Position: Applied Data Scientist & Engineer
Talent: Being Dope
BLOC: Tev'n thank you for taking the time to talk to BLOC today. Here at BLOC we like to spotlight young, black professionals who are not only doing dope things, but who we feel have a lot of insight to give to the BLOC community. It's almost a full year for you at Microsoft. Can you talk to us about your role at Microsoft?
Tev'n: I work at Microsoft as an Applied Data Scientist & Engineer. That’s a fancy title that basically means that I’m a software engineer who gets to work with and around some really smart people. My team is the Natural Language Experiences (NLX) team within Microsoft Office. So if you think about language features or products in Microsoft office like spell checker, grammar checker, the notification that tells you that you forgot to attach something in an email like you said you would, then you’re thinking of the work that my team does.
BLOC: Sounds like you're doing exciting work! Talk to us about your journey to Microsoft
T: I was a Computer Science major and Linguistics minor at Dartmouth. I applied for a scholarship for women & minorities in computing from Microsoft during my sophomore year. At the scholarship reception ceremony in the fall they encouraged us scholarship recipients to apply for the Explore Microsoft internship which is a software internship specifically targeted at freshman and sophomore women and minority engineers. My sophomore summer I was an Explorer Intern for the Office.com product team at Microsoft. After a successful 12 week internship I was given an offer to return for an internship the following summer. This time however, I was into my Linguistics studies at Dartmouth and wanted to find a way to merge my interests in engineering and language. I was able to network and meet with my current manager on the last week of my Office.com internship and discussed with her the possibility of returning as an intern on the Natural Language Group (NLG) product team. So during my junior summer I was a software engineer intern on this team. And after another successful internship this team offered me a full time position, which I accepted and began in August 2015.
BLOC: Comp Sci classes are notoriously difficult. What advice would you like to share with black collegians who are interested in this field, but worried about the rigor/having support?
T: My advice to upcoming CS students would be to not be afraid to ask for help & seek out those needed support systems. I remember in my intro classes I was too embarrassed to ask my professors or TAs for help because other students seemed to be able to get the work done without their help. At the end of the day I just realized that those students weren't smarter than me, but they had other support networks & preparation that I just didn't have. So in a sense me reaching out for help wasn't a sign of weakness, just an acknowledgement that I had to play catch up because I was either facing different struggles from my peers (as a black student) or I didn't have the resources to prepare me the same way they did before college.
BLOC: Such important advice about understanding we all had different degrees of preparation! What networks/mentors have you relied on to get professional opportunities?
T: Google has been my best friend when it came to internship/job opportunities. I wish I had known of some other resources but I found a Microsoft scholarship via google and that scholarship led to an internship and those internships led to my current job. I also didn't have any mentors that I reached out to while in college, which is something that I'm having to do now in order to actually figure out what I want my career trajectory to be. So finding a mentor is something that I would highly encourage students to do as early as possible. Or else you'll be navigating these difficult spaces somewhat alone.
BLOC: What advice would you have for the regular person who wants to learn how to code?
T: As far as learning to code there are plenty of resources available online. If I was starting college tomorrow I wouldn't major in computer science because there is so much information available to learn on your own online.
BLOC: Tev'n thank you so much for sharing with us your journey to Microsoft and the importance of networks, mentors, and asking for help. Continue to do great things! #blackexcellence