Early years and where you came from?
I have been passionate about gaming for as long as I remember and games were exactly what sparked my interest in technology. So besides playing them, I wanted to learn more about how they are made and how I could be part of this industry. Alongside competing in eSports when it wasn’t even a word, I chose Software Engineering in Universidade do Minho when it came the time to decide what I would focus my studies on. I also pursued the Computer Graphics major during my Master’s in Universidade do Minho and later moved to Instituto Superior Técnico to focus on Game Development, which is a major they offer.
How were you introduced to the world of the Portuguese tech industry?
I got my first internship when I had just finished my Bachelor’s in Software Engineer and wanted to get some real world, hands on experience. That was in DevScope in Oporto as a developer and it was the absolute best experience as a first job as one can hope for. People there were amazing, super talented and had loads of patience to deal with me and my learning – great mentoring throughout the whole year I was there. I then left so I could properly finished my Masters but still miss the company to this day. While I was doing my Master Thesis, and through being part of the Microsoft Student Partner program, I got an offer to be an intern in Microsoft Portugal, to manage that same MSP program. It was such an awesome experience that I never left Microsoft again! After the internship I joined the MACH (Microsoft Academy for College Hires) program as a Support Engineer in Windows Core and High Availability, and have moved to Redmond (Microsoft HQ), USA last year to be a Technical Evangelist for US Gaming partners. Recently I moved to the role of my dreams – being a Program Manager in Xbox.
Walk me through your work and what you are doing now in the tech industry.
Right now I am a Program Manager in Xbox (for Xbox Live services), working at Microsoft HQ, in Redmond, USA. While I was previously working with Azure, CaaP and OSS, right now I’ve moved to more of a project management role where all of my previous experience as a developer and technical evangelist is still needed. I own several feature areas for Xbox Live, and in each of those me and the team have to solve problems that come up daily, work on improvements, build the future strategy for our product and keep on track with our plans for building the new features that come out to our users in each release cycle. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be working in the videogame industry and particularly have the opportunity to work on a product that’s been part of my life for 15 years. Other than that, I am leading some parts of the Women in Gaming initiatives internally to make sure that the gaming industry is a great place for everyone to work, and games are meant to be enjoyed by everyone.
What part of what you do, you love the most?
The thing I love the most is being able to influence a product I love with feedback I gather from all of our users and fans. Our team is very community focused and being able to do what’s best for them is empowering and sometimes a bit surreal. How great does it feel when you work on a feature or improvement that will be used by millions of people around the world and see great feedback afterwards?
How do you think that your background and knowledge impact the way you approach your work in the Portuguese tech industry?
I have left the Portuguese tech industry since I moved to the US, but while I was there I definitely felt that the amount of experience I previously had with gaming and game development as well as knowing a lot of the pioneers of this industry in Portugal had a super positive impact in my work. We were able to work together to build great things, and I do like to approach my work as I approach my game time: I don’t give up and I do my best; and if there is something I don’t know, I will definitely dig into it and seek help from peers – always expanding what I know and learning new and better ways to do things.
What advice do you have for young women that want to get into tech and don’t know where to start?
The most important thing is to not give up on your passion! If you feel strongly passionate about something, people will be able to see it and feel it when they look at you and hear you talking about your passion (aka sparkling eyes). You have a lot of free resources online that can help you kickstart your learning. Set a very realistic goal for yourself with a very realistic timeline, invest time in it, and you will be surprised at how much you can achieve! Attend events and get inspired by the great people who are already doing the work you want to do in the future.
Walk me through a day in your life as a Portuguese women in tech.
I’m starting this new habit of working out right when I wake up, so I do that, and then treat myself with a big breakfast, feed my cat Noob (who makes me smile and helps with my terrible morning mood J ), and I drive to the office. My schedule can look pretty hectic from a meeting standpoint one day, and the next one I can have all the time to do focus work, so it really depends on the day and time of the year it is. This first few months in the team have been a great learning experience with my super supportive team, so I do regular checks with them about the things I am working on. I do my best to keep my inbox tidy. I reserve an hour at the end of the day for my personal projects, mentoring or stretch assignments that I volunteer myself to do. Once I am done with work, I have some dinner and turn on my Xbox to play Gears of War for a few hours… and then Netflix my way to sleep (not a very healthy practice I’ve heard!). Now that it’s summer I also try to go to as many concerts as I can, even during week days!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Say yes until you can’t say no.”
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Visual Studio Online is my best buddy nowadays, and OneNote takes care of my life (I am a very forgetful person who needs to keep track of everything). WhatsApp has been my connecting app to friends and family I left in Portugal when I moved to the US.
If games can be considered, Gears of War has been my loyal partner in life.
Links that you want to share?
I am very active on Twitter so if you want to keep in touch or follow what I’m doing and working on, feel free to follow me on: https://www.twitter.com/CatamyKX