April 07, 2015 - by Angie Chang

Fastly Sales Engineer And Hackbright Alumna Cassandra Dixon Shares Advice

Hackbright alumna Cassandra Dixon graduated from Wesleyan University in 2004 with a math degree.

Cassandra Dixon
Fastly Sales Engineer

"Being a Sales Engineer requires a lot of work, but it also offers flexibility to attend to my baby's need. For a working mom, Fastly had been a win win!!"

How Did You Get Your Job After Hackbright?

"I was introduced to Fastly in October 2013 at Futurestack (Hint Hint: Don't be afraid to attend conferences and network!). They were a young startup and seeking people to join their Support Engineering group. The position was described as working to debug customer's configurations, learning network diagnostic tools, and exploring web caching. After attending Hackbright and building an app, this sounded like Greek. The job opportunity was exciting and the idea of learning something totally new was intimidating. I was offered a position at Fastly (relief and joy washed over me) and it has been a wonderful experience since.

I have been at Fastly for over a year and it has been amazing. I grew in my role as a Support Engineer and I was fortunate to have a boss/company committed to career growth. Initially, I was interested in moving into an engineering role. But life (having a baby in 2014) changed my perspective. I enjoyed working with customers. I wanted to continue my technical growth in Open Systems Interconnection and schedule flexibility. Thus I decided to stay in the Support Engineering group where growth to Sales Engineer and Professional Service was possible.

I was promoted to Sales Engineer after returning from maternity in 2015. On a side note, Fastly respects work/life balance and offers five months of full pay maternity (Amaze-balls!!). Now I am learning how to configure services in VCL (a Varnish Language), work with our sales team and prospects to drive revenue, and still work with support to maintain my technical chops.

In the future, I want to continue my growth as a Solution Engineer. Another win for Fastly is that they offer various avenues for learning. We have Opsmania weekly with an Operation's member. We have periodic tech talks and engineers will offer their time for one on one sessions. I plan on using these opportunities to get back into coding. Although, I may not want to be a full-time engineer, I do want to build internal tools when time permits. Having these skills will provide me the tools to grow in Fastly or wherever my career endeavors take me."

Pictured: Baby engineer

What's Your Advice To Your Younger Self?

"I would advise my Hackbright self to find sources of relaxation while embarking a career in tech. I wouldn't tell myself to not stress because I would not have listened. I wouldn't tell myself to work harder, because I know I gave 100% during Hackbright even if I felt I was not at the speed of other students. I wouldn't tell myself to learn other tools or skills on the side because the Hackbright training was a full-time commitment - there was a waterhose of knowledge being thrown at you. However, I should have taken more breaks, rested my brain. For example, I love soccer. I could have played a pick up game on the weekend to de-stress.

Most importantly, I would advise my college self not to give up on a major in Computer Engineering. At Columbia, there were about four females in the engineering program, which was scary and lacked a good support system. I needed to seek my own support system. This would have been possible but my college self needed confidence in her abilities. Hackbright showed me that the concepts weren't overwhelming."

What's A Day In The Life Of A Fastly Sales Engineer Like?

"As a Sales Engineer, a typical day involves one or two calls. Some day are heavier. With prospects, we talk about pain points and solutions. Sometimes we have working sessions where we configure their service together.

In between calls, I work on support questions from customers. Working on support issues involve using network diagnostic tools, such as cURL, tcpdump, traceroutes. I review and write code in VCL. I work with our Engineering, Product, and Ops teams on interesting issues/questions. Other responsibilities include conference appearances, documentation, writing blogs, and training new team members."

What Attracted You To Engineering?

"A previous career in financial software piqued my interest in programming. I enjoyed the problem solving with customers. When I moved into a commercial finance role, the duties become boring, the potential for career growth stale. This was my 'ah-ha' moment. I needed something challenging and different. Looking back on my careers, joining the technical field was the sensible option. Hackbright gave me that opportunity."

Favorite Part About Sales Engineering at Fastly?

"I really enjoy working with prospects in testing our product. I think our product is great which makes selling it enjoyable. I listen to prospects to understand their concerns (whether its cost, performance, or functionality). It feels empowering working with customers and they look to me as a source of knowledge as well as appreciate my help.

Fastly has many perks big and small, from a company soccer & running team, to a great maternity package. We also have lunches on Mondays & Thursdays, and Kumbucha!!! We have ladies wine nights and career growth & training opportunities."

Cassandra is a graduate of Hackbright Academy's Engineering Fellowship.

Deadline to apply for Hackbright Academy's engineering fellowship for women is May 2nd! Start your application today!


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