Holly Lehman, based in Seattle, is a Program Manager at Microsoft. She is fortunate to work as part of the Azure Improvement Team so gets to interact with people on a daily basis. She has created multiple technical programs within Microsoft and has become an educator, connector, advocate and ambassador for her incredible Customers, Partners and MVP communities. She has had the pleasure of running programs for some well known applications and services including, Intune, SCCM and Azure.
You may also know Holly from the video series Head in The Cloud which she hosts alongside her dear friend Isi Katanic. You may recall Isi from the hashtag #GetIsiACat which was trending on Twitter in a few countries at the beginning of October 2020. Thomas Maurer has yet to buy her a cat!
If you have watched the Head In The Cloud video series, you’ll remember Holly in her dinosaur costume that made viewers laugh. It’s a great show! The aim of the initiative is to showcase individual humans in Tech and sharing their story of passion, fun and positivity.
If you want to reach out to Holly, she is always willing to assist. Holly was quick in responding and eager to help when I originally contacted her for an interview.
Before we move onto the interview, here is a shot of Holly in her dinosaur costume. Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel. The link can be found towards the end of the interview.
Note: If you have any questions or feedback, please use the comment box towards the end of the interview. All comments are reviewed before we approve and notify the interviewee. Thanks
Holly Lehman Interview
Tell us about yourself?
Hi! My name is Holly Lehman. I am a Program Manager at Microsoft working on the Azure Product Improvement team! I am a wife and mom of two gorgeous girls who keep me on my toes. My background is hospitality as a native from Las Vegas. After moving to Seattle and starting a career at Microsoft I have a new passion for our technical communities (customer, MVP and Partner). I cherish the relationships I have created and love humanizing Microsoft and our end users. I miss the event side of things, but look forward to the day we are back together and educating one another again!
What is your greatest achievement whilst working in the world of Tech?
Finding my true passion. Taking tech, humanizing it by creating multiple technical programs within Microsoft, where I was able to be an educator, connector, advocate and ambassador for our incredible Customers, Partners and MVP communities. I had the pleasure of running programs for Intune, SCCM and Azure. I miss being a community manager, as it was one of the greatest privileges but I love keeping in touch with our communities currently, running the NorthStar Partner program for hand selected Partner companies and my side hustle with Isi Katanic running the video series, “Head in the Cloud, Heart in the Community!” on our virtual journey around the world showcasing individual humans in Tech and sharing their story of passion, fun and positivity.
How did you get into IT?
My story is quite different than most. Like I mentioned, I am from Las Vegas, my background was hospitality. I have held most front of the house titles and even opened a hotel from ground to opening day! So many cool experiences and stories. But after finding out my husband and I were expecting, we decided to move to his home state of Seattle. After working at a hotel, the long hours, weekends and being on call, I realized this was not the career I wanted as a mom. I wanted a career with stability and room for growth. So after a year of applying, I was beyond grateful to be hired as Microsoft as an admin. After my 2nd child, I took a 2 year leave and only wanted to return as a Program Manager. The Intune team hired me to run their Customer Connection program. I was beyond grateful for this opportunity and I am thankful to this day for what Microsoft has given to me and my family.
What does your role involve as a Program Manager at Microsoft?
My role has many hats, being deep technically isn’t one of them which surprises many. In my role, you need to be able to multitask, be a connector, have a listening ear for feedback and network! In any PM role, being organized is so important. What I enjoy about my role as a PM is connecting with our external tech communities, being able to share their stories, feedback and insights with our Engineering teams to better our services and products.
You have been successful in the Tech world and an inspiration for other Women. What would you recommend for Women considering a career in Tech?
Have a mentor, be a mentor. Take others on your journey. Don’t be afraid of what you “can’t” do, embrace what makes you different than others and don’t change who you are. Often as women, we are told to change our look, appearance, personality and I say, you are stronger and more determined to remain true to yourself and value what strengths and skills you bring to the table. And always, lead with kindness.
What would you say to those businesses who are nervous about moving to the Microsoft Azure platform? Concerns around not knowing where to start, whether their platform is Azure ready, costs involved etc?
If you weren’t nervous to make a huge change with technology, I would say you haven’t done your research 😉 Moving to a cloud service and changing platforms is a lot, but when you take Azure like a puzzle, slowly build it out one piece at a time, you will see that you can create an Azure environment that is best suited for you safe in the cloud, secure for your end user and constructed in a way that is trusted by your IT team. This trust is more important now more than ever and Azure is ready for this new normal. I would also recommend to leverage the offerings out there such as Fast Track and the Partner ecosystem.
How do Microsoft deal with the massive amount of feedback coming in from their customers? There must be thousands of feedback being processed.
