UCL Careers


Transcript: Future Talk – Iulia Feroli, Data and Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft

Rodrigo Suarez Barrera is a Hydropower Engineer at Multiconsult Group, a leading firm of consulting engineers with a head office in Norway. He’s been with the company since 2018 and has collaborated in more than 29 hydropower projects and proposals with responsibilities ranging from project management to due diligence and design of hydropower projects in various stages of engineering. His work has allowed him to manage a multidisciplinary team in the UK, Norway, Pakistan, and Malawi. He has a BEng in Civil Engineering and a Master of Science in Hydropower Development and Hydropower Engineering.



Amy Lourenco, Iulia Feroli

Amy Lourenco  00:04

Hi everyone, this is UCL Careers Podcast Future Talk, My name is Amy Lourenco, Senior Careers Consultant at UCL. On this podcast which is powered by UCL Minds, we will be talking with professionals in different sectors about their career journeys and insights in relation to employability topics. This series is packed with guests who are change makers and innovators in their respective industries, and was created by the Engineering Careers team to help our students and graduates find out more about various professional experiences. Each episode will have a guest who will share their professional insights and provide valuable information relating to careers. The episodes will be available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and SoundCloud on a weekly basis. I am so pleased to be able to introduce our guests Iulia Feroli. She is a Cloud Solution Architect for Data and AI at Microsoft. She's been with the company since 2019, when she joined as an intern, she has a Bachelor of Science in Data science and Knowledge Engineering. Her passion for data science and technology can be seen through her creating her fantastic YouTube channel where she says valuable insights she's gained from her academic and professional experiences. In addition to this, she has spoken regularly at events about the importance of encouraging more women in the technology sector. So welcome to the podcast, Iulia. And thank you so much for joining us today.

Iulia Feroli  01:24

Thank you for having me really excited to have my first podcast appearance ever.

Amy Lourenco  01:30

I'm very excited to be hosting my first podcast, this is a new experience for me. So we have a couple of questions for you today. And it would be great to hear about your experience. And the first, is what was the application process like for you when you first applied to Microsoft for an internship?

Iulia Feroli  01:51

It was a quite a while ago but I still remember it pretty distinctly, I don't think I've ever been so stressed in my life until that point of the actual interview. But to start maybe of it from the beginning how that came about - so I was enrolled in a master program at the time, and I had a part time job at a different company. And I was trying to manage it all at the same time. But I thought I was quite happy with the place I was in. But you know, always open for different ideas. So I actually got a message from a recruiter on LinkedIn, who was working for Microsoft saying, "hey, there's these internships are going to be available. I think you have the right profile, would you like to apply?" And my first instinct was no, I have a job. Why would I want to be an intern again? But then, you know, it is Microsoft. And I thought that's pretty cool company and I would probably regret it if I don't actually try it out. So I messaged her back and I said, "Sure, I'll do it" just to see what happens. And I won't count on it or anything. And then I had like two phone interviews with different recruiters. And then I was invited to an assessment day with a bunch of other students from different universities in the Netherlands. And, yeah, we were all going to the office together, I got to see the office, which I didn't even know they had an office in the Netherlands, they have one in most of every country, really. But I thought it was kind of a US based thing. So then we had the assessment together. And we had a bunch of different challenges and hoops to jump through and in the end when I got an offer for that I quit my other job. And then soon after, I actually also quit my master's degree, since it wasn't really, I wasn't learning the things that I was so passionate about. And then seeing that Microsoft, for example, didn't care so much if I finished my degree or not. Yeah, I basically completely changed my whole life path around with that opportunity.

Amy Lourenco  03:53

Wow, that's amazing. So it has like that kind of opportunity of being headhunted almost it really led you to sort of changing paths.

Iulia Feroli  04:01

Yeah, exactly. Like I never thought about it. I mean, I think I thought about it when I was younger, like oh, my God, Microsoft, such a cool company. Maybe one day, I'll work for it. But I didn't think of it as Oh, I could try for it now or anytime soon. I was just happy to go with what I was going with. And then he had just one message saying, what about supplying and then everything kind of changed? So I took this jump into the unknown, and it really paid off. Thankfully.

