The message is everywhere lately: You should learn to code.
But what does a career in engineering look like? And how can you get to that point?
To help you learn more, we talked to five engineers, whose backgrounds range from being completely self-taught to having a PhD in computer science. Their paths may be different, but their current functions are similar: They get to develop websites and features that make their clients’ and co-workers’ lives easier.
So if you’re interested in doing the same, take a peek at these professionals’ paths, and see how you can pursue a role in engineering, too.
1. Rich Couzzi
Lead User Interface Engineer, Peloton
“I’ve always wanted to be a designer,” shares Rich Couzzi, who studied design in college and earned a bachelor’s of fine arts. But on the other hand, he also loved computers and programming—and was given a golden opportunity to use that passion at one of his first jobs. The company was down a programmer and asked if he knew how to code. His response? “Not really, but I’d love to learn.”
He jumped in and never looked back. “I found a balance between being able to design and being able to code,” he explains, “and that is web development.”
At Peloton, Couzzi oversees all aspects of the website for the high-end fitness bike company. He works closely with the product manager and design teams, transforming their ideas and creations into code for the web. Best of all, with a management team that gives him plenty of creative freedom, he still gets to connect with his design roots.
2. Sue Anna Joe
UI Developer, Zoosk
Even though she went to school for journalism, Sue Anna Joe always had an interest in art. “In the back of my mind, I still wanted to create beautiful things,” she explains. After completing her degree and short stint as a reporter, she realized—once and for all—that that career path truly wasn’t for her.
So, in her spare time, she started digging deeper into graphic design—which eventually led her to web development, HTML, and CSS. As she learned, she picked up freelance projects on the side, and eventually applied for a full-time web development position in North Carolina. After gaining a few years of experience, she decided to advance her career into a company that had a national (or even international) presence. Enter: Zoosk.
In the end, Joe gets to do exactly what she wanted: Create beautiful things. She works directly with the company’s design team, taking their creations and turning them into web pages.
3. Thomas Chau
Software Engineer, Squarespace
Thomas Chau knew he wanted to be a software engineer since high school, when he experienced firsthand the impact he could have through developing web products, via a game he created and shared with his friends. Their excitement urged him to continue to follow his passion.
That interest merged with his career at a food truck at SXSW in Austin, Texas. He saw the Squarespace truck handing out hot dogs, and it compelled him to check out the company’s demo. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is a really sophisticated web product—really impressive,’” he recalls. Right then and there, he decided he wanted to join the team.
Now, Chau gets to continue to live his high school dream, designing and coding new features and products, which help users create their own creative, professional websites.
4. Liz Crawford
Chief Technology Officer, Birchbox
Growing up, becoming a software engineer wasn’t a part of Liz Crawford’s plan. Even when she was in university, she thought she’d be an economist. But, during undergrad, she studied computer science, and became increasingly fascinated with building things—and seeing people actually use them. “I found that incredibly satisfying,” she remembers.
During those same years, she was also getting into research—and that led her to pursue a PhD in computer science. After graduating, she was introduced to Birchbox by one of the company’s venture capitalists. She did some consulting work for the company and then was brought on board in a full-time executive role.
As CTO, Crawford works with the technology team to oversee the website, logistics, and payments—and, of course, constantly develop new features to keep users coming back for more.
5. John Kelly Ferguson
Software Developer, AlphaSights
On his way to earning a degree in English, John Kelly Ferguson dropped out of college to pursue something a bit more high-stakes: poker. But when playing professionally lost its appeal, he decided to enroll in a programming bootcamp called the Flatiron School. After graduating, he came across an open developer position at AlphaSights and jumped at the opportunity to use his newly acquired skills.
In his role, Ferguson writes the code that powers the company’s internal tools and website. He works with other developers, of course—but he also gets to collaborate with co-workers across all departments, developing tools for their specific roles.
Most importantly, he and his team decide what projects to work on, instead of getting tasks handed to them by management. “I’m doing something because I want to do it,” he shares. “It’s not like homework; it’s more meaningful.”
Photo of tech courtesy of Shutterstock.
TopicsCareer Paths , Engineering , Learning to Code , Coding , Exploring Career Paths , Syndication
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