Giving Back Meant Going Back: Microsoft Alum Returns to Microsoft to Volunteer as a Loaned Executive
January 05, 2012
An unsolicited email received in the summer of 2011 initiated a remarkable journey for ex-Microsoft employee Chris Unwin. She was about to do something, she was told, that would “be the best job you’ve ever had and, to be honest, very demanding.”
Unwin joined Microsoft in 1983 with an office on a campus near SR 520 in Bellevue, WA. That led to a stint in Mountain View, CA, and ultimately a return to Redmond in Building 4 (which is now known as “The Garage.”) Before leaving her role as a General Manager in 1994 to focus on her family, Unwin managed strategic accounts in OEM, consulted with international subsidiaries, and wrote business plans resulting in the MCS division, still in existence today.
Back in the water
In the summer of 2011, Unwin received an email from a “blast from her past.” That email came from Microsoft Alumni Foundation (MSAF) Executive Director Marylou Brannan. “Chris and I barely crossed paths during our Microsoft time together, but we had connections through common friends and our children attended school together early on,” said Brannan. “When I heard Chris was looking for a new and interesting challenge, I immediately reached out with an idea I thought she would be perfect for."
Entitled “Back in the water for you,” the email offered Unwin a chance to pilot a Microsoft Alumni loaned executive role. Microsoft has been working closely with the Foundation on a number of projects, with this being the latest.
Over a four month period, loaned executives receive extensive training in the nonprofit sector and then partner with the United Way and other agencies working towards a specific fundraising goal.
The Giving Program at Microsoft started in 1983, the same year that Unwin joined the company. Employees that year raised $17,000. When she learned the 2011campaign goal was $100 million, she realized the opportunity and signaled her interest.
After meeting first with Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Corporate Affairs (and a MSAF trustee) and later Kevin Espirito, Program Manager, who mentors and leads the loaned executive program, Unwin was hooked. Espirito told her “this will be the best job you’ve ever had and, to be honest, very demanding.” Never shying from a challenge, Unwin was all in.
Working towards $100 million
Loaned executives are sponsored by their Microsoft divisions and return to their previous role after the four month program. It is a two part program: running an aspect of the Microsoft Corporate Giving program after receiving training, and developing a community-related project at its conclusion.
Training consisted of a “Microsoft University” orientation course followed by an immersion into the needs of King County (WA) with visits to 33 beneficiary agencies.
For the first part of the Loaned Executive program, Unwin and her five Microsoft employee peers—the self-named “Super Six”—each aligned with different corporate divisions. Then the “best job you’ve ever had” began. Many meetings and presentations later—all necessary to reach as many employees as possible—this portion of the work was over and it was time to develop the second part of the program: a community project. This is done in conjunction with an agency such as United Way and in consultation with Microsoft’s Espirito.
The efforts of the “Super Six” paid off—the current total amount raised is over $98 million, and still climbing!
To complete her service as a loaned executive, Unwin’s community project will be with MSAF to help implement Volunteer Manager.
Becoming a Loaned Executive Through MSAF
Microsoft Alumni Foundation members can apply for a loaned executive position in 2012. Details on how to do this will be announced soon.
For more information, contact Executive Director Marylou Brannan at firstname.lastname@example.org.