Amy Lourenco  04:28

Yeah, that's that's an incredible story was really interesting. And so what was the process like from from the internship to them being sort of a permanent hire?

Iulia Feroli  04:39

Yeah, that's it was. I think I can say it was quite competitive. I think anyone would imagine that it would be. So the first bit interview and stuff to be an intern was we were all students. We were all you know, doing it individually. And then we had a few challenges together in the assessment day, but then out of the interns that were selected I know, we knew that some of us could go on to have a full time position, or they'll have external hires, or yeah, it was a lot of things that could go a lot of different ways at that point. And thankfully, during my internship, I had the freedom to kind of go around and explore different roles and work with different people within the company. And see kind of how I fit there. What kind of roles seemed more interesting than others and what I enjoy doing. So thankfully, I had like a six month trial, basically to see, okay, what do I like about Microsoft? What do they like about me? And is this where I want to be? And I think pretty early on, the answer was, yes, I love this company. So then it took me a while to narrow it down to which role I wanted to do, which in the end turned out to be the cloud solution architect, which I had never heard of before. So there's no way I would have applied to be a cloud solution architect from the outside. So I thought was very interesting to have like an open mind and just be like, okay, this role sounds interesting because of responsibilities of it, even though the title tells me nothing. And then the process to get that kind of changes every year. So when when I did it, it was more of a subtle thing. Like, okay, if your manager likes you, and if I, you know, have the right requirements, and you can apply internally, which was different than how they do it now, I think, but it was kind of a seamless ish transition for me. It wasn't for others. But luckily, I was there at the right time. And they were also looking for my profile. So it worked out.

Amy Lourenco  06:37

So it sounds like you had to do sort of sort of internal recruitment process for the for the actual role you ended up in which sounded like it was a bit less intense than the internship recruitment process.

Iulia Feroli  06:48

Yes. And no, it was different. I'm not sure. I would say it was less intense. It definitely felt quite intense at the time as well. Especially because yeah, all of us interns were friends, right? So we all wanted everyone to stay. But then, of course, not everyone had the right match. And we were very diverse profiles. So it made sense that we went quite separate ways. But yeah, it was more nice in a way that you could just talk to anyone in there, when you're not in a company already maybe it's harder to contact the people to get more information. But since we were already basically employees, it was really nice that I could just message anyone and shadow them for a day and see for myself, you know, if if it's a good fit or not. And then they also got to see my work firsthand. So it was easier, I think, than applying from the outside.

Amy Lourenco  07:37

And was it that shadowing that encouraged you then to choose the sort of cloud solution architect, or was it something else?  Yeah, so indeed, it was the shadowing and realizing what kind of work gave me the most energy, which was not the role that I was technically hired for, to be honest. And I was lucky that my manager gave me complete freedom to be like, okay, you are this awesome, like data scientist, maybe we needed you for a different kind of role when we hired you as an intern. But if you know, you could bring a lot of value there. So why don't you go hang out with some of you know, the architects and see if you've been helped them in some way. And I did that, and I really, really enjoyed it. So because of my manager, allowing me kind of free rein to figure it out. And to work with those people, I realized that Yeah, okay. That's the kind of job that I that I want. I want to be like one of these guys, more than my previous role. And also the fact that my manager would do that I think shows a lot about the kind of culture that they have. And that was one of the big reasons that I wanted to stay. Because everything was so everyone was nice. I know it sounds cliche, but like everyone was just so encouraging and nice and wanting to help me. And they put a lot of focus on me learning and figuring out what gives me energy rather than Okay, you have these numbers to hit. I don't care what you're doing just, you know, get your targets. I was definitely like that. So I really liked it. But your manager was really invested there. And you're sort of learning and development, which is so important. Yeah. I was gonna ask about your masters, because that's really interesting. Like, how was that decision to sort of stop doing your masters? Yeah,

