Engineering at Uber: Roxana del Toro, Hackbright Alumna

Hackbright alumna Roxana del Toro graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.S. in Environmental Economics & Policy. Here is her story.

Roxana del Toro, Uber Software Engineer

I was always interested in technology but I had always just appreciated it as a tool or a means to an end.

I didn’t think technology was cool in and of itself. In college, there were a couple of times that I had considered learning more about computers.

When I mentioned to people that programming seemed like maybe a cool thing to get into, people would discourage me from doing it, either because of the perceived culture, the difficulty, or the “dryness” of the material. Then I started learning to program some years ago, in order to apply for Masters programs in data science, which I thought was a natural progression from my undergrad in Economics.

But the more CS I learned, the more I realized programming was the first thing I did where there never seemed to be enough time to do it, whereas with other work I would often watch the clock and wait for the time to go home.

How Did You Get Your Job As An Engineer?

I got into Uber through Hackbright, they were one of the last companies I had an interview with and I knew right away that it was where I should go.

Uber was really good at putting me in a team doing work I wanted to do (backend for Dispatch Platform & Logistics), and in an Uber program I believed in (UberEverything). They set me up for where I want to end up in my career.

I want to be not just an engineer, but also an architect someday and I can learn to build enduring tech architecture here. Also, transportation is something I get really riled up about and I’ll probably keep working in this industry, in a lead role.


Pictured: Roxana del Toro speaking at Hackbright Graduation Celebration.

What’s Your Advice To Your Younger Self?

Don’t pay attention to what people think you will like or where they think you’ll succeed. You know yourself better than they do. And you know that you’ll work hard enough at it to make it happen.

Pick the hardest thing to do and then do it. Don’t worry about breaking things or making imperfect code! Just put some lines of code down and see what happens. Blow up stuff if you have to.

Don’t mold yourself to what you think you should do, be, or act like. Wear dresses to work if you want. Or whatever.

What’s A Day In The Life Of An Uber Software Engineer Like?

I roll into work pretty late (and get out late – I’m a night owl). I check emails, decide what goals I have for the day, and then put on my headphones and work on current projects. I avoid meetings unless they’re helpful in making me a better engineer or provide social capital with my workmates/managers.

Depending on the project, I could be working in Node.js or any of various Python frameworks in play at Uber. I try to work mainly on EC2s since they are a more realistic environment for where my code will eventually live, which means I’ve had to switch from desktop editors to Emacs.

“The percentage of the day that I code is minimal compared to how much of the day I spend scanning documentation, reading code in any number of interrelated repositories, asking service owners questions, drawing diagrams to get things straight in my head, and just generally trying to understand how pieces fit together. The best way to start learning is to just dive in and start building.”

What Attracted You To Software Engineering?

Having a strong group of women who come together around tech is great.

When I come across these groups of women in tech (e.g. LadyEng at Uber or my Hackbright cohort), we all have a certain similarity in our humor and intelligence. So I feel understood more than in any other group I’ve been in throughout my life.

And because there aren’t that many of us yet, we get tighter than if the numbers were more balanced.

Also, because the representation of female engineers is low right now, there are lots of opportunities for involvement open to women engineers if you want to take them – giving tech talks, writing articles, etc.


Pictured: Uber engineers pose for a picture for #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign.