Career development, Product Management, TPM's Book club

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My Microsoft Journey : 4.5 years equals a perfect 5

Earlier this year, our company made a difficult decision to cut 10,000 jobs across divisions until the end of March. Unfortunately, some teammates and I were informed earlier last week that we didn’t make it through the last round of reduction of the workforce. 

Back in Nov 2021, I wrote a blog post about my 3-year journey at Microsoft.  Originally, I had planned to write a similar post on my actual five-year anniversary at Microsoft in November 2023. However, things didn’t unfold as I had hoped. 

With a heavy heart, I decided to write this post about my adventures and learnings at Microsoft, and hopefully, it will help those with similar aspirations and those looking to break into the tech corporate world. 

Cloud Solution Architect: Give & Take 

In November 2018, I joined Microsoft UK’s Customer Success Unit as a Cloud Solution Architect (CSA), where my primary focus was helping customers adopt Microsoft Azure and build cloud-native applications with technologies such as Azure Kubernetes Services and Azure Functions and contribute to building an end-to-end app Innovation journey for our customers at Microsoft. During my time at Microsoft, I was thrilled to see the positive impact our team’s efforts had on our customers’ success with Azure, and many fondest memories of coaching at Microsoft OpenHacks events side-by-side with our peers, partners, and customers. I have further detailed my CSA experience and thoughts in a blog post that recaps my first 3 years at Microsoft

As a CSA, I was also actively involved in the community, bringing product-related requests to the product team and contributing to the product documentation. These experiences have further ignited my passion for becoming a product manager, which would give me the opportunity to contribute directly to the product, make a more positive impact on the business, and help even more customers on the planet. This brings me to the next stop at Microsoft. 

Product Manager at Azure Data 

Earlier 2020, I started as a product manager at Microsoft UK, working on SQL Server Big Data Clusters ( SQL BDC), a cloud-native, open data platform for data analytics running on Kubernetes. Due to the pandemic, my relocation plans have been constantly delayed. As a result, I had to work with the Redmond team against 9 hours of time zone differences during 1.5 years. 

During this time, that’s the debut to learn about driving success throughout the entire product development cycle, from ideation to launch, working collaboratively with cross-functional teams, from engineering, design, and marketing. Knowing customers’ pain points through user research and iterations, driving clarity, and understanding user journeys are essential that I learned as a product manager. I am greatly grateful for what I have learned from my mentor, former GPM, JRJ, who was an invaluable resource and possessed both excellent technical expertise and business sense.

During the 1st year, as a product manager helped deliver 2 customer success stories as a product manager. I am still delighted with the fact that even after I moved to other PM roles, some customers I had the pleasure of working with during this time continued reaching out to me for new collaborations.

During my time as a SQL BDC PM,  I not only contributed to the development of SQL Server Big Data Clusters (SQL BDC) but also published many SQL Server documentation articles and product-related blogs on Azure SQL Dev blogs and Tech Community. Additionally, I had the opportunity to present at several conferences, such as MVP Summit, Microsoft Build, SQLBits and Data Platform Summit(DPS), where I shared my knowledge and insights with others.

Working remotely has been challenging, but with support from my family and colleagues, as well as the mentorship and collaboration that helped me grow both personally and professionally. However, shortly after relocating to Redmond, the headquarters of my dream company, a new continent, things took a turn for the worse. My beloved SQL BDC was set to be retired, and at the same time, I suffered a leg injury that left me immobile for six months. Furthermore, I was moved to a different PM team under the same organization. In the midst of experiencing extreme burnout and dealing with a broken leg,  that was my lowerest point in life. 

However, this difficult experience taught me valuable lessons. I came to the realization that success is not solely based on how hard or how well one works, but rather, how well their efforts are received. That also helps me realize having a supportive and competent direct manager is crucial to be successful in a corporate working environment, even in the greatest company on the planet.

Product Manager at Azure Developer experience 

I was eager to dive back into the Developer space and make a greater impact with a team of like-minded individuals under better management, so I joined the Azure Developer Experience team as a Product Manager for Azure Functions.

This is one of the most amazing organizations I have ever worked for at Microsoft. It embodies everything I had ever imagined in a workplace at Microsoft, and it is the perfect fit for me in terms of culture, transparency, diversity, and inclusion.

What makes it truly exceptional is its unwavering commitment to building products that customers love, with data-driven and customer-driven approaches at the forefront. The organization takes a thorough approach to developing products, from formulating hypotheses to conducting user research and making data-driven decisions to support its efforts. An interesting aspect of our workplace is the mandatory internal training workshops that are designed to equip everyone with the necessary skills and knowledge to apply customer-driven approaches on the job. As a member of a high-performing team, we were 2 out of 8 teams were selected, so I had the opportunity to present to Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President as part of the winning team during the first few weeks.

Being a product manager is an excellent way to develop leadership skills. You’re not the boss of anyone, but you are responsible for driving the success of the product across cross-functional and partner teams. Looking back, I am grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given during my experience as a product manager on the Azure Functions team. I also truly appreciate the supportive and transparent management, from my direct manager to the skip manager, PM director, and senior leadership team, which has set the industry standard for leadership. I’ve had numerous opportunities to learn and grow, and I’ve been given the freedom to leverage my PM skills to help the team deliver product success.  

