Leslie Crunkilton brings a sense of art and creativity to just about everything she does. When she's not working, she is busy creating culinary masterpieces, composing music, or performing with her band.
We sat down with Leslie to hear about how she harnessed her creativity to jump start her career as an associate software engineer at online shipping marketplace company, uShip. Keep reading to learn more about her interview and onboarding experience and advice for new software engineers.
Finding the Art in Engineering
Leslie studied Studio Art and Photography in college. "I always wanted to do art and I've always done art, so it made sense at the time to pursue that as a degree," she explains. "However, once I graduated I wasn't sure what I'd want to do with it.' After moving to a new city and working a number of demanding part-time jobs to support her artistic pursuits, she began taking coding courses and building websites in her free time.
"I wanted a career path that was sustainable," Leslie explains. So she focused on learning more coding languages and became a freelance web developer. "It felt like a pretty easy transition, because I could still be creative in ways." After six years of contracting for agencies and e-commerce companies, Leslie yearned for more stability. "I felt like I was moving in the right direction, but I still didn't have a full-time job and my schedule was inconsistent." That's when she decided to participate in a coding immersion program with Hack Reactor. "I really wanted to accelerate my career and level up my skills to be able to get a job at a larger company and have a whole full-time stable career."
And Then Finding uShip
After finishing her bootcamp, Leslie was ready to take on the challenge of searching for that dream job, so she decided to attend a PowerToFly virtual networking event with uShip. "I was really nervous beforehand and I almost backed out because I didn't really know what to expect," she says. "But it ended up being great and the presenters were really inspiring and encouraging." She decided to apply for a Software Engineer position and began UShip's multi-stage interview process:
Step 1: Phone screen. A few days after submitting the application, one of uShip's recruiters gives the applicant a call to learn more about their experience and fitness for the role.
Step 2: Technical interview. If the phone screen with the recruiter goes well, the candidate moves on to a technical interview with a hiring manager. In this interview, the applicant will have to complete a coding-related task and explain their thought process along the way. If the candidate is applying for a non-technical role, this step is a standard interview with a hiring manager.
Step 3: Onsite interview. Nowadays, onsite interviews are held virtually. During this process, the candidate will meet with a number of different team members to talk about their experience and showcase their problem-solving skills.
Step 4: Final interview. If all goes well in the first three steps, the final stage is to meet with a manager and hopefully receive a job offer!
"It was a pretty standard, multi-stage interview process," explains Leslie. But connecting with the interviewers set this interview process apart from other companies she had interviewed with. "Everyone at uShip was so nice and personable and I could immediately imagine myself working with them. That definitely helped the entire interview process feel more comfortable, exciting, and fun at times."
Early Days at uShip
After acing all four interview stages and accepting the job offer, Leslie began the onboarding process, which started with training meetings to go over the company's products, website, and high-level functionality. She was also assigned an onboarding buddy—an existing member of the team who served as Leslie's main point of contact throughout the onboarding process. "Having that buddy was really helpful in the beginning, and fortunately, he didn't seem to mind all of my questions," she says, laughing.
Right away, Leslie felt integrated into her team. "I immediately felt supported by [them] and I felt like people wanted to see me succeed," she elaborates. "They're eager to help new people out by sharing their knowledge and experience. I legitimately enjoy working with my team and collaborating every day."
Leslie's one year uShip anniversary is coming up in January. "This first year at uShip has been incredible. I really like my job. I feel really lucky to be here," she reflects. Her favorite part about the company is the culture of growth and collaboration.
She recently hit a major professional milestone, presenting as a subject matter expert on an upcoming project. "I got to present my technical plan and idea for how we could approach this big project. I feel like I was contributing on a higher level, even as an associate," she says. "I'm a lot less experienced than most of the people there and I wasn't valued any less because of that. My experience and ideas were still taken seriously and I'm actually making a difference in how we're going to approach this problem."
