Mia Hawley’s (B.A. ’13) yearning to promote minority empowerment helped lead her to an exciting new position at Microsoft.
Hawley, a sociology graduate and the former assistant director of marketing and communications for the Georgia State Alumni Association, joined the tech giant last summer as a communications manager, helping to train new hires in the global communications team and coordinating the company’s master class for communication professionals.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” Hawley said. “This company really makes the effort to stand behind its word with supporting new employees. As soon as I started, I thought, ‘This is amazing.’”
Hawley acknowledges that it’s a challenge to help others acclimate to the workplace while she’s still getting adjusted to her new company and community. A Georgia native, she said she’s used to the diverse environment of Atlanta. The population in King County, Wash., where Microsoft headquarters is located, is less than 7 percent Black.
“It’s a culture shock and it’s an adjustment,” Hawley said. “Being from Atlanta, certain things about the South are ingrained in me. I was around Black excellence on a regular basis. Coming to a place where there’s a smaller population of young, Black professionals, it’s very different.”
Diversity is a challenge for the tech industry in general. According to the 2014 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Diversity in High Tech report, up to 68 percent of the industry’s employees are white, compared to as few as 7 percent Black, 8 percent Hispanic and 14 percent Asian.
Hawley wants to help spark a positive change for minority professionals in tech. She joined the employee networking group Blacks at Microsoft (B.A.M.) and said she plans to volunteer for initiatives within the company to help minorities.
“Being just a few months in, I’ve realized I can help in a lot of ways in my position,” she said. “Any new hires who are coming in as transplants, I try to make that extra effort to introduce myself and make them feel welcome beyond my onboarding duties.”
While Georgia was in lockdown during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawley started a blog called “Code Switching Creative” and a podcast called “Since Y’all Don’t Read.”
What started as a hobby quickly turned into an opportunity for Hawley to connect with like-minded women of color. She used her platforms to uplift, network with and inspire other women of color, and realized she was inspiring herself in the process.
“The more I started to get off my chest, the more positive feedback I would receive,” Hawley said. “With the blog and being in quarantine and lockdown, it gave me the motivation to take my profession to another level.”
Though she had applied to Microsoft “a million times,” the pandemic experience inspired her to try again. This time, she consulted a resume writer and joined ColorComm, a national professional organization addressing diversity and inclusion across the communications, marketing, advertising and media industries for women of color. Hawley joined the organization in May 2020 and was selected for their mentorship cohort program in March 2021.
Hawley said joining the group gave her the confidence to apply to Microsoft one more time.
She wants to help others develop the confidence to keep trying. Hawley plans to keep networking with like-minded people so she can give them the same opportunities she received.
“I’ve only been here for six weeks, but I look around and think, ‘I’m ready to shake things up,’” Hawley said. “I want this to be a place where Black people can thrive, even if we are a minority. I want to create more for my people.”