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Friday Feature: Daisy Isibor

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Community Manager

Daisy Isibor.jpgDaisy Isibor

 

 

Job Title: Software Engineer II

Microsoft

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daisy-isibor/

 

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself – What is your current role, and how did you first get started in technology?

My name is Daisy, I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. I’m currently a Software Engineer II on the Analog Conversational AI team. The Analog team is more popularly known as the HoloLens or Windows Mixed Reality team. My other role is serving as a Board Member and Publicity Chair of Catering to Africans In Need (CAIN), a non-profit committed to multi-dimensional development in Africa.

 

Well, I’d say I’ve always been drawn to technology for as long as I can remember. When we got our first computer at home with Windows 95 on it, I would sit for hours and play with MS Paint and whatever games and applications were on it. By the time I got to high school, I was privileged to have a teacher that saw my interest and the potential in me and invited me to the Autodesk animation classes he was teaching after school. The kinds of projects we worked on during those classes started to expand. I joined two other students who were building a buggy truck and we transformed it into a spy car by embedding a micro camera and implementing wireless controls. We presented it at a competition in Turkey and won a Gold medal. From there, I got plugged in to more programming competitions and activities locally and internationally. I’m very thankful for those humble beginnings because it was this exposure that influenced me to fly across continents to study Computer Engineering at Iowa State University and from there I joined Microsoft!

 

  1. What does a day in your life look like?

I get woken up by city traffic and head to work in the morning, haha. I’m usually about my work day developing speech and conversational AI features for Windows Mixed Reality (MR). In addition to that, I'll be reviewing code written by my peers and we're all usually exchanging ideas and learnings via discussions and prototypes that showcase technologies that we could use to make MR more engaging. In the evenings, if I’m not heading to the University of Washington for grad school classes, I’m probably studying for a class. I like to stay up late because I’m usually very alert at night and would try to get some reading done and also because it is so quiet around, I like to have quiet time for prayer and reflection before going to bed.

 

  1. Do you have a tech role model? What do you admire about this person?

I have come to really admire and respect Satya Nadella not only for his technical background and accomplishments but also for his ability to change culture. I also relate so well with him coming from a different continent and pursing opportunities in tech. His excellence is a testament to his hard work and influence. He is changing Microsoft and changing the world, and I believe that influencers at any scale are those that can truly change the world. I have seen strong influencers from all backgrounds rising up in many tech companies and it is inspiring given that it shows tangible evidence that inclusion is happening and also that in the field of technology, there is no ceiling.

 

  1. What do you think has been the greatest 1) opportunity, and 2) challenge for you in your career so far?

Opportunities came to me at every step, I honestly can’t weigh one over the other because they all had a part to play to getting me where I am. However, I have to say it has been really amazing to have the opportunity to work on different projects under different teams at Microsoft that grew me in different areas. I spent my first two plus years with Bing search learning so much about web development, data on a large scale, and service architecture. Now, I get to apply my recent interest in Natural Language Understanding through Mixed Reality.

Greatest challenge so far has been balancing work full-time and evening graduate school. It was a decision I made and everyone who had done it told me it would be tough, but I had no idea how challenging it really was going to be until I started. A mentor once told me, you don’t know your limit until something challenges you to get there and that limit will keep changing over time. This experience has been a blessing by pushing my limits to the point that it is improving other areas of my life. Day by day, I'm learning more to focus on the things that matter the most and excel in them.

 

  1. Do you believe in mentorship? Have you been mentored by others, and conversely, have you mentored others?

Oh yes I do! I believe so much in mentorship! In the past and present, I’ve been surrounded by mentors. Career mentors, life mentors, spiritual mentors, all kinds really. I honestly don’t have enough words to say how much support my mentors have been, even friends that have mentored me without even knowing.

Paying it forward, I love seeking out people who are one or more steps behind me and mentor them. For example, with YearUp Puget Sound, an organization that provides the opportunity for young adults in non-traditional backgrounds to jumpstart their career, I've been privileged to serve as an academic and career mentor to one of the students going through the Information Technology track. During the summer months, I also like to get involved with the Microsoft Intern Program and sign up to mentor some students. I’ve learned that you could learn from some of your own mistakes but it's even better if you can learn from someone else’s. I hope that I can be an encouragement to them and help them learn from my hurdles and highways.

 

  1. How do we help encourage more people of diverse backgrounds, especially African Americans in pursuing careers in technology?

I think it's all about being intentional and meeting people where they are. If we want to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to pursue a career in technology, we should reach out to those communities and provide opportunities for people to get involved in tech roles and projects. One great example is the Microsoft Explore Internship Program. This program targets college students from diverse backgrounds in their freshman and sophomore year. This was actually my first internship at Microsoft and when I got offered an interview spot, it was a clear statement Microsoft was making – we’re making it a priority to reach out to you so we are providing opportunities for you to work with us. Let’s continue to make efforts like this at various levels of education and expertise.

 

  1. Was there a particular tech event or program that was particularly helpful in enabling you to accelerate your career?

I would say for career acceleration so far, my internships were very helpful. During my last year as an undergraduate, I was in a state of deciding between graduate school because of my undergraduate research experience and industry work. Having three internships at both small and large companies helped me decide what to do after graduation. During my internships, I got a taste of what it would be like collecting ideas and requirements for a product, bringing it to life and continuously improving it based on user interaction and feedback. That was the full picture that I wasn't able to experience just in school alone and I wanted to do more of that.

 

  1. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting out in their tech career, what would it be?

Find your strengths, what makes you unique and truly get to know yourself. I believe everyone has something to bring to the table that's valuable whether they think it’s a small thing or a big thing. The more you grow in those areas, it can become more effortless for you and allow you to expand your comfort zone. If you're not sure what they are, ask the people around you especially those that know you well and spend lots of time with you - family, friends, your peers. And then whatever role you're in whether technical or otherwise, make sure you're maximizing your strengths and always ask for feedback regarding those specific strengths you are trying to grow. I think this advice could apply to anyone but is especially helping me bring out my leadership strengths in everything I do.

 

  1. What do you think the tech industry needs to be truly diverse and inclusive, be it socially and culturally?

In order to be truly diverse and inclusive, we need more representation of people from diverse social and cultural backgrounds in the tech industry and we need to be intentional about making sure everyone’s voice is heard and contribution is valued. Let’s not just listen to the loud voices, let’s listen to all voices and reach out for input and contributions from everyone.

5 Replies
Daisy, you are so inspiring! I've personally learnt heaps about prioritization and productivity from you :)

Thanks a lot Shona, I'm so glad to hear that!

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 @ Daisy ISIBOR . It was awesome reading Daisy’s profile, insights, foresights,  prospects and trajectory on tech and tech development and tapestry ,people, career and mentorship. It gave me the impetus to sign up to the Microsoft .techcommunity.

So glad to hear this! Daisy is one of my personal role models too - I'm glad her story inspires you as much as it inspired me. Welcome to the Diversity and Tech community! :)
Hey there! You can watch Daisy's session at Microsoft Ignite The Tour Amsterdam here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYPpaIyHHCU - I think you will really be inspired by it :)