Josie Strange-Christie

Nothing leaves you where it found you

Queens of Tech Podcast

60+ questions with female tech influencers about their journey into STEM

#13

Tech Queen

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Josie Strange-Christie - Senior Technical Program Manager – Data Analytics at Microsoft

Josie Strange-Christie

Senior Technical Program Manager – Data Analytics

Josie is a Senior Technical Program Manager at Microsoft with experience working on executive teams building in-depth reporting structures and data models to support organizational performance tracking in product and industry. Academically, she specialized in entrepreneurship for her MBA and full-stack web development at the University of Washington. She currently manages a development team implementing data infrastructure for Azure Cloud data analytics.

 Josie has a strong background in data engineering and Business Intelligence development. She coaches early in career or aspiring Business Intelligence Developers on how to build efficient data pipelines and visualizations to convey business KPIs and performance.

Strange-Christie, Josie

Full transcription

In this episode. I’m very excited to welcome my guest tech queen, Josie Strange Christie, product Analyst at Microsoft. Hi Josie!I’m very happy to have you joining us from New York, US today. 

How are you?
I’m doing well. I’m excited to be here. Thank you.

Now let us dive into your journey into tech. Hope you’re ready for the Queens of Tech’s 60-plus questions.
I’m ready.

***FUN FACTS ***
  1. How would you describe your personality in three hashtags?
    #kind, #ambitious and #quickwitted.
  2. How would you describe your life in three sentences?
    Busy, adventurous and evolving.
  3. What kind of music stimulates and motivates you the most?
    It depends on the day.  Sometimes I’m listening to a Spotify playlist called Feeling Accomplished, and then other days I’m listening to Anxiety by Megan Thee Stallion.
  4. What’s your personal motto?
    “Nothing leaves you where it found you.” This is something I think my family started saying and basically it was always used in the context of everything is always teaching you a lesson and then you can draw back on that in the future to make educated decisions.
  5. What is your favorite book?
    I don’t think I have one.
  6. What is your favorite podcast?
    Sometimes I listen to how “I built this” because I’ve always loved memoirs of sorts, and then this particular podcast, I love hearing about entrepreneurs’ experience and just learning about why they created the company and the challenges they went through before their success.
  7. Mac or PC?
    I feel like I have to say PC.
  8. Say something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know.
    I was a division one athlete.
  9. What is your hidden talent?
    I’m very creative. I actually make custom clothes.
  10. If you were going to write a book about your life what would the title be?
    I’m too private to write a whole book about myself, so I don’t think I would do it in the first place.

***CHILDHOOD***

  1. Where did you grow up?
    I grew up in the US.
  2. What was your dream job as a child?
    I wanted to be a veterinarian.
  3. What was your favorite subject in school?
    Science. I remember reading chapters ahead in my textbook and taking the practice quizzes for fun.
  4. What was your least favorite subject?
    History, which is important to me now, but at the time was painful.
  5. What would you say is your earliest memory of technology and the arrival of the internet?
    My dad bought a computer for his business, and I would go into his office and use the chat apps, talk to my friends, or I would play the PC games like Carmen, San Diego or Dr. Brain.
  6. Which were then the three first technology gadgets you owned?
    Tamagotchi Frog I had a little mermaid gaming device, and then eventually a phone. I think the only game on that one was the snake game. This is gonna make me sound older, but it was one of those very old brick phones.
  7. Who was your female role model and why?
    I don’t think I knew this at the time, but it’s definitely my grandmother, Alma. She was a very strong woman, moved to San Francisco by herself at 18. She had her own career, started her own business, and was an amazing seamstress in her free time.
  8. How do you think where you grew up and the school you went to and the generation you come from influence your education and career choice?
    Growing up in the US where K12 education is mandatory and free is definitely a privilege in itself, and that’s something that shaped my opportunities. And as a millennial in my school, had a computer lab and I was able to take technical classes and that shaped my trajectory and interest in tech.

