📺 CFTV Anniversary: This is What a Technologist Looks Like
Lili was a stand out property manager, and now she's a standout technical lead. Learn more about her pathway from managing real estate to managing developers.
Hi there. I'm Gretchen and you're listening to This is What a Technologist Looks Like.
So I'm sure you're all up to speed by now. It's a series of talks that go over six weeks and we're here to show you what opportunities are available in the tech industry.
What the people in the industry actually look like and kind of how they got to be where they are.
So my guest today does the most wondrous things with paper.
She's going to go, what are you talking about right now? I've seen some paper craft that she's built that just blew my mind and that was my first impression of her.
But in addition to that, she's been a leasing consultant, a property manager, and then she changed direction, completely reinvented herself, and is now a software engineer.
Actually, hold on. She's actually a technical lead. So you've kind of triple jumped the career pathway.
So I'd like to welcome Lili. Good morning.
Morning, Gretch. Thanks for getting up. You're welcome. It was a little bit hard, but I made it.
You made it. And it was a stormy, stormy Melbourne night.
So it's nice to see you. So Lili, tell me about your current role today. What is a tech lead?
Yeah, so I just recently actually moved into this new role.
And what is it? I guess I'm still trying to figure that out myself. But I guess I could say that it allows me to work together with my team to scope, then build, and then deliver features for our clients who are onboarding onto our platform.
That's cool. What's your team? I have a team of three developers and a product person.
That's cool. It's a good size. I like it. And it keeps things intimate.
And we're quite close as a team. So it's nice. So what do you do each day then?
Before you were an engineer, so I expect you wrote a fair bit of code. But now you've got your role slightly more leadership.
What is a day or an average out a week?
Tell me what that looks like. Yeah, so a typical day, I guess I start off with going to a stand up with the whole team.
I try to avoid making it like a recording session and more like, first of all, a bit of a catch up, especially now during lockdown.
That's important. Just get a chat with everyone. And then also to see where each project is at, what blockers there are, what help people need.
And usually from that, I get to sort of build my day, whether I need to set up pairing sessions or gather additional requirements for one of my team members, that kind of stuff.
But then I'll also, I guess, depending on what day of the week. So much.
There's also client meetings that I can attend, sprint planning sessions. What happens in a client meeting?
So I'm in a team where we work on features for new clients who are onboarding.
So they might need a completely new thing that we don't already have.
So these client meetings are just to catch up with the clients and to discuss what they want.
How they envisage the feature to look like, how they envisage it to work and how we can work together to get it done.
And then you come, you and your product person come back to the engineers and you build out what that's going to look like and how they'll work.
We'll do some technical scoping and then write up tickets and see if we, you know, how it can be done.
If it's possible.
If it's even possible. Oh, that's fabulous. And so you mentioned pairing before.
How do you, I'm a huge fan of this, by the way, in general. What does pairing look like for you?
And I guess for someone, if someone was watching this and goes, what are you talking about?
What is pairing? Is it a fruit? Are you cutting something out?
What is pairing for you? No, that's a very good question. So I also love pairing and I try to encourage it within my team.
It's a great way to transfer knowledge both ways, whether the person is or not.
So you usually go on to, I guess now in remote times, you'll go on to a meet session and someone shares a screen and they'll, it's one person's usually leading and they will start writing code while explaining what they're doing.
And then the other person will be able to add input and maybe suggestions as to how to approach a problem more.
There's a lot of back and forth right at that moment, right?
You're not going back to it three days later and going, Steve, you should have done it differently.
You get to just go with the flow.
Sorry, you go. No, I said exactly. It sounds to me like you don't spend your whole day writing code then.
It's not Lily in a corner. Definitely not.
I mean, I do like to make sure I get a little bit of coding in each day because that's still, like I still really enjoy writing code.
So that is important to me as well.
So that it's not all just, yes, management. There's a bit of coding as well in there for me.
I like that. It's good to stay a bit in touch with what's happening all the way through.
And you're right. It is a bit fun. I like that moment.
Fair enough. Hey, so let's wind back a couple of years. I know that you didn't, you know, go to high school and say, oh my gosh, I'm going to be an engineer.
That is what I'm doing. I'm going to go and get a computer science degree.
When you were at school, high school, what did you think a job in tech was and did it even cross your mind?
Um, all right, winding back. Yeah, probably. I didn't even think about a job in tech as an option.
It wasn't really, we didn't have proper like IT classes.
I wasn't a big fan of computers either. I know, I know.
And I think the closest thing to, you know, technology class we had was IT. And even then, it was probably like a solid year of just learning how to use Excel.
