We spoke with Sonal Patil, Technical Program Manager Lead at Microsoft (CSE), about her career journey in tech.
Where did you study and what got you into technology?
As a young girl, I was forever curious about the world around me. As my passion to learn grew, my father, an engineer, encouraged me to ask questions and helped me build a strong foundation for problem-solving. I realized I needed to go deeper than the first layer to truly know how things work. Later in life, I left India to pursue my education in the United States. At the time, there was limited technology to support my ability to stay connected to my family, but I went anyway. When I graduated from my Master’s in Science (MS) program from the University of Southern California, I noticed a big shift in my ability to think outside the box. I found my calling in finding creative solutions and enhancing my problem-solving skills. In my career of nearly 2 decades, I have applied these skills to various engineering roles in the travel, smart metering and software industries.
What have been your biggest career and personal achievements?
One of the highlights of my time as a graduate student was working on the grid computing software that facilitated the Nobel prize-winning discovery of gravitational waves. But I believe my greatest achievement is building teams that span across geographies, cultures and different perspectives and connecting with people to shift their mindset about work and each other.
Tell us about your current place of work and role.
I lead a team of Technical Program managers, in Microsoft Commercial Software Engineering (CSE), who work closely with governments and not-for-profit customers across the world to tackle their most significant technical challenges. Being part of CSE means tackling problems from every angle, prescribing and helping our customers build the best solution to fit each unique situation – literally my dream job!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
My advice to my younger self is - be what you want to be! There isn’t a “best degree” or the perfect career trajectory – if you can spend your working life doing what you want to do and being what you want to be, then that is the career most suited for you! There will be times in the future where your career will not follow the path you had planned, but instead of worrying about when that happens, take comfort in knowing that by being mindful of your present you are shaping your future.