Interview with Harini Gupta, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft
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Interview with Harini Gupta, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft


hi everyone welcome to GALs today. I
have with me Harini Gupta, am I pronouncing your last name right
okay good Harini is a PM at the sequel Azure team, can you please
present yourself yeah hi hi summer my name is harini Gupta and I’m a
program manager on the database systems team, I’ve been on the team for about two
years now so awesome yeah can you tell us a little bit about your
career from the beginning what like degree you had what studies you did and
then the evolution of your career until today. Absolutely so I have a bachelor’s
in computer science and also I almost finished my master’s in computer science
as well so I graduated about 15 years ago right
out of college I mean I had several internships during my college as well
but my first full-time job was with Motorola in Chicago area I was a
software engineer working on those walkie-talkies and cop radios and that’s
what we built the software for and I spent a couple of years there and then I
was an industry hire into Microsoft. I started my career at Microsoft about 12
years ago. I actually hit my twelfth year this month. and I started in Windows. I’ve been on
different parts of Windows. The first thing that I worked on was Windows shell
as a as a software development in tests I was in test discipline for about like
four years before I switched to being an ste which is offered the developer
engineer and then I have we shipped Vista Windows 7 Windows 8 Windows 8.1. It
has been but I haven’t been in one single team I’ve been moved around after
every three years it was a three years ship cycle so we moved around and right
after that I think I hit my 10th year at Microsoft and I felt like hey I’ve been
an engineer for way too long and what do I really want to do next you know. That
so I kind of used that my 10th year mark and I kind of looked around like what
are the different opportunities that are there at Microsoft? And that’s when I
felt like the program manager is a good path for me going forward in my career
so I started learning a lot about it shadowing a
bunch of people and then I landed this program manager job in the sequel
database systems team and it’s a very technical role so I love it and coming
from the engineering background really kind of helped me transition into this
role pretty pretty easily so that’s where I’m at I’m in the last two years
I’ve been working as a program manager how do you like it I love it
yes I love it I mean I think develop development is fantastic and that’s
always been my bread and butter but with program manager I think you get to go
and you learn you you create your vision and you get to see the big picture that
you don’t see as an IC dev working on working on your own siloed project and
checking in that code so that is experience that I lacked
and I wanted to gain that experience and program manager offers me that today and
also dealing with the customers what do they really want and how do we actually
turn that into a product that actually they will use so that is the experience
I really wanted to gain and I am I’m loving it I think I’m gaining a lot of
experience and I’m understanding a lot of the things that are you know that
that’s the real customers want from us and we can hopefully turn into these
great products for them nice is amazing yeah so overall we have a beautiful long
career what was the product that you’re most proud of
hmmm I mean I’ve had a couple different things I would definitely say Windows
file system was one of the things that I not file system sorry file explorer is
one of the features that I worked on in Windows 7 Windows 8 time frame I’m
really proud of that it’s it’s it’s actually a feature called rename so it’s
like a file rename but we revamp the whole rename how it
worked in back in vista XP 2000 to make this I think it was just a really nice
thing that I worked on that was as a dev as a p.m. what I worked on is like I
built a bunch of we I’m in the data migration team right now so we built a
bunch of tools that help customers move from a complete Microsoft platform to
Microsoft data platform so I’m very proud of one of the tools that I worked
it’s called a experimentation assistant it’s basically the a/b testing solution
for databases it’s never been done before
we’ve done A/B testing for websites right things like that Bing Google it’s
a very common concept but not for databases so I think that was a very
technically challenging project that I that I really liked and I think the
customers are very happy with that kind of a solution because it doesn’t exist
today so that’s amazing yeah it’s really cool yeah in your in
your bio you also told me that you volunteer in UW in the
university to help girls get into stem can you tell us a little bit about the
story? That’s right so I it’s one of my passionate topics is like you know help
help young girls get into stem and not be worried about getting into stem or
engineering is a hard thing it’s not right you’ve done it I’ve done it so
there are opportunities volunteer opportunities in UW it’s for the UW Women’s Center so I have spent some time talking to those girls that come to
the program and kind of coaching them into and mentoring them into how they
should be what what stem is like for them and why they should get into it
right so kind of being that example role model it really helped them kind of ease
their mind and get into the program. What is the Women’s Center, What does it mean? So the the UW
Women’s Center is focused on getting underprivileged women our girls who the
parents are probably below the poverty line or they are then they can afford or
maybe they don’t have educated parents who can guide them through their
education all along so when women’s center actually brings
those kids and brings mentors like ourselves to go help them navigate
through their classes and their and end up making sure that they end up in the
right programs and the right carrier and things like that right so for example
they don’t they want to go to Princeton but they don’t know that Princeton
