Caroline Wu | Software Engineer
Department: AWS/ Storage, Automation, and Messaging
Education: B.S. Electrical Engineering, Minor in Computer Science, 2016, McGill University
Career stage: Early—1 year post Bachelor’s
What She Does
Caroline works primarily on the design, programming, testing, and deploying of software into production. Often what she does changes wildly from sprint to sprint (set periods of time during which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review). She might be working on a server-side issue, making changes on the website, or adding new fields to their API (set of routines, protocols and tools for building the app). Her group also deploys new features, comes up with robust tests, and answers customer issues. It’s quite challenging (before I started this job I didn’t know half these things even existed), but that’s also part of the fun and it definitely never gets boring!
Necessary Job Skills
Caroline has found that a lot of the fundamentals that she’d only learned about abstractly in university are extremely critical at work. Things like estimating how much time it takes to run your code and why certain methods are better than others, didn’t seem very important when she was in school, but at work, she deals with millions of lines of code! Better designs could mean the difference between running something for a few seconds or waiting for it to finish for minutes or even hours. All these better designs are based in a lot of computational science research.
Pros and Cons of Her Job
Caroline’s favorite part of her job is how many people she impacts on a daily basis. They make software that improves the day-to-day operations of a lot of companies and universities. Her team has thousands of customers worldwide, and they process over one petabyte of data a month. And because they work on all aspects of the product, they often get to see their work through, from server-side to client-side to website to deployment, which she finds incredibly satisfying. One of the things she is not so fond of is how often product criteria change, to give people a clearer sense of what they want once they see the prototype, but for an advance planner, it’s been a frustrating but informative experience.
Because they work in sprints, they get to dictate their own schedules, as long as they complete all of their tasks in a sprint. Caroline has co-workers who come in really early and leave mid-afternoon, and others who make it just in time for the daily stand-up meetings. Employees also are able to work remotely.
Caroline never planned to go into software engineering—she almost chose statistics as her major because she had been interested in math-based modeling in high school.
In my first year of university one of my required classes was intro to computer science, and honestly I’ve been hooked ever since. It was so magical to me to come up with an idea, translate that into code, and see it come to life on my screen.
Career Expectations and Advice
“Try as many things as possible to broaden your perspective.”
Try out a computer science class. Software and programming are important in so many fields. It’s a versatile skill. Caroline is glad that she got to work on so many different parts of her product so far, because it has really opened her eyes to the different kinds of software and programming out there!
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