Today’s Tech Role Model is Meka Seymour. Currently, she’s a full-fledged software engineer at Harry’s, a startup that makes and sells shaving equipment. Meka started working on their Customer Experience team. As she interacted with more engineers, she realized she wanted to move into software engineering. Instead of quitting her job, Meka took a different approach and shared her vision with her manager. With her manager’s support, she enrolled in online courses and studied in her free time to build her skills.
What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?
I’m a Software Engineer at Harry’s. I’ve been in this role for about 6 months now and before this, I was an Apprentice Software Engineer for 4 months (also at Harry’s).
What attracted you to this software engineer role?
I’d been working at Harry’s on the Customer Experience team for almost 2 years when I joined engineering, so I already knew the people and enjoyed working/hanging out with them.
I was excited to learn about the business from a new angle, to get to code, and to work on problems that I knew would feel more challenging and exciting to me.
Walk me through a typical day in your software engineer role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?
My team works in two-week sprints.
Our team and project manager decide what we’re working on during the sprint, so when I come in I work towards completing those tasks.
I try to keep my schedule light with meetings if I can, but a few of the regular meetings on my calendar are:
Grooming Backlog – a bi-weekly meeting where my squad (a small working group of software engineers responsible for building tools around a certain function or aspect of the site/app) discusses work that needs to be done and creates clear goals and criteria for the work. Then we create tasks for the upcoming sprint in Jira, an issue and project tracking software.
Retro + Test Results – a bi-weekly meeting where my squad discusses the previous sprint and reviews any noteworthy A/B test results the project manager has to share. When we A/B test, we compare two versions of the web page or app against each other. Then we use the data to evaluate which version performed better.
Sprint Review – a bi-weekly meeting where all the software engineering squads meet and showcase what they’ve accomplished over the course of the sprint.
Friengineering – a bi-weekly event where we get together, eat food and discuss all things technology both inside and outside of the company.
Front End Forum – a forum where software engineers who work frequently on our frontend/ iOS app get together to give talks on relevant and/or new frontend technologies.
Team Lunch – we get together for lunch every Thursday at 12 pm.
What skills/technologies help you to succeed?
Our team uses git/Github, Jira, and Slack largely to both communicate and keep ourselves organized.
As an engineer that works a lot on our front-end, I also use things like React/Redux dev tools in Chrome, CanIUse.com, and VirtualBox to do testing across older browsers quite a bit.
Learning how to code typically requires endless hours of scouring documentation to find answers for yourself. That skill definitely still comes in handy every day on the job.
What’s the most fun or creative part of your software engineer role?
I love that I get to do a lot of coding every day.
Our site is part Ruby on Rails app and part React app, so I work on both the front-end and back-end.
Working on front-end experiences is really creatively fulfilling for me. It’s exciting to know that people all over the world are enjoying technology you work on every day.
Getting to work with humble, hilarious, hard-working people all day – a team that cares as much about our work as we do each other – is definitely the most fun part of my job.
What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?
Our team takes on lots of large projects, which requires writing lots of code but also communicating well and consistently, being very organized, etc. In addition, being pushed out of the comfort bubble of only working on things you know well can feel scary.
The most challenging parts of my job are the parts that teach me the most, so they’re also my favorites.
What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/ individual?
I work closely with the project managers, UX/UI designers, and the Customer Experience team, to name a few.
For example, another engineer and I meet bi-weekly with a member of the Customer Experience to discuss possible bugs their team has noticed or heard about from customers.
We also discuss new feature suggestions and requests. We both care a lot about the people who use our products and our work has a real-time effect on the experiences they have. It’s important for our teams to work closely together.
What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your software engineer role?
I am interested in working more on mobile projects as we grow and have more opportunities to create apps. I’m learning a lot about React Native and brushing up on my Swift.
In your role, what metrics define success?
There are some obvious ones, like writing quality code that doesn’t release bugs, being able and willing to learn new things, and delivering work in a timely fashion.
Because we work in two-week sprints, we measure the velocity of our working groups in how much we’re able to accomplish in those increments.
On our team, people are really important. Some less obvious but critical ways we define success are by being a dependable teammate who cares deeply about the whole team and the individuals on it.
What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this software engineer role?
I’ve improved a lot technically. I am more comfortable solving problems with code, more familiar with lots of different technologies and concepts (e.g. MVC – model view controller), more familiar building things from scratch, etc. And I’ve learned a lot about working on an agile team.
Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?
Being collaborative and not taking yourself too seriously.
Willingness to work hard and challenge yourself – it’s ok not to know how to do something at the jump of a project as long as you’re willing to do the work to figure it out.
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