How it started vs. how it's going: from student to career
All right, who do we have next? (claps) It's a big group, right? It's a big group. A big party? A big party, I've been super excited about this session in particular the whole time. So first, why don't we go ahead, and bring in the host of it all, Jennifer. Hello, Jennifer, how are you? (indistinct) Who's this with the most is here to join us. Chloe, I can't compete with your pink headphones. (laughs) We need to beat you some pink ones.(chuckles)
Yes. Yes, yes. I wish you could see all the pink things on my desk right now. I've got all kinds of props here. I've got y'all my favorite purchase of 2021 a desk vacuum. For all the little crumbs from my snacks. (laughs)
Amazon.com-- Yes. $5. (laughing) I probably need one of those to be honest with you. (chuckles) Life-changing.(laughing)
Totally life-changing. Well, Jennifer, we are super excited to have you here today, and thank you so much for joining us along with our amazing panel. So, I'm gonna go ahead and start welcoming them, or actually I'm gonna have you welcome.
I'm I'm gonna pop them on one at a time- Yes. And we'll get going from there. take it away, okay. Awesome, thanks everyone. I am Jennifer Ritzinger and I am so excited to be hosting the next hour. The panel is How It Started, Versus How it's Going From Student to Professional.
And we have five amazing panelists today that are joining. Abby? She's coming in. Alessandro, Jalen, Kendra, and Orko.
Hi everyone. Hello. Good morning. Its a party-- Hello. Yay! Welcome, welcome, welcome.
So, I am so excited to host this panel today because well, I know this ambassadors have so many questions, about your jobs and your roles in the profession and in the industry, working at Microsoft. And how it went from your transition of being a student to becoming a professional. And what's that like? And the one thing that I'm excited about to share today is that we met, we prepped, and we shared a little bit about our stories and guess what? They're all completely different. And that's what I love. I love the variety, I love the diversity.
You're gonna hear about different paths, different journeys. There is no one way, there is no right way. There's your way. And that's what's important.
So I think we're going to start by, everyone's gonna do a short little introduction of themselves. Morgan, have you posted the slides? I don't see them. Oh, wow, that's like magic. (laughs)
Awesome, I need to go to the next one. I'll start, I'll kick off a little bit about myself. Oh, and by the way, I love the whole thing yesterday with the Scott Hanselman keynote, I loved how Morgan and Pablo were just interrupting and that you were living on the edge and being dangerous.
So feel free to do that today to chime on in. If we miss something, moderators in the back I know you're listening. So I would love that, if you want to interrupt us, and keep us on the edge.
So, okay. So my slide, obviously, I'm the oldest, I'm the old one here, but I relish in that because I have the luxury of making a lot of mistakes and not being kind of being okay with it. (laughs) I think one thing as you get a lot of career experience, and as you get older, it's like, "Bring on the failures." That's how I learned the most.
Those are the lessons that stay with me the longest. And I've done a lot of that over the years. So I'm not gonna go through all my different jobs, but I wanna explain to you, like when I was in school, and I was studying journalism and poli sci, I never in a million years thought that I would wind up working for Microsoft, working at a company for almost 25 years. I never thought that I was gonna live in the Mariana Islands, over inside pan.
I never thought I was gonna live in Hawaii. I never thought I was gonna be a high school teacher. I never thought that I was gonna be doing executive communications for a corporate vice president. I didn't even know what some of these things meant, but the point is I was open, I was willing, I had mentors who saw things in me that I didn't see.
And I tried, I tried all these different things. And honestly, I made so many mistakes. I didn't know what a business manager was. I didn't know what it meant to run, build, one of our largest conferences that we put on at Microsoft, but I was given these opportunities. And I worked with a lot of great people that were there to support me.
And I've had a fantastic time. One of the questions I get asked the most, is why am I still at Microsoft after almost 25 years? The answer is simple, I'm still learning. I'm still getting stimulated all the time. There are so much opportunity and people that I'm learning from, that it's really hard to get bored, I love this company. It's just something new and different every single day.
So that's what just a little bit about me. It's a little bit of like a spaghetti path, but that's totally okay, that's my journey. And so with that, we're gonna hand it over to Abby, to learn a little bit more about her.
Hello. So in high school, 2008, I was so sure, that I was gonna be an anesthesiologist. I was the bio queen.
I shadowed a nurse anesthetist at the local hospital. I mean, I knew my future. I started college in August of 2012, with a biomedical engineering track, as well as electrical and computer engineering, because I was a little bit of an overachiever. And then I realized, you know, I don't really think I'm cut out for 12 years of school, residency and beyond. I was not ready to start my career at 32.
But, I thought electricity was pretty cool. Help that I had a really awesome, super duper introduction to electricity by this crazy Russian dude. And this evolved into internships at Raytheon, MIT Lincoln Laboratory.
And through those internships, I realized that, board design really wasn't for me. So I last met at picked up a computer science minor. And I was a little late to the game.
I think it was my senior year that I picked up the minor, and that put me behind a lot of my peers. So, I wanted to work at a company like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, but they didn't want to talk to me. I did land a firmer engineering job at IBM. And this really propelled my career into a more coding, computer science focused field. I then after a year, got a job at Blue Origin, and this is Jeff Bezos's pet space project. And over the two years there, small company, lots of responsibilities throw it very quickly at junior engineers.
Within two years, I was the ground support expert for New Shepard launches. I was in a position where during launches, I was one of the people that when they say, "Is a ground software ready?" You say, "Yes." If you say, "No," the launch doesn't happen. It was an awesome time. And after two years, I was looking for a little bit more stability in my job, lurking a little less per week. And I looked a little bit North by 30 minutes, and Microsoft was there.
I said, "Okay, guys you are finally gonna talk to me." And they did, so I'm here. In that process I took a slight demotion, going from a small company to a large company, can be a little bit difficult in terms of career progression. And since then I'm well beyond the point where I was hired at.
And I'm very satisfied with working here, and I plan to stay for quite a while. And I'm not in med school. If I were to pursue my original track, I would still be in med school. And you're here at Microsoft.(laughs) And we're so glad that you're here.
