Ester Barbuto’s career didn’t follow a straight path on her way to becoming an engineer, or to her current role at Microsoft as a business strategy manager for the Commercialization of Mixed Realty. Instead, it was an adventure, filled with twists and turns, as she explored her interests and took risks along the way that led to new and unexpected opportunities.
From a young age Ester enjoyed creating, mixing potions and measuring ingredients as she explored her early interests in DIY makeup and cooking. “I would try something, it would work and I grew more confident in my skills,” Ester said about her growing desire to experiment. Adult mentors along the way encouraged her to consider career possibilities that took her love of creating new things to the next level, which ultimately led Ester to apply to the Chemical Engineering program at Carnegie Mellon.
From supply chain management at PepsiCo, to quantitative finance at Goldman Sachs and innovation strategy consulting at Booz Allen Hamilton, to her current position at Microsoft Ester’s career path was filled with zigs and zags. Yet one thing remained constant – her desire to learn and to solve problems.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Ester after she spoke with 30+ middle school girls eager to learn about potential career opportunities in STEM as part of an Engineering Girl Day event hosted by Rockwell Collins in Annapolis, Md. The event was one of 13 held at Rockwell Collins’ locations around the country that impacted more than 675 students.
Connected Aviation Today (CAT) Editors: What is your current role?
Ester Barbuto (EB): Today I work at Microsoft as a business strategy manager for the mixed reality business. We are trying to figure out how to launch mixed reality on a large scale within enterprises. As with many areas in my career, this is a role where we are trying to solve a problem and it requires an engineering mindset. We are looking at how to understand our users, how they use mixed reality technology and the best way to gain adoption over time.
CAT Editors: What have been some of the defining moments in your career?
EB: My career has been a constant path of learning. In each experience I tried something new to challenge myself so I’ve been able to gain unique insights from each of those experiences. But when I look back at defining moments, it would be around the times where I took risks. I moved to cities where I knew nobody and I left my comfort zone.
In one case I left my friends in New York City, where I spent years on Wall Street, to pursue a new opportunity, solving problems for people in a consulting environment. It was a defining moment in that I learned how to be more self-sufficient, which has helped me navigate unknown markets and unknown work environments.
CAT Editors: What organizations or mentors did you interact with along the way to support your career growth?
EB: One of the reasons I’m here today is because of my involvement with The Society of Women Engineers. I chair the Endowment Fund, which provides scholarships to women looking to pursue a career in STEM, to build future generations of women engineers. This organization has been a constant in my career evolution. When I first left New York City and moved to Virginia, I found a chapter of the Society of Women Engineers to find my tribe and my network of other women engineers. This group has been my rock throughout my entire journey.
CAT Editors: What advice would you give to other young women starting out in their STEM careers?
EB: Be patient, but be willing to be surprised.