Empowered women, empowering women

 |   MSNE Staff

Female Microsoft Executives sharing their knowledge.

Recently, we were honored to welcome Woman2Woman (W2W) for a visit to our Microsoft New England Research and Development Center (NERD) here in Cambridge. W2W is a part of the 8200 Alumni Association — an elite tech unit producing a steady stream of innovators and entrepreneurs. W2W’s mission is to lead change in Israeli society by generating value for talented women. They host inspiring events featuring speakers that share their personal insights and advice, as well as cultivate a supportive community.

Woman2Woman enjoying our views from NERD.

Microsoft’s Merav Davidson and fellow members of Woman2Woman explore NERD.

W2W holds a special place in the heart of Microsoft’s Merav Davidson, GM of Engineering & Ecosystem at Microsoft Israel and founding mentor of W2W. Davidson was joined by a few other inspiring female Microsoft executives to speak to a room full of Microsofties and W2W delegation members about career challenges, experiences, and achievements. Panelists included: 

  • Lyndsy Stopa — Senior Software Engineering Manager for Docs at NERD
  • Linda Thackeray — Director of The Garage at NERD
  • Sara Spalding — Principal Engineering Manager for Commercial Software Engineering at NERD
  • Terrell Cox — Director of PM for Microsoft Intune & NERD GM 
  • Merav Davidson — GM, Engineering & Ecosystem at Microsoft Israel

Terrell Cox, Sara Spalding, Merav Davidson, Linda Thackeray, and Lyndsy Stopa share their experiences.

Left to right: Terrell Cox, Sara Spalding, Merav Davidson, Linda Thackeray, and Lyndsy Stopa share their experiences.

After a brief introduction and a few ice breakers, the panelists dove right in — answering questions about what drives them and what their biggest challenges have been. They also gave advice about navigating career paths.

Questions included: What drives you? What was your career path and what was a significant point in your journey? And what would you consider a failure in your career?

What drives all of these executives to strive to be their best every day? The answer is people. Whether it’s with colleagues or customers — showing up every day to collaborate, generate new ideas, and make an impact is what keeps them going.

“Finding opportunities that excite you and taking risks … this is what fulfills you and what makes you grow,” Davidson said.

Some of the panelists discussed how women’s career trajectories are often non-linear.

Cox explained how she had dreams of becoming an astrophysicist and was involved in other facets of technology as a hobby. “I did coding … but never thought of it as being a full time job,” she said.

Today, she heads the leadership team for all of NERD.

Thackeray started her career as a Danish typesetter. “I didn’t speak Danish, I had no idea what typesetting meant, but I got that job,” she said.

That relentless curiosity served Thackeray well as she made a career for herself within the technology sector. Today, as director of The Garage at NERD, she drives programs and experiences to our employees, customers, and partners that drive collaboration, creativity, and experimentation.

Although diverse career paths represent the majority, there’s great value that comes from having a linear career trajectory as well. Stopa, Davidson, and Spalding shared how they all started their careers in the tech industry — and still work in it today.

“Don’t walk out thinking that unless you move between disciplines, roles, and domains, you’re doing something wrong,” Davidson said.

One thing all five Microsoft executives agreed on is that challenges are what make you grow — and hurdles teach you valuable lessons you can use in your daily work life moving forward.

Linda Thackeray sharing advice with employees and Woman2Woman guests.

Linda Thackeray shares her six pieces of advice with the room.

To wrap up the discussion, Thackeray shared six valuable pieces of career advice with the room:

  1. You own your career. You own your success and you own your failure. Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen. You make them happen for yourself.
  2. Develop your soft skills. You come to work with the background knowledge about the field you’re in, but your soft skills (communication, attention to detail, passion, drive) will lead you to success. 
  3. Be yourself. Discover what makes you unique and valuable to your team and leverage it.
  4. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be afraid to fail. Take that leap.
  5. Connect with the people around you. The best things you’re going to build in your life are people. Connect with those around you.
  6. Stay forever curious. Be curious about the work you’re doing and the people around you.

These six points all align with Microsoft’s goal to promote a growth mindset, a way of working that encourages growth through hard work, dedication, and resilience. Growth mindset starts with a belief that everyone can grow and develop; that potential is nurtured, not predetermined; and that anyone can change their mindset — so long as they keep learning, remain insatiably curious, and are willing to take risks. 

A big thank you to our panelists and to W2W for making this event possible!

Here at NERD, we are committed to developing the next generation of leaders in tech. We’d love to have you join us in empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. Browse careers here.