Kristi, Software Engineer: under the hood at Qualtrics
My motivation in doing something is always to find the "why" and the "how." The first thing I think of whenever I see something new is "how does this work? Why does it work this way?" I love getting behind the scenes and learning what goes on under the hood. Not only that but being behind the scenes of something really shows you how much impact it has. To me, being that familiar with something brings all the more pride when you can say that you have contributed to it. This ideology has inspired me to volunteer at community centers, deliver meals to disabled elderly, and ultimately to join Qualtrics.
Qualtrics has such a huge impact on people and companies everywhere, all of whom see us as a company owning reliable software that they use on a regular basis. As a software engineer at Qualtrics, it's really interesting to see what goes on behind closed doors to make our software perform well and reliably. And whenever I contribute to our codebase, I know that I'm making a substantial and lasting impact.
What attracted you to Qualtrics in the first place?
After interning at both a startup and a big-tech company in college, I decided to look for something new when joining the industry. I liked the big-tech office environment, which had an abundance of resources for success, but I also wanted to work on fast-moving projects that would have a measurable impact on regular users. Qualtrics provided both of these.
What was the turning point where you knew you 'had to have the job' at Qualtrics?
I got sold on the idea of working here when I visited the office for the first time. Not only was the office beautiful, but everyone I met was extremely humble and enthusiastic about what they did. The interviewers had so much to say when asked about the positives of working at Qualtrics but also weren’t afraid to speak about the company’s areas of improvement (of which there were few).
Another part of the onsite that really stood out to me was how the office executives’ desks were the same as everyone else’s and were intentionally put in the same open office space as all other employees. It showed how much the company valued transparency and valued employees just as much as upper-level management.
These factors were what really drove me to accept the offer. Even when I was visiting as a candidate, I could imagine myself starting off my career at Qualtrics and loving it!
What does your day look like?
Contrary to popular belief, software engineering does not entail coding all day, every day! Although you do have regular 10-20 minute syncs with your team, your daily schedule is largely up to you.
I’ve actually been working remotely since I joined Qualtrics because I graduated college and started working during the coronavirus lockdown. I’m working across the country from the Qualtrics offices, which makes for a considerable time difference. While it's been a little strange getting used to working from home and mentally converting times, Qualtrics has been incredibly accommodating and flexible with work schedules. I don’t feel bad about starting and ending the workday earlier than the rest of the team, and it hasn’t impacted my productivity. My manager has also helped a lot with adjusting and getting a good home office set up.
As for a time breakdown of my normal workday, out of a typical 8 hour day, I normally spend around 1 hour in meetings, 1-2 hours working on software design, and the rest on actually touching the codebase. And that doesn't take into account the time in-office events and social events!
What is your favorite part of your role?
Despite being fresh out of college and working alongside people who have many times more experience than I do, my opinion on the company's direction has just as much weight as everyone else. Although I honestly love all aspects of the job, I find the most enjoyment in debating software design decisions with teammates and bouncing ideas back and forth with them.
Any tips for someone who is considering a role at Qualtrics? Or advice for someone looking to get into a career like yours? Tips for someone in general?
Some general tips: Success is not defined by how "big-named" your company is! If your main reason for pursuing/accepting an offer is "my friends and family know this brand and it's prestigious,” that is the wrong reason to be considering! As someone who has fallen down this rabbit hole and regretted it, I will say that the most important thing when considering a job is whether you can imagine yourself enjoying the day-to-day there.
As for Qualtrics-specific advice: First of all, congratulations for taking your first steps towards joining the team! Going through the application process at any company is extremely stressful, but in the end, remember to be yourself. And don't be shy with your interviewers; they're also there for you to learn more about Qualtrics!
What has surprised you most about working at Qualtrics?
Qualtrics' philosophy of "flattening the levels" of management surprised me so much when I joined at first. At most companies, there's a very tangible and noticeable difference in authority and position between you and your manager. What Qualtrics (in my opinion) really excels at is putting you on the same level as your manager and at opening the floor with higher-level directors. Even as a recent college grad, I'm encouraged to lead meetings and speak my mind in front of managers. Also as a consequence, I'm able to enjoy a high level of autonomy and independence on what tasks I take on.
What made you want to get into engineering?
I've been set on becoming an engineer ever since high school when I joined the Science Olympiad team there on a whim my freshman year. At that time, I had no idea I would end up essentially living in the team's classroom, tinkering away at my latest iteration of some machine (and loving every second of it). While working in software is slightly less tangible than building a robot or a wood bridge, it is just as rewarding and challenging.
How have you become involved in the community at Qualtrics? What has that meant to you?
Since everyone is still working from home due to COVID, it has been a little harder to make meaningful connections with people. My org has been hosting regular virtual lunches, and I've been taking full advantage of them to finally get the opportunity to meet my coworkers outside of meetings. Although it’s not quite the same as meeting everyone in person, being able to meet members of the org in a casual setting has been extremely valuable.
What 3 words would you use to describe Qualtrics to someone?
Innovative, fast-moving, and collaborative.
How do you feel you've been able to apply what you studied at school to your career?
Fun fact: although I studied computer science in college, I also studied chemical engineering (and am traditionally trained in that industry)! On the chemical engineering front, I regularly apply concepts like top-down design, end-to-end design, and funnel-shaped problem-solving.
On the computer science side, I often apply programming concepts that I've learned in school while on the job. Anything I've learned, between simple algorithms and multi-threaded systems, has been invaluable on the job.
What's a myth about your type of job that you'd like to bust? Or about working at Qualtrics?
Being a good software engineer is not just about being good at coding. There's so much more that goes into making a piece of software functional and reliable than coding away all day!
|Kristi is an alumnus of Cornel University and started her career at Qualtrics. Kristi is pretty good at Beat Saber (VR game).|
September 20, 2022