May 20, 2015 - by Paria Rajai

Unleash Your Potential: How To Choose the Right Company - Advice from Cindy Chu, Engineering Manager at a Silicon Valley Startup

Cindy Chu, engineering manager at Polyvore, recently sat with the editors of Women of Silicon Valley to share her experience in tech. She began working at Polyvore, a site that lets you give and get styling inspiration, four years ago as an engineer and led a variety of teams before becoming a manager full-time.

She had previously worked on platforms and mobile search at Yahoo. Below is an excerpt of her interview where she shares how she landed at a company she loves.

Polyvore is a community powered social commerce website. Users can make collages in Fashion, Beauty and Home Design.

What got you into Computer Science?

I think no one was more surprised than I was when I ended up in Computer Science! I was heavily involved in journalism and writing when I was in high school, so I always assumed I would study something related. My first quarter at Stanford though, I took CS105 (advertised as “CS for non-majors”) and it ended up being my favorite class.

I played catch-up the rest of my freshman and sophomore years since I was behind all of the other CS majors, but I really enjoyed the immediacy of writing code and seeing it work. This was also when I realized the importance of liking the people you work with—late night coding sessions can be fun with a great group of people.

Describe a time you’ve felt sexism or discrimination in the workplace or classroom. How did you handle it?

It was always the little things that made me feel I didn’t belong. When I attended industry events and people heard I worked for Yahoo, their first question was always, “Do you work in HR? Accounting?” like I couldn’t possibly have been an engineer.

I have actually never run into this at Polyvore. The company is over half women, the management team is 66% women, and the culture emphasizes work-life balance and rewarding people who make an impact to the business. You could say I’ve handled it by choosing to work at a place where it’s not an issue and I have strong women role models to look up to.

What makes being a woman in tech worth it?

I love that tech enables you to reach so many people and make a huge impact. It’s amazing to think that code created by one team, or a small team of people, will touch millions of users.

As an engineering manager, my favorite thing is watching team members grow and succeed. It’s always been difficult for me not try to do everything on my own, but over the last couple of years my team has repeatedly delighted and surprised me whenever I have managed to pull back a little.

What advice do you have for any girls pursuing a future in tech?

You don’t have to put up with an unsupportive workplace. Find people and companies who will value you for your ideas, regardless of gender.

This interview was originally posted on the Women of Silicon Valley Medium series. Photo credit: Nicole Kim. 


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