My Journey into Engineering - Linette Hsu
MEET OUR MODELS
I am so excited to share my interview with Linette.
I hope her story inspires you and gives you insight into what it is like to be an engineer!
Engineering Leader, Are Jei Founder
Software Engineer, ARE JEI Model
THERE IS SO MUCH LOGIC IN CODING AND I REALLY ENJOYED THAT.
Thank you for joining me, Linette! I am so excited to learn more about your journey and share your story with the world.
I'm curious, why did you decide to become a Software Engineer?
As far as why I chose to become an engineer, I liked that it was logic based. Coding reminded me of a philosophy logic course I took in undergrad. There is so much logic in coding and I really enjoyed that. That's what drove me towards engineering.
I don't remember exactly. I think a year and a half. I was at the law firm for about a year and a half, I would say when I finished my bootcamp it was a year and a half later.
I HAD FRIENDS WHO WERE SOFTWARE ENGINEERS BUT I DIDN'T REALLY LEAN ON THEM UNTIL I WAS JOB HUNTING.
You said, you had friends who were engineers, did they help you along the way, especially when you felt stuck or had questions?
I had friends who were software engineers but I didn't really lean on them until the end when I was job hunting to get a better idea of what interviews are like. There was supposed to be a career section at the bootcamp, but the person who handled the career part left the week before I finished.
I did however rely pretty heavily on the TAs in the class for engineering problems that were related to what we were working on, and of course the people in my cohort helped too.
I WAS A FULL STACK ENGINEER BUT I HAD TO DIP A LITTLE BIT EVERYWHERE.
Tell us what kind of engineer are you? What does your day to day look like?
I just started a new job this week so it’s still new. But I can tell you what I was doing at the previous company. At ActiveCampaign, I was a full stack engineer, but I definitely did more front end work which was very much focused on React. I also programmed in PHP from time to time. It wasn't like I could focus on one thing, I kind of had to dip a little bit everywhere.
How would you explain front-end to people?
Front-end is mostly what you see on the website. The user interface (UI), everything you can click on, anything you see that's not necessarily the processes that are happening behind the scenes.
WHAT I ENJOY MOST IS COLLABORATING WITH OTHER ENGINEERS.
What do you enjoy the most and what do you enjoy the least about being an engineer?
What I enjoy the most is collaborating with other engineers. Project planning, writing code and pairing with other people because you get to see how they look at things and how there are multiple ways to solve a problem. Even in code reviews, people might see something that you didn't and give you feedback there, and you might learn something new that way.
My least favorite part is writing tests. I know they're important, but sometimes they can be a little bit tedious. You might spend a day or two finishing your actual coding, but then another day or two writing tests.
Yeah… Test driven development requires a different mindset where you write your failing tests first and then write the code to fix them rather than looking at tests as something you have to do afterwards.
Definitely. I tried that and it was an interesting way to think about tests.
IT WAS THE FIRST TIME I FELT LIKE I COULD CREATE A LARGER CHANGE THAT WAS OUTSIDE OF MY TEAM AND AFFECTED THE ENTIRE DEPARTMENT.
What is something that you've accomplished as an engineer that makes you feel so proud?
A couple of things come to mind. We were working on a complex cross-team project, and we were going through a lot of turnover. The project was so important for the company. I stepped up where I saw gaps, even though I wasn’t in a lead role. I brought everything together, checking in with other teams, doing a lot of cross team meetings with senior engineers even though I was a mid level engineer. We managed to get our project out on time. It was the first time I really felt like I could step up and take the lead on something. Before that point, and for most of my career, I would be just doing what other engineers or managers were telling me to do without really thinking too much. That was the first point for me to feel like I can take control and take charge of things.
The other thing I’m proud of is more of an organizational accomplishment. As a member of the cultural committee, I worked with another engineer on what we called Focus Fridays. It’s basically about having one day a week for the entire department to not be interrupted by meetings. We led the effort from start to finish, planning, gathering information, presenting to leadership and eventually made it happen. That was also the first time I felt like I could create some sort of larger change that was outside of my team and affected the entire department.
I love both of these examples. There's a misconception that being an engineer means that you're working alone, from your experience is that true?
