My career with Hewlett Packard Enterprise started in May 2012 at age 18. I just finished my freshman year of college at Prairie View A&M University, a Historically Black College, located 45 minutes outside of Houston, TX. I attended a conference for NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) and landed my first technical internship as a Consumer Notebook Test Intern.
As a young minority, working for one of the world’s largest technology vendors was initially intimidating. I was the youngest person on a team of middle-aged, seasoned professionals. In addition, I was the only person in my family who worked in corporate America, let alone the IT field. With this in the back of my mind, I wondered how I would be perceived by my team and if I would be taken seriously. I felt charged with the responsibility of setting a good example for my school and for all other minorities that would come after me.
During my internship, I was given the task of running benchmarks on notebooks that contained opposing microprocessors. I had to test, record, and present the performance of two well-known microprocessor companies within the HP ENVY notebook. I was then given the task of presenting the negative results to the losing team in Houston. The manager at the time challenged me and stated that I was “just an intern” and that I must have made a mistake. I felt frustrated/angry because I had worked hard all summer in order to build a compelling report. At the end of the heated discussion, my manager told me that he was proud of me because I stood my ground.
“This is what being an engineer is all about,” he said, as he patted me on the back.
The support that I got from my manager motivated me; I knew that this was a company that would allow me to grow. At the end of the presentation, he offered me another internship for the following summer. After doing well on the second internship, I received my first Co-Op opportunity as a Technical Marketing Intern for the Fall of 2014. I had found my new home.
With a full year of work experience under my belt, I felt confident in my future at HP. However, in November 2015, something unexpected happened. Hewlett Packard split into two separate companies: HPE and HPI. I can still remember how this news shocked the entire industry. At the time, I honestly didn’t understand the split or the responsibilities of the two separate companies. However, I knew that HP was where I wanted to continue my career. So I rolled the dice and applied to both companies. I received an internship with HPE as a Solutions Engineering Intern on the Global Solutions Engineering team (GSE) in May 2016.
My first HPE internship was truly an amazing experience. I was on a versatile, highly technical team that worked on a variety of projects. My team was responsible for creating First-of-A-Kind Solutions and supporting the Sales BU’s. My tasks ranged from app development to “racking and stacking.”
My manager was understanding and allowed me to work part-time while attending summer school. I used the money from my internship to pay for my classes. At the end of my internship, I was given the opportunity to Co-Op until my graduation date. I was named “Intern of the Year” for the Houston office and rewarded with a full-time position at HPE.
Perhaps one of the greatest attributes of my full-time offer was the flexibility of my manager. He encouraged me to step outside of my normal duties to better myself. I attended various training and joined a few ERGs as well (namely the Black Employee Network (BEN) and the Young Employee Network (YEN). I was appointed to be the Networking Chair of BEN.
Later that month, I applied to become a Discover Ambassador in Madrid, Spain. With hundreds of applicants all over the world, I was one of ten people chosen as Discover Ambassadors, and I was the only Ambassador from America. This event changed my life and my career.
As a Discover Ambassador, my responsibilities were to travel to Madrid and update the HPE community on the company’s latest technological breakthroughs. This was my first time going overseas and it was an amazing experience. While there, I saw tens of thousands of customers and partners, and for the first time I was able to see HPE on global scale. I was blown away by the extravagant demos that were stationed all over the massive presentation floor.
I presented a live demo of the HPE Space-born Super Computer, which launched into orbit in 2017. I was also given the privilege of meeting face to face with C-Level employees such as Alan May, Jim Jackson, Terek Robbiati, Phil Davis, Jennifer Temple, and even CEO Antonio Neri. To my surprise, HPE’s leadership team was approachable. They seemed to enjoy meeting us and giving career advice. I particularly enjoyed my conversations with May, Jackson, and Davis, whom I truly look up to.
A few months later, I was honored with the BEN’s “Shining Star” Award at HPE’s Black History Month celebration as a result of my accomplishments. This was one of the proudest moments in my career because, at that point, I knew that I represented well for all minorities.
Although I enjoyed my time with GSE, I slowly began to seek out other opportunities where I would gain more formalized training and become more customer-focused.
I noticed a requisition for HPE’s Unique New Grad Solutions Architect Program. In this program, I would train my technical and presentation skills for nine months before moving to the field and working as a Solutions Architect. I would be able to gain up to ten years of experience within one year.
One of the greatest things about HPE is that the company believes in hiring and promoting from within the organization. Therefore, I had no issues when reaching out to the program manager to transition from Houston to the Metro Atlanta area.
Now at age 25, I am positioned to become one of HPE’s champions for the presales team. I am surrounded by 17 other highly ambitious young professionals who are eager to make a name for themselves. Although I am not sure where my location will be after my training is over, I know that I will be in good hands. HPE has taken great care of me over the last seven years of my life, and I am looking forward to a long, successful career here. More importantly, I have established friendships here that will last a lifetime.
Here are a few takeaways for recent college graduates who are going into the workplace:
Always Leverage Your Resources
Build genuine relationships with the people in your field. Never be afraid to make new friends. As you meet people in your career, stay in contact with them. You will be amazed at how far those connections will take you.
Seek Out a Mentor
I have had many mentors over my time here at HPE. It is always a great idea to seek counsel from someone who has been in your shoes or who is where you aspire to be.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Do not allow your inner self-consciousness to limit you in life. Take a risk and achieve things that you never thought were possible.
Step outside of your daily role. Instead of just working from 9-5, get involved with employee resource groups and other volunteering organizations. By doing this, you may find your job to be more enjoyable. Also, this could potentially lead to great exposure, and you will make friends along the way.
Network Outside of Your Current Team
Do not limit your network to just your team. Get to know the other organizations that work alongside your team. By doing this, you will gain a better perspective of the company.
Never feel as if you cannot learn something new. Allow others to help you develop as a professional.
Create a Roadmap for Your Career
Try to get an idea of where you want to be in the next one, five, ten, and 20 years. Then, evaluate how to get there.
Treat Everyone With the Same Respect
Lastly, from the C-Level employees to the custodial staff, treat everyone the way you would like to be treated.
This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn.