While browsing through Ann’s blog, one sentence of her bio really stood out to me: “She believes that building the product right is as important as building the right product.” While I hear this sentiment often from developers and product managers alike, it’s rarely put so eloquently.
With over 12 years of experience in developing software solutions on iOS and Microsoft platforms, we were eager to learn more about her career path. We chatted with Ann on everything from her background in programming to her thoughts on the future of AI.
When and how did you get started programming?
I really enjoyed problem solving and math when I was growing up, which led me to pursue a Master’s in Mathematics at the Indian Institute of Technology in 2000. In my first year, I was enrolled in a computer science course in old C, but it also had algorithms. I didn’t realize how much I loved it until I found myself in the computer lab until midnight working on variations of assignments my professor assigned because I was curious and wanted to learn more.
Tell us a little bit about your current role. What does a typical day look like for you?
I am currently a Principal Software Engineer for Intuit on TurboTax's mobile team. While Principal Engineer is my designation, I also play the role of the Mobile Architect for the consumer tax group.
My day is split between coding, code reviews, design discussions, helping the team resolve technical issues, and taking necessary steps to drive the technology direction of our mobile products. I also spend a good amount of time following technology trends and learning new technologies and best practices that are prevalent in the industry.
What are the unique challenges you face as a Principal Software Engineer?
As a technologist, it is very important to be hands-on and have a solid understanding of how the product works and the technology behind it. But it is equally important to think broad and drive the technology strategy that makes our products more scalable, resilient and modern. Balancing these two aspects equally is the biggest challenge for me.
"Building the product right is as important as building the right product.” - [Tweet This]
Tell us a bit about your previous roles and how they lead the path for where you are today.
Before joining Intuit I was with SAP, Philips Healthcare, and Tata Infotech in India. Each company has taught me different things and contributed to who and where I am today. The biggest takeaways: to never go a day without learning something, quality work is paramount, and building the product right is as important as building the right product. I have now been at Intuit for almost six years, where I employ these principles on a daily basis.
What’s your favorite part of being a developer?
That I never stop learning and improving. I love being a developer because I am afforded the opportunity to help people in my team in resolve issues or teach others what I’ve learned, which in turn reinforces my learning and results in the virtuous cycle of Learn-Teach-Learn.
One additional aspect I love about my profession is that anyone can self-learn the craft with help from resources such as the internet, books, videos and/or shadowing someone else.
What has been your experience applying to jobs, interviewing, and working with recruiters?
The recruiting environment has changed dramatically over the last few years. Previously, if you wanted to work for a company and if there was a match, you were brought in for interviews, followed by a decision following shortly after.
Today, the process is very different and much more customized to the applicant. Recruiters reach out with extremely tailored communication that outlines why an opportunity would be a good fit for the candidate based on their background and experiences. Then, there is usually a challenge given to the candidate where they are asked to complete for the interviewing team to be able to see how they think and problem solve. The problem is followed by an in-person interview which is more personal than ever before and focused on discussing the challenge, allowing the interviewer more insight into how the candidate would be to work with. I much prefer this to the former traditional round of intimidating interviews.
What’s something you wish employers knew about developers?
How much developers love being in the “flow.” This is a state of mind where you can focus on the task at hand with full concentration. When in the flow, I am at the pinnacle of creativity and the code/design just flows. I just love being in that mode. It is the same feeling that you get when you are in a working session with your team and coding away for a whole day.
Where do you see the world of technology in 10 years?
I think the biggest advancement will be in the field of Artificial Intelligence, which will be integrated into everything around us. The real power of AI is that rather than hand-coding algorithms for each problem domain, we can define architectures that can adjust themselves into multiple algorithms based on the data that we feed in. It will bring in more transparency, seamless interaction with devices, making everything personalized and easy to use. We have already started to see this trend develop with how people are able to interact with Google Home, Alexa and Siri via voice instead of pounding a finger on a slate of glass on our smartphones or tablets.
Additionally, it is promising to see initiatives like OpenAI that have been created to mitigate the risk of misuse or incorrect use of an API that would damage society.