Career stories: From Hollywood videographer to frontend engineer
November 7, 2022
Originally an LA-based videographer and self-taught developer, Kiope wanted to turn her hobby into a career. Following a coding bootcamp and a stint at a startup, she joined LinkedIn as a frontend (UI) engineer. Based in San Francisco, Kiope speaks about her meaningful accessibility work, impact at scale, and career growth as an aspiring manager.
After my undergrad degree in film studies, I jetted off to Los Angeles to start my career in Hollywood as a talent agency assistant. However, I’ve also always had a passion for coding, ever since I taught myself how to build websites as a kid. I would share interviews I had filmed with elders in my urban Native American community online, and I later acted as webmaster for the Southern California Indian Center for several years during high school.
After a few years in the film industry, I knew I wanted to take my coding hobby and turn it into a full-fledged career. So I moved to San Francisco and signed up for a coding bootcamp. This would be the first step toward my role today at LinkedIn.
A distinctively fun interview
Before I joined LinkedIn, I was working at a start-up called Mulesoft (now part of Salesforce) where I was part of a very small frontend engineering team. This was a great first software engineering job for someone like me with a non-traditional engineering background, because I got tons of practical hands-on experience building lots of products at a fast pace.
But to grow my engineering skills, I knew I needed to work at a bigger company where I could learn from a large pool of top-notch engineers, and gain experience building well-crafted products at scale.
When I was trying to figure out where to go next, I reached out to a fellow grad from my coding boot camp who was at LinkedIn. I'd heard great things from her about working there, and she introduced me to a recruiter. As soon as I finished the onsite interview, I knew I wanted to join LinkedIn: I’d never had so much fun in an interview in my entire life!
Not only were the interview’s technical problems interesting, but I could immediately tell that every single person I interviewed with truly enjoyed working for LinkedIn, and I wanted to be a part of that culture.
8K+ engineers to support me
In addition to culture, LinkedIn also offered the scale I was looking for, with over 8,000 engineers worldwide representing specialties like backend (apps), frontend (UI), mobile, and more. And here, you can really lean on more experienced engineers as you learn.
At LinkedIn, you learn more than just how to write quick and efficient code. You learn how to write good code. Maintaining high standards of code craftsmanship is one of our key values here, and, as an engineer with a non-traditional background who has had to learn primarily through hands-on experience on the job, I’ve benefited tremendously from this practice.
Transitioning teams and offices
When I first joined LinkedIn, I worked on our flagship, consumer product on the Growth and SEO (Search Engine Advertising) team at our Silicon Valley headquarters in Mountain View, California. Roughly 18 months into the job, I told my manager the commute — which was averaging 4-hour, daily roundtrip from my home in San Francisco — was taking a toll on me.
My manager was very supportive, and worked with me over the next several months to meet with many different managers to find the right fit, and ultimately help me transition over to one of our enterprise teams, LinkedIn Sales Solutions (LSS), so that I could work closer to home.
I’ve bounced around many different sub-teams over the last several years on the LSS team, but I currently lead our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Enablement team, which builds features that allow customers of our LinkedIn Sales Navigator and LinkedIn Sales Insights product to integrate CRM data into their LinkedIn sales workflows.
Delivering value for millions of users
Scale to me also means impact. Every day, our engineering work directly helps millions of job seekers to find their dream jobs and build new skills, and hundreds of thousands of large and small businesses grow, even during the pandemic. You can truly see how you’re delivering value.
This is especially true in my frontend engineering work on the LinkedIn Sales Solutions team, working on products like LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Sales Insights, which supports 1.2 million sellers and counting. To know that you’re helping a startup founder scale her business global, or a CEO take their brick-and-mortar business digital mid-pandemic is incredibly powerful.
All of the engineers on our team are encouraged to take an active role in the product roadmap and problem-solve alongside other engineers, product managers, product designers, product marketers, and data scientists. It’s a level of collaboration that is not always possible as a junior or mid-level engineer at other companies and I’m glad I’ve found that at LinkedIn.
