Charles Garrett, Engineering Lead
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’ve been following POCIT since one of your first publications, and I’m pretty excited to contribute to the community.
A bit more about me – I was born in Chicago, spent my childhood in Mississippi, and grew up in Seattle. Over the past 11 years, I’ve worked as an Engineer, or Team-Lead focused on building web-based business-to-business and consumer apps. These days my home is split between Barcelona Spain, where I’ve lived since 2014, and New York City where since 2017 I’ve been at Percolate Inc, helping to build a platform that allows digital agencies and the world’s biggest brands to unlock the potential of their marketing department.
Whats your typical day like?
My routine varies depending on whether I’m working remote or if I’m on-site in NYC. While in New York, I’m an early riser. I’m up at 7:15 cooking scrambled eggs with veggies and whole grain waffles with coffee or tea to help me wake up. Then I’m typically listening to 90s R&B, or New York Times podcasts ‘Still Processing’ and ‘The Daily,’ while biking or taking the train into the office. Having a comfortable morning ritual with a healthy breakfast leaves me feeling empowered and helps set the tone for the day.
I love the flexible work hours in the tech world, but I still like to get my day started early. I feel most productive when I get some good momentum in the morning while the office is mostly empty and quiet.
As a Engineering Team Lead my day is mostly split between hands-on development, investigating and triaging product issues as they pop up, creating strategies to improve quality, helping drive active projects to completion, collaborating with product managers and other leaders to plan future projects, and making sure my team has clear direction and minimum distractions from their primary work.
On a good day the interruptions are low I’m able to make great progress on one task before shifting to another. Some of the more challenging days are those with too much context switching or simply those days when things in the matrix are refusing to cooperate.
What led you to tech?
I started my career in tech with an internship at BlackBerry while I was working on my Computer Science undergrad, but my road to tech was not a straight path. While I had built and maintained my computers at home (thanks Pops!), I had no idea what was involved in writing a program until my first CS class. My studies were initially focused on Biology and Math, and after some soul-searching, I eventually choose to jump into computer science because it felt like a great way to leverage my affinity for computers and my engineering mindset. By the way, I had to take that first CS class twice, but I pushed through to succeed even in the most challenging classes because that empowering feeling of accomplishing something that once seemed impossible is addictive and was a driving force throughout my studies.
What is your experience being a POC in Tech?
What a privilege to grew up in the Pacific Northwest and Seattle has so much opportunity for those interested in tech, but damn, you do get used to being the only POC in many situations. Looking back on it I suppose that was good preparation for a career in tech.
Probably the most impactful lesson I’ve learned as a POC in tech is that we are not the only ones that have to push through feelings of imposter syndrome. Everyone experiences this at some point, don’t let it overcome you – know that you should be there. Also, when you’re part of a team ensure that new teammates feel that you are invested in their success.
What advice would you give to a young person who wanted to enter tech?
You have to accept the fact that you are in control of the direction of your career, and to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities as they come up one needs to become comfortable stepping into the unknown.
I may not own my own business (yet), but I am CEO of where and how I use my talents. The key to feeling this way, I mean owning it, is all about feeling empowered. Become empowered in your career by continually investing in yourself and engaging with the community that you want to be a part of. Build up a habit of doing this by starting small; go to a tech networking event by yourself and start a conversation with at least ten different people. How are their goals similar to yours? What type of projects are people working on? Look for opportunities to collaborate. Also, look for free learning opportunities in your area of interest so you can either expand the breadth of your skills or dive deep into one particular area.
Regularly invest in your skills and produce artifacts that show your commitment to your craft. Start small and produce something. Throughout the process of building up a portfolio of work, you can refine your skills, gain the type of experience that leads to job interviews, and begin to crack the door open towards business opportunities.