 


***CAREER PATH***

  1. What did you study at university?
    I studied business in undergrad and business entrepreneurship in my MBA program. I’ve always wanted to run my own business or build one.
  2. Who and what influenced you to get into your chosen field?
    All of my data classes in my master’s program were the most interesting, and I  thought, Why am I not pursuing something more technical? After I graduated, I had a little pay bump and I decided to go back to school for a specific focus of full stack web development.
  3. What professional roles have you had before that led you to the current one?
    I was a cloud solution architect, but for an executive team. And in this process I was given the opportunity to use my data engineering bi developer and design skills combined to create a reporting platform for an organization as an internal tool, and then coach executive leadership with the insights in my reporting app. This role stretched me the most of my career, and I have to give the leadership on that team credit for where I’m at today.
  4. What does your company do, and what is your title?
    Microsoft is a technology company that builds software, hardware, and consumer electronics, and my role specifically is a senior technical program manager.
  5. How did you get the job, and what are your main responsibilities?
    I moved internally for this specific role, but I manage and work with a team of developers and the analysts supporting data architecture reports and analysis.
  6. What does a typical work day look like for you?
    Meetings I’m in a lot, but it’s a balance of doing some dev work for small projects, solve problems, and then scoping work like a data migration plan for our team.
  7. What do you love about your job?
    Problem solving, building tools for efficiency. I don’t like doing the same thing every day, so I’m always looking for new ways to streamline processes or change.
  8. What is the best experience you’ve had in your role so far?
    I’ve really enjoyed mentoring the early career colleagues.
  9. What is the biggest challenge, you have encountered so far, and how did you tackle it?
    I’ve learned that the way I communicate may be received poorly by different audiences. For example, my international colleagues do not communicate the same way as my American colleagues, and as a result, I’ve had to adjust my communication style based off of the audience.
  10. What do you wish everybody understood about your role?
    Titles. I’ve performed the same job functions consistently, but had many different titles given to me in the process, and then interviewed for the same title I’ve had prior, and it’s been a completely different scope of work, which is less technical. there’s some room for growth in understanding the nuances of the roles in my opinion.
  11. What is one of the common myths about your professional field that you want to disprove that everybody?
    I’m not sure what myths there are, but what I’ve observed is people don’t understand the difference between an analyst and a bi dev or a data engineer. It all gets grouped together as analytics, but these roles are so different in nature and skillset.
  1. What do you love about working in the tech industry?
    The options are endless on where you can work geographically. I love working in industry that scales globally.
  2. What has by far been your biggest achievement in your career?
    The relationships I built and the mentoring of others, many former colleagues are still coming to me for help with the data issue, and it makes me feel like I’m having a greater reach of impact.
  3. What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful? Any success habits?
    I’ve been able to discern which feedback I want to take, and once I make that decision, I enact the changes that are being asked of me quickly.
  4. How do you measure your own performance at work?
    I’m a high achiever and I have high expectations for myself. Core priorities are something I look for a roadmap. I stay hyper focused on those areas and where I can grow or enhance the work. I’m always anticipating the next question and trying to solve it beforehand. I also ask for feedback along the way if things are trending correctly. I usually know by that point.
  5. What is your biggest failure in your career, and what did you learn from it?
    I’m human. So of course, I wouldn’t necessarily call this a failure, but when I look back and think about areas I failed myself, that maybe would’ve progressed my career faster. It’s managing up and advocating for myself.
  6. What is inspiring and motivating you the most in your role and career right now?
    Being someone that others can come to for help or advice on their career or their projects. I love mentoring and problem solving. It’s what lights me up inside.

