1. What were you doing before you became a Software Engineer? 

Since I was born, I was expected to become a medical doctor. Most of my reading material during childhood was medical literature and National Geographic. I studied biochemistry at the University of Iowa, while working in two different research labs and also as a restaurant server. Being from rural Indiana (think corn, meth, and Amish community-adjacent), I hadn’t heard of “software engineering” until my junior year of University. I felt completely locked into biochem. During that time, I learned that working in biotech/academics/medicine wasn’t what I thought it would be. So I went all-in, trading away my personal identity, the years of studies, my family’s approval (which I’ve since gained back), and the future I strived toward for 20+ years, all for the hope of a career where I could be creative, build something useful, make great money, and not live in corrupted filth. I needed to get away from the Midwest and go to the West Coast, where there are opportunities, hope and optimism. After taking Amtrak from Iowa to San Francisco, then to Portland, then to Seattle to scope out the West Coast, I decided to move here. Not long afterward, I found out about Ada from /r/Seattle the day before applications were due. So I applied.

2. Where are you currently working and what do you do? 

Currently, I work as a Support Engineer III at Amazon on the Beach team within Payments. The Beach is a metaphor, as we integrate Amazon Payments with external payment processors around the world. As a support engineer, I handle my team’s operations — I support external teams as they write software that works with ours, and I am the point of contact for many projects. I also contribute to my team’s code base in a similar capacity to the SDE’s. I made a lateral shift from being an SDE at Zillow, where I interned. DevOps is challenging work!

3. What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is the differences that I get to make. We have no shortage of technical challenges, and when I change something and it makes a measurable difference, that validates what I do.

4. Describe a typical day in your role. (feel free to include some details of company culture if you would like)

A typical day in my role: I come in at 9 and get started in an empty room which fills in right around 11, when we have stand-up. I keep my eye out for free food, leftovers from morning meetings (usually donuts and bagels). I take a look at our ticket queue — some mandatory upgrades, some bugs, some network issues, and tackle as many as possible. All decisions are data-driven, so I get to do statistics, debugging, coding, and presenting my findings. I also attend MANY meetings.

5. Any advice you have for others looking to enter the tech industry as a programmer.

You might have to let go of a lot and risk everything in order to change careers, and that’s okay. If you’re not already aware that tech has the same *ism issues that the rest of society has, you will become aware of it. Advocate for you believe in, just don’t let it eat you up. Put stuff on Github, even if it isn’t polished. Fail often. Get used to failure because that is how we learn to program. Computers do exactly what you tell them to do. Wear sunscreen.