As a kid in Ukraine, Lex Sadovyi enjoyed playing video games – just like his peers.
However, he was limited in how he could participate as Lex was born visually impaired. By the age of twelve, he set about programming video games to better suit those with special needs.
From there on out, nothing stood in Lex’s way.
“Screen reading programs existed but were very expensive. So, I teamed up with others to work on open source projects to search for a creative and affordable solution,” says Lex. He also did commercial work and, by the age of 15, sold his first program: a tool to do mass postings of content to online forums.
Lex attended Ukraine’s National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and received his degree this year in computer science. Prior to starting a Master’s degree, Lex happened upon a Microsoft recruiter at a job event. “I was a long-time Windows user as it has superior accessibility for people with special needs,” he explains. “I was very excited and a little bit in disbelief about the opportunity to intern at Microsoft.”
He smiles, “Even better, I was given the chance to intern right in the heart of the world of computer science: in Silicon Valley. And it was close to the beach too. It’s all that a programmer from Kiev could dream of.”
Lex was pleased with his choice from day one. He says, “I wasn’t expecting everyone to be so friendly and helpful. [University Recruiter] Michael Erickson even came out to meet me at the airport.”
Getting to know the other interns was a highlight for Lex. “My roommate and I became really close friends,” he says. “It was tricky for me as I don’t drive, but he took me to work every day, even though he worked in a different location. We also went to the beach, got to visit Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters and even go out to nightclubs in San Francisco. It was a great experience that I will always remember.”
As for his work as an intern, Lex recounts, “I knew right away that I was playing with the big boys. And I got to work on important projects like bringing greater accessibility to PowerPoint and meeting with other teams to advocate for accessibility, demo how I use tech, and answer questions about implementation.” He learned a lot about doing “proper planning for upcoming work and how to really deliver on schedule.”
Sara Ford, Program Manager for Mac PowerPoint and the Accessibility driver for Mac Office says, “Lex worked as a tester for Mac PowerPoint’s accessibility feature crew. He was a godsend to the project in terms of making it accessible. I thought I knew what needed to be done, but, wow, Lex helped us really grok how to make software accessible to someone who is blind. I’m forever in his debt for his help, passion, and determination this summer.”
Sara continues, “Because Lex holds himself to the highest possible standards, he inspires his teammates to push themselves to new levels. When he asks for feedback, he asks as if he were receiving a priceless gift, something I’ve been secretly trying to learn from him how to do for my own professional development.”
Lex’s office mate Ian Yarbrough says, “He is fearless. Lex came to America with no phone, no car, and he didn’t know anyone here. He always does what he knows is right, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind, especially about issues affecting the quality of Microsoft’s products.”
As for the future, Lex says, “I still have more time in my MA program and one more summer that I’m eligible to be a Microsoft intern, so I’m hoping to come back next year. I really hope that my contributions will help make Microsoft products appealing to even more users who really desire them, like those with special needs.”