Aspire to Tech: A Career as a Software Engineer

We had the pleasure of interviewing Rebecca, a software engineer at Microsoft. Rebecca 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… Rebecca: I was born and raised in the Vancouver area. I attended Douglas college and Simon Fraser University and finished with a degree in computer science. BC Tech: How were you were first introduced to the tech industry? Rebecca: I was always interested in science and technology—over the years I have learned how and why things work and function the way they do because of these fields. The first experience I had with programming was in elementary school. My class had an assignment to make a resume/portfolio website using Microsoft Frontpage—during the project my dad showed me some of the html behind the website and my curiosity for how things work expanded to include programming. BC Tech: Walk me through your work and tell us what you’re working on now… Rebecca: I work on the MSN team in Vancouver. Msn.com is a large website that has content across many subject areas such as money, entertainment, news and sports. I am currently working on the sports section of the website to help create a better user experience. BC Tech: Tell us about some of the bigger roadblocks and struggles that you’ve had to overcome in your career… Rebecca: A degree in computer science contains a lot of math and math related subjects (calculus, statistics, discrete math). I found discrete math interesting, but math as a whole has been a bit of a struggle for me. It sometimes takes a lot of work for me to grasp a concept and apply it. Through my computer science education, I have found that if you work towards a bigger goal you can do anything. Once I finished the math classes the computing classes were easier, especially the ones where I could apply the math and gain a deeper understanding of the topics. Making the transition from classroom assignments to real world assignments was interesting. In school, you can mostly finish something and end up with a decent grade. In the real world there are no grades, instead, you measure your success against the criteria of the task. Determining what counts as a completed task usually involves asking a project manager what they expect to see in a finished product. How you go about completing assignments can be a challenge in itself. In the real world, there are many, many ways to complete most tasks. Some solutions may be more correct, while others may be easier or more “doable” when considering the constraints surrounding the task. In the end, it’s all about finding the right balance and delivering a great experience to our site users. BC Tech: What are the biggest motivators in your work? What drives you? Rebecca: I like solving problems. Unsolved problems bother me, especially when I know that there is likely a solution. I love the feeling of finding a solution that works best for my team, the company, and our customers. BC Tech: What does a typical day look like for you? Rebecca: Most days I get to the office around 9 am, I attend the morning standup with my team and then get to work. Most days there are bugs to investigate and resolve. Depending on the day there may be planning meetings to attend. In planning meetings, the team lead and project managers often discuss the next steps of the team and outline the roadmap for the next few weeks or months. The members of my team take turns being on call for one week at a time. The person on call deals with any major issues affecting msn.com and coordinates a resolution, which often means working with other teams. We also rotate through the role of bug triage. The person on this duty assesses and confirms the new bugs and then assigns them a priority for fixing. For fun, my coworkers and I often battle each other in Clash Royale and ping pong at lunch. BC Tech: How do you feel about the state of tech in 2017, what excites you? Rebecca: I am excited to see where tech in the Vancouver area is heading. Will more companies come to the Vancouver area from the US or from other parts of the world? 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? Rebecca: Don’t give up on your goals or who you are. If you are interested in tech, go for it. The possibilities in tech are endless. The are many roles that need to be filled—you can be anything from a software engineer, system analysts, network infrastructure engineer to a project manager. There are many free online resources to get a head start into tech such as Khan academy to learn the basics of programming/math or Lynda for other topics .
Want to learn more about what it’s like to work in tech? check out our #aspiretotech page.