***MENTORSHIP AND ROLE MODELS**
  1. Do you have a mentor today?
    I do. I’m actually still meeting with a former manager and other former leaders I’ve worked for. It’s so important to have someone who believes in your abilities, especially when you might be following in your own personal confidence. These individuals help put you back on the right track explaining what next steps you need to take to reach your goals.
  2. Who is the female role model you look up to in your field?
    This is a tough one. I have mentors at Microsoft who are women in leadership.  Those are the two women I go to the most that I really admire how they’ve gotten into leadership, and I look to them for a lot of advice.
  3. How important do you think it is to have a role model mentor during one’s career?
    I think it’s very important. It’s definitely helpful to have a roadmap of a career trajectory to replicate and someone to talk to about navigating issues along the way.
  4. What does leadership mean to you?
    Leadership means inspiring others.
  5. What do you consider a good versus a bad leader?
    A good leader is someone who inspires you and is empowering coaches you, and is someone who models behavior that others should emulate. Bad leader. Basically the opposite, but one common theme I personally find hard to thrive in is a micromanager. It leads to erosion of trust, which makes it difficult to work asynchronously and operate autonomously.It just holds others back.
  6. Who would you say is your favorite female tech leader?
    I can’t say, I can even think of the top of my head, female leaders in tech. I know they exist, but we really only see the men in tech featured in articles and business reviews.
  7. How would you describe yourself as a leader?
    Someone who works with you to solve the problem, communicates clear expectations, and empowers employees who accomplish the work in their own preferred style as long as it ultimately gets finished on time.
  8. What values are most important for you as a leader?
    EQ, professionalism and a growth mindset. I think people easily forget how much it means when you feel like you’re valued and cared about.
  9. What leadership lessons have you learned that have formed you into the leader you are today?
    Model, coach, and care, I believe leaders who embody those key qualities are the most effective.
  10. What would you say are your three strengths and three weaknesses?
    Weaknesses. I’m blunt, I’m impatient sometimes and I need certainty, strength. I’m open-minded to others’ opinions, and if  someone has a suggestion, I’m always happy to try it to see if it works. I’m tenacious and persistent when it comes to pushing through and getting work done, and I’m a good teammate. I have my sports creative thing for that.


***DIVERSITY, EQUALITY, INCLUSION & BELONGING***

  1. What do diversity, equality, and inclusion mean to you personally?
    This means making an environment that doesn’t tolerate anything that hinders these attributes. Hiring a lot of companies rely on hiring candidates from the top five business schools. This is not inclusive from a race, gender, age, or socioeconomic standard. And as an employee, there needs to be more support and empathy to create an environment that doesn’t require self censoring or code switching to be taken serious or valued, just leadership. There  needs to be more representation of women.
  2. What do you consider to be three to five signs of good company culture if you were to join a company?
    Supportive in action, not just words. this is more relevant to a development team or production, but if everything is urgent or ad hoc consistently, I tend to believe we have a planning or scoping issue. If I read in a job description, Quote, comfortable working in an ad hoc environment or with ambiguity. I tend to avoid . This just leads to burnout culture that in my opinion, could be avoided. I like to work with teams who value working smarter, not hard, and that begins with planning and setting expectations and clear goals.
  3. As a woman, what has been the most significant barrier in your career, and how have you overcome these challenges?
    A lot of the career advice I received was oriented toward the male corporate archetype, and unfortunately that didn’t scale for someone like me, a female. I could exhibit the same behaviors as the man next to me and be misinterpreted as negative characteristics that were holding me back. I’m still a strong person and I definitely show that, but as in a more authentic way to myself.
  1. Why do you think it is important for more women to join the tech industry, especially as leaders?
    Men in tech are less likely to design products that aren’t associated with them. Women. Joining tech is a fresh approach to design women related products that will serve women. I remember shopping online and for example, The pre-selected gifts for women versus men was eye opening to me. For women it was jewellery, clothing, perfume, not one tech gadget or item. For men, it was practical things, it so many tech gadgets, and I thought this bias is so deep in our everyday life. We need more women in the industry just to pick the selected gifts for women in these companies. 
  2. Do you, and how do you speak with your female colleagues and male colleagues about diversity quality and inclusion challenges, especially salary gaps?
    I do with people I have a relationship with. You can trust it with sensitive topics, but I’ve noticed it’s normal to discuss compensation and rewards now, and in some places in the US there’s a required salary range for the job description when posted for open rules.
  1. There are many public and internal discussions about the barriers women face from reaching higher positions in the tech industry. How do you feel it has affected and is affecting you, and what is your advice on how to best unlock these roadblocks?
    Imposter syndrome not fitting in. Unequal  growth opportunities compared to men. Unequal pay for the same skills, gender bias in the works place, just to name a few. I think we can help solve this or make things a little bit better by connecting early in career women with managers, mentors, and sponsors. Provide training resources for opportunities to projects to accelerate skills growth in technical areas. I’ve personally thrived when I had a safe space to fail SaaS and learn quick.
  1. As the tech industry finds it hard to attract and retain women what is your best advice on strategies for how companies can work to build a stronger corporate culture that engages gender diversity? 
    Create more supportive environments for women. For example, like childcare resources, opportunities to lead projects, transparent salary ranges, more accountability for harassment in the workplace. If women felt like they could speak up without retaliation, they might stay rather than leave.
  2. What would you say then are the few challenges and possibilities of implementing diversity, equality, and inclusion in a workplace?
    Empathy is a  challenge in implementing DEI. There’s a barrier for people to be able to put themselves in other’s shoes, and a lot of times if it doesn’t affect someone, they’re not going to push for new initiatives. Possibilities are huge. With a workplace that looks like the world, a company would have more opportunities to represent nuanced markets that aren’t being addressed today, and in return scale more.
  3. Why and how do you think companies would benefit from having workplace gender diversity especially better gender representation at C-level?
    I think there are more positives and more than I can list, but the first thing that comes to mind is having more gender representation, dismantles current power structures, and I think it can also help women to get to upper levels of leadership with people who will advocate for your work without the male archetype bias in a way.
  4. How much do you think the tech industry has changed regarding this subject since you joined?
    I think so much has been done to communicate the importance of workplace de and I, and I can see in some areas outside of technical roles, it’s better, but it’s been incremental and we have a lot of room to grow in the tech industry.
  5. Looking back on your own career what one thing would you have changed in your working environment to break the bias?
    I had that time over again, I would’ve tried to work more strategically with leaders I trusted or were more perceptive about these issues that had influence.
  6. Looking forward what will you do as a leader to improve the bias for the next generation of women in tech?
    Having more open conversations about barriers at work and actively trying to create opportunities equally.


