You know that scene in Arrested Development where Lucille guessed how much a banana costs (and was wrong by a factor of 50)?
That scene works because it really is what out-of-touch politicians sound like.
And that’s why Sam Gomez believes in supporting local, grassroots leaders through the work she does as a senior frontend engineer at Helm, a data platform for political organizers aimed at creating a more participatory democracy.
“It’s ridiculous when I see politicians try to put a budget plan together and they’re like, ‘Rent, $800.’ It’s like, ‘Where are you getting rent for that?’” she says. “It’s important to support grassroots politicians because those are the people that are us, that are living in our shoes.”
Sam didn’t set out to work in a politics-adjacent field. She didn’t set out to be a leader, either. Both things happened because of the mission and culture at Helm—so we sat down with her to find out more about her journey, as well as what advice she has to share with others looking to also find meaningful paths at work.
From MySpace to Frontend
Sam got into coding by teaching herself HTML and CSS in order to personalize her MySpace page. She loved connecting a few lines of code to an external change that would make her page better reflect her personality.
“I was excited that I was understanding it, so I was like, ‘I wanna do this. I want to make websites for a living,’” she remembers. “That was in middle school. You don’t expect stuff like that to really stick. But it did!”
Her first job out of college was in front end development, which Sam was grateful for. “I’m honestly not sure I would still be in this field if I couldn’t work in the front,” she says. “I had an internship project that was more back-end-oriented and I kind of felt miserable.”
It’s the immediate return on investment that Sam loves about front-end work, she says. “The reward is quicker,” she explains.
Even though Sam had started out working as an individual contributor on the frontend at her last job, she wasn’t feeling very fulfilled. She’d been asked to take on a management role, which had removed her from day-to-day coding and replaced it with endless meetings and responsibilities she wasn’t ready for. “I wasn’t getting the training I needed, and I felt like I was drowning,” she says.
So she started looking for a new role.
When Sam saw a post from Helm on LinkedIn, she was immediately intrigued. “I’d never worked in the political space before, but when I saw they wanted to help these local-level campaigns and advocacy groups, it almost felt like a calling,” she says. “Like, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to help. I like helping the community, and I feel like this will do that.’”
She applied, and found the interview process “almost too good to be true” because everyone she interacted with was “so nice” and the whole thing was quick and transparent. Sam had applied for an individual contributor role, because she wanted to take a step back from management, and that’s where she started.
A few months in, though, her manager asked her about her career goals during a 1:1, and Sam shared that she’d like to get into management again—with the right support system. From there, she moved to a tech lead position, where she got a feel for making decisions.
It’s been different at Helm, says Sam, because she’s not been thrust into leadership without any guidance. She’s going through training materials with Helm’s Director of People Operations and another coworker, who are putting together sessions on how to manage.
“It shows that they really do care about supporting us and making sure they are setting us up for success,” says Sam, who has found that a mix of coding and management is her calling.
“I like to help people, and solve people’s problems, but I still want to be an engineer. I get the best of both worlds right now,” she says.
Sam now has a few direct reports, and has solidified her transition into a leadership role.
3 Lessons on Moving Into Management
As her career progresses, Sam is racking up hard-earned wisdom about building a meaningful experience at work. She shares some of her favorites with us:
- Stay open-minded to feedback. “I used to take things personally, or get really defensive,” says Sam. “If you’re always in a defensive stance, you’re not going to grow. Now, as a manager, I want my direct reports to trust me and be open.”
- Enjoy the payoff. Sam’s working on a new product, and is making sure to take the time to slow down and celebrate all the hard work she and her team have done to get there. “We know what we’re doing now. It feels so nice, when you’ve been doing all that hard work in the beginning, to see it come to life,” she says.
- Embrace the pendulum. Sam is modeling her path at Helm off of other senior engineers-slash-managers she sees who are also pursuing the best of both worlds. “It’s the pendulum effect: I started out as an engineer, and am working my way up to manager. Once I’m good with that project, I’ll start a new project back as an engineer and work my way up,” she says. “I want to be a really good manager—trusting and empathetic—but I still want to code. I still want to stay up-to-date with the newest trends or best practices or technologies.”
