Career Path of a Full-Stack Engineer — Bridging the Gap between Frontend & Backend
From the beginning, Samantha thought she wanted to be an architect designing for efficiency and functionality. As she entered the engineering workforce, she realized she had the opportunity to co-author her future; being an engineer was the epicenter of technology and design. Since then, she has had the opportunity to dabble in frontend, backend, and has even made her way into becoming the full-stack tech lead on her team.
Tell us a bit about your career journey — where did you start? How did you end up where you are now?
My experience on both sides of engineering gives me a unique perspective for tech leadership on the team. I’m passionate about building consumer products and enjoy leading an efficient team by bridging the gap between frontend engineering, backend engineering, product, and design.
I started my career at Quantopian, a fintech startup, as a frontend web engineer. A couple of years into that role, I had the opportunity to lead a backend team, which was quite a change of pace from the UI work I was doing. Working at a startup gave me the opportunity to work on a lot of different projects, parts of the tech stack, and use many different technologies. My early experience with building end-to-end projects led me to becoming a full stack engineer.
I worked at Quantopian for almost six years, before we got acquired by Robinhood in 2020. I initially joined the Marketdata team as a web engineer, but also worked on backend tasks because of my prior experience. In the Summer of 2021, the Investment Research team was split out of Marketdata. I’m now the full stack tech lead on the team.
Think back to your younger self: did you know who you wanted to be or what your career aspirations were?
My younger self wanted to be an architect, but I ended up applying to engineering colleges when the time came around. I like to believe that software engineering is like being an architect, but instead of designing buildings you’re designing software.
I think it’s really important to enjoy your day job, because we spend a lot of time doing it. Through engineering classes and summer internships, I was able to figure out the parts of engineering that I enjoyed. My first internship was as an electrical engineer, and it was there that I realized I enjoyed software more than hardware. My second internship was as a web developer, and it was there that I realized I enjoyed working on frontend. As I continue to figure out what parts of engineering I enjoy, I look for opportunities there. I don’t believe I’m on a narrow path, but a path where I can make a turn and try something else out.
What do you like most about your current role?
My favorite part about my current role is working on a product that is used by millions of people, including my family and friends, many of which are very passionate about what we’re building. As the tech lead on my team, I feel a huge sense of ownership for my team’s work, and my involvement in the product, design, and engineering processes allows me to drive impact.
What and/or who has helped you the most along the way?
My past managers gave me a lot of trust and responsibility before I felt ready for it. I worked on challenging projects early on in my career where I learned how to communicate between stakeholders, how to cut scope, and was entrusted to drive projects to completion. Working on hard problems that felt above my current skill set forced me to find the skills to complete them and I’m thankful for my managers who entrusted me with these challenges.
What advice would you give to someone who is at the beginning of their career journey or isn’t sure of what career path to take?
You don’t have to lock yourself into anything. If you don’t like what you’re working on, try something else. If you don’t know what you want to do, try something and learn from it.
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