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Debbie O'Brien
Debbie O'Brien

Posted on • Originally published at debbie.codes

Why Microsoft and How I achieved my Goal

I started building websites in 1997

I started building websites in 1997 before I even had access to the internet. I got my first job in tech in 1999 working with Dreamweaver. But it was very boring so I left after a year to have fun and be an entertainer on a stage in Mallorca. I had fun for a few years but then started studying again to try to get back into tech starting with flash and then moving on to wordpress.

After building many websites for the local bars, restaurants, fish mongers and Taekwondo clubs, I finally got hired and started working for startups as a front-end developer specializing in HTML and CSS. I was let go many times as each startup kept running out of money and so I was constantly in and out of work. It was very hard to survive, so I became an English teacher to be able to pay the bills and did web work when I could.

My Dream - To work for a Cool Tech Company

It all changed 5 years ago when my life was not really going anywhere and I was pretty miserable. That's when I stared to do a dream builders course so I could change my life. My dream was to work for Google as a frontend developer. Wait a second you say, I thought this was titled "Why Microsoft?".

Let me explain. At that time in my life Microsoft was not my dream. It wasn't the company that I know it to be today, so it wasn't my goal. During my dream builders course I was told to define Google. For me it was never about the cool offices or free food or whatever else makes Google cool. It was about working with a great team of people, it was about being able to make a difference, it was about always being able to learn and improve, and I won't lie in saying it was also about working for a company that wasn't going to close down after a few years.

me writing my dream in a notebook

Becoming Microsoft Certified

After leaving my teaching job and freelance dev work I went back to full time study in February 2017, to learn JavaScript, in the hope to get a job at a great company. I never thought I would ever get hired by Google but I always feel you have to reach for the stars and aim as high as possible. After about 9 months of full time studying I got a job as a real frontend developer in Bluekiri in November of 2017.

This is when things changed. This company were Microsoft Partners and the CEO encouraged everyone to write blog posts, speak at conferences, collaborate on Open Source and be Microsoft certified, an achievement that was not easy, but that I am very proud of.

microsoft exam certification

Building Chat Bots with the Microsoft Guys

While working there we were tasked to build chat bots in Node.js. I in no way had close to enough experience, but was allowed to shadow the project and build some of the UI for the chat bots dashboard. Microsoft sent us 2 people to help us build these chat bots. The developers sat with us and programmed the chat bots with us and helped us better understand the product we were using. It was so much fun.

We had lunch with these guys every day and on the last day I shared a taxi with them to the airport and I remember sitting in the airport with them with my book on prepping to be Microsoft certified, and they told me what it was like to work for Microsoft. And that is when my goals changed. I just really liked the idea that Microsoft were willing to send people out to help others, to help them build better software with their products and I said to the two Microsoft guys,

"One day I will work for Microsoft".

a group of developers building looking at a screen of code

But again it was just a goal, a dream. How does one ever even get there? As always, it takes time. A lot of time. At that moment I was no way good enough to work for Microsoft. I needed a lot more experience and skills.

What are your goals?

After a year working for Bluekiri I moved to an agency. During my interview in October 2018, I was asked the typical question. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? What are your goals? My answer was simple. I said:

I will be working for Microsoft.

Now picture it for a second. A female developer who learnt JavaScript a year ago, is telling an interview panel in a small agency, in the small island of Mallorca, that she is going to work for Microsoft and says it with such determination and belief. Well their jaws dropped and their eyes opened wide. I don't think either I or them thought it would happen but I had a goal and my goal was very clear.

The MVP Program

In November 2018 I spoke at my first conference and got to meet speakers who were Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals, and they started telling me about the MVP program. This became part of my goal. What did I need to do? How could I become one? I was already contributing to open source, helping communities and sharing knowledge so really it was just about doing more of it and trying to help people even more.

