February 13, 2017

Mike Lee, Sr. Engineering Manager

What made you decide to work in tech?

Problem-solving. Specifically, problem-solving with little costs for exploration. I was really attracted to solving problems with code. I loved that code could be changed to explore new ideas and improve on existing ones with the only real costs being my time and energy.

What was an obstacle you faced and how did you overcome that obstacle?  

Transitioning to management, though I saw and see that as a challenge more than an obstacle. At the time I was a peer of the teammates I was asked to manage and although ten yrs older was perceived by them to be much younger than the more obviously aged managers they were used to. I didn’t “overcome” that challenge with that specific team, but I learned a lot about people and myself that better prepared me for the teams that I’ve enjoyed supporting and leading since.

What is your experience being a POC in Tech? 

I’m not sure how differently I’d perceive my experience in tech if I weren’t a POC because race hasn’t been an overt part of my it’s. I’m sure its influenced my experience, but it hasn’t been easy to know with 100% confidence when that’s happened. I’ve had moments where others have reminded me that as a POC I’m a rare presence, but those have been moments that teach me about the environment and the perceptions of the people, including me, within it. I’ve been well-supported by my family and teachers, respected by my peers, and well-served by demonstrating initiative and embracing opportunities. So I’d say I’ve had a very positive and rewarding experience as a POC in tech.

What was your perception of the tech industry before entering it, what is your perception now?

Great question. Difficult to take my mind and heart back to a time before I was part of it but I’ll try. Before entering tech, I thought computers were fascinating and loved that interacting with them helped us achieve greater things. Learning how they and the Web work and watching the latter become an everyday thing was a thrill. Now, I’m excited about the Internet and what it enables and am very optimistic for all that’s to come from tech. On the less positive side, I’m disappointed by the number of brilliant people choosing to apply their minds to money-making ventures of minimal positive social impact. Today software enables us to do so much and is accessible to so many that I wish more of us used it to do more positively impactful things. I’m grateful to be a part of tech at this moment in time and for everyone applying it to improve our experiences.

What are three tips you can give to high school/college students who want to enter tech?

Do your best to understand what you perceive as tech. Understand why that matters to you. And set goals for what you want to accomplish in that space.

Any projects/ programs/ etc you are working on? 

Yes! /dev/color is an organization with a program I joined earlier this year. It’s a constant source of support and confirmation of the talent POC bring to tech and, ionify: implicit object notification invented for you, a passion project I’ve been trading moments of my life to understand + develop over the past nine yrs. It’s a style of programming I discovered while experimenting with simplifying web-based JavaScript data exchange. I’m excited by how expressive ionify feels and the possibilities it creates, the most audacious being making programming accessible to anyone capable of expressing ideas via natural language.

Ruth Mesfun

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