Laura Butler is tired of tech being portrayed as a horror story. Instead, she believes it to be a romance.
This is the narrative Butler, a distinguished engineer at Microsoft, told a room full of Penn students on Tuesday night. Having stumbled upon the technology field accidentally in the 1980s, Butler gave her perspective on why technology is great not only for a single population but for everyone.
“Why are misfits perfect for tech?” Butler said. “Innovation by definition is a deviation from the normal and standards.”
Butler is a self-proclaimed misfit, and her unique habits like baking cookies for employees have helped her become a successful and memorable leader in the company. Butler said she currently oversees a team of about 170 employees and supervises another 1,700 people.
Engineering junior Cristina Buenahora said that when she was supposed to determine a campus speaker as a part of being Microsoft’s campus ambassador, Butler was her first pick. While interning at Microsoft last summer, Buenahora said she found Butler inspiring during a women tech talk.
“She is one of those people that is really inspiring because she has done so much to get where she is, and she is so loved,” Buenahora said. “She loves what she does, and you can tell.”
Needing an internship, Butler began interning for Microsoft in 1989 after first thinking she was being offered an internship from Goldman Sachs. A Harvard University undergraduate at the time, Butler ultimately dropped out of the university to pursue her new passion for Microsoft.
“I thought, ‘I am getting paid for what I love to do,’” Butler said. “Whereas over there I was paying for a crappy service.”
For Butler, technology is all about solutions and the tools to achieve them.
“Time and quality of life are the most precious things in life,” Butler said. “The point of all this tech is life, and the best way to make tech is to live.”
From 2000 to 2006, Butler took a break from working to become what she called a world traveler. She went on adventure hiking and took circus and improv classes.
“She is kind of a powerhouse,” College freshman and event attendee Audrey Liu said. “You don’t meet a lot of people like that.”
In her spare time, Butler also jots down ideas for inventions and businesses in a notebook, some of which she shared with the crowd. She also gave students her top life and career advice.
“Try a bunch of stuff,” Butler said when interning. “It is like a buffet.”
By taking the time to explore interests, Butler said, you discover who you really are. She added that she believes this is essential to success.
“The idea that there is overnight success in tech is completely wrong. It cuts science short,” Butler said. “The easiest way to be really successful is to be yourself.”
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