Yes, there is so much feedback and every team runs their feedback ingestion slightly differently. Some mange through programs, other teams 1:1 engagements, for some it’s events (virtual or in person) my current team leverages what we call “source programs” or mature programs already established. We work with each program owner to collect technical feedback. We review the feedback and share with our Engineering teams to help them as they prioritize feedback in their planning cycles! If a company wants to start their own feedback program, I would say hire someone who is truly passionate about listening, building a trusted community, organized and ready to follow up! What you don’t want is to ask for feedback and input and then do nothing with it. You want to build trust, let people know their voice is heard and appreciated, valued enough that the team takes action!
Can Techies get involved with providing Microsoft with Feedback on the Azure Platform? What’s the process?
There are so many options, Uservoice is definitely one way I recommend. But also, find the customer/ Partner programs out there and sign up! There are many of these type of communities across Microsoft services.
How did you get into the world of Microsoft Azure?
Thankfully a previous co worker saw my passion for building community programs and asked me to join their team 😊
You’re one of the co-owners of Head In The Cloud? Could you tell us about this initiative? What does it involve? And who can take part?
You did your research 😊 Yes, this started with my dear friend, Isi. We connected on Twitter and to this day have not yet met in person!! We both have a HUGE genuine passion for technical communities. During COVID-19 we were chatting about how down people are right now and how many people have taken this time to start new ventures, set new goals, focus on something positive, so we wanted to share these stories of passion for tech and positive ideas with the world (yes, that is our goal to share this video series with as many as possible). We wanted to do something positive for our community and so, an idea turned into what is now, “Head in the Cloud, Heart in the Community!”
What would you recommend for anyone leaving school wanting to start a career at Microsoft? Or existing IT Professionals wanting to join Microsoft? What do Microsoft look for?
I would say leverage the programs that are out there. Use the Microsoft intern program, there is a yearly mock interview for people in college where you can do an interview with a Microsoft PM and get feedback on your interview as well as tips and tricks to nail your actual interview. And my personal advice from experience, don’t turn your head at being a vendor. I started at Microsoft twice as a vendor and thankfully with determination and very hard work, I was blessed to be hired as an FTE within a year of my vendor hire date.
Do Microsoft allow Azure users to take part in new Azure product/feature testing? And how can one get involved?
Yes! We have many private and public preview opportunities. The Private previews are usually offered to those already in one of the customer/partner or MVP programs. The public previews are often showcased on multiple social media platforms. Again, I encourage anyone to join one of the customer programs offered by multiple Microsoft teams. It’s so worth the extra time, the connection you get within the virtual walls of Microsoft are a huge incentive and benefit.
What are your areas of expertise? Are you still working with other Microsoft products apart from Microsoft Azure?
As mentioned previous, my area of expertise is hospitality, executive communications, event management, relationship building, program management, social media management. And I assume I have missed a few off the list, but this is a general idea.
What certifications have you achieved, or the certifications you are working towards? I heard Microsoft really look after and encourage their employees when it comes to Microsoft certification.
They really do, my goal is to continue to read, learn, take more Azure fundamental exams, but for me personally its learning hands on from my team and the communities I work with. I learn so much from the conversations I have from our customers, MVPs and Partners. I value the real world stories.
How do you keep up to date with the latest Microsoft Azure products?
Gosh, there is a plethora of information out there. It really is so hard to stay up to date, but here are somethings I do daily:
Twitter & LinkedIn, I follow Microsoft and a variety of Microsoft employees. I like the diverse perspectives and information shared. I check the following blogs daily:
What’s your advice for someone who wants to become a public speaker but not confident, or not sure where to start?
Just do it! You will never become a speaker in the audience. You don’t have to be the best speaker, you need passion about your topic. Find a mentor, learn from others and take any opportunity given to you. With each opportunity you learn, grown and gain confidence.
How do you overcome your nervousness when presenting in front of a large audience? It must be difficult, any tips?
For me, I remember, I am nervous because I truly care. I want my message to land. I want the audience engaged and I want to connect with the room. So I look at my nerves as a good thing! It’s my heart wanting to do what’s right. Breathe. And remember, that if you mess up, you are probably the only one who will actually know 😉
What’s next in your Microsoft journey? Any new goals?
I believe in taking every open door and every possible opportunity. So I continue to network, mentor, and connect with others. I want my next career journey to use my skills, strengths and passion for community, events, social media and branding. One goal I never lose is to keep learning, reading and connecting with others.
Do you have any final words of wisdom?
I would say, don’t let your Imposter syndrome get to you. We all have it, acknowledge it and leave it. Remember every single day what you bring, where your passion lies and always lead with kindness. Tech can be a rough career, taking others along with you and using kindness as your voice, you will succeed.
The most important question of all 😊
From a scale from 1 – 10 how crazy are you about Microsoft Azure? (10 being the highest)
10 because Azure is driving others to succeed in a journey of tech in a way that is safe, secure and forward thinking.
End of Interview