Medium Engineer Jean Hsu on Starting Out

Jean is an engineer at Medium. Previously, she led Android development at Pulse and was a software engineer at Google. She has five years of experience as a software engineer, and blogs at JeanHsu.com in her spare time.
Jean Hsu
Engineer, Medium
Jean is an engineer at Medium. Previously, she led Android development at Pulse and was a software engineer at Google. She has five years of experience as a software engineer, and blogs at JeanHsu.com.

Getting Started in Engineering

I took two programming classes in high school. In college, I didn’t really think about it much as a potential major. When I finally got around to taking a computer science course my sophomore year, I remembered how much I enjoyed coding. I loved debugging projects and the thrill of getting something to work, and I loved late nights losing myself in code and music.

Even then, I figured I could do something inter-disciplinary with computer science, and it wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year that I realized, hey I love this so much, I could just major in it. I had no idea what that meant for future career prospects, but I knew that it was probably the only thing I wouldn’t get bored of in the long run, so I took the plunge and never looked back.

I was introduced to people at Medium (then operating as The Obvious Corporation) through a friend of a friend who was working there. They had heard about my work at Pulse and had read a bit of my blog and wanted to meet to chat. I figured a chat wouldn’t hurt, and at the time I didn’t know who they were or what they were working on, as the company website and description were incredibly vague and amorphous. After a few conversations, it was clear that the underlying vision of the company (to build systems to help people make the world a better place) was something that resonated deeply with me. I could grow as an engineer, a leader, and be fulfilled knowing that I was making a lasting positive impact on this world.

The best part of my job as an engineer is being able to take a feature from an idea, work with designers to clarify what the feature is and how it interacts with the rest of the product, build it, and launch it.

It’s incredibly satisfying to see that whole process unfold and to guide it every step of the way.

A Day in the Life of a Medium Engineer

Depending on which day of the week it is, I may have some meetings. Some of these meetings are for clarifying upcoming features that will be released, and some are for providing feedback about recent design mocks. Most days of the week, I have no meetings and have large uninterrupted chunks of time to code, sometimes by myself and sometimes with a coworker.

We also have yoga weekly in the office, as well as meditation sessions twice a week. These provide healthy breaks from the day-to-day work being done, and allow me to be more focused when I get back to it.

Advice for New Engineers

It’s OK to not know everything. It’s impossible to know everything, but sometimes, especially at the beginning, it’s easy to think that everyone else knows it all. There’s plenty of time to learn. You are not an imposter. It is incredibly unlikely that you got lucky over and over and over again. It’s much much more likely that you got where you are through hard work and your accomplishments.

Computer science and programming is incredibly multi-disciplinary. No matter what other areas you’re passionate about (music, crafts, publishing, etc), your skills will be invaluable. Unless you want to, by no means do you have to sit at a computer by yourself in a server room all day.

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