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My Journey Toward Tech

My journey toward tech started when I began applying for positions with a broad search criterion as I didn’t have any work experience, and this was the first time I was aiming for getting a job in Canada. For a newcomer with limited experience and limited access to a professional network, I knew I had a long way to go. To gain experience I started applying to jobs from marketing assistant to business analyst! I came across a community on slack and uploaded my resume. Two recruiters approached me, and one resulted in the job I have today—a data engineer at Alexi!

I had my interview with Sam, CTO of Alexi, and I showed him the work I was doing without the computer science background (i.e., no experience in the tools they were using such as having cloud knowledge). I had to deliver a project using AWS and Python for the interview and I spent 3 days straight working on it. This was the first time I was doing a project I didn’t have enough expertise on all by myself, which was challenging.

I gave up after Sam followed up on my progress and I didn’t have much to present. I told him that I tried my best and although I am very interested, I am not sure if I am a right fit for this role as I can’t deliver results at the pace you want me to. Sam replied to me and lifted my spirits! He gave me reasons to go on and set a call with me to help me understand the process better. I still think of that day and what would have happened if either of us had just given up. I got the project up and running and after presenting the work I got the job!

This is where it started, and this team has been supportive since day 1. It’s not just about having the opportunity to be part of a tech company but to have their support every step of the way! I am still a student at Ryerson University and there have been challenges navigating both work and school and I can’t thank my team enough for their understanding. There isn’t a single life-changing moment I can refer to, but every step of this journey has led me to where I am today.

When I first started, I was stressed as I didn’t know how supportive the team was. I can’t say I messed up the pipeline but for sure I did some work unaligned with best practices and Sam helped me fix it! There were challenging times as I didn’t have experience with the tools we are using, and I had to go through the learning curve for the first 5 months! I was stressed and confused which is normal in the beginning, but I learned from every team member along the way, and they all helped me come to speed with the work that we are doing (which by the way is a lot!).

I sometimes take time to reflect on the things happening on at least one of the core components in Alexi’s tech stack which I am almost the owner of. Reflecting on it makes me feel valuable, as I can see the direct impact of what I am doing in helping the team move forward, and it makes me realize how much work is being done just to maintain the product we are delivering and brings me an appreciation for all of it.

I learned every day and in every step of this journey. Challenging? Yes! But if I were to choose, I would choose this every time! Being part of a diverse, understanding, supportive team is everything any employee would wish for! We aim for productivity while being mindful of mental health and reaching out to others on the team when needed. It’s all coming naturally to form an amazing team. I compare myself to friends in big companies working in big teams and the amount of work they get done in 3 months we get done in a month with no burnout and fully remote!

My expectations were low in the beginning, and I didn’t think of all the perks of working in a startup—now I can name a few. We are heard! Our voices get echoed easily as there is no hierarchy here. We are productive with our meetings; there are no obligations in participating in those that aren’t relatable! Brainstorming happens every day and that’s how we keep the agility in place. We aim for better solutions, not just a hack to move on, although sometimes that’s the best solution. We all matter, and we can talk to the manager about anything concerning us. I remember Sam noticing me feeling anxious or worried or offering to take some time to rest when I don’t feel well or take a walk. I can talk about my free time, my therapy, music I listen to, my hobbies, my friends, any topic!

As we are a startup, we are doing something that hasn’t been done before. We sometimes lack good planning and estimating the time needed to complete the tasks we have assigned to ourselves. Sometimes we aim too high and oversimplify the work, but that’s how we grow as a team! That’s when you know you are pushing to get the job done soon with high quality and developing good practices along the way. Every one of us holds ourselves accountable for delivering quality work and we know we are not alone.

At the beginning of each new project, we spend time discussing design and brainstorming ideas which is both demanding and fun. During these meetings, we try to think ahead of all the components of the pipeline and come up with solutions. After planning, we start with breaking down the big projects into actionable items and aim to finish them in dedicated time. During the tasks, we sometimes will find issues we didn’t account for that will make us go back and reevaluate. We will have discussions along the way and try to deliver the best results.

We are still building our team and we are aiming to have more engineers on the tech team. It has been a journey and sometimes I feel stressed, but after taking some time to think about it and having productive conversations, I figured it out and that’s how we deal with problems!

I started with little knowledge of the work with cutting-edge tools this team is doing and had to learn a lot to be standing here taking ownership of parts of the data pipeline and managing it. I learned every day and sometimes I felt like I wanted to throw my computer in the garbage! In startups, it’s all about finding solutions and being good problem solvers. There have been times when I questioned why I chose this profession after going after a solution for days just to find out it’s not a good fit or having compatibility issues or some minor bug in a code that corrupted everything I was doing. Fixing bugs and problem solving can be exhausting but also incredibly rewarding.

I’ve been with Alexi for over 9 months now, and I can say I have learned more than I learned in all 6 years of university education and 5 months of nano degree program combined! It’s all about that real-life problem-solving experience that we all need to kickstart our career in the tech industry! I believe companies should pave the path for new graduates to embark on their career journey.

My suggestion for you if you are looking is to keep searching for any opportunities that can help you learn. This way you can navigate through the rest of your path while gaining valuable experience. You are always one step away from the biggest life-changing moment—each step could be one if you are working toward the purpose of learning and growing!

Data Engineering Intern

Faezeh Jalali is a Data Engineering Intern at Alexsei.

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