Interview with Emma Wedekind - 3 Tips for Growing as an Engineer
August 17, 2019
For those who don’t know Emma, she is a wonderful content creator, speaker, podcaster, and engineer who is defining the space she works in. Emma works for LogMeIn as a UX Engineer, if you’re not familiar with that concept she has a top-notch introduction to that discipline.
During our conversation, I asked Emma about her beginnings in the software industry, and she shared details about her Computer Science education and how she ended up pursuing software. Emma also talked about some of her struggles learning the front-end (which she is pretty incredible at, by the way).
She was also introspective enough to extract some advice from her story. These are the things that jumped out at me.
1. Find a teaching style that works for you
Emma has a traditional Computer Science education, but she claimed it didn’t really teach her all that much.
That isn’t to say that some Computer Science programs aren’t incredible and worthwhile, but Emma didn’t feel like she gained a massive amount from her experience.
Personally, I hated formal education; it didn’t fit me at all. I dropped out of college to start companies (I don’t recommend it, it worked out for me, but not because it was a smart choice).
The reality is that different people need different learning environments. You might succeed at a four-year university, or you might need the added pressure and speed of coding bootcamp. I needed real-world consequences for my projects to feel motivated.
The advice here is to find a system of education that speaks to you, and don’t count yourself out because the most common path isn’t the best one for you.
2. Be interdisciplinary
A mentor of mine (who runs a very successful YC company that I know at least 75% of you have used), told me that the most valuable people in any organization live at the intersection of two seemingly unrelated skillsets. They are the unique and creative people that can draw the dotted lines to create value. Emma is one of those people.
Emma lives at the intersection of two skills: software engineering and user experience. At this point, she has built a career on being interdisciplinary.
Her advice was to build strong foundations in multiple skillsets; it makes you better at solving problems and results in a unique approach.
Emma mentioned T-shaped people, which is generally a good pattern to follow.
Secondarily, she warned that trying to learn everything is overwhelming, so take it slow and learn things at a sustainable pace.
3. Create content for yourself
Emma loves to write. She told me that she very nearly added a writing minor to her degree.
For Emma, it was natural to write about the things she was struggling with and the things she was learning. She said it was one of the ways she was able to process her thoughts and experiences.
The thing that you have to understand when you’re making content is that it isn’t about followers or reactions; it is most important to create content that is useful to you.
Furthermore, seeking gratification from others is a fool-hardy and extremely unhealthy way to motivate yourself into creating content. Emma talked quite a bit about that unhealthy relationship and its dangers during our conversation.
Growth comes from good habits. Emma is an excellent example of good practices for growth, and she has a lot of great advice to give. This is just what I heard during our talk; other parts of it might speak more to you.
If you’re interested in learning from veteran engineers like Emma subscribe to my newsletter and follow along with the podcast. I have upcoming interviews with engineers all around the world who have built amazing careers for themselves.