Interviews, South America

Alessandra Karine – Vice President of Public Sector Sales at Microsoft Brazil

At Microsoft we are not restricted to thinking about having a larger number of women. Our goal is to have in the company a reflection of what we have in society.

In 2019, Alessandra Karine took over as Vice President of Public Sector Sales at Microsoft Brazil. The executive began her career as an infrastructure manager at Masterfoods Brazil. After two and a half years, she went to Embratel, where she remained for more than six years as an executive sales manager. At Cisco, she took on the role of partner account manager focused on managed and cloud services for four years. She has also accumulated stints at McAfee as a sales manager and at Accenture as a senior sales executive. For almost four years, she led the LATAM business development teams at Amazon Web Services, her last experience before joining Microsoft. Alessandra has a degree in Systems Analysis from PUC Campinas, with an MBA in Information Technology applied to Business Management from FGV. Recently, the executive also took on the challenge of leading the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at Microsoft Brazil and started the “Advanced Board Program for Women” course at Saint Paul Escola de Negócios.

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

Technology has always been at the center of my career. I have more than 20 years of experience in the technology market, working with the management of sales teams. Currently, as Vice President of Public Sector Sales, I have the role of driving Microsoft’s leadership with a growth mindset to ensure that each customer from the government, education and health sectors has an incredibly valuable relationship with Microsoft. I am also honored to lead the company’s Diversity and Inclusion committee in Brazil, with the responsibility of helping to create a diverse and inclusive culture in the workplace, where everyone can bring their full and authentic self, where all voices are heard. With Microsoft, working with technology is more rewarding and makes even more sense in my career, because the company’s mission is to empower all people and organizations on the planet to achieve more through its innovations.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

I have a degree in systems analysis from PUC-Campinas, with an MBA in IT applied to business management. Before Microsoft, I worked at major technology companies like Amazon, Accenture, McAfee, Cisco and Embratel. In all these companies, I had the opportunity to lead national and international teams in both IT infrastructure and sales for projects of large companies. Throughout my career, I have been developing my ability to create new businesses and improving the relationship with customers, suppliers and partners, always looking for opportunities to boost technology in some segment of the economy. I believe that my motivational management and people oriented style has also contributed a lot to the evolution of my career.

What was the best decision in your career?

It’s not only about the money when making big career decisions.

Joining McAfee in 2012. Previously, I had been working at Cisco which was a fine experience. By moving to McAfee, I took a pay cut but I also went through a major period of career growth. It was there that I gained valuable experience as a Team Manager and was instrumental at building an entire area of the business. So, it’s not only about the money when making big career decisions.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

We are witnessing it right now. The digital transition to the Cloud. Technology continues to bring more and more power and ease of use to our fingertips. The shift to the Cloud is enabling more teamwork and collaboration not to mention gaming.

I believe that the current pandemic situation has highlighted the importance of the Cloud in our lives. We have managed to stay in touch via digital platforms like Teams and other common forms of social networking.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

The number of women in the market is still less than desireable, but we have the chance to change reality and to see more women in the technology area in the future, including in leadership positions. When I think about it, I feel that we are on the right path with all the initiatives that I can participate in this direction at Microsoft, both internally and externally. Within the Diversity and Inclusion committee, we have the theme “Women” as one of our pillars. At Microsoft we are not restricted to thinking about having a larger number of women. Our goal is to have in the company a reflection of what we have in society. In diversity and inclusion of gender, yes, but also diversity of race, age group and in the LGBTI+ front. And we go further: we want different ideas and opinions to be respected in order to really have a plural company that reflects the consumers we serve daily with our products and services. Following are a few steps that we have taken:

  • To ensure the improvement of the gender equity index, Microsoft Brazil adopted as a policy the premise that all recruitment processes must have at least one woman among the finalist candidates. In the end, the candidate who is most prepared to take the position will be chosen – whether male or female.
  • Microsoft Brazil signed the document “Principles of Women’s Empowerment”, an initiative of UN Women, a United Nations entity that supports and promotes gender equality.
  • In September 2016, Microsoft announced equal pay for women and men employees in the same position; the company works with the action “Eu Posso Programar Para Meninas” (I can code for girls), that aims to invite girls who want to learn code language and programming using social media channels.
  • Currently, the supply of seed capital in startups with female members is very low. To help alleviate this, Microsoft supported the creation of WE (Women Entrepreneurship) alongside other partners. The initiative proposes to work on female entrepreneurship on different fronts: first, the We Ventures fund aims to raise R$ 100 million in up to five years. Investments in startups will range from R$ 500 thousand to R$ 5 million; the second front is WE Impact, a startup development program that will offer business and digital technology training, as well as technical mentoring. In addition, challenges will also be launched so that any student from universities or technical courses can transform their ideas into startups.

In your words: Why aren’t there more women in tech?

Using Brazil as a reference point:  we have a culture in which people are not yet in the habit of encouraging women in STEM.

Using Brazil as a reference point:  we have a culture in which people are not yet in the habit of encouraging women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) areas. Seeing a girl’s parents encouraging that child to be an engineer or mathematician is unfortunately less common than you might expect. This is improving, but we still have a long way to go. Women have the same cognitive ability as men. Women can act in areas previously stereotyped as masculine. Likewise, men can work in areas considered to be female.

If you had 1 Million € to invest in women, what would you do?

An interesting idea would be to create an educational center in STEM and soft skills focused on young girls.

I would try to enhance the advancement of women at the education level, starting at a relatively young age. Perhaps an interesting idea would be to create an educational center in STEM and soft skills focused on young girls. We believe that students and teachers must be prepared to develop the skills that will be crucial for the jobs and society of the future: critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, and STEM. Current schools, especially those in rural areas and urban communities, do not have equal access to resources. Women, low-income students, those who are minorities and those living in rural areas are much less likely to develop these critical skills during school years than other students. This would be an excellent legacy and a great way to prepare them for the future. In this center, I’d also like to promote initiatives of putting this girls in contact with women that act in STEM careers, showing this is also a possible track for them – if they want – by seeing other example of women who are in this positions.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

I would advise the younger me to explore the world via the student exchange program that was available to me at that time. I didn’t walk through that door, but I wish that I had. I also would encourage the younger me to move forward with confidence in pursuing what was interesting to me. Sometimes we have an inkling to do something but lack the courage or outside push to do it. I would instruct the younger me to follow these impulses.

In 2019, Alessandra Karine took over as Vice President of Public Sector Sales at Microsoft Brazil. The executive began her career as an infrastructure manager at Masterfoods Brazil. After two and a half years, she went to Embratel, where she remained for more than six years as an executive sales manager. At Cisco, she took on the role of partner account manager focused on managed and cloud services for four years. She has also accumulated stints at McAfee as a sales manager and at Accenture as a senior sales executive. For almost four years, she led the LATAM business development teams at Amazon Web Services, her last experience before joining Microsoft. Alessandra has a degree in Systems Analysis from PUC Campinas, with an MBA in Information Technology applied to Business Management from FGV. Recently, the executive also took on the challenge of leading the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at Microsoft Brazil and started the “Advanced Board Program for Women” course at Saint Paul Escola de Negócios.

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