exists so they do a sign like volunteers they can actually travel with them for
like campus tours for Princeton or any university that’s Ivy I believe
that and kind of they have the potential is just that they don’t have the means
to get there so to these girls I was I’m not actively taking part in this year
but last up and last year I was doing some mentorship for some of these women
young women it’s so nice yeah you can do you have some stories to share with us
like these mentees what do they do in high school did anyone of them went to
college after all absolutely so I can share with you one story is that we
brought a bunch of students from that that are part of this program and we
actually help them tour the Microsoft campus that’s nice so they were in
building 16 that’s where we’re at me and a couple of other peers of mine who are
also part of this women’s cause we brought in about seven eight girls and
we had them tour the whole building 16 what do we do really as Microsoft what
does it even to be an engineer in a software company like Microsoft right so
kind of it’s a combination of shadowing making it a fun day have a nice lunch in
Commons taking in what the what do I do on a day-to-day basis met my co-workers
and things like that right and those guys some of them they were also a
couple boys in that group so it’s not just I know it’s it’s a women but still
there are like we’re not going to you know in a segregate to too young those
middle school guys who also want to be part of this program and understand how
how to make a path for themselves some of them were super excited they were
like here a computer scientist for me and I wanna that’s what I want to do and
the interesting thing was like one of the people even asked me like how much
you guys make it was so super important for this child is like I wouldn’t have
even asked that question but then it’s like you guys make a lot of money
because that’s important and I’m like oh yeah we we make a lot of money we work a
lot we make a lot of money right some very important them I can I can
relate to that yes I mean this life like if you have
money you can exactly you can pay anything you can pay your bills eat
basic things are making videos that’s the first listen you say you should this
is the money that we haven’t noticed we’re going to show you how yeah I think
that was a very funny funny afternoon it’s really cool that you’re doing this
I mean I appreciate this yeah that’s really nice it’s only also one of your
passions is and you like animals I do I love animals I love dogs cats one of the
I’ve always been that way I’ve always been grown up I grew up with dogs but I
used to like play around with neighbors cats and you know it thinks it’s your
passion those more over like some people just like an animal would buy the animal
rescue yeah but for yourself you go and volunteer I do so even in high school I
volunteer at like community services at high school we do that right so I want a
volunteer at a shelter in high school animal shelter to actually literally
like doing dog walking or cleaning up the cages feeding them feeding these
animals that are risking that are ready to be adopted by a home so the last two
or three years I’ve also actually two years I’ve been volunteering at a local
pet shelter it’s called homeward pet adoption center I’ve been on the board
of that homeward pet adoption center I am I’m actually not on the ground
working and cleaning the mess and things like that but I think where I’m I am at
my life I’m able to volunteer like you know money rather than time for the
cause that I care about so that’s why I’m part of the board and Microsoft
matches a lot of the stuff I might want to your time and this is so great like
so I think we’re you know we’re in it for for the good cause for the community
we’re giving it out so yeah I’m part of that for the last
two years it’s sometimes I do get to go play with the animals I love that I love
that the part of its I make some time to go and he know this is sneaking and play
with them or walk with them and you know they’re all like barking and chew a
chewing my ears off a little bit but it’s fun and
that’s cool and you’re also a mom right I am
So how many kids did in have and in what ages I have two kids one of them has nine
she’s my daughter and the second one’s a boy who is five years old
they just started their fourth and kindergarten this year so that’s been a
great start so far. So how do you do all of this at the same time I mean being a
mom is not easy and like working at the same times but and plus you’re doing two
volunteering causes it’s not like how do you manage your time maybe that’s the
question. So I mean that’s a great question and I ask myself every day you
know to be honest like I mean but you know over time I’ve learned to optimize
my time very well in the sense that I care about certain things in my life
let’s just say when the animal of the cause of the animals and it’s very it
matters to me so much that I have to I pick things that matters to me a lot so
I feel good about doing that right so I make time for it I make the commitment
for it no matter what I do have a wonderful husband who helps me a lot
with my children and and everything around the house as well so it’s not
like hey I’m the only parent I have to manage everything at home and I’m coming
to work and I’m also going in volunteering the thing so it’s kind of
like a great partnership in our household and even my kids appreciate it
to be honest like I know they get it they my mom has to go to work so my mom
has to drop me off at school certain time so I’m gonna be ready by a certain
time so we wear a household that kind of works that way we kind of like live off
of each other and also try to fulfill other things that we have wanted to do
we’ve always wanted to do and yeah I know we kind of manage that way so the
only thing that I do is like I don’t push myself to or things that I don’t
like that’s the important thing that I learned in my life is like if I don’t
like to do something I’m not gonna waste my time on it
I did so that way that way I have when I spend my time on all of
these things like for example I love my job that I’m in right now I have to make
