Software Developer | 28 Jan 17

I learned early on that there’s no shame in asking for help. It’s a win-win because when a person has to explain a concept, she will gain a better understanding of it herself.

What do you do?

I’m a Software Developer.

My current work involves PLC programming for computer automation and control. It’s completely new to me as I’ve always done more general and web programming. I will be learning the structured text language and more about the world of automation engineering.

What did you want to be growing up?

I went through many phases. At one point or another I wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, a graphic artist, or a business owner (not sure of what, exactly).

What hobbies do you have that are unrelated to your current field?

I’m pretty active. I’ve run 9 marathons and have 2 more this year. I also play inline hockey in a coed recreation league.

What is your first memory of being intrigued by technology?

I played a lot of video games with my brother and cousin. Some of my earliest memories were sneaking into my uncle’s room to play DOS games like King’s Quest and The Incredible Machine. I learned the “dir” and “cd” commands trying to go through his directories to find games he’d installed. Our family eventually got a Macintosh (LC?) and then a Windows 95 PC. Our first console system was an NES and we’d stay pretty loyal to the Nintendo line. Between me and my brother, I think we’ve owned almost every system from the NES through the Wii U, including many of the handhelds. That didn’t stop us from sneaking into our other uncle’s house to play on his Sega Genesis though.

Do you remember feeling encouraged or discouraged about going into technology?

It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I decided I would go into computer science, and up until then, technology was just something I used and felt comfortable with. I took advanced placement classes in CS, and it was hard! Our teacher was a math teacher who’d dabbled in programming and tried to explain recursion with index cards. My parents were traditional small business owners who didn’t really use the computer much, so they couldn’t help me with my homework. I was fortunate to have a (female!) classmate whose parents were engineers. I tapped into her and some other classmates as a resource and learned early on that there’s no shame in asking for help. It’s a win-win because when a person has to explain a concept, she will gain a better understanding of it herself when teaching it to someone else. Throughout college and in my career, I’ve felt discouraged at many points, but I’ve always counted on asking for help or advice when I need it.

What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on so far?

I don’t think I can pick an all-time favorite. Everything I’ve worked on has had some aspect that I’ve really enjoyed. I’m usually most excited about whatever I’m currently working on though because I get very invested, emotionally and mentally, whenever I get going on a project. A recent favorite is the Disney Ghost Post project, which won a Thea Award. I programmed an interactive “haunted” binnacle that was installed in Disneyland, and guests were able to physically interact with it to help guide home a lost ghost. I prototyped the electronics to control the servo motors and LED lights that made up the effect and wrote the show and game code for the guest interaction.

What motivates you?

Wanting to deliver on or exceed expectations, both to my colleagues who are counting on my work and to the countless guests who choose to spend their time and money on a Disney vacation. I want to do work that brings value, that is innovative, and that I can be proud of.

How do you stay productive?

I try to limit distractions when I need to get things done and set myself up to succeed by planning ahead. Little things like ensuring I have food to eat are important because nothing is more of a productivity-killer than getting into the zone and having to stop because my stomach is growling. At the same time, I also highly value non-work time. It’s when I get to reset and stop thinking about a problem. Often times, it’s when I’m not thinking about a problem that I subconsciously come up with a solution. Also, I love my sleep. Your mind and body can’t function properly when it’s sleep-deprived.

Who has inspired you in your career?

I’ve found inspiration in friends, family, colleagues, interns, and managers. My friends and family who are passionate about whatever it is they do inspire me to find passion in my chosen career. I have incredibly smart, innovative, and driven colleagues who inspire me every day to do my job as well as they do. Many of the interns I’ve worked with have inspired me with how quickly they’ve learned, grown, and succeeded. One of my mentors at Imagineering has been a great resource, not only providing guidance on navigating my career but setting an example of what it means to innovate and think outside the box. My manager has been an especially great mentor, showing me over the last 6 years what it means to be level-headed and emotionally mature in my career and how to not just set goals but plan a path toward them.

What are your favorite or most-used tools?

Google. I have a habit of thinking of something and needing to learn more about it immediately. Also Google Sheets. I plan everything in spreadsheets, from software requirements to vacation planning, and having access to them on every device makes it even more convenient. Sublime Text is my code editor. I use various forms of Git for version control, but I prefer using shell commands over GUIs. I like OmniGraffle for system and software design.

What do you want to learn next?

My hope for every new project I’m on is that I learn something I haven’t done before. I prefer to learn on the job because I like the immediate practical application of my newfound knowledge.

What advice do you have?

Learn as much as you can about everything, not just techie things. Technology is a means to a creative or practical end, so you have to know other domains. Ask questions. Google things you don’t know. Speak up and be assertive. Don’t take things personally or read more into other people’s intentions. Seek out like-minded people who will support you. Accept that there will be times when you feel lost or incompetent, but have confidence that you will figure things out. Lastly, help others succeed. When you raise up the people around and above you, they’ll bring you up with them.