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Employee Spotlight: Leah Kim, Student Engineering

Leah Kim, a software engineer at Handshake, shares how she ended up at Handshake, her responsibilities in her role, and her close personal alignment with our mission.

Hi all! I’m Leah and I work as a software engineer in San Francisco. From running in Golden Gate Park to stumbling upon amazing artwork, I love to discover all the hidden gems this city has to offer. When I am not at Handshake, you can usually find me at a local dojang practicing Taekwondo. I joined the team a year ago and have realized that each of us at Handshake have a different career path to share, just like all the students we hope to help each day.

Let me take you back to the Fall of 2015. I was a senior in college and admittedly didn’t know where to begin to try to find a job. My first introduction to Handshake was actually as a student! Thinking back now, I didn’t even realize how to take advantage of having Handshake. Fast forward a year — I met our CEO Garrett Lord through a mutual friend and was really amazed by the idea he had to help connect students to jobs.. I have brilliant friends who struggled looking for jobs because of unique majors or their college location (it’s hard to be recruited when your campus is hours away from a major city!). I am thankful I get to work at a place that aligns with my own moral compass and allows me to go home each day feeling like I am making an impact.

So, let me tell you more about my role as an engineer lead here at Handshake. I spend my day thinking about the ways we can optimize the student experience and make it more customizable for each student based on their desired career path. We do this by running many A/B testing segments and keeping our fingers crossed as we await experiment results. When our team discovers a new way to make Handshake better, we head out for team boba or ice cream to celebrate.

We all have that first job story — the good, the bad, the unknown, and most importantly, what we learned from it. My first job out of college was at a tiny startup. We were a team of 5 with far too much work on our plates, so naturally I constantly had to be adapting, learning new technology every other day. By my third month mark, the company got acquired — only without me. It was terrifying to be back in the job search and I don’t think I’ve cried that much ever in my life. But just like how after a storm comes a calm, I was able to reevaluate what I wanted out of a career — I really enjoyed the fast-paceness of a startup and felt motivated most when I could find moral value in the product I’m building. Eventually my path led me to find my next adventure which is Handshake now!

In college we were encouraged to find mentors — but I didn’t know how I would find this golden mentor. I now realize that I have developed mentors for different parts of my career — these are friends and co-workers who look out for me and are always there when I have a question about anything. My co-worker Dan is my “happyness mentor,” Maria is my inspiration as Handshake’s first woman engineer, and Marc is our senior engineer who is always willing to share his knowledge and experience. They always give me honest feedback and are just overall great role models regards to how they approach work/life and how they focus on impact. I just hope that I embody the same qualities I admire about them in the following years. I look forward to the day where I can pay that forward to another young engineer who is getting started in their career.

I hope my career journey reaches a fellow engineer out there who is looking to use their skills for social good. If you are an engineer or know of a student who may be interested in joining our Handshake team (or into martial arts), check out our open roles!

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