Making LinkedIn accessible to all
What really makes LinkedIn unique is our culture. Everyone seems to genuinely enjoy coming to work and many of my teammates have been at LinkedIn for four years or longer. I also love how many women engineers we have here, something that’s still a rarity in this industry — my team, for example, is currently half women.
Per the video below, one of my most memorable projects at LinkedIn is Access[in], which was a company-wide initiative to make our products more inclusive and accessible to everyone, including members (i.e., LinkedIn users) with disabilities. As a frontend engineer, I thought I knew a fair amount about how to make products accessible, like adding Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) tags and writing semantic markup. However, it turns out there’s much more to it than that.
To become more knowledgeable, I participated in LinkedIn’s Accessibility Champions program, where we not only learned how to write accessible code, but we also learned how to think like users with disabilities by using tools like screen readers and high contrast mode to navigate through our products. It was an eye-opening experience to look at our platform from the perspective of our members. There is always more to learn and I am excited to do just that!
Endless options for growth
I’ve had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of teams here. For example, I used to work on a feature called Public Profile, which is basically a LinkedIn profile that a user sees if they’re not logged in as a member. Our Product Operations team flagged that we received complaints about adjusting basic settings on the public profile.. So we worked with Product Operations and User Experience (UX) to develop iterations to address member concerns, and ultimately redesigned the page. The complaints immediately went down, so we knew we had made the right decision. LinkedIn makes it clear that if you want to try something new, they will support you.
Per the video below, one of the most memorable experiences that I’ve had at LinkedIn has been participating in LinkedIn’s REACH apprentice program, which helps aspiring, backend (Apps), data science & machine learning, frontend (UI) and mobile engineers from non-traditional backgrounds an opportunity to get their foot in the door in the tech industry and begin or continue their technical career.
I was lucky enough to participate in REACH’s first cohort, mentoring an apprentice who later joined us a a full-time engineer I’ve remained involved in the program over the years in different capacities, but it’s allowed me to meet a lot of different current and aspiring engineers from different backgrounds and LinkedIn teams — and support their growth.
Preparing for engineering management
One of our core values here at LinkedIn is transformation. In the several years since I’ve been here, I’ve gone through three individual-contributor (IC) role changes (i.e., software engineer, senior software engineer, staff engineer) across two engineering teams. Per the video below, that’s included valuable experiences like a book club with our engineering vice president and executive coaching session as part of a LinkedIn Women in Tech group to strengthen my negotiations and public-speaking skills as an aspiring manager.
After getting formally promoted to Staff Engineer earlier this year, I am now embarking on my latest transformation — transitioning into engineering management. I was initially nervous about doing this (like many ICs, I wasn’t sure if management was the right path for me), but LinkedIn offers an Apprentice Manager Program (also known as AMP) to support those of us making the IC to Manager transition. AMP lasts an entire quarter and there are workshops and coaching circles every week covering topics such as effective one-on-one meetings, talent acquisition, building/managing/leading, and intent vs. impact.
We get to learn from experienced managers and connect with other new managers going through this career change as well. Most of the workshops are virtual, but those of us based in San Francisco like to get together for lunch to swap new manager stories with each other.
Whether it's learning a new framework, working with a career coach, or even just taking advantage of the perks like the excellent free food, LinkedIn is a place where you’re supported to grow, especially as a female engineer. I know it's true because I’ve experienced it in action.
Based in San Francisco, Kiope is a frontend (UI) staff engineer and apprentice engineering manager with our LinkedIn Sales Solutions team, where she currently works on CRM integrations for our sales products. Before joining LinkedIn, she was a videographer and talent agent assistant at Creative Artists Agency, and a software engineer at Mulesoft (now part of Salesforce).
She holds a bachelor’s in Film and Media Studies from Stanford University, and is a graduate of Dev Bootcamp. Outside of work, Kiope enjoys skiing, figure skating, practicing hula, and finding new ways to make art with technology in her free time; and she is a member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and Native Hawaiians.
Editor’s note: Considering an engineering/tech career at LinkedIn? In this Career Stories series, you’ll hear first-hand from our engineers and technologists about real life at LinkedIn—including our meaningful work, collaborative culture, and transformational growth. For more on tech careers at LinkedIn, visit: lnkd.in/EngCareers.