We spoke with Janani Vasudevan, Principal Group Engineering Manager at Microsoft, about her career journey in tech.
What brought you into technology?
I was born and educated in India. As a young girl, my parents made one thing clear; to set myself up for success in life, I would need an education in a career I was passionate about. The field I picked did not matter, so long as I selected something I could excel in and become the absolute best.
In 10th grade, my parents bought me a computer - a big-screened monochrome 486 hunk of tech. I joined a computer programming class for the summer where I learned BASIC on my own and theory from teachers. When I was home, I could freely tap into my creativity.
I still remember what I developed first in BASIC - a moving animation of a person whose eyes could move back and forth. Thrilled with that design, I excitedly showed it to my parents and everyone I could. They were impressed, in that moment I discovered my love for tech and the joy it brought me. I started working towards my goal of getting into a good computer engineering program.
I completed my undergraduate degree, Bachelors in Engineering, specializing in Computer Science from College of Engineering - Guindy, in Chennai, India. During my final year of Engineering, I landed a job with Microsoft India as part of the campus interviews.
'I joined a computer programming class for the summer where I learned BASIC on my own and theory from teachers. When I was home, I could freely tap into my creativity.'
What are your biggest career and personal achievements?
In my career, I’ve been fortunate to work in both India and the US, both as an individual contributor and a manager. I’ve been lucky to work on some of the most interesting projects at Microsoft. Some of those are:
- Co-developing the Azure Service Operator for Kubernetes with customers - working with customers directly and adapting what I build to them is something I love!
- Building a team to develop the first version of the Azure Customer Lockbox service - I’m always excited with a challenge, in this case, it was building a new team and a new service ground up, and all within 6 months!
- Leading the creation of the mobile device management client for Windows 8 - I am especially proud of this as this was something I led as a new product manager, after 9 years of engineering experience.
As for personal achievements, I love that I can make time to mentor through the Global Giveback circle outside of work. Apart from projects, I also pride myself in mentoring and coaching many engineers and PMs, helping them grow in their career. I also a member of the Microsoft Commercial Software Engineering Ambassador Program, where I get involved in Women tech communities to foster more opportunities for inclusivity in our organization.
There, I have the chance to share stories of my work and personal experiences in the industry which has helped to provide me with a wide range of perspectives.
Where is your current place of work and role?
I currently work for Microsoft in the Commercial Software Engineering organization, and I am based out of Boulder, Colorado. I am an engineering manager leading five developer teams with about 28 team members.
It is an exciting role where we code along with customers on engagements, helping them to build innovative solutions to onboard to Azure while at the same time imparting our knowledge of engineering practices. Check out this blog where we capture some of the work we do.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
One thing I’ve realized much later in my career is the power of mentoring. I wasn’t as forthcoming about asking folks to be my mentors or sponsors early on in my career, mainly because of my fear of “what if they say no”. Now I know that it is probably not true, most folks are ready to help. And also that it’s ok if some of those don’t work out.
If I could go back in time, I would encourage my younger self to solicit more mentorship. This would have helped me understand my options better and given me more direction on how to have career conversations.