Career Path: Celia Courtright, Software Manager at Chewy
What do the career path and day-in-the-life look like for a Software Manager at Chewy?
We connected with Celia Courtright to find out.
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Where did you grow up? What did your parents do for work?
I grew up in a suburb of Milwaukee. My parents were professors of Biology and Political Science. They were big proponents of learning math.
Where did you go to college? What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?
I went to Yale University for undergrad, where I majored in history. I also took a substantial number of CS courses, but Yale doesn’t give minors. My first job was in consulting as an analyst. I quickly switched from being the analyst to writing code.
After that, I went to a startup followed by some government work when I was in D.C. I also got an MBA from the University of Maryland, where I concentrated in IT and finance.
What has attributed to your success thus far and has helped propel you to the position you have now?
I love solving problems and building solutions. From working in a lot of industries and roles – analyst, UI engineer, full stack engineer, QA engineer, data engineer, system architect – I can approach a lot of problems from all these perspectives and ensure my team is building something that is maintainable, testable, and reliable.
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Software Manager at Chewy?
I put the building blocks for what we need to build in the proper execution order, keeping in mind technical dependencies and time to execute. I ensure “planned work” is broken down to levels that engineers can actually execute. I keep engineers in check to deliver projects by our committed dates. I work with the engineers reporting to me to grow their technical and business skills and advance their careers.
Any tips for someone considering a career in Software Management?
Work on different types of systems, in different languages, in different roles. There is something to learn in each of them and make it easier to understand why various elements are important.
Your role is to remove other people’s problems: conflicts with other people, problems with tools, and so forth.
Day in the Life
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
Mostly tea. Some soda, but I keep working on cutting down.
What time do you get into the office?
I’m in “early” just after 8 a.m.
What are three things that motivate you in your role?
Building a system that makes users’ happier.
Having a clear, actionable road map that I can dig into.
Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?
My day starts before I’m in the office. I’m checking emails by 6 AM and leave the house at 7 AM to catch the train. Then I’ll spend my commute getting my calendar and to-do list in order and sending emails as needed.
In the office, I spend time meeting with users or product managers on clarifying requirements and priorities. Then I’ll meet with engineers about technical decisions and project break down. I usually run scrum. I’ll have a couple “scrum of scrum” type meetings where we go over cross-team technical dependencies. If it’s my one-on-one day, I’ll spend a lot of time talking to my engineers about how they are progressing in their goals and any issues they have.
The remainder of the time is spent fixing any issues that come up, so the engineers can code unhindered, or a project can be unblocked. A lot of this is Jira management: creating, updating, documenting tickets. I’m rarely writing code or executing proofs-of-concept, but I will direct others in how to do these. Other times it’s writing up documentation or presentations of the work being proposed or being completed. It all depends where in the lifecycle various projects are.
When I leave the office, I have my off-line time until later, when I’ll finish up a couple tasks that I can do out of the office.
What time do you head out of the office?
Most days I leave about 4:30 PM.
Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?
I usually work 1-2 hours at night. The paperwork doesn’t usually get done while I’m in the office, so I spend the evening filing tickets of various sorts and reviewing others’ work.
Any productivity hacks?
Block time on your calendar for any task you need to do that will take more than five minutes. And delete or file all email that isn’t immediately needed. I almost never get to “inbox zero” but I’m happiest under “inbox 10”.
What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?
Fantastical. It has all my calendars (10!) combined and the natural language for entering new events is really useful.
Evernote. My notes go everywhere on every device, so it’s easy to review even without my computer.
What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?
I mentored an off-shore (not contractor) team at a large multi-national corporation that had few coding skills at the outset, to executing a total rewrite of the BI reporting system. We integrated six completely different ERP systems from four countries into a cohesive interface that did not have 10,000 fields and everyone defining a different “truth”. It was the old way of doing things.
The end result was a fast, responsive, clear system everyone loved. It was hard work, as many on the business side had their reasons why field #5003 needed to be included, and why field #23 which was virtually identical could not be used. But, I eventually got them all to agree on the critical few requirements.
Along the way, the development team learned several programming languages, how to use source control, how to do code reviews, how to deploy code, and even some aspects of writing unit and integration tests.
Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?
I check in with some grad school colleagues from time to time.
Images courtesy of Celia Courtright and Chewy