Commerce students work on standards project for Microsoft
Commerce students Alexandra Melanson and Erika Boudreau spent the past year not only studying at Mount Allison, but also working on a project for Microsoft. Dr. Sandy MacIver, director of the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies, supervised the project. Although it was a paid assignment, according to Melanson it was also a great experiential learning opportunity.
The pair looked at standards development.
“Microsoft as a tech firm uses a lot of standards from various standard development organizations,” says Melanson. “It was a really quite a learning experience because I was able to study something that I had never really considered. I had also never managed a project from start to finish.”
The Standards Council of Canada defines standardization as the development and application of standards publications that establish accepted practices, technical requirements, and terminologies for products, services, and systems.
“You don’t really think about standards until you have to think about standards, but it is part of everything we use and do,” says Melanson.
The two met regularly with MacIver for advice and guidance.
“Sandy has been a fantastic mentor figure for me in so many ways over the course of my time at Mount Allison and this Microsoft opportunity was no different. His professional experience and his guidance provided us with the insight needed to ensure that our work would be a success. He has continuously helped me to see what is truly important and how to navigate the difficulties that come along with a project like this," says Melanson.
There were some challenges to be faced.
“We learned a lot of problem-solving skills. In my other work experience, often when I ran into a problem I didn’t have to solve it, my manager did. We had to figure out many things ourselves,”she says.
According to Melanson it was the ‘soft skills’ that she learned in such Mount Allison courses as People Skills in Organizations and Leadership in Organizations that were particularly helpful.
Boudreau also appreciated the opportunity to develop skills she had been acquiring in her Commerce program to contribute to something important.
“Working on this project was truly a once-in-a lifetime experience. As a student it’s not often that you get to work on something that will be used on such a huge scale. It was an amazing opportunity to master my research skills, as well as experience a different side to what Microsoft does," says Boudreau.
MacIver says, "Alex and Erika really grew through the course of this project. They met with Microsoft management, presented their work to them, and received feedback. They also got to see the strategic use of their data.”
“I have had other internships in market research and accounting, but this was really different from anything else I had done,” Melanson explains.
Next year, Melanson plans to do a graduate program in human resource management.