Thanks Abby, over to Alessandro. Hey everyone, nice to meet you. Thank you for inviting me here today. And I believe I'm actually the only one in this panel who does not report into an engineering call. So for me, you are hopefully going to hear a slightly different perspective. Just very briefly about me, you probably can tell from my accent, that I'm actually Italian.
I was born in a small town near (indistinct). And when I was in high school, I was really passionate about software development. I built like my first like, "cloud app." The cloud wasn't even a thing back then, but I built my first cloud app when I was in high school, just for fun. And I really wanted to become like a startupper.
I had this dream, I want to start my own small company. I want to become a startupper. And so, when it was time for me to decide what to do in college, I have ever, just for some reason I honestly can't even remember at this point, I decided that I wanted to go to business school.
And so, I went to Milan, and I got my bachelor in business. Which was a very interesting opportunity, especially because the school where I was in, Bocconi University was very international, in the sense that not just diverse students from all over the board, but it was very much like open in terms of international knowledge and skills and exposure. And so, after my bachelor, I decided that I wanted to go study abroad, and I did a program called MBET, which stands for Master in Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology. It's a sort of MBA, sort of, and I flew all the way to Waterloo Ontario.
Probably I would expect a bunch of people are familiar with that school. I actually was not at all, until I applied for that program. And I spent one year there, it was amazing. I said that I wanted to be involved with startups, and that was one of the best places to be involved in that kind of dynamic technological environment.
And so, after I completed my program, I found a job as a lead. And for a while also only a developer, at a small startup in the Toronto area. We were building, today you would call like a SAS application.
And then one evening, it was a snowy evening, I think it was February. Yeah, it was February. It was a snowy evening. And I get a phone call from a recruiter at Microsoft saying, "Hey, are you interested in joining Microsoft Canada?" I'm like, "Well, I mean, I've never thought about it, but sure let's talk." And one of the team that was really the most different about that experience is that, I was actually hired in a sales job.
You see here, Azure TSP means technology solutions professional, in the industry it's generally called sales engineer. So I was actually in the sales org, I was in the field. My job was to go out and talk to customers, and was to it was about telling them the value of Azure, not really from a business perspective, that was the job of the real salespeople.
But as a sales engineer, I was the one that was proving the concept, and teaching them how to adopt the cloud. And that was something that I would have never considered, but it was such an amazing experience. And I think we're going to talk about like other, like non product jobs later in this panel. So, a couple of years later, I got another phone call in an evening in a snowy night.
It's always no in Toronto, and I get the opportunity to move to the mothership, AKA corporate. So, a few months later I flew to Seattle, and I'm here, and I'm the product marketing manager for Visual Studio Code. I'm sure most of you are probably familiar with that.
I am really loving my job. This is one of the best things that Microsoft that I've ever worked with. And I'm really excited about this.
Thank you, Alessandro, we love our partners in marketing, and I just want to say that I am a non-technical person in engineering. So it takes all types, and we can explore those different paths, and actually you can be quite a fluid in your career over time. So, thank you. Okay, so up next we have Jalen. Hi everyone, I'm Jalen. I graduated high school in 2016, and then right after I graduated high school, the summer between high school and college, I had my first software development internship, working at a startup.
So that was kind of one of my first introductions into, actually working, with corporate software, and in working with companies and coding for an actual job. And then, right after my internship ended in August of 2016 I started college at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. And then right pretty much when I started, (giggles) I really was learning about what kinds of job experience I could get a new job experience would be really, important for me in college. So, I research different research internships I could participate in. And the first one I got was in an electrical engineering lab, actually working with Madagascar, hissing, cockroaches. And trying to figure out how they can...
How to track their path, and it was a really fun project. And then, throughout the rest of my college experience I continue to do similar things. I studied abroad in China, during the summer of 2017, and got to work on a project with Caterpillar. And then, in May of 2018 I had my first PM internship, at a company near my college.
And that's when everything kind of changed for me. I was really... My first two years of college, I was so into electrical and computer engineering. Those are my two majors, I had a dual major in high school. And I was so into energy.
I was so into learning about hardware electronics but then I had my first PM internship. And I really learned that, that was not my passion. I was much more passionate about, building things, and solving problems, and taking a team approach to anything, whether it be a hardware product, or a software product, or any type of problems. That's where I really thrived, in working with others to create solutions to problems a company, or a team mate was facing. So, that's when I changed majors, to industrial and systems engineering.
Because there, I was able to focus a lot more on software instead of hardware. And I was also able to get very much into data analytics, which became my minor. And then, in August of 2019, it was my first PM internship at Microsoft. On this team, on Jennifer's team, working with student developers. And then when I went back to school in 2019, I was a industrial engineering research intern, coding with Python, really working with Azure on a few data tools that my professor was building. And then, in August of 2020, I got my second Microsoft PM internship in 1ES, which is One Engineering System, which is a tool at Microsoft that really focuses on building tools that Microsoft can use.
And I graduated from college in December of 2020, and now I'm a full time PM here at Microsoft. So I'm really loving what I'm doing, excited to work with student ambassadors, is what I get to do every day. I'm really happy to be here. Jalen of course, I love working with you.
I love being teammates and colleagues. And what I think is really cool is that, I count my career in decades. You're counting your career and weeks, and yet we're still learning from one another. And I really appreciate that. I love your perspective, thank you so much. Absolutely. Okay, over to Kendra.
Hi everyone, cool. Hi, I love learning about everyone else's stories. This is a great Lake path, everyone figured it out.
So hi, let's see, I went to the University of Oklahoma. I actually graduated high school in 2011, I left that off the top. I lucked out so much, I got a student developer job, for the modern languages, literatures, and linguistics department and university.
What I didn't know, anything about coding, but they haven't hired me. And it was kind of a just a learn as you go, which was really lucky. And I applied to Microsoft, I knew I did not have the qualifications, but it turned out they had like an Explorer program, for people who were beginning computer science. And I was like, "Perfect, I know nothing. (laughs) I'm perfect for this."
