I was born March 17, 1988, catching the tail end of the 80s. After I came out, my mother turned to the doctors and nurses in the room and said, “How do you spell relief?” a la the Rolaid’s commercial. Apparently, she thought this was wildly funny and I have heard the story countless times since that day.
March 17th is St. Patrick’s day, which is an awesome holiday on which to have a birthday. Everyone is already out partying, but the holiday doesn’t overshadow the birthday (and you get lots of free whiskey and Guinness). Unfortunately, March 17th always fell during finals week spring quarter in college the day before a big test so my best birthday party years were wasted.
Joining Swim Team
When I was four my mom put me on the swim team. Her goal was to have children who were so tired they would all pass out by 8pm every night. Swimming illuminated some of my core personality traits; namely that I am lazy and not a good self-motivator. Three days a week my mom would drag me to the pool and cruelly force me to get into the cold water. I would swim up and back, then hold onto the lane rope and cry to get out. “No! Keep swimming,” she would yell from her chair on the pool deck. I would continue to do this every lap until she let me out, which was still 30 minutes earlier than the other kids.
This story about swimming doesn’t turn into some heartfelt narrative about how I overcame my weaknesses and ultimately learned to love swimming. I hated it for 8 years and quit competitive swimming when I was 12.
Choosing College Majors
Picking a major in college is one of the most obnoxious and stressful decisions you make in your young life, and for many people it ultimately doesn’t matter anyway. I knew I wanted to study engineering, but I wasn’t sure what kind. At first I did the potential med school/biotech route, but after discovering bio wasn’t really my thing I scrapped that idea. The same quarter I didn't do so well in bio, I managed to get a slightly above average grade in a computer science class. Additionally, my brother studied CS and he told me that software engineers were in such high demand that everyone gets a job no matter how mediocre their grades are in school. I thought to myself—mediocrity, I can manage that. So I did what I’ve always done: I copied my brother.
At some point during my undergrad career, I discovered that Stanford has a degree dedicated to Human Computer Interaction, or how people interact with technology. This seemed relevant to computers and programming, so I majored in Communication/Human Computer Interaction and mastered in Computer Science.
Avid quitter that I am, I quit water polo after a year of playing in college. The training is 20 hours per week in the off-season and I wanted to study computers. These two things don’t work together since computers require ALL of your time. After quitting water polo, I started coaching Junior Varsity swimming and water polo at the high school across the street. For $8.50 an hour I got to yell at 14 and 15-year-old girls to swim faster. I think there were also some ad-hoc counseling services thrown in there.
Coaching ended up being awesome. I ran the JV girls swimming and water polo programs for three years, and what I learned from that experience became the basis of my knowledge about managing people. Turns out teenage girls aren’t that different from the average software engineer. Both groups can be surly, moody, and haven’t yet learned to fully express their feelings with words.
My early career involved working as a software engineer at several tech startups in San Francisco or random locations around the world. I have historically worked at or with small, early-stage startups building customer facing products. I build mostly in Python. In fact, this site is built with Python, Flask, AngularJS, and narcissism. Titles I’ve held in the past include Head Mugwump, Software Princess, Software Warrior Princess, Junior Software Engineer, I’m Kind of Okay at this Software Engineer, Senior Software Engineer, Marketing Intern, and Coach Kate.
I've also written and talked a lot about onboarding, people management, and how to build web applications.
From 2016-2018 I worked on a startup called Opsolutely. We were a platform that aimed to help engineering teams deploy service-oriented infrastructure into the cloud. The idea was to not only solve many of the technical problems around software deployments but to also solve many of the people and process problems that stem from poor or incomplete automation around releasing software. Basically, the idea was that better deployment tooling would allow companies to build happier, more productive, more diverse teams. To read more, check out our blog here.
In 2018, Opsolutely sold to Shift, and Joyce and I joined the team as software engineers and engineering managers. You can read about why I chose to join shift here.
When I’m not working on this website or websites I’m paid to work on, I mostly do nothing. My goal in life is, in fact, to find a way to do nothing forever. Things that get in the way of doing nothing include needing money, volunteering with Raphael House, speaking at conferences, mentoring new programmers, obsessing over management and team-building, writing blog posts, and exercising for my “health”.