Women are still largely underrepresented in STEM, but some companies, like the financial software firm Intuit, are working to change that.
“Like so many others, my biggest obstacle [is] dealing with imposter syndrome,” Kylie Taitano, senior software engineer at Intuit, admits to Fairygodboss. Taitano has been with Intuit since she graduated from UC San Diego in 2014, and has been on the TurboTax Online Self-Employed and Premier team for the last five months. Prior to this role, she served as a software engineer on the ProSeries team, which is one of Intuit’s professional tax preparation software products.
“I’ve had the hardest time with the specific part of imposter syndrome where you always feel like you’re not good enough,” she says. “It doesn’t help that I’ve embodied the saying, ‘You are your own harshest critic.’”
The best piece of advice she’s ever received for managing impostor syndrome was reading Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong. In it, Brown discusses how to manage self-criticism and build a circle of confidantes that you can trust to balance celebrating with you and keeping you honest in areas of growth. This is important since, after all, Taitano has a lot to celebrate.
“Since I’m relatively new on the team, I’ve been getting my feet wet in our tech stack and helping the team get across the finish line for the 2020 tax season,” she says. “I’m just getting back into the full-stack webspace, after spending the last few years working in back-end technologies.”
Taitano adds that she recently had the chance to experience her first significant production release after working on updating Intuit’s Square import experience for self-employed users.
“This was cool because I know people who use Square for their small businesses and use TurboTax to prepare taxes,” she explains. “It might sound cheesy, but, what keeps me going in the tech field is the idea of putting a face to the code I write. It’s nice knowing that there are users whose lives are made easier by using the products you’ve contributed to.”
Taitano manages to prioritize her day-to-day thanks to platforms like Trello, which helps her to get organized as a self-proclaimed multi-tasker.
“I’m used to the ‘Kanban’ style of task management due to work, organizing my tasks into buckets like ‘Day To Dos,’ ‘Week To Dos,’ ‘Month To Dos,’ and an ‘Everything Else To Dos,’” she explains. “It’s absolutely gratifying moving things from my ‘Day To Do’ bucket into the ‘Done’ bucket because I physically get to see what I’ve accomplished for the day and see my task list get smaller and smaller.”
How Intuit helps women flourish.
Intuit makes it easy for women to accomplish a lot by providing a great deal of support. For example, “[o]ur Tech Women at Intuit initiative is the heart of all career support for technical women at the company,” Taitano shares. “The best part about TWI is that the team is relentlessly proactive about the programs they organize. They are creative with the programs, from mentorship programs to professional development events and organizing talks that highlight the work our tech women do.”
The program she loves the most is Intuit Again, which she says is a great way to welcome back professionals who have left the workforce to prioritize family and other personal obligations.
Taitano and her team also practice the Shine Theory, which is the idea that collaboration is better than competition, especially among women. This, too, helps her succeed. “I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by so many tech women who practice this concept, and we’ve all experienced the benefits of being each other’s cheerleaders and sounding boards in the industry,” she says.
Supporting other women engineers.
As soon as Taitano checks out of Intuit for the day, she puts on her co-founder hat for her nonprofit, Code with Her, which enables her to give back to other women in the industry.
“I’ve always enjoyed working on projects and programs to empower women and minorities in tech, ever since I was a Computer Science student at UC San Diego,” she says. “My passion followed me to Intuit, where as part of the core team of Tech Women of Intuit (TWI) San Diego, I organized several coding events in partnership with Girl Scouts San Diego. My favorite program that I worked on was co-organizing Girl Scout teams for the Technovation Challenge, with my now co-founders Manisha Aswani (a former Intuit engineer) and Michaela Mitchell (the former STEAM Program Specialist of Girl Scouts San Diego).” Since she formed Code with Her in 2017, she’s had over 1,000 students from across the country go through her coding and technology programs.
“It’s hard work but, no matter how difficult or stressful it gets, I can’t help but continue to stoke this fire within me because I know what it’s like to have my life changed completely by being in the tech field,” she says. “I was born on the U.S. island territory of Guam where there are limited opportunities to improve your life. My mom had me when she was in high school, and if it weren’t for a series of fortunate events that included randomly getting into Computer Science at UCSD, I wouldn’t be here today. My hope with all of this is that instead of relying on luck or good circumstances to find this career path, there will be zero barriers for every student to consciously choose a future in tech if they wanted to.”
Key advice for women in STEM.
As for Taitano’s best advice for women in STEM: take risks beyond your comfort zone.
“Trust that the work ethic and the work experience that you’ve built will help you tackle any problem that comes your way, even if you might not necessarily know where to begin,” she says. “The nature of being in the STEM field is that it’s a given that we’re always learning. So it’s okay to be vulnerable, to ask for help, to tell people your goals, because there is always someone listening and willing to support you and guide you in the right direction. Embrace failures as learning opportunities — failures are only barriers if you let them be.”
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