#BalanceforBetter: International Women’s Day Engineer Spotlight, Part 1

March 8, 2019

Editor’s note: March 8 marks International Women’s Day (IWD), a day to recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Within the engineering team at LinkedIn, we’re observing the day by recognizing the contributions of a few of our female and non-binary engineers. In this two-part series, we’ll spotlight their work, as well as some of the lessons they’ve learned during their career journeys.

At LinkedIn, we’re firm believers that the different experiences and backgrounds our engineers bring to the table make us better equipped to solve real-world problems for our members. We strive to connect the global workforce, and as CTO, it’s important to me that our engineering teams building the products reflect the diversity of our members. To that end, we’ve built a robust Women In Tech program, which runs programming such as our recurring WomenConnect events, Invest, and TechWomen, just to name a few. This year’s International Women’s Day theme, #BalanceforBetter, recognizes the importance of gender balance to creating successful organizations and communities. In celebration of IWD 2019, I am excited to highlight some of the amazing work underway by women and non-binary people across our engineering team. Read on to hear more about the projects these amazing engineers have been working on, and for reflections and advice about their careers in tech.

Binya Koatz

Binya is an iOS software engineer working on the content experience team. Most recently, their team has been working on the member sharing experience in the feed. With the latest redesign of the member sharing experience, Binya and their team have improved the time and ease in enabling content to go from idea-to-member.

  • binya1

What was a challenge you faced in redesigning the member sharing experience?
One of the challenges we faced was designing a platform that not only worked for a growing set of new types of content for our members to share, but that was also secure, stable, and maintainable. Challenges like this don't just come up in the beginning of a project—they exist throughout the life of any project. It takes our continued dedication to members-first, high-quality engineering to make sure that we strike the wisest balance between engineering for now and engineering for the future.

Can you tell us about a mentor you’ve had?
My first mentor in the company was Ellis Weng, who is amazing and still influential in my work today. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot of what I now know about iOS programming and high-quality software engineering practices generally. And, as a fellow member of the LGBTQ community, he made me feel included and welcome as my full self at the office. We were on the same team for a long time and sat next to each other for much of that time. Now, even though we don’t sit side by side, we still get coffee and lunch, and continue to maintain that connection. He makes himself available for specific high-level coding questions and larger life advice, as well as helpful one-on-one time for conversations—an ideal mentor and friend!

What advice would you give to a woman wanting to pursue a career in tech?
As a trans person, I know that representation, community, and mentorship matters. The way I've been able to thrive in this position is by investing my time heavily in Out@In, the LGBTQ Employee Resource Group here at LinkedIn. This has allowed me to both give back to my community from the abundance of this company, and make friends who can serve as mirrors, validators, and support systems in an environment where I'm not the majority. We should all be doing similar things, and building our self-confidence while investing in our people and communities. That's the only way to do it!

What do you wish you knew when you started your career in tech?
I wish I knew that moving fast doesn’t mean moving better, and that spending quality time to make sure you're taking care of yourself and your life, along with your career, will prevent you from burning out. This makes you more effective for yourself and accountable to others in the long run.

What is your favorite thing about working in tech?
Being able to take what I make here and give it to those who need it most elsewhere, and leveraging my access and platform for good!

Pujita Mathur

Pujita is an engineering manager who led the charge in building the new Groups experience last fall. With Pujita at the helm, she and her team overhauled the monolithic system of Groups and rebuilt it from the ground up. Today, Groups is fully integrated with the LinkedIn tech stack and members enjoy a fluid experience in building and connecting with their professional communities.

  • pujita1

What was a challenge you faced during this project and how did you overcome it?
In any major redesign, it’s important to engage with users and involve them throughout the process. We interacted with our members often and early through calls, user research, and “Listening Tours” in three major cities. We used this feedback to inform our roadmap—this made the transition to the new product smoother.

Can you tell us about a mentor you’ve had? How have they helped you succeed?
I’ve had various mentors help me succeed at different parts of my career. From a technical mentor who helped me onboard to LinkedIn’s tech stack when I first joined as a software engineer in 2015, to a mentor who helped me grow as a tech lead of a team that powers the LinkedIn homepage feed, to a mentor who has helped me transition from an individual contributor to a manager, I’m grateful to have had so many people to learn from along the way and hope to pass it along.

What advice would you give to a woman wanting to pursue a career in tech?
Reflecting on my career, the only times I’ve regretted anything are when I hesitated or missed an opportunity because I doubted my own abilities. Be confident in your abilities and you will achieve anything you set your mind to!

What do you wish you knew when you started your career in tech?
Coming from an electrical engineering background, I wish I had taken more computer science courses before starting my career in tech. But, more importantly, I wish I had known the importance of relationships. I used to think that networking was a just a buzzword till I experienced its power. My network has helped propel me in my career and given me confidence when I didn’t have it.

What is your favorite thing about working in tech?
Access to technology provides access to opportunity for people all over the world. It lets you have an impact at scale. Technology can also act as a force multiplier for existing industries. I’m excited to see the impact of technology proliferate various fields, like education and medicine, to start taking them to the next level.

Yani Zhang

Yani is a senior backend software engineer on the hire & careers team, specifically working to provide diversity solutions for companies and organizations throughout the hiring process. Yani’s team recently embarked on a project to collect self-identified personal demographic information to help strengthen diversity solution offerings.

  • yani1

Tell us about the coolest project you and your team have been working on.
The coolest project we have accomplished is the collection of self-identified personal demographics information last year. This is the first time that LinkedIn has collected this valuable data directly from our members and we look forward to leveraging the data for building diversity products in the future.

What was a challenge you faced during this project and how did you overcome it?
I think there were two challenges that I faced during the self-identification project. At that time, we didn’t own any services that would facilitate this data collection. We had to start from scratch to build the whole backend and mid-tier. We also went through legal and security teams to make sure everything was secure. The next challenge was that we were collecting this data from various interfaces, so we needed to sync with several teams at the same time to make things happen.

What advice would you give to a woman wanting to pursue a career in tech?
Try to be a healthy perfectionist—don’t assume everything will be done perfectly. Give yourself room to improve, and allow yourself and other people to make mistakes because that’s completely normal for engineers. Done is always better than perfect.

What do you wish you knew when you started your career in tech?
Engineering is not just about coding; it’s also about cooperation and communication. It’s not one person’s work, and behind every great project is a great team. You need to learn how to be a great team player and how to communicate effectively.

What is your favorite thing about working in tech?
My favorite thing about working in tech is the flexibility and how there’s always something new to learn and to explore. Being able to solve real-life problems is what makes this field so interesting. You get the chance to touch millions of people’s everyday lives.