Michele Banko, Senior Research Software Development Engineer.
Michele is part of the Query Understanding team within Microsoft Advertising Research and Relevance. This team develops models and algorithms that reflect user intent of Bing queries in the context of advertising. By doing so, they aim to make advertising more efficient for both advertisers and consumers.
Michele’s team consists of nine applied scientists and engineers, four of which are PhDs. Michele said that while she is the only female member of the team, the test team that she works closely with is led by a woman.
Michele first started using computers educationally and recreationally at beginning in elementary school. The TRS-80, Apple 2c and Commodore 64 were regular parts of her childhood. It wasn’t until Michele entered college at Carnegie Mellon that she began to consider computer science as a field of study.
Michele said that Microsoft has an incredibly diverse culture, and she thinks that contributes to there being a positive environment for women. Day to day, Michele said, she does not feel heightened awareness of being a woman in an industry that is mostly male. Michele said that as long as she is achieving technical excellence and making her voice heard, she can be successful, respected and happy.
Michele said that it is nice that there are many senior level female researchers within the company; she has been fortunate to have been mentored by some of them. Michele said that having someone more senior to talk to about career development is incredibly valuable.
The team Michele works on is deeply driven by data, metrics and reporting, which means she can design an algorithm that is informed by meaningful data and then see how it performs in front of actual users. Michele said that she was really impressed with the quality and scope of data available when she first joined the team.
Michele and her team mostly ship models (as opposed to code), which enables them to iterate quickly; they aren’t tied to product cycles that are traditionally months long. And, being part of advertising, Michele said can see exactly how much revenue her feature is contributing in real time, which she thinks is pretty cool!
Michele noticed that Microsoft attracts people who are not only technically smart, but also work smart. She likes to see that the company culture enables both men and women to be active members of their family or to do things like train for a marathon while still managing a team or being a strong individual contributor. By not molding people into any one particular lifestyle, schedule or process, it allows people to do their best work.