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  • CNgai

3 Years at PayPal! 🎉

Intention: In honor of my 3 year anniversary at PayPal, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on what I’ve learned in this past career year. This also doubles as a mid-year reflection which is awesome!

Lean into your curiosities.

Last winter, my team collaborated with one of the front end teams to produce the user experience for the 3/2 Cashback credit card. It was amazing to see the coordination between what features each team implemented and the different entities involved such as legal, product, user experience design, front-tier/mid-tier tech leads, etc. While coding the auto pay feature, I realized how satisfying it was to create a meaningful experience that customers directly interacted with. I now understood the why behind what we've been building. As a result, my curiosity grew about the front -tier tech lead and product management roles and as a whole, how all of these teams worked together to produce a digital product.

Build on your existing network.

This realization of why along with the curiosity of different roles prompted me to transition into a full stack software engineering role within PayPal. I did not want to lose the network that I had built so far as each person I’ve worked with at PayPal has been so helpful, humble, and multi-talented. When I had transferred to my new team in Feb 2022, some of our products called the services owned by my previous team. As a result, I still occasionally work with my previous team and I could not have been more grateful for the time that I spent collaborating with them as they’re also a rockstar team of engineers!

Another example of building on my existing network was when I re-connected with an engineer who I had worked with when I first joined (as I initially started out in the CUE domain and now came back to the same domain). I was able to learn about another credit product within the PayPal Credit ecosystem from this engineer and exchange about the credit product that I've been working on as well! Overall, I’m quite thankful for the time that each person I’ve worked with has taken to share the knowledge that they’ve gathered for the sake of the bigger picture which is working together as one team.

Push yourself outside your comfort zone.

Piet Mondrian’s Lozenge Composition with Yellow, Black, Blue, Red and Gray, 1921, Art Institute of Chicago

Last year, the majority of my work had been in back-end development with the tech stack of Java, Spring, and SQL. I had gained experience in the areas of triaging live support issues, working with our DBA teams, and creating new endpoints for new/existing micro-services. When reflecting on my 2021 year, I realized that my strengths and contributions had mostly been in front-end development. This included a collaboration project and our team's internal tool with the tech stack of React, Node, and GraphQL. These contributions also felt more rewarding. Now that I had a stronger understanding in the back-end, (which I had first deemed as an area of improvement for me) I was ready to capitalize on my strengths and do more in the user experience area.

Fast-forward to Feb 2022, during the interview process with other teams, one of the hiring managers asked me, “What are you interested in working on?”. This was such a great and meaningful question because it prompted me to actualize my interests which are: growth in both software engineering (focusing on full stack) and the team I work with, tech leadership, and learning more about the business and product requirements that give engineering a strong direction. While interviewing with this same team, I also got to exchange with both the Director and Sr. Director, who I currently have monthly 1:1s with, and learn more about the direction of the Buy Now Pay Later products. I truly value the flat hierarchy of this team especially because not only do we get to learn from each other but we can also tackle the problems that happen at the ground-level and create solutions that can benefit all of the teams within the org.

The importance of mentorship.

Chicago Women's Park & Garden Fountain

I find 1:1s so valuable because it’s dedicated time where you get to exchange with and learn from another human who comes from a different background, different/similar experiences, and different/same career. My team also places an emphasis on diversity and growing women in tech (which I truly appreciate!). In these past six months, I’ve been connecting with leaders from areas such as Program Management, Product Management, and Analytics Management. Within the area of Program Management, I’ve gotten to learn more about the orchestration of people, tasks, and projects along with what it takes to plan, execute, and host a virtual 3-day global conference for recent college graduates. Within Product Management, I’ve learned about the AARM Method™ as well as the Product Development Lifecycle phases. Within Analytics Management, I’ve learned about auditing and merchant pricing analytics. I’ve also gotten to learn from my teammates in terms of standardizing CSS padding/margin, maintaining the focus of what we’re building so that we don’t create waste, and how merchants work with our teams to offer Buy Now Pay Later products.

