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Sara Ford

sara ford at work
Sara Ford

B.S., Mathematics and Computer Science, Mississippi State University, 2001

Software Design Engineer in Test,
Microsoft Corporation

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I am a Software Design Engineer in Test for the Microsoft Corporation, working on the Visual Studio Core Team. Visual Studio is a development environment that allows everyone from the ‘Introduction to Computer Science' student to the professional software engineer to write programs and develop software. I graduated from Mississippi State University with a double major in Computer Science and Mathematics and a minor in French. Yet, I put all the emphasis on my Mathematics degree during my interview.

Mathematics teaches you logical thinking and problem solving skills – skills all employers look for in new candidates. While interviewing at Microsoft, I introduced myself as a problem solver. What made me so special, in comparison to all the other applicants? My answer was simple, “I have a mathematics degree.”

Mathematics builds the foundation for learning how to problem solve. A chemical engineer is a chemical engineer, a biologist is a biologist, but a mathematician can learn how to become either one. I never took a college course on how to test software, and yet I was hired as a software tester. The recruiter understood that someone with a Mathematics background has the discipline and the analytical way of thinking it takes to test new types of software.

One of my job descriptions is to automate testing. Automation is code that simulates what a user might experience when interacting with a program and records any unexpected or undesired results as failures, more commonly known as bugs. In this ever-changing world, the issue of figuring out how to best test or automate these new technologies is never solved. Testers always search for better methods and approaches to testing software which require less time and effort and find the most failures or bugs. Having a strong background in mathematics is essential to creating these new testing methodologies, since this is problem solving in its purest form.

The best thing I did for my career was declaring a double-major in mathematics and computer science.