My parents have been working in the tech industry since I was born. I attended daycare, preschool, kindergarten, and later summer camp for many years at their company and was constantly surrounded by computers. I saw my mom succeed as a female in business and technology and I had a desire to follow in her footsteps, to also help carve a wider path for more females in the technology space. Although I knew I wanted to pursue a career in technology at a young age, I didn’t decide on a major until my sophomore year of college. I took an introductory coding class, along with a 3D printing class, my first year of college. In the 3D printing class, we integrated Arduino boards with the models we printed – my coolest feat was printing our school mascot, the Demon Deacon. I programmed it to wave its arm on a motor controlled by the Arduino board and sing our fight song. I was able to see the direct impact code had on something physical and wanted to continue learning from there. I graduated in 2017 from Wake Forest University with a B.S. in Computer Science.
In my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to be an intern in the technology sector of a large bank. In the internship, I worked internally and mostly individually to automate scorecard reporting using Excel and VBA. I liked the concept of using code to automate otherwise-manual tasks, but I really didn’t enjoy the lack of collaboration and communication the role entailed and wanted to work somewhere that was at the forefront of technology and was constantly evolving.
Through my internship and many different projects in school, I learned a lot about effective communication and problem solving and how to partner with others to accomplish tasks. I learned a lot about my particular skill sets, but also a lot about my shortcomings and what wasn’t interesting to me. I learned that I’m personable and enjoy communication, partnerships, puzzles, and problem solving but don’t necessarily like to work at a screen all day. This helped me determine that I wanted to work hands-on with customers and help come up with technical solutions to their problems or goals. Internships and school projects are a great way to learn what part of the computer science industry you enjoy and remember; you don’t have to like every computer science job out there to like computer science. Be open to different possibilities.
In my current role I manage a team of technical account managers (TAMs) for the company Tableau. Tableau is a leading analytics platform that helps people see and understand data. Tableau is a part of Salesforce which provides a customer relationship management platform allowing for a single shared view of customer data. TAMs serve as the customer’s trusted Tableau advisor to Premium Support customers. TAMs identify and address technical concerns, requests, and align to customer priorities, projects, and problems with our products. They bring senior-level technical expertise and act as the primary technical point of contact for the account by coordinating with Product Management, Sales, Technical Support, and Engineering to manage the customer relationship. Prior to taking a management role, I was a technical account manager; now I assist in the hiring, managing, and developing of my team of TAMs. I work to drive customer satisfaction through consistent success of my team members, ensuring customer objectives are met and my team is equipped with the knowledge, bandwidth, and resources to be as successful as possible.
I interact with just about every role in the sales and product cycle on a daily basis. I partner with our sales teams, including account executives, solutions engineers, and customer success managers to help manage the customer relationship, ensure the customer is seeing value in our products, and working to increase adoption of the product. I work with product managers and developers to help educate our customers on new or upcoming features, get their input on feature requests, or discuss product defects that may need developer assistance. I interact with customers to understand their goals and desires with the premium program and Tableau as a whole and work with them to make sure their environments are built, optimized, and scaled for their goals whether that’s user/content growth, improved performance, etc.
I recently planned, coordinated, and executed on a pilot project that allowed for greater partnerships between developers and support engineers. The goal was to have developers shadow customer support calls to get a deeper understanding of the pain points customers experience when administering and supporting our products.
I think it’s cool that Salesforce uses their own products internally for our everyday work. It really helps me see the value and gain a deeper understanding of the products we produce and support. I use Tableau for a lot of reporting on various tasks within my team and information about my customers. We use Salesforce to manage support cases. We also own Slack and use it as our digital HQ to communicate efficiently and effectively with our teams and customers (and throw in lots of gifs and emojis for good measure).
My favorite part of computer science is the feeling of solving a problem end-to-end. Through computer science, I can think of ideas that solve problems, design possible solutions, and then implement those solutions. My advice to anyone who thinks computer science sounds interesting is to just try an intro class your first year of college and see how you like it. Also, keep in mind that not all computer science majors have to end up being a software developer or product manager. There are plenty of technical paths you can pursue and plenty of different industries you can work in with the backing of a computer science degree. I highly recommend informational interviews with people in various roles you may be interested in – you can learn a lot about what you do or don’t like from hearing what someone does in their day-to-day work life.
Rebekah shared some amazing insight into her career in computer science, but some of you may be wondering what is the difference between computer science (CS) and computer engineering (CE)? First, both CE and CS are technology centric fields orientated around computers and information systems. CS and CE majors both learn coding languages and often CS and CE majors work together in the technology field after graduation. Computer Engineering tends to focus more on computer hardware and design and the electrical systems integrated with them. Computer Science tends to focus more on programming languages, data analytics, networks, cyber security, operating systems.
A great place to learn more about computer science or computer engineering is during college open houses. At that time, you’ll have the opportunity to speak to students and staff for each major and they can provide more insight. Another good opportunity is through the STEM Pathways “Introduction to Computer Science and Software Engineering” free online course, or during SWENext events where professional SWE members are happy to share all about their careers!