Iulia Feroli  09:16

I never thought I would do that. When I think about it on paper, it's still to me sounds pretty bad. And yeah, I overthink it. So often. When people ask me, you know, like about your education, or if you have to fill it in somewhere, it's always like, I don't have a master funny that you should ask. I grew up thinking that you know, grades are very important and where you go to school is very important. And it is of course, I learned so much from from my bachelor, for example. But then I made the mistake of maybe not tailoring my degree in the in the most well researched way. And my last job is actually more meant, I think, for people from different profiles who wanted to get into data science, rather than an advanced Data Science master. So it felt a bit redundant. And the courses were something that I've done before. So I was kind of, you know, going through it quite easily getting better grades than I did ever in my bachelor and thinking, Oh, this is quite, quite relaxed and chill. But then I when I was starting my internship, and I was also like working as a study advisor, and I was trying to do all these things at the same time. And my energy was being pulled in like seven different directions. And I realized, out of all the things that I'm doing, the fact that I'm, you know, just cruising through these classes for easy grades is not beneficial in any way to my development. And it's kind of a waste of my time, because I'm learning so much from just hands on on the job. And they don't think that the diploma matters. So I would only do it if the if the content mattered. The content wasn't the grade. So you know, everything kind of culminated into me realizing you can just quit, if you want to, which is such a wild concept, like being a drop out, basically. But I think it was one of the best decisions I made for my career actually.

Amy Lourenco  11:07

Yeah, it definitely sounds like that was a good decision. And when you kind of put it all out like that, and the fact that, you know, I would think that you were doing being split into a million different directions, that that wasn't kind of giving you any new value. But yeah, I guess it was hard to kind of come to terms with as you put it, like being a drop out.

Iulia Feroli  11:27

Yeah, back at it, it was a good decision, but living through it and telling my parents, Hey, remember that education you're paying for? And you're sending me abroad for I'm not gonna do it anymore. But it's for the best, don't worry. Yeah, but it worked out. So I definitely learned to take more risks and kind of build my own path, rather than stick to what you know, you will do by default, or what makes the most sense on paper. And I'm very happy that I learned that.

Amy Lourenco  11:53

And we saw that you previously worked alongside your studies as a teaching assistant for a short while, as well as having your internship that you mentioned earlier, part time at an IT and consultancy company in the Netherlands. And so do you think there are particular differences in the working environment between a smaller company versus a more established one like Microsoft?

Iulia Feroli  12:15

Yes, definitely, I think there are quite a lot of differences between how it works, I think, so I was doing my internship through my studies. And then that turned into a part time job at this consultancy company. So that was kind of my first and only job I ever knew, which was really great company was very small. So we were like a few, a few people in the data science department, a lot of young students, kind of defining the department as we went, which was an interesting experience as well. And I think I knew pretty early on that I would want to work for a big corporation. Just I really liked the idea that, you know, it's such a big company, and everyone knows, and they get to work with the biggest customers out there and the biggest clients and be at the edge of innovation. Whereas maybe if you work for a smaller company, it's a bit harder to to compete with the big names for those kind of consultancy jobs. But I did like the flexibility it gave me because there were a few people. So it was easier to take on different types of jobs. So maybe you wouldn't do if you have a very defined role. So I did a bit of marketing, and I did a bit of business decisions. And I was a project leader when I was like 20, which I thought was insane, that they kind of let me you know, go along with this project and write up my own documentation and pretend I understand, let me have it, you know, really means but I learned really fast from it. So my idea was, and also the reason that I hesitated when, when the Microsoft thing came along. I thought, no, maybe it's better to work at this small company where I could take on all these extra responsibilities and become more. Yeah, have more responsibility. And be more I don't know if important is the word but just you know, climb higher, because there's so few people and there's so much to be done. Whereas maybe if I go at a big corporation, you know, I'll be an intern, or it'll be forever until I get people to trust me more, because there's so many more other people who are smart, they're so I was a bit afraid of that, thankfully, didn't happen. But I do still think that it's you know, you can be a jack of all trades if you work for a small company. And you can learn a lot of more practical things than if you're at a bigger company. But at the same time, it's hard to find people to learn from. So for a bigger company, there's always going to be seniors who have done this role for Yeah, some of them longer than I've been alive. They've been an architect. So of course they've seen so much and it's so great that I can ask so many people, whereas at the smaller place, it was hard to find someone that could you know, walk me through it or like would shadow like I said earlier. So you know there's there's pros and cons to both. And as far as the teaching assistant one is concerned. That was a very scary job to do. I took it on when I was in an intern at Microsoft because I also wanted to have a second source of income, because I went from, you know, part time job to intern, which we all know is not really the best paid industry in the world. So I was also a teaching assistant running around giving lessons in linear algebra and grading papers on the train. So that didn't really feel like a job because it was Yeah, it was just like, the classes that I went to, but reversed, I was just putting things like math formulas on a whiteboard and giving people grades. So I rarely think of that as a career, I don't think I would have been very fit for academics or for research. Because yeah, I guess I really enjoy that the corporate environment with a lot of different roles and businesses and and seeing how different industries work. So yeah.

