This month, we’re featuring Sylvana Santos who works on Codecademy’s software engineering team. Fascinated with the intersection of education and technology, Sylvana is in her dream job at Codecademy. Outside of Codecademy, Sylvana enjoys taking her bunny for a walk, watching and playing soccer, cooking herself a nice meal, or practicing yoga!
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi there! My name is Sylvana, and I’m a software engineer at Codecademy. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but now I live in Brooklyn with my bunny, Pepper. I love watching and playing soccer. I can’t wait until I can play with Codecademy’s team! Other than that, I enjoy cooking (but more so eating), thrifting, and watching tiny house videos.
How did you end up working for Codecademy?
Codecademy was a dream company for me. During college, I became fascinated with the intersection of education and technology. I was inspired by the many ways that people were using tech to address gaps in our education system. I wanted to be a part of that revolution, so when I learned about Codecademy and its mission, I was thrilled! After I graduated from Fullstack Academy, I applied for the Codecademy apprenticeship, and more recently, I made the transition to full time. I feel so blessed to be working here, and I can say that it has lived up to all my expectations.
Did you always want to be a software engineer?
No. It took a while for me to figure out what I wanted to do. In college, I studied electrical engineering, but I wasn’t a huge fan. So I would spend my summers exploring adjacent fields. In my last summer, I worked with a professor to create an Android application to help students learn circuit basics. That was my first time coding, and I fell in love. From that point forward, I started teaching myself to code and that’s also when I heard about Codecademy. After graduation, I worked as a teacher and continued to learn programming on the side. Eventually, I decided to join a coding bootcamp and the rest fell into place.
What are the best aspects about working as a software engineer?
Getting to work with other talented engineers. I get to see how different people think about the same problem and how they form solutions. I’m also constantly being challenged and learning along the way. Not a day goes by where I don’t learn a new trick, deal with a new framework, or tackle a weird bug.
What are the worst aspects about working as a software engineer?
The flip side to my last response is that working on software is very humbling. There’s always more to learn. Another framework. Another language. Another library. Sometimes this makes you feel like others are miles ahead of you or that you will never have it all together. But this is what I’ve learned: no one has it all together. We all know bits and bobs. Relish in your own growth.
If you could make one piece of fictional tech reality, what would it be?
The Stormbreaker computer from the Alex Rider series (minus the smallpox virus, obviously). This computer was capable of immersing students into different environments. They could pet dinosaurs, float in outer space. As a kid, this sounded amazing. It still does. Google Expeditions is a great start, but it’s not the fully immersive experience promised by Stormbreaker.
Do you have any advice for the learners?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and boldly proclaim the wrong answer. In college, I felt silly admitting that I was confused. So I just stayed confused. When I started my coding bootcamp, I was adamant about not making the same mistake. I started asking for clarity, reaching out to people for help, and participating in discussions (even when I didn’t feel confident). It made such a huge difference in the quality of my learning!
Also, I have found that teaching others really helps solidify concepts. If you can find ways to teach the concepts you are learning, definitely take advantage of that opportunity. Sometimes, I just ask people if I can walk them through my understanding of a topic and even just that helps a lot.
If you could make one brand new course what would it be?
Building mobile applications with Flutter. It’s a framework, created by Google, that allows you to build applications for both Android and iOS. I worked with Flutter on a couple of side projects, and I found it to be well-documented and fun. Cross platform applications are very popular right now, so it would be great if we could introduce our users to this concept. If you are interested, I recommend going through one of the codelabs.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I like to wake up early, grab a glass of water, put on some music, and get straight to work. After a couple hours of focused time, I do a quick workout and make myself a smoothie. By then, our team will have daily standup, where we go around and update each other on our progress. After this, I spend about an hour reviewing PRs. The rest of my day is spent in team meetings, pair programming sessions, or solo coding time.
Fun fact I started working at Codecademy when everything went remote, so I have not actually met most of my coworkers. Kinda strange. One thing that I have found helpful in integrating into the company is setting up chats with random people. We have a slackbot that automatically does this for you, but I also just like randomly inviting people to virtual lunches. Also! By the late afternoon, I normally can’t focus and my back reminds me that I am slowly aging, so I like to take a longer break and do some yoga before returning to my work. At the end of the day, I like to take my bunny for a walk, make myself a nice meal, and then just sink into my bed to watch an episode of Monk.