Think Big

Kate Walters: From Law to Tech

BigCommerce is made of diverse employees who together build an online e-commerce platform helping anyone anywhere in the world realize their dreams. Our people come from all walks of life, none a straight line, no path the same. Our strengths are in the stories that stretch out behind us, and how those lessons of yesterday make us better today and tomorrow.

These are our origin stories.

At graduation from bootcamp
My introduction into development was not a straight path nor a traditional one, but I believe there is value in working with people of all sorts of backgrounds.

When I was a kid, I had a lot of ideas of what I wanted to be when I grew up: a veterinarian, a novelist, and Britney Spears were at the top of the list. While I enjoyed playing around on the computer and even taking apart old keyboards to see how they worked (with parental permission, of course), I wasn't introduced to the big, wide world of software development until a few years after I graduated college. I started my career believing I would be a lawyer, as finding loopholes and paying attention to detail are some of my strong suits.

Fast forward one Bachelor's degree in Communication, several visits to law schools, and two weeks working as a paralegal at a law office before I left. As an interim while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, I found myself working in customer service answering phone calls at a tech company in Austin. Part of my job was making small changes in HTML and CSS to customer websites and creating tickets for Ruby errors in our app. This turned into my favorite part of the job, and I would work on coding tutorials in between taking phone calls and jumping on the tickets that required code updates. I made friends with a lot of the engineering team and learned about coding bootcamp from a few of the junior developers there. After a couple of weeks of debating myself and a gentle push from my partner, I submitted an application.

http://kate-walters.github.io

It took twelve weeks of nonstop hard work and three presentations of an app I built in two weeks, and I had the building blocks to be a software developer. I was soon to discover that my newfound knowledge was nowhere near scratching the surface of all the things I could do, but I landed my first job a few months later. There was a steep learning curve, but with the help of my manager and the contractors I worked closely with in Costa Rica, I was able to keep my head above water as the pieces started falling into place. I worked on refactoring our main api and was part of the effort to speed up the load time of a major landing page from 12 seconds to 4 seconds (on average). I won a hackathon writing a Google script that sent out budget reminders via a Slack bot, and they even let me make changes in the production database. (yikes!)

At BigCommerce, I've been able to further the skills I started to hone at my first job. Since joining the engineering team back in March, I've played a part in delivering two highly anticipated payment gateways and have pivoted to a new team that is building out a new service that will make it easy for partners to offer BigCommerce stores to their merchants. Not bad for a failed lawyer-to-be.

My most notable moment where my non-traditional background came into play was onboarding a new team member. We went through the API docs as external developers (https://developer.bigcommerce.com/), and built an app that used our APIs. We presented our findings to people from a few different teams, which included a lot of critiquing. Thanks to my experience working in customer service, it was easy to step back and put myself in a developer's shoes who wouldn't have any background knowledge of our system. It helped me pick apart things that might be confusing or provide a less than stellar experience. My learnings while studying communication in college helped to frame pain points in a productive way that facilitated lots of nodding and consensus around the room, rather than finger pointing. Empathy and communication were key in not only doing the project justice and presenting the findings in a helpful way, but it also got the ball rolling on improvements and even generated further ideas.

I learn something new every day from people who have gotten CS degrees, people who taught themselves to code in elementary school, people who learned on accident and people who had entirely different careers before stumbling into tech (like me).

My introduction into development was not a straight path nor a traditional one, but I believe there is value in working with people of all sorts of backgrounds. I've used my experience working in customer service to cultivate empathy with customers and my teammates, and the tactics I picked up working toward my college degree to more effectively communicate with my team in technical and nontechnical ways. I learn something new every day from people who have gotten CS degrees, people who taught themselves to code in elementary school, people who learned on accident and people who had entirely different careers before stumbling into tech (like me). With our combined abilities, we can solve all sorts of issues in innovative ways thanks to our collective experience.

There is power in diversity.

Origin Stories is a special series about the people of BigCommerce Product and Engineering. Twice a month we ask a BC-er, “How did you get here, from where? What’s your origin story?”

Every day I WFH

Kate Walters

I have an obsession with figuring out the answer to weird problems and a need for my code to be as readable by the average human as possible. I regularly pay too much for fancy coffee.

place Austin. TX link http://kate-walters.github.io create