As a professional, the goal in any given field is to continue to grow throughout one’s career. Although it is challenging to do so, it is possible, and Grace Tang proves just that. Grace has been at LinkedIn for 7 years, and for the past 2 years, she has served as a Senior Staff Machine Learning Engineer on their Trust Data team, which works to defend the platform from abusive behavior, such as harassment. Grace started as a Junior Engineer and worked her way up to become the tech lead for the Trust Data team.
Day-to-day, this means that I’m frequently meeting with partner teams because you can’t solve these problems in isolation. You have to work with a variety of stakeholders to understand the problem, come up with solutions, and implement them. Throughout the week, I am also writing, reading, and editing many technical documents to effectively communicate the issues and solutions.”
As technology continues to evolve, and we see so much interest in the field, it’s important to acknowledge the various points of entry into roles that are a part of the technology field. Grace is a perfect example of a professional who started by writing code and has expanded into a broader scope of the technological spectrum that includes ideation and solution-driving programs.
Grace: I started out being very hands-on, writing code, building models, and analyzing data. In a lot of tech roles at LinkedIn, especially entry-level roles, you start with technical programming. As you progress in your career, you start working on bigger and more complex projects. Basically, your assignments go from, “I need you to implement this solution” to “how do you fix this issue” and you are responsible for giving clarity to the problem and then coming up with the technical solution and evangelizing it to stakeholders.
Grace: I studied bioengineering in school. I was focused on drug discovery, and I decided to transition into tech rather than stay in academia or work for a biotech company.
Although Grace recognizes that it has not been an easy transition, she believes that people who are truly interested in working in tech can make that transition seamlessly if done the right way. Upon earning her degree in bioengineering, the natural progression of her career would have been to go work for a biotech company, but she decided that she wanted more for her life. She wanted to experience a different challenge, specifically within the tech industry, which led to her career journey at LinkedIn.
Grace: If you’re already at the point of graduating and interested in transitioning into tech, I would recommend an engineering boot camp. I went to a boot camp where they have partnerships with companies, so after you complete the boot camp, they will put you in contact with recruiters. The boot camp was helpful for me because I learned how to translate what I knew into what those companies needed. The boot camp also helped me identify the right language to use when communicating a solution. For example, the industry term “A/B testing” was a phrase I never encountered in graduate school even though I was very familiar with running control/treatment experiments. A lot of times, people have the right answer, but they aren’t using the right language to deliver it.
Grace: I don’t think mentorship is essential to be successful in your career, but I do think it can be helpful. I’ve had periods in my career where I had the support of mentors and times when I was doing things on my own. Mentorship has helped me identify my weaknesses better. I try my best to self-evaluate, but sometimes it’s easier to have a third-party there to observe you. I think having a mentor can accelerate those discoveries about where you need to grow in order to reach that next step. I’ve also had mentors that were my sounding board for new ideas and subsequently supported me in pursuing them.
Grace: Know what you want from your mentor. When I was looking for mentorship, I knew I was looking for someone to help me identify my weaknesses. I think step one is talking to your manager to identify suitable mentors. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to these folks, you can ask your manager to do it for you. On the other hand, I’ve also been in a situation where I was speaking on a panel, and someone reached out to me and told me that my answers really resonated with them and asked if I could mentor them. I prefer when mentees directly approach me as it shows initiative.
Grace: One key reason for representation is centered around the fact that we need diverse perspectives because we are building a global platform that is being used by people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. On a personal level, as a woman, I do feel like there are a lot of expectations of me when I’m presenting or present at a meeting. When I see someone like me in the room, it sort of takes that pressure off of me having to deliver to perfection. I like to compare it to attending a meeting as the sole representative of your team versus being one of many. In the latter case, if you fall short a little bit, you have team members to back you up. However, when you’re the only one representing your team or your gender, the stakes are or at least feel higher.
Research shows that most people who are seeking mentorship, are looking for leaders that come from similar racial and economic backgrounds. It gives them a certain level of comfort to speak freely and learn more effectively, which is why representation is super important, especially in the tech industry, which is predominantly occupied by White males.
Grace: Personally, I really connect with LinkedIn’s vision, which is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. Furthermore, LinkedIn strives to ensure the safety of members using the platform, something I value highly.
If you are interested in learning about opportunities at LinkedIn, check out their open roles, here.