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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

“Surround Yourself With People Who Want You to Succeed:” A Software Engineer’s Advice to Other Women in Tech

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Emma Anderson, a software engineer at Intuit.
| Courtesy of Intuit

Growing up, Emma Anderson saw her mom and dad pour their love, sweat, and tears into building their own small business. Now, as a software engineer for Intuit—the global technology platform behind TurboTax, QuickBooks, and Mint—Anderson is writing code that doesn’t just help her parents manage their bookkeeping, but thousands of other small business owners around the world as well.

“Hearing firsthand how my parents used Quickbooks really sealed the deal for me,” she says. “I knew this was where I wanted to work because every time I wrote a piece of code, I’d think of my parents, or my favorite Etsy seller, or the neighborhood frozen yogurt shop down the street. These are the people I wanted to develop software for,” says Anderson, who interned (twice!) at Intuit before pursuing a full-time role there.

In her time at Intuit, the recent college graduate has found many more reasons why the company is a great fit for her, from mentorship opportunities and a tight-knit team culture to the level of ownership she’s encouraged to take in her work.

Here, Anderson talks about the chance encounter that led her to become an iOS engineer, how Intuit has helped her develop and grow as a new hire, and why networking was a game changer in her career.

Tell us about your internship experience at Intuit. Why did it make you want to pursue a full-time role there afterwards?

I was fortunate enough to intern twice at Intuit, and both times I was impressed by the degree of ownership they gave me as a new engineer. For the first feature I built, which was a cryptocurrency tracker for Quickbooks Self-Employed, I did so much more than just code the feature: I met with legal teams at TurboTax to figure out the tax implications of cryptocurrency transactions; I spoke with engineers at Coinbase to discuss their Wallet API; and I even presented the feature to our Chief Technology Officer Marianna Tessel. If this was the kind of work I was doing as an intern, I knew my career as a full-time employee would only get better.

Intuit places great value on ownership regardless of what level you’re at in your career. During both of my internships and in my full-time role, I’ve been given the tools and opportunity to build powerful features. I chose to work at Intuit because I love being at a company where my peers trust in my ability to code something great and give me the resources to do so.

What are you responsible for in your role?

I’m responsible for improving and maintaining the invoices and estimates sections of our Quickbooks iOS apps. My team ensures that whenever a company creates an estimate, sends an invoice, receives a payment, and performs important actions in between, the experience is as seamless as possible. I work with designers, product managers, and web and mobile developers to come up with product enhancements and new features. Estimates and invoicing are key functions for many businesses, so I’m always proud of the work we do and the value we bring to our customers.

What project is taking up most of your time at work right now?

Our biggest project right now is redesigning the estimates feature so that it’s easier and more intuitive to use. Businesses use estimates when they need to send a price proposal to their customers for certain products and services. Intuit places a big emphasis on customer-driven innovation and developing a deep understanding of our customers’ problems and pain points. One of the ways we develop this empathy is through what we call Follow-Me-Homes, which are one-on-one interviews with customers, either at their home or place of business. So in preparation for our release, we conducted several Follow-Me-Homes where we shadowed small business owners to observe and learn firsthand what they look for in an estimate. One key insight is that businesses want flexibility in the way they send their estimates. In addition to emailing an estimate, customers want the ability to send it via text message, Airdrop, or to an on-site printer. Our new design accounts for these new methods. In fact, many of the capabilities, like being able to attach pictures or jot down notes on an estimate, were all requested by the business owners we interviewed.

What makes the estimates project so exciting to work on?

Aside from being able to deliver value to our small business customers, what’s excited me the most is that the engineers and I have taken on a whole new programming language to accomplish these tasks: SwiftUI. Before the redesign, all of our features were coded in Swift or Objective-C. SwiftUI is the latest framework for iOS development and uses what’s called declarative programming. SwiftUI’s declarative programming is powerful because it decreases code complexity and uses live previewing for faster development. Bringing SwiftUI to our app was a huge accomplishment for our team, and we’ve even formed a SwiftUI working group with iOS engineers across the organization. Our group meets weekly to discuss best practices, review each other’s code, and make sure we’re setting the right example for future developers. We’re essentially the pioneers of this new framework within our mobile team, so it really excites me to be able to explore new tech early on that will benefit future engineers.

How does Intuit help nurture and develop young talent? And how has your manager personally encouraged your growth as a junior engineer?

Even as a new hire, I’ve always felt like I belonged at Intuit. When I first joined, Intuit paired me with an engineering mentor who showed me the ropes and toured me around our codebase. Whenever there was a task I was intimidated by or felt was too daunting, my teammates were the first ones to invite me to a Zoom call to pair-program and explain the inner architecture. 