Amy Lourenco  15:51

Amazing, that's a really good summary of kind of the differences that you're really saying. But in the small company, you got like lots of responsibility and variety, and you were able to, like learn so much. But this is a big company. You've got that network to draw upon and loads of experience, people to ask questions about which you might not get in a small company. So yeah, that's really interesting. And I love that you just don't see the teaching assistant ad in their job. Wow, that definitely is his job.

Iulia Feroli  16:21

Of course. Yeah, definitely. I think that the teachers before, I would say that my job was more I would go to university, like once a week and help people with their homework and like, recap what the teacher has taught them, which was definitely hard work. For sure. Especially the pressure of, you know, I thought I had to know all the answers. So if any, if any of the students wanted to ask me anything about it, I had to know. And that was an insane amount of pressure. Until I realized, you know, it's totally fine to just say, Actually, I have no idea. Let me look it up for you, or I'll email the professor and then everything got a lot easier. But yeah, to me, in my head at that point, job was like, oh, you have to like write emails and make presentations and have conference calls and stuff. So it was such a wildly different way to look at it. Of course, it's hard work. It's just not what I thought a job would be like. So that was also very interesting to see that it can be so different.

Amy Lourenco  17:20

Yeah, it's kind of how you visualize and you imagine yourself at work, isn't it? somewhere? Yeah. Fantastic. So how did you find the transition? from studying to entering like, a professional work environment? And is there anything in particular you wish you had known beforehand?

Iulia Feroli  17:41

yeah, I think I learned quite quickly that the university in the in the study world was more structured. So of course, you had like different courses, you had to go through that someone planned out for you, that would make sense and would logically build upon one another. And then, you know, the, the kind of things you had to learn are very specific. And sometimes the tests were also quite standardized for some subjects more than others. And you always knew when you did something, right or not, because, yeah, you you passed a course or you don't, or you have a better grade or not. Or yeah, for my background in data science, if I train a model with like, 90% accuracy, that's a great model, you've done a great job. Whereas in the in the working world, you know, you could make the best solution ever. But if you don't market it in the right way, or if you don't know how to explain it to people who don't understand it, or if it doesn't answer a direct business need from one of your clients, then it might as well be, you know, the worst solution ever. It's still useless, which was quite a big shock to me, I don't think I expected that. There's all these other aspects, they need to take into account that I don't think we at least focus so much on in school. That, yeah, you have to really network with people, and you have to really understand their problem and fix their problem, rather than come up with something that you think is valuable. But you know, you don't double check that with them. And you don't communicate with them. So so much communication, actually, that goes on into into technology industry, even that you have to have so many people skills, I need, I think so many soft skills. So realizing that was quite quite different. That, you know, sometimes it's not the most technical person in the room who's going to be the most successful at a technical job. That was a big realization for me.

