Technical Program Management with Megan Knox (#21)

We talk about technical program management and Code 4 Community.

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Megan Knox is an early-in-career technical program manager at Microsoft and recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in Computer Science and Engineering. As a PM, she does long-term planning for her software engineering team and drives success of large scale technical projects through communication and documentation. Prior to her start at Microsoft, she had two internships there to gain experience in a corporate setting.

During her time at Ohio State, she founded and presided over student organisation Code 4 Community (C4C) for three years. C4C is designed to demonstrate and implement the benefits of computer science in a humanitarian way, including a long-term project of building a website to help adolescents struggling with mental health and outreach to local grade schools to generate interest in computer science. She is passionate about sharing STEM with underrepresented communities, including women, minorities, and rural areas.

Outside of work, she enjoys reading and creative fiction writing, fitness, and taking care of houseplants.

In our conversation, we talk about technical program management and Code 4 Community.

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Show Notes

[00:57] What drew Megan to computer science and engineering.
[01:42] Exposure to STEM.
[02:10] Megan’s first taste of programming.
[02:36] Expectations of what computer science and engineering involved.
[04:25] Code 4 Community.
[04:59] Humanitarian Engineering Scholars.
[05:15] A need for ways to demonstrate humanitarian applications of programming.
[05:56] The scope and impact of software.
[06:21] Founding Code 4 Community and learning about leadership.
[06:45] Code 4 Community’s Major Projects.
[06:53] Project 1: Collaborating with the Department of Social Work for an app to support adolescents struggling with mental health.
[07:30] Project 2: Outreach to local middle and high schools.
[07:39] Why student outreach is important to Megan.
[09:47] Give people a taste and show them it can be a good time.
[10:13] Going virtual is making outreach to remote areas more accessible.
[10:44] Code 4 Community’s current efforts.
[12:22] Megan’s journey to Microsoft.
[12:58] A serendipitous opportunity.
[14:22] Getting into the Microsoft internship program.
[15:05] The culture of internship programs in the US.
[15:55] The value of internship experiences for professional development and your CV.
[17:06] How interns are introduced to career tracks.
[18:39] Internship projects are intended to contribute value to the company.
[20:21] The role of a Program Manager.
[20:58] It involves systems analysis and requirements gathering.
[21:32] It involves communication, documentation, and planning.
[21:47] It involves short, middle, and long term views.
[23:07] Summarising the role.
[25:11] Career direction.
[25:38] Honing the skills a PM requires like leadership, communication, and her own personal development.
[26:25] The importance of leadership skills in the kind of work that Megan would like to do in future.
[27:40] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
[27:51] A love of writing.
[28:29] Megan’s genres.
[28:55] With a passion for writing, why not major in English?
[29:16] The need to be practical.
[30:06] The bill-paying job options for an English degree were not personally appealing.
[31:00] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
[31:05] Strong family memories with Harry Potter.
[31:55] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?
[32:01] Impostor Syndrome.
[32:47] Be your own role model.
[33:23] Don’t limit yourself.
[34:55] Reaching out to Megan.

Topics/Resources/People Mentioned

Books

  • Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling BookDepository GoodReads

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