When Sophia Chung joined Facebook nine years ago, she had several skills under her belt. She had a degree in programming from MIT and had several software engineering internships — yet, she still felt like she didn’t belong. Sophia recalls a time in high-school where she studied programming and was also a cheerleader, when her teacher laughed at her upon entering her programming class in her cheerleader uniform. “I’ve never seen a cheerleader take programming before!” he said. This was not the only incident, as Sophia recalls, later in her career, she was also the only female engineer of nearly 100 engineers when she worked in gaming. “The way you carry yourself is largely shaped by how others treat you and how you see yourself in the world” she says.
Sophia needed to embrace her authentic self in order to shine. Thankfully, she found that, and more, at Facebook, where she is now Engineering Director for Community Incubator (Facebook Dating, Local Communities, College Communities). True to Facebook’s culture of helping their female employees thrive at every stage, Sophia was able to gain new roles and develop a sense of belonging and confidence that helped her succeed in her career.
“Facebook feels like the place where I grew up. I went from being the quiet engineer who never spoke in meetings to giving keynotes to crowds of over 700 people. I went from feeling complacent as a junior engineer to managing up to ensure my path to a director,” says Sophia.
Reflecting on her early days at Facebook, Sophia admits she suffered from imposter syndrome, like most women in STEM fields. “I came to Facebook crippled by imposter syndrome,” she says. “I didn’t speak up much, but it wasn’t because I didn’t have ideas or opinions. It was because I still didn't have confidence. I played it safe and stayed quiet instead of asking for more and pushing the limits of what I was capable of.”
It’s no secret that when women are empowered, there’s no limit to what they can do. “Once I recognized how much the people around me believed in me, I began believing in myself. I started voicing my opinions, became more proactive, and started to be my own advocate” says Sophia.
While she is grateful for her advocates who have helped her find herself “under the layers of self-doubt and the years of not belonging,” Sophia states that she does not want her success to be solely credited to her advocates. “Once I finally had the opportunity to be my authentic self, I found my way to shine,” she says. She advises women not to unnecessarily credit others for their success.
Today, Sophia leads a team of over 100 engineers across three sites. She also bootstrapped a new team in New York City, and had the honor to give the keynote at Facebook’s Women in Engineering Day in 2019. She says she has found her core values of investing in people and also passion for creating a community focused on diversity and inclusion.
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