Amy Lourenco  19:37

Amazing, so yeah, I guess the big learning points for you were kind of how structured it isn't academia versus you know, you having to kind of manage your own workload, I

Iulia Feroli  19:47

guess. Exactly. environment. Yeah, the workflows and also just the path, I think. Yeah, thinking, you know, you start a bachelor and you do it for three or four years, depending on the country and then you finished it and then maybe you do a master Another two years and then you could do a PhD, you know, it's like a pretty straightforward path that you can go on. And you can just go with that for quite a while. And you know, by the end, you'll be well educated and you've done you know, the best thing that you can do for your career. But a when you're just start working, you know, it could be oh, if I stay in this role for 10 years, or if I change roles every one year, or maybe I should go in this direction or that direction, you really have to define it for yourself and be in charge of where you want to take yourself. So like me quitting my master, I think was the first thing I did that kind of went against that predefined path. And I was like, okay, no, I think for myself, at this point, this direction is better. And I think it took me a while to realize you can do that. And you can just decide for yourself, you know, take that internship, even if you have to quit another job or, you know, switch your position when you're not really excited about it anymore. And all these things. I when I was studying, I didn't think I had an option to not just go with the predefined course.

Amy Lourenco  21:00

This is how you learn to then take control of your own career path, I guess. And you mentioned there about your kind of wish you'd known about projects having to have like a business need and sort of really being commercially aware and thinking about the business solutions that you're you're producing. If a student or graduate is listening to that, how would you think that they can prepare themselves for that?

Iulia Feroli  21:29

That's a good question. I think reaching out to people and talking with them might sound like a very simple thing. But I remember when I was studying, I was terrified of anyone with a title more or less, I was like, well, they're so important, I couldn't possibly bother them. And I'm now realizing more and more that, you know, we're all people, and you really can reach out to anyone. I started at some point, just messaging people on LinkedIn, like the the CEO of this company, thinking, although never going to respond, but I have nothing to lose. So I would just ask, do you want to have a coffee, and then that helped a lot to kind of see what their jobs sound like if you see someone with an interesting title. And people like talking about themselves. So you know, a lot of the times they'll they'll also enjoy sharing their perspective. But also, if you can bring something to them, that's even more valuable. So if you see someone from industry, maybe, you know, you have a unique perspective that you're studying, you know, what's the current things that are being taught in school for this particular subject, also good to always recognize you have something to bring as well. So then, you know, when you reach out to someone saying, Hey, I have this perspective, and I want to know about yours, but let's exchange information, I think that also looks a lot better. I would say try to do projects with people. So and I mean projects, rather than, you know, build a solution with people like a well rounded project where you also have stakeholders, and you also have to manage your time or do sprints or something like that. I think at the time, I thought, okay, that's not as important as working on my strictly engineering skills. But it is. So if you really had the opportunity to do that through a class or a group project, I would try that out. And there's also so much content just online, if you feel like you know, you look up video or a course that is a lot of them are free, I wouldn't necessarily pay for a course, because there's so much cool information out there. Even if it's not, you know, of course as part of your program. Like I say, you can take charge and think, okay, I want to learn more about project management or want to learn about technical selling, you can find something online, and then maybe you can even add it to your CV. Or if you don't, you still know that you're more prepared for that job.

Amy Lourenco  23:45

Amazing. That's such good advice. I think I saw something on your YouTube channel about that as well. You were recommending some of the Microsoft courses around cloud and data science.

Iulia Feroli  23:56

Yeah, exactly. There's so many free resources. And yeah, I talked about the Microsoft ones a lot, because I work there, and I'm familiar with them. But maybe also good to know that the ones that I do as an employee are literally the same ones that I would recommend and people can do from the outside. So we don't have any, you know, private training videos. Of course, we do go to boot camps. Sometimes I'm not gonna pretend we don't. But they're on all the online trainings that we do. Every year, we have required trainings to just go through and update our skills. And they're the same ones that you can find by just looking up Microsoft learning. So if you want to be prepared for for a job in the cloud, for instance, there are so many cloud competencies that you can learn by just going on the internet. And they have like all this gamification features where you get points for learning. So you can definitely find it if you want to take the initiative to better yourself in a way that is not provided in another system.

Amy Lourenco  24:52

That's great. I didn't actually know that they provided all those free resources. That's very helpful. What does Microsoft bootcamp look like? Think of boot camp and I just think of my exercise class.

