Software Engineer at Google
Lindi Emoungu is a software engineer at Google and currently works on Google Search. Prior to working on Google Search, she worked on Google Maps. She received an S.B. from MIT in Environmental Engineering and an M.C.P from MIT in Urban Planning. After graduating from MIT she participated in a year long writing fellowship at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
What got you into Computer Science?
When I was an undergraduate, I did an Undergraduate Research Opportunity at the MIT Media Lab. While at the Media Lab, I discovered the joy of writing programs to make art. I’ve been hooked ever since. I think of software engineering as a creative discipline, and the possibilities of what you can make are infinite.
Describe a time you’ve felt discrimination in the workplace or classroom. How did you handle it?
I’ve experienced sexism to the point of absurdity. I remember refactoring an application to reduce the amount of memory it consumed. When they asked a male colleague what I should do to solve the problem, his sage advice was to set the visibility of the components consuming memory to false. You know, because that way they would magically disappear from memory.
Finally, I devised a solution that reduced the memory consumption by an order of magnitude. When it became clear that solving their most intractable technical problem wasn’t going to stop them from disrespecting me and passing me over, I quit.
On another occasion, I was asked to implement a program that would generate solutions for certain kinds of puzzles. When I came up with a solution, one of my colleagues approached me publicly and said that he and another engineer had worked for two weeks to try and solve this problem and couldn’t. I remember thinking to myself: “Oh, no wonder the room is so quiet right now.”
A few weeks later, I was approached by another colleague who sternly asked to see me in the conference room. Once we entered the room, he shut the door behind him and asked very quietly if I could help him solve a problem.
What makes being in tech worth it?
I get really excited when I get something to work. Recently, I was doing some code exercises to learn a new language. As I was iterating toward a solution, I would try something and fail. I would try another thing, and fail.
At one point, I heard that voice in my head: “Why don’t you let someone who knows what they’re doing show you how to do this?” I decided to compile and run one more time, and of course it worked.
I’ve also been privileged to work with amazing people, many of whom I’ve met at Google. My time at Google has been immensely rewarding because of the people I’ve been able to collaborate with. I’ve met folks who are brilliant and committed to the idea that the tech world should be open to everyone who wants to make a contribution. The tech world is full of people who “get it,” and that’s exciting. It’s important not to lose sight of that.
What advice do you have for any girls pursuing a future in tech?
The exciting thing about tech is that you can use very powerful tools to solve any problem you can imagine.
Technology places an immense amount of power in your hands and in your mind. My advice to girls pursuing a future in tech is not to squander that power in exchange for acceptance.
The higher you go, the more you will encounter people who will say all of the right things and never advance you. Don’t slow down for those people. Go fast, work hard, be yourself, trust yourself and you will find the people you are supposed to do great things with.