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I'm a Microsoft Software Engineer- I've worked on Xbox, Paint 3D and now Cortana: AMA

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Original post by iBearHQ
Do you think a Computer Science degree is worth doing or would you say it is better (in terms of the lack of debt) to find an apprenticeship gain real work experience?

Currently in Year 12 and not sure of what to do.

I think there are increasingly more ways to enter into technology. Bootcamps (, 3rd party coding camps (, and apprenticeships ( are all ways I have seen people get jobs as engineers. The links attached are posts or Q&As to people who have gone through different ways to get into engineering.

I personally am a big fan of apprenticeships because they give you a degree, work experience, money because it's paid, etc. Microsoft has a great program:
Original post by MaherphD
Is it possible to be a part - time programmer whilst in medical school?

I think it is entirely possible to learn to program while in medical school and do freelance work. But honestly I would be concerned about your workload. I think that question depends on your workload and how much time you can afford to spend doing something besides your university work. I think programming could be an interesting skill to add to your skill set because medtech is an interesting space and could be very innovative.
Original post by S2M
Thank you for this! Is the pay decent ish?

Software Engineers are some of the best paid people. Microsoft, I believe, is not the highest of the top big tech companies but does pay a lot more than most software places. In the USA, the starting salary is around $100k and in the UK the starting salary is more around £45k plus signing bonus and stock options for both countries. The USA pretty much always pays more than any other country regardless of company or role.
Original post by steamed-hams
What extra circulars do you suggest doing at university

Getting a mix of technical and leadership skills is important. I was a lab helper for the younger CS students, was the VP of the Computing Society, and was the course representative for CS. Helping at coding camps or classes, like Code First: Girls, is another great way of getting technical and leadership experience whilst also improving your network.
Original post by ron202
I know Microsoft is improving it's diversity in terms of gender & i know that the CEO of Microsoft is Indian "Satya Nadella" but hoe diverse is Microsoft in terms of the race of their employees from your perspective?

What's the differences between software engineers , project manager, data analyst & so on ? Do they all program different pieces of software?

I don't have the stats on how diverse Microsoft is, but my experience is that Microsoft is decently diverse given the average. In Redmond, there are many people from all over Asia and India. In the UK, we have lots of people from different parts of Europe. Microsoft has many different internal community groups for people of different race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. that work to create strong networks between it's members and growth opportunities. The gender diversity in my team is pretty amazing.

A software engineer develops programs. Project managers make sure that the project is running on time, to budget, and manage the dependencies on peoples work so that others can focus on developing. Data analysts (on a product team) will analyze data from telemetry or other sources to identify where things are going wrong, how people are using the product, and how to make it better. I don't have much experience with data analysts. Each role is different, but will work with the other roles to effectively complete their job.
Original post by Calamity1
How would you be able to get references to get into jobs like Microsoft or do they look at your portfolio and grades from uni?

I'd recommend doing some networking if you are looking to get a reference from a Microsoft employee. It will be hard to get a reference if they have no work experience with you. Going to hackathons could be a good way of demonstrating your coding skills to a Microsoft employee if there is one. I'd also reach out to your local Microsoft recruiter to see if they know of any good jobs they could connect you to.

They may look at your portfolio - it really depends on the hiring manager. I have a few things on mine just in case. For the most part, your CV is what they look at and use the interview rounds to narrow down candidates. Your grades will be necessary to show that you hit the minimum requirements (I believe an internship is a 2:1 but I could be wrong). If you are applying after you have work experience, then your grades become less relevant.
Original post by MathsMania
Can I say you must have worked really hard! It's really inspiring!

Well thank you very much! :smile:
Original post by Abbie1408
if you are doing an engineering BTEC can you get anything else out of it accept from engineering. I picked it because i thought it would be interesting, i’m aiming to be more the design part of DT, like architecture, PD, media, industrial etc... Ive always been in in between art and science person, that’s why i thought i would enjoy it. Now i don’t know weather i regret choosing it and not choosing art or product design or something. Please help, what is your experience, is engineering just higher DT that can get you into more pathways rather than just having DTif you could help that would be appreciated thanks

I don't know much about engineering qualifications like that, but I would assume that any kind of engineering qualification would open you up to a lot of different paths. I have met a few designers and design interns at Microsoft who come from industrial design backgrounds. Maybe check out these courses: (Design Engineering MEng) and . We have had design interns from both of those courses.
Original post by ScoutLeopard
- In your opinion, what is/are the best coding language(s) to learn?
- What university course did you do?

I went to the University of Surrey and studied Computing and IT (75% computer science, 25% business classes).

