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Holly boothroyd

Software engineer, Microsoft

 

And - Founder, @herhelloworld

The ability to program is a unique skill that allows you to be able to create the change you wish to see in the world.

What do you do?

In my role, I program features for Cortana on Windows and Xbox. To deliver robust, quality products to the user, my work involves close collaboration with our in-house designers and international Microsoft teams. During the development process, I have to consider how scalable my solution is as the code that I write will be shipped to over 700 million PCs around the world!

 

On the side, I am a passionate advocate for women in tech. I help organize and volunteer at Microsoft’s DigiGirlz events that help inspire young girls to enter into technology whilst also teaching them how to program for the very first time! I also help assist teaching web development with Code First: Girls in partnership with Microsoft. More recently, I have created @herhelloworld to reach women (and men) around the world to help support their tech journeys and offer personalized mentorship.

Why did you choose this field?

From a young age, I played video games with my dad. Together we talked about how we would modify the games to include new functionality and improve the gameplay. The ability to create something from nothing sparked my interest in technology and programming.

In high school I attended a 5-week intensive games programming summer course at one of the best private games' development universities in the country - DigiPen. It was my first real glimpse of programming. We learnt about game development and at the end we created our own game in C++. At times it was exhausting and honestly, I wondered if programming was for me. However, making my own game was my first step towards becoming a programmer.

I then took an advanced placement computer science class. Being from the home of Microsoft, Seattle, I was very fortunate to be taught by an ex-Microsoftie and have Microsoft employees come into class every day to help us program. My computer science teacher changed my life. He motivated me and reassured me when I struggled. I would get very frustrated when my code didn’t work and felt I didn’t know anything, but he said to me, “stop and think about all the things you do know. The learning curve is so steep that you forget how much you do know!”. I remind myself those words all the time. A positive attitude makes all the difference. After completing that class, I knew being a software engineer was the path for me.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

"Sometimes the route to your dreams is not always obvious."

It was always my dream to work at Microsoft, so when I landed my first “real” job as a Microsoft Software Engineering Intern on Paint 3D, I couldn’t be more ecstatic. In that role, I was given enormous amounts of responsibility and feature ownership on the product. I feel a real sense of pride knowing that I have contributed to making 3D creation and creativity accessible to all ages.

 

After Paint 3D, I got to work on Xbox, another life goal. It was an incredible learning experience and fascinating to meet the people who created the products that inspired me join the technology industry. Both of these experiences proved to me that anything is possible.

 

I moved 5,000 miles away from home and Microsoft HQ, so I had could learn the skills at university that would enable me to work for Microsoft in London and be able to fly 5,000 miles back home to work at Xbox. As long as you keep taking steps in the right direction, you will always be learning, and your goals will be closer in sight.

Why do you love working in STEM?

"It is a privilege to use my skills to create impact globally every day."

In the technology industry, anything is possible. Innovation happens rapidly which makes every day exciting. It is an absolute privilege to use my skills to help improve lives. I wake up excited to tackle new problems and to create something out of nothing.

The ability to program is a unique skill that allows you to be able to create the change you wish to see in the world. Whether that is through being an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur at a company, all you need is a computer and internet connection to make far reaching impact on the world. 

Best advice for the next generation

Working in STEM is an incredibly empowering experience. However, at times it can be really challenging. There will be problems that you will need help with from others and there will be people who underestimate you, but if you have confidence in yourself and follow your passions you can overcome anything. 

Fun fact

Besides programming, I love to travel. Meeting new people and putting myself in unfamiliar situations is an incredibly eye-opening and sometimes a very humbling experience. I find that I can better empathize with others now and have a much better perspective on how people live around the world. It reminds me that like programming, there is never just one solution to a problem or one way to live a life.