Hey April, care to share a little bit about yourself?
Hi, I'm April. I'm Brooklyn native and former journalist. I enjoy volunteering, binge watching 90s dramas, and obsessively reorganizing my storage spaces in my free time.
Can you tell us what you do as a Software Engineer at Etsy for those who are unfamiliar?
As a full-stack software engineer on the product side at Etsy, I build out new features that buyers get to see on the site, fix bugs that creep up when features aren't working as expected, and write tests to future-proof those features. To make that happen, my day-to-day consists of closely collaborating with product managers and designers to bring their designs and ideas to life, pair programming with other engineers on my team, and reaching out to other engineering teams within Etsy whose work is intertwined with my team's work.
How did you decide to pursue your specific career?
After a few years in the journalism world—first as a writer, then eventually an editor—I was starting to feel the itch to tackle new challenges. Eventually, after many coffee chats with people about their jobs, I landed on coding. I tried out a part-time front-end class at General Assembly to really see if coding was for me. And I loved it. Creating clean, working, maintainable code felt like a puzzle and I wanted to do more of it. So eventually, I enrolled in the Grace Hopper Program to fully commit to switching careers and I haven't looked back since.
What made you interested in your field?
When I thought about leaving journalism, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do at first. So I started thinking about what I enjoyed consuming, and I realized that I loved seeing interactive stories like the ones that FiveThirtyEight and the New York Times' Upshot are known for. Eventually I realized that the data and stats part wasn't really for me, but I really wanted to build cool stuff. And as simple as it sounds, building cool stuff continues to be what inspires me.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
Don't be afraid to ask questions, especially while interviewing. That's something that I think has served me well—both as a journalist and as an engineer. Showing up to an interview with questions (and overall curiosity) shows that you open to learning, that you're thinking deeply about the product or the team or the org or whatever you're curious about.
3 Character traits that would make someone excel in your field
Curiosity, Empathy (for the users of what you're building and for the people you work with), Strong communication skills
Most difficult thing about your job?
As a newer engineer, it's always difficult to figure out when it's time to really dig in and figure out how to solve something on my own vs when it's time to call in help from another engineer.
What would you like to say to your younger self?
Few people's career paths are linear and even what they expected when they started out and that's okay! Don't be afraid to take risks and go off path.
Best advice you've received/heard?
The best advice I've gotten was from my first engineering manager (thanks, Chris Zarate!) who gave me some great guidance on how to tell when I've done enough solo research on how to solve a problem. If you've been at it for a while but you're still learning as you research, then keep going. But if you're just spinning your wheels and reading the same stuff over and over again, it's time to ask for help.
Any last thoughts, advice, or recommendations for someone who wants to learn about your craft?
I find podcasts are a great way for me to learn about new things in the industry or pick up some technical tips. My faves right now are Syntax., Revision Path, Tech-ish, and Base.cs.