Her forte is transforming emerging technologies into commercial products, but Maria Martinez has risen ever higher in the male-dominated world of computer engineering by remembering to keep a human face on all she does.
Cuban-born and raised in Puerto Rico, the industry veteran and patent holder is a communications industry all-star with more than 20 years of experience in the field. She is passionate about technology and relishes her new position overlooking the confluence of telecommunications and Microsoft technology.
"Here [at Microsoft] I've found a perfect balance between technology and business," she says, referring to the synergy that initially drew her to the company in 2003. "I've always worked on the edge of technology," and she started 2007 with a promotion to vice-president for Microsoft's Worldwide Services business, a globetrotting position that emphasizes the "world" part of the title.
Prior to taking the helm at Worldwide Services, Ms. Martinez led Microsoft's Communications Sector, where she and her team drove the sales, marketing, and development of Microsoft solutions and services for telecommunications, Web hosting, media, and entertainment companies. "There's a huge convergence between communications and entertainment, and we're right in the middle of it," she explains.
She's also excited about the ongoing expansion of the telecommunications industry. "We're seeing a tremendous amount of growth. Companies are investing billions of dollars in rebuilding their networks to support digital media."
Ms. Martinez's current project is Microsoft Connected Services Framework, a software platform designed to unite different networks through a common architecture. The recent growth is even more fascinating from the technological point of view since most of the world's networks will soon be converted to Internet protocol. This development will create inspiring opportunities for an entirely new range of Internet possibilities.
She holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico and a master's degree in computer engineering from Ohio State University. Balancing this technical know-how, Ms. Martinez has developed her management skills through extensive training because, in a most un-engineering way, she also believes relationships to be an essential part of the communications technology business.
Before joining Microsoft, Ms. Martinez served as CEO of San Francisco Bay-area software vendor Embrace Networks Inc., where she helped create the company's technical strategy. She launched Embrace's first software platform and developed its customer base.
Prior to that, she was vice-president and general manager at Motorola, where she ran the Internet Connectivity Solutions Division and the Digital Cellular Infrastructure Division. Under her leadership, Motorola launched the world's first commercial system using CDMA, a digital frequency-hopping technology that exponentially increased the capacity of cell phone systems. She began her career at Bell Laboratories, where she was instrumental in the development of UNIX multiprocessing systems and in creating a disk storage system for which she holds the patent.
Reflecting on her accomplishments, Ms. Martinez is conscious of the sense of responsibility that accompanies success.
"The first time I became a manager, 20 years ago, I felt a responsibility to be a role model. Every time I'm promoted or given more responsibility I feel the same way. I feel strongly that it is very important that we carve that path for others."
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