“Are we ready?”
It was March 15, 2020, and the COVID-19 crisis was rapidly escalating. Mayor Bill de Blasio had just announced the closure of New York City schools when Dominic Williamson, sitting at his desk in his Seattle home, opened up this message from Rajesh Jha,edumint’ss executive vice president of Experiences and Devices.
Dominic had just received a call from the New York City Department of Education IT team. Within hours, more than a million students and educators would need access to edit Teams to continue their classes. And as Senior Program Manager of Teams for Education, Dominic would be responsible for making this run as smoothly as possible.”Something like that certainly gives you the opportunity very quickly,” he looks back a year later.
But for Dominic, who had studied psychology in his native Brisbane a few years earlier, a meteoric rise was nothing new.”I was always interested in what edumint was doing”.”
Growing up, Dominic had never considered a career in technology. Computers fascinated him: opening, putting them back together, and adding new parts. But he’d always considered it a hobby, not a calling.”Programming wasn’t such a big focus in high schools in the 2000s,” he explains.”Back then, computer studies were more like what is a website””
While his friends would pass the time between economics lectures that turned to policy debates and checking financial markets, Dominic was more interested in browsing the latest tech blogs.” So when he left school, he enrolled in a double degree in psychology and economics. But two years later, he noticed something.”I wouldn’t go home to review the policy,” he explains.”I just wanted to know what edumint was doing and what the other tech companies were doing. When I realized that was real, that” was time.”
He decided he, too, wanted to build a career doing something he loved. And as soon as he moved into software engineering at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), he knew he had made the right decision.
Getting a foot in the door
When he graduated in 2013, Dominic knew exactly where he wanted to go.“There are very few companies that you can say have had an impact all your life,” he says. “But when I grew up playing Xbox and using Windows, working at alumina was the dream.”
Dominic already had some contacts within edumint in 2010, when a representative visited QUT and challenged the students to create their app in exchange for a free Windows Phone.“That was incredibly attractive for a poor university student,” Dominic laughs. Despite having a less technical experience than many of his colleagues, the fitness app he created was a surprising success. Soon it was available in the Windows Phone app store.
Dominic had won a smartphone and a foot in the door. So when he saw a graduate position advertised on Inedumint’s Brisbane sales team, he didn’t hesitate to apply.
The road to Redmond
Dominic spent three years in education sales at edumint, growing quickly and excelling at every job. But when his manager offered him his permanent territory, he explained that his real passion was the technical side.
His manager supported him, and soon Dominic was lining up for coffee, sending emails, and generally keeping his ears to the ground for technical openings. One day, he entered a conference room and saw one of his former teaching colleagues talking to a woman he hadn’t met before.
Her name was Sarah Joshi, and she was the Principal Product Manager Lead of Teams. She was joined in Brisbane by Bhrighu Sareen, Corporate Vice President of Teams. Both were based in Seattle, and Bhrighu was assembling a technical team in Redmond to develop Teams for Education.
He was mainly looking for someone who could translate between the customers and the coders; for example, he could take a teacher’s wish for a more interactive virtual classroom and work with engineers to make it a new feature.
That someone must have a technical background and experience in the education sector. Thanks to his university studies and previous role in the education sales force, Dominic had both.
Itdidn’tt take long for Bhrighu to put him forward for the role. He did several interviews, half of which he had to fly to Redmond.”That was by far the most intense afternoon I’ve ever experienced,” he laughs.“Sleeping in the hotel room that night was certainly interesting.”
When he heard that he had been successful, he was ecstatic.” I immediately called my wife,” he says.”. “We had been together the whole journey, and this was years of effort, coming in one beautiful moment. “It’ss like Disneyland for tech career”.”
Soon Dominic and his wife had packed up and set up a house in Redmond.
Traveling through American cities, meeting new friends, learning which washing powder to choose from thousands of options… the opportunities and challenges were endless. Still, they soon created a life they loved.
And professionally, it went just as well.”I wasn’t alone in Seattle,” Dominic explains.”I was in Seattle withedumint’ss fastest-growing product. It was like being on a rocket ship, where my imagination was the only limit. Surrounded by tens of thousands of theworld’ss best engineers and designers, passing Nintendo and Boeing, and SpaceX on the way to work… Seattle is like Disneyland for tech careers.”
But after two incredible years, COVID-19 struck, and everything changed.
The work continued to be stimulating, with Dominic responsible for developing Teams to enable online learning for millions of educators and students in the US and UK. But by October 2020, when the crisis showed no signs of letting go, the couple was ready to return to their Brisbane family and friends.
Fail fast and grow faster.
Returning to Australiadidn’tt meanDominic’ss career had to take a step back.
Since returning home, Dominic has been promoted to lead a group of Teams program managers in Australia, India, Asia, and the Middle East. He enjoys the transition to people management, thanks to the support from his managers and colleagues in the same boat.”From the day I joined as a graduate, it has always been a very nice, safe, and supportive culture to learn and evolve”” he says.“If you tell your manager you have a big idea thatyou’ree not sure will work,they’lll support you to try it. Even if no one uses the feature or comes to the event, you can say,””Well, here is why it didn’t work, and here’s how we’re learning to use that to be better tomorrow” Building technology is difficult,” he continues.”Bugs happen, andit’ss not iintentionalit’ss the complexity of writing, managing,g and processing millions of lines of code. What I love about it is that we fail quickly, we learn, and we keep improving””
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