Class of 2023 Graduate Aiden Benyarku sits in the 0 of the By the Numbers on campus

If you had asked a young Aiden Benyarku what he would be when he grew up, you might have gotten two answers: the career in the sciences that others envisioned for him, and the path he desired. An opportunity at Ohio State, however, changed his trajectory toward the latter and now, as a 22-year-old on the verge of graduation, he’s about to become a product manager for a leading software company.

Aiden Benyarku

“In high school we had to create a grid of possible careers. I lived in an immigrant-dominant area in Maryland, and my projected path was to become a doctor or engineer — the careers most discussed when I was growing up,” says Aiden, whose parents immigrated from Ghana. “However, my curiosity always led to an eventual career in business. Because of the opportunities provided me at Ohio State, I just got there sooner.”

What altered his path is witnessing how technology affects everyone and almost everything we do in life. From hospital systems to electricity, supply chains, elections, transportation, banking and business administration, technology is at the forefront of day-to-day life.

Seeing this connection piqued Aiden’s interest in bridging the gap between technology and business and eventually led to a pair of internships at Microsoft.

Becoming a Business Buckeye

Aiden’s decision to leave his home state of Maryland and attend Ohio State was sealed when he was named a Morrill Scholar, one of a handful of students across the university selected for the premier diversity and merit scholarship program.

“I always thought I’d attend the University of Maryland, but I remember praying about the scholarship on January 10, 2020,” he says. “Within five hours, the answer came that I was named a Morrill Scholar. When I heard the news, I felt that Ohio State was truly the place that God wanted me to be.”

He originally planned on majoring in industrial engineering or pre-med but says the scholarship gave him the opportunity to take a risk on a business degree. He first chose finance as his specialization, but quickly changed to management information systems (MIS) to connect his business and technology interests.

What he loves about MIS is melding computer science and business — helping businesses understand technology and helping technology align with business strategies.

“MIS gives me the opportunity to understand and manage products and find ways to make them better and more secure,” says Aiden. “I like to find solutions for business problems that technology can clarify, and business strategies that enhance technology.”

Breaking the code

During the summer of 2022, Aiden jumped at the chance to gain experience putting his MIS skills to use as a product manager intern within Microsoft’s M365 Detect, a division of M365 Cloud Security, in Washington state. The position provided Aiden a front-row seat to the importance of cyber security.

“Today, there are more and more acts of technical warfare on electrical grids, hospital computing systems, banking systems and business operating systems,” says Aiden. “I realized I wanted to help find the solutions to keep technology moving forward in safe ways so that society can continue to rely on vital services needed to survive.”

Aiden Benyarku outside Microsoft's headquarters.
Aiden Benyarku outside Microsoft's headquarters.

As a participant in Microsoft’s Black Summer Intern Experience (BSIX), a program specifically dedicated to mentoring and helping Black students in technology, he began learning intrusion and threat detections skills, cross-functional collaboration, data analysis and product strategy.

He was named the BSIX intern of the year, recognized for his product development, collaboration and product strategy skills, including the designing and building of quality solutions.

“As one of the youngest product manager interns, there were times I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. I really didn’t even think I was qualified to be an intern at Microsoft,” says Aiden. “When I found out I was nominated and won the award, I was astonished and proud that I had accomplished so much to be given the honor.”

In the summer of 2023, Aiden returned to Microsoft as an intern in its M365 Cloud Security division in California, where he was tasked with developing threat detection solutions related to a hack on Microsoft 365. He collaborated with engineers and the technology team in the Microsoft Security Response Center to build out solutions, resolve technical challenges and employ new technologies, tools, methods and processes to ensure the solutions would work.

“I built algorithms to detect any future possible hacks and developed solutions to stop a hack before it can occur,” Aiden says. “I analyzed the recent attack and developed strategies to protect the system, detect any threats to the system and stop any attacks.”

The art of negotiation

Aiden Benyarku with his parents in the San Francisco Bay area.

As his internship was concluding, Aiden’s hard work and leadership over the previous two summers paid off with a full-time position offer to be a product manager with Microsoft’s security team in Washington following graduation in December. The offer presented him with a challenge that’s familiar to anyone navigating the career marketplace: salary negotiation.

Having been named intern of the year and having led a product team, Aiden leaned on those experiences to draft a counteroffer to Microsoft detailing his accomplishments and praise from supervisors.

“I learned from my dad that the first offer is seldom the best or only offer available. I knew I was going to negotiate my salary, no matter what,” says Aiden, who encourages other new graduates to highlight their internship experiences whenever possible.

“I knew the cost of living in Seattle was high and I learned from my parents that you need to ask and seek what you want. The worst someone can say is ‘No.’ My dad negotiates everything, and I learned from my parents that there are rules, but there are always exceptions to those rules. While it was a bit nerve-wracking, it worked and I earned what I was seeking — a sign-on bonus in the five-figure range, including stock options.”

The path to success

With the start of his professional career on the horizon, Aiden has been reflecting on the opportunities at Fisher that helped prepare him for his success — opportunities such as Project THRIVE, a program that combines rigorous classroom curriculum with experiential learning opportunities in industries such as accounting, MIS and finance. 

Aiden Benyarku with Fisher's Assistant Dean and Chief Diversity Officer Cynthia Turner and a fellow student at a Project THRIVE event.
Aiden Benyarku with Fisher's Assistant Dean and Chief Diversity Officer Cynthia Turner and a fellow student at a Project THRIVE event.

“Project THRIVE gives students a sneak peek into what a professional career will be like after graduation. It broadens your horizons and teaches you the nuances of business life, professionalism and interactions with colleagues,” says Aiden. “You learn from executives how to conduct business, have professional conversations and own a room.”

He’s also appreciative of the National Association for Black Accountants (NABA) for the professional and personal connections he’s made. The Ohio State chapter is one group Aiden says he’ll miss the most after graduating.

“NABA connects you with recruiters from all sorts of organizations and accounting firms. While we talk about career opportunities, the best part was just being together, forming a networked community and talking about all aspects of our lives,” he says. “This group is family and the phrase ‘How firm they friendship’ from Carmen Ohio rings so true. This group comes to mind whenever I sing the song.”

Just days away from graduation, Aiden thinks back to that high school assignment, his scholarship offer and his decision to attend Ohio State and pursue business. It’s a decision he’d make 10 times out of 10.

“Ohio State gives you the opportunity to go beyond the walls of what you understand,” he says. “The support and encouragement I’ve received have allowed me to make impactful decisions about my life and follow my passion while experiencing the diverse microcosm of education, people and business that is Fisher.”

"The support and encouragement I’ve received have allowed me to make impactful decisions about my life and follow my passion."

Aiden Benyarku (BSBA '23) Graduate, Management Information Systems