Advice for New Software Engineers-
Leslie knows what it's like to step into a role without much experience, so here are her top pieces of advice for new software engineers:
Look for ways to grow every day. "Basically every day I'm faced with something I'm unfamiliar with or don't know much about. So I make sure to take the time to dig deeper and understand fully what I'm doing," says Leslie. Don't be afraid to ask questions and find small ways to grow on a daily basis. "Asking questions and asking for feedback about how I'm doing and what I could be doing differently has been really important for my growth at uShip."
Leave self-doubt at the door. "I definitely still deal with imposter syndrome, but something that has helped me is to focus on the qualities that I have and often overlook." When Leslie struggles with self-doubt, she reminds herself of those important qualities. "Those skills can boost your confidence and reminding myself of my positive qualities has been really helpful for me."
Focus on communication. One piece of advice that Leslie has for anyone looking to apply for a technical role at uShip is to practice talking through technical issues. "It's easy to just churn out a lot of coding practice and then not really think about how you would explain your thought process," she says. "And that's really important when you're collaborating on a team of people."
Weave in a little creativity. When approaching a technical problem, don't be afraid to get creative when coming up with solutions. "Creativity helps a lot in problem solving and the engineering mindset because you have to think about things from several different approaches," she explains. "Creativity has a big place in technical thinking."
Before the pandemic, Pari didn't worry too much about logistics. She ordered things online, of course and engaged in e-commerce activities. And her professional roles at tech giants like IBM, Google, and Microsoft had certainly exposed her to the importance of complex operations. Not to mention her stint as the Executive Director of Technology at The New York Times, where she had plenty of opportunities to think through how insight was delivered.
But it wasn't until the world shut down due to the pandemic and Pari and her family were stuck inside that she really realized the significance of the commercial transportation that kept everything moving.
"When COVID had essentially paralyzed our entire globe, not just our country and our economy, I realized the significance of the logistics industry," she says. "When the fear of the pandemic and losing lives literally took over humanity, and everyone transformed their lives to being fully virtual, fully remote, the only thing that kept us all living seamlessly was the logistics industry."
When the opportunity to join online shipping marketplace uShip as their Chief Technology Officer arose, she jumped on it, recognizing that there had never been a more important time to work somewhere that was supporting the future of commerce.
We sat down with Pari to hear more about how she's built her career, how her transition to this new role during the pandemic has gone, and how she's developed her approach to leadership and motivation during such a challenging time.
Strategic engagement from the start
As a seasoned technology leader, Pari is used to tackling real-world hard challenges. She began her career focused on Biotechnology, specializing in Genetic Engineering, doing her Masters in the field before deciding to do a second Masters focused on Computer Science, specializing in Software Engineering, with a dissertation in Artificial Intelligence.
"I love working in the area of data, [including] data engineering, data science, machine learning, and AI," explains Pari, who adds that some of her favorite past projects have engaged in building data science and engineering, applying the same to driving revenue for businesses, building next-generation platforms and future-proofing platforms against security threats.
As uShip's CTO, Pari is currently focused on transforming the EPD (Engineering, Product and Design) organization by hiring the right talent, driving transformation and building the next generation of their platform, leaning on data engineering and data science, to continue to differentiate uShip's product core IP.
Because uShip works by matching shippers and carriers on an open marketplace, it works with individuals and businesses of all sizes, explains Pari. "Building products in the logistics space is very challenging and very dynamic—nothing can get more real than logistics," she says, referencing the vital role the industry has played in distributing everything from PPE to furniture to cars, boats, RV's, over the last year and a half.
Motivation through change
Pari has never had trouble keeping herself motivated to achieve her professional goals. "For me, motivation is all about building a positive mindset and creating a feeling of gratitude for what we have and what we can do for others," she says. Still, she acknowledges that even as she took heart in knowing that her work was helping to drive a positive, real-world impact, it was hard to stay motivated during the extended isolation of the pandemic: "We humans are born to socialize, network, and work as a team."
But there's one piece of advice she returned to in the harder moments—"Get up, dust off, reload, recalibrate, re-engage"—and she applied that same approach to starting a C-suite role in an all-remote setting.
