Suneetha is based in Redmond, WA and works as an Engineering Manager at Microsoft. After finishing her Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Osmania University, she moved to US to pursue her Master’s degree in Semiconductors and Chemical Engineering. She graduated with a dual degree in Chemical Engineering and Computer Information Systems from Arizona State University. She worked as a vendor in Microsoft for couple of years and then became a full-time employee of Microsoft in 1998. Since then she has worked in various groups across Windows, Office, Office 365, Outlook teams as an individual contributor, lead and manager. She leads and manages her teams with a conviction and passion to do what she thinks is right, and that passion is contagious – spreading to everyone who works for her. She is a mom of two boys! She enjoys practicing Yoga, watching good movies and spending time with her family and friends!
Suneetha’s Intro in her own words:
I am a Software Engineering Manager at Microsoft working on Outlook Shared Data Team and a busy mom of two wonderful boys. I live in Sammamish, WA. I am originally from Hyderabad, India and moved to the US in 1994. I joined Microsoft in 1996. I am very passionate about changing lives, organizations and world through technology.
How did you come to the US? For studies or as a dependent?
I came to US in 1994 to pursue my master’s degree at Arizona State University. I got my Bachelor of Technology degree from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India in 1994. When I was in my 2nd year B.Tech, many of my seniors got visas to study at reputed US universities. I got inspired, watching their success and followed a similar path. I had a clear idea of what I needed to do and planned accordingly. I wrote GRE and TOEFL, got strong recommendations from my professors and applied to few good universities. I got admissions from all the universities I applied to and I chose to go to Arizona State University as I had my college seniors studying there. I subsequently got my student (F1) visa. The whole process was very simple and straightforward.
What did you do your Masters in?
I did my master’s in Chemical Engineering at ASU. I was a RA (Research Assistant) with a full tuition waiver. My research was in Semiconductors and air pollution – “Two-flux radiation-field model for an annular packed-bed photocatalytic oxidation reactor”.
For my research project, I developed the models in Fortran (a programming language suited for numeric computation and scientific computing). I started gaining interest in programming and Computer Science while developing these models. With my professor’s advice and support, I took up Computer
Science courses while finishing up the research project. So, I also got a degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS) at ASU.
What were your initial days as a student like? What were the challenges you faced during/after your transition from India to here? How did you overcome those challenges?
Coming to the US as a student has its own strengths and challenges. Student life taught me to be independent and strong. It helped broaden my horizon about life and knowledge in general. That was the first time I lived away from my family and the first semester was very hard. For the first time in my life, I had to manage finances on my own, lead an independent life, plan for my career with limited guidance, focus on my studies while taking care of house hold stuff and many other things.
After the first semester, once I figured out the routine, I started feeling comfortable in the new environment. At ASU, we had international students from various countries. I made many friends–Indians, Americans, European, Asians etc and each one brought a new set of knowledge. All of them were extremely warm and friendly. We helped and supported each other. As students, we had a great time going out to movies during the weekends, checking out local restaurants, visiting shopping malls while taking care of our studies and finances. We also travelled to many popular destinations around Arizona (Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Utah, Bryce Canyon, Sedona) during the long weekends. Some of these experiences are the most memorable ones in my life. The experiences I had as a student helped me shape who I am today.
How do you think this education has helped you in your career? What do you attribute your success to?
The technical skills and the soft skills I developed as a student and getting a dual degree in Chemical Engineering and Computer Information Systems definitely helped me land my first job at Microsoft.
My path to success is very much a work in progress, but as I reflect on where I am midway in my life and career, I can see that there are some things that have helped me succeed. First and foremost, it is God’s grace. I always feel a strong divine force guiding me and helping me in my life. I also attribute my success to the support I got from my family, professors and mentors who played a crucial role at different stages of my life and career. I always saw myself as a career woman. That helped me stay focused on my career goals and aspirations. From a young age, my mom instilled on how important it is for girls to have a career of their own, to lead an independent life.
What were the initial days in your first job like?
My initial days at Microsoft was filled with lots of new learnings along with focusing on delivering results. It was fast paced and ambiguous. There were many new tools and processes just to setup a dev environment with very little documentation. I had to be self-motivated and self-driven to get the work done and deliver impactful results. The team members were always willing to help but most of the times, they were all busy with their own assignments. I had to problem-solve on my own and that was an invaluable lesson. I observed my team members, asked questions when needed and did my own research to get the work done.
What challenges did you face to be where you are now? How did you overcome them?
I faced many challenges and am still facing new ones. Every time, again, by God’s grace, I have gotten back up, refocused, learned valuable life lessons from these challenges and moved forward. I always became a stronger and a better person with the experiences I got from my setbacks than from my successes. Some of the challenges I faced are:
* Dealing with difficult and tough people while trying to get the work done
* Conflicts among partner teams that results in project delays
* Strong disagreements on the design, architecture and priorities
I overcame some of the challenges by not giving up on the problem. No matter what life throws our way, keep in mind that there are always options available — there are always things we can do, actions we can take and decisions we can make that will keep us moving forward in the right direction. How we choose to “respond” or “react” to the situation, is completely a personal choice. Stepping back from the challenge and getting a different perspective, seeking guidance, coming up with possible solutions, staying calm and patient during the whole process are some of the methods I used to overcome challenges.
What is your advice to the younger folks who aspire to pursue their education and careers in Technology?
Tech industry is rapidly growing in multiple directions. Technology companies are continually on the leading-edge, considering unconventional and innovative ways to meet the demands of the savvy consumers. Internet of Things (IoT), digitization of information, building services, social media apps, virtual and augmented reality (VR, AR), big data, machine learning, natural language processing, speech and pattern recognition are part of the latest technological space that is changing at rapid speed.
At Microsoft or any other tech companies, knowledge and technical skills are most valued. I would encourage all the younger folks to stay current, stay technical, be bold, be confident and be themselves. It’s the uniqueness of each individual that gets us to new, creative solutions. You need determination and a vision for yourself and a strong will to stay on course.
Don’t be afraid of failures or setbacks in life. Failure isn’t fatal. In fact, it is actually required for innovation and success, as long as you are learning from your failures. We must not let fear stop us from moving forward. If you are afraid of failure, you might be uncomfortable setting goals. Goals help us define where we want to go in life. Without goals, we have no sure destination. We can always start by setting small and achievable goals that will help build confidence and overcome fear.
I believe women must assert themselves more. We are natural born managers and we have the unique ability to multi task. The challenge is how we transform from managers to being effective leaders. For this we need commitment, innovation and above all motivation. The ball is in our court.
Author: Suneetha Dhulipalla
Suneetha lives in the Greater Seattle area, USA. She is originally from Hyderabad, India and came to the US for her studies in 1994. She is a mom of two wonderful boys and works as an Engineering Manager in Microsoft. She is very passionate about changing lives, organizations and the world through technology!