Engineering Manager: How did I get here?
Ana Luiza Gomes tells how working at VTEX contributed to her training as a team manager
Programming or managing teams? This is one of the hardest choices for software engineers because answering this question often can be a defining moment in your career.
Although indecision stresses almost all tech professionals, I felt that I had additional pressure because I was a female professional: besides being too demanding in our choices, we’re afraid of not being qualified, capable or enough for the job market — “hello, imposter syndrome.”
Looking back, I see that many of my fears were unfounded. I realized that time, experience, in other words, is a great ally to understand which career direction to take.
Another lesson I learned is the importance of working in a company like VTEX, which allows its employees to “discover” themselves as professionals and gives them the opportunity to explore their potential and come to understand how to do a better job, both for themselves and for the company.
The path of a professional career only looks easy and streamlined from the outside. But my path had many ups and downs on the way to where I am today.
The beginning of my career was not so bright — I didn’t feel the same passion for programming as did my peers. Not being “passionate” about coding sometimes made me feel frustrated and, at the time, made me question many times why I was doing my undergraduate degree in Computer Science.
“If I don’t like programming, how will I have a future in this track?” was the kind of thought that often went through my head. This idea began to change when I received valuable advice from my brother, which became a guiding principle for me.
The gist of what he told me is that with a technical background, I would have greater freedom to redesign my career paths and could take on a variety of roles within an organization without necessarily programming 40 hours a week.
Getting this message did not make coding and functions any easier to learn. It took a lot of resilience to keep programming, which I did enjoy but just didn’t feel like doing for the rest of my professional life.
What changed inside me was that I started to see programming as a bridge that would allow me to access other career paths. My enthusiasm for programming grew even more when I realized that this skill has a huge correlation with problem-solving. That part, truly, always got me excited.
Room to grow and opportunities to learn
After some professional experiences as a software developer, I came to VTEX in 2017 to work as software engineer. Something great happened. I had the opportunity to work on pilot projects focused on management. Then I had to let go of the idea of being someone who solves problems with code and take on the role of solving problems by talking to people.
Little by little, I developed this managerial side and realized that I fulfilled this role very well. Of course I had problems, but I had people who helped me in this evolution, like Bruno Dias, who always mentioned my name to participate in side projects.
To this day, he tells people, “Assign Ana Luiza, and she’ll take care of it.” Having these opportunities to fill a manager role was key in me actually becoming one.
Another important factor in my engineering manager path was working at VTEX, a company that grants autonomy to its employees to redesign their careers and choose the path that they think makes most sense at that point in their lives.
Unlike other companies, VTEX doesn’t see a problem with an individual leaving a leadership position to become an individual contributor. Quite the contrary, this internal flexibility is seen as a strength and is part of the culture we experience in the company.
For VTEX, having the right people in the right places is more powerful than a job title. A culture of autonomy, which greatly permeates the decisions we make on a daily basis, means that the vision of an old hierarchy does not hold ground here. Without a doubt, having this control over my career was a key point for me to become an engineering manager.
Opening and creating spaces for women in technology
Working in a company that gives you autonomy also allows you to develop initiatives that speak to your personal values and align with company objectives.
Talking about women (or the lack of them) in the technology market is something common. As a female leader in this department, that is something that always bothered me and other female engineers at VTEX.
As we thought about how to be part of the change we want to see in the market, we came together to create initiatives like Tech Woman Bootcamp, which is now one of the programs that actually include women in our field.
Within the company, we created a content and mentoring program, as well as an access channel to talk to many female technology professionals and help them get the best positions in the job market, both at VTEX and elsewhere in the future.
What do I see ahead? More evolution
I still have much to learn as an engineering manager. In the end, problems are not reducible to a closed scope and have different variables, such as people, product, organization, clients, among others.
Although I don’t know which projects await me, I know I have the necessary skills to learn and develop, as well as being in a company that fosters my development, whether as a manager or an individual contributor.
If you want to work in a fast-growing company, develop global solutions and have the autonomy to manage your career the way you think makes sense for your life, visit our Engineering Careers page and check out our open positions!