The mission is to make user experience seamless across Microsoft’s various applications, services, and devices. It’s a daunting undertaking for a company with a vast array of offerings produced by many different teams.
This is Julie Larson-Green’s latest task as Chief Experience Officer in the Applications and Services Group. Julie leads the development of new application experiences that are much more intuitive to use, and proactively helpful to the user.
Tough assignments are nothing new for Julie. “Whenever I need to take on big or difficult challenge, I start by putting together a diverse team with the expertise required to solve the problem and complement my skills. As we work together, I stick to my principles of open communication, transparency across the team, and seeking out ideas which will deliver innovative solutions from anyone at every level.”
From the beginning, Julie focused on user-driven technology and how to best optimize for the customer’s needs, working her way up through various departments. She spearheaded the Office 2007 user interface redesign where she introduced the “ribbon.” Julie received the Outstanding Technical Leadership award for that work which unlocked deeper capabilities of Office. When she transferred to the Windows division, Julie brought the ribbon with her to create a more cohesive user experience across platforms.
Her colleagues know her best as a person with vision who brings everyone along in her quest to make it happen. She says, “I start by working with my team to create a vision about a product or technology and we synthesize a bunch of information into clear picture of the problems we’re trying to solve for the customer…I call this the WHY of the work. Then I continually make sure we stay centered the WHY in our efforts.”
Julie’s combination of talents as a technologist and her open-door management style fuel her success as a leader. “A lot of people think you have to choose between being a leader of people versus being a leader of technology,” she says. “I don’t know how you can do one without the other. When you’re a technology leader, you have to understand enough about the technology to know what’s possible, and what direction you want to take it… At the same time, your goal is to create something great. You want to bring people together and align them on that. You don’t have to be the expert on every little detail, but you have to know who is, and you have to be able to communicate together.”
Her advice to fellow women in technology?
“Don’t let anything be a barrier to you. Don’t stop yourself. We often create these false impressions of what we’re supposed to be able to do or it’s okay for us to do. You can do anything you want. It’s not other people’s approval that you’re looking for. It’s how you feel about yourself.”