Our “DocuSign UP Career” blog series places the spotlight on employees who tell us about their first job (how they landed it, why they chose it) and key moments in their career that lead to greater learning or career momentum. At DocuSign, we believe in the next generation of leaders and want to help them get on the right career trajectory. That’s why we started DocuSign UP (University Program). This week we sat down with Marcus in Engineering based in Seattle to learn more about his career.
What do you do at DocuSign?
I’m a development manager in Core Services and manage a team of five software developers.
What was your first job after school?
After graduating from the University of Michigan, I worked on the Microsoft Windows Networking team for three years.
Why did you choose that job?
It was 2005, and Microsoft was the dream job. I had interned the summer before and had made a lot of friends. I loved the company and the people. I never hesitated to move to Seattle; I was already a transplant in Michigan, so it didn’t feel like a big jump.
How did you get that job?
A guy in my class who worked there referred me to the internship job. I got an interview because of him.
Is it related to the type of work you do today? And what did you learn from it?
I learned to respect code, to dig in, to research and really understand it. And I realized that I was in the big leagues and doing well, which encouraged me.
How did you first become interested in software?
It all started with hacking on my computer at home, figuring out how the games worked and changing the code. My mother recognized my interest and got me into a public magnet school, where I specialized in computer science. I had been coding for four years, so I had a head start when I applied to Michigan. My mom is really the one who supported my interest and pushed me in that direction. I have two younger brothers and she wanted us to be good at what we do. One brother works in computer animation, and the other went to culinary school.
Tell us about a pivotal moment in your career that helped propel you to another level.
A friend left Microsoft to start a company and asked me to join. There were just three of us and for four years I was the only engineer, in charge of all our software, training, deployment, and testing. I also helped out with sales. It taught me to prioritize the most important things to do in order to keep the lights on. It taught me to listen to the customers. It was a very exciting experience.
Have you had any important mentors in your life?
My friend who asked me to join his startup. He taught me the most important thing is communication and how to talk to all sorts of audiences, both technical and nontechnical. That’s been a huge advantage for me because it can be rare to find on the deeper technical side.
How would you describe your career and the choices you’ve made?
Up and down and side to side. My whole career I’ve been excited about what I’m working on and that’s the most important thing for me. Sometimes you have to move laterally in order to try new things and figure out what you like and what you don’t.
Have you ever taken risks in your career?
At Microsoft, I was a developer and switched to being a program manager for a year, which was a risk. When I was at the startup and looking for where to go next, I knew I didn’t want to go back to Microsoft just to play it safe. Instead I thought, “What type of work do I enjoy doing? And, I looked for a place that would allow me to do more of what I enjoy, and also had the growth and the culture I wanted.” At DocuSign, I started as a senior software engineer then was promoted to manager, which also felt like a leap. But I think the risks helped round me out with the skills that aren’t just related to technology, and they helped me focus my efforts and design my career.
What advice would you give to a college junior or senior breaking into the job market?
Take an inventory of what you’re passionate about, what makes you happy, what your strengths are, and what roles you like. Cast a wide net and don’t just go for the big-name company. Make sure to reflect on your past actions and try to improve. Get out of your comfort zone. Finally, deepen your technical skills but also add communications skills and even some product management skills so you can be more effective.
Any specific tips on how to actually find a job or organize a job search?
Do your research on the companies, products, roadmaps, technology stack so you’re prepared with smart questions for your interview. Understand their product and background. Ask about the culture and make sure it aligns with your interests and personality because your job could change over time.
If not this job, what would you be doing?
There’s never been a period in my professional life where I wasn’t doing software and I’m definitely doing exactly what I want now. But I have a rental property and my wife just became an agent, so I think I’d probably just fall back on managing real estate and helping my wife as an agent.
Think DocuSign might be a fit for you? Check out our job openings: [email protected]