it’s very important that I’m learning and I’m growing and I’m challenged at my
work that way I feel good coming to work and doing stuff same way with the women
cause or or the other pet cause and things like that right I feel good about
doing that and I feel very passionate and not driven to do it so I just go
with it okay yeah so if you have the passion then you will make time yes and
priority is to do absolutely nice what would be your your tips though
I’m sure you have like maybe organizational tips or advices oh yeah
any any tools you use any special apps it’s all on my calendar my calendar is
just full even on Saturday and Sunday it looks all red it’s because I it’s all my
driving kids off to the swimming lessons things like that everything goes on my
Outlook calendar that’s the only tool that I used to be honest wow you don’t
use any lists or something like this not really my kids make grocery lists now if
I say like I don’t have yogurt and it goes on some list somewhere at home but
it’s them doing it it’s not mine okay let’s go to our lightning round
then okay the first question is coffee or tea I always have my coffee with me but
this my question coffee or tea? coffee okay good
what did it do first thing when you wake up in the morning first I check my mail
okay this is everything everything yes yes literally I my lights on I’m
checking my phone I’m checking social media I’m reading all the news just
catching up with the world for the first 10 to 15 minutes and then and then my
husband and I we walk our dog after that next question is what’s your favorite
app but I think you already answered ever if you have a different business
I have a lot of different apps I like I really do actually I have to say the
most app that I use is Twitter or Facebook so oh okay yeah you’re very
social I’ll link your Twitter in the description of the video by the way
awesome sounds good anyone wants to follow yeah yeah sounds good so yeah I
would say Facebook probably because I’m catching up with people from a lot many
that’s that’s a good way for me to catch up with people you know like I know
what’s going on in people’s lives yeah even though I don’t see them or
talk to them so that kind of gives me that the nice sense that I’m still caught
up with people that I didn’t see for five years right right so and of course
outlook is another tool that I’m welcome concentrating my productivity tools
right oh yeah yeah yeah I get that if there is any product that you would love
to work on in inside or outside of Microsoft
well we’re with a product or service or anything that’s interesting I think
given that I’m going right now I’m dealing with like a lot of the fourth
grade math kind of things I think that’s one of the things that’s on top of my
mind is like I’ll probably create like apps for parents that makes it easy for
teaching fourth grade math like all the different concepts that are getting
introduced all of a sudden right now for my daughter like I mean I have to go
google up and do a lot of research on them so something I can just say hey
this is a prep app for fourth grade and you can kind of practice your math this
way I think that’s probably what is on top of my mind right now I’m sure if we
ask you the question in five is gonna be different
it’ll be different of course it changes every six months – what’s something that
you spend money on to make your life easier? my nanny
yeah I think that’s worth it it’s worth it I don’t know about you surprised
maybe not no surprise oh yes my Nanny is my thing the last couple
of years I’ve been spending quite a bit money on my nanny yeah but it helps of
course I think yeah it’s it’s 100% okay my last question is what would be your
advice to a girl who wants to be to come into stem or work in like a tech company
but hesitant because of ratio between the woman and and men in this field see
that’s not that’s not my honest advice is it was never it was never a limiting
factor for me I’ll tell you that in my graduating class of 4 bachelor’s in
computer science in the College of Engineering that I went to I was one of
the two girls that graduated from a with a degree in computer science and you
know what that was never a limiting thing you know I’m so glad there are a
lot of programs and things like that right now that Microsoft supports you
know growing women and things like that but even 12-15 years ago I didn’t have
that so I think you are maybe you have enough confidence you know it’s right
easy to get out in a room where right you need the only girl or only two girls
in the room yeah no you were you’re absolutely right you’re bringing me back
like 15, 15 years ago and how did I feel you’re absolutely right on these all
these geeky men boys they were always living and talking Linux and UNIX it was
not a comfortable situation mainly because I think I also had other hobbies
in things like that that I didn’t have anybody to talk with if I have to fit
into computer science I felt like I need to be talking this language and that’s
how my class was so again I have to say that I was not always confident but I
had to build my confidence and also another thing is I never gave up that’s
the biggest thing I would advice to anybody even my children I see is like
don’t ever give up you know you may not get this problem right today but if you
keep practicing and doing certain things you’re gonna you’re gonna be really good
at it next day right so those are the things
that I even teach my own my own daughter so she’s you know like she knows that
she needs to build that confidence and she can get anything done if she puts
her heart into so that’s that’s probably what I’ll say and I don’t I really don’t
think the girls should get discouraged there are a lot of men I think we do a
lot of things that are better than men in some ways and and we should just we
all have strengths and weaknesses we should definitely focus a lot on our
strengths and kind of bring your weaknesses up too so you’re kind of
leveled a little bit right so but don’t give up okay yeah yeah perseverance
that’s great yes thank you very much Hirini for being on girls thank you for
having me yeah of course bye bye you

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