When we met Kat, Software Engineer, Team Lead (AKA Release Mistress) at r3

This week we met Katelyn Baker who is a software engineer at r3. r3 revolutionise the way blockchain impacts finance. We chatted about how she worked her way up the ladder, how she deals with taking on the role of leader and what advice she would give to junior female software engineers.

Everyone has their own opinions- it’s just being confident enough to act on them.
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What do you do at r3?

I'm the Tech Lead of the Network Services team, I release manage the Corda open source project, and I’m also one of four engineers, alongside the chief engineer and head of engineering, who sit on the tech clearing and oversight alongside the CTO. We have a preview of addressing the long term technical decisions faced by the whole engineering team.

I’m keen on mentoring, and really enjoy investing time supporting members of staff in different departments

What attracted you to r3 in the first place?

They were solving some really hard problems! It was one of those brand new areas which you could tell was going to be important.

What’s the best bit about workinG at r3?

Having my team deliver solutions that people want, use and need.

My team is delivering a project and releasing new code in 9 days! It’s stressful as I feel like I’ve been given a lot of leeway, and you are only as good as your last piece of work. Being trusted puts the pressure on, but it’s important to me that we have fun and have a great team dynamic.

Where do you see your career going long term?

5 years ago if you had asked me that question I would have said ‘I see myself as an individual contributor’. However, now that I have been more exposed and involved in the industry, it’s important for me to become part of the decision making and have an impact on the direction of the business.

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What has been your biggest challenge since joining r3?

Building a world class network services team.

I got the team to foster a more demo centric view. Architectural decisions that had been made required re-evaluation, so I brought my previous experience to make the changes and build a team. We are Maid Marian (me) and her merry men. No one gets to be robin as, in the myth, he out ranks Marion and we can’t be having any of that on this team *grin*.

To do this I had to learn how to project the right image, how to put on a show. I found that I had to be a strong leader with a strong vision and had to be larger than life. You could say that I maybe had to act way more confident than I probably was.

A lot of hard work has been done but now I would be happy for someone new to take over the team and put their fresh lick of paint on it.

What inspired you to get into tech?

The only reason I’m doing this, is because of a multiple-choice questionnaire at college that said I should go into computing! I was very average at school and college. I got A’s in Maths, and B’s in everything else. Having never written a line of code I went to uni in 1998 to read Computer Science. But in a very short space of time I realised that I had found something that I was really good at. it just kind of worked with my brain. I had the ability to imagine how a system should work, understand the interacting components and make it all make sense.

Towards the end of my PhD I got a job at the university, as a part-time teaching assistant as funds were a little tight. Then I stumbled across my first full time job as a developer; thus began the worst year of my life! Writing PhD and working full time. ☹

How to stand out as a women in tech?

You are perfectly entitled to have you own goals and agenda in your company. If you think there is a tool that the company should be building, then talk to your boss or to their boss. You can change the company!

What about women thinking about getting into tech?

You have to dabble! Oh and practice the technical interview.

If you weren’t going into tech, what would you be instead - and why?

My dream job would be Author! I really love long fantasy novels. I would like to create a world that does anything; maybe where women are in charge and men have babies.

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Do you think now is a good time for women to enter into BLOCKCHAIN?

Absolutely! Blockchain is a brand new playing field. If you think about all the industries that blockchain touches, it’s vast. Everyone is on a level playing field as it is brand new.

It’s a field with no old ideas, everyone has a new perspective, there is no established orthodoxy men can use to brow beat you and make you feel wrong for having not been around for the past however many years. Teams working in this area are dynamic and diverse and not hung up what you did in the past, only what you can do to make the future better.

The Corda Whitepaper was published only 3 years ago, representing a lot of thinking about something that at the time didn’t exist. The fact people like Mike (Hearn) and Richard Brown got so much stuff right, had the vision to see what businesses would need, is astonishing really. Of course, over that time thinking has evolved as theory becomes practice and assumptions challenged, we’re still trying to predict what people will want, what issues they’ll face. All the problems are not solved. What a great time to get into an industry when it is going through fundamental change, you can’t be wrong.

Laura Wiltshire