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This is the next segment of our blog series highlighting Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors who achieved the Gold milestone, the highest status level attainable, and have recently graduated from university. Each blog in the series features a different student and highlights their accomplishments, their experience with the Student Ambassador community, and what they’re up to now.
Today we meet Salman Chishti, who is from the United Kingdom and recently graduated from the University of Nottingham with a degree in computer science engineering and artificial intelligence.
Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
When you joined the Student Ambassador community in 2019, did you have specific goals you wanted to reach, such as developing a particular skill or quality?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Microsoft; I would go around London trying to find events in which I could participate and try to find people to speak at my university. I remember, for example, going to Azure Global Bootcamp in 2019 and trying to find Claire Smyth, then meeting Ben Coleman and others. A few months into university, when I was the president of our computer science society, I would run events teaching underprivileged students, and girls-only classes on how to start coding. I would lead a group of students to help with this teaching, and the technologies I would teach were a mix of Python with small robots and Microsoft MakeCode.
I had seen online that applications were open for students to become Microsoft Student Partners, which reminded me of a time I had previously heard about the program when speaking with an MVP, Michael Gillett, some time before. I remember filming multiple videos for my application, trying my best, though at the time I was suffering from very dry skin due to medical complications so I think I felt a bit self-conscious about videos I would put out. Fast-forward to the time when the results were about to come out, I was with my friend who I had known previously from school. We had met up to cycle, and we were on a random hill. I checked my phone and I saw the notification, and the memory is still vivid and clear to this day, I knew that this was the potential start for me to have a career at Microsoft. Getting into the program is not a guaranteed entry, but if you’re able to make the most of it, it definitely gives you a great advantage.
When entering the program, I met so many amazing people. One person in particular I remember hearing speak was Dawood Iddirsu — he was telling us about how he had run events, and I was inspired. Little did I know at the time that I would go on to work with Dawood to create weekly livestreams. I went on my own way, starting with a Microsoft Learning path on Azure Logic Apps where Tweets got analyzed and emails would be sent with their sentiment and forwarded with either the Outlook or Google connectors. I made a YouTube tutorial to make the content more accessible for others, adding my own creative style.
In the beginning it was challenging; I had a new university which I had transferred to because I was bullied in my previous university and did not feel safe, so I had to catch up with work, but I wanted to get involved and run events with the societies there. So, on my second day at my new university I delivered talks to over 200 students, and online to students around the world. I decided to create a bunch of communities for the students, and from there I started working with other Ambassadors, such as Dawood who I mentioned prior, to produce weekly events.
What were the accomplishments that you’re the proudest of and why?
Getting to present at Microsoft Build and Microsoft Ignite these past 3 years, especially in person in Seattle this year, have been the highlights of the program for me.
Hosting with Gwyneth Pena-Siguenza during Microsoft Build 2022.
Getting to see the value as an audience member firsthand many years ago and then working with those same people to deliver the same value to others was mind-blowing to me.
Another accomplishment was the partnership between the Microsoft Learn Student Ambassador program and the Windows Insider, Windows Insider MVP, and Most Valuable Professional programs at Microsoft. Having been in the position where I was not a Microsoft Learn Student Ambassador, I was able to meet other passionate Windows Insiders and Windows Insider MVPs and Microsoft MVPs, so when I joined the Microsoft Student Partner/Microsoft Learn Student Ambassador Program I noticed there was a disconnect. I worked with various people, including Claire Smyth, the very person I was searching for years ago to run events with Microsoft, and others to get these partnerships up and running. I also tried to spread awareness amongst students about the possibilities of being able to get certified with Microsoft.
What are you doing now that you’ve graduated?
I started at Microsoft as a Program Manager 2 in July. I work on a product team to help improve Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Azure Communication Services. I am still trying to actively post useful content on YouTube and TikTok to help others get into the tech industry.
If you could redo your time as a Student Ambassador, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have been more consistent with publishing content on my own social media accounts. I was initially able to do this when working with others and was able to see the value that people were receiving with this content. However, I got really busy with the community YouTube channel, work and studies, which took priority, so when it came to working on my own content, I was not that consistent.
If you were to describe the community to a student who is interested in joining, what would you say to convince them to join?
If you are like me and are a fanboy (I still am!) with a passion for Microsoft, then this is your opportunity to find other students with the same energy. The people in the community are those who want to create content. Not often will you find students who are comfortable putting themselves out there in front of large audiences, but you’ll find many people in this community, ready to seize opportunities and if you yourself are not, you’ll find people to help you.
What advice would you give to new Student Ambassadors?
Focus on your community. I often find that Student Ambassadors learn about the milestones to hit the various levels and immediately jump to try speed-run their way through them, but this creates a mentality where success is determined by an individual’s ability to rise through the ranks.
Put less stress on the numbers, as social media can be about constantly finding the latest trends. The nature of content produced by you as Ambassadors will most likely not be that trendy. This information is more so evergreen content that would be useful in the tech community. The most popular content in this area is for beginners, but you should not be dissuaded from creating this kind of content, as this will consistently build up your expertise, and you’ll build recognition in that niche.
What is your motto in life, a guiding principle that drives you?
In life I’d always like to be like a tree, so one that is continuously growing, but alongside that, grounded, with those roots spreading to become even more grounded and to help others grow.
What is one random fact a few people know about you?
I used to go to music school every weekend. In total, now I play seven instruments. On weekdays I would get involved with orchestra, ensembles, and choir, and I would play the piano before school, during breaks and after.
Good luck to you in all your endeavors, Salman!