Black, Female Software Engineer, Phoebe Ash, Shines at Microsoft, Encourages Other Women of Color

Black, Female Software Engineer, Phoebe Ash, Shines at Microsoft, Encourages Other Women of Color
Phoebe Ash, Sr. Software Design Engineer in Test for Microsoft (Photo credit: Leon Pryor, Pryor Studios)

Software has become so central to our daily lives, that many of us over age 30 have forgotten what life was like without it and would be impaired it were taken away.

Phoebe Ash, a senior software design engineer in Test for Microsoft, recognizes this fact and works hard to ensure her team remains on the cutting edge.

“I work to make people’s lives’ easier. I can reach people through the software that I work on like Outlook, which is an amazing product. I have also worked with Internet Explorer. Technology helps us to reach goals. It is very interesting that a ‘doc’ can end up being a major publication that wins an award,” says Ash, who writes tools and automates tests to create quality software for millions of users.

Don’t underestimate the young black woman who hails South Central Los Angeles and her ability to have a successful 12-year-career in an industry that is unaffected by the economic downturn.

Even Ash admits that she never thought that she would take such a strong interest in software, considering that she didn’t develop an affinity for math and writing until she reached college.

“I really became studious when I went to college. I was pretty decent in English, math — in most subjects. I didn’t excel in one while in high school. I excelled in writing, math, and general practice in all of my studies once I reached college. I had a strong desire to learn. I took many more classes in math than was expected of me for my discipline. I majored in political science,” explains the Tuskegee University graduate.

One summer, Ash accepted a work study position in the computer science lab where she learned how to program. The experience led to a position as lab manager and later an internship in the IT department at Morgan Stanley.

Although Ash really enjoys her career, she would like to see more African American women in the field. As of this writing, she’s the only one on her team. Therefore, she’s stepped up and has taken a more active role in Blacks at Microsoft (BAM), an affinity group, which helped her to network and to get acclimated early in her career.

The group hosts Minority Student Day, which is an annual event that takes place in February. Throughout the day, Microsoft employees will guide students through information sessions and workshops. Employees serve as mentors, talking with students about the wide variety of career opportunities available to them in the technology industry.

“You can do anything in life and there should be no one to tell you that you can’t, no matter what your background or where you come from, you can achieve what you set out for in life. It just takes hard work and lots of dedication to excellence,” she encourages. –yvette caslin

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