Despite English being my third language, I was able to fulfill my desire to shape my public speaking skills by actively representing Azure Functions in various community events, such as hosting the first two Azure Functions community standups, delivered .NET Conf 2022 and One Dev Questions. As the conference season approaches, I am eagerly looking forward to contributing to multiple community engagements, including VS Live, .NET Day, MVP Summit, Microsoft Build, and potentially even Microsoft Ignite.

During my time at Azure Functions, I was convinced that I had found the perfect place to work, where I could make a significant impact on the product, the business at Microsoft while also contributing to the developer community.

Sudden change

I truly enjoyed my experience as an Azure Functions PM and remained optimistic about the future, even with the layoffs that are happening across the company. However, my optimism was cut short when my colleagues and I were informed that we did not make it through the last round of workforce reduction. The news came as a shock not only to me but also to some of my coworkers. 

Microsoft is a company that shows a great deal of compassion and support when it comes to making those kinds of difficult decisions. After taking a few days to process everything, I made the decision to take a career break to pursue personal goals such as traveling, learning, building my own startup, and ultimately relocating back to France. 

What’s Next 

The most valuable resource I’ve gained from this sudden change is time. I used to be quite diligent in managing my personal calendar, but having more ‘headspace’ has given me the opportunity to focus on my own interests and pursuits.

I’d spent more time learning a new piano piece rather than juggling my memories with the same notes, I would also love to create more new artworks and showcase them in my art gallery on DeviantArt. My artwork has been displayed in Microsoft’s internal employee art gallery before, and I would like to take it a step further and launch an art exhibition in Europe to showcase my work as a painting artist someday.

Moreover, with this sudden change, I now have more time to explore some of the ideas that once seemed too far out of reach. With the emergence of cloud-native and AI technology, I have several ideas in mind that could make my career break more interesting : 

  1. Grow Cloud-Native Innovators newsletter. This bi-weekly newsletter helps individuals stay informed of the ever-evolving cloud-native and serverless technology trends, productivity tools, and product management insights. You can sign up from here. The first issue will be on April 16th, 2023, and will land in your mailbox every two weeks. 
  1. Build more content on my Youtube channel: CloudMelon Vis.  The goal of this channel is to share the knowledge and skills they need to build and grow successful tech products and excel in their careers in the rapidly-evolving cloud-native and serverless space. There are 1.27B English speakers on the planet ( versus 300M French speakers and 580M Spanish speakers ), so I will still be focusing primarily on creating English content. I will add French ( or later Spanish ) voiceover later once the multi-audio feature, which is currently tested by Mr.Beast released on Youtube to all creators. 
  1. Build an MVP about Open AI with cloud-native & serverless tech. 2023 is merely the beginning of the era of AI technology, 2023 will be a pivotal year for AI technology, with cloud-native technologies such as Kubernetes allowing us to run OpenAI on scalable infrastructures for powerful models like GPT-3, CLIP, and DALL·E. While Kubernetes clusters are a great match for running AI models in production, Serverless is also becoming increasingly important when it comes to responding quickly to user requests. Back in 2022, I wrote about cloud-native serverless technologies and their use cases & limitations, such as KEDA and VK. There are many ways to make a difference.  Leveraging AI is a common courtesy, but it’s on the way to producing specialized AI that’s built on top of the common models to address real-life scenarios, and it’s meant to be part of our daily life with a simple and user-friendly experience. On the user experience side, I tested Jasper AI and BingGPT / ChatGPT. I believe Microsoft is piloting us towards a future where AI will no longer be autopilot but more driving towards co-pilot. It’s exciting to imagine a foreseeable future where we can all access AI tools that empower us to become Ironman/Ironwoman ( or should I say Ironheart). I will be documenting my journey of building this MVP on my youtube channel. 

(Updated in May 2023 – CloudMelon Vis in 2023)

YouTube video

On the road

I am incredibly grateful that CloudMelon Vision has been accepted into Microsoft for Startups program. Microsoft for Startups is a program designed to support software entrepreneurs and startups by providing them with Azure credits, including dedicated credits for OpenAI on Azure, and free licenses to selected products in the Microsoft ecosystem. It enables me to dedicate myself fully to creating a real MVP instead of simply demoing educational resources.

With Viva Tech conferences coming up this year in Paris, France, I also look forward to connecting with more EMEA-based startup founders, and I hope to become part of La French Tech as an Asian female representation in the French tech ecosystem and collaborate with other like-minded individuals ( Old French saying: Les beaux esprits se rencontrent ! ) and create a positive impact in the tech industry.

Continued Charity Campaign

Although my personal circumstances won’t affect my commitment to making a positive impact and helping people in need as a published author. Therefore I will stick to my giveaway plan and be donating 100% of the loyalty from my latest book Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) Exam Guide, to support Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) in September 2023.

Get a copy from here on Amazon: to support my charity campaign. And if you’re also impacted by #techlayoffs and want to make your next great career chapter in the cloud-native space, comment down below, I’d be happy to provide a free copy for you. Life is an incredible journey that’s full of adventures waiting to be discovered. Let’s stay tuned!

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