Walk the Talk with Bianca Curutan, Software Engineer at Postmates

Walk The Talk Podcast | Episode #1


Thank you to Bianca Curutan for taking part in the first episode of my podcast Walk The Talk Podcast. This podcast is about careers and is geared towards high school students.

The Podcast 

The audio version of the podcast can be found here:

Tahfimul: Welcome to episode#1 of Walk The Talk Podcast. I am your host Tahf. and today we are joined by Bianca Curutan…Let’s start with your childhood. How was that like? What were some things you were into?

Bianca: I think I grew up in a pretty typical childhood. I am originally from Canada. I was born and grew up near a suburb in Toronto. And I don’t think I had anything unusual. I didn’t have any exposure into Computer Science back then. But I did have an affinity for Math. So I took that interest throughout my grade school, middle school and high school careers. And even brought it with me to college, which is what I majored in when I finally got there.

Tahfimul: I see. Did any of your schools offer any program pertaining to your current career and if so, did you take part in them?

Bianca: As far as I know, I think my high school had some programming classes. But back then, I really didn’t have any interest in computers. At least not in that way. So I didn’t take advantage of those classes unfortunately. I decided to focus more on the business side like using Microsoft Office and presentations. However, when I went to university, I majored in Math at the University of Waterloo and as part of my degree requirements, I had to take Computer Science courses. So that was my first exposure to that world.

Tahfimul: So they forced you to take those courses or did you opt to take them?

Bianca: Well force is a strong word. But it is required in order to get that degree that you do have to take Computer Science and programming courses. Luckily I did, otherwise, I don’t think I would have exposure or interest as I do today.

Tahfimul: So what was the major that actually had you take Computer Science courses?

Bianca: I majored in Math there. So all math students have to take Computer Science courses. For me in particular, I majored in Math and Business with a focus of Systems Management. So it did tend to have a more of an office flavor to it.

Tahfimul: I see. So that’s what led to you career. So what are some mistakes that you made along the way or first attempt in learning is a better way to say it, as you you know grew with your career?

Bianca: Well looking back on it now. When I was younger, I am not sure if I would call this a mistake or just lack of experience. But I kind of wish, I knew about these things earlier like what Computer Science was, how I could improve on it. Just with the thinking that I could be stronger in it now. As I moved later in my career, like I think those thoughts will always come to your head. Just as you gain more experience, learn new things, you always just wish, “Oh I wish I knew these things earlier.” So I think that’s something that would have been more helpful even if not just for myself. But just to ask for the help I needed or the guidance I needed from stronger mentors.

Tahfimul: I see. So are the mentors the only help you received or did you go to other resources in order to overcome these obstacles on the way?

Bianca: It was definitely a mix of things. I had in-work mentors, that were always there to coach me along the way. I also found it useful to go out into the tech community who perhaps who have either more similar or different experiences to my own just to be able get guidance from that side. Just to work outside of my usual circles. In addition to mentors, both unofficial and official ones, I also just found it useful to use the resources available to me. So one of the resources I used was a coding boot camp, which is how I kind of formalized my Mobile Development education. 

Tahfimul: I see. And have these failures or may be other societal pressures caused you to fallback on your progress or even make you feel that “Oh, I shouldn’t be part of this career”

Bianca: I think that’s a little bit more difficult to say. I think on some level everyone is plagued by thought like that. Especially, people like me who are kind of more under represented in the tech community so that may include women or non-binary folks or underrated cultural groups. That being said, I don’t think I have ever had such a string thought to think, “Oh I don’t deserve to be in this career or in this space I am in.” If anything, I think it’s to a more mild extent that I wonder, “Oh rather being a Mobile Developer, may be I should explore a different side of technology or may be even product.” But it’s never been a question in my mind that I shouldn’t be in tech. 

Tahfimul: I see. What are some pros and cons of your career? May be, because I know Computer Science is a broad career to look at, but may be from your side.

