Before Kristine Huang became the VP of Data Engineering at PEAK6, she was designing digital nervous systems and building SpaceX satellites that could land safely on Mars. The support she receives from PEAK6 is, in part, responsible for skyrocketing her career, helping her build a track that is out of this world.
“I saw a significant amount of career growth jumping from being an individual contributor to a manager position,” she said. “My world opened up to more responsibilities like recruiting, soliciting and giving feedback, and working with other managers to get involved and improve organizational culture.”
She also notes that the learning opportunities at PEAK6 are endless: “I’m working on learning a new domain and new technologies I’ve never used before. That’s part of what I love about working at PEAK6. It puts me in situations where I am working with new people with different expertise from different industries and we’re working on something new together.”
We recently spoke to Huang about her experience at PEAK6, her favorite mistake (which she happily and humbly shared), and her No. 1 piece of advice for job-seeking women in the tech space. Check out her responses below.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
Before joining PEAK6, I was a manager of Software Engineering and Data Engineering at SpaceX for nearly a decade. I first heard about SpaceX through a colleague and he asked me to Google Elon Musk. Elon and SpaceX weren’t popular during that time. I ended up interviewing with Elon, and I was impressed with his visionary approach. His goal was to bring people to Mars and to make life on earth multiplanetary.
I took the job and everything we did was dedicated to the mission of building rockets that would achieve the goal. I designed and built the backend for the digital nervous system that powered all information flows at the company (engineering, design, manufacturing and launch). During my time there, I worked with teams to get a rocket in space, a reusable rocket that could land (never been done before), create the first private vehicle to dock with the International Space Station (ISS), bring satellites to space and build SpaceX satellites.
What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?
The first thing I do at work every day is make a cup of coffee and think about what I need to accomplish for the day. The last thing I do at work is check that I’ve completed the things I intended to complete.
What’s something you’re especially good at work?
I get really excited with data and I am good at modeling data in a structure to make sure that people can use it and access it in the form that they want. I want to create solutions that will transform data into information that enables everyone to make data-based decisions at the speed of thought.
What are you trying to improve on?
I’m working on learning a new domain and new technologies I’ve never used before. That’s part of what I love about working at PEAK6. It puts me in situations where I am working with new people with different expertise from different industries and we’re working on something new together.
What’s your favorite mistake?
As a new manager, we had an intern who made a major mistake with a company database. I lost my cool and reacted emotionally.
This incident gave me perspective on two things: first, that I needed to put more restrictions and controls in place to protect the interns from making major mistakes that could put the company at risk. And more importantly, I learned to approach mishaps and mistakes in a calmer manner. Take a step back, gather thoughts and react rationally.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
I saw a significant amount of career growth jumping from being an individual contributor to a manager position. As a manager, I get to help and mentor other people with their careers. My world opened up to more responsibilities like recruiting, soliciting and giving feedback, and working with other managers to get involved and improve organizational culture.
What do you love most about your job or your company?
PEAK6 values women in leadership roles and the culture is very supportive of women helping women. I’m not the only female in the room. Women have a seat at the table across the firm.
What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
I’m currently reading “After the Trade is Made” by David M. Weiss.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?
Apply to positions that you’re passionate about even if you don’t meet every single criteria on the job description. And when you take a job, don’t just be an observer, volunteer to be more empowered, offer to lead initiatives, participate in recruiting for diversity, and be involved in defining the culture.
Who is/was the most influential person in your life and why?
My mom is my role model because she successfully raised three daughters while juggling a career as an executive.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
When you feel challenged in your job, that means you’re in the right place so that you can keep growing as a professional.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
The best boss I’ve ever had was a supportive boss who gave me big challenges and feedback so I could grow.
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