1. What were you doing before you became a Software Engineer?
I was a couple years out of college, living at home with my parents, working as a graphic designer/marketing catch-all at a small HVAC company. The day-to-day of my job consisted of writing copy for emails and blog posts and designing graphics for marketing materials and trade show booths. I loved designing, but hated the job.
2. Where are you currently working and what do you do?
I am working as a Web Development Engineer (WDE) on the AWS Cost Control team at Amazon. WDE is an Amazon-specific title for developers who focus on the front-end; I primarily work on my team’s Angular web app.
3. What’s your favorite part of your job?
THE FLEXIBLE WORK SCHEDULE! Seriously, I didn’t know how much I needed it until it was an option! If I get behind on laundry, the weather looks icky, or I just prefer my environment at home over the open office spaces, I can always work from home. If I hit a wall and can’t think anymore, I am utterly useless; it’s such a relief to have the option to leave the office. Then there are other times when I’m so excited by a refactor or new feature that I’ll stay up all night writing. Having a team that trusts me to get my work done on my schedule is so freeing and nearly eliminates that feeling of “working to live/living to work."
Large companies are also really cool, ‘cause after months of hard work your feature gets tweeted on the company’s Twitter account and you can watch customers’ compliments in real-time. I remember calling my mom after my first feature launched and just repeating, "I wrote code that real people are using! My feature is INTERNATIONAL.”
4. Describe a typical day in your role.
I usually get into the office around 9:45, 10 AM. This is late for my team; I’m usually the last person in (peer pressure never worked on me!). Our standup is at 10:15 AM – just enough time to catch up on emails and check if my CRs have been reviewed. Meetings take up either all (4-5 hrs) or nearly none (0-2 hrs) of my day. Outside of meetings, I’m working on my sprint tasks. This involves writing code, responding to emails from my manager or Project Managers (PMs), or taking notes for future design docs or team wikis. I have a terrible habit of skipping lunch (my teammates pester me about it all the time) or eating at my desk as I work. My building is high density, meaning there are 5 seats in the kitchenette… on a floor of 100-some-odd developers… plus, working through lunch means no guilt when I leave at 5 PM (my team of early risers also don’t empty out until about 6 PM).
5. Any advice you have for others looking to enter the tech industry as a programmer.
So many of us are overachievers and with an industry that’s constantly expanding the Things You Don’t Know, it can feel like you’re not keeping up – but it’s not true! The Things You Don’t Know quickly become the Things You Know (because you’re so dang smart) and you immediately forget that there was ever a time you didn’t know that Thing so it feels like you’ve learned nothing. Take a peek at an old CR. Revisit one of your first projects. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be so darned proud; what felt like good code then will look ugly to you now (and that’s progress!).