Humans of Lob is a project dedicated to getting to know our Lobsters on an individual level. For our tenth entry, we sat down with our Senior Software Engineer, Krys Flores. (Edited to note that Krys was promoted to Staff Engineer in 2022.)
Tell us a little about who you are, your upbringing, and your family life.
I was born in Los Angeles, I was the eldest, only girl with two little brothers that I absolutely love. I’m Mexican-American so my family is huge. When I was in high school, I realized that I wanted to see other parts of the world. My father had had a very machista father and so he wanted to be the exact opposite of the stereotype. He wanted to raise very empowered children, regardless of gender. So I never felt that I had to stay at home, they were encouraging me to go to college. But I went a little extra.
From freshman year of high school, I was like, “Hey, I'm moving away.” Then for college, I was 3000 miles away. Then right before I was about to graduate from college, I'm like, “Hey, I think I'm gonna move 6000 miles away this time,” and moved to Beijing, China after my college graduation. It was really wonderful to be in such a loving supportive family.
What are you currently working on here at Lob?
Right now I'm focusing on webhooks and they are basically a way for us to notify our customers when events happen. When somebody submits a request to create a letter or a postcard, they don't automatically know. Oh, is it rendered? Oh, is it sent to the printer? All these things take time, from USPS getting it to when it's delivered to the home. Because we have all these things happening at different time intervals, what we do is we send a notification to a customer that states where it is in the process for example, “your mail was rendered” or “your mail was delivered.” Webhooks are basically the way that notification gets sent.
Something that is also really important to me at Lob is to work on the engineering culture and to support our 20 female engineers. I think we have about 70 engineers right now, so that's a huge number, I've never seen that at any company I've worked at. I'm really, really excited to be an advocate where I can be and to also try to do things to make the engineering environment more productive, more efficient, and more friendly.
I think, for a senior engineer, it's important that you not only do good work, but you help others to do good work, too. Sometimes it can just be by messaging people directly to give them props, or send them a gif (my love language is sending gifs), or by walking through issues together and making sure to document to make sure the process is easier for others.
How did you enter into this career path? What brought you to engineering?
My then-boyfriend, now husband, was an engineer. When we met, I was in education as a college consultant that helped students get into college. But I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do forever. I have a history degree so I'm like “okay, well, I know I want to do other things, but I didn't know what that was. Then I started dating this guy who was an engineer.”
Then, I just started playing around with code while I had my other job. I think the point that I realized I could actually make it a career was when my husband had a contract job he was doing for someone. He's very good at the backend action stuff. But he's really bad at the front end, which is the pretty things that I was interested in. I told him, “You can't give this to a customer, it looks ugly. Let me play around with the code. If I ruin it, you could always revert the code.” Basically, he could get rid of what I did.
By 4 a.m., I'm exhausted, but this looks 10 times better than whatever he did. And then he wakes up in the morning when he needs to submit the work to the client. And he's like, “Oh, this is better”. That's what kind of put it into my head that, oh, maybe I can do this.
At some point, I realized that I was going to have to quit my full-time job, self-study, and just apply to jobs. It was really scary. It took a while. I got really lucky, somebody who was also a history major but had been coding for 20 years interviewed me. He was a CTO of a small company and he said, “I see myself in you.” I feel very fortunate because somebody steered me in the right direction to something that I really truly enjoy. I absolutely love my job. I really love programming.
What energizes you outside of work?
People. I’m a huge extrovert. Right now, it's my children. I have twins and they're only seven months. But before the pandemic, I went to so many networking events, I just love being around people. But during the pandemic I read a lot of murder mysteries. That energizes me. I love to dance. I'll just put music on and dance in my room. Something else I used to do, and I still haven't gone back because of the pandemic, is bouldering. It's kind of like coding because you solve a puzzle, but you don't just use your brain.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
“Optimize for career security, not job security.” I started as a data engineer, not a back-end engineer. I realized my passion was not in the data sphere, but I wanted to move into back-end. Then I found out that my husband's job wanted to move him to San Francisco.
I started applying to jobs in San Francisco for when we would move, and I picked this tiny startup, they would hire me with the back-end title that I wanted. I didn't know if they would last, but I didn't go because I thought I would stay forever in this job. I went because I wanted to do back-end engineering. I knew that they were so small that I would have the opportunity to get the experience I needed. Yes, I already had two to three years under my belt, but it was different from what I wanted to do. I would have to hit the ground running. One of the ways to do that is to be with a startup that needs you to build everything.
Even though that job ended, when I eventually got my next job, because I had got such amazing experience there, not only was I able to get another back-end job, I actually tested into a Senior position. That was within one year of back-end experience.
I had thought, “This company, I don't know where they're going. But they are offering me the opportunity that I need right now for career progression.” Because of that company, I learned about Lob. I actually integrated with Lob at that company. I didn't realize that that company would teach me things that would be useful to my next job. If you are in a place where you can take that risk, go for career security 100%.
What’s one of your favorite memories of the past year?
This is a weird one, but it means a lot to me. When I was six months pregnant, I had to be rushed to the emergency room and was admitted to the hospital full time. This was at least two months before my twins were expected to come, so I had all this work still on my plate. I hadn't transitioned anything. But my boss and HR put me and my babies first. There was no pressure. I tried to get on Slack, and they would say, “No, you're not allowed, don't engage. We're gonna put you on leave because you need to take care of yourself and your family.”
I've had a lot of great memories at Lob, but what I think needs to be highlighted are the people and management. When you have people who say, “No, we need to take care of you. You're a valued member of this company. You come first. Your children's health comes first. Take the time you need, we know you'll be back. Don't worry about work”— you feel good about your workplace.
My boss and HR released me from the internal guilt that I, and many other startup employees, feel when leaving work to attend to personal situations. My months-long hospital stint was a really scary time in my life, and to have that support from others was truly beautiful. I am forever grateful to the people who enabled me to do what I needed to do at that moment, and not feel like I had to worry about my job. My coworkers, team, and Lob as a company—they truly take care of their people mentally and physically.
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