ANGELA V. HARRIS

Microsoft Program Manager and Philanthropist



Can you describe an overview of your career?

I’ve been working in the tech industry for a little over 20 years. I went to Drexel University which had a co-op program that allows students to work for half of the year and go to school for the other half, so I graduated with about 18 months of work experience. This was really valuable because it not only gave me the opportunity to gain work experience, but also, figure out what I liked and didn’t like in a work environment.

My very first Co-op job was working in the network operations center of a chemical company in Philadelphia. When I started college, I thought I wanted to be a network engineer and when I graduated, the job market wasn’t the best so I took the first job that I could get, which was working at a help desk. From there, I transitioned into other roles within IT like QA testing, production support, and eventually project management which I’ve stayed in for over 10 years now. Prior to joining Microsoft, I was working for a healthcare company in Philadelphia as a project manager. I joined Microsoft about a year ago as an operations program manager in the Microsoft Business Operations unit where we help roll out all of the products and services such as Windows and Office to the public.

I applied to Microsoft a few times through the website but didn't have much success with that. Instead, I reached out to a woman in a leadership development program for women of color in the tech industry that I was in. She worked at Microsoft and shared that her area was hiring. I then gave her my resume to pass on to someone in her department. I definitely think it's important to leverage connections in organizations that you’re affiliated with. I feel like a lot of people don’t realize what a great resource that is for networking.



Can you describe your day to day at Microsoft as a technical program manager and how that might differ from a software engineer?

I actually just moved to a new team within operations and had two windows launches within the last two weeks. A typical day involves managing the tasks associated with those launches. We have a lifecycle process that we have to follow and we also have to work cross functionally with different teams across Microsoft whether it be with someone in our marketing area or someone in our engineering area to get that product rolled out to the customer.

With project management, you are managing the tasks of other people. You may have a software developer on your team or a business analyst and they will all have roles that play into our deliverable at the end of the day. You also have to be able to speak the “language” of software developers to translate for people on the business side who may not have a technical background.

Can you share some of your efforts to support girls in STEM?

I started a scholarship at Drexel University three years ago for women of color with financial need. This year, I’ve expanded it to include African American males because many support programs are geared towards girls in STEM but not minority males. I personally funded 5,000 dollars for the past three years, but two years ago, I started a birthday campaign to raise an additional 5,000 dollars for my scholarship. It started as one award, and has grown to three awards, two of which will go to African American females and one to an African American male. Microsoft’s generous employee match program, which contributed 10,000 dollars, also helped me in growing the program.

It's always exciting to see who is going to get my scholarship every year. I actually formed a mentoring relationship with the first recipient before I knew that she would go on to receive my scholarship. I met her during the fall of 2017 at an on campus event at Drexel and she was one of the student representatives in the meeting. I was completely blown away by her story because we had such similar backgrounds in that we both started at Drexel as computer science majors, switched to information systems our sophomore year and are passionate about women in STEM initiatives. She even started an organization for women studying STEM in college because she didn't feel supported during her freshman year and wanted to have a support network in place for female students coming after her. It was a really rewarding experience to see someone who reminded me of a young version of myself win the award. She has gone on to do some amazing things and even raised about 3000 dollars to fund a scholarship of her own for international students that typically don't qualify for public aid. She’s also going to be an intern at Microsoft this summer.

Can you describe your college experience at Drexel University in terms of having support as a woman of color in STEM?

When I was in school there were not many programs supporting women in STEM like there are now. I didn't have any programming experience prior to coming to Drexel, so my first programming experience was during my freshman year C++ class and I was not prepared. I ended up switching to information systems because I couldn't see myself learning how to program in language after language for my entire college career. I was also often the only African American female in my classes so that was difficult especially for group projects.

What is the one piece of advice you would offer girls pursuing STEM?

Always believe in yourself. It will be hard at times and you will encounter people who will doubt you but believe in your ability, build a strong network of people around you and definitely have a mentor that can guide you throughout your career.



Want to find out more about Angela's scholarship fund?