Career Q&A

The real life behind a Software Engineer

Posted by on February 14, 2020 · 13 mins read

Career Q&A

Every few days I get a career question sent to me on Instagram. I try to answer each one as raw and in-depth as possible! When I was looking into becoming an engineer, there wasn't much information on the real life stories of female engineers. This blog post has my answers these questions, and to get raw and real about what a computer engineer does. The daily life, career decisions, and everything in between. As I get different questions, I will continually update this page.

What is your Occupation and Job Title

I am a backend software engineer. My official job title is Lead Integration Engineer. I build and maintain our APIs and communicate with clients on additional features to be created.

What Company do you Work for?

SimpleCitizen, a start up that is the "Turbo Tax or immigration". We help people navigate through the process of getting citizenship. Everyone in this company is on the side of immigrants and helping people.

What are your job duties and responsibilities?

I design and build integrations for our online platform. This starts with working with product managers to get design specs, and then communicating with other engineers deciding which technologies and infrastructures to use. I work mostly in our backend system, building technologies to support customers and our team. Basically I code all day, every day!

How did you get this job with this company

I was on a student ran Venture Capital firm investment fund called Campus Founders Fund, and this group invested in SimpleCitizen a few years before I joined the team. So I already knew their business plan, and had connections with the CEO. When I was thinking about leaving my previous job, I saw that SimpleCitizen was hiring, and applied.

What Type of education/training is required for your occupation

A Bachelor Degree in a tech related field is highly recommended, but not required. Skill and ability to code are the requirements. I have a few coworkers that either dropped out of college or never went to college, who are engineering leads and insanely talented programmers. Some people are able to teach themselves how to code, and technologies. I was NOT one of those people, so I needed college to learn technical skills.

What do Employers in your career look for?

The biggest thing employers look for is good coding practices + abilities. Most job interviews include coding tests and technical interviews.

What Kind of Experience is required for this job

I am at a junior developer level, so previous job experience isn't required. Previous coding experience is a must though.

What kinds of technical/computer knowledge is required

Web Application development, Databases, algorithms, coding languages, operating systems, dev ops. Basically you need to be really good with a computer, and know how to structure Google searches and navigate Stack Overflow really well.

How Many hours do you work in a given day?

I go in to work at 9:30, and leave between 4:30-5:00. I typically work through lunch. So about 6-7 hours a day, and 30-35 hours a week. I also take Tuesday mornings off to attend school.

What type of interactions do you have with people?

I work on a small team of 5 people. We talk and ask each other questions throughout the day. I also talk with the product managers, and other coworkers. There is a flexible work from home policy, so I can stay home and only communicate with people via Slack if I don't feel like talking to anyone at all (;

What is the typical starting Salary for your Job?

I get asked this question all the time! Here are the salaries I have had:

  • I made $8/hr during a summer internship my Freshman year (never take an unpaid internship!)
  • My Junior year (I still wasn't a great programmer, but I could get around), I made $20/hr working ~20 hrs a week doing small technical work at an investment firm in Salt Lake City. Here I was writing VBA scripts and occassionally building systems to interact with clients APIs.
  • I had 2 technical internships on Wall Street in NYC my sophmore and Junior summers of college. I made 28,000 over the summer. This was close to $38/hr at 40 hrs/wk
  • Junior year is when I got my first salary. I was working 30/hrs a week at a startup and attending school part time. I started off makeing $75,000 a year (about $38/hr), and then got a pay reduction down to $68,000 a year. I was the only person to get a pay reduction, and the only female working at the startup... Coincidence? You can decide. I quit 2 weeks later.
  • Senior Year, while going to school part-time, and work full time, I now have a salary of $90,000 with full benefits.
I am super lucky to be able to work while attending school. Employers have been great to me, and I am forever grateful for that opportunity. It is not unique though, many (if not most) of my classmates get a full time job offer their junior year and work full time during their senior year of college.

What is the opportunity for advancement in this area?

The opportunity for advancement is huge! But there is a tradeoff. If you enjoy managing people, then you can become a technical manager, but then you are coding significantly less, and managing people. If you insist on staying in technology and coding, then there is a limit to the career advancements you can take.

On a Scale of 1-10 how stressful and overwhelming is your job?

FOUR. The most stressful part of being a software engineer is that there is ALWAYS new things to learn. If you aren't keeping up with new trends and industry standards, you will quickly fall behind since technology is changing so rapidly. Luckily there are many online resources you can use to continue to advance your technical skills and knowledge. There are days when servers do go down, and clients are yelling at you, but these days are few and far between.

What do you like most about your job?

I LOVE the ability to create, and build things. I love seeing code that I write in the wild helping people and solving problems. I also love that my job is helping me learn the skills I need to be able to build something at home and eventually start my own business. Being technical in a continually more and more technical world is an incredible and empowering thing.

What do you dislike the most about your job?

The lack of diversity. Every team I have been on, I'm the only girl. There is definetly a bro culture that makes me feel like an outsider. I wish there were more girls, so that I could talk to someone as a friend (not that any of my coworkers mean to make me feel uncomfortable by any means, everyone is very kind), but its easier to relate and talk with someone who is like you, experiencing the same things, and at the same stage of life as you. Someone I can ask for a tampon when I run out at work, or hangout with after work.

How doe your job affect your time away from home?

Being in technology is SUPER flexible. I can work from home, and take any time off that I want (unlimited PTO that people actually use!). I have a healthy work life balance. I have the flexibility to leave and go to the dentist, or get an oil change during work. If I have a headache, I leave the office, and noone thinks twice. There are also days when I am really into my tasks, and I stay until 7. This is never expected of me, but that opportunity is there.

What are the job opportuniteis for this area of work?

Technology has many different openings and roles. There are backend software developers (like me) who are a it more technical and have more math in their backgorunds. There are front-end software engineers who are more creative and have more of an art background. Q&A engineers do testing and automating of tests on software. Q&A's have a less technical background, but are very detail oriented and follow directions well. Dev Ops build infrustrcutre. These people are very technical and understand how computers work as a system, but they don't code as much. IT These people aren't very technical at all, but enjoy computers and learning new things. There are many open IT positions that don't requird knowing how to code, or having technical training/schooling.

Do you receive benefits?

Yes. I work at a startup, so benefits include gettting stock options, but not much else. There is health insurance benefits, and we have a HSA (which I love). Unfortunately, there is no 401(k) match. So hopefullly, the stock options will pay off.

Do you LOVE your job

I DO! I mean a job is a job, and will always be work, but I don't dread going in to work every day. I actually look forward to the problems I am going to solve, and the technical challenges I am facing. It is also nice to work at a company with a great culture, and mentors who are so smart and willing to teach me.

What advice would you give someone looking to going into this career?

Don't Give Up. Getting a degree in computer science is challenging. There is so much stress and so much to learn. The learning curve is very steep. But you will get to the top of that learning curve, and once you do, you can build ANYTHING. Knowing how to code and build technology is a very powerful, especially today when technology is so important in our daily lives. It took me 3 years to get over this learning curve. But now that I am here, I know that I can create anything. So my biggest advice is that YOU CAN DO IT. Don't give up. I promise you can get through the learning curve and math. You can get a job. You can do it.

What type of person should NOT go into this career?

There is a place in technology for everyone. Seriously. Whether its as a backend engineer like me, a front-end eningeer, a QA Tester, IT, etc. If you like technology, you will fit right in. Just know that this job isn't "safe". You constantly need to be reinventing yourself, your skills, and keeping up with modern trends. If you aren't interested in a job like this, then you might want to consider a different career path.