I Look Like an Engineer
Unless you’ve been under a rock in the Twitter world for the last week - you will have seen the #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag. Here at Lyst, we have some brilliant engineers - many of whom are women. We decided we should tell you all a little bit more about ourselves, how we came to engineering, and what advice we have for women wanting to be engineers themselves.
During my career I’ve always done a mix of data analysis and programming. At Lyst I’m writing code to automatically detect interesting changes in how our customers act over time. We can then analyse the causes of those changes.
I’ve always liked numbers and patterns, and building things that work. I have a maths degree and a masters in computational biology (where mathematical models are applied to real things to try and understand how they work).
What I enjoy most about my job is the challenge. I like the ability to sit and think about difficult problems, and the sense of satisfaction where you identify something interesting, work out why it’s happening, and feed that information to people in the business who really care about it.
The most important thing I’ve learned over the past few years is to adapt to different styles of communication. If you are female, you have probably been trained to be non-confrontational. Any workplace engineering culture will probably be more blunt that you are used to and people are usually not shy about expressing their opinions. If you’re new to the environment it can be a little overwhelming unless you realise it’s just a different style. Over time we can influence that style.
Junior Frontend Engineer (@chloe_does)
I work as a Engineer at Lyst. My focus to date has centred around retention. The projects I’ve worked on have tackled questions like how best to develop a system that enables us to send out unique and relevant content to millions of people each week. I’ve recently moved teams and now I’m primarily working on establishing more ways to help our customers discover new brands.
After university I joined Morgan Stanley as an Equity Analyst and later went to work in venture capital. I first encountered engineers when I began helping startups with their business development. Often I would see small user experience changes that would make a world of difference. I became increasingly frustrated that I wasn’t able to make these changes myself and I also had my own ideas that I wanted to make a reality. I started teaching myself how to code before work and discovered for the first time that both the logical and creative sides of my brain were satisfied together. In order to reach a level that would allow me to work professionally I eventually signed up to do an intensive developer bootcamp called Makers Academy.
The things I like about my job include the fact that I am now able to assess product changes from both a commercial and technical perspective. There is always an opportunity cost to what we do. A good idea becomes not so great if you learn that it’s going to take many months to implement. Now that I understand the technical complexity of different options, I’m able to provide simpler, smarter suggestions and I love being able to implement the solutions myself. The people on the engineering team at Lyst are generous with their time and passionate about their craft. I feel very fortunate. This is an incredible place in which to grow as a engineer.
The key piece of advice I have for women looking to go into engineering is to get comfortable with not knowing things. In ‘Lean In’ Sheryl Sandburg bemoans the finding that “women only apply for jobs if they meet all criteria – men apply when they meet 60%”. As a sex we need to move away from this mentality and this is especially important if you are an aspiring female engineer. Your job won’t be to know all the answers, it will be about coming up with elegant, scalable solutions. The more things that you build, the more confident you will become in you ability to solve problems and that, in a nutshell, is the essence of a great engineer.
Junior Data Scientist (@sandra_greiss)
I’m Sandra, a Junior Data Scientist at Lyst. When I first joined the company I worked on a lot of analytics projects, in order to understand the behaviour of our users and features on our website. I then moved on to different projects. For example: attempting to normalise all the sizes of products on our website under one schema. That was fun!
Now, I’m part of the Search team, trying to improve our user’s experience when they search for anything on Lyst. I’ve enjoyed all the projects I’ve worked on so far and they’ve all taught me a lot. Sometimes, I also help the Marketing team with getting data and numbers for a lot of the stories they release.
I never thought I would become an engineer at some point of my life. I have a very academic background, with three degrees in physics/astrophysics (BSc, MSc, PhD) because I thought I wanted a career in research and academia. During my job hunt after my PhD, I discovered data science and how the skills I developed during my PhD were transferable to that role. That made very excited because after my PhD, I came to realise that my life wasn’t suited for academia. Data science only became popular very recently in London, which probably explains why I had never heard of it before until started my job hunt. Thankfully the word is spreading very quickly and more students at universities are now aware of that career path. I’m unbelievably grateful that I have my current role at Lyst. It has taught me so much more coding and engineering than I learnt in a few years in academia.
