I’m excited to participate in Ada Lovelace Day as so many of us pledged to do. It’s fantastic to celebrate all the great women in technology and women who have influenced our lives. I’ve been influenced by a lot of great women in my life, from family members like my mom, my aunt, and my sister to friends like Megan Ruf, Kendra Hartman and Diane Curtis, and great colleagues like Ann Strosaker, Judy Huber, Mary Beth Kelley at IBM, Jane Prey, Diane Curtis, Cristina Telleria at Microsoft. Yes, Diane counts twice 🙂
I decided today to write about a colleague here at Microsoft who I admire and whose passion for technology and for women in technology is truly inspiring, Jennifer Marsman.
How did you become interested in Technology?
I used to play the King’s Quest Games when I was in 6th-7th grade. I really loved getting involved and speaking the computer’s language by adding onto these games. King’s Quest, created by Roberta Williams, was one of the first games to have a female heroine. In King’s Quest 4 you got to play as the daughter/princess. My secret dream is to create female-targeted computer games!
Did you always know you wanted to build software?
No, my math teacher Mr. Carlson encouraged me to take my first programming class and I loved it. I started out as an undecided major at the University of Michigan. After my freshman year, I took an internship with Ford where I discovered that this was something I could do for the rest of my life. At Ford, my internship was working in a team environment and that made a big impact. We developed measurement tracking software for a plant .
What impacted you during college?
I had a lot of internships at Ford, National Instruments, Microsoft, and a small AI company in Ann Arbor. These helped me find my way within the industry and learn a lot about what I liked.
What career path have you taken after college?
After college, I joined the Natural User Interface group within Microsoft as a software developer. I worked on a team that analyzed the satisfaction of relevant search suggestions. For example, if you’re searching on a keyword and a website is recommended, you might add that link to your favorites suggesting this was a good recommendation.
Now I’m working as a Developer Evangelist. I’m responsible for understanding all the newest technologies from Microsoft and helping customers understand these as well. I recently brought Mark Midland a Visual Studio Specialist at Microsoft for a tour of my region to visit customers and .NET User’s Groups.
Wow, seems like a lot to know, How do you manage it?
You can’t know everything all at once, so I take an agile approach. I deep dive into topics as customers put in requests. For example, if a customer is interested in messaging and WCF, I create expertise in that area.
What fuels your passion for technology?
I have the coolest job ever. I get to learn and play with new technologies for a living. The job never gets boring because I’m always learning new things.
What do you like outside of technology?
I love to read, I have no taste in books I read anything and everything. I’m currently reading Water for Elephants, a NY Times bestseller about life in the circus. Some of my favorites are: Catch 22, Brave New World, and the Harry Potter series.
I also love theater and did ballet for 10 years. The highlight of my acting career was a summer workshop on Evita. The people running were actual Broadway actors and we were the chorus. I was a dancer dancing the actual Broadway choreography.
What advice do you want to share?
You can achieve any dream. My dream job was to work in the natural language group at Microsoft and I did it. I wanted to meet my role model Rebecca Norlander and I did it. (Jennifer was still brimming with excitement from this meet-up). Spend some time figuring out what you want and you will achieve it.
Also, having a network is invaluable. It’s helped me make tough decisions and be where I am today.