How I Discovered My Growth Opportunity at Balanced posted by: Kyungmin Kim

KK’s story was originally published here on her personal blog. Comments on Hacker News.

Before Balanced

I first came to the US in 2008 to attend the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) program at Carnegie Mellon. Prior to that, I was an undergraduate student studying IT business at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. I grew up as a liberal arts student, always eager to make web apps. HCI seemed to be the perfect intersection between business and computer science. At Carnegie Mellon, I learned how to apply the principles of design and psychology for designing and prototyping usable interactive systems. After my capstone project with Salesforce.com, I got my first job at Google as a UX designer.

Working in the UX team, I found myself falling narrowly into a specific role and was being pulled away from the excitement of designing and building new things. I was inspired by some of my designer colleagues who would create complex prototypes as a part of their design and I wanted to keep growing as a designer who could code. I wanted to spend less time on creating static mockups and contribute directly to implementing the design.

After leaving Google last August, I started the journey of reinventing myself as a programmer and attended App Academy to learn Ruby on Rails and JavaScript. During my five weeks of job searching after the twelve weeks of coding school, I discovered Balanced.

Balanced’s open interview process

My interview experience with Balanced was very unique; it was a challenging but interesting learning experience. Balanced asked me to fix one of their open bug issues on GitHub. In order to display error messages in modals, I figured out how the new JavaScript framework Ember.js works, how to use git in a distributed environment, and how to write unit tests for the production environment. I pushed my code to GitHub and my pull request got merged in. Boom! My code was now a part of the Balanced dashboard UI. I hadn’t even landed a job yet, and I already felt accomplished by learning a lot of new things and making a real difference.

I was intimidated by the openness of their engineering culture at first. I had a series of back-and-forth communication on GitHub with one of the engineers responding to their feedback and correcting a ton of mistakes that I made while getting myself used to the git workflow. It was uncomfortable to realize that all my ugly commit histories were visible to the entire team and the public in real time, but there was something exciting about it as well. It felt drastically different from typical hiring processes, where I would be asked to answer various hypothetical algorithm questions. By the time my code got merged in, I got a very clear sense of what it would be like to work there.

When I finally met the team in person, I was fascinated by their culture. Every single person I met at Balanced was driven, enthusiastic and respectful. Whether they were in design, support, or legal, the employees were actively participating in discussions and making code changes on GitHub to improve the product. I wanted to be a part of this movement that promotes openness.

What I am doing now at Balanced

I started at Balanced two weeks ago and have been kept busy with exciting projects. On my first day, I started working on Balanced’s Crowdhoster campaign and successfully launched it during my first week. I spent hours with our designer perfecting pixels for our new customers page. I participated in small and large UX issues and made numerous commits to the Balanced Website and the Balanced Dashboard on GitHub.

I am the first female engineer at Balanced and I don’t have the traditional CS background or experience. I am proud of myself for getting things done and learning new things every day. It has only been two weeks! If this first month is any indication of what is to come, I can’t wait to see how much I will grow as an engineer at Balanced.