Consultant Spotlight: Julia Chen

Looking to grow within the tech space, but don’t know where to start? Kforce Consultant Julia Chen shares how she became a software developer, her tips for those working remote and how Kforce helped her gain experience with the newest technology.

Can you describe your current role as a Software Engineer?

I started my current assignment last April as a full stack developer. I work 60% UI with Angular JS and 40% API using Node JS, Express JS and GraphQL. My team follows Agile practice with two-week sprints. At the beginning of each sprint, we assign stories to each developer, and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning we give status updates on our assigned stories. We also close each sprint with a review of what has been done, what cannot be done, go over story grooming for the next sprint—where we talk about the difficulty and complexity of our future stories—and give future stories a story point, which measures how difficult the story is.

The software I work on is used by internal technicians to maintain the accounts and devices of our customers.

How did you get started in technology?

I have two master’s degrees in Computer Science—one from when I graduated in 2015 in China and another when I came to the US in 2016. I also have a bachelor’s degree in Communications Engineering.

Coming to the US as a student, I got a chance to experience a new culture and different working environments. I’ve worked in America for three and a half years, and all three jobs I’ve had in America have been front end software engineer/developer roles on the UI/API side. I also worked in China for a year as an Operation Engineer maintaining the Azure platform for the company I worked for.

How did you first connect with Kforce?

I have a trick. I just searched the title “recruiter” in LinkedIn and introduced myself. I just said, “Hello, I am in the job market and have this background. Here’s my resume. I would really like to work with Kforce.” From there, I would just keep in contact with them.

I knew that Kforce is good, especially when it comes to sponsoring international employees. Just last week, I recommended a student from my university to Kforce. Also, Kforce’s website is great—you can search location, search the job title and the job link is there. You click one button to attach your resume and they will contact you.

How did you develop your relationship with Kforce?

Right after I jumped into the job market in the US, a member of the Kforce recruiting team responded to my LinkedIn message and we had a long conversation about my background, especially as an international student. We covered the steps that would help me stay here, have a career here and have a life here. Kforce gives great advice regarding resumes and backgrounds, and the recruiters really consider the roles they present to you. The account managers and recruiters have confidence in me—I really appreciate that.

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Are there any skills or qualities that you feel are important to be successful as a consultant?

Be ready to learn. You will always have lots of things to learn, but a good company will give you time and resources. The senior team members will guide you, so you don’t need to be afraid. Just learn fast. That’s it.

Are there any technologies that you’ve been particularly fond of or that make your life easier as a software engineer?

I feel things will always get easier and easier because developers will always pick up the simplest tool to use as long as they can provide a high-quality product. In my current role, I’m developing software that will be used enterprise-wide, so the quality is really important. Node JS, Express JS and GraphQL provides flexibility. One of the reasons I joined as a consultant is because the client is using the newest and coolest software that’s also easy to pick up. It gives me the skills to sell if I ever have to change jobs again.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the software engineering space?

Taking the time to explore some training would be great a place to start, I’d suggest either a bachelor’s degree or boot camp. Some of my current coworkers do not have bachelor’s or master’s degrees, but went to bootcamp. Especially in the beginning, if you are coding, I think you need somebody around you to help guide you. Face to face training or hands-on practice is essential.

Are there any technologies you’re excited about exploring in the future?

I’m trying to make my SQ sharper, especially with Node JS and Express JS. I am also working on developing my business logic in the industry I currently work for. As a software developer, when I change jobs, I get to learn a new industry. Previously, I worked on software used by a closing attorney for a real estate agent—I got to know the process of buying a house, closing a house, as well as all of the people that are involved in the process. That business logic has helped me make decisions with my own home.

Do you have any work from home tips, or tips for maintaining a work-life balance?

Right now, my team is going into the office every eight weeks for two-week sprints, so I do spend most of my time working from home. I feel having a dedicated workspace and dedicated work time is important. Working from home has given me more flexibility since we meet in the mornings and I work hard through the afternoon. Sit to stand tables really help your spine and back. Also, buy one wide screen—it’s better than two or three separate monitors for developers.

What are your favorite books?

I do like to suggest everyone read the book “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck. It’s about self-growth and helped me get through some difficult times. I also like “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini. With everything going on, it is the time to read right now.

What are some fun facts about you?

I like learning new things.

I sleep a lot. Really, a lot. I can sleep 10+ hours a day.

I like to sing and watch YouTube.

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