New Role, New Master’s Degree, Same Company: My Career Journey at Appian
I’ve always wanted to get a master’s degree but didn’t know when the timing would be right. I was working full-time on the Appian Engineering team and didn’t want to leave my job to go back to school.
With support from my manager and team, I was able to do both—work full-time at Appian while taking classes for the Management of IT program at the University of Virginia.
In the past 6 months, I graduated with my master’s degree and was also promoted to Senior Quality Engineer before changing roles to become a Software Engineer II at Appian! It was a packed year of school and work and lack of sleep, but I hope it also shows other people weighing their career options that it’s possible.
Here is my story of how I started as a summer intern and got to where I’m at now, and the help I received along the way.
From intern to Quality Engineer to Software Engineer with a master's in Management of IT—all at Appian.
I stumbled upon Appian in my undergrad at Virginia Tech. As an international student from Indonesia, I wasn’t eligible for most DMV internships because they were federal-adjacent. I was losing hope until I found out about Appian. I joined for the summer as a Quality Engineer Intern and then I joined full-time in 2018 after I graduated!
After growing my skill set as a QE for 2.5 years, I started thinking through where I wanted to go in my career and was weighing my options last year. Do I want to go the technical route, or towards the management track? Do I focus on software engineering or IT management?
After speaking to my manager, Diana and a few more senior colleagues, I decided I wanted to build a foundation for the people management track. I figured I could continue to develop my technical skills working at Appian and through online certifications and courses, but a masters in IT management would set me up well for the direction I wanted my career to go in, in the long term. Upon sharing my decision with Diana, she was so helpful and supported me by writing my letter of recommendation for my grad school application.
Following the desire to strengthen my technical skills at work, I also started a conversation with her about wanting a more technical role at Appian. I was terrified to ask, but I really wanted to explore Software Performance as an area of focus. I had grown very interested in this subject after starting to learn about it to support multiple software performance-focused features on my teams in the first two years of my career as QE. Diana advocated for me to be part of our quarterly rotation program where I could work on our Performance and Reliability Engineering team for a quarter to learn and try it out.
After this rotation, I started my master’s in September 2021 and during the year-long accelerated program, I’ll be honest—my whole life was work and school! My typical day looked like working until 5:30 p.m, dinner, and then off to either class, group project meetings, or readings.
In August 2022, after a promotion to Senior Quality Engineer earlier in the year, I changed roles to a Software Engineer II and joined the team I had previously rotated with, while in the last month of my master's degree.
I felt like Diana and my current manager, Ankit, understood the mental load of taking on two big things at once and I really felt heard. It was a lot of change in one year! But I loved the challenge and the constant learning.
Diana had advocated for me to be promoted and helped me balance school through the past year. Ankit encouraged me to use my Learning Time or take a few Fridays to focus on my last month of school. Every other Monday, Engineers have “Learning time” to focus on learning and development or experimenting with new projects. “You do what you need to, and we’re here for you,” was his reassurance. He also made sure to check in on me consistently as I transitioned into a new team and role.
I also want to thank Matthias Lee and Silpa Mittapalli for playing an instrumental part in advocating for my role change and supporting my career growth. Matthias, a Distinguished Software Engineer at Appian, inspired me to explore Performance Engineering further and has mentored and vouched for me throughout this process. Silpa, a Director in Software Development, went above and beyond in making my role change a reality. I am so grateful for their support.
How my teams at Appian helped me through grad school.
I learned to be okay being the person who says no sometimes, and that it’s okay (and needed!) to ask for help. Since I switched teams at Appian a few times during the year of my master's program, I was upfront with my new teammates about my tight schedule, and how much I appreciated their accommodation.
I got a chance to meet Appian folks as I interviewed them for my assignments about AI/predictive data modeling and concepts of IT governance. I learned how other groups in Engineering and departments outside of Engineering operate! I was also lucky enough to get to know other Appianites that had done the same masters degree as the one I was doing. It was a very enlightening experience for me and I am so grateful that everyone at Appian was open to sharing their knowledge with me.
Lastly, I had the opportunity to mentor a few new Engineers on the team and share my experience. I think it was helpful to show that it is possible to do school and continue with your education while working full time.
Connecting the dots from class assignments to everyday work.
In classes, I got the chance to learn about how different teams work and how business decisions are made. This was a much higher level view than my everyday engineering tasks. It helped me empathize with other roles in meetings.
For example, in one class we learned about the relationships and sometimes natural tension between Product Management and Engineering teams. Product owners have to be ruthless at prioritizing and managing so many inputs from other teams. Engineers often push back against anything that compromises the quality of the product. My class readings and lectures helped me bring a new perspective to our biweekly meetings with the Product team at Appian understanding their point of view and the pressure they’re under.
There were also many technical lessons I brought back to my Appian work.
Our first module was about Enterprise Architecture and we learned a lot about data management. Those learnings put all of Modern Records' Data modeling features that I was working on at the time into a whole new perspective for me. It made different jigsaw pieces in my head all click together. It also gave me an opportunity to share some of Appian's Low Code Data released features with my UVA classmates and professors!
I got to graduate in August with my family who came all the way from Indonesia. It was also the first time I’d seen them in three years since the pandemic so it was a huge celebration!
Reflecting back, I thought I had to choose between the two career routes. However, I am lucky to share that Appian has empowered me to pursue both avenues - grow my technical skills and take a step toward a future in management. I plan to keep pushing myself to learn new concepts and technologies so I can continue to grow in my new role!
It all started with an open, candid, and what felt like a scary conversation with my manager Diana about where I wanted to grow. This story wouldn’t be complete without her own words too.
Now I’ll hand it over to Diana to share her experience!
Mentor, manager, and biggest cheerleader: Meet Diana Chavez.
I’m a Quality Engineering Manager at Appian and I believe you need to have a good, trusting relationship with your direct reports and understand their interests and motivations. It means giving people new opportunities and then asking:
- How do you think you did?
- Did you enjoy that work? Was it a mix of fun and challenging?
- What skills do you want to learn? How can I support you?
Those are the kind of questions Tanvee and I would chat through after her quarter with the Performance & Reliability Engineering team and during her master’s degree.
Tanvee was always a top performer at Appian. She is driven by curiosity and has never been satisfied with just doing her work, she always goes above and beyond. When she was an intern, she went ahead and found a tool to automate the work she was doing to be more efficient. She created the feature and prototyped it on her own. It was so impactful I still remember it five years later!
Tanvee always let me know about opportunities she was considering. That was great because then I could do something with it, and explore different ways she could grow at Appian and help show her what training or education she’d need to get to the career she sees herself in.
High efficient teams that work the best together are the ones where people feel heard and seen. I see my job as a manager to listen, asking the right questions, and helping guide people to see what those paths can look like for them.
I’ve been at Appian for 13 years and I’m grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had to grow my career. Now as a manager I’m happy to give back to others and support them in their career paths.
Congratulations to Tanvee—master’s graduate and new Software Engineer!
Learn more about ways to grow on our Engineering team.