April 16, 2024

From Super Nintendo To Silicon Valley: Intuit’s Petagae Butcher On Paving A Career In Tech

Smiling woman with glasses and red hair wearing a pink blazer standing on a balcony with trees and a blue sky in the background.
Intuit is hiring on POCIT.

Petagae Butcher is a versatile force in the tech world, currently working as a Staff Technical Program Manager at Intuit. 

Her introduction to technology started with a love of Super Nintendo in the 90s. She later graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Management Information Systems, initially majoring in Computer Programming, finding her niche bridging the technology and business worlds. Over her 18-year career, she’s garnered a wealth of experience, from software consulting to her current role at Intuit. 

Born on the beautiful island of Jamaica and raised in South Florida, she attributes her tenacity and moral compass to her upbringing. She’s a vocal champion for women and diversity in technology and a proud supporter of the Urban League. 

She spoke with POCIT about getting her first PC, finding her way into tech, and the power of serving others at Intuit and beyond.

Introduce yourself and what you do at Intuit. 

I’m Petagae Butcher and I’m a Staff Technical Program Manager at Intuit. I focus on supporting the Intuit QuickBooks Payments Platform, Capital, and Lending Platform teams, where I deliver on strategic initiatives and empower small businesses. 

You were born in Jamaica and raised in South Florida. Could you share how your early experiences shaped your approach to your career? 

I kind of feel like an outlier because it’s very common for Caribbean people to be nurses or teachers. My sister works as a speech therapist, and being Caribbean, and an immigrant in general, your focus on doing well in school is taught from when you are young. So that was always a thing for us – just to study and be great.  

I don’t know why, to this day, my dad bought us a PC. But we got a personal computer in middle school, which was a little unusual. I’ll never forget it. We had a Packard Bell and it was boxy, slow, and noisy. Then, we had a Sony VAIO, and it was blue, and it was gorgeous. I just remember absolutely loving it.

Then we ran out of RAM once. Guys from my church came in and upgraded the RAM so that we would have better processing speed, and I just remember asking him questions because I’ve always been curious. Like, what do you do for work, and how do you get into this? That kind of was the start of things. Then I went to high school and followed a boy from school into a programming class – the same thing happened. Being curious, being studious, knowing that whatever I chose, I had to do well, since that was expected. 

What role did technology play in your life growing up, and how did it influence your career path? 

I feel like it was always there. There was always an undercurrent of technology, just general interest from people, things in the news. I remember when PalmPilot came out, I begged my dad for a PalmPilot when, in hindsight, as an adult, I’m like, did you really need the pilot as a child? What were you really scheduling in there? I just always wanted to touch things and be able to make my life easier, even as a child, by using technology. 

Credit: Rama & Musée Bolo

As kids, you’d get home from school and just want to go sit at the computer for a little bit and play around on AIM and Myspace and things like that that were super popular. So, it was always an undercurrent growing up, but the interest was more in me to try this, or to experience that, and bugging my parents for things like the PalmPilot which I didn’t really need.

Tell me about your journey to your current Staff Technical Program Manager position at Intuit. 

I did my undergrad in Management Information Systems. When I left college, I went into consulting. I left the company and went somewhere else to be in more of a manager role. I always knew I wanted to do project management. When I was in college, one of my instructors explained that one of his other jobs that he does occasionally is project management for the government. He explained what he did, and, in my mind, I knew I wanted to do it.

I worked with someone who eventually ended up at Intuit, and he was like, “Hey, we’re looking for someone. Are you interested?” And I said “yes.” The rest was history. 

So, as I started working for these companies, I would always look out for the people who were doing project management and what kind of experience they had. That first job, when I left there and then went back, I eventually was a project manager and then a couple of different positions and ran a team eventually at one company.  

I also worked at Darden in project and program management. In one of the projects that I worked on, I worked with someone who eventually ended up at Intuit, and he was like, “Hey, we’re looking for someone. Are you interested?” And I said “yes.” The rest was history. 

I think I’ve had a very linear progression from program management, into tech, but it has been very purposeful.

What’s your experience as a person of color in tech and at Intuit? 

I think this is the most authentic that I’ve been at work, and definitely the most supported. Our employee resource group, the Intuit African Ancestry Network, is amazing. Everybody is so supportive. It’s pulling everybody up.  

