Q: What do you do?
A: I’m a software engineer, but mostly my duties are backend development and management of our small development team.
Q: How long have you been working for?
A: I’ve done an internship during school which was a year, but I would count my current job as my first real job, and I’ve been here for 1.5 years.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you had when you were trying to break into the tech industry?
A: Lots and lots. First of all, it seems like no one wants me, and second of all, I don’t want any of them. That’s a pretty big problem. Does it mean I don’t like my career path? Not at all, I really like to code. I guess I am picky, but I am “broke with expensive taste”. Not that I want to work somewhere glamorous or with a large paycheck, but I have clear values, and I want them to align with the place I put all of my efforts for 40 hours a week.
So, I already feel unmoved when coming across many jobs, but I’m told that when job-hunting I have to convince them that they are exactly what I want and that I am capable in all the very specific skills that they have highlighted. I am new, though, and though I don’t believe that I can’t do those things, I can’t easily prove that I can. I don’t even know myself. It’s tough to not know as confidently as you apparently need to that you can do all these specific things that you honestly haven’t learned or tried yet. There’s a lot of feel-good advice to stuff like that about how you should go ahead and learn/try then! Believe in yourself anyway! But the fact is that there are complex personalities out there, and the same advice doesn’t work on everyone. I’ve felt very alone in my path and have carved out every inch of it for myself.
Q: What is something you wish you knew when you first started developing?
A: To really focus on getting to the answer, rather than knowing the answer. I still wish I knew how to do this well though, still learning!
That it’s okay to explore. I was kind of worried about picking a field or a group of relevant skills and focusing on them when I started, but if I had, it might not have meant that much in the end because I, as a person independent of being a developer, have developed my interests only recently. I was young then, and now I have had more time to think about my life and my values, so it is okay that I am starting now to think about my skills focus.
Q: How would you describe how your role has changed since you began your job?
A: I have more managerial/tech lead responsibilities now, like planning work and time, having meetings, and managing other developers.
Q: Something you’re surprised you’ve been able to achieve since you’ve started working?
A: Persevering through the rough times; when I think I can’t do it, or when I think other people are disappointed in me. Those things may even be true, but it’s important that I am able to recover or else I really won’t survive. I’m a sensitive person. So I am proud of myself for having a thick skin sometimes when I’ve needed one.
I’m always surprising myself about this particular thing. Getting out of school, learning to drive, getting a job, sticking out a job, simple things that everyone goes through, I always personally wondered whether or not I could. These things haven’t all fallen into place smoothly, but I’ve stuck them out and gotten through them, and I have a plan for just how these things will all be worth it in the end.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Knowing that I’m working on something that is good for society and for individuals. Vulnerable people and everyone. I like that there is room for creativity in the problems we solve.
Q: How would you like your career to grow?
A: I want to begin focusing on the skills needed for the problems I want to work on. Through work, on my own time, and with the help of people I meet. I’m not a people person, so I want to go through a time of learning certain managerial/people skills until I’m decent at them, so that I can know that I can do those things when I need to, but really, I’d like to stay on the technical side.
Q: Any advice you would give to someone who was in your shoes a year ago?
A: I don’t really think so. I have had my own set of challenges, but maybe I can give advice as general as I can make it. I think advice I’d love to give to someone like me is that you should stick to who you are and what you value. I read something in the news about how Bill Gates’ advice to new tech graduates is that it’s a great time to be a curious and “loves-to-learn” kind of person, because it’s necessary these days. That made me feel terrible, like I won’t survive. I’m just not always tinkering. I spend my free time thinking on things outside of tech, to be honest. If I accepted this idea, I’d be miserable or force myself to quit. It may be tougher for someone like me to pave a way and be a useful member of society, given that we aren’t always learning about tech, but there must be something inside of us that we can use to drive positive things, in our own ways.
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A: Hatchways has been so sweet, cared about me beyond my time participating in their program. They hooked me up with what I consider a good match, and I’m not sure how long I would have been searching without them. They didn’t ask for this testimonial, but I really think it was very very helpful for me to participate in something like this.