Yes, so much that. And I dropped that class as soon as I could. I mean, I still don't know how to use Excel.
There's a lot of searching. I think too, when I was at school, the people that wanted to do, get into software development or engineering weren't, they fell into two categories pretty firmly.
And actually, the two overlapped like an event diagram, there's not much space.
And they were gamers, or kind of math geniuses.
And I always felt like technology was never going to be a place that I belonged.
Did you feel that a little bit too? No, yeah, definitely.
Yeah. So yeah, it wasn't even an option. Like I was, it wasn't, it didn't pique my interest.
There were no classes that made it seem interesting. So I just, it wasn't an option for me.
Like I was more interested in maybe art class or something like that.
Papercraft. Anyway, sorry. I'm just angry. The context here, I've seen a, is it A1 poster that Lily's done?
And it is just, I need to get an image of it.
This unbelievable journey of what you do when you learn to code. And it's like a little board game almost.
And it covers everything. So I'm going to find a photo and it's going to go on a blog at some point.
So I can just stop rambling about how clever it is.
But I think there's a big alignment between art and creativity and programming.
Would you agree with me on that? And feel free to just go, no, there's nothing there.
Definitely agree with that. Definitely. I think I thought previous to starting learning to code, I always thought it was not in any way creative.
But now that I'm doing it, I do more and more believe that it is a creative outlet.
And you need a bit of creativity to try and come up with different ways to solve a puzzle because maybe the one way that you initially thought isn't the correct way.
So to be creative, to come up with different solutions, I think really does help like for me.
Well, I'd agree because I think it comes down to problem solving in the end.
And if in my mind, the counter to creativity is that step-by-step methodical rule following, which I think there is a place for within technology.
But if that's all you do, you're never going to actually solve a problem.
And so then it gets a bit stuck. But previously, you've worked on property management.
What does that even mean? So I was managing a portfolio of around about 100 properties.
And so that means basically collecting rent, renting out the properties and dealing with landlords and tenants.
Usually, we've been difficult situations because, you know, your landlord and your tenant don't really want to talk to each other unless there's something that they absolutely need.
And yeah, just managing anything that the property maintenance, anything that needs to be done at the property.
So heaps of moving parts all at the same time. And you're only ever hearing about people's problems, I'm guessing.
They're not ringing to say I had a lovely week.
So I can imagine for me, that would be fun for a moment.
And then I might be a bit restless and go, what else am I going to do?
But what made you? Because after that, you went to technology, what motivated that transition?
Exactly what you just said. No, it's true.
I did it for around, I think it was in the real estate industry for about five years.
And at the end of it, I was just, I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over again a little bit.
And there wasn't a lot of variety in my day.
I can see that.
It's like you have a mastery of what you were doing. Yeah, it was just on repeat a little bit.
So I just thought, you know what, I'm going to stop doing this and do something else.
But I didn't have a plan of something else. Anything else, right?
Anything else was literally where I was at. And this just sort of someone suggested maybe try this.
I think the first time someone suggested that I was like, no way, I could never do that.
But then I gave it a bit of a go. And so what did that look like?
Did you quit your job? Did you go into a training program?
Did you, I don't know, spend a lot of time on the Internet? Yeah, I did do a bit of research on the Internet.
And I tried for a little bit to learn how to code myself.
And nothing was clicking. It just was like a foreign language to me. Really?
But like, there was no context. You can learn how to write a function or method.
But then I was like, where does this fit in? Like, I couldn't see the bigger picture.
And I just couldn't figure it out on my own. So then I did a bit of research in into boot camps.
And so I found one called Coder Academy. And then I was like, you know what, a bit of guidance, this might help.
So I gave it a go.
That's a lot of information in a really short period of time. And my understanding is boot camps aren't like university, right?
Like it's not three classes a week in one tutorial.
What did a day look like at boot camp? So this particular one was Monday to Friday, like nine to five.
It was like a full time job. So I did have to quit my job for this.
And yeah, so it was it was intense.
And a lot of long hours, I'm trying, I'm trying to bring myself back.
It looks like you were almost traumatized by it. There was a lot of information.
We'd go into class, there would be a session in the morning where we go through.
So in the afternoons, we'd be sent home with exercises to work on.
We'd practice what we'd learned that day. So in the morning, we'd come in and basically work on that as a group.
There were several people who'd show up earlier before the start.
And then and then we started and then there would be a topic. And there would be a lesson on that topic.
And then again, at the evening, it's in the afternoon, we'd do exercises.
They're trying to apply it and put it in the context that's missing with some of the online stuff.
But that sounds like the volume of information was just a little relentless.
It felt like it was a topic a day and that was a lot.
