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Alumnus back at Waikato to recruit for Microsoft 

Microsoft senior programme manager, Mark Staveley, was back at the University of Waikato to interview computer science students for internships and jobs at Microsoft. 

He spent a day interviewing Waikato students as part of a trip around New Zealand with interviews at Canterbury and Auckland universities also on the agenda.

Back on campus
Mark has a Masters in computer science from the University of Waikato, studying here in 2000 as an exchange student from Canada.  He went on to complete his PhD back home in Canada, and worked in research and lecturing roles before joining Microsoft in 2009. 

He was a senior software development engineer on the Xbox One console and is a senior programme manager for Microsoft's Azure Big Compute team. He says his work recruiting students is "not part of the job description" for him, but something he enjoys doing for the benefit of a workplace he loves. 

Hiring for Microsoft
A typical interview with Microsoft usually starts with a coding problem to solve on a whiteboard. 

"There's more than one way to solve a problem, so what we want to see in an interview is how a student is working through problems and how they communicate their thought processes. It's not enough to just fix the problem, we want to know how they're getting to the solution," says Mark.

"Ultimately, everything we do at Microsoft is about teamwork and while we certainly look at candidates' grades, we also like to see that they've done extra-curricular activity - like taking part in after-hours groups and clubs and mentoring younger students." 

Going the extra mile
Mark says his assignments in the Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences showed the same 'above and beyond' approach. 

"They were structured so that 75% of the grade was for completing the assignment, and the other 25% was awarded for expanding on the assignment and going a step further. It shows you're thinking outside the square and that you have a real passion for what you're doing. Computer science is an art, so we look for people that have those innovative and passionate qualities."

Mark was last at Waikato in 2013 - the Xbox One had been released and he was doing the recruitment rounds for Microsoft. This time around in 2015, he's got a few more finished projects under his belt.

New projects at Microsoft
He spent 18 months with Microsoft Research working on initiatives relating to "Big Data" systems and processing. This included work supporting the Skype Translator, which lets you have a Skype call with someone who speaks another language while live-translating messages and spoken conversation. It is powered by Microsoft Translator, just like Bing, Windows and Windows Phone. 

Mark is currently working on Azure's Big Compute infrastructure. This is a Cloud-based system that encompasses the tools needed to perform large-scale science, engineering and business computing tasks. Right now he's focusing on "life sciences solutions", configuring the systems and engineering software to be able to perform large, complicated procedures like genomic sequencing. 

He remains well-connected to the University of Waikato, and takes every opportunity he can to come back. He still follows the Chiefs too, watching games from his home in Sammamish, Washington.