Allison Abraka '14 

Compensation Program Manager for Microsoft

The W&M MBA: International by Nature

Exploring Culture. Building Community.

Before my MBA, I was working as a human resources specialist in West Africa’s biggest bank. I worked with people from all over the world, but I figured if I wanted to broaden my horizons I needed to get an MBA, and I needed to get an MBA from the United States. I wanted to see firsthand how business happened there.

Actually, I wanted to know more than just how American business worked, I wanted to know how America worked, so I wanted to study in a historically rich part of the United States. And the more I studied Williamsburg, I thought, “Hey, this is it.” It wasn’t just academics, it was everything plus academics. And since part of my goal was to get enmeshed in a culture, I didn’t want 300 or 400 students in my class. I wanted a small program where I would be on a first name basis with everybody. Those two things, combined with the opportunity to get close to business leaders that the Executive Partners program offered, made William & Mary’s B-school a winner for me. 

I was selected College’s International Scholar Program, which pairs you with an American family who introduces you to the culture. My family took me to dinner. They took me to the movies. If I just wanted to visit for a couple of hours, I could stop by. And 40 percent of my classmates were international students. There was always something going on. Music. Food. Movies. We had Thai night. Indian night. For most international students, I don’t think we missed our homes too much.

I think another secret to my success was that I quickly jumped into many clubs. I found the experience so rewarding—you develop so many connections with your classmates through the clubs—that I started one of my own: The Human Resources Club. The goal of the club was to educate Mason students about human resources and encourage more of them to enter the field. The other goal was to connect those students with career opportunities. We also had speakers come to campus to talk to us about the field. I was also involved in the Honor Council, which is a huge part of the William & Mary community. It’s as old as the school. Our job was to make sure students were living within the values of William & Mary. In my second year, I was elected Chief Justice.

Today I’m a compensation project manager at Microsoft. Our team manages everything related to compensation. It’s a big job, as Microsoft has offices in more than 100 countries. Microsoft wants to attract the best talent no matter what country they’re operating in, so we study the employment markets in each country and make recommendations to the individual offices to ensure their compensation packages are competitive. I’m one of two managers on Microsoft’s Total Rewards program, which is an online resource that allows employees to manage all of their benefits. It’s a convenience for the employees, and it really gives them a sense of just how much Microsoft is investing in them. We’re piloting the program in 16 countries and hope to roll it out to more soon.