So, I looked at and got into that, and I just kept really liking computer science. So I did start as a French major. I completed my French major and everything, but I added linguistics, and computer science minors. And yeah, they're definitely off the beaten path, (laughs) as I think many of the best people have then as well. So, we're in good company here.
So I got a second Microsoft internship as well. And I graduated in 2016, and I had just been Microsoft straight out of college two internships for the past four years. And yeah, just having a lot of fun doing it. I worked mostly on the test experience, and test platform and Visual Studio. So, if you've ever opened that test Explorer, I designed it, I redesigned it. And we implemented a brand new one and 16.2, it was cool.
I also have made a lot of videos on learning just because I also had a background in just fun video making, and I just went into a play it, and it helped promote tools. And that turned into like a kind of a cool, like learn C-Sharp and Learn.net series that are on YouTube with Hanselman. You should check them out if you like them, if you want to learn C-Sharp. And yeah, so it's just a kind of a wild experience of figuring out that I can actually apply skills that I have and we need all kinds of skillsets in tech, and it's really fun. Do you speak any French? French? Right.
Bonjour. (laughing) (indistinct). I love it, that's so great.
Thanks Kendra. Okay, our last panelist, last but not least is Orko. Hi Orko? Hello, hello everybody. Thank you for having me here. This is awesome to join this panel and this event. I just learned from Morgan backstage that there's a lot of Bangladeshi people who have joined in, tuned in for this event.
And so just to let you know, I'm also from Bangladesh, from the bustling capital of Bangladesh which is a sweet little beautiful city in South Asia... Country in South Asia. And that's where I'm from. I moved to the U.S. in 2006 for college. It was move 10,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean and just to completely new different environments. So, at the time I was pursuing electrical engineering or kind of oscillating between economics and engineering.
I think I chose engineering, because the engineering courses, or classes where later in the day as opposed to the economics courses which were at 8:00 AM and I was jet lagged. That's the story I like to tell. (giggles) But I hadn't really done a lot of coding to be honest, before that I had done some Q basics, some Ms access, if you remember that database system, but even in college I took one course in computer science in Java. I'd done some block-based coding, but that was pretty much my experience. So, I was very coming into a new country, really into experiencing the new culture, meeting new people. I hadn't really thought about what I was gonna do after college.
So when graduation happened, I wasn't really sure what I was gonna do. I ended up kind of pursuing grad school, at University of Connecticut, I got into a PhD program. And that's really where I started doing some coding. Some C+, some C, Java, and really started to get into it and realize, "Okay, I kinda like this." So as I was doing my...
In PhD program when I was writing papers, as I was taking my courses, It kind of done that. I'd had this age to really go in and kind of see what the industry was doing. So from that, I kind of got myself into a couple of internships at Pfizer, which is a pharmaceutical company, but, vaguely related to software development, not a lot of relation to that, (giggles) but really sort of having worked in that space, then I kind of realized, "Okay," I really wanted to do that. I wanted to work at a company, build some products that end users could use and see what that experience was like.
So with that, I kind of packed up my bags. And in 2013 I kind of dropped out with a masters. And I started my first job at Hewlett-Packard, well, it was Hewlett-Packard company back in the day, before they split into Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.
And there I got to learn like really learn coding in the industry like actual code that would be well tested, put out in and being used by folks. And I got to use Docker and a few other cool technologies before they got cool. This was in 2014 when Docker was just becoming this cool, microservices container technology.
And so, kind of did that for about three years, and then decided kind of wanted to try some new things. Funny story about me coming into Microsoft actually, I was approached by a recruiter from the Office team on LinkedIn. And I was like very excited I said, "Cool."
This is really cool, I've used office products all my life. I really want to use these products, and I really want to be part of this team that's gonna develop them. So I said, "Yes, I'm very excited." I put my resume into Microsoft system, and then the recruiter actually responded back to me, but her responses ended up in my spam folder in Gmail.
And for like, I think three months later is when I figured out that those were in the spam folder. But in between, somebody else from the... One of our dev managers from the Azure DevOps team, (giggles) actually reached out to me directly. I think she found my resume and thought I would be a good fit. And she reached out to me, and I had no idea really how the recruiting process works.
So I ended up going in and applying. And then I ended up in the Azure DevOps team. I applied and I've kind of joined the team that I am in to this day. I mean, we have been through a few reorgs, but I've kind of been in this team, for the last almost five ish years now. What I do right now, is work in the developer productivity space, particularly in security and compliance, making our our engineering systems, our code bases, our build systems and release systems, more secure and compliance, so that we're not getting hacked, and we are not being compromised.
And I've loved every moment of it. As some of the other panelists have mentioned, it's always a learning experience every single day. And so, very glad to be here. So it sounds like the lesson is, "Check your spam folder." Yes, it is, it is. (laughing) I did reach out to the recruiter later, and I said, "Hey, I'm so sorry, I'd never responded to you, you're now in my spam folder." (laughs)
That's funny. (laughs) Okay, well, we're going to bring in all the panelists just a reminder to all the students please submit your questions. We actually already have a bunch that I wanna get to. So we're gonna go ahead and dive right in. So, the first question is, we work at one of the largest tech companies in the world. And there's a lot of cool things, but also some things that maybe are imperfect.
So we wanna talk a little bit about that, we wanna be balanced. So let's start with, what is one of your favorite things about working at Microsoft? Orko, let's start with you. Ooh, I think... I honestly, I'm gonna say that the learning culture here, in our team, for example we have monthly day of learnings that we have, or you can just go in and learn anything that you want. It doesn't have to relate it to that.
I know we have the month, week, long hackathon every year. So there's always that opportunity, so I love that. You can go in and explore any random technology. And if you like it, if you bring it back to your team, you can develop on it. Products have been built out of it. I can give you an example, within our team right now that's happening, that could potentially end up becoming a separate product.
So, I love that part. Growth mindset. Abby, what about you? What's one of your favorite things about Microsoft? Let's see, I like a change of scenery constantly. I was that person, my roommate came back in college to a new room every three months.
And with a large company, you can have a change of scenery, very often. The company is doing so much. With a smaller company, say Blue Origin, it's all rockets. So if you want to do something, that's not rockets, you have to leave the company. That's a good point, right? People forget, we make things as diverse as Minecraft, X-Box, DevOps, Office.