Visiting the Microsoft Office in Boston

While on holiday in Boston, in November 2019, I went to the Microsoft offices to help Jen Looper mentor a group of women who were learning to code. I literally told my husband to go shopping and meet me later. For me it was just a dream walking into the offices and seeing the Microsoft logo. I felt like I was taking a step closer to my dream. And after that trip is when Jen Looper nominated me for the MVP program.

me sitting at at table with Microsoft logo on the table cloth

My MVP Award

On the 1st January 2020 I received the email to say I had been accepted into the program and I was blown away. I really couldn't believe it. I had also recently been awarded the Google Developer Expert award and so to be acknowledged by two of the most amazing tech companies, two companies that it would be a dream to work for, was just insane.

me with my mvp awards

In January 2020 I got to travel on a cruise ship for 17 days with a bunch of speakers and MVPs to give a tech talk in the Antarctic waters. It was such an incredible experience to be surrounded by such amazing speakers and MVPs. I grew so much during that cruise and it really helped me believe even more that I could accomplish my goals.

a bunch of people the stairs making silly faces and all wearing warm hats

First MVP Summit

In March 2020 it was my first MVP summit, which I was meant to attend in person, but at last minute it was moved to be remote due to Covid, but I still really enjoyed it. I really felt I was part of Microsoft in a way. I loved the sessions and the hallway tracks were amazing with many of us MVPs just chatting and hanging out and supporting each other in these difficult times.

Becoming a GitHub Star

In April 2020 I started working for Nuxt, which was just incredible, but also my first job as a Developer Advocate in Covid times made things rather different. However I used my time to focus on my goals, to do everything I could to just be better at what I did, and I shared as much as I could with others. And that's how later that year I became a GitHub Star. My belief is always, if I could change my life then others can too. They just have to see and believe that they can. So I share my knowledge and learnings with everyone so they can make their dreams come true.

me with my GitHub swag and awards behind me

Collaborations as an MVP

As an MVP I got to collaborate a lot with many people from Microsoft which was just amazing. Special thanks to Simona Cotin and Wassim Chegham for always believing in me and for giving me these amazing opportunities.

Microsoft Build 2020

I got to appear on Microsoft Build in 2020 alongside Simona Cotin and others for a short interview on Nuxt and static sites which was an incredible experience. me appearing on Microsoft Build

Nuxt and Azure Static Web Apps MS Build

I got to collaborate with Simona Cotin on testing the Nuxt integration and docs for Azure Static Web Apps and had my demo shown live on MS Build. nuxtjs site on azure static web apps

MS Create

I appeared on MS Create with Wassim Chegham and Burke Holland talking about why static sites were back, from static, servers browsers to static. me appearing on MS Create with Wassim

One Dev Question

I created a mini Twitter video series for Microsoft's One Dev Question on Nuxt.js. All recorded remotely on the many reasons to use Nuxt and Azure Static Web Apps. me at home with mvp award in background and microsoft logo on screen

Microsoft Startup Developers

I had an article published on the Microsoft Startup Developers blog on how we use Nuxt at the Nuxt.js Company. article on how we use nuxt

Microsoft Cloud Skills

I also appeared on the Microsoft Cloud Skills show on JavaScript Communities where we got to talk about an intro to JavaScript Frameworks, with Wassim Chegham, Yohan Lasorsa and Ana Cidre. me and the others back stage for the show

Having Clear Goals

These were all my tiny steps to one day achieve my goal, but also these opportunities made me realize even more what a cool company Microsoft is.

In February 2021 I interviewed for Bit and the CEO asked me what my 3 year plan was, what my goal was. And I told him, again with extreme confidence,

I will be working for Microsoft.

And when I handed in my notice to him, I asked him if he remembered my answer and he said, "yes, Microsoft".

So how did it happen? I guess it was right time and right place. A little bit of luck but also being prepared. Having a goal in mind and just going for it until the right opportunity arose. You can read all about it in my post Interviewing with the Big Tech Companies.

My dream came true

I still can't quite believe I actually got the job. I'm still on a high and floating in the clouds. 5 years ago I used all my life savings to study and learn JavaScript and now at 43 years of age (yes I know you all think I am only 21) I get to work for Microsoft. It really is just incredible what one can achieve.

Discussion (47)

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Microsoft was not my dream. It wasn't the company that I know it to be today, so it wasn't my goal.

The implication is that there were things you didn't like about Microsoft but that those things have changed for the better. I could be misreading what you wrote, but assuming that's how it was meant, can you elaborate on what aspects have improved in the time since you first dismissed Microsoft as a path?

