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  • Elsie Russell

FinTech Female Fridays: Chloe Chong, Software Engineer, Handy HQ

"It is never too late to switch careers if you really want to. I don’t believe that you have to love what you do to be good at it, but you do have to be constantly stimulated and challenged to stay motivated."


Can you tell us about your current role as a software engineer at Handy HQ?

Handy is an online platform that connects individuals with prescreened, independent service professionals for cleaning and other home services. Software engineering teams at Handy are split according to business teams, as opposed to frontend and backend engineering teams. I currently work on the Partnerships team, our partnerships business allows customers to book a Handy service directly with their purchase on a partner platform (such as Wayfair, Costco, Airbnb, and Lowes).

As a software engineer, I work with product managers and business owners to understand the product we want to build and why, and design extensible, reusable solutions. I am responsible for building, testing, and maintaining the feature, as well as tracking its health via building dashboards to view metrics. Additionally, I am on a weekly rotation, where engineers take turns to be ‘on-call’ to check the health of the application, answering and resolving any errors or attacks, while keeping the platform available with minimal disruption.

Your background is one of an attorney with a variety of experience in the law field. Can you tell us more about what made you pivot your career into software engineering?

I’ve always been a logical thinker and have found beauty in the law with its different interpretations, which allowed for creativity in arguments. However, I was seeking more opportunities to be creative, and wanted faster results from my work, as legal cases take years to close.

Software engineering was a natural choice, as it requires attention to detail, precision, and focus. It allows for creativity when designing interfaces and even stylistic choices in how to write and organize code. Building these systems provided much quicker results, with clear metrics for me to see exactly when and how the system was being used. Additionally, I wanted to be able to switch careers without the need of another 3-4 years of education, but also gain a skill set that would make me marketable globally.

What difficulties did you face making a complete career switch? Can you describe the experience?

It was a leap of faith to quit my legal job and spend $15,000 to attend a coding bootcamp for 3 months. Although there were many reviews and testimonials of people that had successfully made the switch, it was still daunting and I knew the market was getting saturated as more and more coding bootcamps popped up with students graduating each month.

After completing the bootcamp I didn’t have a hard time getting interviews, but rather getting employers to be interested in me as a software engineer and not an attorney. As the months passed by, it became increasingly difficult to turn down offers of hybrid roles. I’m glad I continued searching until I found a job that really allowed me to develop as an engineer.

What are some skills you were able to transfer when you made the career switch?

Logical thinking and reasoning, speed reading, and the ability to digest a lot of information and present it in a simpler, easier to understand format. Contrary to what I initially thought, software engineering isn’t all coding all the time. A lot of time is spent on reading and understanding existing code. Having read lots of long winded legal documents definitely helped me navigate what we call ‘spaghetti code’ a lot easier! I also spend a lot of time working with different stakeholders to make good tradeoffs for the final product. Having worked with clients as a lawyer helped me see the needs of the different stakeholders of a feature.

Another aspect of software engineering is research, software engineers often have to research different methods and tools that can be used for their feature, and teach themselves how to use the tool and extract what’s needed for the project.

How did you learn how to code and to use different computer languages? Are some of the languages similar?

I taught myself HTML and JavaScript in middle school, later on I was prompted to try some of the many free courses online that can help you get started. I referenced codecademy and official documentation for the different languages. I then attended a coding bootcamp that taught one language – JavaScript. There are a lot of similarities across languages, it is helpful to think of them as concepts instead of strictly separate languages. I mainly use Ruby at my current job, although the bootcamp I attended only taught JavaScript. By reading existing code and documentation, I could quickly start developing in Ruby and provide value to the company.

What are some developments on the intersection of law and technology that you have found interesting?

I still keep my New York Bar License active and try to keep up to date with the latest in legal affairs. One issue I find interesting is compliance and security. Almost everything anyone does online is being tracked and saved, which brings up the problem of personal data. How do companies make sure they are building secure platforms with proper traceability and in compliance with different security and data protection laws? The law is always slower in changing to match the current society, so security is a big component in designing systems, especially ensuring there is a backwards audit trail.

Reach out to Chloe on Linkedin.

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