Vivian Chan | Principal Software Developer Engineer in Seattle
“Sometimes all that’s needed to lift women up is to stop pulling them down.” ― Melinda Gates, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World
This quote strikes a chord in my heart and probably other women in technology. The frequent pulling-down has shaped my disbelief and potentially other’s disbelief of my competency. Yet what keeps me going are allies who have valued my strength and lifted me up along the way. The real partners I met usually provide no lip service; instead, they offer opportunities, support, and mentorship.
Through my years at Expedia, I have met a good number of allies, both men and women. The most important lesson I have learned in the last two years was that allyship could not be earned but given. The double-bind dilemma is affecting women at all levels in all leadership roles. Allyship is a mitigation. Hence, finding an advocate on the team is particularly essential for women.
One reaction I got when I returned to Expedia after a short absence was: “why not other startups?” The answer is simple: allyship. I lacked an ally to amplify my voice, advocate for my work, or filter out unconscious-biased feedback in the last two years working for a startup. I was not supported to succeed, in return, the company was not getting the best out of me, lose-lose situation.
When I started at Expedia as a junior developer, a senior developer gave me negative feedback about my code changes. My manager, knowing my insecurities, bought me the book, “The Pragmatic Programmer,” to encourage me. He could have given me a bad annual review based on the senior engineer’s feedback, and yet he chose otherwise. Later on, a critical migration project landed on my plate because all senior engineers in the team were unavailable. Although I was not a senior engineer, my manager had faith in me and put me in charge of the project. The project turned out to be successful. My manager could insist on having a senior engineer to look over my shoulder. Yet, he chose to trust and give me this opportunity.
A few years later, I joined a team to build a brand new product. I had significant contributions to building the product and the team; however, I did not see myself as a senior engineer. My manager thought otherwise and promoted me, empowering me to be the technical lead of the team. He even closed my salary gap. He could have done nothing to offer me a promotion or a raise as I did not ask for them; instead, he chose to reward me fairly for my contributions.
As I started to feel a plateau in my job, a principal engineer asked me to join him in building a platform library. He took me under his wing to teach me technical and leadership skills. As a principal engineer, he could have spent his time to coach engineers who fit the typical mold. Yet he saw my potential regardless of my outlook. He chose to cast his vote of faith through his time and mentorship.
As I return to Expedia as a principal engineer, my current manager also cast his vote of faith in me with this opportunity. These choices, big or small, made an impact on my career. However hard I worked, I would not be where I am without them. The Asian culture I grew up in rewards modest and reserved behavior. As a woman growing up in that culture has made it harder for me to see myself as a leader. Yet time after time, my allies looked past my self-doubts, trusted me with greater responsibilities, and supported me to materialize my full potential.
Counting my blessings from my allies fills my heart with gratitude and helps me to let go of those who pulled me down. There are many more allyship experiences I found at Expedia Group than I can highlight here.
If you are looking for a place to build your career, check out Expedia Group. We are no unicorns, but I managed to find rainbows here.
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