I mean, the teams, we really are the diverse company, and you can have a lot of different changes scenes. I like that. Okay, Alessandro, I'm gonna change it up a little bit. What's one of your least favorite things about Microsoft? Huh! (giggles) No, I would say that sometimes the fact that we work in such a big company.
And keep in mind, you probably heard in the intro that, I wants to become a startupper. And I did work at a startup, but then, year and a half in one of the biggest companies in the world. And sometimes it requires thinking a different way, but that might not necessarily always be a bad thing, but it does require learning how to scale to other people, learning how to partner with other people. And one thing that... It's a good thing for me, but can take some adjustment is the fact that, you really have to work in a team to get anything done ready.
Yeah, we refer to it as the matrix, and really to be successful at Microsoft, you have to embrace the matrix. Hmm. That's really the... Don't fight it. (laughs) It's like resisting gravity, just embrace it and leverage it, and capitalize on it. Kendra, what about you? Alessandro? Yeah, I was about to say about that, but because we have to scale, we have access to so many resources, and the stuff we can do is amazing. That this resource in terms of people, and also in terms of other any other kind of resources, that we can really do beautiful things or support the world.
Sorry. It's true. And the potential is unlimited. Kendra, what's the challenge for you about Microsoft? This is so great. I think they have a love hate relationship with how pedantic we try to be. It's actually bananas how much we try to use good formulas and good data, and good customer development and hypothesis, for progression and experiments, if that make sense, but, not all teams do.
So I think, it's again, just working in a huge, huge broad organization, and needing to hope that other teams respect P-values. (laughs) And knowing that conclusions aren't statistically relevant. And kind of like...
But I do also know that, (giggles) as wild as it is out there, we have multiple different formulas for calculating things like customer satisfaction. And then we publish them across teams, and there's no way to compare them over time. Like, it's just, (laughs) there's not great data.
We don't handle it. There were a little bit irresponsible with how we use formulas, but Microsoft is probably one of the most organized organizations when it comes to being able to share data across groups. So, it's an imperfect, but also the best world. I don't know, it's it irks me, but I'm also like believing in a better future. Yeah. (laughs)
I like that answer, I think it's messy. I think it's a little bit messy, but there's so much potential in all of it. Yeah. Yeah.
It's like both messy and academically respectable, and I don't know. (laughs) Yeah, the in between and that it's funny. (laughs) And Jalen, you've only been here for a couple of months officially. You've done a couple of internships, but you've only been here as a full-time employee for a couple of months. What are you liking so far? Yeah, well, I like, as others mentioned, the learning opportunities are really tremendous here.
Our group also has like they have learnings where, I've taken advantage of Microsoft Learn, and other online learning platforms that are available to us as employees. So, I think that that's really one of the best things that a company can do for their employees is to encourage them to continue to get better at their craft. And then another thing that I really love about Microsoft, is the hugeness of it. (giggles)
I can reach out to a professional in any area of technology and learn from them like very quickly, just with a message on Teams. And you know that people who are here are domain experts and they have a wide array of knowledge. So it's really easy to really quickly learn what you need from others at Microsoft.
So those are the two things I think I'd say. Very cool. Okay, let's talk a little bit about culture. So there is a pretty famous saying that, "Culture can eat strategy for breakfast." It was made famous by Peter Drucker a long time ago.
And really the essence of that is, you can have a great business plan. You can have a great business value proposition and a great product, but if your culture sucks, your company is probably going to fall apart. And culture is really about the philosophy in terms of how we treat one another. What our core values are? How we work together? It's kind of like how you get things done, is that what you get done, but how you get things done. And this is really important.
And me being at Microsoft for 20 plus years, I can say for a fact, because I've lived through it, that Microsoft culture has definitely evolved. And culture is a fluid thing anyway, it's a living organism, right? It's always changing, but, I've been here, I was here under bill Gates. I was here during Steve Ballmer, I was here during Satya Nadella. So I've seen the reign of three different leaders, and it's been a fascinating case study. But, I want to hear from each of you about what is really important to culture, and what keeps you at a company, or why you might choose to leave a company because of culture. So when you think about things like growth mindset being customer obsessed, diversity, and inclusion, making a difference, having an impact, what's important to you when you think about culture? So let's start with Kendra.
Oh, I get to go first. Oh, goodie. Immediately the first one is diversity that comes to mind.
I can't believe I'm actually kind of... (giggles) I have like an old perspective, 'cause I started in 2016, or yeah, wait. earlier 2014, hmm? 2016? I forget what my slides said now that's weird. But when I joined, I was actually part of an intern pod.(laughs) There were three women, and the rest of our entire working group was 40 dudes.
Middle-aged, people who had been programming longer than we had been alive, in many, many cases. And it was strange. And then over the last five years.
Oh yeah, it did start in 2014. I started full-time in 2016. Sorry, that's why can I remember it. It's Saturday, anyway, (laughs) seen the massive shift in how diverse my coworkers actually are, has been absolutely amazing. And getting to like mentor, and actually observe the massive change, in just my like local working group.
I work with women, sometimes I go into conference rooms and it's half women now. It's amazing. (laughs) So like seeing that, and also seeing the energy that it brings, and the way, way different approach, we're way more focused on students, and international outreach. And it totally does change the way we develop the product, and we're way better.
Oh my God, about like accessibility, we get to interview like blind developers, and change our product because our narrator sucks sometimes. It's really cool. (giggles) So, that's the big one for me, and it's still changing. It is, I love it- It has keeps changing for sure. It has to, right? Yeah. (laughs) It has to evolve, can stagnate.
I Italy, pale ale, what is important to you when it comes to culture? (giggles) So for me, I think I Orko and yourself Jennifer, mentioned that already a little bit. The thing that I really love about Microsoft culture is this continuous learning. Is this idea that, not only we have to continue to learn something new every single day, but also that we have to continue to improve ourselves. That's what we call growth mindset, right? We make mistakes, we learn from the mistakes, and we do better next time. And because of that, we grow as individuals, and also as professionals.
