Courtesy of Fina Silva-Santisteban
For this mom and Latinx, failure and periodic setbacks paved the way to career success
Fina Silva-Santisteban describes herself as a software engineer and a mom. At LTSE she works on both full-stack and data-engineering projects that integrate a wide variety of technologies. She arrived at this point in her career following a winding path, but her interest in technology has been steadfast since childhood.
Fina grew up in Germany, after her parents immigrated from Peru when she was three years old. Thanks to excellent internet access and encouragement from her father, she gravitated towards STEM focused learning experiences.
Yet none of that prepared Fina for her first year at university, where she chose to study computer science and proceeded to fail algebra, statistics, and the rest of her classes in the core curriculum.
“My dad always said that talent is worth nothing if you don’t work hard,” she recalls. “So I was thinking, maybe I don’t have a talent for this right now, but if I keep working hard I’ll succeed.”
She stayed at it, working part-time jobs and studying full time until she passed.
In 2013, Fina moved to Dublin, where for the next five years she worked as a data analyst for a series of tech companies, including Facebook and LinkedIn. Over those five years, she applied to 10 coding bootcamps. None accepted her. At the time, Dublin was flush with jobs in sales and analytics, but few in software engineering.
In 2018, Fina moved to Sunnyvale, California after her husband’s company transferred him. There Fina found herself in the world capital of coding bootcamps, but she was not ready to apply. Between the birth of her son and setbacks on her journey to become a software engineer, Fina had talked herself out of trying.
But she did eventually apply—with credit to her husband for the extra push—and joined Hackbright Academy, a coding bootcamp for women.
Whenever Fina’s classmates praised her work, she was quick to tell them how many times she had failed along the way. Throughout her journey, she’s come to see failure as part of learning anything new. “Of course you will fail because you don’t know this yet,” she says. “That’s why you need to work.”
What are your pronouns? She/Her
How long have you been at LTSE? Almost two years.
How do you start your day? I wake up around 5:30 a.m. While my husband and toddler are still asleep, I usually listen to audiobooks and knit. Lately I’ve been working on a sweater.
What’s something you worked on recently? I am working on Long-Term Score, or LT Score, a proprietary algorithm that LTSE launched to help companies uncover insights from investors based on how long they hold their shares.
What do you look for in resumes? I always try to get a sense of a candidate's core skills, rather than titles or reputation of past employers. I want to know what have you learned? How have you put it into practice? Basically, tell me what you can do and the results you’ve achieved.
What’s one thing you look for in a technical interview? Our team is working on many different types of problems, which means we work with a number of technologies. It is important to recognize instances in which you could choose one technology over another. That shows you not only know how to use a tool but when.
What do you look for in a project portfolio? Documentation! That includes a README file that explains the architecture, together with class diagrams, a link or GIF to a demo, and well-commented code.
What is your advice for someone aiming to work in your field? Three things. First, the idea of a dream job is kind of a myth. Second, set realistic expectations. And third, always keep learning. It’s OK to take a job that may be 90% of what you’re looking for, even if you’re “meh” about the remaining 10%. A software engineer, for example, might spend 80% of their time coding, 10% on project management and the rest on interacting with customers. That may not seem like the job for you if you’re looking to spend all of your time coding, but it might be just what you need. It really helps to connect with people in jobs similar to one you’d like to have. You’ll learn things that enable you to set realistic expectations. And be curious, including about things you’re not too excited about up front. You never know, you might end up loving them.