**MENTAL HEALTH AND WORKPLACE BALANCE***

  1. I’m sure without a doubt you have a busy lifestyle, so how do you take care of yourself to maintain good mental health?
    I try to be balanced in my approach to working out eating healthy and taking time away from work.
  2. Have you ever experienced burnout?
    Not a total burnout. 
  3. What motivates you every day to get out of bed?
    Definitely not a hundred percent work, but it’s the things that having my career supports.
  4. What is your advice on how companies can create a more mentally healthy workplace in the new now? Listen to the issues that are being brought up and don’t view them as complaints. View them as opportunities to refine process, and stop enabling bad behavior and toxic culture for high performers.

**WORDS OF WISDOM***
  1. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given that has helped you during setbacks in your role and career?
    There’s not a phrase or particular word someone used, but encouragement from colleagues or managers has always helped me overcome setbacks.
  2. What is the worst advice you have ever been given, and how did you tackle that?
    I had a professor in undergrad who told me nobody would be impressed with my math skills, which really affected my confidence, but I’m stubborn and I took a new class with the teacher who valued my tenacity to learn and helped me grow. Once I built my confidence back up and I graduated, I. Pursued roles in data analytics, got more experience, and then went back to school to learn more formal data science and engineering skills. I think the best way I tackled that was not giving up on myself after one bad experience, and I’ve taken this experience and turned it into fuel for my career. This is one of the many lessons and reasons I’m picky about what feedback I take from others.
  3. Is there something you wish you would have known or a skill you wish you had when starting out in the tech industry?
    Network more.
  4. If you have the ability to go back in time when you were just the beginning of your career what advice would you give to your younger self?
    Make sure you have a balanced life and stop trying to be perfect.
  5. What advice would you give to young girls and women, wanting and trying to break into STEM fields today?
    Network, get a mentor and use YouTube videos as training. Take advantage of free online resources.
  1. What is next for you in your role and career in tech what are your career aspirations?
    Director, People mMnager, and aspirational VP.