September 5, 2019

10 Questions with Postmates Software Engineer Lauren Reeves!

Lauren Reeves received her Computer Science Engineering degree from the University of Michigan. She currently resides in Oakland and works at BlackRock on various technologies as a software engineer. Being very passionate about engaging more minorities in STEM fields, in her spare time Lauren serves on panels, speaks at conferences, writes a blog, teaches coding, and boxes.

This article was originally published here by Women of Silicon Valley

When did you know that you wanted to work in tech?

I heard my first calling to tech when I was pretty young. One Christmas, my dad helped set up this computer for my brother and as it was turning on, I was instantly connected. As I got older, I realized that I always loved numbers. For example, while riding in the car, I’d play little brain games with the addresses — trying to apply math functions to them to get them to equal a certain number. I would do brain teasers with my dad, sudoko and kakuro puzzles, and more. While math scared many people away, it excited me. I always had a natural attraction to equations, and solving problems.

My big ‘aha’ moment to go into the tech industry came during my sophomore year of college when I was trying to choose a major. I knew at the time that I enjoyed math and science, problem solving, and puzzles. I considered becoming a surgeon or an anesthesiologist but I had little tolerance for spending hours in labs, which ruled out anything medical. All engineers had to take an intro to coding class and I loved it. Something about the rush of excitement when the code worked was addicting and I wanted more of it. I ultimately made my decision when one of my friends, who was further in the Computer Science Engineering program, told me, “This is a place where you can make a difference, and you’re smart enough to do it.”

Who is a role model that you look up to?

I had a love/hate relationship with my mom growing up. She isn’t a bad person at all (mom if you’re reading this, you know I love you girl), she was just the disciplinarian. It was easier for me to charm my dad with a smile, but if I got in trouble, usually she would be the one punishing me. What child likes punishment? As I got older, and stopped getting in trouble, that feeling faded and in talking with her as much as I do now, I’m reminded of what an amazing woman she is.

Something that I have always admired about my mom is the strength that she shows in everything she does — in her career, in fitness, in religion, in love, in mothering, and more. There were no days off for her in our household.

I remember her routine growing up. Awake at 4:30 AM to pray and read the bible, workout, get ready for work, make sure my dad, brother and I were up and getting ready for our days, work a full day, come home make dinner, make sure our homework was done…wash and repeat. Add in some key phrases like “Follow through!”, “You ain’t made of beans and peas, are you!” “Lauren, be nice.” and you can see she never stopped helping me become a better person every day. (She actually still tells me to be nice.)

Not to mention, she ran a half-marathon in her 40s (twice!), is an amazing public speaker, one of the most beautiful people I know, extremely focused, morally sound, giving, and more despite growing up in a situation that many would find hard to excel from. Her devotion to our family, self-discipline, education, work ethic, style and sass amazes and inspires me to this day.

Where is your hometown?

West Bloomfield, MI

What is a struggle that you’ve faced and how did you handle it?

When I first moved to the Bay Area and started my career, I only had a small idea of what was in store for me.

Although being 2,500+ miles away from familiarity is difficult, becoming acclimated as a women in color in tech here was an even harder transition. The numbers and statistics are real. It’s not uncommon for me to be the only person who looks like me in my role, in a meeting, on my floor, or even in my department.

At the time, being in an entry-level position and finding confidence in my identity was a struggle. Although I had received a degree from a great institution, the imposter syndrome is very real, and not having exams or assignments that evaluated your performance makes it hard to measure your success.

“It’s not uncommon for me to be the only person who looks like me in my role, in a meeting, on my floor, or even in my department.”

However, through building community, having managers that gave me honest feedback and reviews, as well as sharing stories with mentors and others in similar situations, I realized that this feeling was normal and that I belonged here just as much as anyone else did. I know that I’m not the stereotypical “software engineer”, so I’ve learned to take pride in that and realized that that’s what makes me stand out positively in a lot of ways.

What is something that you are immensely proud of?

When I first started in my Computer Science Engineering program, I was extremely excited but also challenged in a way that I hadn’t been before. So much so that one of the classes I needed in order to progress, I failed… twice. After that, my advisor suggested that I change majors (even some of my family asked if I knew what I was doing). When you have little support in accomplishing something you’ve never done before, it’s difficult to stay motivated, committed and sure of yourself.

Still, I decided that I wanted to do this, signed up for the class again, stuck through it and passed (3rd time’s the charm!) and later ended up completing my Computer Science Engineering degree. During my time at school, I also landed an awesome internship, and now I’m in a position where I mentor others, and have built a lot of cool things. I’m very proud of my endurance, even when I was doubted. I’m proud that I didn’t allow myself to be deterred away from my goal. The fact that I earned that engineering degree reminds me that I’m capable of doing anything I set my mind to.

“The fact that I earned that engineering degree reminds me that I’m capable of doing anything I set my mind to.”

What’s something that’s been on your mind a lot lately?

Lately the ideas of balance and passion have been on my mind a lot. I’m learning that for my own self-care, it’s important to find time to balance work with my other passions as well as give back to others. There are only so many hours in a day to learn, work, and reflect so I’ve been thinking about how I can structure my days to incorporate all of these things.

Favorite food?

On a healthy day, anything stir fried with mushrooms, otherwise macaroni and cheese

Favorite book?

Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s a beautifully written story about how a young woman learns about living life for herself.

If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?

If I could try another job for a day, I’d try being a standup comic or host a talk show. I love making people laugh and I used to do improv comedy in college. It would be fun to entertain, but just for a day.

If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t worry about what others think as long as you’re having fun. Don’t be afraid to go against the status quo, to ask questions and work hard. Nothing beats hard work. Sometimes you might be the only one, and that’s okay. Have thick skin and take pride in your uniqueness and quirks. Treasure genuine friendships, get your hands dirty, and never get too comfortable because you don’t know what’s coming next.

Women of Silicon Valley

Telling the stories of resilient women & genderqueer techies, especially those of color.

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