Yes and no. I think in any kind of profession, there's always going to be people who prefer to work on their own and do their own thing and that's fine. It's not that they're not open to collaborating, they just prefer to do things solo. For me, most of the teams I have worked with, have been full of people who are more into collaborating, pair programming and interacting with others. So it kind of depends on the person's personality and what works best for them.
How about the misconception that programming is all about math and doing math. How often do you do math at work?
It's funny because one of the managers recently was joking that they really can't do math well without using a calculator. I would say it's not really math. It's more logic based math. You might not have to do the math yourself, but you need to be able to tell the computer to do the math for you.
Are there any other misconceptions that you feel people have about your job?
Trying to think about anything I haven't brought up. A lot of times people might associate engineers with a certain type of people, like gamers. There are a lot of gamers who are engineers, which is probably how they found their way into engineering, but there's also a lot of engineers who are not gamers. I'm not one of the gamers. My boyfriend tried to make me play but I never became one.
WHEN YOU'RE TRYING TO START SOMETHING NEW, THE BEST WAY TO LEARN IS TO JUST DIVE IN.
What advice do you have for someone who is interested in becoming an engineer?
Just dive in. A lot of times when you're trying to start something new, the best way to learn is to just dive in, try to figure it out yourself, and obviously ask for help if something doesn't make sense. There are so many online courses, or YouTube videos you can start with and go from there. The other thing to keep in mind is that the field is always changing and there are always new technologies. Even people who are seniors and are very well respected in their field, they also don't know everything. So just kind of remember that.
SOMETIMES WHEN I JOIN A TEAM AND IT'S ALL MEN, I FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO PROVE MYSELF OR DEMONSTRATE THAT I UNDERSTAND THINGS SO THEY DON'T OVER EXPLAIN THEM TO ME.
What's it like to be a woman in engineering?
I know a lot of women have had experiences where they felt like they might've been passed up for promotion or felt like they were not completely comfortable speaking up or felt like their coworkers might treat them a little differently. Luckily I don't have similar experiences. But sometimes when I join a team and it's all men, I do feel like I have to prove myself a little bit or demonstrate that I understand things so they don't over explain them to me. I don't know if people do that unconsciously because I'm a woman or if it's because I'm not a senior engineer.
How different is the culture from one company to another? Or is it pretty much the same in the two companies you’ve worked at?
I feel like it's been pretty similar so far. Everyone is very welcoming. Even the one or two engineers on every team who literally seem to know everything, they might seem intimidating at first, but I've found that they're always very helpful and very patient. I've never felt like they're making me feel dumb or not on their level.
I HAVE NEVER FELT LIKE WOMEN SHOULD GO INTO CERTAIN FIELDS WHILE MEN SHOULD GO INTO OTHERS.
Anything you want to share with girls who might be reading this?
For me, I've never felt like women should go into certain fields while men should go into others. I grew up in a household that encouraged doing whatever you want. My mom actually had an undergrad and master's in computer science. So growing up, I never really felt like I can't do certain things because they’re not what women normally did.
Can you tell us about a company you have worked at that had a mission or an impact on the world?
At my current company, the mission is to "make home ownership achievable". We basically help home buyers who aren't in a position to put in cash offers or compete with investors. We help them by making cash offers on their behalf so that they can compete in the market and buy a home too.
ARE JEI BRINGS TOGETHER ENGINEERING AND TECH WITH SOMETHING THAT'S NOT ASSOCIATED WITH THEM.
I am so happy that you agreed to model ARE JEI’s jewelry. What made you say yes?
I actually thought the concept was really cool. I will admit I'm not the best at binary myself. I have to look it up or think really hard when trying to decipher something that's really long. But I think the idea is really cool. It's one of those things that brings together engineering and tech with something that's not associated with them. I kind of touched on this earlier where there's a whole archetype of the gamer-type engineer, but I personally like fashion jewelry. I'm sure there are other women who also are engineers and like jewelry, so it's nice to be able to bring the two together. It's kind of special. It looks like a regular bracelet to most people, but if you explain, there's actually a binary hidden message, it adds something to it. I love it!
Thank you so much for being part of ARE JEI's journey. I love having you as one of our models and I love sharing your engineering story with everyone!