Microsoft Sr. Program Manager April Speight

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Name: April Speight

Alma Mater: University of Maryland College Park (UMD) and Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD)

STEM Career Path: Menswear Stylist & Visual Merchandiser > Business Application Specialist > Project Manager > Program Manager

Let's start at the beginning, we want to know who April is and how you  transitioned from fashion to tech.

AS: I'm a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft with the Microsoft Docs team helping to build interactive experiences for developers. I transitioned to working in tech 6 years ago after a pivot from the luxury fashion industry. I love menswear so naturally, I was a menswear stylist. I also love interior decor so naturally, I did visual merchandising as well.

Point blank, there's more money in tech. As much as I love fashion, I knew that I need more income to continue working on my side fashion project (i.e. sewing). So, I set out to find a job in tech and began my career with Consumer Technology Association within the IT department as a Business Application Specialist. From there, I found new roles with various companies and increased my knowledge of project management and managing clients. 

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Tell us more about your Vogue and Code platform and how it has helped more people get into the technology space.

AS: I created Vogue & Code initially for the purpose of introducing people to non-coding careers in tech. A lot of people who don't work in tech seem to believe that you have to code in order to work in this industry. The reality of the matter is that you don't. Although I can code, I don't personally use any bit of coding in my day to day job with Microsoft. Whenever I tell people that I've been working in this industry for 6 years and haven't had 'developer' within any of my job descriptions, they're in shock.

So, I initially began to share career options that didn't require programming knowledge. The website slowly began to evolve into me providing advice for transitioning into tech while addressing my own personal experience. I personally like to touch upon topics that you don't typically find online on the everyday tech blog. For example, I recently wrote an article on how to interview while you're employed. It's topics like these that interest people but no one likes to talk about it on their public platform.

For any women out there that are interested in a career at microsoft or any other tech company, how can they get started?

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AS: I would personally start off with determining what type of role the person wants to have in the tech industry. They'll more than likely start with one career path and inevitably pivot into another - and that's ok! After figuring out what you want to do, the next step would be to do a job search to see what the job requirements are. Make a list of the aggregated requirements that you'll find around various job postings and sit back to analyze. That'll help you decide where there may be gaps in your knowledge.

Once you've identified your gaps, start working towards improving in those areas. That could mean spending time learning a new concept/technology OR just improving your knowledge in an area in which you may be weak. The last thing I would suggest to do is to network and get to know people who work at the companies you admire. That doesn't mean approaching someone and saying 'Could you refer me?' Relationships that you form should be genuine and not based off of you needing something from someone. Get to know the company more through the person. Ask about culture. Ask about what it's ilke working there. Ask about their experience. That'll give you a chance to decide whether or not the company is even for you. If it turns out that you're still interested in working for the company, kindly ask for a referral. However, after spending time building a genuine rapport with your new connection, they may insist referring you before you even have a chance to ask.

If anything, avoid cold applying to a job. You'll have a more difficult time having your resume reviewed.

Favorite tech hack at the moment?

AS: Given that I work for Microsoft, I have practically every app-version of the software that I use day to day downloaded on my phone. I use Teams, OneNote, Microsoft To-Do and Word all on my phone. This makes working on the go super easy - especially since I work remote.

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There's a need for the representation of Women of Color in STEM to be much more prevalent. In your own words, tell us what we can do to fulfill that need.  

AS: Stop letting people discourage you. Every so often I come across someone on Twitter stating that they feel discouraged and either want to leave tech OR have left in the past for that very reason. Life isn't easy, and honestly that's within any field that you walk into as the minority. Avoid letting people get to you and just focus on your goal at hand.

What has been the best Advice You Have Ever Received?

AS: Ask Questions! You waste so much time pretending that you know what everyone around the room is talking about that it eventually puts you behind. If you don't understand a word that someone said or know little to nothing about a concept, then ask. Or just self-learn. 

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Thank You STEM Queen For All Of The Work That You Do!


Twitter: @voguean dcode