“I believe that hiring people from all cultural backgrounds and all gender backgrounds makes for such a rich story overall.”
For Colombian-born Joseph Sefair, curiosity is a critical skill—one he’s honed through creating moments of surprise and delight for Microsoft customers around the world.
Growing up in Pereira and Bogotá, Colombia, the youngest of four children, I was very independent and an everything fixer from an early age. I was always curious. Any gadget or toy that I could take apart, I would do it. And then I would put them back together.
It was not surprising then, that my curiosity coupled with my love of math, chemistry, and physics would lead me to pursue a degree in engineering. I felt destined for engineering from a young age.
After earning my master’s degree in Puerto Rico, I set out to land a job in industrial engineering. It was then in 2000 at a local job fair that I was introduced to Microsoft. I interviewed for a software engineer position and to my surprise, I was hired on the spot. Honestly, I was not expecting to get the position. I remember thinking that it was not possible nor achievable for someone like me, coming from Colombia. And . . . I was an industrial engineer, so I was thinking, “What the heck does an industrial engineer do at a company making software?”
The answer to that question was data analytics. Interestingly, much of my background in industrial engineering is statistics. So, I took my passion for statistics and applied it to a software engineering role for Microsoft Office and eventually my current position, group software engineering manager for Amplify, a team focused on analyzing global customer data and using it to create better products. Now when I look back, my diverse background in industrial engineering where I took a number of courses that expanded my experience, actually helped me advance quickly to leadership positions at Microsoft.
Central to my position at Microsoft is creating moments of surprise and delight for customers around the globe, including Latin America — an end goal that requires a certain level of cultural and emotional intelligence. When a customer opens a product and they say “Wow,” that’s amazing. And that’s a “wow” moment for us, too. Those moments can be as simple yet impactful as offering Spanish translation and culturally accessible payment options for Hispanic and Latinx customers. My team will then use customer data and feedback to improve upon and create more surprise-and-delight moments. We have a lot of opportunity to have an impact on every user on the planet, and that keeps me so motivated.
As the worldwide chair of HOLA, a Microsoft Employee Resource Group dedicated to supporting the continued growth and development of Hispanic and Latinx employees, I believe it’s key for Microsoft—a global company—to continue recruiting people from around the globe. The ability to be respectful of other cultures, to learn about other cultures, and to include other cultures in the conversation and in business decisions — is a must. We are intentional about that. I believe that hiring people from all cultural backgrounds and all gender backgrounds makes for such a rich story overall.