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The Microsoft Azure Academy Buddy Program: Mentorship means growing together

Microsoft wants to help bridge the IT skills and talent gap and promote diversity in the Dutch tech sector. That is why we launched the Microsoft Azure Academy for Refugees together with our partners ITPH Academy and Refugee Talent Hub. With this initiative, we empower refugee talent to kickstart a tech career in The Netherlands. 

This academy includes a 20-week training course for talent with a refugee background and a buddy program. In the beginning of April 2022, Rudy and Mustafa were connected as part of the Buddy Program and they are happy to share how this program enriched their lives. They met during the kickoff of the Microsoft Azure Academy program. Mustafa started a Cloud Engineering course and Rudy was matched as his mentor. Rudy has been working at Microsoft for almost 18 years and enjoys the opportunities he gets offered such as this Buddy Program. 

The Buddy Program means taking the time to connect with each other. Rudy and Mustafa had bi-weekly meetings, either face-to-face or virtually. “I didn’t know how I could help Mustafa at first, but I knew that real contact and listening to him were the first steps. I tried to find out where I could make an impact so Mustafa could develop and grow. From there on, we looked at setting up a structure and upgrading his LinkedIn profile and CV. I also keep him sharp on learning Dutch.” 

Impressed by his perseverance 

Mustafa has a background in mathematics and was a teacher in Turkey for 17 years. When he came to the Netherlands, he followed different IT trainings and eventually started a Cloud Engineering training at the Azure Academy. He had the chance to teach again, but since he is still learning the Dutch language, he decided to focus on another field. “I was very impressed by the perseverance he had. Mustafa was studying so hard. He wanted to make something from what he got offered and put in 200%. That also motivated me, and I even felt like I had to slow him down sometimes,” Rudy explains. 

Opening your network is also a part of the mentorship, and Rudy was ready to introduce Mustafa to two IT-organizations so he could practice applying for a job. But that was not necessary as Mustafa got a job as an automation engineer by himself. “My job might not be related to the latest training I followed, but I put everything I learned from the Azure Academy on my CV. It was an opportunity I had to take; I looked at the job description and knew I could do it.” 

Different but sharing respect and values 

Both men realized they viewed the world from the same window. They might not share a cultural background, but they do share values and respect for each other. “Maybe that’s why we get on so well. You can’t even compare the things we have in common to what we do not have in common.”

One thing Rudy challenged Mustafa on was asking questions. This was something he was not used to doing. “I realized that I could ask a question without it looking like I was not smart enough. In Dutch culture, it is more common to ask a lot of questions. That’s the only way you get an answer to something unclear.” For Rudy, these kinds of challenges made the mentorship more practical. He understood how he could add value and how he could support.

Empowering self-confidence and motivation 

There was an instant connection, and Rudy was impressed by Mustafa’s backstory. “I was open to any connection, and then they linked me to Mustafa. I feel like we need more people like him in the world. Sometimes I imagine what my life would be like if I had to make the same choices Mustafa had to make. It makes me feel grateful.” 

For Mustafa, the connection means a lot. He feels fortunate to be connected to Rudy and is thankful for his mentorship and friendship. “Because of him, my self-confidence and motivation were always at the highest level. I am thrilled to know him, and he is very special to me. I knew that I could get in touch with him whenever I wanted. He is the primary reason I am where I am today, and that’s not something I exaggerate. I really mean it.” 

Mentorship is growing together 

Rudy was happy to be there for him as his buddy and feels like he also grew from this mentorship. “I get goosebumps hearing that. But I think I learned more from him than he learned from me. And that’s the goal I have when I mentor and coach. What can I learn from it? A little bit selfish, probably, but I want us to grow together.” 

For him, it was the second time he applied to be a buddy. “I did it before, and that mentorship gave me a broader perspective on people with a refugee background and also a different view on what we could do to help them.” 

Huge impact on my life 

Now that the program has ended, Rudy and Mustafa plan to stay in touch. Not via a fixed structure but in an organic way where they have contact at least once a month. “The relationship we built together is a special one because you are meeting someone that you probably wouldn’t meet directly in your group of friends, at work or a sports club. Suddenly you have a connection, and now that I see what kind of impact I can make on his life, I don’t want it to end,” Rudy shares. 

“I completely agree with you. Half an hour every week of your time has greatly impacted my life.  If you are not involved in such a kind of activity, it’s not easy to understand or see this big impact,” Mustafa says. Both Rudy and Mustafa encourage people to take on this opportunity and become a Buddy. “When I was teaching, I used to tell my students that I was just showing them the path they just have to walk. Now people like Rudy are showing us the path, and it’s our job to walk it.” 

Read more about the Buddy connection between Murat and Yvonne.

More information about the Azure Academy and becoming a buddy:

Meer informatie over Microsoft maatschappelijk verantwoord ondernemen

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