Born to code: Steve, Senior Principal Engineer, tells his story
Software Engineering is my life-long passion. Ever since I was a child, I was very interested in computers. My first computer was an 8-bit computer called MSX based on the Z80 processor, and I learned to program on it. When I went to UW, I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to study Computer Science. After 25 years in the industry, I still love what I do, and I am glad to be working on coding and design.
During my time at Qualtrics, the Engineering team has grown from a 70-person team to a 700-person team, tackling a wide variety of engineering problems that exist in building a robust and scalable platform that the top-tier enterprises can rely on. I think this is a perfect environment for me to draw from my past experience to help the team align in the best architecture direction.
What attracted you to Qualtrics in the first place?
I liked the company’s mission to gather human-centric data to help businesses to solve real-world problems - be it customer satisfaction or employee engagement. We had a pretty humble downtown Seattle office at the time, and I liked the scrappiness of it, and the humility displayed by the people who were in my interview loop, and the opportunity that John presented to me to provide leadership in the engineering team.
What was the turning point where you 'had to have the job'?
When John called me after the interview loop, he explained how much he needed me to come and help lead the team. After that phone call, I was convinced that this could be my next big career move.
What does your day look like?
My day varies a lot. On some days, I review and provide feedback on the designs from several different areas of engineering. On other days, I talk to customers and XM scientists about the real-world problems that they are facing. And on some days, I still get to write code and deploy services to production. I try to make sure that I have enough time to focus on one thing at a time, rather than slicing my day into small pieces and trying to multitask too much.
What is your favorite part of your role?
The favorite aspect of my role is driving collaboration within and across engineering teams. Qualtrics emphasizes teamwork. The engineers are expected to set their egos aside and make the right decisions whenever they are working together. I very much appreciate this culture and I do my best to promote this culture everywhere.
So you moved to Seattle before you came to Qualtrics, right?
I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea until my family moved to South America during my high school years. I finished my high school in Paraguay, then came to the United States for college. I eventually came to Seattle to go to the University of Washington, and I have happily been here ever since. I learned Spanish, Portuguese (because we lived on the border with Brazil), and English along the way.
Any tips for someone who is considering a role at Qualtrics?
If you would like to be part of a very collaborative and supportive engineering environment, definitely consider Qualtrics. While we look for the best engineers in the industry to come and join us, your skills in communicating and collaborating with teammates are also very important.
What surprised you most about working at Qualtrics?
That I still feel like I am new here after 4 and a half years. The problem domain changes as fast as we learn things at Qualtrics, and I feel like we are just getting started in this space of the XM category. Combine that with our desire to evolve our 15-year old platform towards the modern cloud-native SaaS architecture, and you have plenty of problems to solve here.
What are your aspirations in your career and life?
Someday I want to write a good book about software design. I enjoy good books on this subject, and this is something I could possibly enjoy as much as building software for Qualtrics.
What is your top #LifeHack?
I keep clean empty 375ml half wine bottles around so that, when I open a new bottle, I can fill it up to the brim and save the half first; this way, you don't necessarily have to drink the whole bottle within the 2 days of opening it.
How have you become involved in community at Qualtrics?
I love the initiatives and passion people have at Qualtrics for community involvement and contributing to society in general, be it 5 For The Fight or Women’s Leadership Development initiatives. I try to make time to participate when I can.
|Steve is an alumnus of the University of Washington and started his career at Geoworks. He has lived in South Korea, South America, and North America, so at one point or another, he has been fluent in 4 languages - Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, and English.|
March 21, 2022