Lupita Carabes was interested in understanding why the company she was working for was having a bad quarter.
As a software engineer, her plate had been full for months. She and her coworkers had performed well against their expectations and kept code moving through. So what had happened?
“It piqued my interest. How are we allocating resources? How are decisions being made? How are we producing revenue?” says Lupita, reflecting on what would become a major career shift. “That put me on a path to a customer facing role; what’s known as a sales engineer.”
She asked her then-manager if she could explore the sales side of the business, but Lupita was told she needed more experience first. A few weeks later, she got a note from a Veracode recruiter—and met a hiring manager who was more than open to helping Lupita transition into tech sales.
We sat down with Lupita, who is now a senior account executive at Veracode, to hear more about her career journey, how she made the transition from engineering to sales, and what advice she has for those who are considering following in her footsteps.
Learning How Businesses Really Work
Growing up, Lupita got her first taste of entrepreneurship when she worked with her family on their business and was inspired to one day launch her own.
“I felt inclined to go the entrepreneurial route because I enjoyed the ability to control my own outcome and make my own way,” she says. “I quickly realized I didn't really have the resources to scale.”
That realization led Lupita to pursue a career that was in high demand—she had won a full-ride scholarship that would apply to a STEM degree. She majored in electrical engineering, minored in computer science, and completed the university entrepreneurship scholars’ program.
During her time as a software engineering intern, Lupita realized the abundance of job opportunities she would have if she went to work as a developer. She also saw it as an opportunity to gain more business experience that would help her later down the line. So, she stayed in engineering roles up until the Veracode opportunity came about.
“The hiring manager asked if I was prepared to be less technical,” says Lupita of how the tech sales job was first presented. “But I’ve actually needed to be more technical. I talk to engineers with various levels of expertise about different technologies, and technology is always changing.”
When Lupita joined Veracode, her title was associate solutions architect. She took a pay cut for the role, then spent the next couple of years proving herself earning promotion after promotion.
“In order to keep moving up, I had to build a case, with metrics, and proof points to show my value and contributions I made to help the business,” she says. “It’s a lot of responsibility—it’s your own franchise. I call the shots, and that’s been a huge learning curve but extremely rewarding.”
Now, as a senior account executive, Lupita regularly talks to engineers and security analysts, and closes deals with CTOs, CISOs, CIOs, and CMOs (say that five times fast!). The exposure to business leaders and technical talent has given Lupita the exposure she was looking for to build her own entrepreneurial toolkit—and has taken full advantage of her background.
3 Key Messages for 3 Key Groups
Reflecting on her career so far, Lupita is happy to have made the shift to sales, where she can continue to bridge gaps between groups and further develop multiple skill sets.
“I was once a girl who didn’t know about the engineering role, and now I’m consulting engineers to think about security and their process,” says Lupita. “That’s the most exciting thing for me, being able to use my soft and hard skills, while interacting day-to-day with C-level decision makers.”
Here’s the advice she would give based on this experience:
For her engineering peers: consider sales engineering. “If you’re looking for more social interactions, having a fundamental understanding of the problems we are trying to solve makes for a much easier conversation with prospects,” she says. “You get to talk to tons of like-minded people, and sometimes conversations turn into partnerships. Sometimes they turn into friendships, or even mentorships. I think that’s really cool—and I wouldn’t have access to that if I was just sitting at my computer coding away.”
For her sales peers: be genuine and add value. “Customers sometimes aren’t open to sharing a lot of information up front,” she says. “So earning their trust and understanding the outcomes they are looking to achieve is really important. I ask open-ended questions and try to understand and not assume exactly what their challenges are. There’s a lot of ‘debugging’ in learning what the business is actually trying to accomplish—leverage your network because the more people you involve, the better chance you’ll have of truly solving their business problems.”
