Arit Amana, Engineer @ Forem
👩🏽💻 Job: Forem builds software that powers safe and thoughtful online communities. A lot of my day-to-day tasks involve coding and testing the tools and features that moderators and administrators use to configure their forms, and keep their forem members safe.
🇺🇸 Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
👶🏾 A son (school age) and a daughter (pre-K)
Resources she enjoys
What is the last project you worked on at Forem? Could you tell us more about it? What do you like most about your job?
My last project involved refactoring Authentication settings within the Forem Admin Portal. This portal is where forem administrators configure their forem to suit their community’s needs. Before my refactor, the user experience for the Authentication section was not as robust and fool-proof as it could be. For example, admins could enable login using Facebook, but leave the Facebook site and secret keys blank, a combination that made no sense really.
What I love most about working at Forem is, for the first time in my professional experience, I do not feel like I am leading two lives: one at work and one at home. Forem feels like home. My bosses and colleagues empower me to do my best work, to rest when I need it, to bring my whole self to work each day.
I also love the actual work we are doing; there are ample opportunities to level up technically through our tech stack, and the engineers are generous with pair-programming.
Our Time For Tech
Could you tell us more about Our Time for TECH? How are the cycles working? Is this in a bootcamp-style format?
I founded Our Time For Tech to help fill the gaps that women changing careers to software engineering may still experience during/after bootcamp, or while self-teaching. No we are not bootcamp-style; I admire the work that competent bootcamps are doing out there, and felt no need to duplicate their efforts. Currently we have two tracks:
- CodeCollab has our fellows building a forward-facing web app as a team, during which they improve their technical collaboration and communication skills.
- BetterPrep supports job-hunters with mock interviews, live coding practice, job application tracking and retros.
Breaking into Tech
You transitioned to Tech (from being a public health analyst), you said that you benefited from a lot of guidance, mentorship and support. Do you still have mentors today? Now you are a mentor yourself, what do you enjoy about it? What are the challenges you face?
I absolutely have mentors today; infact, my bootcamp mentor Jeremy is still very much in my life today :) As a mentor, I most enjoy supporting women (especially moms) transitioning to Tech Careers, or just figuring out what they want to do professionally and where their skills and interests lie.
My mindset is, a mentor cannot tell you what to do, but they can guide you in doing what you’ve chosen so that you pace yourself, stay motivated and take advantage of lessons they learned and mistakes they made.
For me, the greatest challenge of mentoring is when mentees expect you to work miracles for them, or believe that you always have the connections or power to get them to their next level. Sometimes, this is just not true.
Real talk about Tech sessions
I love that you offer 🔍 Real Talk about Breaking Into Tech. Anyone can book a time slot with you, it’s amazing. How are the sessions doing so far? Do people dare to book a talk session with you? How do you organise to do all this?
Real Talk about Tech came about after I went viral (for just a moment!) on Twitter. My DMs were filled with requests for mentoring and to talk. I knew I could not meet with everyone one-on-one, so I decided a group format would work better.
I held two sessions in March, and I believe they were fruitful. Moving forward, I will open up more slots as my schedule permits. And YES, please join the sessions! I am very transparent and practical in my advice and counsel, so I believe the sessions will be worth your time!
Imposter syndrome & transparency
In the 🖊 (Don’t) Always Trust Your Inner Critic article, you talked about your self-doubts, kind of Imposter Syndrome, when breaking into Tech. This is something many of us know. How did you deal with it? You talk about not taking feedback personally. Do you have any other advice?
At 2 years into my engineering career, I have accepted that I will always feel imposter syndrome. Now, instead of manifesting feelings of “I’ll never be good enough”, I choose to respond with humility and a willingness to keep learning and keep improving.
I also try to stay transparent about my skills, my triumphs as well as my mistakes. For example, when I’m going to be live coding during my tech talks, I resist the urge to “dry run” the coding before my talk, so that attendees can see me make mistakes and figure my way out of errors.
I think this type of transparency helps to empower others to push through their feelings of being an imposter.
Do you have any plans for your career in Tech? If so, could you tell us more about it :)
Absolutely. In terms of my career, I plan to keep leveling up technically. I want to be very sound and proficient as an engineer. I think landing a role as a Principal Engineer or thereabouts would be wonderful!
