An interview with Rosalynn Chong, Director of Engineering, Snipp Interactive – by Megan Prikhodko, COO, Snipp Interactive
“If you can find something that you’re really passionate about, whether you’re a man or a woman comes a lot less into play. Passion is a gender-neutralizing force.” Marissa Mayer, first female engineer at Google and former CEO of Yahoo!
We are pleased to present a series of interviews by Megan Prikhodko, COO – Snipp Interactive on ‘Women in Tech’ at Snipp (and we have a lot of them!)
One of my favorite things about working at Snipp is the diversity we have as a company. I’m so proud to work for a tech company that spans the globe and has a number of women in tech roles to boot. I asked our Director of Engineering, Rosalynn Chong, to join me in an interview about her experience as a developer and how she decided to pursue a computer science career. She walked me through how she opted out of a job as a teacher, her time in Japan, and her favorite innovator, Elon Musk.
Q: Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do at Snipp?
A: My name is Rosalynn Chong, and I’m the Director of software on the rewards and loyalty team. Even though my title is director, my real job is a combination of Team Lead, Dev Manager, Scrum master, and Senior dev at the moment. It means that I manage my team of developers and also the projects and sprints that they are working on, while also participating in development myself.
Q: How do you juggle all that you do? I know you do management, development, and some product. How do you keep yourself on task?
A: At first, I struggled a little bit as a manager as I felt I didn’t have any time to do the management work, but I eventually realized I could delegate stuff. I do think it’s very good for me that I get to do a bit of both. I do often feel like there isn’t enough time to do everything I want to do, but I find it works best to take just one thing at a time.
Q: When you graduated with a Computer Science degree, only 27% of all computer science majors were female. What made you interested in the degree and what was your long-term goal in pursuing a career in computer science?
A: It was actually way back in high school when I took an “Information Technology” class which introduced me to programming. It was a visual basic programming class and I got to create my own who wants to be a millionaire game in flash and I thought that was really cool. I got really intrigued by it and I found the course really easy to understand and the assignments really fun to work on. From then on, I decided to continue on this path as it felt like I had some talent in it and that it was my calling. All the other courses I took were fun too, but they weren’t as easy as computer science.
Q: At the time did it seem unusual or did you get any negative feedback from pursuing a degree in computer science or was it more like a no-brainer since you were good at it?
A: It was pretty much a no-brainer. My parents were very supportive and said “if you like it, go for it.”
Q: It’s interesting that it started with that high school class. You always hear the research and studies that say by introducing people to topics earlier, they are more likely to take off with it. It seems like it was that way for you and how you got your toes wet with it.
A: Yes, before computer science I wanted to be a teacher which I totally can’t imagine myself becoming.
Q: Interesting that you talk about becoming a teacher. When I was growing up my parents were interested in me becoming what I call a “costume career;” a doctor, a police officer, or a veterinarian. They weren’t even aware of computer science back then so it’s interesting that you chose a career that was just starting to blossom at that time.
A: Yes, exactly, the exposure is really important.
Q: I believe you completed a co-op in Japan while you were in University. Can you tell us about that experience and how it impacted your career?
A: It was the best thing I ever did in University. Personally, I love everything Japan, the food, the people, the culture. I worked there as a research intern for NTT which is one of the biggest telecom companies in Japan, and it was an eye-opening experience. The work culture there is very different from here, and everyone was super passionate about their field of research. It helped me gain a newfound respect for researchers in the field, but the biggest insight I gained was the realization that I would much rather be a dev solving business problems than doing research.
Q: Do you feel that women in technology careers face barriers not faced by their male counterparts? What are some challenges you’ve faced?
A: Personally, I don’t feel that way, as I am really lucky to have worked with people who respect women in the industry as much as anyone else. However, I do know that gender inequality does still exist in many companies and organizations and I hope that as more and more females enter the industry, women will be able to gain respect and eliminate any barriers that still exist now.
Q: You’ve grown into a management role within Snipp with multiple developers reporting to you. Can you tell us about the transition from developer to developer and manager?
A: It sorta came really naturally, I believe I went through a very typical software dev career path as I gained more experience in the team, going from junior to intermediate to senior dev, then becoming team lead and dev manager, and finally to my current role. Snipp really supports organic growth and I definitely benefited from this policy. Also, I am super grateful to my boss, Wayne, for being a great mentor throughout my career. He played a huge role in leading and guiding me to where I am today. Transitioning from developer to manager was, at first, quite a challenge for me, because as a dev, I was used to being given instructions and tasks to work on. Now I have to switch hats and be the one delegating, while keeping the team efficient, productive, and of course, happy.
Q: Now that you have been in it for awhile to you ever think to yourself, “I wish I was 100% developing or I wish I was 100% managing”?
A: I’m enjoying my 50/50 role right now. At first, I didn’t really like the management role and I would talk to Wayne and say, “are you sure I should be a manager?” I wasn’t sure I would like it, but now I’m glad I get to do both.
Q: What’s the most exciting part of working for a software company?
The most exciting part for me, is that I get to learn and use new technology. The industry is always evolving and improving, and there are always faster, more efficient and better ways to do things. It really keeps me on my toes in order to keep up, because if I don’t, my knowledge becomes obsolete and useless in a few years! But it does make me really happy to look at the products we’ve made in the past and present and appreciate the improvements we’ve made from adopting these new technologies.
Q: That’s one of my favorite things too. I love the moment when you’ve done the work to plan a feature, design it, build it, test it and then you finally get to launch it and use it and your life is suddenly so much better because you have this function. It must be what an architect feels like when they see a building in person that you created.
A: Totally, also when you look back at something you built 10 years ago versus what you are building now. It’s like “yes I’m so happy I’ve come so far along.” The stuff we build now is so much better.
Q: Yes, you look back sometimes and think “What were we thinking,” but it was really the best we could do at the time.
Q: Who are some leaders in the tech industry who you watch or appreciate?
A: Not gonna lie, I am a big fan of Elon Musk. He’s not exactly in the software industry, but he is in Tech. His innovation, foresight and his vision in how the future works really intrigues me. I also do really appreciate all the founders of the technologies we use right now, however there isn’t anyone in particular that I follow or watch.
Q: What advice would you give your younger self or any woman pursuing a career in the tech industry? Don’t feel like you must limit this question to just women, but if you have specific advice for women, then that would be good to hear.
A: My advice is don’t be scared, especially of how many men there are in the industry and go for it. If you have an interest in tech, keep learning and increasing your knowledge. Nobody and nothing can stop you from succeeding. There are so many free resources online now, you don’t even need to go to school to learn how to program, so it’s a great way for someone to dip their feet into tech and start learning.
Q: Are there particular resources you would recommend to someone wanting to learn to code?
A: There are a lot of good sites that help code such as Code Academy and it’s good for all ages. It’s a really good place to start.