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'The bold journey': Student lands Microsoft internship

Akosua Boadi-Agyemang, like many college students, applied to internships relentlessly. She looked for ones that interested her and applied to those that would be a good fit. She spent time on the applications and made connections at career fairs.

Still, she only heard back a resounding, "Thank you for your interest."

It was discouraging, and she started to doubt herself, wondering if she was good enough.

"Anyone, even the most successful people in the world definitely do go through that period of questioning themselves," Akosua said. "I think the success is found in how best you persevere through those moments and through the discouragement."

An accounting major with minors in human capital management and political science, Akosua is also an international student -- a factor that makes obtaining an internship more difficult.

If an international student wants an internship in the United States, a company needs to be able and willing to sponsor them. A sponsorship is an authorization to work, a company's backing. But sponsorships are limited -- not all companies can offer them, and they must prove that the student has a skill that another doesn't.

The summer after her freshman year, Akosua had an internship in the accounting department at a company back home in Botswana. But the U.S. works on a different system, so she wasn't putting what she was learning to practice, and knew it would be nice to get that experience in the States.

"I knew it would be a bit of a challenge as an international student," Akosua said about getting an internship in the U.S. "I just didn't know how much of a challenge."

In one week, Akosua received several rejections. She started to think she was going nowhere fast. She knew she had to think outside the box.

"At the end of the day, everybody -- whether it's your peers, companies, employers, whatever it is -- they're watching how best you're riding the wave in the midst of adversity," Akosua said.

She decided to post on LinkedIn: "I have applied, emailed, cold emailed, networked, attended multiple events. So, now I will put to use this amazing platform for one of its true purposes -- connecting people -- talented people to people seeking talent, in hope I get connected to someone looking for someone like myself. Thank you, Jeff Weiner for this amazing platform...I was always told to be 'BOLD.' Hopefully someday it helps me reach my goals."

Two weeks later, she got a notification that Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, commented on her post. She thought it was a joke, a friend with the ability to hack.

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But it was there, like an endorsement. "Would be surprised if something doesn't materialize," Weiner said in his comment.

Akosua's phone was soon a hotbed of notifications, and the LinkedIn app crashed. Her post had gone viral.

"It was weird because, you know, you tag somebody and you don't expect them to comment," Akosua said. "Like, you tag Beyonce in your pictures, you don't expect Beyonce to suddenly show up."

Employers were reaching out, offering their help and contact information. She stayed in touch with them, waiting until they were in the hiring process. In the meantime, the buzz of her LinkedIn post blew over.

A recruiter from Microsoft reached out again -- they had a new, single position internship to fill.

Akosua asked a friend, who will also be working for Microsoft, for interview tips. He told her, "think about what Microsoft means to you, and then express that to them."

So she sat down to think, and asked herself why she wanted to work for Microsoft. She's always known Microsoft and admired them, but then she remembered something more personal about growing up in Botswana.

"They made their computers so accessible and affordable that when I was growing up, they were the only affordable computer and software company around," Akosua said. "I learned how to type on Microsoft Word, I played Reader Rabbit on a Windows powered computer...It was a fun way of learning, and they powered that. And it's because they don't just preach how global they are, they actually practice it.

"If you're a company that can reach a country of 2.5 million people, a country that may be forgotten by other big, global firms, then that's the kind of company that I want to work for because you're actually empowering everybody on this planet to achieve more."

Akosua had a phone interview and was told she'd hear from them in a few days, but she ended up hearing back that same day. Microsoft wanted her for the final round of interviews. So Akosua was flown out to Washington for four interviews in one day.

And then she had to wait through the weekend.

"I felt like it was 20 years," she said.

The recruiter emailed Akosua just as she got out of class: can I call?

On the phone, she then took her sweet time -- asking about Akosua's experience in Washington and telling her it was a hard decision to make. Finally, she passed along the news that Akosua got the internship.

She started crying.

"I had never imagined that I would ever hear those words 'cause I'd been hearing rejection after rejection after rejection," Akosua said.

Akosua's parents were on FaceTime during the call, and they were ecstatic about the news. She said it was easily one of her best days.

"It may not seem like a big deal to everybody, but to go through [an experience] where people are constantly telling you no and making you feel so small, and then finally somebody recognizes that you do have a talent and you have this mind...when somebody recognizes that about you, it's such a great thing."

Akosua posted again on LinkedIn -- an update for those who had been following since her first post went viral and who wanted to know how her story ends. Satya Narayana Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, commented a welcoming congratulations.

"I'm so glad I was bold enough to make that post and put it out there that I was going through a struggle," Akosua said.

She never knew that would make her different. Others have been inspired by her boldness, and Akosua is happy to help.

"I definitely pride myself in lifting as you climb," Akosua said. "And I just tell everybody, lift others as you climb. It doesn't hamper on your own success, or it doesn't destroy your own path."

She was asked once why she was trying to help others get internships before she had one herself.

"Mine will come, sometime," Akosua responded. "Me helping somebody else doesn't stop me getting something."

It did come, as a Business and Sales Operations Program Manager intern at Microsoft.

"Delayed gratification, definitely. Didn't know what that meant until now."