Of course, being a person of color, you are in a minority. But I think for anyone who works in tech, that’s something that you expect and you experience. When it comes to women, we are consistently being recognized as a best place to work. I see women are everywhere. I know someone else understands women’s issues. I don’t have children, but if I did, if I needed to leave and take care of my kids, I’d feel comfortable doing that.

What kind of support did you find valuable in advancing your career? 

Mentorship programming. They have a lot of programming [at Intuit]. I tell people, especially early in their careers, that there are so many opportunities that you can leverage here that you don’t get at other companies. They have a formal mentorship program in the Intuit Women’s Network which is one of our employee resource groups. They also have mentorship programs based on your actual job function and leadership aspirations. I can only imagine the amount of money it costs per person, but Intuit believes this is important to us, and we want to make sure that we’re diversifying our bench.  

You have to apply for these programs. There are only a certain number of slots every year, but you get as much out of it as you want, and there are so many opportunities that you can leverage to grow yourself in your career.

Do you see an intersection between your commitment to serving others and your professional role at Intuit? If so, how? 

Yes, we’re customer-obsessed. We serve our customers in everything we do. Every time we have team meetings, we’re pulling in experiences, and we’re pulling our customers in to testify about how they got where they are, some of the challenges they have, and what can we do better for them? It’s extremely refreshing.  

It’s the same thing as me volunteering for the Urban League. I’m trying to give back. I’m focusing on stepping outside of myself. I think that’s asked a lot here because it’s not just about your experiences; it’s about creating a better experience for someone else. So I do think that there’s definitely an intersection. 

I love that Intuit also matches monetary donations that you’re making to organizations. It’s absolutely amazing. They put their money where their mouth is.

One of the impressive things is that we get 40 hours a year where we can give back. So you can tell your manager, “Hey, I wanna go do X,Y and Z.” and [they say] “Sure”. Then you log it for tracking. I love that Intuit also matches monetary donations that you’re making to organizations. It’s absolutely amazing. They put their money where their mouth is, and they really want to make sure that people are supported, and they go hard for small businesses. 

What are your tips for POC getting into the tech industry? 

Lean into your strengths. Some people get into tech because they’re like, oh, there’s so much money. Yeah, but there are so many different jobs and opportunities out there. A lot of people say, I just want to code – do you really, though? It’s a certain skill set. It’s a certain kind of mentality. So definitely do your research.

Intuit has an apprenticeship program for people who don’t have a traditional background in technology. There’s also a lot of education out there for free or almost for free. Google has a lot of coding opportunities available, so I think there are ways to do it. You just need to be smart about how you’re spending your time in order to transition.  

One of your favorite sayings is by Gloria Naylor: “I don’t believe that life is supposed to make you feel good, or make you feel miserable either. Life is just supposed to make you feel”.

How does this philosophy influence your approach to challenges and opportunities in your professional life? 

For me, it mostly speaks to the fact that things ebb and flow. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Especially once you get to a certain level and when you work in certain places, the level of pressure and expectations you experience. Life is hard, and as you’re working, life is going to happen around you. You have to figure out how to balance your life at the same time. 

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

I think that Intuit is a really great place to work. You have a lot of opportunities, especially with their employee resource groups. You also have VPs and Senior VPs that say, just reach out to me and book some time, and we can talk. That is extremely refreshing, and you’ll find that across the organization, not just with Black and brown leaders. 

This is a very great place where people are just open, and you don’t find that in a lot of places. You want to be happy, and I can say, honestly, this is the happiest that I’ve been in a career or at a place of work. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. No place is. But is it good for me? Absolutely. 

I have the privilege of working for a company like Intuit. I know that I’ve made my mother proud even though she’s no longer here, and that brings me joy.

To learn more about Intuit, visit their site.

Ruvimbo Gumbochuma

Ruvimbo is a British-Zimbabwean writer and artist. Her work was longlisted for The Netflix Screenwriters' Fellowship 2021 and has featured on the BBC, Complex UK, GUAP, and TRENCH. Her literary work has also been commissioned by Apples & Snakes, Arts Council England, The Poetry Society, and Beatfreaks and primarily explores themes of culture, identity, religion, love, and loss.