This article appears as part of the Most Diverse Tech Hub initiative, underwritten by the City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce. It was first published on project partner Campus Philly's website and is republished here with permission.
In Tracy Ajuo’s experience, authenticity can help you land a tech job.
Ajuo is a software engineer II at Nuuly, a rental clothing service of URBN. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Maryland — College Park. As a software engineer, she’s responsible for the backend development of the Nuuly website and app.
The Bethesda, Maryland-based Tracy first connected with a recruiter from URBN at Campus Philly’s virtual career event, Black and Brown Students in Tech, back in November 2020.
Below, check out Campus Philly’s interview with Ajuo on her career so far, what it’s like to work in her role, and her advice for those pursuing a similar path.
Tell us about yourself: Where did you grow up, where did you go to college, and what was your major?
I grew up in Kampala, Uganda. I started out in community college (Montgomery County Community College) for two years, then transferred to the University of Maryland – College Park. My major was computer engineering.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in tech?
In my A levels in Uganda, I wanted to pursue electrical engineering because I was good at physics and math. However, when I moved to the US, I worked at a coffee shop where I met a customer who told me about coding. I was very intrigued by it, as Uganda was not as exposed to that type of technology at the time. I started out with a few introductory classes and eventually grew to like it.
You graduated in a time when, due to COVID-19, everything was uncertain, and networking events were all virtual. How did you build your network and make connections to find a job after graduating?
I talked a lot with my classmates, and most of them had internship experience in their freshman and sophomore years — which I did not, having come from a community college. When I asked them how they were applying to jobs, they mentioned that they were going to career fairs. My experience from previous career fairs taught me to focus more on my story as a Ugandan-American girl in tech and in the ways it could be applied, so I did just that, and began to grow my professional network.
What’s a typical day like as a software engineer at Nuuly?
We usually have meetings to catch up on the user stories [assignments] we’re working on, any blockers or impediments we’re facing, and how anyone on the team can be of help to others. After the meetings, it’s heads-down time to code and do some research on the work. We also have collaborating sessions, where we have the opportunity to work with a senior engineer who helps us with any questions we have about our work.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love that I get the experience of working for a “startup” backed by a bigger company. Nuuly is a startup company of URBN, and it gives the feeling of building close relationships with my coworkers in a bigger space.
Were there any particular classes, clubs/organizations, or resources that you found particularly helpful as you were searching for a career in tech?
Professors. Tech is broad, even in computer engineering, and there are so many fields of focus. That can be confusing at times. I talked to my professors a lot and relied on them as a resource, as most of them have field or work experience in the various aspects of tech. This helped me narrow down where exactly in that broad space I wanted to be.
If you were to offer one piece of advice to someone interested in pursuing a career in tech, what would it be?
Put yourself out there, and by that, I mean be authentic. Don’t be afraid of what other people will think. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be afraid of asking questions because you think they’re not valid questions. Ask away!
Knowledge is power!
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