For her prospects: application security is worth it. Several years into selling Veracode’s services, Lupita has learned that a common challenge companies face is fear of slowing down developers, even when there’s a lot (read: customer data, regulatory fines, and reputational damage) on the line. She often hears, “‘We've always done it this way and we've never had a breach,’” but Lupita is a firm believer that secure code is valuable code.
“More and more companies are using security as a competitive advantage and customers are no longer willing to accept the liability for software that sees security as an afterthought. Application security requires people, process, and tech,” she explains. “I enjoy taking the guesswork out of building the right approach.”
For now, Lupita knows she has much more to learn at Veracode and is looking forward to doing so. Who knows, though—in a few years, maybe she’ll find herself on the other side of the C-suite table!
During a time period that has changed how we work and caused many of us to refocus what we value, women have continued to find ways to connect and support one another. Financial health and literacy became increasingly important. Inspired by the 2019 Women, Money, and Power Study, commissioned by Allianz Life Insurance Company, which indicated that over half (57%) say they wish they were more confident in their financial decision making, a group of women were inspired to act.
Supported by the Women@ employee resource group and Life@ benefits team, a team of five women joined together to empower their fellow community members and peers to become confident in their finances.
Setting the goal to help women at work: Minki J., Program Manager Product Testing
Leading the effort, Minki J. began with a passion for personal finance and the desire to support the Women@ employee resource group community.
Minki J. is Program Manager Product Testing (New York), brought together a group of five women to create the educational materials for a financial literacy program.
"It is my strong belief that a good financial foundation and the confidence to improve and better manage your money is one of the fiercest forms of female empowerment." Minki shared. "Bring your authentic self to work is one of our core tenets at work - and that's how the program started. Financial empowerment for women is a life mission of mine. I brought the lessons learned and templates from my previous experiences, and was able to congregate a group of superwomen who were willing to volunteer their time and expertise so that more of our female colleagues could lift up and feel confident in their money journeys as well"
Together with Nellie H., Optimization Program Manager, (Dublin), Tricia W., Business Integrity (New York City), Kirsten N., Government, Politics & Non-Profits Partner Manager (Berlin), and Monse M., Global Diversity Brand Strategy Manager (Chicago), they created a six-week Financial Literacy Learning Sprint covering education on topics like fundamental financial wealth, budgeting, debt, investing, and retirement planning (401K, pension). This small team of five volunteers created educational materials, used Workplace groups and other virtual workplace tools to connect participants for the pilot program.
Kirsten N. Government, Politics & Non-Profits Partner Manager (Berlin) gives an overview of the financial literacy program materials.
"The financial literacy program was designed to be a safe space for women to talk about their financial well-being, money matters, and to educate themselves and create more structure when it comes to these financial issues. We put together all of these wonderful materials and shared them with tons of incredible women."
Tricia W. Manager, Business Integrity (New York) speaks to the inspiration of the collective group.
Tricia spoke to the inspiration and collective aspiration of the group, "From wage gaps to pink tax to longer life expectancy, there are many financial challenges that hit women differently. We hoped to build a community of support around these challenges as much as empowering and improving confidence in managing finances."
Creating Connections and Empowering Women Globally
The pilot kicked off virtually in 2020, with 22 Women@ community members. The second cohort grew to 230 women, the third to 756 women and the fourth is set to go live reaching women across the US, Singapore, UK, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland.
Nellie H., Optimization Program Manager (Dublin) speaks to the growth and global expansion of the program.
Nellie explained, "We've been able to scale FinLit to serve a group of more than a thousand women. There are many opportunities to serve our internal and external communities. I'm proud that through the Financial Literacy program I was able to support my colleagues in empowering them to build their financial expertise."
Monse M., Global Diversity Employment Brand Strategy Lead speaks to the program impact on the founders.
