As we celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month in the US, for this #ClouderaLife Employee Spotlight we sat down with Clouderan Sherry Zhou to talk about her career transition from biology to technology, her geographic transition from the US to the UK, and what she learned along the way.
Sherry is an Engineering Manager for the CDV (Cloudera Data Visualization) team. Her team’s objectives are to, first, make it easier for analysts to explore data, enabling them to uncover interesting trends in product features and performance. A second objective is to make it easier for less technical users to interpret data through the creation of dashboards.
Sherry started at Cloudera two years ago as an individual contributor and a technology lead for the team. She then took on a people manager role and is now managing a team of ten plus rotating interns.
“As an individual contributor I understood the big picture of the product, but becoming a people manager really expanded my perspective,” she said. “I learned a lot more about what goes into team planning and management of resources, and how the product relates to the team.”
Starting at and returning to Cloudera at the same time
Sherry got her start in web development at a startup company, Arcadia Data, in the San Francisco Bay Area. She then brought her and her family to London and moved on to another company. “Living in London has been an exciting experience,” she said. “There has been a lot to learn and explore as well as a lot of adjustment in how everything works in the rhythm of the day-to-day.”
Meanwhile, Arcadia Data was acquired by Cloudera and a couple of years ago her former Arcadia colleagues, now Cloudera employees, contacted her. They were working on what is now called CDV (formerly an Arcadia product) and expanding, looking for those with previous experience in the product.
“Cloudera has a great culture. I really like how hard the company tries to be inclusive,” she said. “I also really like the company’s Cloudera Cares program, which matches donations to charities and causes.” She adds, “They are always coming up with new and interesting programs.”
From an early interest in technology to a biology career in the NIH, all led back to high-tech.
Sherry always had an interest in technology while growing up. Her first foray into the world of web development started at the age of thirteen when she learned HTML to build a webpage to showcase photos from her math and science camp.
Despite her burgeoning interests in web design, she decided to study biology at Yale University and, after graduation, worked as an analyst at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Washington DC. “Looking back at my time with the NIH, the part of my job I found the most fun was when I could automate my job by writing scripts,” she said. “I was drawn to this kind of work and ultimately decided I needed to explore it as a career.”
So Sherry took a deep dive into a new career in high-tech, by moving out to the San Francisco Bay Area. There she interned and then enrolled in a coding boot camp, which included training and aid in job placement. It even had a place to sleep as students had intense project schedules.
“Software development is a creative outlet for me,” she said. “You start with a problem and create something to solve that problem that didn’t exist before; it’s very fulfilling.”
“For anyone looking to advance their career in software development, I would say the more code you write in more varied projects the better it will be for you in the long run,” she said. “For example, participate in Hackathons to meet new people or explore different technologies and different ways of doing things. What you learn may not apply to your job today but in my case a lot of what I picked up wound up helping me later on.
Recognizing International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month (US)
“It’s great to celebrate the progress women have made through International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month,” Sherry said. “When I was just starting out in my career in technology there were an overwhelming number of men in the field,” she said. “I had a great opportunity to volunteer at ‘Women Who Code’ events and similar organizations to help change that. The coding boot camp I was enrolled in was also an inclusive environment that brought together talent from all different backgrounds. As I got started I noticed that not all companies felt as welcoming, and I sought out companies to join that had a supportive team environment. On our team, I’m pleased to see we have a pretty even ratio of men to women.”
Sherry continues to develop along the management track while also growing her technical abilities. She is currently working on a master’s degree in software engineering at Oxford. In their spare time Sherry, her husband, and their one-year-old continue to take in the London culture and experience of living and working in the city.
As we close the conversation, we want to thank Sherry for her continued contribution to Cloudera and for telling her story.