Shirlette is a Cloud Software Engineer based in Philadelphia, who began her career as a math teacher. She’s also co-lead for the BENgineers, an offshoot of our Black Employee Network ERG.
How did you get into software engineering?
After eight years teaching math and getting my master’s degree in education, I got to a crossroad in my career where I couldn’t honestly answer whether teaching was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. After seeing a Facebook post about learning the programming languages Python and Ruby on Rails, I enrolled in an immersive coding course. With a nontraditional background and no degree or contacts in the field, it had never really dawned on me that programming was something that I could do. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but it was the most invigorating and beneficial decision of my career.
What made you join Comcast?
I was looking to transition into something different from my previous job and submitted my name and resume to a conference called Grace Hopper. And that’s how Comcast found me. A few recruiters reached out and shared all the things I’d be exposed to and the opportunities I would have.
After speaking to the hiring manager and another team member, you could tell that they were going to embrace you, teach you, and help you. They were sincerely interested in your career, you as a person, and in your growth. Based on past experiences, having that type of environment was really important to me.
What is a typical day for you?
After making my son breakfast, the first thing I do is log on and respond to emails. Then we have our daily team standup in Slack. Afterward, I’ll review and address feedback on my tickets in our current sprint or receive guidance from the product lead.
I spend most of the day collaborating with my team working on code and working on any bugs or roadblocks we’re hitting. We usually have about 2 or 3 meetings during a sprint where the entire team comes together and we go over what everyone’s working on. I really like those sessions because we not only get to interact with each other as a team, but we also get to see the different facets of all the things that we're working on and how they kind of mix together to make one product.
After work, I just like to spend time with my son. I take that time in because during work hours, I don't get to really just watch him learn and grow. I prepare dinner, do his nighttime routine, and then he’s off to bed.
Once he's asleep, then that's my time to either read a book, watch something on Netflix, or find a course and pick up some new information that's impactful to my job.
What are you most proud of professionally?
Being a part of the BENgineers. When I started at Comcast I was embraced quickly by that community and having the opportunity to lead the group was huge for me. Through the BENgineers I’ve been exposed to a lot of different people, spoken at a lot of different events, and have been able to help bring exposure to my team and the work that we do. They have uplifted me and given me the opportunity to say yes to a lot of things that still scare me to death! But I do it anyway because I know that it's important representation is there. I've been offered an invaluable opportunity to step up and be a face and a voice - to share my story and inspire others.
What motivates you?
My community. As a Black female software engineer working in the cloud environment, there's not a lot of us like me and that is what motivates me. I've talked to a lot of Black women who ask, ‘How did you get here? How do you do it? What led you to this?’ I'm a huge advocate for Black female technologists. There's no reason why in this day and age we should only be 3-4 percent of those who hold tech positions. Representation is key, and I'm so grateful for the representation that exists within Comcast and all the powerful and influential Black women who are that visual example for me.
Is there a woman that has inspired you throughout your career journey?
The writer, producer, and actor Issa Rae. She is a trailblazer who started small and has evolved her career into so many avenues. She’s also not shy about her initiatives. She’s supportive of Black-owned businesses and organizations and works to inspire other Black entertainers and people in general. When I see her doing all those things, I ask myself “What are you doing to be that representation - that inspiration for someone else on their journey?”
What advice would you give about taking leaps of faith and pushing doubt out of the way?
You only live this life once and you don't want to look back and live with regrets. Regrets are one of those things that can bog you down for years. We all have them and know how damaging they can be. Opportunities come once in a lifetime and you don't want to sit back and regret that you didn't take a chance on something. As scary as it is, some of the best decisions we make in life are the scariest ones.