Women in Tech Part II: Mentors share their words of wisdom
Welcome to the second blog in our series on Women in Tech. This series will focus on sharing stories from the Appian Women in Engineering Guild where we’ll be highlighting their career journeys, experiences working in Engineering at Appian, and how we’re aiming to create a more inclusive tech industry. The first blog featured three Quality Engineers at Appian, and in this blog we want to introduce you to three women in different roles on our Engineering team.
Engineering at Appian in itself is a big team with diverse roles, projects, and challenges. Today, we’re sharing stories of three women in very different roles on our team 一 product engineering, product management, and software engineering. While their skill sets and coding languages differ, they’ve connected through the Appian Women in Engineering Guild and share what it means to be part of it, and provide their tips and advice for women starting out in their career in tech.
Meet Annika, Elizabeth and Jennie
Annika Basch, Product Engineer: I’ve been working in Appian Engineering for almost 2 years. I was drawn to pursuing engineering because of the exciting technical challenges, and I love that I’m learning and problem-solving every day in my work at Appian.
Elizabeth Hall, Senior Product Manager: I’ve been in product management for 4 years, but it was never under the Engineering Department until I came to Appian last year! I love being at the heart of the product and interacting with so many key stakeholders. I studied psychology in school, and my career has since zigged and zagged and I ended up in Engineering in 2020.
Jennie Ju, Senior Software Engineer: I’ve been at Appian almost 5 years and I love solving challenging problems and working in a team with fun and innovative people. I initially wanted to be a biomedical engineer when I entered university. I didn’t have any coding experience, but when I was exposed to software development in college, I ended up really enjoying the problem-solving aspect of it, and that’s what I stuck with.
What is unique about being an Engineer at Appian?
Annika: There’s lots of room for taking initiative and getting involved at every level 一 with my team, department, and the company. Appian Engineering prioritizes the learning and professional development of every member. For example, we have dedicated time set aside for learning new skills and working on side projects.
Elizabeth: We have a Women in Engineering Guild that’s open to everyone and provides an opportunity to share articles, watch videos, listen to podcasts, etc. that are relevant to our role in the workplace. Working for a company that fosters a community that enables such rich conversations has been a unique experience in the best way! Appian Engineering, and Appian in general, values employee well-being and a well-rounded work experience above all else. This culture is a helpful reminder that we all bring something unique to the table!
Jennie: We have a culture around the importance of feedback and respectful dissent. Everyone’s opinions matter, even when they don’t mesh with those held by leadership. People support each other in voicing their ideas, regardless of their tenure or background. I feel that in Appian Engineering, every voice is important and valued. Whether you’re an executive or were just hired out of university, your peers and leaders want to hear your opinions and feedback. I think that’s so important for a company that values its employees, because everyone here has something to contribute.
What’s something specific in your role at Appian that you love doing?
Annika: I love designing new features. During design, there are so many different paths you could take to solve a problem, and it is your job to consider all the possibilities and use all the tools and knowledge available to you to identify the best solution.
Elizabeth: I love mentoring women both within Engineering and in other departments. It’s fulfilling for me to help other women make a transition into Engineering, like I did last year, and it’s also rewarding to know that the lessons I’ve learned along the way are transferable to careers in other areas as well.
Jennie: I also love teaching and mentoring other engineers! As I’ve grown more senior at Appian, I’ve seen myself move into a larger support role on my team. I enjoy taking complex concepts and breaking them down into more understandable chunks, and I love seeing others grow and become more independent as a result.
What’s your favorite coding language and why?
Annika: Python because it’s so readable, accessible and versatile.
Elizabeth: The only language I know is our company’s proprietary language, SAIL. Because of SAIL, someone like me with no coding experience was able to learn how to build a business process app within a matter of weeks!
Jennie: I’m really a Java developer at my core, with only basic familiarity with a handful of other languages. I find architecting frameworks in Java really interesting, since you’re always balancing trade-offs amongst various design patterns.
What is your favorite project you’ve worked on here at Appian?
