Aspire to Tech- A Career as a Software Developer Manager

Aspire to Tech: A Career as a Software Developer Manager

We had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Cheng, a software developer manager with Hootsuite. Rachel was a part of our #aspiretotech campaign and we wanted to learn more about her and why she chose a career in tech. Here’s what she had to say: BC Tech: Tell us a bit about your early years and where you’re from… Rachel: I was born in San Francisco, grew up in the Philippines—I’m Chinese by blood, and I’m a Canadian citizen. I moved to Canada right after I graduated high school and have been living in beautiful British Columbia ever since. BC Tech: How did you end up in tech? Rachel: When I first moved to Canada, I wanted to be one of those forensic chemists you see on CSI. So I enrolled in some chemistry courses at Douglas College, but as I did the lab work in school, I realized I couldn’t stay in a lab for 8 hours a day. I started taking some random courses to explore and see what interested me and one of them was a course in .NET. I ended up enjoying the course, even though I didn’t do that well. Just the accomplishment of being able to write code and getting something working the you want was exhilarating. It felt like a puzzle that I had to try and figure out. BC Tech: How were you were first introduced to the tech industry? Rachel: Once I figured out that I enjoyed programming, I started to look into different schools and what they had to offer and what sort of jobs I could get. I loved playing video games and thought that I would want to work in the game industry doing programming. I also looked into the different aspects of gaming like 3D modeling or game design, but I was never really hooked. I decided to learn whatever I could about programming by going to BCIT. I took their diploma course and figured that I would learn what I wanted to do along the way. I knew I wanted to work in tech but didn’t know right away what it is I wanted to do. BC Tech: Walk me through your work and tell us what you’re working on now… Rachel: As a manager, there is no one thing that I am working on. There are always a million things going through my mind on a day to day basis. One day could be full of meetings and 1-on-1s, another day could consist of interviews and hiring. But the most important part of my role is making sure my team has what they need to be able to work efficiently. Currently, I’m working on growing my team and learning to manage more people. I’m also working on initiatives that happen outside my team. I’ve managed small teams in the past, and through them, I have learned who I am as a leader and what my principles are. Now that I’m more confident and have learned a lot of lessons, I’m ready to expand my team. I’m also working on a work from home policy to help Hootsuite’s engineering department be more of a global team, as well as looking for other opportunities to help with diversity and inclusion inside and outside of Hootsuite. BC Tech: Tell us about some of the bigger roadblocks and struggles that you’ve had to overcome in your career… Rachel: When I first started looking for a job, I had a hard time trying to decide what sort of role I was looking for—not because there was an abundance of choices but because I didn’t feel confident enough in my knowledge and abilities to apply for specific jobs. Little did I know that learning on the job is totally normal. I started to figure out that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know everything and felt more comfortable learning on the fly. I also struggled with finding my voice, being able to speak my mind and give my opinions on how things should be done. It was especially hard being a woman and a minority in a male dominated field—voicing my opinions was intimidating. And to be honest, I am still struggling with that as a manager, but now it’s more of me trying to be successful in an extroverted role as an introvert. I’ve started to learn that my introverted nature is a strength that I can use to my advantage. BC Tech: What are the biggest motivators in your work? What drives you? Rachel: The best thing about my job is seeing my team succeed. As a manager, my job is to rally the team around the same goal and help them get to the finish line. I love helping people, and that has been my biggest motivation for being a successful manager. Whether it’s helping their career or helping the team through creating better processes—I get really excited about all of the things I can do as a manager to help them succeed.
BC Tech: What does a typical day look like for you?
Rachel: The first thing I do when I sit down in the morning is check my emails. I’ll then join the team for a daily stand-up and let them know what I’m working on. Some days I have meetings I need to attend, other days I am prepping for and conducting interviews, and sometimes I spend my day planning for the future. My day always revolves around my team, their processes, and technology so I’m constantly thinking about these three things. BC Tech: How do you feel about the state of tech in 2017, what excites you? Rachel: I’m excited about having so much information available online and how anything seems possible nowadays. Want to learn a new language? Want to know more about a topic? Want to find out how to start a business? Everything is on the web. You have the knowledge of the whole world at your fingertips. What sometimes frustrates me are the negative connotations around tech. Stereotypes are everywhere, and they are preventing people from trying to get into the industry. You don’t have to be a “geek” or “nerd” to be in tech. Tech is for everyone. BC Tech: What advice would you have for young people who are really hoping to get into tech but just don’t know where to start? Rachel: Take a course, learn online, talk to people, and find out what’s it’s like to work in the tech industry. Continue to push yourself and learn as much as you can. The tech industry is very fast paced and you need to be able to adapt quickly—but don’t let this intimidate you! If you love learning, tech is a great place to start since it tends to evolve all the time. I’ve felt like I couldn’t keep up before but it’s a continuum, and you learn to evolve and adapt. Also, don’t give up! Tech teaches you hard work, which is always a good trait to have. Want to learn more about what it’s like to work in tech? check out our #aspiretotech page.