What is your role/job in the company?
I am a Principal Software Engineer, working on key internal projects across Microsoft Azure. I am currently leading a remote team to introduce a key security feature in the internal system that builds most of Microsoft Azure’s software.
Prior to that, I worked in Google for 7 years; I joined the company as an intern and ended up managing 4 teams of engineers in the Site Reliability Engineering function, working on Google Ads products.
Describe you company.
Microsoft is a well-known technology company whose mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.
How did you reach your goal? Tell us about your journey
I have a B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from the University of Catania, all cum laude.
While doing the B.Sc., I started doing three key activities in addition to studying:
1. started getting involved in the open source world by creating EduMIPS64 (www.edumips.org), a free CPU simulator still in use in universities around the world to complement Computer Architecture classes;
2. I started working part-time in a technology SME in Catania;
3. Last but not least, I co-founded JECT, the Junior Enterprise of Catania 🙂
I kept doing all these things while completing my studies, and towards the end of my Ph.D. I accepted to come to Dublin to do an internship with Google, as a Software Engineering intern in SRE, and I decided to stay there after defending my Phd thesis.
What challenges have you faced during your journey? What did you learn from them?
I was lucky enough that my job (in a very broad sense) has been my passion, so I have always been doing things that I like, while studying and while working.
Here are some of the challenges I faced or I am facing right now:
– leading a remote team: I am currently the only engineer in Dublin, working with several teams in Redmond (Seattle, WA). The distance makes everything harder than it should be, and extra effort needs to be put into things such as transparency, accountability, (over-)communication to make sure the work relationships work well remotely. This is a very large topic, and I am learning new things every day.
– following from the first point, I learned the importance of creating trust with partner teams, and that in the engineering context sometimes the best way of creating trust is by having a strong track record of delivering good projects which are useful to your partners.
– working as an engineering manager is radically different from working as an engineer: many people see it as a natural career progression, but in reality it’s a different job with very different incentives and rewards. I learned many lessons when working as a manager, and I am happy to be back to working as an individual contributor for now.
– it’s not always obvious to engineers that technical solutions aren’t always what’s needed to achieve an objective. Talking to people, networking and not being afraid to ask are key skills that all engineers need to bring their career to the senior level and above.
What skills did you gain thanks to your experience as a Junior Entrepreneur? How did it help in your professional career?
The most important skill I could practice and gain while I was in JECT was definitely influencing and leading people.
In addition to that, I had a chance to acquire many other soft skills that are in high demand in all the senior technical positions I have held.
How did being a Junior Entrepreneur impact you as a professional today?
It was truly a great “warm-up” for my professional career, and it clearly jump-started it and helped me progress much quicker than I would have done it if I hadn’t founded a Junior Enterprise.
An advice you would like to give to Junior Entrepreneurs:
Take it seriously and have fun.
You have the invaluable chance of experimenting with work practices before you have the full responsibilities of a job, and that chance should be wisely invested to gain valuable skills for the future. At the same time, it’s not a fully-fledged job, so take the time to have fun while you do it, network with your peers and have a good laugh.