This week I attended a panel and networking event at Plaid HQ in San Francisco entitled “Women in Tech: Growing Your Career”. I’ve been trying to attend as many of these networking and career building events as possible this summer. I think the inclination comes partially from not wanting to get stuck in the fast turnover cycle that is so common for software engineers. People talk about how the average amount of time a software engineer stays at a company is 1.5 years. While I wasn’t actually able to find data that backs that up (from a quick search), a 13.2% annual turnover rate is similarly alarming. The interview process for engineering positions is notoriously grueling and drawn out, so it’s surprising that so many people are willing to go through it so often. Since I’m starting a little later than many people (26 and currently in my first internship), I’d like to expedite the process of finding a good fit for a full time position.

I’m doing a couple of things to move toward that goal (maybe another blog post on those efforts later), but I think one of the best so far is to attend panels like the one hosted at Plaid. The panel consisted of some truly incredible women with diversity in experience, positions and opinions. They were: Laura Del Beccaro, Co-Founder & CEO at Sora, Evelyn Cordner, CTO at Storr, Ligia Frangello, Software Engineer at Plaid, Nitya Subramanian, Product Manager at Celo and moderated by Kate Adamson, Product Manager at Plaid. I try to ask engineers that I meet a ton of questions about how they choose roles and positions, and panels like this are a great way to do that (plus they usually have great food!).

Here are some of my big takeaways from the event:

If there’s a decision that seems risky, consider whether or not the result is reversible. If it’s easily reversible, go for it. If the result is irreversible, give yourself some extra time to think.

I think that this one really helps give me a framework of how to handle my chronic worry and overthinking. Most decisions are reversible! Laura gave the example of starting a company as the kind of thing that seems like a huge important decision that you could easily agonize over, but is essentially reversible. The culture in tech (at least in the bay) is one that worships founders, so you won’t be blacklisted for founding a company that doesn’t stick around. The ability to go back to engineering means that even starting a company is reversible. The only missing piece in this idea is the time consumed in the process of making a decision and reversing it. Maybe this is partially because I’m still so early in my career and the late start, but time is a non-renewable resource and that causes me anxiety.

Critically consider feedback before internalizing it.

My experience in wilderness guiding has given me a lot to think about on the subject of feedback, so it’s good to apply those ideas to professional situations as well. We talk about both giving and receiving feedback strategically. I think that this lesson is particularly poignant for women in tech, who are likely to receive gendered feedback. One panelist got the feedback that she needs to smile more in the office (when she said that in the panel, there were disgusted faces and exclamations) and talked about her process of considering this feedback before internalizing it. I’ve also received gendered feedback in a workplace (not exactly that I need to smile more, but a similar idea) and think that hearing this advice would have helped me protect my confidence and self-worth.

When deciding whether you want to be in engineering, product or management, consider what you want to become an expert at.

This a BIG one for me. I think a lot about whether I want to stay in pure engineering or if I would like to have more say in what products are made. Right now I have no say in what products are made, but of course that’s true since I’m an intern. I think that it would be really interesting work to think about the problems that customers are facing and what we could do to solve them. It also might be dependent on who your customers are. At LendUp, I feel incredibly sensitive to any problems that reach our customers and want there to be a strong sense of responsibility in the engineering team.

Another way of thinking about this issue is this: “Whose problems do you want to solve?” In product management, you’re solving the customer’s problems. In technical management, you’re solving the engineer’s problems. In engineering you’re solving abstract problems that belong to nobody and everybody. At some point, I’ll need to decide whose problems I want to solve.

Assemble An “I Deserve This” Book

Putting together a collection of the positive feedback and accomplishments that you’ve had throughout your career can be valuable when you’re in a tough position and need help pulling yourself out of it. No career will be free of disappointments, so there’s value in being prepared when they come.

Plaid, thank you so much for hosting this wonderful event. I appreciate having the opportunity to meet and speak with incredible femme engineers. Look out for my application when you’re looking for new grads in a couple months!