Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable: A Message from the Future to the High School Me

Electric Car

Photo: Romain Guy

A few weeks ago, an employee resource group at work invited me to speak at an event where they would provide workshops, speakers, and competitions to girls in high school so that they could learn more about tech.

So here’s a written version of my talk, labelled “Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable: A Message from the Future to the High School Me.”

Raise your hand if you want to make an impact. Take a moment to look around, and I’d like to give all of yourselves a round of applause. Thank you, thank you. That’s why I became a software engineer. Now before I go into my story, I wanted to give you an overview of what I’ll be talking about today:  1. Why I became a software engineer 2. Who should be a software engineer, and 3. What it’s like being a software engineer.

Why I Became a Software Engineer

When I was in middle school, I used to play an online game called Gaia, and Gaia means earth. In the game, everyone had profiles, and we could customize those profiles. I soon realized that I could change snippets of html and css on those profiles to make it look cool. So I charged people virtual money to customize their profiles. That was my start into learning about business and code. My first summer of high school, my brother gave me a book that taught me to be curious and want to learn. That book also made me fascinated about business.

The beauty of tech is that if you write code once, solve a problem once, in minutes your code can be online and shared with millions in the world to fix their problems. Soon I wanted to start a tech business, and in particular, I wanted to create apps. Similar to how artists want to have creative control over their music, I wanted to control the way my apps were built and not have to rely on someone else. So I decided that I’d need to learn how to code. At first I was going to be a business major, but with that desire to learn how to code, in my 2nd year of college, I decided to be a Computer Science major with a business minor.

That was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. It was also the decision that would put me through my hardest challenges and most painful times.

Who Should Be a Software Engineer

Studies have shown that women make most of the purchasing decisions in household. So it’s important for businesses to have the female perspective because women understand women the most.

Studies have also shown that women are more likely to build strong relationships and focus on teamwork at work.

So all businesses, especially tech, need women. We need women to work together on solving the hard problems, offering a women’s perspective, and working in strong teams of people.

It doesn’t matter where you’re from, how old you are, or what your background is. I believe that everyone should learn how to code because in the future, learning about coding will be as important as learning how to read. Code is in the medical field helping surgeons control robots to do surgery. Code is in virtual reality for making video games come to life. Code is in big data helping businesses understand people’s needs.

What It’s Like Being a Software Engineer

At work, I spend half my time working with my team. We meet up and learn about the business needs and engineering decisions. We learn about the business, vision of the business, and think of ways to solve those problems.

The other half of my time is spent deconstructing a hard problem into smaller problems and solving those problems using code.

Right now I spend about 40 hours a week at work. That means after work, I can do whatever I want.

My last message that I wanted to leave you with is what I would have told myself when I was in high school. I wish I knew that the hardest parts of our lives are also the ones where we grow the most. When you’re doing something that’s important to you, there will be painful moments. Don’t give up. The moments where we’re afraid, worried, and anxious – those are the moments where we can either rise and become a better version of ourselves or give up and fall to our fears.

I believe that all of you have a gift to share with the world – a talent that will make the world a better place. We need all of you to solve the world’s problems. We need all of you to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. So I want you to find a problem that you’re interested in solving, to keep working at solving those problems little by little every day, and when things get tough, remember to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.