6 ways to manage, motivate, and lead at scale
Though stepping into a CTO role during a world-altering pandemic that only put more pressure on the importance of the logistic industry has certainly been complicated, Pari has been able to lean on her decades of management and leadership experience to settle in well and start making a positive impact.
Here are the guiding principles that will allow you to do the same thing, whether you're starting a new role or just looking to level up in the one you have now:
1. Set a vision—and then get out of the way. "It's our job as leaders to give a clear direction and then just get out of the way," says Pari. "Teams don't need micro management or over-focused process management, they need direction. Teams can tackle problems innovatively and productively themselves, and we can be there to guide the progress through workshops, demos or stakeholder presentations."
2. Connect with individuals. While providing team-level vision and guidance is important, it cannot replace building rapport on an individual level, says Pari. "With people I work very closely with, I engage in one-on-ones as often as I can. It's important to connect with people and understand what some of their challenges are." That's been especially important during the pandemic, she adds, when employees might be dealing with
economic or health challenges, losses in their families, or other hardships that require extra support. "I always sit down, listen, and try to understand what people are going through," says Pari. "No two people will go through the same sets of challenges in life, and trying to put yourself in the other person's shoes helps to solve for the challenges that people face."
3. Create a cycle of clear goals and clear feedback. "I focus on setting clear, attainable goals and objectives (Objectives and key results or OKRs, a goal-setting framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes) for teams to chase after quarter over-quarter," says Pari, highlighting that she works to add development and cross collaboration opportunities into those goals whenever possible. "That helps teams reach their full potential, whether they're in-person, completely virtual, or working in a hybrid model," she says. She believes in getting creative with innovation too, and gives the example of uShip's three-day hackathon as a way to drive innovation and creativity organically by teams: "It promotes networking, collaboration, and socializing, and even in a virtual workplace, it enables people to foster those connections we've lost in the past 15 months and to build something ground up or organically that helps drive business."
4. Let people ask why. Pari says that the biggest thing she does in any tech leadership role is to bring alignment during times of change. "A lot of times when we are transforming in any organization, it can be painful for people...whether at the people level, the process level, the product or technology level, or the overarching company level," she says. "Being in groups where you can have open-ended conversations, have workshops, and ask the 'five whys'—like why are we doing this in the first place!—is very, very important."
5. Invest in your people, not just your products. "In business, I believe strongly in one core principle: 'a company is only as good as its employees'," says Pari. "So I believe heavily in: 'Invest in your people and you will see huge rewards.' which is critical to success."
6. Don't forget to celebrate the wins. "It is so important to pause frequently and celebrate wins," says Pari. "They can be small wins, they can be large wins; it can be in meetings, town halls, All Hands, or even small team ceremonies. That's how we motivate ourselves and keep moving no matter how hard times get," she says.
uShip recently teamed up with PowerToFly for an invite-only networking event. As the world's first and largest shipping marketplace, uShip has a dynamic tech team that is actively growing. Learn about their open roles, company culture, and upcoming tech projects during an interactive 90-minute session. uShip's women tech leaders also shared valuable career advice for fellow tech professionals.
Speakers from uShip included:
- Angella Seaman, Senior DevOps Engineer
- Heather Hoover Salomon, Chief Operating Officer
- Angie Meier, Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition
- Robin Reynolds, Senior Director of Product
uShip is the world's first and largest shipping marketplace. Consumers and businesses can compare and book bids from hundreds of thousands of customer-reviewed transportation service providers, ranging from independent owner-operators to the largest freight carriers and brokers. Since launching in 2004, their mission has been to be the world's leading online solution for shipping anything, anytime, anywhere.
Angie Meier, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition Manager for uShip, shared some top-notch resume tips with us, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the interview process at uShip!
uShip is the world's first and largest shipping marketplace backed by a creative, diverse, and supported team.
"Innovation is one of our core values, so we're always looking for people that are curious to help us continue to evolve".
Interested in roles at uShip? Click here to learn more.