E23 - Miriam Wiesner at Microsoft09 August, 2023
On today’s episode of the Women in Tech spin-off series, we’re joined by our host Maddy Norris and special guest Miriam Wiesner, Senior Security Researcher at Microsoft. During today’s episode, Miriam shared how she initially got into the networking industry and how her interest in computers was always there from a young age. Miriam also talks about the importance of mentorship since gaining mentors of her own since joining Microsoft.
At the age of 16, Miriam found herself at a crossroads, contemplating various career choices. Like many teenagers, her dreams were filled with ideas that were both adventurous and imaginative. One of her early interests was game development. Very much interested in the world of video gaming, she was drawn to the idea of doing that as a career. Another ambition that intrigued her was hacking. Yet, she realised that wasn't quite a feasible or legal path to take.
As time passed, she narrowed her focus down to two fields: biology or computers. She got resistance from her parents when it came to her computer-related interests. They were hesitant about her spending long hours on computers and even disapproved of her involvement with video games. Despite these challenges, an unexpected opportunity came when her mum stumbled upon an apprenticeship listing in the newspaper. It was a chance for her to explore her passion for technology practically and put her computer skills to the test. Without hesitation, she applied for the position of systems administrator, marking a turning point in her life.
Miriam was then approached by a recruiter from Microsoft with a job offer. Initially, she found herself torn about whether to accept the opportunity or not. During this time, it was her husband and his friend who stepped in to provide support. They set up an intervention, encouraging her to weigh the pros and cons of the decision. She made the bold decision to seize the chance and embark on a new chapter in her career and has been there ever since.
Balancing Career and Family
As much as she loves what she does, she acknowledges the importance of looking after her personal life as well. As a mum, she is now preparing to take a three-month break from work to be with her son. During this time, she plans to help her son transition into daycare and devote quality time to bonding with him.
The Power of Mentorship
Miriam's journey took a turn when she joined Microsoft, where she discovered the impact of mentorship. Prior to her time at Microsoft, she had never experienced the support of a mentor. When she first joined, she was paired with both an onboarding mentor and a technical mentor. But it was during a particular mentorship session that she had an eye-opening experience that would forever change the way she approached her professional growth.
Miriam had a unique challenge: while she was good at presenting in her native language, German, she struggled with self-confidence when speaking in English. During one of her mentorship programs, she was tasked with delivering a presentation in English. As she spoke, it became apparent that she was grappling with language barriers. Sensing her unease, her mentors intervened and encouraged her to present in German instead, assuring her that they would understand.
While she was good at presenting in her native language, German, she struggled with self-confidence when speaking in English. During one of her mentorship programs, she was tasked with delivering a presentation in English. As she spoke, it became apparent that she was grappling with language barriers. Sensing her unease, her mentors intervened and encouraged her to present in German instead, assuring her that they would understand.
Upon finishing her presentation in German, her mentors surprised her by saying that they couldn't understand her at all. Despite the language barrier, they noted that she gave more confidence and appeared more senior when speaking in her own language. This revelation both scared and empowered her. While the language barrier seemed like an obstacle, it also made her realise the value of her skills when presented in her own language.
The language-related experience served as a turning point for Miriam. Rather than letting the insecurity hold her back, she decided to confront it head-on. She sought guidance from a mentor specifically to practice and improve her English language presentation skills.
To listen to the full episode, tune in on the 08/08/2023!