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  • Writer's pictureValentina Colombo

Jessica Greene, a Senior Software Engineer at Ecosia

Updated: Mar 8

Meet Jessica Greene, a senior software engineer at Ecosia, the environmentally conscious search engine. In this insightful interview, Jessica shares her journey from a background in the coffee industry to the dynamic realm of technology. Predominantly focused on backend development, Jessica has recently taken on a leadership role in exploring machine learning and generative AI. Having made the leap into tech in 2018, she reflects on challenges, support from the tech community, and a commitment to diversity. Enjoy the read!


Jessica Greene

Q1) Can you share a bit about your background and your current role?

 

I am a senior software engineer at Ecosia, the search engine for a better planet. I have predominantly worked on our backend stack but have recently been given the opportunity to co-lead our exploration into leveraging machine learning and generative AI to power some new features. It's been a truly fascinating journey for me, especially since this is my first job in tech.


I made the switch in 2018, having left the specialty coffee industry the year before, where I was a coffee roaster and head of production. In some ways, this was quite the shift, but I found a lot of parallels, not only in the transferable skills I brought with me but it was also important to me when making this switch to continue working in a field that had a positive impact not only as a product but in the world around it.

 

Q2) How did you first become interested in technology, and what led you to your current role?

 

I've always been interested in a blend of creativity and logical thinking. The three different fields I have worked in (I studied Media and worked in the film industry for five years before joining the coffee industry) have this in common, it’s also reflected in the fact my favorite subjects at school spanned the arts and sciences. I remember when we got our first family computer, I was in high school, and it opened up a whole new world for me. I started playing around with animation and even a bit of web design. But it wasn't until I decided to leave specialty coffee that I really dove headfirst into tech. Learning to code was a means to reinvent myself, and it just clicked.


 

Q3) What main challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?

 

The biggest challenge for me was probably the transition from one career path to another, especially coming into tech a bit later than most. There's this constant feeling of playing catch-up. But I’ve tried to tackle this imposter syndrome head-on by dedicating time to learning and immersing myself in the tech community. It was daunting, stepping into a field where I was the least knowledgeable in the room, but that also drove me to learn and grow faster. One tip I can give folks is to pace yourself; it’s a marathon, not a race, and to not get hung up on comparing yourself to others because everyone’s journey is different. I regularly check in with myself to look at what I have achieved and where I want to go next.


There's a constant feeling of playing catch-up, but I’ve learned to tackle imposter syndrome by dedicating time to learning and immersing myself in the tech community. It's a marathon, not a race.

Q4) Who or what has been the most significant influence or support in your tech journey?

 

Without a doubt, the community has been my biggest support system in this tech journey. In fact, I consider myself a self/community-taught developer. When I started learning to code, I got involved in various community groups and meetups. It was a game-changer for me. Sharing knowledge and experiences with others who were either in the same boat or had been there before was incredibly empowering. It's this sense of collective growth and support that's really helped me navigate my way through the tech world.


I also started to contribute back to these open source communities early on through organizing events for PyLadies and Women Who Go Berlin, as well as speaking at various conferences which have taken me to places such as Florence and Hyderabad, this year I will be giving a workshop at PyCon US.


I am hoping to further the impact and contributions I make to the tech community, especially the Python community, through the work I am doing as part of the PSF (Python Software Foundation) conduct workgroup and PSV (Python Software Verband) board and have recently taken a leading role in setting up a fund for PyLadies in Germany to empower the chapters here to be able to do more.

 

Q5) How have you seen diversity and inclusion evolve in the tech industry throughout your career?

 

Seeing the evolution of diversity and inclusion in tech has been both inspiring and a bit frustrating at times. When I first started, it felt like there were so few voices like mine in the room. But over time, I've seen more initiatives and efforts to bring diverse perspectives into tech.


This was particularly visible after the BLM movement in the USA gained momentum and during the global pandemic, which saw a change to the way we work within the tech sector, and materialized in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion boards and roles within Tech companies of all sizes, however, it is my observation these have receded or slowed in momentum somewhat since the financial landscape became more uncertain.


I still sadly see far too few opportunities for entry-level folks, which means the industry risks missing out on the huge potential of fresh ideas and approaches. As someone who followed this path, I have seen firsthand the benefit that training folks up has for a company; after all, these are the seniors of the following years who will shape the technology field.


Tech needs more diverse voices. Embrace your uniqueness; it's not just about representation but recognizing the immense value different perspectives bring to innovation.

Q6) How do you manage the work-life balance in the tech industry?

 

Balancing work and life in tech can be tricky, especially with how fast-paced everything is. I have spent a lot of the last five years skilling up alongside my job, and a large portion of that has been done on my own time. I am fortunate to be able to do this and participate in my various community engagements.


For me, it's about setting clear boundaries and ensuring you can step away when you need to. I've also found that being part of a purpose company that values well-being, like Ecosia, makes a huge difference. They understand that to do good work, you need to be in a good place personally.

 

Q7) What skills do you believe are most important in today's tech world?

 

In today's tech world, adaptability and a willingness to learn are crucial. The tech landscape is always changing, so being able to pick up new skills and technologies is key.


But beyond the technical skills, I think empathy and communication are just as important, being especially useful for stakeholder management. Being able to understand and relate to others, whether it's your team or the end users, makes a huge difference in how effective you can be in your role.


Q8) Can you share a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career? 

 

The impact I am the proudest of is having been able to help others. From mentoring others and running community events to openly discussing my own challenges, fears, and wins, I have had folks come up to me, sometimes years after, and share with me that it had been meaningful to them and impacted their journey.


This is not only incredibly humbling but inspires me to keep going. We often don’t realize the impact we have on others, so I am also very touched that people have shared this with me. It is also a reminder that, while it certainly sometimes feels as such, we are not alone.

 

Q9) What are your future goals, and where do you see the tech industry heading in the next few years?

 

Looking ahead, I'm excited about the potential for technology to drive positive change, especially in terms of sustainability and environmental impact. I see the tech industry becoming more conscious of its role in the world and its responsibility towards the planet.


There are also some new cool features we are developing in Ecosia, which I sadly can’t disclose yet, so watch this space! As for my personal goals, I want to continue growing as an engineer and also as an advocate for sustainability in tech. I hope to inspire others to see how they can use their skills for good.

 

Q10) What advice would you give to other women considering a career in tech?

To anyone considering a career in tech, I'd say: try it. There are many, many options out there for learning to code, but whatever you choose to start with, don’t worry too much about it immediately teaching you everything at once. The first thing is to know if this is something you can imagine doing day in and day out and find out where your interests lie.


It can be intimidating at first, especially if you're coming from a completely different background or starting later in life. But the tech community can be incredibly welcoming and supportive. Find your people, whether it's through meetups, online forums, or community groups. And remember, your unique perspective and experiences bring value to the table. Tech needs more diverse voices, so don't be afraid to make yours heard.


Sharing knowledge and experiences in the tech community is empowering. Your unique perspective and experiences bring value to the table. Don't be afraid to make your voice heard.

Q11) Let's continue the flow... who would you like to read on the Lovelace Series?

 

I would love to see Vanessa Aguilar and Chioma Onyekpere.

 

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