Engineering and Product
Lisa Quayle, Co-Head of Engineering at Joyous
Lisa shares wonderful insight into how a love for computer games and a fear of public speaking made Computer Science the obvious option. She also shares with us how she struggled with imposter syndrome working in a typically male-dominated profession and how she turned that into a real point of difference. Thanks for sharing Lisa.
Firstly, how would you explain to a five year old what it is you do?
I look after a team who are working together to make software. Our software is used by people at work to have conversations. These conversations then lead to changes which makes work better for themselves and others around them.
Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was a kid. I was never one of those kids who had an answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. It wasn’t until I started university that I knew that I wanted to have a career in tech.
“I landed on Computer Science through a mixture of my enjoyment of computer games, and learning that an Economics degree would involve public speaking”
Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at Joyous?
My career in tech began with knowing that I wanted to go to university after school, and flicking through the list of degrees, crossing them off until I ended up with two options: Economics or Computer Science. I landed on Computer Science through a mixture of my enjoyment of computer games, and learning that an Economics degree would involve public speaking.
The only code I had written prior to starting university was a few very basic HTML pages. When I started in my first computer science paper, I was a bit daunted by all the guys who had taken the opportunity to start coding in high school, as they already seemed to know so much. I clearly remember the moment that the marks for the first assignment were put up on the wall of the computer lab, and there was my ID number ranked third in the class. That was when I realised that I could learn everything I needed to know from the course and it gave me a lot more confidence.
In my final year at university I got a bit lucky with finding my graduate role as a software developer through a friend. I had no idea how to go about finding a job or what companies I should be looking at.
I started at Orion Health in their graduate intake. Orion had a great culture and I really enjoyed working on software that was helping people and making a difference. The product I worked on had been around for a while so I learned a lot about debugging and diagnosing issues, and it set me up with a good foundation of what to do and not to do when creating software. Developers who only write new code don’t get the opportunity to learn about maintainability and the long term impacts of technical decisions.
“I found myself a young female senior in a wider team of older male seniors and it took some time to really find my confidence”
At Orion Health I progressed pretty quickly in my career. After only three and a half years I became a senior developer. This was great and scary at the same time. I found myself a young female senior in a wider team of older male seniors and it took some time to really find my confidence. I struggled with impostor syndrome during this time which was difficult, and it took a few more years for me to really understand that not fitting into a typical developer stereotype was a strength rather than a weakness.
Following Orion Health I moved to Leafnode and then Spark Ventures. From there I ended up at Joyous after being sought out by the two founders. One of the reasons I stood out for the Joyous role was my involvement in Code Club Aotearoa - which is a volunteer led organisation running coding clubs for kids. I was involved in the first Auckland Code Club and then went on to start one up at Spark. Another reason I stood out was my grades back in university, despite it being so long ago! Employers do look at this so it’s worthwhile giving tertiary education your best efforts as it will pay off long term.
Can you share some more insight into what that transition was like?
Taking the role at Joyous was a bit of a leap of faith! I was the first employee they signed and I’ve been leading the engineering team since then. It was in some ways a bit of a blank slate, a great opportunity for me to get a team up and running with core values that I hold strongly, like collaboration, openness, quality and making a difference.
What is it specifically that you like about working Joyous relative to your past jobs?
It's a very different role to my past jobs. In this role I’m able to grow with the business as it scales and faces new challenges. I’ve gone on a journey from developer to team lead to Head of Engineering, and in some ways it still feels like the beginning. I love the culture that we have and the people I’m working with.
Have you done anything unique in the past to get the attention of an employer or seen others that have been creative in this regard?
The key thing is to have a bit of ‘interesting factor’. This looks different for everyone. For me it was my involvement in volunteering, for others it can be a previous career path they had, or an interesting major in university. It could even be the project you did during a gap year. It’s great if you can find something that makes you stand out - particularly if it shows key traits employers are after, like self-motivation, dedication or creativity.
Do you have any advice for people considering tech as a career path and how they might get there quicker?
Getting involved with groups within tech to start making contacts in the space. For example, we had a number of university students volunteer at the Code Clubs I was part of. This gave them something great for their CV, but also meant they were meeting people like me who were already in the industry. So often it’s who you know that can lead to your next opportunity.
What gets you excited about working at Joyous?
We’re developing a product that has the ability to help so many people by making their lives better at work. Work is a huge part of where we spend our time, and to be able to make a meaningful difference is really rewarding. It’s pretty special to be part of something with so much potential.
“We’re looking for people motivated to make a difference and keen for a challenge”
Lastly, Joyous continues to evolve. What kind of candidates do you think Joyous is looking for in terms of experience, attitude and character?
We’re looking for people motivated to make a difference and keen for a challenge. They should be excited by change and iteratively making things better. They should be motivated to solve hard problems and love collaborating with others to do so. In terms of experience, we usually find that attitude and character are more important. As we continue to grow, we’ll be after people with a range of experience levels and diverse backgrounds.