The College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) is proud of its alumni. Meet alum Cesar Villa-Garcia who works at Microsoft as a Product Manager.
Name: Cesar Villa-Garcia
Hometown: Lima, Peru
Degree/major/graduation year: B.S. in Computer Science, 2018
Where are you working? Position title?
I am working at Microsoft as a Product Manager.
How did you get your job?
I got my job thanks to the connections I made through the INIT FIU student organization. They hosted a Microsoft Info Session on campus back in 2018, where I was able to learn about the Product Manager career and meet Luis Masieri, an FIU alum working in that role. During COVID, Luis approached me about an opening in his team and I was then able to interview for the job. A few weeks later and I received an offer to work remotely from New York City!
What was your greatest fear going into your first job, and how did you face/overcome it?
My greatest fear going into this job was the transition from my previous software engineering job to a product management one. The PM role is one that sits at the intersection of engineering, design, and business, and requires knowledge and skills in areas outside of software engineering. I was concerned about how smoothly I’d be able to transition from one discipline to another, but thankfully the previous experience I had as student leader and graphic designer helped me out a lot. In a matter of weeks I was fully onboarded and working with engineers and designers to launch new features for the Microsoft Azure IoT platform.
What surprised you the most about your first job?
What surprised me the most was the incredible culture and work-life balance at a tech giant like Microsoft. On my first day, I was warmly greeted by everyone in my team and over the weeks that followed I participated in multiple tech sessions, social activities, and more. Everyone in my team is smart, helpful, and respectful of each other’s time, together working on challenging problems and fostering a fun and enjoyable work environment.
What advice do you have for those beginning the job search process?
I would advise anyone looking for a job to get involved in student organizations at their campus. If you’re looking to get into a role in technology, such as software engineering or product management, I highly recommend the INIT FIU organization. Having connections to other students and alumni can open up a lot of doors for you. It’s how I was able to get my job at Microsoft!
What does a day on the job look like?
A day on the job as a Product Manager can vary depending on the phase of development and time of the year. As I pick up a new feature request, I start by doing some user research to learn more about the needs of our customers. I then come up with potential solutions, meeting with engineering and design teams to find out their feasibility. After doing this investigation, I create a spec document for this new feature, outlining the problem we’re trying to solve, the solution, technical implementation, design mockups, timeline, budget, and more. After the specs are solidified, I then drive the upcoming work by partnering closely with our engineering and design teams. Through this process, we go through multiple meetings and iterations of the proposed solution. Once development is done, I announce the launch of the feature, create documentation, record tutorials, and monitor usage metrics of our new feature – all while picking up another new requested feature and starting the cycle over again.
How does your job connect back to your coursework?
My job connects back to my engineering coursework, specially my software engineering and design courses. As I create specs for new features and work with the engineering teams, the computer science knowledge I learned in school comes in handy. This includes understanding system design, data structures, and other important concepts involved in the development of software products.
How was your transition from school to work? How do you balance your time?
My transition out of college was smooth, as I had first interned at JPMorgan Chase and then returned to the company post-graduation, working full time as a Software Engineer for three years. I then got the opportunity to work at a Product Manager at Microsoft, transitioning from an engineering to a product role and staying in New York City.
What’s been the coolest thing about your job so far?
The coolest thing has been launching new features that are used by thousands of users around the world. Having the opportunity to come up with new solutions and drive them from idea to execution is very fulfilling and rewarding.
How well do you think FIU prepared you for your career?
I think FIU did a great job at preparing me for my career, providing me with the fundamental computer science knowledge to excel as a software engineer and now as a product manager. I’m grateful to the faculty and staff who motivated me to continue my journey into tech.