Marie Chatfield, a Software Engineer at Square, never expected she'd end up in her current position -- but she's thrilled that she did. She says her job has led to her growth "as an engineer but also as a whole person." Her #1 career tip is to participate in a community -- and she certainly follows her own advice. Whether she's honing her front-end development skills, interviewing interns or bonding with Square’s WomEng community and a cappella group, Marie prioritizes building relationships with a variety of her colleagues.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Marie Chatfield
Software Engineer - Square
San Francisco, CA
FGB: Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
MC: I didn’t expect to be here, that’s for sure! I started off in college as a Sociology major, and loved it. I took a Computer Science (CS) class my sophomore year—I’d taken CS classes in high school, and figured it would be an easy and interesting way to get out of a serious math class. Instead, my professor saw potential in me and encouraged me to join her as a woman in CS.
A year later, I decided to try out the CS major track, but I wasn’t sure I was good enough, or that I was worth hiring as an intern. Another professor took a chance on me and offered me a summer job in his lab. That gave me the confidence and experience to apply to an internship the next summer—which in turn gave me the confidence and experience to apply for a job at Square when I graduated.
I’ve been at Square a little over a year now, and I’ve had so many opportunities to learn and grow—as an engineer but also as a whole person. I started on a product team building employee management tools. I loved the team and the work we were doing, but decided that I wanted to improve my front-end development skills. I joined a front-end infrastructure team a few months ago, and have really been enjoying the new challenges and projects I’ve been working on. I’m excited to keep growing and to be able to encourage others and create opportunities for them!
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
MC: At Square, our interviewing process is focused on pair programming. As part of our training, every engineering interviewer comes up with her own question to ask candidates. Once I wrote my initial question, I got a lot of great feedback from other members of our WomEng (Women in Engineering) group about how to improve my question.
I interviewed a bunch of intern candidates at this past Grace Hopper Celebration, and several of them told me afterwards that it had been the best interview experience they’d ever had — that it felt more like a conversation than a test, and that they felt comfortable instead of anxious. That meant so much to me, because that’s exactly what I was trained to do! I love being able to give other women the kind of interview experience that I’d want to go through myself, and give them a safe space in which to show off their abilities and potential.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
MC: A few months ago, I was asked to build out most of the front end for a major new feature my team was working on. Although I had experience building front end features, I hadn’t worked on anything quite this size by myself—and there were a few parts of the design that I had no idea how to implement. I was a bit intimidated.
I broke the project into smaller, more manageable chunks and figured out a game plan. By setting reasonable goals for each week, I was able to make steady progress. The project came together really nicely, and it was incredibly satisfying to know what a big hand I had in bringing the feature to life. It made me realize that I do have a lot to contribute as a team member, and helped me combat imposter syndrome.
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
MC: Participate in a community! I’m very involved with Square’s WomEng community, and it’s such a supportive group of women engineers and our allies. Members of WomEng have affirmed me, encouraged me to take risks I wouldn’t otherwise, and given me valuable feedback—and I hope other members would say the same thing about me.
It doesn’t matter where you find your community, or who is in it, as long as it’s a place where you can be honest and both give and get support. You can learn so much from each other, and challenge each other to grow.
FGB: Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?
Another woman in tech who I admire a lot is Kronda Adair. I first became a fan of Kronda when I discovered a recording of her talk Put Up or Shut Up: An Open Letter to Tech Companies Seeking Diverse Teams. She hosted AlterConf last month in Portland, where I got to meet her in person for the first time, and I was starstruck, to say the least!
As a straight, cisgender white woman, I have a lot of privilege and need to listen to other people with marginalized identities (especially those with multiple, intersecting marginalized identities) to learn how to best be an ally to them. I have learned so much about diversity and inclusion from listening to what these two women have to say and following them on Twitter—and am so thankful for the effort they put into raising and voicing the problems they see in this industry, and their work to do something about it.
FGB: What do you do when you're not working?
MC: I’m a founding member of Square’s acapella group, the Square Registers. I also write poetry, and I’m getting into performance art as a way of exploring identity and creativity. I also watch a lot of old BBC shows!
FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?
MC: I’m less interested in having dinner with a single famous person, than having a bunch of dinners with other people with marginalized identities who are working in STEM fields and hearing about their stories and their passions!
FGB: Lightning Round: What is your karaoke song?
MC: I love singing sad country songs, especially the duets! Think “Jolene” by Dolly Parton, or “Does He Love You” by Reba McEntire and Linda Davis.
FGB: Lightning Round: What is your favorite movie?
MC: About Time, which is ostensibly about time travel, but is actually about learning to appreciate all the little moments.
FGB: Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
MC: Definitely my Bible. My faith and relationship with God is a really important part of my life.
FGB: Lightning Round: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
MC: I don’t consider this a vice, since I reject the notion that women aren’t capable of making reasonable financial decisions based on their interests, but every time I fly out of SFO I buy a new book from the indie bookstore (Compass Books) in Terminal 2!
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women. So each week, we celebrate a woman who makes a difference in other women’s careers. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate and thank her by nominating her here.