Bianca: So in my experience, some of the pros are definitely, you know you can make your own schedule as long as you get your work done. At my current company, I also like the accountability and the ownership that myself and other employees have over the projects we are working on because it definitely feels like you have more responsibility to the customers than to the business. So it shows that you are growing as an individual as well as helping the company to grow. Some of the cons may be, it’s hard to say as a general sense just because even just within software engineering, there’s such a different experience someone may have at one company versus another. But one of the cons may be may be people don’t have that accountability or may be the work can be a little repetitive at times and you just end up spending eight hours a day, staring at a computer. So it may be a con for some or just on some days. But for the most part, I don’t find it like that. 

Tahfimul: I see. And in terms of salary, what kind of ideal salary does your career pay? May be not the Computer Science industry as a whole, but may be your career sector.

Bianca: Well the salary differs greatly, depending on what area you are living in and what company you work for. So I am coming from San Francisco bay area, which is known to be one of the higher paying areas of the country, particularly in tech. However, if you were to do the same role in maybe somewhere in the mid-west, the salary would vary greatly. So from my experience, tech does seem to be on the higher end, but it does tend to depend on where you are living and where you are working.

Tahfimul: So, in other words, is it satisfactory for you or do you think for the work, effort you put in, you deserve to get paid more?

Bianca: Well I think on some level, everyone wants to get paid more no matter how much you are getting. I do think it suits the living wage and it’s more than the living wage. So I am content with it. But I think there is always that part that wants a little bit more. No matter what your career is though.

Tahfimul: And run us through your normal everyday routine. May be not your normal everyday routine. But may be in a span of couple weeks or so.

Bianca: So my team currently works with two week sprints. I am currently working at the fleet team at Postmates, which is the end to end career experience of the business. So we start off those two weeks with sprint planning on that first Monday which is really important because it helps us to plan what we are going to work on, what we are going to accomplish and on a higher level, what goals we are trying to hit so that we can make sure we are effective. On the individual level, it’s very common to be working on something that other people are working on and they even depend on. So these planning sessions are really important to keep the team on track. After that, I mostly just code. I am an individual contributor right now or an IC. So I do spend a lot of my says coding and less in meetings, which is something I really like since it’s less interruptive and everyday after that planning meeting, we have daily stand up. And this is just a short 10–15 minute meeting which I run which is just a check in to see how everyone is doing and more importantly if they are blocked on anything so that we can unblock them and make them even more effective overall. Fast forward to that first Friday, we like to do demos which is where you can show the team something you have been working on whether it’s complete or in progress and get their feedback if needed to really improve the project. Then the following Friday, besides those daily stand ups and perhaps here and there future meeting or an external meeting, we have a Sprint Retrospective, which is when we look back on that two week Sprint and just keep track of what we did and what we can improve on, so that we can do better on the next Sprint. 

Tahfimul: And can you tell us about a really great project that you worked on, that you are really proud of?

Bianca: Sure. That’s a little difficult to answer just because there are so may things that I have been working on. But one thing that comes to mind is one of my more recent projects. It’s what we call, Fleet Five, which is a redesign of the whole app. On the surface it might sound like a redesign or UI change, no biggy, but for my team this was a really big change because we changed a lot of the Backend architecture, we pulled in some couriers to do some beta testing, we got their feedback and really wanted to explore the user experience and make sure we are giving them a tool that is easy to use and effective.

Tahfimul: I see. And what’s one great advice to cap it off. What’s one great advice to anybody that is seeking to be part of the Computer Science career?

Bianca: One piece of advice I would give is something I am sure you have heard before, but it’s always good to reiterate. It’s just to ask for help when you need it. So this can be in the form of just asking questions when you are unsure of something or asking for guidance in the longer term on how you can improve your career and one talk I have given is even just for how to ask for help for looking for a job or how to learn this new tool, something more focused. It’s just I think something that a lot of us just forget to do is to use the resources available to us and ask the people who we already know in our network for help when we need it and that can really help shorten the learning curve.

Tahfimul: I see. Well thank you very much Bianca for joining with us today. With that we will end today’s episode of Walk The Talk Podcast. Thank you all for listening.

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