I’m also lucky to have a manager who, like me, was once an intern. In fact, a lot of higher level engineers on my team started off as interns and worked their way up. It’s comforting to know I’m being mentored by a group of engineers who started out in the same place I am today. When I meet with my manager, he offers advice with my long-term career goals in mind. During our first one-on-one, my manager told me to never limit myself on the basis of my job title. Even though I’m a Software Engineer 1 (SWE1), he’s always encouraged me to follow my ambitions and take ownership of projects I’m excited about, even if that project would normally be owned by a SWE 2 or a senior engineer. By putting his advice into practice, I’ve gotten to work alongside staff engineers on high-profile features, conduct my own customer interviews, and explore new technologies like SwiftUI.

Tell us about your recent experience becoming a mentor. Why do you think mentorship is so important, especially in an industry where women are often underrepresented?

I recently joined the Intuit Women in Tech Mentorship Program, where I mentor two female undergraduate students. As part of the program, I host job shadowing events for my mentees, introduce them to engineers and designers on my team, help them prep for technical interviews, and offer in-depth advice for landing their first internship or full-time gig. Mentorship is important to me because I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance of several accomplished and intelligent women engineers. When you work in an industry that’s predominantly male, it’s important to build a support system of women who are rooting for you and will remind you that you’re not alone. Oftentimes I’ll seek out female mentors who are in positions I hope to fill in the future, whether that’s a lead engineer or an upper level manager. Watching and learning from these women gives me the confidence I need to work toward long-term career goals and reminds me that I am capable of achieving similar success.

person posing in front of Grace Hopper Celebration conference sign
Emma Anderson at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference.
| Courtesy of Emma Anderson

In what ways has networking and attending conferences, like Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, helped you in your career?

For one thing, attending Grace Hopper landed me this job! Attending conferences like GHC is one of the best things you can do when you’re starting your career. There’s so much opportunity thanks to the large career fairs and company-sponsored events, and it’s also just a great way to meet people. During the conference, I befriended engineers and data scientists from Google, Mozilla, Coinbase, JP Morgan, Microsoft, and so on. I still chat with many of them, and I really value these connections because when you start working for a company, it can be hard to get out of your bubble and meet new people. When you have friends in every corner of Silicon Valley, it really opens your eyes to all the great innovation that happens here. Meeting a diverse group of engineers and learning about all the cool tech they work on always leaves me feeling inspired and hungry to make an impact at my own company.

What’s a valuable lesson you learned during your internship that still benefits you today?

Always take up opportunities to meet new people. Especially with remote work when it’s harder to form connections, I’ve found it beneficial to attend virtual happy hours and socials and introduce myself to people I haven’t met. You never know who’s going to be there, and the people you meet could very well become a good friend, mentor, or someone who will lend a helping hand down the line.

What’s funny is I wouldn’t have pursued iOS engineering at Intuit if it weren’t for a spontaneous meetup. When I first started at Intuit, I was a back-end web development intern with hopes of becoming a full-stack engineer. About halfway through my internship, my manager invited me to meet one of the women engineers from the iOS team. She made such a strong impression on me that I requested to switch to iOS development for my second internship with her as my mentor. She was the one who taught me how to code in Swift and helped me realize mobile engineering is what I wanted to do long-term. Two years later, I’m a full-time iOS engineer and I’m so grateful for that initial meeting that inspired my current career path.

In what ways do you help foster a good team culture?

One of my favorite things about working at Intuit is that all of my teammates are people I’d be friends with outside of work. I’m part of a party planning committee at work where we organize holiday socials and happy hour trivia games for the team. For the winter holiday, we put together a big virtual event with food, Kahoot! games, an ugly sweater competition, matching Zoom backgrounds, and a violin performance by one of our very own engineers. Everyone had so much fun and it was refreshing to hang out with the team without thinking about project deadlines or upcoming releases. Developing software is a team sport, and at the end of the day it’s these positive interactions with your coworkers that make working together something you truly look forward to.

What advice do you have for women looking to follow a similar career path as yours?

Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed, whether it’s friends, mentors, or a good manager. People who get excited when you do well and who look out for you when the going gets tough are the ones that will set your career on an upward trajectory. If you’re a woman or minority in tech, there are going to be moments in your career where you begin to doubt yourself or feel that you’re the only person in the room. But if you are surrounded by people who believe in you, see your true potential, and make space for your voice to be heard, you are bound to thrive.