Yeah, that is a lot. And did it, so you do that for six months.
What happens at the end of six months? How do you get a job as a junior who potentially doesn't have a degree, right?
Like some organizations say, show us your computer science degree, X number of years here, Y number of years there, even though you're a junior and it's a junior role.
How did you overcome that? So one of the things that Kota Academy offered was an internship at the end.
They did help you try and find one.
And so through that, I did get my first internship, which wasn't a guaranteed job, but it was industry experience, I guess.
It was industry experience and it was, oh my God, so much more information.
Just when you thought you'd made it.
But after six months of information, then you had one month of just, it felt like more, just more and more.
Oh, wow. How big was the place you went to for your internship?
Was it a big corporate organization? It was sort of startup size.
It was around about, I think, four or five devs. Wow. Yeah. And yeah, I did my internship for a month and then they offered me a full-time role there.
So that was pretty cool. That is very cool. And I guess when you go from the, like the school version to the working for an organization that's actually pushing stuff to production, there's a whole other heap of stuff to learn there where you're learning some good, I guess, their procedures and policies and testing.
Oh, yes. Testing. Yeah. So I guess the thing we didn't really cover was how to work in.
Yeah. How to work together in a team, right? As opposed to like two of you or three of you.
Yeah. I had to get really good at Git.
That was interesting. And like you said, testing. Obviously, with the six -month time frame, we weren't able to get across testing as much as I'd like.
And that was, that felt like a crash course.
I'm sure it was. And yeah, because, you know, there was a lot.
So you stayed there for quite a while, didn't you? And then moved on to a bigger organization.
Was that so you could get, I think it's really important to work in places of all different sizes because they all have different experiences, different procedures and policies.
And some of what works really well in one just would never be possible in the other.
Was there another huge learning curve when you changed businesses, organizations again?
Yeah, I'm going to say, yeah, definitely was. So went from a organization.
So we were working on a single marketplace. Yeah. To working on a code base, which handled multiple marketplaces.
That concept alone for me, I think it took me a couple of months to just get my, wrap my head around that.
I was like, oh, so we're not, we're not the ones selling.
We're allowing others to sell.
So we're selling the thing for you to sell the thing. That took me a while. And just the size, I guess, of the code bases, just being so large.
I'd never. Do you go, hey team, I'm just going to need like three weeks to read this and tinker with it.
Is that how it works? Um, they, they are, they are very, you know, they don't expect you to show up on day one and be like, yeah, you can just manage this whole code base and then like write a whole pull request in like no time at all.
But they did, they did give some smaller tickets to, for me to get used to it.
Um, and that, I thought that really helped me.
Um, I, I got to like dig around in the code and it up down several rabbit holes where I was like, oh, I don't know how I ended up here.
Somebody saved me. Exactly. Um, but yeah, no, definitely starting off with the smaller tickets.
Um, cause I, I, I don't like just looking at code for the sake of looking at code.
I like, I like it when I have like a. There's a purpose and a reason, right?
Yeah. Yeah. So that sounds like a great way to onboard and learn things is to be given just one small piece that you can do in a contained space and actually interact with it, right?
Like that's the difference between telling a three-year-old they should be fabulous at painting without letting them touch any paint or, you know, letting them go for it.
Perfect analogy, yeah. How did you, um, what made you want to go to the, to marketplace?
It was it, did you go, I want a bigger organization.
They pay better. They pay worse. They have better perks. They get staff discount.
They have a great team and a culture. What motivates and not just marketplaces, but what would motivate you to be in an organization?
To be in an organization.
What's really important to me is culture. Um, having a good culture, um, having good work-life balance, definitely important.
And just the people that you work with.
Like it's, it'd be nice to like, enjoy the people you work with.
That is so true. Well, you spend a lot of time with them, right? So definitely.
So I, you know, you spend more time with the people you work with than your family and friends even.
So, um, that's important to me. Um, so Marketplacer has an awesome culture.
Um, and yeah, the people are also awesome. Like it sounds like I'm making it up, but it's true.
So what did an awesome culture look and feel like?
How do they make that happen? Um, I think it probably starts from leadership.
We have, we've got a great CTO, um, and engineering, um, you know, head of engineering, engineering manager.
Um, and yeah, it's, it's got, they've got a, let's get it done attitude.
Yeah. Um, but also let's have fun and never work overtime, um, work within work hours, um, and then have fun, you know.
I like that.
So I like that a lot. I think, um, work-life balance is really important and permission to stop is, you can say it all you like, but if it's not demonstrated by leadership, you kind of feel like you have to still be there or still be available.
