Career Advice from Woman Engineers at SurveyMonkey

The summer 2013 class of Hackbright Academy visited the Palo Alto headquarters of SurveyMonkey!

It was bright and early on Friday morning when the Hackbright students convened at SurveyMonkey for coffee and breakfast, sampling the goods in the SurveyMonkey kitchen. The oatmeal machine was a hit! Hackbright students toured the office and met engineers in SurveyMonkey’s team (pictured above, from left) – software engineer Louise Fox, engineering leader Selina Tobaccowala and mobile engineer Andreea Berfield.

Former founder Selina Tobaccowala is currently the SVP Product & Engineering at SurveyMonkey. She talked about the “interestingness” of SurveyMonkey: “What interested me about the Monkey are the use cases – from where to go to lunch to how to name my baby.. taking data to impact the user experience,” explained Selina. “Data only makes sense in context.”

Software engineer Louise Fox agreed – the former mechanical engineer is a Hackbright Academy graduate that talked to current Hackbright students about her experience.

Louise talked about the fun and challenges in software engineering at SurveyMonkey (she now owns a page) and the importance of coworkers.

She recommended for students looking for a software engineering job to “find out what you’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis. You may discover that you love the work. Don’t get hung up on team names” she cautioned. The average worker spends more time with coworkers than friends and family, so make sure that you really like the day-to-day of the work.

Company culture: “Ask your interviewer if they eat lunch with their coworkers.”

“It matters to me that I like my coworkers,” said Louise.

She stressed the importance of finding a good work culture – “Go somewhere where your coworkers are encouraging, take time to look at your code and give you feedback.”

Some of the current Hackbright students asked about formal mentorship programs. Louise talked about taking initiative in learning and growing: “Find people in your company with similar goals to you to form study groups with.”

Louise talked about SurveyMonkey hack weeks, recommending that students get involved in hackathon-type events for rapid learning and building. She also talked about asking coworkers for programming book recommendations.

Selina gave the Hackbright students solid career advice: “Make sure you have the opportunity to take more ownership, to find out how in six months you can own something.”

Pictured: SurveyMonkey software engineer Louise Fox at her motorized standing desk.