Admissions Blog

Alumni Story: How SIPA Helped Me Get My First Job- Jiayu Xu (MPA ‘22)

By Fitri Mayang Sari '23
Posted Dec 06 2022

Jiayu Xu is a recent graduate of SIPA Class of 2022. She pursued a dual degree master program by spending 1st year at Sciences Po and 2nd year at SIPA. She studied International Finance and Economic Policy (IFEP) and Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis (DAQA) at SIPA, and is currently back working in Shanghai.


Hi Jiayu, thank you for agreeing to this interview. We really appreciate your time. Can you please tell our readers what program you studied at SIPA? 

I was part of the international dual degree program for my two-year master’s degree. I spent two years at two different universities in two different continents, which for me was a fulfilling experience. During my first year at Sciences Po, I pursued a Master in Public Policy at the School of Public Affairs, with a focus on Energy, Environment and Sustainability. I chose this policy stream as I studied Environmental Studies during my undergraduate, and Europe has long been known for its environmental initiatives.

During my second year at SIPA, I was part of MPA with a concentration in IFEP and a specialization in DAQA. I chose this combination as I wanted to gain more quantitative exposure, as at that time I was highly interested in ESG, the intersection between environment and finance.

This international dual degree program is a bit special as you have to spend the 1st year at Sciences Po, and there is no other way around. The biggest difference I found between these two schools is variety VS depth. At Sciences Po, I took on average 7-8 courses in order to fulfill the course requirement on a semester basis, which is many more than the 5 courses I took at SIPA each semester. So in Paris, midterms and finals were two overwhelming weeks, and suddenly all the final papers and exams were there. However, SIPA courses do allow you to go much deeper into the subject, and there is always something to do on a weekly basis. You may need to either attend the recitation, work on group projects, or hand in problem sets. In comparison, at Sciences Po, I hardly have any recitation to attend or problem sets to write. The professors may prepare some recommended readings for you to read, but that is totally up to you regarding if you want to learn more about a certain topic. 


We heard that you received an offer from Microsoft while you were finishing your last semester at SIPA, and it would be your first job. So, congratulations! Can you share how you landed on your first job and what is your role at Microsoft?

I started applying during my first semester at SIPA, and after almost six-months of continuous applying, I finally landed at my current job at Microsoft. The whole process is a bit circuitous for me, as I submitted my job application for Microsoft during fall recruitment season, but did not hear a word. So I re-submitted the application during the spring recruitment, by also asking for a referral from a former employee of Microsoft. After 2-3 weeks of submission, I heard back from HR to join the 1st round interview. Since then, the procedure had accelerated, and it took me roughly 3 weeks to get the job offer.

My job at Microsoft is entitled Support Engineer. I am under the division of Windows, and on a daily basis, our team is responsible for handling cases submitted by Microsoft customers when they encounter any technical difficulty in utilizing the product. Once a case is submitted and assigned to us, we need to undertake troubleshooting steps to understand what’s the root cause, and subsequently provide the customers with solutions. It’s a client-facing job that requires soft skills such as effective communication, as well as hard skills such as technical capability to constantly stay tuned in our expertise.


How does SIPA help you in your professional career?

SIPA Office of Career Services is definitely the one to go to in order to get myself prepared for the recruitment season. At the beginning of my year at SIPA, I booked an appointment with the office to get my resume and cover letter polished. It is always good to get a fresh set of eyes to look at them to get instructive recommendations. Later I also booked a mock interview session and consulting case session with it. However, the limitation, if I remember correctly, is that we can only book 3 sessions on a semester basis. As a result, it’s better to make the most out of these 3 sessions by using each appointment wisely. There are always walk-in sessions at noon if you want to get some quick advice.

Definitely keep an eye out for the newsletter sent out by SIPA Office of Career Services as well, and by signing up for job alerts. By browsing through the newsletter, there were interesting events or exciting opportunities to attend for. And some job opportunities are directly channeled towards SIPA students because recruiters’ information and submission links are provided in the newsletter. I sometimes also find SIPA alumni recruiting for certain positions, and these are precious chances to go for the network resources as well.

Current professors and alumni network resources are also here to help. I have the habit of looking into the bio of my professors on the website. If I find their past experiences to be interesting, I would make use of the office hour to chat more about that. Meanwhile, up until now, I am still immensely grateful for all the SIPA alumni that have helped me along the job application process. There was a time that on LinkedIn, I connected with a SIPA alumni who worked at a boutique consulting firm that I intended to apply for. At first, I simply asked for a casual coffee chat to better understand the job he was doing, so that I could see if I was fit for applying. We ended up chatting for almost an hour, and before I had even asked, he offered to take a look at my resume and cover letter before I submitted them. He did so and made detailed comments about the part that I could revise. I was genuinely touched at that time by how much the alumni had offered, as I was already grateful for all the insights that he shared with me during the chat.

Also, it could be really stressful during the recruitment season, but it’s always good to have some friends around who are also going through the same process. Then we can share insights, or help each other improve on mock interviews etc. 


Since Microsoft is your first job, we assume that you pursue a master degree right after undergraduate. Why did you do so?

I did my undergraduate studies at Tufts University. I didn't really take a break between my undergraduate and master, as I went straight into master’s degree upon my graduation from Tufts. While I would consider my first year at Sciences Po somewhat of a break as the life in Paris was quite chill, and at that time I was not worried about applying for full-time jobs.

The reason that I directly went into master’s degree was that the year 2020, the pandemic hit. I was not so sanguine about the job market at that time as it was severely hit by the pandemic. And I did take a look at some job opportunities and they required more or less a master degree. So I said to myself, why not go straight for the master degree and then find a job. In addition, I was really excited about the international dual degree program, and was looking forward to my first year to be spent in Paris :)



Do you think your experience at SIPA would be different if you have a prior professional experience?

I would say maybe? At SIPA, I had met many people who had former working experiences, which added value to their experience at SIPA because they knew exactly what they wanted to get out of SIPA. Sometimes during classes, they had more insights to share as well. But for me, during my time at SIPA, honestly I was still in the exploring phase, and on a daily basis, there were so many events to attend, and seminars to participate in. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to pursue, but at the same time, I was always open to other opportunities.

I will end this with the French cliché, C’est la vie. I never regret any single decision that I made. There are surely ups and downs in my life, but life will end up taking me somewhere for sure.