Cathy Song is a Senior DevOps Engineer who's been with X-Team since July 2019. She lives in San Diego and gives us some insight into how she became a remote programmer.

Hi Cathy, thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Let me start by asking what motivated you to get into programming initially?

I still remember copying and pasting snippets of CSS and javascript widgets onto my Neopets user profile to add some animated fairies to my otherwise plain white background. I was probably around 10 at the time, more concerned about increasing viewers to my Neopets page, and had no idea that programming would become my career path. It's funny looking back at how my interest in programming was initially sparked by this online children's game.

Growing up, I've always had an interest in math and science, but never had any exposure to programming. There were no programming classes in my high school, and I actually entered college as a business major. However, during my first semester in college, I took my first formal programming course and immediately became hooked. I enjoyed it so much that I continued taking computer science classes. I switched majors to electrical and computer engineering, where I continued to deep dive into both computer science fundamentals and low-level embedded systems engineering.

To me, programming is an incredible tool that has immense power to change the world for good. There are literally infinite ways to unleash programming and tech to improve the lives of people around us, so I am driven by this mission to improve society.

“I want to leverage the skills, blessing, and opportunities that I'm given to help others in a way that creates a ripple effect on society.”

How did that lead to DevOps engineering?

I'm actually relatively new to DevOps, and my current role in X-Team is my first DevOps gig in the 5+ years I've been a developer. Previously, I've primarily focused on writing code, both frontend and backend, more so than architecting and implementing the infrastructure and pipelines used to deploy the code.

In my last two roles, I've shifted more towards working with AWS and leveraging various cloud services to deploy our apps. I've begun to develop an interest in architecting systems and seeing the big picture, rather than just pure coding. Naturally, this transitioned to an interest in DevOps, since DevOps engineering involves having a vast knowledge of different technologies and tools, deployment strategies, and a more encompassing understanding of software engineering.

Since joining X-Team mid-2019, I've been learning a lot from my fellow X-Teamers. I gained a new appreciation for best software engineering practices, designing, implementing scalable and resilient systems, and the rabbit hole that is DevOps.

What's your favorite memory or favorite project working as a DevOps engineer (or as a programmer in general)?

Although I've had plenty of favorite memories working with wonderful people on cool projects, I'd probably say that my favorite experience was delivering a fully functional web app after my first software internship. I had only taken two programming classes at the time, and got the opportunity to work for a small consulting firm that worked for the Department of Defense.

Learning programming in a classroom setting was completely different from working on a real project that would be used by the military. It was my first time working with NodeJS and React on a real product, and coming in with minimal JavaScript experience was a challenge. However, with excellent mentorship and plenty of trial and error, I was able to implement some front-end components and build a RESTful API for this web app, and then go on to present the app in front of stakeholders.

“There are literally infinite ways to unleash programming and tech to improve the lives of people around us, so I am driven by the mission to improve society.”

Let's talk about remote working. Everyone has different reasons to work remotely. Why do you work remotely?

There are so many reasons why I love working remotely. I love the flexibility, not having to sit in traffic, not being told to show up to an office 9 to 5 five days a week, and the sheer freedom of being able to work from wherever I want. I can do things like surf in the morning (waves, not the Internet), go home and shower, jump on a meeting in my living room, cook lunch, and work out of a coffee shop.

I can travel freely, without being tied down to a location. I can set my own schedule, and optimize my working hours to produce the best work possible. I don't operate well in eight straight work hours. Being able to break down the day in chunks helps me be more productive and get more done.

Cathy is one of X-Team's Senior DevOps Engineers

Tell me about your favorite place to work from.

I usually work at my desk from my apartment, but I enjoy checking out local coffee shops in the San Diego area. One particular coffee shop that I enjoy working from is Philz Coffee (best coffee in San Diego!). I still haven't tried working from the beach yet, but that sounds like a fun place to work on occasion.

What's your routine for staying productive?

For me, staying productive involves setting a routine and staying active. I believe that mental and physical health are closely tied together, so when I take care of my body, I take care of my mind. I usually start my early mornings with either surfing or lifting at the gym, which helps clear my mind and kickstart my day. Refreshed after the workout, I then get started with my workday. I usually take a lot of notes and make to-do lists, so that helps me stay organized and productive.

Finally, what dent do you want to leave in the world?

I want to leave the world a slightly better place than when I entered it. I want to leverage the skills, blessings, and opportunities that I'm given to help others in a way that creates a ripple effect on society. I am very committed to self-improvement, self-growth, and helping others, so every day I try to be a better person, and hopefully my drive to be better and do better spreads to others too.

That's awesome. Thank you so much for your time.