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The girl who painted Microsoft red

For Karthika Baiju, it was a dream come true when she joined Microsoft with a record remuneration package.In a chat with Team Fayz, she talks about her college days, her nervous days before placement and the wonderful work culture @ Microsoft.

IN FIRST PERSON

The path to who I am today is mostly filled with very small decisions that eventually lead to the turning point in my life. My decision to pursue Computer Science in school, to join Government Model Engineering College after my entrance, to choose Electronics Engineering as my major, all these decisions eventually led me to what I am today. I could not imagine who and where I would be today if I had made any change in the variables of those decisions.The major turning point in my life came in my third year of college when I decided to join the Placement Cell of the college.

Till that point I had heard a lot about this student body of the college that works for students. I knew it would be a lot of responsibility, to the college, to the students and to the teammates working with me for the same cause and I decided to take up the challenge. The decision to join the placement cell is the best decision I had made, it has a lot to do with the kind of person I turned out to be today. It taught me to be courageous, to be confident, to voice your thoughts, to stand up for yourself, to work as a team. It gave me visibility to the whole broad corporate work while still in college and most importantly it gave me a bunch of people I can trust for life, my team.

The next turning point came when I got the chance to do an internship at Robert Bosch Center for Cyber Physical Systems at IISc, Bangalore, for two months. It was mostly research-oriented internship. It helped me learn a lot, mostly working on Image Processing and Python. So I spent the two-month semester break in the third year in Bangalore. IISc was such a beautiful campus filled with the most extraordinary minds. It was during my internship here that I got to know about the Grace Hopper Conference India (GHCI) Scholarship by Anita Borg India (ABI). GHCI is India's largest women in tech conference and this scholarship by ABI sponsors you to attend the conference.

They provide you with the entry to the conference (which usually costs around 10K per person) access to the career fair, sponsors travel and accommodation. So along with hundreds of girls from my college, I also applied for the scholarship. I put my whole heart and soul into writing the SOP and finishing the application. Arya Murali and the Rethink Foundation helped a lot with the process.

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Then came the final year and the placement season started. Everyone was busy preparing for placements for various companies. I also tried among them. The placement season started in August, I sat for most of the companies that came to campus, but sadly I was not able to clear their screening tests and for the ones that I did, I messed up the interview. In September, the results for GHCI were out, I was constantly refreshing my email to see if I got a mail from them. I got to know that some of my friends had already gotten the acceptance mail.

I lost hope since I had not received any mail yet. And finally, that evening I got the mail to attend the scholarship in November at Bangalore.I was over the moon at this point. I was asked to upload my resume in the ABI site. The resumes are used by the companies attending the career fair at the conference. All the top companies that you can think of will be there, Microsoft, Google, Adobe, Amazon, Morgan Stanley, and many more. It's never too late to upload you resume in the ABI site. This gives you the opportunity to write a test for these big companies.

It was November first week, I still didn't have a job offer in hand, and I got the opportunity to write the test for many of the companies, including Microsoft. It was in November second week that I got the email from Microsoft stating that I cleared the test and asking me to attend the interview at GHCI. I got help from my Computer Science friends to prepare for the interview, I got an intense crash course on the CS core topics that I needed to know for the interview. I had a basic knowledge at the surface level and my coding skills were normal, but I did not have enough knowledge to sit for a tech interview at Microsoft. We studied late into the night and on holidays. Finally, on the second day of the conference, I got to sit for the interview. I was as nervous as hell. I had 3 rounds of tech interviews, it went well. After the third round itself, HR came and told me that they would like to extend an offer. I was jumping around in excitement. So, Microsoft turned out to be my first and only offer.

Moving to Hyderabad was a big change, with the Microsoft campus leaving me in wonder. One good thing about Microsoft is that it nurtures your curiosity. It encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and try out new things. Microsoft provides the perfect environment for a person to grow. I had completed one year at Microsoft last June and it has been an incredible learning experience. The corporate work environment is very much different from college and Microsoft provided a smooth transition into it.

One thing I picked up here is my passion for painting. I felt I needed something to do in my spare time, to relax from all the coding, so I started going for oil painting classes near where I am staying and found that painting truly brought joy. It's a great way to relax after a tiring day of work and something productive to do on the weekend. I started it as just a hobby and I truly found a passion for it. I started an Instagram page for my art, @from_502 and started conducting small exhibitions in my society for selling art. I have been painting for over 6 months and I try to find time to practise every day.I hope to take my art forward along with my work at Microsoft. Currently, life at Microsoft is going steadily. But I would like to go back to school, finish my Master's and then come back to Microsoft. The work environment at Microsoft is unique and wherever I go, I am sure to come back to it and my art.

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A tete-a-tete with Karthika Baiju

How was the response at home, among friends and colleagues when you walked out with a record salary offer?

My parents were really happy when I told them that I got a job at Microsoft. Microsoft had not yet informed me of the package’s exact details, so initially everyone was really happy about the fact that I got into Microsoft. When I told my friends they were surprised. I got to know the details of the package and the job almost two weeks later. Everyone was calling and congratulating me at this point. And it turned out I had gotten the highest package in my batch.

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What was the first thing on your mind when you got such a great offer?

I was really excited. My friend who attended the interview with me said I was literally jumping around when the HR came and told me that they would like to extend and offer.

We are really curious. How and where do you spend all the money? Do you have an investment plan lined up?

I have some investments, some in fixed deposit and most of it as Microsoft stock. My major spendings will be rent and art supplies.

Tell us about the work culture @ Microsoft?

I start for office at around 9-9:30 am, with the office just 1km away from where I stay. So either I walk or take an auto if I am late. Have breakfast at the cafeteria. Get to my desk by 10 and start with my task for the day. The first half of the day goes in starting the work and attending calls. Then lunch, then back to work again. Since the timings are flexible I leave according to my work. Sometimes I leave at 5pm and some days I stay till 10:30pm.
The work culture at Microsoft is great, there is always an opportunity to learn new things and trying out stuff is very much encouraged here. And each Sprint there are new features to be added, so it's interesting work so far. For early in career like me, they allow me ample room to try and fail and figure things out. There are a lot of other programs and activities that are going around the campus.

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Amid such a busy schedule, how do you find time to paint? Is it like a stress-buster?

I try to paint almost every day. The days I come home early, I'll sit and paint. Mostly I spent my weekends painting. It started as stress- buster, now it's turned into something I am passionate about and love to do for hours.

You have sort of achieved something big already. What next?

I would like to finish my higher studies and come back.

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If there is one a habit of yours that has helped you become what you are, what would that be?

  • Trying out different opportunities. In college I tried to enter into many hackathons, do my own projects and register for stuff as much as I can. That helped a lot.
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