My name is Andrea and I’m a software developer on the Bing Index Server team. We own the platform that responds to searches on Bing. It’s our job to make as much of the web available as possible to people searching on Bing, makes those searches fast and reliable, and support a platform that supports continuous improvement to search results. I’d guess the index serve development team is about 50 people – maybe half a dozen of us are women.
Working as a Software Engineer and also being a female in a mostly male environment might seem intimidating but it’s not. For me, I have experience working with both male and female dominated work environments. I spent a year recently teaching high school and working with mostly women. I don’t think being in the majority or in the minority really affected how I felt at work. There’s so much more variation between individuals than between genders. Working with a good group of people that you enjoy and respect is one of the most important aspects of loving your job – and I’ve certainly enjoyed the opportunity to work with really great, really smart people in this industry.
For me, computer science is an art form. I took a computer science class my senior year in high school. That was my first exposure to programming. There was something about how I could direct all this power in the computer to do what I wanted using a pretty simple language that I really liked. As opposed to most classes where you just memorize and ingest information, in computer science you got to make things and play with them. I guess it felt similar to how a lot of people feel in art class. I’ve never been very artistically talented, but computer programming was a type of ‘creating’ that I could be good at.
One of the worst experiences you can have as a developer is feeling abandoned – both socially and professionally. The work can be pretty solitary and social barrier can sometimes feel pretty high. However, starting at Bing has been one of my best experiences in both regards. Beginning with my interview and now with my current team, everyone has been friendly and welcoming – and also incredibly talented! I felt lucky just for getting to interview with such a great group of people. Then I felt really lucky when I met my new team and was included and able to get to work right away!
As a computer programmer I can sometimes feel like I’m shirking a social responsibility to do good, but I’ve been so surprised and excited about how much investment Microsoft makes in this area. For example matching employee donations and encouraging volunteer work through matching donations, recycling and compost in nearly every room, as well as support of local cultural programs. It really helps me feel great about the company I’m working for.