Stephanie Harris on how the Spice Girls helped her switch careers
Stephanie Harris has always had an interest in computers, but her initial career path started out in a different direction.
Now, she’s a Senior Software Engineer at Elastic.
Since she was young, Stephanie says she’s always had the ability to take confusing concepts and make them “make sense,” a skill that helped her on her winding path which eventually led her to Elastic.
While Stephanie liked computers, she had also started teaching herself to play guitar at age thirteen. Never taking lessons, she learned through YouTube videos and a lot of practice.
“I don’t mind struggling at something,” she says. “I was very, very bad at guitar at the beginning, and then one day I wasn’t bad anymore.”
Following her interest in music, Stephanie decided to pursue a career as a musician, so she went to college to study Classical Guitar, and then went on to get a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting.
Upon graduation, she struggled to find a job that interested her. As a result, Stephanie started thinking about other career interests, and her mind was drawn back to computers. She recalled making a Spice Girls-focused website when she was in fifth grade and spending a lot of time perfecting it. “I had always said I wanted to be a Computer Animator, so I thought ‘maybe I’ll give web development a try," As an added confirmation, web development came up when she searched ‘best jobs for introverts’ back in 2015.
Stephanie enrolled herself in Community College to learn web development, but saw a six-month coding bootcamp and decided to pursue that route instead; She’s been a full-time software engineer ever since.
At Elastic, Stephanie works in Platform Billing– “the team responsible for bringing in monthly subscription revenue.”
Her job is to write code about customer billing data and display the data that the customers’ see on Elastic’s website in a pleasing, understandable way.
When she joined the Billing Team, Stephanie was the only woman, and one of two people of color. Now, there is almost parity, she says.
“It’s so nice to see,” Stephanie says. “It's comforting not to have to worry about being an 'Only' at meetings.”
Before joining Elastic, Stephanie had worked on tech teams with other women, but she hadn’t seen a woman in a Tech Lead or Principal Engineer position.
“Elastic has tons of women who don’t want to manage and are individual technical contributors,” she says. “Just knowing they exist is huge.”
Differing perspectives are huge when it comes to the work Stephanie does.
“On the billing team, we try to cover 99.999% of edge cases,” she says. “We think about different age groups, socioeconomic groups, and more. This is much easier to accomplish when you have a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives on the team”
Her advice for young women who want to work in tech? Don’t be afraid to fail.
“I still struggle with this sometimes,” Stephanie says. “Let people help you.”
“Ask for help, and seek out people who you know will be supportive,” she says.
“My manager is so helpful. You feel when someone wants to help– Seek those people out.”
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