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#STEMStories: Cathy, Program Manager, USA


1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do?

My name is Cathy Moya and I work for Microsoft in a Customer Experience Engineering team. My job is to connect our engineers and our customers so we can build the best possible products based on deep, honest feedback. I manage our Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVPs) for System Center Configuration Manager, Microsoft Intune, and Windows for IT. I manage our online suggestion box called UserVoice. And I created an initiative called #WomenITPros to help invite and support women in tech careers that don’t involve coding, because there’s A LOT more to working in tech than being able to code. I’ve had a variety of jobs at Microsoft since 2002 and none of them involved writing code.

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

If you had told me 20 years ago this is what I’d be doing with my life I would have laughed. I was a theater major. I love theater, but I realized I didn’t love it in the way I’d need to in order to make a living at it. I also loved tech - I was really good at the one computer class they started my senior year of high school, but no one ever said, “Hey, Cathy, you know you could major in computers instead of theater?” I just didn’t think that was for me. But even back in the 80’s there was a lot of tech in theater - I wrote my plays on early word processors on early PCs, I much preferred using computerized lighting boards when I did lighting design, we were starting to use AutoCAD for other designs.

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

My personal mission statement is “helping people understand things better”. The more my job is about that, the more I love it. Right now I help our MVPs understand our products better and they turn around and help our user community. I also connect our MVPs with our engineers so the product team can truly understand what our users need. I am inspired now to tackle a problem I see that contributes to the lack of diversity in tech - if we make it sound like you aren’t welcome in tech unless you know how to code, we’re losing talent that could find other roles in the tech world.

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, did an amazing experiment with dogs. To sum it up, they had one group of dogs who could stop a shock by pushing a button with their noses, and a second group of dogs who had to wait for some other dog to stop the shock but couldn’t stop it on their own. In phase 2 of the experiment, the dogs could stop the shock by jumping over a low wall. They found the dogs in the first group quickly learned to jump away from the shock, but the dogs in the second group, the ones who couldn’t stop the shock at first, just stayed there. They “learned” that nothing they could do would change their situation, but they were wrong. When I feel stuck and stressed, I have to look for the things I can change. There’s always something I can change, even if it’s just my attitude about what’s happening to me. If I let myself believe things are hopeless and I can’t change anything, then I will stay stuck.

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

I don’t have a role model in the sense of “I’m not out there trying to do what they do” or thinking “what would she do in this situation?”, but Dona Sarkar is an inspiration to me. Her passion and energy are amazing. I saw her speak at the Women’s Conference at Microsoft several years ago and I was riveted by every word. I love how she brings together fashion and technology. I love how she is helping others pursue their dreams with her book #do the thing.

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

I would love to go back and have myself read Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg years ago. He brings together emotional intelligence and communication skills in a very unique way.

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. Find what you love and do it, even if it isn’t considered STEM. There is technology in everything, so seek out the technology parts of the thing you love to do and master those.
  2. Read the manuals. If the documentation is well-written, you can learn a lot from taking the time to read it through. And working in the ITPro world is a lot of “Read the ‘fine’ manual”, also known as RTFM. If the manuals aren’t good, or aren’t getting you want you need, go online and find other sources - user communities, meet ups, conferences. There’s a lot of info out there. (And if there isn’t, learn it yourself and start creating your own content!)
  3. Never be afraid to ask for what you want. There are always people out there willing to help you, if only because they were helped once upon a time. You will have people say no, but you will probably get more yesses than no’s.

8. How do you measure your success?

Probably not enough. :-) I tend to dwell more on my failures than measure or celebrate my success. I’m working on savoring my accomplishments.

9. Where can we find out more about your work?

I have a FAQ about #WomenITPros at https://aka.ms/womenitpros.
You can learn more about the Microsoft MVP program at https://mvp.microsoft.com.
You can see the moderation I do on UserVoice at https://microsoftintune.uservoice.com.

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

Twitter: @CxPCathy
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cxpcathy/ - if you mention #WomenITpros, I will accept your friend request.