Iulia Feroli  25:02

I wish. I wish we did something like that as well. I think when I when I started as a full time person, they they sent us to like a one week boot camp in the US actually at the mothership of Microsoft's of the campus. And we just had some whiteboarding sessions and how to design architecture and had some presentations on different Azure products. And working together again, as a team, I think they take every opportunity to put us to work together to present a business case. So they never really tell us okay, this is an actual product without following up with this is a fictitious client that has this entire requirement, how would you solve their problem? So that's also where I learned that you always have to have that go hand in hand and not just learn the theory without knowing where to directly apply it

Amy Lourenco  25:52

Sounds really intense.

Iulia Feroli  25:55

Yeah, but it helps that you're also traveling when you do it back in the day, at least, I really do miss those kind of excursions that are a lot of learning and struggling. But at the end of day, you can still have dinner with your friends. So that was a good mix.

Amy Lourenco  26:09

Yeah, kids work hard and play hard.

Iulia Feroli  26:12

Yeah, pretty much.

Amy Lourenco  26:14

And what's a whiteboarding session? Is that actually where you're sort of solving a problem on the whiteboard or together?

Iulia Feroli  26:19

Yeah, yeah. So it's, because well, because we're architects, a lot of our work is surprisingly about creating architectures for for problems. So you basically have a whiteboard, and you kind of put together all the different building blocks of a solution. So you have your storage here. And that's how your data flows through the system. And the API goes in here. And you know, you would kind of design it in a visual way that really helps people understand what's happening, and also helps you keep things on a high level. So you don't have to get into you know, we don't code so much as we just talk about how different building blocks are fit in? And how would they match up your requirements? And how could you, you know, you could do one thing with like, 10 different products? Why would you choose this one over the other ones based on the specific case that we're talking about? And I really liked doing that whiteboard exercise, because it gets things, you know, moving. So rather than endlessly talking in circles, having that visual and walking someone through your whiteboarding process really helps, you know, go from zero to the complete solution in a way that's easy to follow. So if you can do a whiteboarding course, I would definitely recommend that we're just watch someone on YouTube. Basically, every like YouTube tutorial format is kind of like a whiteboarding session where they just show you what they're writing. And it becomes a solution without even realizing it's been like 20 minutes.

Amy Lourenco  27:45

Thank you. That's really helpful. And you mentioned some other technical terms, as well, I think you said about agile, what's what's added? Well, for someone that doesn't know, well, I might be pronouncing it wrong as well.

Iulia Feroli  27:55

I think I said Azure, like, yeah, the cloud platform from Microsoft. So that's also a thing I learned after university. So of course, I studied data science. But I think now a lot of companies do data science in the cloud. So instead of working on your own laptop, it can get sent to this cloud of processing. That's just a lot of databases that, you know, Microsoft managers or some other company managers. So a lot of the things that you normally do, like networking, and taking care of your operation system, can be managed by a different entity like Microsoft Azure. And then you just have everything in a website, and you do your coding in there, and it gets sent to the super powerful engine without your laptop having to be so heavy that it breaks your back. I think that's kind of like the future of a lot of technologies. And a lot of the data that companies use will be in the cloud. And yeah, Azure is one of them. Of course, Amazon has their own cloud. Google is their own cloud. A lot of companies are smaller, have their own clouds. But yeah, I mainly work with that with the Azure Cloud.

Amy Lourenco  29:02

Fabulous, thank you. I'm learning loads here. You also said about sprints, what was the sprint?

Iulia Feroli  29:08

Yeah, so that is a lot of it's like a way the software engineers can go about their projects, not just software engineers, they now have it in a lot of different other environments as well. It does have to do with agile development. And maybe I did say that as well. So it's something like Scrum can be a process to work in sprints. It's just a way of structuring your work so that instead of you know, have a deadline, two months from now figure it out. It's like every week you sit together and you go over what everyone in the team has been doing and what you're going to do the next week, and someone manages this project and keeps track of it, maybe in a digital system or by putting sticky notes on on a wall somewhere. So you always know what you're doing what you need to focus on for the upcoming sprint or period, which is usually like a week. So there's all these different techniques to to structure workloads. In in, in companies that Yeah, I don't know if we did that in academics either. But also a good thing to be aware of so that you know, when you work for a software company, for example, how five developers are going to structure a project together and who's going to do what for each week?

