This article was originally published on December 10, 2019.
College of Business Fall 2019 graduate Niko Laput accepted an offer to work as a financial analyst for Microsoft in Seattle. It’s his dream job.
Talking to the charismatic accounting and finance major about his new gig, his frequent spot on the Dean’s List, his four internships — the last one was at Microsoft — and his plans to relocate from his home in Southeast Michigan to Washington, you’d no doubt realize the early 20-something is a go-getter.
But then, while Niko speaks about his many prior-to-graduation job offers, he shares why he initially hesitated in accepting an offer from the Bill Gates-built company — a place, with their innovative blend of tech and business, he’s dreamed to work for since he was a kid.
“I needed to make sure that there were good schools out there for my son first,” Niko says. “Eliot’s almost 4. You could say that we’ve done this college thing together. He's even attended some classes with me when no one could watch him.”
Niko talks about the late nights writing a paper one-handed with a newborn on his chest. He flips through his phone to find a picture of his son last Halloween. Obsessed with ocean creatures, Eliot wore a shark costume from Seattle Aquarium that they bought during a family outing when Niko was at his Microsoft internship last summer. And Niko says his internal drive, fueled by his family, is what keeps him motivated.
“I found out I was going to be a dad right after high school. I knew being a young father would change my life and that getting a degree would be even more challenging. I decided to go to college anyway,” he says. “Of course, I was tired. I sometimes felt like there wasn’t enough time, and I often wondered how I was going to do it. I’ve learned that answer is fairly simple: Prioritize and then go at it one step at a time. You don’t give up on your dream — you bring your family along with you.”
Niko says that there is always a work-life balance — and in his case work-life-school — parents struggle to maintain. But he’s appreciative of his mother and father’s example and models his dedication to family after theirs.
“My parents moved here from the Philippines, where they had an established life, with seven children to give us a shot of getting the best education. My Dad worked in law enforcement and my Mom is a nurse. It was hard, but they knew opportunities are limited in a third-world country. They started over here and are successful in family and career,” he says. “They have shown me that work and drive pays off. I was going to get my degree — it’s for me, for my parents and for my family.”
Niko says college experiences like memberships in student organizations like Beta Alpha Psi, Financial Management Association, Student Government and Community Resources for Empowering Wolverines (CREW) have helped him grow his connections.
Included in that was a COB colleague that shared with him that Microsoft was going to be at a career recruitment fair in Las Vegas. So Laput did door-to-door fundraising to local businesses in his community and pulled together funds of his own to fly out there to introduce himself to Microsoft contacts. It worked. “One of the best investments to make early in your career, is to invest in yourself. It's also important to remember those who did invest in you.” Niko’s in the process of writing thank you notes and update letters to his business community backers.
He says he’s also thankful for the internships with Deloitte, BorgWarner and United Road Services that gave him a strong foundation of finance and logistics experience. And there was everything he learned at Microsoft — he says the mentoring culture just added to his dedication to his new company. When he gets there in January 2020, he’ll continue the work he began during his internship on margin strategy and industry analysis within the cloud computing sector.
With graduation on the horizon, Niko says he’s been reflecting on the past four years. He credits much of his success to supportive family, especially high school girlfriend and soon-to-be wife Liselle. And when their family of three gets to Seattle it will be time for Liselle to pursue her dreams — she’s a pre-med student who will begin applying to medical school. He’s also looking forward to taking Eliot back to Pike’s Place Market, the hiking trails and the aquarium.
But, focusing on now, he’s excited to have Eliot and Liselle with him at graduation on Saturday.
“It’s the end of this chapter for us. We did it — on little sleep and little money, but the dream of wanting something more kept us going. I’m thankful to everyone who supported us and for UM-Dearborn for giving me the education and network needed to reach this next step in our lives.”