An additional tip that I've learned about mentorship is asking my mentors, "Is there anything that you feel I could help with?" This question has allowed me to also be a resource for them that they can count on. By understanding what issues that my mentors face, I can also help as a sounding board. I've also kept these issues in mind in case I can help play a part from either a peer, individual contributor, or tech lead perspective.

Give back and in turn, receive an abundance.

In addition to having wonderful mentors, it's just as important to give back as a peer-to-peer mentor because you can achieve great heights in your career AND create success for others along the way. We've been looking to expand our team and I got the opportunity to conduct technical interviews. Each interview has been different and I've learned that there's so many different solutions to one problem - which is fascinating! I've been able to gain insight into how different engineers think based on their experiences. I've also been able to understand the importance of software engineering fundamentals and how peer programming can provide a sense of teamwork.

A moment that stood out to me was when a candidate was blanking on how to answer the question. Instead of ending the interview there, I saw this as an opportunity to help the candidate gain more by sharing my thought-process (which is what we ask of the candidates). I asked the candidate, "Would you be open to walking through a potential solution of the question?" to which they replied "Yes, please!". As a result, the candidate was very appreciative and open to both advice and feedback. I even learned more about my thought-process and about where a candidate can get stuck implementation-wise.

In addition to interviewing, this summer, I have had the honor of taking on 3 interns who are in the areas of Marketing Strategy, Compliance Platform, and Fraud Risk as part of PayPal's Recent Graduate/Intern buddy program. Each intern has come from a varied background ranging from business to software engineering and from a rising Sophomore to pursuing a Master's with a couple years of industry experience. I've also had 1:1s with other interns who have reached out from LinkedIn, I've worked with last summer, or who are on my team. I'm able to learn from them just as much as they are able to learn from me.

Get 360 feedback from your trusted peers, mentors, and friends.

Change is constant. On my new team, I took on the Scrum leader role and with the help of the team, reduced our combined Sprint Review, Grooming, and Retro ceremony meeting time from 2 hours to separate meetings ranging from 30 mins to 1 hour. Throughout this process, it was important to discuss with the team and get their thoughts on how we could best go about separating these meetings, how long, and scheduling what day(s). A team member also suggested rotating the Scrum leader role so that everyone could get the opportunity. This was a great suggestion as I also had this role on my previous team and would love to share this knowledge and experience.

Another change that happened was that we ended up splitting the team of 8 engineers into two teams based on the projects and what each member was working on. Despite the split, we're still essentially one team in terms of sharing ideas, dev suggestions, and collaboration as we're working on the same code repositories.

We also started utilizing our internal employee feedback tool to provide feedback that's strictly between you and the reviewer. I feel this is a great way to help understand what has been going well, what hasn't been going well, and areas that I could make more of an impact on. The feedback also gives me exposure to potential blind spots that I can work on. I'm also thankful to work with such great team members as each has provided both positive and constructive feedback which is crucial to my growth.

Draw on your past experience.

Senju's Waterfall for Chicago - The Art Institute of Chicago

There were a few days in these past couple months where I had done a bit of everything that I had learned over the course of 3 years. On a Monday, just after a long weekend thanks to a Wellness Day, I worked with a new hire to request admin access (Onboarding ✔️). Next, I helped configure financing options for a test credit merchant with a teammate from my previous team (Working with financial micro-services ✔️). This configuration was also done via the internal credit admin tool (Internship project ✔️). Afterwards, I planned a fun CodeNames event with my talented Recent Graduate committee members (Recent College Graduate ✔️). Lastly, to complete the work day, I wrote unit tests for a feature within our internal offer configuration tool (Full stack software engineering ✔️).


When reflecting on my 3rd year at PayPal, I'm grateful that I get to work with such phenomenal team members, have such supportive people managers (both past and present!), and have an abundance of mentors. I'm incredibly thankful for the different opportunities that allow you to grow in numerous areas such as engineering, business, and leadership. I tend to think about the different paths I could have taken and realize that this transition was meant to be as I'm able to expand my existing network and build upon the previous knowledge that I've gained in both the PayPal-ecosystem and software engineering in general. I still have so much to learn and I'm excited to see how this journey continues.

Thank you for taking the time to read! 🙇🏻‍♀️

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