"I've never worked at a company where a group of women have come together to create something that could help so many other women at work." Monse M. explains. "I was amazed by the feedback we received from our peers who participated in the program. I love that Meta is the kind of place where women come together to create ideas, have support and access to resources, and can then bring those ideas to life and impact so many; this is true in creating community at work and through our products and services we build for the world everyday."
More about Women@
We are committed to connecting and building a community of women who feel open and connected to each other. We empower women through professional development opportunities and engage with men as equal partners in advancing gender diversity and inclusion. We celebrate the unique contributions of women to Meta.
When women are empowered, there's no limit to what they can do. Join us on our mission to bring the world closer together.
■Learn about life at Meta on Instagram (@MetaCareers).
■Like our Meta Careers Talent Community Page for the latest updates.
Is This Company Right For Me? 3 Must-haves When Choosing Where to Work
💎 So you've come to the final stages of the interview process, but you're still wondering: Is this company right for me? Learn three must-haves that will help you choose the best place to work!
📼 If you find yourself in front of a job offer thinking, "Is this company right for me?" play this video to get three top must-haves from Dionabel Espinola, Customer Success Manager at Veracode.
👉Want to work at Veracode? They're hiring! Check out the company's open jobs:
Solutions Architect, Channel (remote!) https://bit.ly/VeracodeSolutionsArchitectPTF
Senior Software Engineer (remote!) https://bit.ly/VeracodeSrSoftwareEngineerPTF
Principal Customer Success Manager (remote!) https://bit.ly/VeracodePrincipalCustomerSuccessManagerPTF
📼 Tip #1: Look For Work-life Balance. The first tip that will help you answer "Is this company right for me?" is finding an organization that has a true work-life balance. And what Dionabel means by that is a place that encourages employees to take time off, decompress, disconnect, and do the things they love, whether that's spending time with family or reading a book.
📼 Tip #2: Look For Career Growth. The next tip that will help you answer "Is this company right for me?" is making sure you apply to an organization where you will have career growth. Picture yourself there already. "If I work there, what's my next step? What do I want to do? What do I want to be?" And align yourself with that. And it's totally okay to reach out on LinkedIn to current individuals who have that role and ask, "Hey, what does the career path look like for this specific role?" As Dionabel recalls, it can get a little boring when you have a role that changes over time by title and not responsibility. So for her, it was crucial to continue being challenged, hence the huge career switch she made at Veracode.
Is This Company Right For Me? Last But Not Least Must-Have
The third must-have is diversity and inclusion. Dionabel says, "As a person that identifies as a person of color, I am Dominican, I'm very proud of my roots. I wanted to make sure that where I was going, things like this were being celebrated because I think this is what brings us even closer to each other."
Dionabel knows her must-haves may not be the same for everyone. So she highly encourages you to grab a pen and paper, jot down the top three things you must have at work, and at the end of the day, don't forget that you are your best advocate. Advocate for yourself and the things you want because no one else will do it better than you!
📨 Are you interested in joining Veracode? They have open positions! To learn more, click here: https://bit.ly/VeracodePTF
More About Veracode
Veracode delivers the application security solutions and services today's software-driven world requires. Veracode's unified platform assesses and improves the security of applications from inception through production so that businesses can confidently innovate with the web and mobile applications they build, buy, and assemble as well as the components they integrate into their environments.
Veracode's powerful cloud-based platform, deep security expertise, and systematic, policy-based approach provide enterprises with simpler and more scalable ways to reduce application-layer risk across their software infrastructures. Veracode serves hundreds of customers across various industries, including nearly one-third of the Fortune 100, three of the top 4 U.S. commercial banks, and more than 20 of Forbes' 100 Most Valuable Brands.
0:00 The Perfect Work-life Balance
0:09 Introducing Veracode
0:26 Tip 1: Work-life Balance
1:21 Tip 2: Career Growth
2:11 Tip 3: Diversity and Inclusion
2:51 Tip Summary
3:34 Share Your Own Tips!
#Veracode #jobmusthaves #TopTips #workatVeracode #PowerToFly #careeradvice