And when this is also like something that when people ask me, "How should I approach an interview of Microsoft?" Well, one of the advices I always give people is, that many times when I interviewed people, I turned down candidates that probably had all the right answers, but they've sounded like they knew that thing and they didn't show any aptitude for learning. And I said, I preferred candidates who maybe didn't give all the right answers. Maybe stopped at a certain point, but I could tell that they really wanted to learn and improve. And those people, not only they got the job, but seeing them progressing their career, they usually did much better than the other ones too. So keep learning. Always keep learning.
Okay, I have a question for Orko and Abby. And it's come from Louisa and Columbia, Dallas, who is getting her master's. "I wanna be a software engineer. What Azure tools, certifications or skills should I get? So I can get my first job?" Abby or Orko? Go first-- There are engineers on the panel. I think for me, I feel like it's not quite...
I wouldn't say like, I don't have any Azure certifications. And when I came into this job, I didn't really have any Azure certifications. So, I'm not... But I'm sure they're like a great of learning about Azure, and different agile tools. I think that's the important piece.
Whether or not, you have a certification, or whether you have a GitHub repo where you're showcasing some of the things that you learned, or so one way or another, I think I did at the end of the day, that's what it is really, to demonstrate that you have learned. I think that's the piece, the learning about those technologies. I think specifically, if you're talking about technologies, I think the machine learning aspect of things, is really up and coming now. So that's might be something cool to learn.
It's something that I'm trying to personally pursue as well. 'Cause I haven't gone into machine learning as much in the past. But outside of that, I mean any of those, big data technologies, like the databases, the web services. Really any of these in Azure comes with a whole host of these technologies and tools that you can use, that you are going to be using, either as a customer, or even within Microsoft.
So just learning any of these tools is, I think a super cool thing to have, cool thing to show, to potential prospective employees, or employers. Abby? So, I've been involved in hiring multiple companies. And the things that I have always valued most I found that a lot of my coworkers value most, is asking the question, "Does this make sense?" This inquisitive, willingness, to search for more information. When we're talking about the first job, for our technical ability, is not the primary focus. We're looking for people who are interested in learning more, have the initiative to learn more, and can use those things that they learned in new situations.
If you have prior knowledge of distributed systems, or some internship experience, that's just a bonus. That's awesome, great advice. Okay, so this is the question for PM's on the team. So, this is from Alan in Mexico. He wants to know how he can start to make...
How he can make being a PM, an area of specialty, especially if his background is in computer science, how does the ace the job interview for a PM? I could take a swing at this one. I've been on many, many interview rounds now to get PMs. And I actually think specializing in a specific developer technology, isn't super important, which it sounds odd. It's more like being able to empathize with whatever customer you're working with right now. Because even like my specific job, creating testing tools, there's millions of people that use it. (laughs) And they're all very different.
So, even if I was very deep on one technology, if I didn't have like, I guess the empathy to kind of consider all situations, and all different combinations, but that's even more preferable than getting deep. I would say it's almost which technology definitely like look into things that give you energy, and what you're passionate about. For me, it was like a combination of like getting started tools, and sort of the basics and smoothing out the experience, because we have 100s of 1,000s of people who try out C-Sharp and Visual Studio, and the funnel like narrows, for the people who stick with it, and keep going. And are able to actually like build their careers on on some of it. So like looking at that was just really interesting and that kept growing and that always helped me. So go deep on something that gives you interest for sure.
Be passionate, but as you're stepping through it, just observe and keep it open mind of what problems you see in an experience. I take a lot of notes, if I'm stepping through a technology for the first time. And I think it's having an open mind and empathetic approach, saying like, "Oh, but, if my download speeds were a third as fast as what I'm actually experiencing, how would this experience be affected? Would I have given up on the install at this point?" Which is actually something we addressed in our product we had to make smaller installs, and allow people to like install things later down the road, with the initial workload. So like, it all kind of rolls up into it, but empathy is a big one. Yeah, and I would totally agree with what Kendra mentioned. I would also talk about specifically for this student.
Build something for someone, and iterate on what you built based on the feedback they gave you. And then write about your entire process, on a blog, in a journal, or something. And then that is a lot of what PMs do. Not so much the building stuff, because we have great engineers to build different things, but, really figuring out what customers care about.
And figuring out how we should iterate on a product, or a service, or program, to make it better for the customers that we serve. And then, as a student writing about things, and having a blog that says, "This is what I'm building, this is what I heard from my friends who I built it for, this is what I changed up, this is what I added to it, based on the feedback that I got." That is tremendous. And that's something that not a lot of students do, because they're in school, (giggles) and they have other stuff to write about. But I think for me that we just coming fresh out of school, that's something that really helped me, not just understand what it takes to build a product, but also, what it takes to be a good PM.
Figuring out what customer feedback to take and not take, and writing about like, "I took this feedback because it was X, Y, Z. Or I didn't take this because I didn't feel like it applied to a big enough audience." That kind of stuff is tremendous. And that's definitely what I would recommend the student do build something, iterate on it, and write about it. I love that Jalen, that's great advice. So speaking of PM, so Orko and Abby you can see from their titles, they're software engineers.
But we have a couple of different PMs here, between Kendra and Alessandro, and Jalen. We'd love to understand that a little bit better. Alessandro, you're a product marketing manager in marketing. Kendra you're a PM, like a classic PM and engineering. And then Jalen, you're part of an advocacy and evangelism team who is a PM. So, similar titles, but probably slightly different roles.
So do you wanna talk a little bit more specifically about what you do and what that means? Alessandro, maybe we'll start with you. What is your PMM role? Ah, that is a great question. I can't remember Microsoft does a lot of things. I think that sometimes it also depends on the individual. I tend to be a little bit more technical, so I focus a little bit more on the product management side at times. But, there is a lot of things that are more broadly looking at the product, and like what's the overall strategy for the product and how do we...
