People

Inside Change with Channie Wu

Nov 23, 2020

What is your role at Change? What was your path into Engineering?

I am an engineering manager. I work on a team that creates tools and experiences that help petition starters be successful in running their campaigns – raising awareness and gathering the support needed to make a change in this world.  

I have experienced a tremendous amount of growth during the past 5 years I’ve been at Change. I started at Change as a mid-level engineer with mostly backend experience. I learned a ton through working on different parts of the stack as a fullstack engineer, took on bigger projects and leadership responsibilities, became senior engineer and tech lead. And I’ve spent the past year and a half learning and becoming a better manager.  

In terms of what got me into Engineering… I stumbled upon a programming class during college as part of pursuing a degree related to film and experimental digital media. I found that programming made a lot of sense to me, while a lot of my peers sat in confusion. That opportunity opened the door of possibilities on what programming and software could lead to for me. I went from thinking Internet Explorer equals “internet” (zero technical experience), to calling myself a programmer and software engineer when I graduated.  

What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging? 

There are 2 aspects of my job I found most satisfying:

One is supporting and watching people grow. It is deeply satisfying whenever I witness people growing and shining in ways beyond my abilities or my imagination. 

Another is when I connect the dots and do it well. This could be connecting business goals with engineering strategy. This could be finding overlaps between someone’s growth area and what’s needed to get a project done. Or it could be finding a win-win solution for a resource conflict problem.

One of the most challenging parts of my job has to do with how long it takes to get feedback on decisions I make and strategies I build. Whether it’s hiring and team structuring, or technology adoption strategy, or an individual’s career growth, oftentimes it takes as long as months of time to see the result and impact of my actions.  

What programming languages do you use? Which do you prefer or are most familiar with? 

I am familiar with Java, Scala, Ruby, Javascript, and currently learning Elixir and Typescript. I’ve used Java, Ruby, and Javascript most extensively professionally, so those are what I’m most familiar with.

I tend to think of software and technology as a means to an end. Because of that, I’m not deeply attached to a particular language or framework. I prefer to choose the tool that’s best for the job for the problem we’re solving, or what we’re building towards.  

Tell me about a project or accomplishment you’re proud of.

I have two projects to share:

The first project is a feature for petition starters to create memorable short urls to better publicize their petitions. What I’m most proud of is our team tackled a large, ancient tech debt while delivering a scalable and high quality feature. And in order to make this happen, our team learned about infrastructure technologies such as NGINX and Terraform. 

Another project I’m proud of is when I led a grassroots departmental initiative on unconscious bias training. I partnered with the VP of Product, worked with a handful of staff volunteer facilitators. We used free online resources and held moderated discussions in small and large groups through 6 sessions. It started out just being a topic I was passionate about and believed to be important. The moment I actually realized the impact of this work was when I sat in an after-interview debrief meeting, when someone brought up a concern about a piece of feedback being biased, and the whole group of interviewers had common language about unconscious bias to discuss the feedback further before landing on a decision. This was the start of many processes we’ve implemented in our hiring and interview process to minimize bias, and it was also the start of my journey in the space of diversity and inclusion. 

Why is working for a social impact company important to you?

The main reason that led me to join Change is my belief that as long as I am going to spend a good amount of my life working, I want it to contribute positively to the world. 

That is still true, but after working at Change I found there’s more than that: there is a difference when you work with people who are passionate about making the world a better place. This passion leads to strong energy in creating a more inclusive workplace, building a more diverse team. It leads to a conversation that just happened today during our product development process about how equitable our product becomes if we choose to implement a feature a certain way.  

As a woman in tech, and a person of color, a company’s internal commitment and societal impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion have become a must-have for me.  

When you’re not at work, what do you spend your free time doing?

I play volleyball. I never had official training, but I love the sport! I used to play indoors exclusively. Since the pandemic started, I’ve started to venture out to play on the beach.