I would also like to achieve the power to make hiring decisions in Tech, and do my part to increase the inclusivity of the Tech industry.
Career & Parenting
On being present
In the 🖊 365 Days a Dev: A Review article, you talk about work-life balance, and how tough it was when starting a new job with a toddler. “Now I felt the strong need to build my dev career around my life, not the other way around.”: how do you set limits?
I think the key to setting appropriate limits is communication.
Be clear and firm on when you are and are not available for work. Then commit to being as present as possible, whether it’s at work, or with your family.
I think the boundaries get blurry when we try to do all things at all times, and are thus never really present anywhere.
Also I think, especially for moms, it helps to do the soul-work (I call it) of releasing the guilt of having a career, and wanting to grow and excel in it.
Own your professional aspirations & brilliance! If your career makes you happy, then you’re a happier mom for your children, and that only serves them.
Change of habits
Do you think it is possible to grow a career in Tech without work overlapping our personal life (and our mental health - thinking of the joy of sleeping :) ). How do you do?
Absolutely, but the key is to STOP comparing your tech journey to that of others (no small feat, especially if you’re on Tech Twitter lol).
Slow, steady progress is still progress; the idea that you must breathe, eat, and sleep your career in order to level up is, at best, naive and, at worst, potentially destructive.
Now, for me, one of the things that had to go was my marathon TV-watching lol. I couldn’t be there for my family, keep learning tech skills AND keep up with 12 shows. So some of your habits and indulgences will change, for sure, but you don’t have to sacrifice a balanced life to level up in Tech.
Working mom’s routine
What is your routine / evening morning?
Before I share this, I should say that I work 100% remotely.
In the mornings, I wake my children, get them ready for school/daycare, fix their meals. If I planned to workout that morning, I’ll dress in my workout clothes; after dropping my kids off, I workout. Next I shower and start work.
I typically break in the early afternoon for 60-90 minutes, either to eat, to load the dishwasher/laundry, or run a quick errand. I continue working through the afternoon; if a morning workout couldn’t work (say, due to an early meeting), then I’ll workout right before going to pick my kids.
In the evenings, I focus on dinner and time with family. My children go to bed fairly early (8-ish pm) so I have a couple hours after their bedtime to de-stress, do my skincare routine, return calls/texts, watch a show, etc. Then I head to bed.
Mental and experiential challenges
From what you experience, what is the most challenging thing about being a mom / working mom?
I think the challenges can be both mental and experiential. Mentally, if we’re dealing with guilt around desiring a fulfilling career, or practicing adequate self-care, I think it’s harder to show up fully for our families and lives.
I also think that the emotional support (or lack thereof) that we receive from partners, family and/or friends influences how confidently we balance mommying, career, relationships, self-care, etc.
Experientially, I think challenges can arise when we do not introduce structure and encourage independence where it would be helpful. For example, my daughter was an infant while I was in coding bootcamp; early on, I realized that if I did not sleep-train her and get her on a schedule, I wouldn’t be able to keep a regular studying schedule. I have learned to accept a less-than-spotless home and accept my childrens’ cleaning limitations lol.
We mothers experience so much expectations from all sides; I have found the freedom and sanity of deliberately disappointing some of these expectations, so I can prioritize those aspects of my life that are most important to me.
Inspiring our kids
And the greatest?
My son has said, “Mom, I want to be a software engineer just like you” That was such a crowning moment for me, not about his career choice per se, but that I was inspiring my son.
That’s my superpower as a working mom - I demonstrate to my children that through our work, we can improve and empower lives, make a good living, practice generosity due to that good living. As a satisfied, fulfilled woman first, I can then bless my children with my wholeness and strong sense of self-worth.
The process of improving your life - whether it’s entering a new career like I did, or something else - will change up the status quo for you and everyone in your life.
Some of these changes will be enjoyable and welcome; some will be uncomfortable, maybe painful. Your loved ones may roll with the changes, or they might outright reject them and even you.
Do not be afraid. Live deliberately. Live intentionally. Trust your gut and your instincts. Lean into your future. You are enough and you are capable of becoming far beyond what you or others think. Do not be afraid. ♥️
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