And especially what's the overall go-to-market strategy for the product. So for vs code, I work with a lot of people in the (indistinct) organization to decide what we can best promote it through content, through events. So I work with people in engineering to make sure that whatever... The amazing things they're building we can talk about them in the best way possible. And there's so many other things, but let someone else go up. Kendra, what about you? Yeah, so the question was just what the difference of roles were? Hmm. So,
you called me a classy thank you. I try to be as classy as possible all the time. (laughing) So yeah, a lot of mine is actually getting into the trenches with the developers and figuring out why we can't do a certain thing, and learning how to tell the story.
And this kind of calls back to what we also look for an interview. So you're talking about just now with, well, how Jalen was saying, take notes and be able to talk about it, write about it. I think that's all about constructing the narrative. So why did a team say no when we ask for certain support? (laughs) What are their customers? How can we tell the story? Is there a big customer that uses this, that it's almost like a negotiation sometimes working with partner teams. And then a lot of it is just calling back to taking customer feedback, and learning sort of incrementally how to change the product, is what I do a lot. I also have a whole part.
That's actually probably closer to what Jalen does, which is just the customer conferences, and content and media and promotion over tools, which I feel lucky I could do both. Yeah, and my role is still new. (giggles) I just being here about three months. And my team has been awesome about allowing me to kind of define different aspects of my role. But, one of the core things I'm working on right now, is really figuring out how we can improve the student ambassador experience, to make it as great as possible, for current student ambassadors and future student ambassadors.
So, for the investors, listening working with improving the leaks specifically, and really improving the engagement. And there are some of the things that I'm working on right now. But also working on how do we as Microsoft understand students? What does the student demographic look like? What do students care about? What are they motivated by? Those are some really important questions, that I'll work to answer over the course of my job, just getting started. But, (giggles) those are some of the more important things. So, I'm not necessarily working on a specific product, but more how Microsoft communicates with students and understand students, is gonna be a large part of my role.
So, yeah. That's right. Okay, this question is for Orko and Abby. It's from Prianshu in India, they ask, "How do you deal with a stressful moment as a developer, for example, when you're under a time pressure to fix a bug." Abby? Find a corner, no, I'm just kidding. (laughs)
Sometimes. Sometimes, no. (giggles) At least not for long, (giggles) but, the stress can come from a myriad of reasons.
Time is definitely a huge one. The fact that something is unknown, can definitely be a huge one. Where do we even start? And for me, it's just head down. If I feel stuck, remind myself that, I'm a competent human being, or at least I think I am. So I can do this.
And it's confidence in my abilities to figure something out. And that is definitely a learned skill, but that's how I deal with it. For me I think it kind of comes back to the culture point that we were talking about. I think here I'm actually currently, we're currently going through our team is, really trying to deliver on a strict deadline right now. And it's been pretty stressful, and we've been working long hours and stuff like that.
But, I think the important piece of it is that, we need to have that ability to say no. That if you're thinking that like, you're rushing me on this, this is gonna turn out to be a terrible product that I will develop in like few hours. And then we're gonna have 20 different bugs to deal with for the next weeks to come. We need to have it in our culture. And I'm thankful for that within our team, that we have that culture of being able to say no.
And then, kind of push back at it and say, "Hey, look I understand that this is what we wanna do, but this is going to end up being costing us more in the long run." And at a personal level I think in terms of handling stress, I think like just the whole situation that we're in the world that we're living in right now, with the pandemic, I think folks are working... We're saying working from home, but really I guess we're working at home, so it's not the same. And so, that whole like eight to five, or like, "This is how I work," kind of goes out the window. So I personally, I have been taking especially in Seattle when it's gotten dark around four o'clock, I've been taking evening naps at four o'clock because my body just wants to shut down.
And I've told my team, and my team understands that like, "Around four o'clock, Orko is probably not gonna be here for a couple of hours." I might answer some questions later if I'm feeling up to it, but stuff, or like. So try and figure out I guess the answer is that, trying to figure out what works for you, and try and stick to it, tell your team, communicate.
Make sure that your manager's aware, make sure your team is aware. And then that way sort of, you can ensure that those are the set expectations and that's what you're delivering. Yeah. (indistinct). And add to that, I just had my stress joined me. (laughs)
I have mine too right here, they help. I just have to add it. I do feel like it gets a little easier, like the more stressful experiences, (laughs) you've lived through, and you survive, and you realize you can handle and you can manage.
And not that it gets easier, but like you get like Abby said, you get confidence in yourself. It's like, "Okay, everyone take a deep breath. We can handle this.
We've gotten ourselves out of worse situations. So, just get some perspective." But again, but like I said, when I opened, I feel like making mistakes, it's just part of the deal. And like, let's make them so we can learn from them.
So don't be afraid of it. Okay, I love this question from Rachel in Malaysia. She's asked, "Should I choose a career based on my passion, or what I've studied in university, or integrate both?" For the group, anyone? Classic question, yeah. (giggles) That's a very good one. I'm sorry, I lost the last part of the question.
Could you? The question is, "Should I choose a career based on my passion, or what I've studied in university?" Hopefully you studied in university (giggles) has a little bit of your passion, "Or should I integrate both?" I guess I can go. (laughs) I think, it's very important to connect your passion. As I mentioned, I kind of, I started off with an electrical engineering background, here I'm in software engineering which you may think that, "Okay, they're both engineering. Maybe there's not a lot of difference," but honestly there is.
And so, if you are not gonna be interested in something, you're gonna burn yourself out. And eventually you're gonna realize that you don't like this. And then, you may have spent... And you can say, it's okay to have explored something and not liked it, and then moved on to something else. That's completely fine.
Everybody does that. That's like the learn whole learning process, but that's kind of what's gonna happen is, eventually you will go towards it. So, even if you force yourself to do something else right now.
So, yeah and there may be various reasons for doing that. But at the same time, I totally think, yes, you need to at any point recognize whether or not, you're waking up in the morning and really feeling like, you know you wanna do this. And there are days when you're gonna be have difficult days, even in the best the most thing that you love the most, that's kind of different. But at the end of the day in the long run, are you kind of... Do you have the drive? And are you feeling like that you actually, this really resonates with you. Otherwise, you're gonna burn out, and you're gonna want to do something else stumbling.
