless jobs available in the technology sector, there are countless more positions available that are considered nontechnical. “There are a lot of diverse jobs at Microsoft aside from the ones that require a computer science degree.”

Photo by Babette Herrmann Interns view a demonstration of Microsoft's Surface by Solutions Architect Ken Mallit.

Tulalip intern Monica Brown, 25, said that she was not only moved by the employees’ description of their current day-to-day responsibilities, but also by the journey that led them there. “I think it’s inspirational for everybody to think of greater things to do with their lives.”

Brown was recently accepted into the TDS internship program, and currently attends both Everett and Edmonds community colleges, majoring in geographic information systems. She aspires to work for her tribe to design maps to keep the local officials up to date on the reservation’s changing topography. In fact, her internship gives her the hands-on experience needed to fill that role in the future.

But even if the event was called a “youth day,” students of all ages attended it and cashed in on knowledge.

Billy Ancheta, 45, began his internship more than three years ago and is the eldest in the group of Tulalip interns. He quipped that while he found the event “interesting,” it made him “feel kind of old.”

Under the supervision of a mentor from Verizon he learned to install and maintain phone lines at the tribal health clinic. “It’s challenging and a never-ending learning process with this technology.”

He plans to transfer from Northwest Indian College on the reservation to Everest Community College, and is still considering what degree program will best suit his profession.

Howard Brown, senior manager for the TDS internship program, said there are three levels to the internship. The pay starts at $13.75 per hour and increases with each level. At the completion of the internship, employment may be offered if a position is available in the interns chosen field.

“We want them to stay at Tulalip, but we want them to be competitive anywhere.”