What I love most about my current job is the fact that I literally learn one new thing every day, sometimes more! I also love the people I work with; they’re extremely patient and are happy to explain things to me. I can’t wait to become as good as them someday! I also love the company I work for - except that I haven’t been able to save any money since I started working because all I do is buy more shoes!
What advice would I give a woman looking to go into engineering? Choose to work in a company and with people that value your skills, rather than your gender. Being a woman shouldn’t make any difference to your decisions in life. There are many great Engineers out there and there’s no reason why you can’t be one of them.
Junior Backend Engineer (@stephieoldcorn)
I’m Steph and I’m a Junior Backend Engineer at Lyst. I am currently working in the Shopping and Discovery team, to help enhance our users’ shopping experience.
I studied mathematics at university and then began my graduate career training to be an investment actuary. After four years, I decided that I wanted a change, so took a leap and attended a 12 week coding bootcamp. I realised that this was definitely what I wanted to be doing. Lyst offered me the opportunity to join their team just after I graduated from the course.
The people really are what make the job amazing, everyone is really hard working and has been keen to pass on their knowledge and help me learn. I love solving problems and it’s great that I get to do this every day. A coding class has also been set up on a Friday afternoon at Lyst - a group of us get together to work on problems and discuss possible solutions. This has been such a great addition to help my learning process.
My advice to women that are considering a career in engineering would be to just do it! It’s amazing to be able to show people the website and say “I helped to build this”.
If I had to name one thing that drew me to engineering it would have to be a love of problem solving. I studied maths at university, and while I really enjoyed battling with mind-bending theorems and proofs, I thought engineering would be a fun path to getting stuck into some more tangible “real-world” problems.
Prior to Lyst, I worked as a developer in an investment bank for three years, before deciding that I was way more interested in shoes than trading strategies. I was also interested in working for a smaller company with a more dynamic environment - so here I am! I’ve only been here a couple of weeks, but already my favourite thing about my job is the people I get to work with - everyone is not only really talented, but also really friendly and willing to help. It’s made settling in very quick and easy and I look forward to learning a whole lot from everyone here.
My piece of advice for women who want to go into engineering: it’s easy to lack confidence in yourself in an industry that is predominantly male, where there are so few notable female leaders, so it’s important to have self-belief. If you’ve decided that this is what you’re interested in and want to pursue, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be good enough to do it, especially not yourself.
QA Engineer (@aliceness)
I’m Alice, and I’m one of three QA Engineers here at Lyst.
My job is to stop pesky bugs from making their debut on our site. I like to think part of a QA Engineer’s job is making awesome things even more awesome. We do all sorts - sometimes we write tests to make sure what the engineers have coded matches the requirements, sometimes we ask lots of questions to make sure everything has been thought through properly, and sometimes we write down and keep track of how everything should work.
I’ve been making awesome things even better for five years now. I came to engineering sideways - I’ve always been a bit techy, but when I went to university I decided to study Film and Media Studies. Shortly after finishing my degree, I was at a loss as to where to take my career. I ended up applying for a graduate program in testing and was accepted. It was a big risk at the time - but it paid off immensely. My job has now taken me half way across the world - I’m originally from New Zealand and moved to London to have some new adventures two years ago.
I’ve been really lucky with the roles I’ve had - I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredibly smart and insipiring people - Lyst being no exception. That’s definitely something I love about my role - working with passionate people on making something awesome. QA is a bit like being a detective sometimes, and I think that’s what I love most about it. Problem solving, and pulling all the pieces together to make the bigger picture clearer.
Engineering is such a fun career. If you’ve seen the #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag, and you’ve been inspired - go for it. There is so much out there to learn.