From a young age, Karla Maria Garcia had an aptitude for studying and was passionate about learning how things work, which she finds has stood to her to this day in her role in Verizon Media.
As part of her role as a software developer, Karla Maria Garcia works on projects that aim to present and demystify technology for women – something she has tried to do herself throughout her career path. Her attitude to and love of challenges is what has led her to achieve success.
Here, we chat to her about how that career path has unfolded over the years.
‘As in any career, there are some challenges that are easier for some people, others need more dedication’
– KARLA MARIA GARCIA
What first stirred your interest in a career in software development?
I can say that it was more destiny than choice. I was looking for a good public school to start high school and I heard about a technical school that offered a course in telecommunications. I was 14 years old and I had no idea what I would study there, but as the teaching was of a high quality, I decided to apply and I passed.
In this technical course, I learned the fundamentals of electrical engineering and software development.
Related to software development, there was only one discipline in the course. I learned how to build a HTML page and basic programming concepts using Pascal. It was enough to awaken my interest in software development, making me decide to start an information systems degree after this course.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered on your career path and how did you deal with them?
The main technical challenges I had in my career were related to scaling applications. Usually, they are not easy problems to solve and they happen when the application is already in production and presenting problems to customers.
I learned that for this type of problem the secret is to monitor. We need to monitor the application to understand what the problem is and, once corrected, we need to continue monitoring to confirm that the problem has actually been solved.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
The most important people were the professors I had in the technical school. They did not limit themselves to teaching only what was in the curriculum, but to show those young people that they could go much further with the acquired knowledge. I am very grateful for each one of them.
What do you enjoy about your job as a software developer?
Each day is a new challenge, there is no monotony. For example, I don’t like housework because every day I do the same thing in the same way, there is nothing new.
In software development, a solution you have implemented today can probably be implemented differently in a few months or even days. Perhaps because there is a new technology that helps you to solve it more easily or because you have learned something new.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?
I like to study and to understand how things work. In technology, there are many languages and tools we can use and there is always something new, so enjoying learning new things is very important.
In my adolescence, when I wasn’t at school, I was at home studying. I didn’t have a hobby. I remember that one day, worried about my future, I asked a friend if there was a company that would pay me to study, since that was the only thing I liked to do! At that age, I had no idea how significant this was.
How did Verizon Media support you on your career path, if at all?
We have a lot of tools to help us to get better, like access to platforms that provide online courses, books, events, and training with industry experts and certifications.
Internally, there are also projects at different levels (time, department, area etc) in which we can present our projects in order to share knowledge, as well as receive feedback and suggestions.
One-on-one discussions and a performance review programme helps to align expectations. The company also provides mental health resources that are very useful during these unprecedented times.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in software development, or just starting out in one?
Try. Give yourself a chance. I usually work on projects that aim to present and demystify technology for women. What I used to hear most were things like “It is too difficult” or “I’m not smart enough”.
As in any career, there are some challenges that are easier for some people, others need more dedication. But if you don’t try you will never know what it would be like and you may be missing out on a great opportunity.
There are many online courses available that you can use to try and see if you like it before starting a computer science degree, for example.
In one of those projects I mentioned above, I met a geologist interested in software development because she intended to use this to help her process data from her projects. She was doing this using spreadsheets and it was a lot of work. So even if you don’t want to pursue that career, at least a basic knowledge of programming can help you make your current job easier.