Kate Matsudaira is an experienced engineering leader, from VP of engineering to CTO, and is currently founder and CEO of Popforms.
Prior to joining the startup world, she worked for over a decade as a software engineer, and technical lead/manager at Amazon and Microsoft. She blogs and tweets. Here is her story:
I started using computers and learning to program in college and I loved it. I used to work as a system administrator in the computer lab on Friday and Saturday nights (I was that cool 😉 ), and I would love that I had the whole lab to myself. Back them computers were big (people didn’t have laptops like they do today) and I loved the sound from the big machines humming – you only get that environment in today’s data centers.
The main reason I studied computer science was that of, all my classes, the programming homework was the most fun. There were so many ways to solve a problem and it felt like doing puzzles. I couldn’t get enough. And to this day, that is still my favorite part – writing code is like putting together puzzles.
I just love the problem-solving part of the work.
What’s Your Favorite Part of Being a Software Engineer?
I have met such incredible people and had the opportunity to work with amazing technologists. Sometimes I think about all the people I know and I feel so privileged for all the opportunities that have come my way. From public speaking to even doing interviews like this one, connecting with other smart people and getting my message out there has definitely been a highlight.
And my take on being a woman? Well I would say that we are all different and unique in our own way. The best thing you can do is understand what makes you special and leverage that for your success. Of course, that is true of any aspect about you that makes you diverse or special. You have a special gift for the world, be sure you are using it to your advantage.
How Did You Get Your Current Job?
My current role is as a founder of my own company, Popforms. And I love my job.
For the last 8 years as I worked in other startups (as a CTO and VP Engineering), I knew I wanted to do my own thing – it was just a matter of cultivating and idea and building the confidence to take the plunge. I am so excited for everything we have accomplished so far, and I can’t wait to see where things go.
I honestly couldn’t imagine doing anything else and I am loving the chance to dive into the technology and get my hands dirty again.
What’s a Typical Day Like as a Software Engineer?
Right now things are all over the place – I spent time working with my team, writing and creating content, and building out new software products. It is really all over the place (but I think that is pretty common for an early stage startup founder).
If someone was looking to grow in their role and eventually start their own thing, I would encourage them to focus on being the very best version of themselves that they can be. The better you are at your job, and the more career capital you build in your role, the easier it will be to parlay that into the next opportunity.
What’s Your Advice for New Software Engineers?
Be nice to everyone. In life, success comes from people – the promotions, the raises, the job opportunities – those decisions are made based on how people feel about you, not just the work you accomplish.
Early in my career I was too focused on being the best at programming, or producing the best project, and I neglected the my soft skills and relationships. Only later when I realized how important team work is, and how much influence was really required to actually make big things happen, did I make an effort to build great relationships with people. I would have been so much more successful (and probably happier too) if I had focused as much on being someone people really wanted to work with.
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