In the 25-plus years I've written about technology, I've interviewed fewer than 50 female Microsoft employees (by my rough estimate). In part, this is because there are less of them. Microsoft officials say women comprise 25 percent of the company's total workforce. It's also because many of the women who do work at Microsoft are in marketing, sales and support roles and aren't among those who are "authorized" to talk to us press/blogger types.
There are a handful of women employees dotting Microsoft's executive ranks, including two Senior Vice Presidents (Lisa Brummel,head of Human Resources, and Mich Matthews, head of the Central Marketing Group). But I wanted to meet some of the less-public techies -- the engineers, product managers and programmers who work at Microsoft to find out how and why they've managed to buck the continuing trend of women not entering math/science careers. The women I've interviewed for this series have joined Microsoft via a wide variety of paths. Some knew since they were kids they wanted to be involved in technology. Others came to the Empire via a more circuitous route (master of fine arts in poetry, anyone?). Some are Microsoft lifers. Others are recent hires.
On March 24, Ada Lovelace Day -- which is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in science and technology -- I kicked off a new series profiling some of these Microsoft women worth watching. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be running profiles of ten of them on my blog.
Today's Microsoft Woman Worth Watching: Margarita Naumova
Title: SQL Server Consultant, Microsoft Consulting Services What's Your Typical Day Like? Lots of customer team meetings involving project delivery. She work both at big enterprise customer sites and in her home office. "I do more design, disaster recovery, SQL Server architectural work and performance optimization" than anything else, she says. "I usually play the role of project architect," more than doing any coding, Naumova says, "so I often create teams of people comprised of customers and partners."
Did you always want to be involved in technology? If not, what steered you this way? "I do things I like and follow things with emotion," says Naumova. Math was her favorite discipline in school, leading to a focus on technology and databases at the University of Economics in Varna, Bulgaria. Science, mathematics and analytical thinking "was natural for me," she says.
Advice for women (and/or men) considering a career in technology? "Women can become successful in any sphere as long as they can overcome the restrictions in their minds. They need to focus on and create opportunities, not focus on the obstacles," says Naumova. "There is a place for every person who likes challenges."
Favorite gadget (just one) or technology? She's not a gadget person, but she likes the MSN Astrology site she says.SQL Server 2008 Certified Masters. Seven of these are women. Margarita Naumova is one of them.
The Bulgarian consultant considers databases as a way for her to "unleash her creativity."
"The way I can do performance optimization or design and the importance of the data to an enterprise" are fun and challenging for Naumova. "Doing business intelligence is very exciting for me," she says.
Naumova didn't work with a lot of technologies before she became interested in SQL Server. When she was at university, Microsoft Access was the database tool they used. After that, she joined an academic training program, after which she applied for Microsoft Certified Professional status.
She became a Microsoft Certified Trainer, a job she held for 10 years. During that time, she learned a lot about communicating with people. She began looking at SQL Server as a platform and shortly thereafter, in 2006, joined Microsoft Consulting Services. A year after joining MCS, she heard about the Certified Master Program, via which applicants spend three weeks in rigorous training in Redmond in their particular area of study. There are exams every week and a practical at the end. Those IT professionals who successfully complete the program are considered experts.
Now that's she's made it to the Master level, what's next for Naumova?
"I'll stop taking exams for a while," she jokes, adding that she is planning to do more work with the Bulgarian SQL Server User Group, to address some unfinished topics on her blog and to get involved in some new challenging database projects with customers.
SQL Server 2008 R2, the "Kilimanjaro" release, is slated to go to customers in May, and Naumova says she's looking forward to the new version.
R2 "expands the value of the platform for large enterprises, with scalability and consolidation," especially with features like Master Data Services, she says.
(Check out all the Microsoft Women Worth Watching profiles here.)