Stephen Purcell, Software Development Engineer in Test, Microsoft
Degree subject BA (Mod) Computer Science (2009); MSc Computer Science (2010), Trinity College Dublin
Job title Software Development Engineer in Test
Looking back I have always been technically minded – as a child I loved taking things apart and putting them back together – so it made sense to develop a career in IT and engineering. At 16 I got a summer job with the IT department of a bank. It was a fantastic experience which confirmed that IT was the right path for me.
While at university, I set my sights on working for a big multinational. The recruitment process at Microsoft was intense. Initially there was an online CV submission, followed by an email-based application form, and then another online form. I then had to complete an online coding test which was followed by a one-hour phone screen based on soft skills, with a few technical skills thrown in. After that I had five separate face-to-face interviews with five different senior members of staff before I was offered my position.
Software development at my company can be divided into three areas: program managers come up with specs on what we’re going to build; the developers build the software; and the testers test it once it's been built. As a tester I get the best of both worlds because I work on concentrated tasks, as well as having a broader view of the software and what's best for the customer.
After the design, the developer comes up with a prototype which I then check to make sure there are no major issues. This involves testing that the feature does exactly what it's supposed to do, and that it doesn’t break any existing functionality. There is also more extended testing in other areas, such as ensuring the feature works globally, for example in languages with different alphabets and regions with different calendar systems. We have a number of internal tools to do this work, and we develop more within the team as needed.
I'm currently working on the next version of Office, which is very exciting. Knowing that there's a huge customer base that will directly benefit from the work I do gives me tremendous job satisfaction.
Advice for graduates
Interview early and often. I don't know if I would have been as successful in the interview process here had I not had prior experience elsewhere. I applied for a few graduate schemes at other companies specifically to get interview experience – it definitely paid off.
Stephen Purcell was interviewed for the gradireland directory 2012.