AiAllies – Joanna Runesson, Microsoft


Many assume that building a successful tech career and landing a role at a top global organization would take years. For Joanna Runesson, the opportunity to join Microsoft came straight after finishing her master’s degree. She shares her story as part of the #AIAllies initiative created by to highlight women’s contributions in tech.

“I studied at the Stockholm School of Economics where I completed my Masters in Business and Management. So, from my studies at the time, I wasn’t really exposed to the tech Industry.” Joanna said.

“While I was at university and considering my next career step, the ‘standard’ career paths did not appeal to me. It was basically a choice between management consultancy, delivering auditing services or investment banking.  They are all great options but I knew it was not the right path for me. So, I kept exploring industries and companies with potential trainee program openings.”

Joanna Runesson didn’t wait for opportunities; she used her curiosity, drive, and determination to seek them out.

“I felt that there must be more options than what was showcased in the career fairs. I knew I wanted to have an international career. Working in a fast-paced environment and learn about new business and industries. That curiosity led me to an internship at Spotify, where I was exposed to an innovative business model and culture.  It really intrigued me. I knew I wanted more, even though I did not label it as the tech industry at the time.”

Joining Microsoft

Following her time with Spotify, Joanna was contacted by Microsoft. She was encouraged to apply for their trainee program now known as Aspire.

“I didn’t know that Microsoft offered a trainee program at the time. Today, the tech industry’s impact on society through digital transformation and emerging tech unicorns seems evident. However, back then, cloud or SaaS wasn’t synonymous with new business. My curiosity and management studies pushed me to delve into Microsoft’s leadership, business, and culture by joining as a trainee.”

“I knew that, in every new experience, there are lessons to be learned. This is true as long as you are willing to explore and try new things.”

Joanna Runesson joined Microsoft’s trainee program. It gave her deep insights into the company and the tech industry. She worked as an Account Executive, understanding global operations and customers. She connected with many professionals. Additionally, she received coaching and networked with other new graduates.

“The fact that I could quickly ramp up in a hands-on role, get coaching and share my experience with other recent graduates excelled the learning experience.”

Growing Confident on a Tech Role

After six years with the company, Joanna secured a Business Developer role in the Global Partner Organization. She focuses on forging strategic partnerships with software companies. These companies build scalable models on Microsoft’s cloud platform. Her goal is to expand their business within Microsoft’s global customers or a specific industry.

“It’s an incredibly interesting role as I get to encounter so many software companies and industries. I focus on how we can collaboratively innovate or ideate around the current or future business model to deliver more value and innovation to the end customer by combining business with tech.”

“In addition, I get to continuously learn about new technology areas and practices such as Ai, security, and different cloud delivery models catering to different industry needs or trends, such as sustainability.”

“I focus on the strategic element of our partnerships, setting the direction and alignment to make sure the structure and activities we drive valuable business outcomes for both parties.”

Taking on Challenges as a Woman in Tech

Joanna’s rise seems steady and her transition from student to professional appears smooth. Yet, she faced significant challenges. Like many in the AiAllies project, Joanna believes that seeking mentors and support is key to success.

“I have walked into meetings and seen the surprise on people’s faces as they realize it is me who will be driving the business dialogue forward. They expect someone with 10-15 years industry experience to oversee these discussions. However, as we focus on how to expand their business model and value to the customer jointly with Microsoft that notion vanishes. But I would love to see more women present in these business conversations.”

“My advice to anyone being new to the industry or considering joining, would be to seek advice from your peers and seniors to form your own support group. I would also figure out what valuable perspectives you bring into the conversation as diverse thinking and skillsets are important for optimal business outcomes.”

“I know that I bring business strategy thinking to the table. This complements other peers deep technical skills that drives the end customer value forward “

The Importance of a Support System

But having peers at the same level is only one part of a support system. Having people to look up towards is key.

Deb Cupp, President of Microsoft’s Operations in the US is one of my role models. Besides leading one of our most important markets forward she previously led our industry transformation globally. I had the pleasure to meet her in person and I was amazed by her authentic way of conveying clarity and leadership in complex matters. That reminds me to stay authentic and to dare to lead.”

“Another role model is Therése Treutiger, who leads our Partnership business and Innovation efforts for the Swedish market. She drives the business forward with an outstanding positivity and does an incredible job of empowering her team daily. I’m lucky to be able to work with and learn from her leadership.”

Connecting with senior professionals and people with skillsets and knowledge that intrigues you, is a valuable exercise to carry out, says Joanna.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your network or on LinkedIn to ask for advice and support. You’ll be amazed at how much help people will provide if you show that you have done your research and a show a genuine interest to learn, so stay curious!  Women might be a little more hesitant to do this, but I really think we should offer more encouragement towards women considering joining the tech industry.”

On Her Biggest Achievements

Looking back on her journey  Joanna highlights what her biggest achievement

“I’ve let my curiosity lead my career, venturing into the ‘unknown’ while maintaining my integrity. This approach has let me concentrate on business innovation, market growth, and international ties with our strategic partners, using technology as the catalyst. I’m eager to elevate this and become a future leader, enhancing the world through innovation, strategy, and technology.”

Connect with Joanna Runesson on Linkedin, here.

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