My path to becoming a Microsoft PFE (Premier Field Engineer)

Hi All...I started my career with Microsoft about 2.5 months ago as a PFE (Premier Field Engineer) and wanted to share with everyone the details of my journey. Since you are reading this blog I am going to assume that for the most part you know what PFE is. If not then let me direct you to an excellent post by Greg Jaworski (Link), which will explain details about PFE, the Interview process, and some tips to becoming a PFE.

First of all let me start out with my previous experience. I have been working in IT for about 13+ years, mostly as a consultant, working with various aspects of the Infrastructure realm. Being a Systems Engineer I had to work with many technologies including Exchange, Lync, Active Directory, Networking, Virtualization, Storage, Monitoring, Systems Management, etc... After doing that for the first 7 years of my career I decided that I wanted to learn Networking more in-depth. Now my world became everything routing, switching, FW and basically anything Cisco\Juniper. Although this was a great learning experience my passion always defaulted back to Microsoft. The question I had to myself was "Where do I go from here"? The next logical step in my career was to focus on Architecture and Design of the same systems I was Engineering previously. Although this was an exciting part of my career something was still missing. As consultants we tend to become a jack of all technologies but a "Master" of none. I wanted to be the "Master", who doesn't. So over the next couple of years I started to focus very heavily on Messaging and Collaboration (Exchange and Lync). This is when I discovered that I had found exactly what I wanted to do going forward.

So fast forward a couple of years. I read a blog that was written by a PFE which got me very intrigued about this role. So I updated my resume and started applying like crazy. Any position I found that even had the word "Exchange" exposed I clicked "Apply". After not hearing anything back from Microsoft I started to get a little discouraged. It was at this point I thought "Why not email the PFE from the blog"? Surprisingly I actually got a response from this individual which gave me some great tips and, just like everyone said, his main tip was to Apply, Apply, Apply. My discouragement turned into my primary career goal. I had been involved in a couple of projects at this time which distracted me from applying for a couple of months. Throw in summer vacations and it had been 3+ months since I had applied last. Then the last day of vacation I opened my email, and to my excitement found an email from a Microsoft recruiter. My wife thought I was crazy because I was so excited and I hadn't even talked with anyone yet 🙂

So after contacting the recruiter, and discussing the position, she asked "Would you be interested in starting the interview process"? Nah I think I will pass...JK :)...Absolutely I want to start the process. The first interview was scheduled for 1hr (over phone) with 2 PFEs specializing in Exchange. This was a very tough technical interview and I was quickly brought back to reality. All I can say is you should know your technology thoroughly. Also if there is a single tip I could give it would be, if you don't know it just say that and don't try to make it up. We don't expect everyone to know everything. Finally after a week or so I got a call from the recruiter saying they would like to setup the next technical interview. This was another 1hr technical interview (over phone) with one Sr. PFE which ended up going over about 45 minutes. Another week or so went by and I was notified that I had made it though the technical interviews and up next would be the "Manager" interview. I was informed by the recruiter this would be an in-person 1hr interview with 2 PFE Managers. This is exactly what you would expect from a Manager interview, which, for me went very well. I was notified before I got home they wanted to extend an offer of employment. Yesssss I got the job!!!!

Finally I would like to pass on some tips that were given to me once I joined Microsoft. Get humbled very quickly! Believe me as much as you think you know, you now work with the engineers who write the code for the product. Respect Everyone! You will need everyone in this company at some point so build good working relationships. Lastly, take advantage of resources! Microsoft is a company filled with loads of knowledge and individuals who are always willing to share that knowledge. Independent of their level in the organization, everyone wants to help.

 If this is a journey you are looking to take, go out and apply ( We are always looking for hard working talented engineers for the team. Good Luck in your journey!!!


Comments (10)

  1. Charles Derber says:

    All what I want to say is congrats and all the best further – I understand what you meant by this post 🙂

  2. Well written. It's important to not get discouraged. There are many roles within Microsoft and you have to figure out which one is best fit for you. I was denied position to two positions (MCS and TAM) before finally getting accepted as PFE. I think it was best for me that I was denied the other two. My strengths really shined in PFE and interviewers knew where my strengths were and how it can benefit both me and Microsoft.

  3. @Mikha3! – I would say the best approach is to get your hands on as many deployments as possible. This will allow you to gain experience on different systems and environments. I personally use HyperV as my host virtualization technology. One piece of advice that I can give is to really know the technology well, how everything operates, and how to troubleshoot issues when they arise.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Very encouraging. Am working towards being part of your Elite group. One day I will join i have started working on it. I don't care how many years from now. Is three years little working towards that direction? It is really very hard to get all the necessary experience. Which best virtualization technologies can one use to simulate real world scenarios. My guess is HperV right! please advise I need to make it in 3 years.

  5. @kapil – good points because all of those are keys. Although we do have positions that don't travel as much "DSE" you still have to be ready. The customer relationship part of this position is probably the most important overall.

  6. Very very interesting, thanks for the write-up and thanks for the link to Greg’s blog for more insight!

  7. Marc says:

    Very inspiring!

  8. kapil says:

    Well Written Richard…

    One needs to understand the Non Technical deliverlables of the profile also.

    And willingness to travel is Key to a PFE role.

    Handling customers in critical situations is another key element.

  9. james says:

    I just declined a PFE job in ITSM but it was a good interview experience…Microsoft interviewers are good.

  10. rajneesh1 says:

    I was interviewed for this PFE a year and half back, and it was like how the hell they can ask you by getting into deeper from what you’ve answered, mean to say you answer their question, and next question they’ll ask from your answer. I was able to get
    through of 2 rounds, but didn’t make @ last 🙁 . Overall it was nice to get interviewed by them, and again am preparing for PFE with more. Hope to be PFE one day.

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