Amy Lourenco  30:18

Fabulous. It's basically like sort of project management.

Iulia Feroli  30:22

Yeah, exactly. It's a project management technique. And it's agile, because every week, you get the chance to reevaluate what's going to happen. But there's also some that really plan everything in advance, and then you don't have any freedom to deviate from that. But I think agile is a pretty common one these days.

Amy Lourenco  30:42

Thank you. And so my last question is oh second last question. So you've spoken about events about the importance of women in tech, as well as your own personal experience? How have you seen the landscape within diversity of the sector change in the last few years?

Iulia Feroli  31:00

Yeah, it's a good question. So indeed, I used to go to a lot of women in tech events, again, when traveling was the thing. I really enjoyed going to those conferences, first of all, to see so many women that do technology in one place, and presenting their projects and stuff was really inspiring. And I also spoke at a few conferences, as another one of those, I'll just try it out and see what happens. I just applied online said, I'm a student, I do data science, I don't have any experience, really, but I'm passionate about this topic. And then they said, Oh, awesome, we actually don't have the perspective of a young person presenting, so why not? And they let me do it. And then when you turn one, you can reference it and then get another one, and so on. So also great learning to apply for whatever it is that you're not qualified for. They think you're not qualified for it. We also at the women and tech event that I first heard of the term imposter syndrome, when you always think you're, you know, you're worse off than you are, and you think you don't have the right experience. And you think that someone's going to find out that you're just pretending to know stuff until you know, and they'll they'll catch you with it, which is a very common thing that especially women feel. But that, of course, is not true. So I really like going to those events to to learn from other people's perspective, how it has changed in the past years, I think it really varies per festival, because I I'm originally from Romania, so I moved to the Netherlands, like five or six years ago now. So when I think back six years ago, I'm not comparing the same country I'm comparing, or the Netherlands is that now with where my own country was at? So that's also not very, a very fair comparison, I would say. But I can think that, you know, I was one of the few girls in my class who was interested in programming. And then in my university, I think we were like, 10 girls out of 100, that were doing the data science program. And then in the Honors Program, again, was the same thing. So over and over, there were never as many girls as they were boys, if anything, I think I was the only woman in the room and so many sessions and settings and boot camps, and, and, you know, yeah, events, unless it was a woman in tech event, and then we, you know, we seal them together. So I think we are getting a little better. That could also be my bias that now I'm working on Microsoft, and I have to say, to take it super seriously to, to make everyone aware of, you know, the inclusivity aspect, inclusion aspects, sorry. And in the awareness of, you know, trying to make sure that we are treating everyone equally, and we give everyone equal opportunities, which of course, is not to say, you know, get more women in tech at all costs. I think I've seen a lot of backlash online, that people think that now that we are prioritizing women in tech, it means women get get ahead faster. I don't think that's the case at all. I think it's just the idea of, if we encourage more women to join education in tech, do a stem subject, then they'll go to university, and then they'll, you know, get that internship and then they'll get that job in India and more than will be considered for the senior roles as well. But I don't think we have as many women here that are just trained and ready to to join the workforce because it starts a lot earlier. So what I've learned from the past few years is instead of focusing on the women in STEM events, and and, you know, ways to help in that way I know focus more on girls in STEM and trying to get it as early as possible to show women and yet little girls, I guess that you can just get into the subject and you know, a data scientist looks like this as well. And you will get that opportunity to do these jobs as well like 10 years from now when you're ready to enter the work field. So for example, for International Women's Day, we're hosting a girls and stem event internally at Microsoft, the whole week. There's like all these different events and sessions about parenting and about, you know, how to use inclusive language and how to know what kind of jokes Can you make, but you should still be able to make jokes and like all these kinds of things that are very complex discussions, and we're having them during our work hours, which I think sends a message that is important. So if I look back at a few years ago, I don't think I talked about it as much. And I don't think I've seen it be so much in the spotlight. But it could also be because of, you know, I found the place where they do it.

