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With over 15 years of experience in the tech industry, Ha Lee knows a thing or two about leading development teams and executing products. As the VP of Software Development at Financial Engines, Lee spends her time on everything from recruiting new members to her team to working with the product team to drive strategy. We chatted with Lee to see what a typical day looks like as a VP and how companies should be recruiting developers.

When and how did you get started programming?

Despite my dad being a computer programmer, I’m actually a relatively late starter to programming. As a student, I was studying molecular biology with dreams of a career in research. I interned one summer cultivating bacteria and concluded that I better find a different career path. With some urging from dad, I took my first computer programming class as a junior in college and found my calling. Having enjoyed mathematics and applying logical thinking, this was a natural fit (I should have listened to dad sooner).

financial engines office.jpg

Tell us a little bit about your current role. What does a typical day look like for you?

In my role as head of software development, I characterize my responsibilities as

  1. recruiting and motivating my team
  2. driving technical excellence by staying in the early majority of software innovation
  3. partnering with product to drive strategy
  4. removing barriers for execution

I’m not sure I have a typical day, which makes the role exciting. What I do enjoy the most are the 1:1 interactions with engineers discussing business problems and whiteboarding out various technical solutions.

What’s your favorite part of being a developer?

The love of developing software doesn’t grow old. The thrill of seeing your solution used by actual people in production is a high that developers get. A few years ago, there was a memorable moment for me and my team who had been working on a new platform for over 9 months. The night we launched the new platform, the whole team gathered around and we literally watched the DB count of people logging in to our system….all while having drinks to celebrate.

"There is no such thing as the 'rockstar engineer,' rather it’s a rockstar engineer for a particular team and role."   -   [Click to Tweet]

What has been your experience applying to jobs, interviewing, and working with recruiters?

Developers are in a “buyers market” and are highly sought after which means by in far the experience is pretty good, at least for the companies that truly value engineers. The best companies and recruiters understand that finding the right person for the right role is key. It’s all about matchmaking -- there is no such thing as the “rockstar engineer,” rather it’s a rockstar engineer for a particular team and role. 

What’s something you wish employers knew about developers?

Developers are creatives that love to problem solve. Give developers a problem, explain to them the why, and allow them the latitude to come back with the right solution. The solutions and ideas that come back will pleasantly surprise you.

Where do you see the world of technology in 10 years?

Here’s my prediction or rather expectation for 10 years out -- ”Auto Drive.” This is not about just driverless cars, but the convergence and effective use of data to allow users to put things into Auto Drive. This includes a prevalent use of Digital Personal Assistants that will simply make good decisions and suggestions based on aggregated data, history, context, and preference. In the FinTech space, we are starting to see Chatbots emerge.  However, Chatbots require user to initiate. In the “Auto Drive” world, these assistants will be the ones to initiate.

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