Karen Djoury is a Test Manager of the Windows International team at Microsoft. She is responsible for testing all versions of the Windows operating system in languages other than English and ensuring a great localized experience. Karen manages a team of about 50 people. Her team partners with other international teams that test in-country.
Karen believes that the best part of her job is the chance to make a difference. She observes their current processes and looks at ways to make them more efficient. "My current job is a great learning opportunity. I think that there’s a huge impact that can be made." The scope of her role is also exciting to her. "My team touches all of Windows."
Karen actively seeks out opportunities that she enjoys and incorporates them into her job. "Having an outlet of things that I care about helps me get through the things that I don’t care about – guide your career to where your interests are," she advises. For example, Karen co-leads a "Women of COSD" group. (COSD is the Core Operating System Division, a subset of the Windows team.) Her passion for growing women in technology is a personal interest that she’s integrated into her job. The "Women of COSD" group holds quarterly events focused on career development and networking. The first event was a light-hearted panel discussion with senior employees sharing their career blunders and triumphs. They are soon launching mentoring rings as well.
The "Women of COSD" group also participates in a Windows-wide social networking program called "One Degree". ("It’s not a deodorant," Karen quips.) A woman can post an activity that she’d like to do (go to lunch, get a manicure, etc.), and five other people who are also interested can accompany her, at Microsoft’s expense. In this way, employees throughout Windows get to network in comfortable groups of six.
Karen also recognizes the importance of having a life outside of work. "My life is too important for me not to disconnect." She acknowledges that as a manager, this is even more important. "You need to set standards for your team. Sending email at 10pm on a Saturday does not set a good example."
As a girl, Karen always wanted to be a doctor. But she job-shadowed a doctor in high school, and realized that she disliked the hospital environment. At the encouragement of a friend’s brother, she tried Electrical Engineering in college. She enjoyed the software aspect of it. Karen also wanted to travel, which led to an internship with Microsoft Dublin for the summer. She started fulltime work in Microsoft’s main office in Redmond, Washington directly after college.
Even extremely successful women like Karen doubt themselves from time to time. "I felt like I was going to get fired for the first six months!" Karen started her career in Windows Networking, where she owned the http technologies. In her 6.5 years with the team, she has greatly expanded her scope of responsibilities.
Karen is unique in that she was promoted to a management position after only 1.5 years at Microsoft. She has a natural gift for managing and growing people. Karen was kind enough to share some of her tips and tricks:
- Build relationships. When you have strong relationships with your direct reports, peers, partners, and managers, you will create a more friendly work environment and have a network of people from which to solicit ideas, receive feedback, and share ideas. Plus, if you have a base of trust, you will get the benefit of the doubt when you make mistakes. "Ever have that one guy that ruins your day, or a really bad meeting? This happens a lot less if you take some time to build relationships."
- Take responsibility. Karen believes in contributing to all stages of a project: the planning process, bug triage decisions, and future directions. She originally was offered her first management position because in addition to her current role as a tester, she took on responsibility for driving the project forward. "When you transition to a management position, you are not just responsible for certain features; you are part of the leadership team for the project. If you see holes, take initiative and own fixing them. You can highlight the issue and hand it off to the appropriate person, or use it as an opportunity to grow yourself or someone on your team."
- Look up, not just down. Make time to focus on your own career growth as well as that of your employees. "If you’re not growing yourself, you can’t be successful growing others. Be self-motivated to grow your own career so you can give your employees opportunities to grow into your role."
- Manage different people differently. Karen modifies her management and communication style for each employee. A high performer working on a familiar task should have the freedom to plan their own schedule and give only occasional status updates. An underperformer will need more guidance. "Identify how to communicate through trial and error. In giving feedback, start with casual feedback and make the message stronger as needed."
- Understand your impact. If you are having a bad day or bad week or bad month, your morale will have an impact on your team. Managers must choose their words carefully; they are weighed heavily. "You can influence the team culture. Create a collaborative, positive work environment. Model the behavior that you want, and then reward those who contribute to it and ding those who negatively influence it."
Karen’s advice to other women in technology: "My biggest mistake is sometimes making decisions with my head and not my heart. I was happiest in my career when I found opportunities to do things that I enjoyed within my current role. Play to your strengths and interests."