— excerpt below —
How I became the director of engineering at Lyft: Jill Wetzler
By Susannah Hutcheson 7:59 pm EST February 28, 2017
Welcome to our new series “How I Became a …,” where we’re digging into the stories of accomplished and influential people and finding out how they got to where they are in their careers. We’re finding out what their biggest challenges, their biggest passions and their biggest pieces of wisdom are — for you.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited.
Behind the numbers and code that runs Lyft stands director of engineering Jill Wetzler.
Lyft’s director of engineering, Jill Wetzler.
The Carnegie Mellon grad had management stints at Salesforce and Twitter before making her way to the managerial team at Lyft, a ride sharing company.
USA TODAY College caught up with Wetzler — who was just named one of the most powerful female engineers of 2017 — to talk teamwork, being a woman in tech and always remembering to know your worth.
What’s your coffee order?
I’m more of an iced tea girl. I have an iced tea maker on my counter that I use every morning. Black iced tea, nothing in it.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?
For several years I was a mentor in TechWomen, an exchange program that brings women from the Middle East or Africa to Silicon Valley for a month to work on a project. I had the opportunity to travel to one of the countries, and I went to Rwanda with a delegation and spent a couple of weeks there. It was a mix of professional stuff and fun stuff; I went on a safari, gorilla trekking, visiting technical colleges in Kigali and seeing their start-up accelerators. It was the experience of a lifetime.
Who’s your mentor?
I don’t just have one, but my closest mentor is my boss, Pete. I’ve worked with him for about 10 years and he’s somebody that I feel has really taught me a lot about management and leadership. I trust him and he trusts me, and he’s a big part of the reason I wanted to come work at Lyft. There are also a lot of other people I reach out to.
What exactly does your job entail?
My title is Director of Engineering. What I do is build engineering teams that help Lyft scale — at this point, to more than 18 million rides a month. Some of the teams build the infrastructure that make the app stay up with high demand, others build tools to help ship code quickly and safely.
I really want to build leaders who are constantly able to grow, who are able to learn, who are able to take ownership, and who will step out of their comfort zone.
What does your career path look like, from college to Lyft?
I majored in computer science at Carnegie Mellon. To be honest, I just picked my major a little bit randomly. I had never taken programming classes, but I did have a computer and I loved kind of tinkering around on it. CMU had a great reputation, so I picked it and hoped it would stick. I also have passions for a lot of other things, so I minored in creative writing with a focus on poetry.
Related: Calling all computer science majors: jobs are waiting for you
In between my junior and senior year I interned at BodyMedia, a company that was doing wearable tech. That was a really cool experience, to kind of work with a startup.
After graduation I moved to San Francisco to work at Salesforce, where I started working as a software engineer. I worked with a variety of different teams, mostly developer platforms — for customers that were external but consuming our API’s and platforms. After about six years, I went into a management position there.
Then, I was at Twitter for two years, managing developer-related platform teams. Our teams were building data API’s, so our customers were businesses who wanted to learn about who people were talking about their products or their competitors on Twitter. They used our API’s to make key business decisions about their companies.
I then came to Lyft, where I started managing a pretty small dev ops team; it was a little out of my comfort zone, but since then have grown that into multiple teams in charge of the scaleability of Lyft.
What are the best and worst parts of being a woman in a male-dominated field?
Women are powerful. We’re unique, we’re complex, and we approach problems differently — and I use that to my advantage in life and in work.
I think the worst part is that it’s so nice to feel like you can see yourself every day, in roles you aspire to and that you feel represented in. That’s not always the case in this industry.
So sometimes it gets a little lonely — but that’s also why I care deeply about the diversity of my teams and the diversity of Lyft.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Seeing somebody take a risk that they’ve never taken before and succeeding in it. I love when engineers and managers do something brave and do something that is outside of their comfort zone, and then to see them get rewarded for it. It’s all part of the professional development process. Ultimately my job is to unlock the potential of the people who work for me. … It’s really the most satisfying part of my career.
What advice would you give someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Always go somewhere that’s growing, whether a company or a team. If the company is growing, you’ll grow, too; you’re not really going to have a choice. There is too much work and not enough people, and that’s where you’re really going to stretched. I feel like every significant move in my career has been in a place with a very high growth.
Find people who will invest in you. Ultimately, these are the people that you have to come in and sit with every day. I would rather be particular with my team, my boss, my direct reports and my peers than the technology, or to some extent even the product. I’ve been pushed at multiple points to take on teams or products that I didn’t know much about or felt uncomfortable with, but I ultimately made a decision because someone really believed in me or I got a really good feeling from the people I was working with.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?
Know your worth. If I feel stuck, or underutilized, or if I feel like I’m not getting to have the type of impact that I think I can have, I remind myself to know what I’m worth. Sometimes, that reminder causes me to do something bold.
So, maybe I’ll go look for another job or another team or reach out to someone that I follow on Twitter who I really want to get coffee with. It’s always those times that have had the biggest impact on my career.
Susannah Hutcheson is a Texas A&M student and a USA TODAY College digital producer.
computer engineering, computer science, How I Became a, Lyft, Salesforce, Twitter, women in tech, CAREER PATH
Powered by WordPress.com VIP