Updated: Oct 26, 2021
Written by Kamya Patel October 9th 2021
On September 26, we hosted our very first panel event called The Tech Experience with three amazing panelists: Saloni Gandhi, Patrick Zhang, and Yada Pruksachatkun. Each of the panelists started off with a presentation to introduce themselves, share information about their careers, and provide advice to high school students. Then, the panelists took turns answering questions for the Q and A session, giving the audience more information on the tech field and pursuing career pathways.
Saloni initiated her presentation with an overview of some of her notable endeavors, such as her current job as a machine learning software engineer at Twitter, graduation from Cornell University in May 2021 with a Dual Masters, and past internships at Amazon Web Services, Uber, and Mastercard. Before her master’s degree in Computer and Information Science, Saloni received a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Otherwise, she introduced herself as a former national table tennis player with a combination of active and sedentary hobbies. When talking about her inspiration to go into the tech field, she explained, “Honestly speaking, I did not know what I was doing but I chose computer science only because its applications fascinated me.” Despite facing impostor syndrome while taking a leap of faith into tech, she found that entering a career in computer science would give her the opportunity to become a human-centric engineer, work in a consumer-facing role, develop an entrepreneurial mindset, and create technology with a purpose. Nowadays, a day in her life is a combination of discussions and meetings to refine data pipelines, code changes, running experiments to observe effects on monetizable metrics, writing technical documentation, all of which are part of a data-driven approach to developing new improvements for existing features through the measurement of impressions. She and her team also work closely with the infrastructure and data science team. In her opinion, all of this represents a vital takeaway that can be applied to many facets of life: embrace learning as a lifestyle. Similarly, her presentation included advice for youth interested in the tech field. The most important points were prioritizing hands-on experience over theoretical knowledge, building a network, knowing that setbacks are temporary, and remembering that no one is the same at all times of the day.
For his presentation, Patrick proceeded with his background before becoming a staff engineer at Google working to bring more enterprise companies to Google Cloud’s infrastructure. Born in China, Patrick completed his undergraduate degree by majoring in computer science while learning marketing, soft skills, and presentation techniques, all of which resulted in him moving to the Bay Area to work for Google, a company that allows him to work with the best engineers, maintain a work/life balance, and have a flexible working environment. After spending more than a decade working on projects like Google Platforms and Google Kernel, he joined the Google Cloud team as a tech lead. Therefore, his responsibilities revolve around stress staging cloud and software development plus interacting with Cloud development teams, SREs, and technical consultants. Furthermore, Patrick described four aspects of his role as tech lead: having proven knowledge and experience of the relevant domain and Google-specific technologies; complexity and scope of collaborating on large projects, solving unique problems, and creating widely reusable components; using leadership and influence to execute projects with efficiency and effectiveness in terms of teamwork and project goals; being mindful of the organizational impact that comes with managing mission-critical projects and creating sustainable products. Speaking of his tasks and the rigorous environment at Google, Patrick said, “Life sometimes is tough; you’re going to be facing a lot of challenges.” Indeed, career pathways and all levels of jobs come with many obstacles, all of which Patrick believes can be overcome if you remain persistent and don’t make excuses when facing challenges. After all, at the end of the day, perseverance supersedes wealth and intelligence.
In her presentation, Yada began by introducing herself as a nonprofit founder turned scientist who grew up in Thailand and discovered computer science in college. Now, she is a machine learning scientist at a healthcare AI startup called Infinitus Systems. The company works on automating routine phone calls for healthcare businesses, allowing healthcare providers to focus more on their patients rather than administrative work. Before the startup, Yada used to work at Amazon Alexa as a machine scientist, but her passion for helping people live healthier, more fulfilling lives motivated her to join Infinitus. Currently, her daily responsibilities include gathering requirements and prioritizing projects, coding and debugging, and reading papers to keep up with new research within the tech industry. She also mentioned that working at a startup instead of a large company means there is less formal bandwidth for research and an employee’s role depends on needs and wants as well as who you interact with. The main difference between graduate school and going into the industry can sometimes be the non-technical aspects, such as scoping projects and reaching out to stakeholders. Outside of work, Yada enjoys dance, obstacle courses, and home cooking. In regards to advice for high schoolers, Yada had three main points: find and follow your values; filter out the noise; there’s no rush. Personally, she wishes she had “[figured] out what makes [her] feel fulfilled” earlier. However, she also stated that it is important to explore your interests, find your passions, and learn to stop chasing the next shiny thing. Some of her more technical advice included applying for early-career programs in engineering, attending conferences, and finding mentors to help you develop integral skills.
To end off our event, we held a Q and A session to allow the audience to ask questions and learn from the perspectives of all three panelists. Here is some key points of advice from the three panelists:
Whenever you feel motivation going down, it is important to step away from the task at hand and take a mental health break.
You’re not the same person every single hour of the day!
Having more than one talent can help you become a unique applicant for a work position.
Be patient and persistent!
Socializing and communication are only one component of the skills needed for the betterment of your career.
Find and follow your values!