Codess speaks to Trang Ho

Trang is the Server Software Director at Lift London, Microsoft Studios. Codess caught up with her to find out more about her thoughts on female diversity within engineering.

Trang Ho

What is your current role and can you tell us more about your day to day responsibilities?
I am the Server Software Director at Lift London, Microsoft Studios. My role covers technical direction for servers and services used by our games and future entertainment products. It also includes the operations for running an always on connected experience for our game and entertainment consumers. My day to day responsibilities vary based on what is most important on that day and for that week. Things are changing all the time as it usually does in a new start up games studio. This week, my responsibilities include evaluating technical vendors, reviewing and planning services for our new games, and understanding the analytics needs of the studio to determine the necessary infrastructure.

What made you choose engineering and how did you end up in this career?
I was originally a biochemist doing research in neurodegenerative diseases. Computer programming was a hobby of mine as it helped me understand how games worked. I didn’t realize until later that it could be a career! When a first employer offered me a job to be a server engineer at the end of my university term, I was excited and nervous. I switched from being a biochemist to a server programmer and thought it was the best thing I ever did. A few years later, I got a chance to do programming for online games and I knew that this was the perfect place for me

Did you initially try other careers besides engineering?
Yes, I spent a few years a a scientist. I was planning on being a doctor of neuromedicine. Back in the late 90s, programming and games development were just hobbies.

At what age did you start coding?
My first computer program was done at age 14. Back in the States, computer science was still an optional course (elective). I chose PASCAL programming as my elective and found that I really enjoyed the problem solving nature of it.

What or who influenced you to take up coding?
Nintendo games like Zelda and Super Marios Brothers were my inspiration. I wanted to know how it was done.

What’s your impression of women in engineering?
Women who make a career out of engineering are very good at what they do. They tend to be great problem solvers and very thorough in their approach to engineering. The problem is that smart women and girls in university don’t consider engineering as a career, much less game development.  Some of the best engineers I know come from a maths or physics background who “stumbled” into engineering.

Which characteristics have brought you success in your career as an engineer?
Curiosity and a willingness of ask questions. Both of these helped me stretch and learn.

What advice would you give to fellow female engineers to succeed in their careers?
Find mentors and friends who will help you stretch outside your comfort zone. Mentors have been crucial for helping me making some of the most important decisions in my life. Mentors in my career have helped in stretch into projects and positions that I might have not considered.

If you had a time machine, what period of time would go back to and why?
Victiorian Era England. To me, this period embodied an appetite for science and a discipline for learning.

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