Spectra Meets: Suet Lee

NAME: Suet Lee

EDUCATION: Imperial College London

JOB TITLE: Software Developer at Expedian


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Describe yourself in 3 words.

Creative, optimistic, problem-solver.

What’s your story?

I studied mathematics at Imperial College London with a year abroad in France. I’m now a software developer working on a social media advertising tool. Previously I worked at a small web development company and it was there that I really got started in the world of tech.

My dad is also a developer so I grew up with a lot of programming books in the house, not to say that I actually read any but it did mean that the tech world wasn’t so alien to me. When it came to choosing a degree, I was stubborn though and wanted to do something that wasn’t expected of me. So I never considered a degree in computer science, and at the time I was actually torn between art and science. In the end, I decided on mathematics because I loved the logic, and I was good at it!.

At university, I did some computing modules which gave me coding experience and in my final year, I took a course in C. However, I still didn’t really understand how to build something that could actually be used in the real world. I had only written programs to solve mathematical problems up to this point.

When I started working in web development, I discovered the creative side of building something for people to use. Moving forwards, I’m keen to continue developing my skills. I think tech is such an exciting sector to be working in. There are so many possibilities – you could be making an app with a positive social impact for instance. And the web is a massive platform for information and data, it’s really up to you to be creative and produce something tangible and meaningful from it 🙂

We live in a world where there are not enough women in tech. What got you into Software Development?

I grew up with traditional Chinese parents who made sure that I studied hard and got good grades. For them, and therefore for me, it was only natural that science and technology were part of my studies. These were not subjects only for boys. Looking back, I’m appreciative that I was never made to feel that science and technology were beyond my reach as a young girl unsure of what she wanted to pursue. In secondary school, I had teachers who were strong role models, who encouraged us as students to learn without limits.

Now I can’t say that software development has been my lifelong dream since childhood. I did choose to study mathematics, not computer science, at university. But I think there is a massive overlap in the two fields. It was during my degree that I learned to code – first with maths based tools like Maple and Matlab, and later C.

I found that the world of tech had much of what I was looking for in a career – problem solving, challenging projects and continuous learning. It was then, towards the end of my degree, that I decided to pursue software development as a career.

What does your job entail on a day to day basis?

I am a full-stack developer which means that I deal with the backend infrastructure of the code as well as the front-end user interface and visual elements. We use a ticketing system in our team to flag bugs and spec new features. As a new member of the team, I am learning the system through working on the tickets assigned to me and that ranges from fixing bugs to building new features for the product – it’s the best way to learn!

What do you like the most about what you do? 

I like being able to solve problems and think logically. But I also like how I can create a product for people to use – you get instant feedback from the users which you then use to improve the product further. I also feel there’s a creative element to coding because there are so many ways of doing the same thing, sometimes you have to think creatively to find the most efficient or elegant solution to the problem.

What are you passionate about?

I’m interested in how tech can build social platforms to support communities and solve problems. We are now more connected than ever before through social media and apps, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. On the one hand, social media is being blamed for creating echo chambers and the rise of fake news. But I also think tech is just a tool and it’s how people use it that matters. Maybe we need a different kind of social media, one that isn’t focused on the individual but is based around communities. I watched a great TED talk recently about an app that encourages people to pick up litter (https://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_kirschner_this_app_makes_it_fun_to_pick_up_litter). That’s the kind of project that I’d like to work on.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’ll have some solid experience in software development by then (hopefully) and I’d like to be working on inspiring projects. Maybe I’ll be CTO of a startup, who knows. I feel like there’s a bit of a startup bubble. As long as I have a good team working on something that matters I’ll be happy.

What’s your proudest moment?

At the first hackathon I went to, my team won. It was a little unexpected because there were some really good ideas from the other teams but also very satisfying because we had worked so hard – some of us (myself included) stayed over two nights running!

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

There’s a filmmaking group called Wong Fu Productions that I discovered through youtube. The members are Asian American and many of their videos are made from this perspective so I can relate well. One of the members gave a commencement speech where he said “ I didn’t chase my passion, but I became passionate about what I chased”. I think there is a lot of truth in this, it resonates with me because sometimes I don’t know what to pursue out of the many things I love. But I think it’s true that as long as you work hard at the task in hand and you are moving towards a goal then you will do well. (The whole speech is really great actually, both funny and inspiring https://wongfuphil.wordpress.com/tag/commencement-speech/)

What message/tips would you like to give to young women interested in tech?

  • There are a lot of online resources to get you started, even if you have no experience in coding. Codecademy (https://www.codecademy.com/) is free and has tutorials for a wide range of languages
  • Attend coding courses in your area. Code First: Girls run free courses around the country
  • Talk to people working in tech and find out about the types of roles in the industry. Meetup groups are a good place to meet tech people! Women Who Code (https://www.womenwhocode.com/) host many talks and events, the community is very supportive and welcoming
  • Look out for work experience/internship opportunities, Work In Startups (http://workinstartups.com/) is a good place to look
  • Go to hackathons: don’t worry about not having experience in coding, tech people are generally a friendly bunch and it’s actually a good way to learn from more experienced developers. Plus, many are free events with food and drink included. You might even win something nice.. ! (https://www.meetup.com/UK-Hackathons-and-Jams/)

Suet is an amazing developer and I am glad to count her among my friends (Asta talking here). If you want to find out more about tech and what being a developer is all about, let us know and we will put you in touch with Suet!

If you want to share your story with Spectra and be featured in #spectrameets, please go here!

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