What does Empowering Women in Industry mean to you? Empowerment comes from action. If you see someone impressive, you should tell them. If you see someone struggling, you should help them. If you see someone you aspire to be, you should model them. Lift each other up and you always have a community supporting you.
I recently saw a female technical colleague speak to the organization and was very impressed. I made it a point to set up time with her to give her positive feedback, offer my help and encouraged her to think about doing more public speaking. She was humbled and appreciative of the opportunity. We have since jointly written some Twitter content and are focusing on getting her some future speaking opportunities. I even brought in my camera to support her having a professional headshot!
How did you get started in your field? I was an English and trumpet major at the University of Wisconsin and I started working part time for a helpdesk supporting 3600-baud modems. I really liked solving problems and I learned that I was able to grasp the technical questions easily. I then moved into Cisco engineering by learning on the job and after a few years I was CCNA certified in WAN and LAN technologies. I quit school and was doing technology full time. This foundation led the way to my technology career today, but I did take a break, return to school and finish my Journalism and Women’s Studies degree in 2005 from the UW. Graduating from college is one of my proudest moments as an individual.
What do you love most about your job? What are you most proud of? I love being the one to light up connections between Microsoft and our partners. We have such an opportunity to help customers solve really big problems and together we can do that as a team. I also really love that I work with incredibly smart and driven people. I can remember when I was hired at Microsoft, I kept telling my family, “I can’t believe I work for Microsoft, everyone is so smart here, I’m not sure I belong!”. I’m most proud of myself for realizing over time that I was in the right place and giving myself credit for being one of those really smart people. It was a great self-realization for me.
What advice would you give someone considering this line of work? Technology is a fast paced industry and when married with solutions for verticals can be a very exciting opportunity for women. I would take some time and think about what you have a passion around and where are your strengths. When day-to-day life feels like eating kale, find an area of passion that feels like eating ice cream. I found that as I progressed through my career I gravitated towards solving big problems, connecting with people and building relationships that accelerated execution. I also learned that I like to see something go from an idea to a completed product. I wish I had known that earlier so I could’ve curated my career choices more clearly.