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Sure. Microsoft moving into the open source world was what made me really want to work there. Plus before I seen it more as backend stuff like .NET focused which it was but now there is so much more, Typescript, VSCode, GitHub, NPM, Static web apps etc and now Playwright and all these are very useful in the Frontend world and free. So they are creating great developer tools and I really like that.

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The Coding Mermaid 🧜‍♀️ • Edited on

Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I also decided for a Web design course in 2017 and since then I didn't stop learning and coding. At the time I was a little scared since I was near 30 y.o. but now I know that that doesn't mean anything. What matters is who you are and how much you fight to accomplish your goals. My background is in biology🐬 and now even that I love animals, I feel so happy and complete working at tech.

Having clear goals is more important than motivation. Since we could not be always happy, what's normal. But as long as we work a little bit towards our goals everyday, that will make a difference.

You are inspiring Debbie! You are someone that I can say "I wanna be like her one day".

Keep on rock n roll 🦄

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Debbie O'Brien Author

ohhh. thanks for the kind words. and yes so glad you decided to do that course. Keep learning, keep coding and keep dreaming

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MD Sarfaraj

Your story is really incredible, I also want to work in a big company like Google, and also I want to build my own house.

Thanks for sharing this article, Love from India

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks, best of luck, am sure one day your dream will also come true

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MD Sarfaraj

Thank you :)

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Santosh Yadav

You are an inspiration Debbie, more power to you and I have a Similar dream to work at Microsoft one day 🙏

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks Santosh, keep doing what you are doing and I am sure you will find the right position

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Kelsey Jones

Really helpful.

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Aarav Reddy

Thank you for writing this

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marceloarraes profile image
Marcelo Arraes Teixeira

Debbie, great post! Can you link were i can make a certification like that by microsoft? I just found certifications for microsoft products.. but i would love to have one for front end like that.

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Debbie O'Brien Author

they actually retired it so am afraid I don't think it's available anymore
docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/cer...

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Parker Waiters

Glad I came across this.

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Sophia Nelson

Good article, thank you.

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silvesterwali

congratulations. this is so inspiring me

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks so much

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Mohammad-Ali A'RÂBI

Nice! I'm glad you achieved your goal. And such a great piece you wrote here. It inspired me to set my goals more clearly and start chasing them.

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks, great, look forward to hearing all about them and reading your story one day

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devashishsarmah profile image
devashishSarmah

This is inspiring!!
I have been learning about the web technologies and their concepts. I aspire to be a part of an awesome team and make a difference.

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks. Keep learning, coding and dreaming

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Eddy Vinck

What an incredible story, Debbie! Thanks so much for sharing it.

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks Eddy

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Dzhavat Ushev

Thanks for sharing your story. It's very inspiring!
Congrats on joining Microsoft 🎉

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks so much

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David Dennis

Congratulations on fulfilling your dreams. Indeed, the hardwork has paid off.
I believe you still have more to achieve.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge always with the community.

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks so much. Yes for sure. Now my new journey has just begun. :)

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Andrew Baisden

Great story its really inspirational you had a good journey.

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks :)

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cnboker

It's inspirational, I am inspired by your story.

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Debbie O'Brien Author

thanks so much :)

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Daniel J. Summers

Awesome - congratulations!

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks 😊

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Jacks

thanks for share your history it was a very inspirational, I really enjoy read it.

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks 😊

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Je

Very inspiring, hope one day I could also work for MS.

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Debbie O'Brien Author

I hope so too. It's an amazing company

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Abdeldjalil Hachimi

I am really proud of you,

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thank you :)

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Nahid Akhter

Very inspiring! What does it take to be a Microsoft MVP? I currently write blog articles and make YouTube videos on Excel. Does that matter?

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Sure it does. You can read more about the program here - mvp.microsoft.com/

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Magda Rosłaniec

Congratulations!
And thank you for sharing such an inspiring story.

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks so much :)

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JooYoo

And you lie Debbie. You are not 43, you are 21. Dream makes you forever young 💚

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks so much. yes always feeling like 21. I will be 21 forever :)

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Domenico Rizzo

Thanks for sharing, your story is very inspiring

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Debbie O'Brien Author

Thanks so much