Career Lessons From The Developer Trenches

Join us for the Women 2.0 Awards February 12, 2015

Coding is not equal to getting a project done end to end.

By Rupa Dachere (Founder, CodeChix & Software Engineer, VMware)

So, you’re a femgineer, you are working in industry and you’re stagnating…. What do you do?

When I started out in industry, I thought coding and writing beautiful, modular, efficient code, and getting it working and shipping, was my ticket to a promotion. Of course, I thought that – that’s what I was programmed (pun intended) to do in school.

So, I worked long hours in my cubicle, coding away, head down and was absolutely devastated when I didn’t get promoted! And I thought I wrote better code than any of my teammates and worked longer and harder than anyone else – what the heck?

Well, here’s the newsflash – it turns out that coding is not equal to getting a project done end to end. And getting a project done end-to-end is KEY.

So, what do you do?

I realized that I needed to grow myself from a Sous Chef to a Head Chef. Which means, I had to work in such a way as to have maximum impact on the product.

So, that’s what I did. When I was working at a startup as the technical lead for the Systems Mgmt. team, I realized that we didn’t have any infrastructure to support licensing for our products. And, so, I volunteered and took on the project and built it from the ground up (architecture, design, implementation etc.) and it worked beautifully.

Or so I thought.

And then, I realized, that neither manufacturing nor field engineering knew anything about my project or how to use it! Particularly, for manufacturing, who didn’t want to know anything about software or any of the technical details.

I had a two-pronged problem to solve – on one hand, I had to ramp up manufacturing who were not tech-savvy and on the other hand, I had to ramp up field engineering who were very tech-savvy. Much pondering resulted in a solution. I built a tool based on command-line scripts and got manufacturing to automate the heck out of it. That way they didn’t have to know anything about the gory, technical details and they were happy. And I was happy.

For field engineering, I wrote a ton of documentation and gave a bunch of technical talks to teach them about my project and how to use it. And, if they needed, I would happily jump in on any customer conference calls or in-person meetings to help them out.

I was there to do whatever it took to get the project functioning end-to-end. And all of this took more time and effort than my entire coding project. And, at times, it was infinitely more frustrating. But, it also made me the first female principal staff software engineer in the company.

So, grow yourself from a Sous Chef to a Head Chef. And don’t look back!

Women 2.0 readers: What would you tell your younger self? Let us know in the comments!

About the guest blogger: Rupa Dachere is the Founder of CodeChix and a Software Engineer at VMware. She has worked at various multi-nationals and startups and learned many lessons through the hard knocks of life. She is a speaker at the Grace Hopper Conference (2012) and dedicates her time and money towards building great products and providing continuous education and mentorship for women developers of all backgrounds and skill levels. Follow her on Twitter at @rdachere.