Director of Engineering, Box
Kimber started a company with friends in college. The startup, Increo Solutions, was acquired by Box in 2009. With four years of work experience under her belt, Kimberly is currently Director of Engineering at Box. Here is her story of climbing the career ladder.
Engineering A Life
Since high school, I’ve been an idea person and an initiator, but it took until moving from small-town Iowa to Silicon Valley to learn that there was a word for what I wanted to be – “entrepreneur”.
My junior year of college, I started a company called Increo with a few classmates. We built the initial prototype of our “idea feedback engine” for class, and continued building, testing, and talking to users throughout the year. In May of our senior year, our idea had evolved to a more general “document feedback” concept, and we had enough adoption to plan ahead for graduation and raise a seed round of funding. We moved out of our dorms, and into the office in June. I took on a business development role in the company after graduation (aka CEO), still a bit unsure of my technical skills.
A whirlwind year and a half later, we sold Increo to Box, joining frontman Aaron Levie in his attempt to revolutionize the way companies deal with their content. When we joined Box, it was clear the company needed software engineers, and I took the plunge into full-time development. While it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, as I got more comfortable, the same skills that make me successful in the past started to emerge. I have a knack for organizing and leading people toward a common goal. The company was growing quickly and (quite literally), before I even knew it, I was asked to take over as one of Box’s first engineering managers. We continued to scale, and my team grew and grew. I had to learn fast, and turned to mentors and books to learn the skills my new job as Director of Engineering demanded.
I found technology in college, and it started as one of those “prove I can” moments. As soon as my mind wondered if I could take Stanford CS, my heart was already planning how I would ace the class.
My closest friends and family will tell you how easy it is to get me to react by saying “I don’t think you can… [do something]”. In fact, it’s pretty embarrassing. Even when I know somebody is jokingly manipulating me into helping them move heavy furniture, or taking on the hard part of a group project, I can’t help it – I have such a visceral reaction to expectations that limit my potential, I react by proving that I can. The most unexpected part? I liked it. In fact, I really liked it.
Technology is full of hard problems, creative touches, and limitless potential. Getting involved in the women in tech community and discovering other women who were “proving they could” every day further solidified my decision – this was the direction for me.
Today, my responsibilities range from one-on-one meetings with members of my team, to unblocking projects that run into issues, to changing the way the organization plans projects or makes hiring decisions.
My favorite part of my job – hands down – is watching my team accomplish things as a group that none of us could have done on our own.
Advice for New Engineers
Stop worrying that everyone else is ahead of you. It’s easy to think that your peers who have started coding at twelve will always be ahead, but that’s just not true over time. Some programmers who started early have bad habits to unlearn, some get the basics but struggle with more abstract concepts, and some simply won’t work as hard over time as you do.
By the time you graduate college with a tech degree, the gap between young coders and people who start in college starts to even out. After a couple of years in industry, it’s nearly impossible to tell who started when. Of course, if you learned to code early, that’s awesome. All programmers should read widely about design patterns, never stop learning, and make new programmers feel welcome, comfortable, and supported in the industry we all love.