The following is an advertorial paid for by Microsoft
Photos by Hillary Ehlen
With Microsoft’s corporate sales office located in South Fargo, it has provided countless opportunities for former NDSU athletes.
Senior Finance Manager
NDSU Football 1997
Years at Microsoft: 14
It has been a long road filled with multiple position changes for former NDSU football player Gail Collins. After starting in development at Microsoft, Collins then moved to support at the company. He then moved into making Microsoft products before moving into finance. “Everyone seems happy as long as our revenue is up,” he said. “And our revenue is up, so life is good.”
According to Collins, he felt he was not going to use his education, especially when he was playing football. “I got hurt and then you go through the withdrawal and you wonder what you’re going to do,” he said. “I planned on being an accountant, but I hated accounting. So then I said I would try computers, you know developing video games and stuff like that. Then I went into Management Information Systems, I struggled the first year or so in that, but then I really started liking it.”
At NDSU, Collins says it was the aspect of a team that helped in his transition to Microsoft. “Not everyone wants to talk about sports, and that bothered me,” he said. “But you have to work around it to complete projects. I also learned about failure at NDSU. Failure and not understanding everything will come easily was another thing for me.”
After not wanting to stay in Fargo, Collins’ mind was changed thanks to a bet with his wife. “The first person to find a job would decide where we would live,” he said. “The next day, my wife had a job.” That is when Collins came to Microsoft, not expecting to get a job, but was offered a position. He has never left and with three sons, he does not plan on leaving.
“There are things you don’t have to worry about here,” he said. “There are nice schools here. I don’t have to worry about my stuff getting stolen. Microsoft has been good to me, I’ve met some good people. For not wanting to stay originally, I’m glad I stayed.”
Worldwide Exchange and Outlook Leader
NDSU Softball 1997-2000
Years at Microsoft: 16
Nikki Gregg (formerly Flynn) had some of the gaudiest numbers in the history of NDSU softball. Her senior season in 2000, she had a .506 batting average and 23 RBIs. However, she has now moved into a senior leadership position at Microsoft.
“I lead a global team of several hundred support engineers and managers all over the world,” she said. “We look to maximize the solutions at Microsoft in that regard,” Gregg says she focused on the business aspect of things in her time at NDSU. She believes that is what led her to where she is today. “I wanted to leave my options fairly open as far as opportunities I could be afforded,” she said. “I had also planned on attending grad school, but I think a lot of the basics and fundamentals of business I learned at NDSU have been useful. I’ve been able to extract them and apply them to my role now.”
Whether to stay or go was a “pivotal” decision for Gregg and her husband. However, the convenience of Microsoft made the decision easy. “In terms of future opportunities and career scope, it was the best option,” she said. “It’s a very safe place in terms of community and raising kids. I never complain about the commutes too. The people are the big differentiator and I’m told that by others coming through here. We just have the nicest people.”
Gregg says she learned just as much in her time in athletics as she did in the classroom. “It’s a different type of classroom, but you take away so many things from being an athlete, especially at NDSU,” she said. “The success of being a part of a team. Success together, failure together. Those things are very much pillars that we use today at Microsoft. Leadership was big too. I was a leader on the field and I never thought I’d be a leader in corporate America. However, both are very tightly correlated, I think.”
NDSU Women’s Basketball 1997-2001
Years at Microsoft: 15
Timmerman played under legendary head coach Amy Ruley from 1997 until 2001, scoring over 1,000 points in her career. As soon as she graduated in 2002, she stepped right into a career at Microsoft.
She received a degree in Management Information Systems from the school and gained some unlikely education in the process. “One of the requirements was to take an introductory computer class and another was an intro to economics class. Through those classes, I found I was interested in technology and business. M.I.S. was a great mix of both. ,” she said. “Several classes I took also had group projects that made up a significant portion of the final grade. I learned a lot about how to collaborate with peers to create a strategy and work together to execute on the plan. At Microsoft, positive collaboration with your team, across teams and across organizations is really a key to success.”
