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How She Got There, With Amanda Langowski: The Path to Success at Microsoft

This isn’t new information, but just in case you haven't heard, the University of Washington is a top-notch university for its STEM-related undergraduate programs (science, technology, engineering, and math), garnering a prestigious reputation for their capacity-constrained majors that the best and brightest students compete for spots in. Thankfully, as the diversity within the school grows, the number of women in these STEM majors is increasing as well, and many graduates have a common goal of landing internships and eventual jobs at well-established tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and others based in the Pacific Northwest or Silicon Valley. Because of this, I started to wonder, “what does the path towards success in the competitive tech industry for women really look like in the long run?”

When searching for an answer to this question, I thought of Amanda Langowski, a longtime family friend of mine. When I met Amanda a few winters ago on a trip to eastern Washington, I remember being instantly inspired by her ability to engage in effortless conversation with me (despite all of my teenage awkwardness), her light-heartedness, and her ability to connect with everyone around her. After getting to know her better throughout the years, I’ve discovered that Amanda, after starting at Microsoft on a whim, is an example of someone who has taken her motivated and caring personality and put it towards success in her work. The result has been a 21-year career at Microsoft and counting, that allows her to passionately work with the interaction of people and technology, while she simultaneously navigates the ins and outs of succeeding as a woman in the expanding tech industry. As someone who’s been on a career path that thousands of young women hope to achieve in their futures, I wanted to learn more about the most important takeaways of her journey from a real perspective, as well as how she balances her work with the responsibilities of her life off-screen. 

 

1. What is the official title of your Microsoft position, and what does your job entail on a day-to-day basis?

Principal Program Manager Lead: I lead the Windows Insider Program. It's a community program that enables millions of tech enthusiasts to install preview builds of Windows and provide feedback directly to both our engineers and designers to help make impactful changes so Windows works best for them. I set the strategy for how we deliver builds, collect feedback, and communicate to Insiders (via blogs, social media, webcasts, podcasts & emails), and arrange for folks working directly on Windows to offer Insiders a deep dive into specific technology, while providing background on how some of their favorite features came to be. I lead a team of amazing individuals who engage with Insiders of social media, write blog posts outlining the new features to try with each update (called 'flights'), and triage feedback to route to engineers.

 

2. When did you experience a significant accomplishment in your career, and what continues to motivate you?

I’ve been at Microsoft for 21 years, and have lots of accomplishments in my career that I'm proud of. I thrive on issues where I can take ambiguous, tough problems, and distill them into a working set of principles, goals, and actions to provide clarity for a broad set of folks to be successful in reaching a common goal. Microsoft has allowed me to really explore my career organically and take on challenges that help me grow and explore new areas that I'm interested in. 

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3. In a field that can be largely male-dominated, how have you learned to keep working towards your goals as a woman and to speak up for yourself?

Over the years, I've gotten feedback that I'm both “too bitchy” and “too meek/passive,” but ultimately, I’ve wiped away the “personal” aspects of this feedback and just focused on my impact, learned where my approach should be tweaked to better communicate, and learned to influence folks in a way that's authentically me. While showing respect to others, I’ve also learned to listen, be comfortable with providing my perspectives, and make decisions on areas that are mine.

 

4. How have you learned to balance a busy family and social life with a demanding job? How do you take care of your own well-being?

I'm fortunate to have a partner who also works in my industry, so we have a mutual understanding of the pressures of the business, and seek out each other’s support to take breaks and spend extra time focusing on work when needed. Additionally, having kids has really helped me understand how to support a team and be a better listener in ways as well.

 

5. Throughout your career at Microsoft, how have your skills as an employee and a person grown overall? What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

Much of my career had focused on driving really broad projects across Microsoft—driving cross-team schedules and the product release of Windows large (desktop) and small (phone). I reached a point in my career at the start of 2020 where I felt I was losing “customer focus” after speaking “engineering” for so long, so I took on a role that both challenged me and allowed me to explore my creative side again by running an external-facing customer program. This both scared and energized me, as I'm not massively outgoing, but would expose me to public criticism and potential praise, neither of which are very comfortable for me, and I knew it was something I wanted to grow in. Little did I know that COVID lockdowns would go into effect the week before I started this role, changing a lot of the original expectations I had around travel and in-person sync-ups with customers. Even so, the challenge is still there, as I needed to connect authentically in different ways (through recorded videos and Teams presentations.)

 

6. For women wanting to enter into a career like yours, what is one piece of advice you would give them?

Technology is way more about people than it is about software. Learn to really understand people's motivations, passions, distractions, and intent when interacting and designing for them...and when it doubt, overcommunicate. 😊

 

To learn more about Amanda’s specific role or the Windows Insider program, check out her blog post and the website, or give her page a visit on Twitter

Hailey Hummel

Washington '23

Hailey is a current junior at the University of Washington, majoring in Public Health—Global Health (with departmental honors), and minoring in Law, Societies, and Justice. She loves hiking, traveling around the state of Washington and the world, making art, playing piano, taking pictures, and spending time with her friends.
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