I'd like to add to that a little bit. Software engineering is not my passion. My passions are strategy, video games, cake, and my cats.
I can apply my love for strategy games, to software engineering problems. And my paycheck helps me provide for my cats and buy cake. So that's kind of how I combine these things. It doesn't have to be... Your job doesn't have to be the one thing that you live for, you wake up for. (indistinct) And it shouldn't be, I hope.
I hope people have lots of diverse interests. That's a great supplemental answer, Abby, that not everything has to be tied up in work, in terms of your passion. You can have lots of diverse interests, and hopefully you do explore those.
Okay, so we are winding down. We're getting close to the end of our panel. So, I would love to know from the group, over the last year, during the pandemic, aside from of course missing your loved ones, friends, family, colleagues, of course. Can you share something that you have been missing that maybe it was a routine, or a hobby, or something that you just aren't able to do during COVID, that has changed for you over the last year, that you're really missing. Or, can you share to something that you're longing for since COVID has happened? Jalen, why don't we start with you? Okay.
First thing I'd say differently. I haven't gotten a haircut in a year, (giggles) so I would love a chance to get a haircut. But, other than that, I also, haven't seen my friends in person.
And I feel like... I've always considered myself kind of an introvert and someone like I love being at home. I love being in my own place, my own space, but the pandemic has really helped me realize, I do get energy, from being around others. I do get energy from seeing my friends in person, and being able to talk, and laugh, and just congregate and just be with friends. So, that's something I'm really missing for now.
Yup, me too. Alessandro what about you? Well, I'll have to be saying the silly thing which is that I actually miss traveling. For me that was the big way to get some energy, and (indistinct) but also, staying in Seattle, especially these months, but it's just gray skies entire day was a good way to run away for a few days. But traveling for me is also because I have family abroad.
And so, it really hurts sometimes not being able to know that you can go and see them, whatever you want. I have friends in other countries and just being able to be with them. Yeah, I can relate, I just renewed my passport, and I was like, "I'm gonna do this, 'cause I'm gonna be traveling again," I just know it. I even got the Arabic book 'cause I know I'm gonna get back into those traveling days.
Kendra, what about you? What has changed over the last year? I also just want to grab a beer with friends. (indistinct). (laughs) Yeah, there is something that you get from in-person, social interaction is definitely missing I guess, even if we, I don't know play games online and all of that stuff, but it's been okay. I also have kind of enjoyed people not interrupting me as much throughout the day.(laughs) Being able to just go really deep on one thing without being in an open office.
So it's, you know. There's been some silver linings, it's a new discoveries, right. And certainly at Microsoft, I can speak for this directly. It has appended our business in some ways that we would never would have thought about, and we will never go back. And so, that's invention, that's innovation, that's moving forward. And trying to look at that, in terms of the positives, of what has come from this situation, but, it's been hard.
Orko what about you? Oh, geez, if I mentioned things it's gonna sound really fickle because, I'm healthy and I'm at work and like I'm employed. So I really can't complain. But honestly, (laughs) those like I think the stuff that other folks have mentioned the normalcy of it, I think I'm missing getting being stuck in traffic, driving to work during the day. (laughing) I miss not having to scavenge for lunch in the fridge. And instead being able to go to a cafeteria, (laughs) on campus and getting food. Yeah, really these little things, not being able to being in person like that, being in a room for a meeting.
Although, I think the positive part of that is, now we're becoming a lot more remote friendly. We learned how to be a lot more remote friendly, which was very important. I think a lot more important for being diverse and inclusive. So, that's the silver lining to that.
But yeah, just those little things that you kind of took for granted, before. (laughs) Absolutely, Abby, anything to add? I miss going to the gym every day. I was like I had really good physical condition, and last year I've just a total slug.
And so many goals. (laughs) Yeah, it's a lot of progress down the drain. Same, same I have gained the quarantine 15. I have to admit it, I've been pretty lethargic. I go from my bed to my desk, to my couch, to my bed. So, a change in scenery would be nice for sure.
Okay, we have one more question, and then we're gonna hit the lightning round. So the question is, "As a female in tech, how do you deal with the gender gap in the tech industry and stay confident?" I'm ready if you want. (laughs) Go for it. I saw this question, I love it. I think a really big one for me is, having the people you listen to, and having the people you don't.
So, I was lucky enough to get a bunch of really good mentors, when I entered a team. And when they told me I was doing well, I had to believe it. I made myself believe it, even though I was really worried, about lots of stuff. And again, I joined a team when people had been programming longer than I had been alive. It was a lot to take in, and you don't wanna be the dumbest person in the group. And it's like representing, all women, that's my background it says, "Don't panic."
Just incorporating that. (laughs) So it's hard to ask for a mentor but do it, and just meet with them once a month, get that energy from them. There's tons of awesome allies around that want to help. I've got heap on Twitter. If you want to just tweet at me, I'll talk with you.
Just do it. (chuckles) Abby any words of advice? I have to really agree with Kendra on that. When I have gotten a lot of feedback over the course of my career, saying that doing well.
And lots of positive reinforcement, and you have to believe that. And when you learn to accept believe in yourself, gain some confidence. It's easier to realize that, even when the room might be 70, 80% men, most of them don't really care. It's more about who you are as person. How do you interact with the team? What do you bring to the company that matters.
And if there's an outlier who does care that you're female, because either ignore them, find allies to help build a wall against that. And it's a really small minority. I think that takes the gender in the office seriously.
And then allyship is really important. And Jalen, Orko, Alessandro, I know we learned a lot and talk a lot about allyship at Microsoft. Any words of advice that you wanna share from some of that learning, about being a great ally? I guess I could mention a couple of things.
I think like as a male, the other side of the spectrum. I think it's important to check your biases, and it's very important to be an ally. And being an ally doesn't mean be a hero, don't be a hero. Being an ally means being there, listening, active listening, and providing and try and help make opportunities for folks, everybody to talk being an ally means, if I'm speaking, if I am personally am a loud speaker, and a loud talker enemy in meetings, actively taking the step back and making sure that you're not speaking 30 minutes of a one hour meeting. So doing those little things, making sure that you're keeping out of the way. (laughs) Making sure that you're not stepping on others opportunities, that's the important piece.