The job Timmerman has is managing 13 other customer service agents for Microsoft. Timmerman’s team helps ensure customers have positive experiences with their Microsoft solutions. This can range from removing blockers to identifying the right resources to assists. “My team partners with our customers to help them strategize and develop a plan to successfully implement and utilize Azure.”
With Microsoft’s headquarters in Fargo, it was Timmerman’s goal to work there. “After I decided on an M.I.S. major, I knew I wanted to work at Microsoft.,” she said. “While I was at NDSU, I really appreciated the support and sense of community here. I wanted to continue to be a part of that community when I started my professional career. To be able to work at a world-class, global company like Microsoft and continue to live in Fargo is truly amazing. As the Microsoft Fargo campus and Fargo itself continue to grow, there are so many opportunities available here in Fargo.”
NDSU Baseball 1999-2003
Years at Microsoft: 3
Brueske was a perennial staple on the early 2000s Bison baseball teams. His junior season is one to be remembered. Brueske had a .436 batting average with seven home runs, 33 RBIs and a .787 slugging percentage. After graduating that same season with a Business Administration degree, he stayed in Fargo and started a family. Now, he has spent the last three years at Microsoft.
He now manages a client base out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Brueske says that his NDSU education gave him the base for success. “I think the classes and the overall college experience prepares you for things you face in life,” he said. “In account management, it’s all about relationships and I think in athletics and in college, you get a lot of experience in those areas. That’s kind of the biggest thing, I think.”
Unlike most college students, Brueske always wanted to stay in the Fargo area. The luxury of having Microsoft in town made the deal even sweeter. “I grew up in a smaller town in Minnesota. Fargo is what I like to think of as a big-small city,” he said. “That fit for me was really comfortable. It was big enough to give me and my kids opportunities, but also small enough to keep the safe environment. Having a company as well-known as Microsoft in the area is huge. You don’t see that every day. It’s a huge thing for Fargo and the kids coming out of college.”
From his time as a baseball player, Brueske holds two NDSU values close to him. “It’s to be hugely competitive, that’s just a natural element if you’re an athlete,” he said. “It’s also about hard work. I think athletics is huge in teaching those values because you need a strong game plan to get where you want to be professionally, just like in sports.”
Chief of Staff/Business Manager for The Modern Workplace
NDSU Soccer 1996-1999
Years at Microsoft: 17
As is the case with all sports, but soccer in particular, you rely on teammates. Teamwork paces a soccer team and being in sync is vital to success on the pitch. For Maggie Walker, a former NDSU soccer player, teamwork has been one of the core values she has used in her now 17 years at Microsoft. That focus on teamwork has driven her to become the Chief of Staff or Business Manager for The Modern Workplace. In short, that means she heads up a worldwide team in charge of Microsoft Office products. “Our team does technical support for Office products,” she said.
Coming to Fargo right before the school year, Walker believes she was brought to Fargo for a reason. “I went to NDSU on a late scholarship, I actually ended up deciding in July and I wasn’t sure what my major would be,” she said. “I ended up getting a business degree with a minor in accounting and that is what led me to Great Plains and later Microsoft because they are accounting software.”
While she was initially hired thanks to an internship, Walker has been tempted to leave the Fargo area. However, it is the culture and ability to grow that has kept her and her family in the Red River Valley. “I was going to move away from here, I am originally from the Twin Cities, so I wanted to move away from Fargo. My husband was working on getting his Master’s, so we decided to stay here and I had other job offers to leave too,” she said. “I really felt that it was meant to be here in Fargo and at Microsoft. It’s just such a wonderful community for kids and start-ups. I still get to travel quite a bit, so I do get to explore a bit still too.”
Walker speaks of the community for a start-up business, which is exactly what Great Plains Software was in the beginning. Current Governor Doug Burgum ran Great Plains Software until Microsoft purchased Great Plains products in 2001. So, Microsoft may not have a base in the area if not for Burgum’s start-up.
Are you a Bison alumni looking to find your path?
Or are you a recent college graduate looking to explore your passions?
Then a career at Microsoft may be what you’re looking for. Not only will it keep you in the Fargo area, it will also give you the tools to thrive professionally and experience global cooperation.
Find out more and apply for open positions at Microsoft in Fargo at careers.microsoft.com.