Program Manager at Microsoft and Cornell College of Engineering Alumni

What inspired you to pursue engineering at Cornell?

When I was in high school, I was always interested in problem-solving and found engineering as an outlet for this. My first introduction to engineering was building electric car models and wiring together circuit boards. I just really enjoyed having that hands-on education and figuring out why things worked so I applied for the college of engineering at Cornell.

I had never taken a computer science class before but it was required for the engineering degree. I took Python in my second semester which opened my eyes to the world of computer science. I just thought it was amazing to find this new way to think about problems. I majored in Information Science, Systems, and Technology which has around half of the requirements of a typical computer science degree but also included design-oriented classes and ethics. Ultimately, I chose to focus on design because I enjoyed planning and imagining the possibilities more so than software engineering.

What was your favorite class or professor at Cornell?

My favorite class was Designing Technology for Social Impact taught by Phoebe Sangers. The class teaches you about the different considerations that go into technology as well as different types of design. For example, participatory design is where the people you're designing for are actively participating in the design process in a way that eliminates barriers between designers and customers. Overall, the class was about contextualizing technology and how we use it in the world.

You have interned for a start-up/non-profit organization and Microsoft. Can you talk about the similarities and differences between those experiences?

Before Microsoft, I worked for a non-profit biotech incubator helping biotech companies in the Cleveland area. I worked with an early-stage startup to help them plan where they could enter the market and how they should market to hospitals, patients, and providers. For this project, I had to figure out how we should break down a big problem into smaller pieces which I think helped me at my Microsoft internship.

At Microsoft, my team, Fast Track for Azure, was fairly new so I was just given an open-ended project and I had to make those initial prioritization steps. For example, most of my days were in meetings with “clients” which, for my project, were internal Microsoft employees. We talked about what they wanted to change about the current product I was working on. I also met with developers to talk about the feasibility of my designs. Other times, I was analyzing the data that I collected from people to develop mock-ups and prototypes. I didn't get very far though because the initial planning steps were more the focus for PM (Program Manager) internships.

Everyone's internship experience can be different though; a lot of my friends who also had internships in Microsoft were given a more specific goal. There is definitely a range of how technical you can get as a PM though which is what I love about it. You can involve yourself as much as you want to with the software process, but also make high-level decisions about what to change about a product.

Can you talk about the internship application and interview process?

I first submitted my application then had an on-campus interview. They asked more behavioral questions to scope out what team I would be a good fit for. In the next round, they flew me out to the Microsoft Headquarters and I did five interviews in one day. I met with multiple people from one team but they were all from different subgroups. Those interviews ranged from behavioral, technical, brainteasers, design, etc.

The most common tip I heard from recruiters was to be passionate about your work. During the interview especially, it’s important to speak about your experiences in a way that makes people excited to learn more about it and more about you.

What was the application process like to go from intern to full-time employee?

You find out in your last or second to last week of the internship whether or not you’ll be getting a return offer. You have around one to two months to respond depending on your school. During my internship, I talked to different teams within Microsoft because if you want to change teams, you have to submit a request around halfway through the internship. I also talked to other companies during the school year. I ultimately decided on Microsoft because I was able to dive right in as a program manager and the team that I was in really wanted to see me grow in my career.

What advice would you give to young girls pursuing a career in STEM?

Always know that you can truly do anything no matter what others say but also pursue things because you are passionate about it and not because it’s an uncharted path.