The least that you can do. Yeah, if other folks want to add anything? I think for me, it starts first of all from respecting everyone, and understanding that the diversity does add value, does add more value to to how we think, to how we build our products, to how we operate. And so, when you realize that, then it becomes almost like a natural habit to feel that you have to be respectful of everyone, and also supporting and aligning with everyone else. Jalen. Yeah, I was just saying, I totally agree.
And especially when some people haven't taken the steps or recognize the biases they have. And in situations where that does happen, one thing that I've seen be pretty productive in the past is making sure that people who haven't been heard, that you amplify their voice. And make sure that if someone has an idea, and then someone may come and say the exact same thing, like the other person has been saying, (laughs) make sure that you attribute ideas and perspectives to the group. And make sure that you speak out about, Hey our diversity like Alessandro mentioned, our diversity is our strength. So that's just a few things that I throw in there. Thank you.
And you know, it is true that the Microsoft has less than 30% of its employees that are women, but it's a lot better than it used to be. So we're making continual progress, and we're vigilant about it all the time. And diversity comes across, it comes in more forms than just gender, of course.
But it is something that is part of our culture. It's we talk about it a lot. In leadership meetings, in daily meetings, it is a topic of conversation, and we're working on making those numbers better and getting better representation. And so that's exciting that we, as a company care about that. And it's one of our core values.
So, we are at time, and I want to thank everyone all the panelists for joining us, to quickly close out I'm gonna do a lightning round. So we will just go in alphabetical order by first name. And these are just some simple, fun, little questions. And that's how we'll close out.
So are we ready? Abby, is our first. Ready. Okay, here-- Oh oh! Here we go. Dawn or dusk? Dusk. Oh, that one-- I said go alphabetical by first name. (laughing) Honestly, dusk, dusk.
Dawn, am I next? Dusk. Dusk. I'm a dusk too.
To TOK or not? Talk. Talk, (indistinct) (laughs) Talk. Talk. (giggles) I talk too much but sometimes don't talk. (laughs) That's how I describe it, yeah.
That was TOK, as in TikTok, by the way. (laughs) Oh! Oh, that TOK. It didn't sounds like talk.
Oh, Jesus! Oh. Yeah. Oh! Yeah, TikTok. Did your answer change? Got you. (laughs) Oh, I don't have TikTok. Oh, I don't have a TikTok either.
No, mostly Tik. (laughs) No, I don't have TikTok, if you guys are interested in it. (laughs) Right on and Scott Hanselman is new to TikTok, and he's making a splash over there, do you wanna follow him? He's our code dad, sounds good. Yay!(laughs) Yes. So awesome.
Okay, Abby, how many hours of sleep do you need to be at your best? 10. I usually (indistinct) like eight. Eight.
Eight. Six normally, but 24 on weekends. (laughs) And that four o'clock nap. Yeah, add that. (laughs) Okay, flowers or trees.
Trees. Flowers. Trees.
Trees. Trees. Libraries, or museums? Museum.
Museums. Museums. Libraries Aha, museums. Okay, I have to ask 'cause Morgan won't let me leave it down if I don't. Pineapples on your pizza or not. Yes, absolutely-- (indistinct) cancel that.
No. Cancel, no, unfollow. (laughs) In moderation. (laughs) (indistinct). Sometimes, yeah. Not always.
Favorite day of the week. Tuesday. Alessandro-- Friday.
Friday. Saturday. Thursday, evenings. 'Cause yeah, looking forward to napping. (laughing) It's very specific. (laughing) 'Cause it's coming up-- Napping.
Yeah, and when you get into Friday, or Saturday, you're like, "Oh no, it's going to end now." (laughs) So yeah, that expectation. Anticipation, yeah. Last question.
If you're forced to jump into a pool of something, other than water, what would it be? Can I jump into a pool of cake? Sure. (laughs) I don't know, (indistinct) it's so cool. I really want to try that.
Lemonade. I have no... I guess, also cake, I can't talk cake. Cake cake is good. (laughs) Yeah, cake is hard to beat. Yeah. All right.
Thank you everyone for sharing your stories. I know the students are... I saw all the questions coming through. They're really curious about your journey, your careers, how you got a job at Microsoft. Students they've been sharing their Twitter handles. You can find them on LinkedIn.
Go for it. Thank you so much for being so open, honest, transparent. Really appreciate it.
Thank you for (indistinct). Thank Jo.(clapping) Thank you everyone, that was amazing. We will kind of, we've got a Brady bunch, almost five going on here. If it could just shift us around a little. (laughing)
Thank you so much, everybody, we really appreciate it. And I have a feeling our student ambassadors are going to be reaching out to all of you. Like Jennifer said, there are so many questions they've been asking. An hour it's just not nearly enough time(laughs) to be able to get to all of them. So, please student ambassadors reach out this panel is amazing as you can already tell. And thank you, thank you, thank you.
Every single one of you for spending some time on your Saturday with us. Yes, thank y'all. Thank you. Thanks everyone. Bye. Bye. (laughing) I'm gonna go get some cake now.
I think I need to eat some celebratory cake between now and my talk this evening. (laughing) Yeah, I think so. Hold on, I'm gonna call Abby backup really quick. All right, Abby. Yeah. I think this cake thing is really resonating with people. And- like it should, thank you.
I'm glad to share my passions with the globe. It's a global movement. (laughs) It is, so, I mean what's the best kind of cake, in your opinion? I really like a mousse cake.
Oh, yes. Oouh! Okay, okay. But if I have to go generic, something with strawberries in it. Yes. Okay. And if you don't make your own cake, where do you buy it? I have to ask because our core team behind the scenes, many of which live in the Redmond and Seattle area, desperately need to know since it seems you are very passionate about the subject.
I love Asian bakeries 'cause the cakes aren't two, two, three. Regency is an excellent one. I think there's one in Bellevue, one in Seattle. And I know there's a somewhere near me in the crossroads area, a Hong Kong Bakery of some sort. Oouh, yeah.
I love Hoffman's and Redmond, that's my go-to. Hof