Check out this post I did about picking coding languages:
Original post by MaliciousFlower
if youre looking at doing a computing course at uni, what do you suggest i should do as extra curriculars/ extra things to make my application look good

Check out this post on some things you can do:
Original post by Holly TSR
Cortana has lots of applications, but I am excited the most for the productivity features as this is where Microsoft excels. AI in Microsoft is vast, so Microsoft will be able to make enormous impact on the world through its AI services, particularly those available in Azure. While a lot of these are not Cortana related, the AI technologies are still very cool and have many applications. Reaching Jarvis levels of intelligence is still many years off, but amazing research is underway to get closer to this. Microsofts acquisition of Semantic Machines will help get Cortana closer to this goal by having increased context awareness of the user and what they are doing.

Nice! 👍
What's the most challenging thing you've come across during your career? What's been the most rewarding?
Thank you for taking time to answer everyones questions. As someone who has contacts in Redmond and enjoys microsoft products (I have a still functioning (somehow) Surface RT, SB2 and despite owning Android Pie and iOS devices, I still use my Lumias as my daily drivers...until December 31st when WhatsApp goes bye bye), I have a few questions to ask:

1) Any recommendations for which online courses you found helpful on udemy etc?

2) As someone who was a member of google campus and code4health (a UK government initiative which is supposed to teach health professionals about programming), I found these were helpful in getting a grasp about programming languages and essential information about starting your own business. However, Im not really comfortable coding (despite having learnt how to make a rudimentary messaging app for android using Java and am currently learning about ML / Data Science and Tensorflow) and was wondering what are great ways to meet software engineers / developers ?

(I have previously attended an NHS / Techstars hackathon, but the teams I was involved in either just spent all their time arguing and not getting any work done; or the devs were being absolute bleeps who hijacked the project and ended up making a product that was somewhat inferior to what was originally envisioned (I even made wireframes, interactive prototypes , and had enlisted 1 of the Hackathon judges to help develop code for a rudimentary app but devs in the group they just completely ignored it and ended up making rubbish paper cutouts which they presented on a projector :colonhash: :doh:).

3) what are the pros and cons of UWPs vs PWAS (also your views on Xamarin, Electron etc) ?

4) Why is it so hard to change the voice of British Cortana to the American / Indian English Voices without changing regions?

5) If you had a choose between 1 of the following devices , which one would you own: Surface Pro X, Neo or Duo?

(personally, I'm hyped for all 3 devices, although I'm kinda annoyed that the Duo isn't dualbooting Android 11 and Windows 10X - although Im glad the folding devices exist).
(edited 4 years ago)
This is a lot of questions, I know, but I only want yes/no answers. This would greatly inform my career aspirations, so I would be v grateful if you could answer.

Have you ever worked in a non-tech white collar job?
Is there a culture among your colleagues of staying on at a FAANGM company for one or two years before heading to a higher paid job at another company? As in non-FAANGM companies?
Do you feel like a 'code monkey'? Please be honest. If not, who do you think is a code monkey?
Are you encouraged to work from home? Do people remote in? Are they paid less?
Do they entice you to stay late with free food / events in the evenings?
Do you feel that Microsoft treats its employees as maturely as, say, a bank might treat its employees?
Are your coworkers antisocial/introverted?
Do you agree with Microsoft's ethics? What do you think those are?
What sort of things do you programme? Do you make any code with a tangible impact, or are you just given a set of expected inputs and outputs?
Do you think that project managers deserve to be paid more than you? Do your coworkers?
Do your coworkers talk about / compare their salaries?
Reply 94
Original post by Holly TSR
Holly is a multi-award-winning Microsoft Software Engineer who has worked on multiple globally released products including Paint 3D and Xbox, and now works on Cortana for Windows. Code she has written is currently on over 800 million devices world-wide!

Between developing applications, she an active advocate for diversity and inclusion for women in STEM. She is on the Technical Women at Microsoft board and works with the Microsoft DigiGirlz team and external organizations like Code First: Girls and the STEMettes to empower women and help others realize their full-potential.

She grew up in the Seattle area before moving to England five years ago to study Computing and Information Technology, consisting of a mix of computer science and business classes, at the University of Surrey.

Ask her (almost!) anything by replying below!

Does having a degree in Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) limit my job prospects? If I apply for a software engineering job would I be disadvantaged compared to people who have a degree in Computer Science? Which course do you think is better in terms of job prospects and the different fields you can break into, computer science or ITMB?
What's the best way to learn a coding language on your own? preferably using as little money as possible.
Thank you

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