Amy Lourenco  35:37

Thank you. So it sounds like really what you're saying there is we need to get sort of younger girls involved in the sector. And like school, school aged children really,


yeah, that's

Iulia Feroli  35:47

where it starts, if you want the situation to be better, you can't just all of a sudden get more women in tech, if they haven't gone to the Technical University, and the pool of candidates is just smaller, unfortunately. So other than, you know, trying to encourage women all levels to to join tech or to, you know, maybe do a career switch or start their careers in tech. I think it starts a lot earlier. So that's what I'm focusing on now, more than a few years ago, when they were just wondering, Oh, where's all the women? I think I have a better idea of why that is now. So I think working with with students, and yet why I wanted to do this podcast as well, is that, that the earlier we get them, the better it's going to be?

Amy Lourenco  36:31

Sounds like you're doing some great work yourself as well, you know, the YouTube channel will be involved in events at Microsoft as well, that can help so yeah, you don't you for championing that cause.

Iulia Feroli  36:41

Thank you, I think it's a balance between, you know, talking about women in tech, as I've you know, quote unquote, thing, and just being a woman, and happening to be in tech or being in tech and happening to be a woman right, and just letting that speak for itself as well. So that it should be a normal thing, right? I don't want it to be a super special thing. It's just like, I'm a woman, I do tech. And maybe if people see it, that's possible, they'll do it as well.

Amy Lourenco  37:08

Definitely agree, and particularly where you see, like so many opportunities in this area, it's such a kind of sought after skill, isn't it kind of data science and data analysis and software engineering? You know, we get employers coming to us all the time looking for students with those skills. So if women are ruling themselves out of that, you know, they're ruling in so many opportunities.  Yeah, exactly. It's just a great field overall, it has a lot of potential to, for example, in this situation we have now the people working in tech have been less affected by everything that's been happening. So I really think it's a great opportunity to work in this area. And then yeah, of course, women should also get to do it as well, then, but everyone should get to do it. Absolutely. Okay. So my final question is, can you give us three skills that you think are necessary to succeed in this industry?

Iulia Feroli  38:07

Okay, so other than, of course, knowing your technical things, I would say having a focus area, like a specialty. So a lot of jobs are looking for generalists, as well. But in my opinion, it's good to have like one thing that is your thing. So I don't know if that's necessarily a skill, but just knowing what is your passion, and what are you good at, and hopefully, they're the same thing. And knowing that, you know, that's the thing that you're going for, and keeping that as your North Star would be one thing. A good skill, I think I mentioned it earlier is not having the the soft skill that goes around your your technical expertise, if it's maybe project management, or if it's technical selling, having something that's not directly, you know, a technical like a programming language, but it's something that can help you integrate in the team. So I would cheat and say that that's just one thing, either project management or, or Yeah, technical selling. And another thing I would say is, yep, passion and ambition. I think I talked about this when when I was trying to get my first job, and I didn't have anything on my CV and I thought, Oh, no one's going to hire me then. But a lot of what I see now from the other side of it, so I've been helping people do hiring as well, that they're looking for potential. So they're trying to assess your potential and what you can learn and being open to learning and passionate and ambitious about something. It's more important than being an expert at like 10 things as early as you can do it. So try to be open to learning, I would say. That probably way more than three things but I'm just gonna leave it.

Amy Lourenco  39:51

Okay, we'll let you off particularly as your first guest. Thank you so much for joining our podcast today and sharing your valuable insight. Hello, audience, it's been so great to hear about your question. So yeah, big thank you.

Iulia Feroli  40:05

Thank you so much, Amy, it's been a lot of fun.

Amy Lourenco  40:07

big thank you to our audience for listening to our episode. Please do keep an eye out for more episodes, which will be released weekly on our audio platforms such as Spotify, Apple podcast and SoundCloud. Thank you, everyone.