Getting Ahead

This Director Is Looking for Curious, Problem-Solving Engineers to Join Her Team

Abby Cloft, the Director of Engineering at Beautycounter
Abby Cloft, the Director of Engineering at Beautycounter.
| Courtesy of Beautycounter

Abby Cloft’s career has taken a few twists and turns—from interning for a senator to writing elementary school math workbooks. A few years after graduate school, Cloft found her way to engineering, and it stuck. Today, she’s the Director of Engineering at Beautycounter, an omni-channel clean beauty and skincare company.

“Beautycounter is a great nexus of all my interests,” Cloft says. “I really appreciate working for a mission-driven company that’s also a B corp, which means they focus on purpose as well as profit. The company also advocates in front of congress for #beautybetter laws and is so invested in empowering women to succeed in their career and life.”

Here, Cloft shares how Beautycounter has helped her grow in her career, what it takes to succeed as an engineer, and the difference between a mentor and a sponsor.

Tell us about your career journey, and what inspired you to pursue a career in engineering.

There are a number of engineers in my family (hi, mom and dad!), but I went to college and studied anthropology. My senior year I found a sub-field called science and technology studies and ended up pursuing a masters in that. Through those studies I learned more about the history of computing, programming, and technology. I realized that programming and building software was something I might be interested in doing myself.

What led to your job at Beautycounter, and how did you know the company would be a good fit for you?

When I was looking for a job, it was important to me to land somewhere that would actively support my growth. During the interview process I could tell that leadership had a plan for that and a vision for what the team was going to build.

You’ve been promoted twice in about 3.5 years at Beautycounter. How has the company supported you in your growth?

So many ways! From company leadership and managers to our people team and peers, so many people here care about your success on a personal and professional level. As a manager, you get access to training and peer circles. I’m also a part of a mentorship group for female leaders in the company, and we meet monthly to grow our skill set. Managers also really care about your success and work with their team to find stretch assignments and ways to level up.

What are you responsible for in your role?

I oversee our engineering team as they build new features on Beautycounter.com, our app, and Behind the Counter. I’m also recruiting, hiring, and building team culture. Finally I’ve been working with leadership to craft our technology roadmap for 2022 and beyond.

Why is Beautycounter an exciting place to work, especially within the field of engineering?

We’re a high-growth company, dealing with issues at scale and within a modern tech stack. As an engineer you have a great toolkit at your fingertips to solve problems with and a great engineering team you’re working alongside. We place a huge emphasis on learning, collaboration, and growth for engineers.

What do you look for in engineering candidates who want to join Beautycounter?

I put a big emphasis on strong communicators and problem solvers. We also love diverse backgrounds. Having a team with a variety of experiences brings the best ideas to the table.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in a predominantly male-led industry, and how have you overcome them?

The experience of being the only person who looks like you in a room is hard regardless of who you are. Thankfully that’s not always the case at Beautycounter, and I really appreciate the diverse team I work with. It's something we actively discuss as a team. We’re trying to build a diverse, inclusive, and high-performing engineering team and it includes people from all backgrounds and walks of life.

What skills are necessary to succeed as an engineer?

Be curious. As an engineer there are a lot of ways to solve a problem. Asking questions, not giving up if your first solution fails, and digging for answers are critical to success. Technology is also built by humans on a team! Communication makes a huge difference; in a single day you could be talking about a feature or project with another engineer as well as others from various areas of the business.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Find a sponsor. I think a lot of the time early career advice focuses on finding a mentor, which is great, but there is a difference. A sponsor is someone who is your advocate, and someone who will champion you when you’re not around. Also, everyone has imposter syndrome. For me it was important to learn that the people I looked up to didn’t have all the answers and had days where they didn’t believe in themselves. It’s something I actively remind myself of when I lose perspective.