Say yes to what scares you. I realized a few years ago that if I wanted to grow, I would need to pursue experiences that might make me uncomfortable. For example, I always wanted to learn to scuba dive, but I was terrified of all the things that could go wrong. A planned trip to Hawaii was a good opportunity to confront my fear. I was initially incredibly nervous during the certification process and was not sure if I would ever dive again. But each time I went into the water, I grew more confident. And then I fell in love with the zen of diving.
I learned that life does not go according to plan and that is okay. What matters is that you dive in.
Growing up, I loved math and science. Both came intuitively to me, and I took part in nationwide math and science team competitions in middle and high school. In college, I settled on chemical engineering as my major. While I enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of my studies, I found myself discouraged by the advanced math required. I struggled to see myself being happy as a full-time chemical engineer.
I had a few major life events happen that made me realize that I had somehow lost myself and my passions and interests. I realized then that I needed to start seeking out things I enjoyed and say “yes” to every opportunity. But first, I had to say “no” to what was not working. So, I left engineering school to work as a system administrator at a data center. I enjoyed working with computers and felt this would be a good role to help me reconnect with who I wanted to be.
The company required everyone to learn programming (and even paid us to do so). Coding had been one of my required classes in college, but I thought it was difficult and confusing then — I had told myself that I never wanted to do it again. In this new job though, I decided to give it another try. We used Perl to make small programs and I was able to learn computing concepts along the way with a hands-on approach.
It turned out that I did not hate programming at all. I actually loved using so many tools and methods to solve interesting problems.
The work was diverse too. I developed an in-house ETL system for a classroom management tool, automated a bulk enrollment system for students, and migrated a large SaaS product from a monolith to microservice architecture, which I built from the ground up. I also decided to go back to school and complete my undergraduate degree — this time, in computer science.
When my boyfriend decided to move to Florida to start his own business, I saw another big opportunity. I had never lived more than a couple hours from where I grew up in Sacramento, but I always wanted the experience of living somewhere else. It was a bit daunting to move more than 3,000 miles from my family and friends. But I was ready for the adventure.
After the move, I started looking for open roles, with a focus on remote companies. This is when I found the Aha! blog and started learning more about the software and company values. I immediately felt that Aha! was something really special. My conversations during the hiring process confirmed that there would be interesting technology challenges to solve and plenty of team spirit too.
During an interview, I asked Alex Bartlow about how the team used animated gifs when working together. He said that some people were more gif-happy than others, but that if I joined I should “be the change I want to see.” I found his answer hilarious and knew that these were my kind of people. I was right.
The best part of working at Aha! is the people and the culture — communication is a priority and there are no big egos or drama.
We all help each other and are open to new ideas, input, and different approaches. The transparency is amazing. We have clear goals and initiatives, and every decision is made to better the company and product as a whole. And since we are self-funded, we have the freedom to really think about what makes for a great user experience and implement it. I know that my choices are respected and my decisions make a difference for our team and for our customers.
Since joining, I have helped solve a lot of challenging (and fun) problems — from improving filter performance and functionality to adding the ability to sort by recently viewed saved reports. My work has also made it easier for users to import CSV data into Aha! and I helped rework the engineering onboarding process.
Working remotely from Miami allows me to go diving almost every weekend. After my initial reluctance to even take that first class, I have worked my way up through multiple certification levels. Continuing scuba diving and progressing to an instructor showed me that if I believe in myself, I can do far more than I give myself credit for.
I am even planning a group dive for our next company onsite with some of my favorite people in the world — my Aha! teammates.
That is why I joined Aha! — and why you should too.