Fairygodboss

Krishelle Hardson-Hurley Bethune became a software engineer after realizing her passion for technology while working as a teacher. Thankfully at Dropbox, HH Bethune who is now a software engineer on the Disaster Readiness team, is able to do work she is passionate about while leveraging her teaching background to allow her to be strong at technical documentation and tutorials.

“I've always been interested in technology and computers. In 2014, I was teaching in San Diego and I found myself hacking together various solutions on top of Google Drive to serve my needs in the classroom. I realized then that I wanted to learn more about how to build efficient systems and found myself yearning to be involved in the technological revolution.” HH Bethune tells Fairygodboss. 

While many companies and individuals were able to adapt to the new remote work lifestyle, with online collaboration tools like Dropbox, this fast transition also amplified a problem many companies were grappling way before the pandemic: lack of information security. HH Bethune is currently helping build an emergency management system at Dropbox and says, “I'm excited to contribute to the ongoing improvement of the failover process and ensure Dropbox is safe in the event of a Natural Disaster.” 

Read on to learn more about HH Bethune’s career journey, how Dropbox is helping teams collaborate more effectively during the pandemic, and what interesting projects she is currently working on. She also shares some great advice for women who are looking to enter the tech industry. 

Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role and how long have you been in this role? 

I'm currently working on the Disaster Readiness team, a sub-team of the larger infrastructure organization under the reliability umbrella. While I'm new to this team as of the start of the year, much of my learnings in other roles at Dropbox is contributing well to my ability to be a valuable contributor to the team. My team works on tooling and processes that allow us to be prepared for natural disasters that could affect Dropbox’s infrastructure. 

What first got you interested in pursuing a career in tech? 

I've always been interested in technology and computers. In 2014, I was teaching in San Diego and I found myself hacking together various solutions on top of Google Drive to serve my needs in the classroom. I realized then that I wanted to learn more about how to build efficient systems and found myself yearning to be involved in the technological revolution. Fast forward to 2015, I learned that there were software bootcamps helping folks do exactly that. I signed up for an info session at Hackbright Academy and heard a young teacher express many of the feelings I had and was sold. The following year I was admitted to the training program, and soon landed my first software job at Dropbox. 

What projects or programs are you currently working on? What about this type of work most excites you? 

Currently, I'm working on a process we like to call “Failover.” A Failover is essentially a disaster recovery test that involves redirecting traffic from one of our data centers to another, and observing how our systems respond. This process has allowed me opportunities to continue learning about the many distributed systems that keep Dropbox running, as well as develop reliable tooling and automation. I'm excited to contribute to the ongoing improvement of the failover process and ensure Dropbox is safe in the event of a natural disaster.

What has been the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve faced working as a woman in tech? 

It’s important to me to continue to give back and help others get access to the wonderful opportunities that tech has to offer. I think this speaks to who I am as an educator and woman. The challenge is that I have to be careful how I balance this effort with my own growth. Throughout this journey, there have been times where I had to put helping others behind in order to focus on my career and develop my skills, and this has been a good challenge in setting boundaries.  

Does Dropbox provide any resources or programs to support women in your field? 

Dropbox provides many resources to support new engineers. I've been fortunate to have some amazing mentors and teammates that understand and value my unique background. Whenever I’d get curious about other teams, I had managers that supported my growth and allowed me to try new things. These empowering leaders, who really are FairyGodBosses of mine, have had a huge impact on my ability to feel secure as a new engineer.

What is your favorite aspect of the culture at your company? 

One of our legacy company values was called “Cupcake,” which aimed to represent our desire to bring a bit of delight to our customer experience. I always loved this, because it permeated through the Dropbox work culture. My favorite way this showed up was through a program called “Gratitude Posts” in which you could write a small card (now we have a virtual equivalent) and it would be put on the desk of a colleague. I loved the power this offered to bring delight to my colleague. The “Cupcake” value has since morphed into a new value we like to call “Make Work Human.” This means we make products that prioritize our needs as humans. And we build a compassionate culture where everyone can do their best work, something that is clear from our recently announced Virtual First strategy. This also means we take time to celebrate what makes us unique.

What is something you’re especially good at work? 

I’ve been able to leverage my teaching background to allow me to be strong at technical documentation and tutorials. Over the years I’ve contributed to several onboarding efforts in order to support new teammates as they learn what it means to be an engineer at Dropbox. 

What are you trying to improve on? 

Technical estimation has always been something I’ve struggled with. Over the years I’ve learned to do technical planning, but find there are still times when I underestimate time needed to complete a task. I think this is normal at the start of one’s technical career and is definitely something we get better at with time and experience. 

What is the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received? 

One of my mentors, Andrew Fong, passed on a piece of advice to me a few months back, pushing me to think about every career decision like this: “Ask yourself, will I be proud of this decision in 5 years?” This really helped to ground me in a decision I was facing and is something I will continue to remember as I continue on my journey.

What advice do you have for other women who are beginning a career in tech? 

Use every opportunity, good or bad, to look inward and discover something about yourself. Ask yourself questions like: “Why do I like this?” “Why don’t I like this?” “What can I change to make this work better for me?” Consider everything you learn about yourself as a critical piece of data that you will use to continue to design your career. As Bill Burnett and Dave Evans speak of in their books “Designing Your Life” and “Designing Your Work Life,” this process is iterative. When you learn new information, use it to make small changes and always advocate for what you need.

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