Annika: I created a small application for my team that runs tests on a weekly basis and emails the results to the team. I was able to randomly generate the colors so that the email would be bright and cheerful in different colors each week. I even learned how to embed photos and video links to make the emails more fun and encourage the team to read them.
Elizabeth: This spring, I co-developed a “Hands-On-Lab” for our annual Appian World Conference with one of my peers. We walked our customers through building an app from beginning to end in just an hour. Not all of our business stakeholders are Appian developers, so it was really cool to teach app building in Appian to such senior leaders.
Jennie: Appian has a proprietary coding language called SAIL Expressions that is used both by our customers and by our in-house developers to build the platform. For a year, I worked on an IntelliJ plugin to provide SAIL language support to our internal SAIL developers. This included things like syntax highlighting, code search, and even a debugger. It was a great experience of designing something from scratch and integrating with a new codebase for the first time. And the best part was seeing the happiness it brought to our coworkers’ faces when their day-to-day was made easier by our plugin!
What are the challenges to being a woman in tech, and specifically engineering?
Annika: I think imposter syndrome is a more prescient obstacle for women since there is less representation of women in tech and fewer role models and mentors, especially in more advanced roles. Women have valuable contributions to make to the industry, not just in creating a product, but also in creating the culture.
Elizabeth: More often than not, there will be more men than women on a call, in the room, on a team, etc. Sometimes, you may be the only woman in these situations. It’s important that you work for a team that makes you feel like you belong while also embracing your unique perspectives. Women have had to overcome generations of patriarchal stereotypes that say “we’re not good at science, math, and engineering.” Women have come such a long way, but we still have so far to go in order to be valued equally in the workplace across all companies in these industries. The best thing we can do is lift one another up so that we can continue to break down barriers and shatter glass ceilings!
Jennie: One challenge is something that sociologist Tsedale M. Melaku calls “inclusion tax.” It is the extra effort that women and people of color need to exert to be accepted and succeed in these spaces. And that extra effort comes in many forms: struggling to have your thoughts heard, more prevalent impostor syndrome, and working extra to gain respect from your peers.
That’s why visibility into the successes of women in engineering is so important. I was fortunate to have many examples of successful women engineers around me, from my teaching assistants, to my internship mentors, to my more tenured peers here at Appian. Hearing their stories gave me confidence that I could succeed in my role as an engineer. When we show what women can become, and what they overcome, we inspire others.
What words of wisdom would you give to women pursuing a engineering career?
Annika: You deserve to be where you are, and your ideas are valuable. Don’t be scared of failure or being wrong. For every one job offer I got, I applied to 100 (no kidding — I applied to over 400 jobs and got just a few offers). You only need one yes! The problems you are approaching are highly complex, you will get things wrong regularly, especially if you are doing a good job of putting yourself out there. Don’t let that discourage you, instead, use it as fuel to learn and grow.
Elizabeth: You are going to be working with a lot of really smart people, so it’s important to remember that someone else’s brilliance doesn’t take away from yours. There is always something we can learn from someone else and teach them in return. Almost everyone has had imposter syndrome or feeling like they don’t belong at some point or another. You DO belong and you were hired for a reason! Being vulnerable about this with your manager can help you overcome that hump and feel a sense of belonging.
Jennie: Find people in your workplace that will trust, respect, and support you and your career. They can be anyone — a manager, mentor, or peer. There are many obstacles that we face that are specific to our experiences as women engineers, and it is so important to have someone who will listen to you and advocate on your behalf. I have found several of those people at Appian, and the successes and longevity of my career here are in part a result of the support I have received.
Apply to join our team
We hope you’re feeling inspired after reading this Q&A and consider calling Appian Engineering your next professional home, to join the supportive and talented community we aim to create.
At Appian, we recognize that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a journey that starts with fostering a truly inclusive community; focused on connecting, inspiring, and growing successful women and allies at Appian.
And yes we are hiring! Head to https://careers.appian.com/ to find your next opportunity.