[Amplifying Black Voices] Applying a Growth Mindset at Microsoft

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: New blog articles in Microsoft Tech Community.

This blog was written by Microsoft Program Manager, Osborn Adu, as part of the Amplifying Black Voices blog series. Osborn walks us through how to apply a growth mindset to your work.


Growing up in Ghana, I was enthused about computers and technology but never owned a computer till I got to the University. My basic school had one computer for the whole school and even though my high school, St Augustine's College (some high schools are called colleges in Ghana) had a few more computers, they were not enough for over 1,500 students. However, the lack of computers did not quell my interest but rather galvanized me to co-found a technology company and to pursue a career in tech.


This is me with classmates from highschool. Circa 2004This is me with classmates from highschool. Circa 2004


Fast forward, I have recently joined Microsoft as a Program Manager after completing my MBA at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Joining an iconic company such as Microsoft with so much global impact and presence is a dream come true. I was so elated after I received my Microsoft offer that it was all I would talk about with my friends. I know, it was quite annoying to my friends.


Now, it's been over a year since joining Microsoft, and boy, has it been an experience. There've been highs and lows, good days and not so good days. However, my north star has been to apply a growth mindset to my job. After hearing about the growth mindset for the first time when I read Satya Nadella's book "Hit Refresh",  the concept resonated deeply with me. I had employed the growth mindset for most part of my life without realizing it. I was a very timid child for most of my childhood, and after one moment of truth episode of not being able to speak to a girl I really liked at a party, I strived to leave my comfort zone. Since then, I have explored many interests and activities that do not come natural to me and this has served me so well.  According to Professor Dolly Chugh, Associate Professor of Management and Organizations at New York University, "A growth mindset allows us to think of ourselves as a work-in-progress rather than premade good people, and to confront bias on both an individual and systemic level".


At Microsoft, my approach has been the same, I do not consider myself as a know-it-all but as a learn-it-all. Considering the vast amount of organizational and role-based information and skills needed to excel in my role at Microsoft, a growth mindset is critical to the job.


Below is how I have applied the growth mindset at Microsoft:


  • Challenging yourself and not fearing failure. At work, I don't shy away from nebulous and challenging tasks. Instead, I rather embrace them and see them as an opportunity for me to learn. I do not worry about the outcome, but solely focus on the process that leads to the outcome. If the outcome is successful then there's a lot of positive aspects of the process that I can reuse. If not, I reflect and think through what I could have done differently. Approaching life this way means every outcome is a win since I get to learn something new either ways.


  • Consistently asking for feedback. I ask for feedback from all the people I work with. My manager, my colleagues that I work with on a daily basis, and even others that I get to work with temporarily. I always want to hear others opinion on how I can improve. However, asking for feedback is not enough. It's about how you process the feedback and learn from it. There was one time a colleague mentioned that I should be speaking up a lot more since she believes I have a lot of experience and ideas to contribute to the team.  She was right. I was quite overwhelmed in the beginning; trying to process all that was happening around me was too much that I felt inadequate to speak up. However, not speaking up doesn't make the best professional impression. After hearing her feedback, I devised a plan to prepare well in advance of meetings and to create talking points I can refer to. I have significantly improved in speaking up and sharing my ideas with my teammates.


  • Learning from everyone. I have made it a habit to speak to someone within Microsoft each week. Doing the math, I'll roughly speak to 52 people each year and will learn about their careers, their challenges, their hacks, and their lives. Each week, I get to hear amazing stories and learn new things from colleagues and friends at Microsoft. There are so many amazing and wonderful people that work at Microsoft and I am exceedingly proud to be part of the organization. Connecting and learning from others at Microsoft is something I relish. Anytime I find someone doing something cool, I reach out to them and ask for a 30 minutes call to learn more about their work. Doing so each week has expanded my network and also provided me with a lot of insights about the organization.


  • Always learning and reading. My team has a dedicated learning day each month, however, I also make sure to reserve at least 30 minutes each day to learn something new. Each day, I review a course of interest or read materials that can help me in my work and provide insights. This daily habit has helped me a lot. I have augmented my knowledge on business, on Microsoft products, on working efficiently with others, on being productive, and many more. One of my favorite resources to learn new things is LinkedIn Learning. The amount of content on any business topic you can think of in LinkedIn Learn is mind-blowing. My goal is to take and learn as many courses as I can for free. Plus, I get to add all I learn to my LinkedIn profile, which is so cool.


  • Become comfortable with ignorance. As the famous poet and author Maya Angelou once said, "Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.". Developing empathy, leaving your comfort zone, and asking questions to learn are some ways to deal with ignorance. There've been countless times that I have had no idea about a topic and scared to death to ask questions. However, I try to muster courage to ask about things I do not know. It can sometimes be uncomfortable, nevertheless, asking questions to learn is very important to having a growth mindset.

me at Microsoft.jpg


Coming from Ghana, I am genuinely happy and excited to be part of an amazing organization such as Microsoft. Through applying growth mindset principles, I am looking forward to contributing and driving impact globally with Microsoft.

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