Too often in tech, we hear of women who started out with a love for computer science but amid the gender imbalance, lost their moxie. We recently shared Alexa’s story, “Why I dropped out of computer science.” Alexa was the only girl in a room full of guys. Like many young women, she felt alienated.
Chrissy Maertens is not among them. Chrissy is a Program Manager on the Catalog team, within Commerce Platform. She works on billing aspects of Microsoft Account, which provides a place where customers can review transactions and change billing information. For instance, she worked on the Gift Card Redemption feature.
When asked what personal qualities women need to succeed in computer science, Chrissy says, “Confidence is an important key to success for all employees.”
Two key factors gave Chrissy a strong foundation for confidence and competence in computer science: family, and access to awards/tech opportunities in college.
1. Family support and female role models.
Both Chrissy’s parents worked in tech, and she’s the second-oldest of five tech-oriented children. “My mom especially motivated us to excel at math and science at a very young age. As we got older, we learned that engineering was a field where we could apply our skills.”
Chrissy’s older sister, Jen, completed three internships at Microsoft. Jen was in the first-ever group of Explore Microsoft interns. She worked at Microsoft full-time for five years, mostly working on the Microsoft Store. During Chrissy’s junior year at Michigan, Jen started working full-time at Microsoft.
2. Scholarships, internships and university opportunities.
Chrissy graduated from the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering in 2009, with a degree in Computer Engineering. After two Microsoft internships and graduation, she returned to Redmond as a full-time employee and joined the Pinpoint team.
While Chrissy was attending U of M, she was awarded a Microsoft Technical Scholarship. After two internships, and serving as the on-campus Microsoft marketing and technical student partner, Chrissy says, “I knew Microsoft would be a great place to work.”
Here’s why, five years later, she still feels that way:
- Competitive compensation. “Employees are treated well.”
- Charitable donations. “When I volunteer to coach volleyball to local junior-high students, Microsoft matches my time spent with a cash donation to the school. Additionally, each year, I participate in the Day of Caring with the summer interns.”
- Cutting-edge technology. “Microsoft produces innovative products that are interesting to work on.”
- Career opportunities for jobs that provide intellectual stimulation. Microsoft offers an environment that’s dedicated to ongoing learning. Grace Hopper is just one of the conferences Chrissy attends that provide networking, learning and enrichment for women.
- Customer focus. Chrissy enjoys hands-on opportunities for engagement, like the Worldwide Partner Conference and Build conferences. At WPC, she says, “I always loved talking first-hand with the partners. I’ve had the opportunity to work with great managers and great teams, and on customer-facing products where I can really see the impact of my work.”
- Collaboration. Chrissy says it’s a key reason women succeed at Microsoft: “Women tend to be particularly collaborative and inclusive. As a result, we can better build off of each other’s work.”
For Chrissy and her family, the intern-to-full-time lineage continues: Younger sister Katie is a PM on the Operating Systems Group (OSG) Map App team. Their brother Matthew completed his second internship last summer and will return full-time in the fall as a PM on the Dynamics AX team. Their youngest brother, Daniel, finished his freshman year at Michigan and is an Explore Microsoft intern on the Open Source team in Cloud & Enterprise. Also, Chrissy’s fiancé joined Microsoft at the same time she did. He works as a PM on the DirectX team in OSG.
It’s time to get married!
Next month, the family will celebrate at Chrissy’s wedding. It’s a family with roots in STEM disciplines cultivated by a confidence-building mom. Parting advice from Chrissy: Build a strong network, stay up-to-date on market trends, do work you love, and know this: “We need different types of people for different projects. It’s important to find the right fit.”
Find your fit. Whether you’re a student, recent grad, or working professional, here’s where you start: Microsoft Careers, our global website.