So that's so important. Yeah. And I think there's a, um, I've met a few people at Marketplacer.
There's a real authenticity from the top down about what's valued and kind of how you work there and how you interact with one another.
And I'm glad you're in such a, such a cool space. Aside from, um, doing the bootcamp, do you think the skills and experience you had prior to that were a waste of time?
Do you think, you know, being in property management was wasted time?
Or do you think there's skills from that that were transferable? Um, I think there was like, uh, there was a time when I thought that was a waste of time and I thought like, I wish I just got into tech sooner.
Um, because I, you know, because I just love it so much and I love the industry.
Um, and, you know, wish I skipped all the, the other bits, which I didn't enjoy as much, but I think now, now.
I'm a little bit wiser.
Um, I guess I wouldn't be who I am or where I am in the position I am without my previous experiences.
So definitely. Cause I went to art school as well. The paper thing. Got a bit of creative, you know, creative background, which I personally find helpful when coding.
Um, but in property management, I guess I learned how to manage my time, managing expectations.
That is a huge thing in technology. Yeah. Dealing with difficult people in difficult situations.
No, that's fair. And then communication skills, I guess, from that as well.
Yeah. So all the core skills. Coding is a very kind of yes, no, either you can do it or you can't kind of space.
Whereas what you're talking about is those, you know, the really core skills that make you actually be able to function as a human in the workforce and get things done.
So yeah, I guess those would be transferable to any industry, but like, um, it, it has been very helpful for me, um, to get, to get to where I am.
So not a waste of time at all.
What is it you love about tech and working in technology? Oh my gosh.
I, um, I just love to code. Like I enjoy, I enjoy that feeling you get when you complete, uh, like a feature or even just like solve a weird bug, a weird bug that makes you question everything you might know about the language that you code in.
And then you solve it and you're just like, oh my God, I just know so much. And then 30 seconds later, you find the next one.
Exactly. But like that, that feeling of like accomplishment, you get that.
So you get that like rewarding feeling quite often within, within, um.
Yeah. The industry gives you space to not, not, you're not going to get to mastery very quickly.
Yeah. Yeah. No, definitely. Um, I guess the other thing would be the people.
Um, yeah, I, I'm, I like, I like the people I work with.
Um, they're awesome and amazing. And together we build some really cool things.
Um, but I think that people make it. Totally. I would agree with that 100%.
And it's a supportive, encouraging environment, um, which is interesting because tech gets a bit of a bad rap in that space, but I think maybe, and we talked about this a little bit earlier in the green room, that maybe it was really rubbish 10 years ago, but I think it kind of learned its lesson as an industry and is actually very welcoming and supportive now, more so than other industries I've been in.
Yeah, no, definitely. My experience at least has been that I have been welcomed and everywhere I go, everyone tries to, I guess, make you feel like you belong.
Yeah. I like that. Hey, I've got some pretty strong opinions.
You'd be surprised on this question, but do you think there's a particular skill set that lends itself to a successful career in tech?
Oh, this is a really hard question.
Yeah, I know. It might be a question that's like different for each person, maybe.
Well, you've said, um, I've heard you say you like to keep learning and tormenting yourself.
So I think that curiosity and willingness and ability to keep learning would be one of my top takes.
Yeah, yeah. I probably, same here, like being persistent.
Yeah. I don't know if that's a skill set. Is that like an attribute or a skill?
Tenacity definitely is. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's probably something that really got me through a lot of hard days when I was learning to coach.
Just my stubbornness.
I will understand this.
So you did get that. Persistence, definitely. Communication skills.
Yeah, I think it's also really good. I think if you can like clearly articulate what you're trying to do or how you're trying to solve a problem, even just to yourself.
That's a great point. Sometimes I remember not knowing how to ask the question I needed to to get the answer I was looking for.
But yeah, no, I think even just to yourself or if you're, you know, brave enough when you're learning to others is was very helpful in my understanding of certain concepts.
And yeah. I like that. Yeah. So a bit of stubbornness, willingness to learn, willingness to ask questions, right?
And to be a bit vulnerable.
Oh, I think I asked a lot of questions. And also the communication skills.
So you can ask so you can get the answers you need to learn a bit more.
I really, really like that. So we're almost out of time here today. It's gone so fast and there's so many other things I would like to explore.
But I'd like to thank everyone for listening today.
We've got a few more episodes coming up.
Next week's actually our last week of this segment. But we have joining us on Tuesday, the 15th of June.
So at 8am, we're going to have a chat with John Mayers.
Not the musician, unfortunately. I got hoaxed the first time I was introduced to him.
But he's currently a software engineer at UpBank in Australia. So we can't wait to see you there for that one.