Namely’s Director of Engineering, Jennifer Peffley, didn’t always know she was going to have a career in tech. From a young age, she had a strong interest in computers, but didn’t think her passion could evolve beyond a hobby. Jennifer initially planned on pursuing an English major, until a part-time job at her college’s IT desk made her realize her passion for coding and computer science. After double majoring in English and computer science, Jennifer jumped headfirst into the NYC startup world before finally making her way to Namely.
We chatted with Jennifer about her role and how she settled on a career in engineering.
How did you end up in your role at Namely?
I started college as an English literature major and I wound up adding in a computer science double major. I had always been interested in computers, but I never thought of it as a career opportunity. In college, I worked part-time in the computer lab providing general IT support, like fixing the printers. Sometimes, people would ask me for help with their CS101 homework, and as I was helping them I realized “I want to do this too!” I added computer science as my second major and after a few internships, I became involved in the New York City startup world.
When I was looking for my next opportunity, there were a few things that drew me to Namely, but the number one reason was the people. I know people say that all the time, but as I was talking to people during my interview process, I just kept getting more excited. I knew I had so much to learn from Paul Rogers, our CTO, and the rest of our engineering team.
What’s your favorite thing about your role?
I like being able to make an impact. I’ve worked at companies where it’s easy to make an impact because the company’s small. At Namely, it’s exciting to have a such a big team behind you and still have such a large impact. My role involves a lot of context switching, but that works really well for me. I enjoy being busy, so my days go by quickly!
What does your average work week look like?
I’m definitely in meetings most of the time. I do one-on-ones with my four direct reports, indirect reports, and my peers. I work with three specialized teams at Namely, and I go to as many of their meetings as I can to learn what’s going on and help remove blockers. When I’m not in meetings, I might be catching up on email and Slack, or writing and reviewing design docs on technical architecture and process changes.
Is there something that would surprise people about your job?
Engineering is a very creative role, but people don’t often realize that. It’s a lot of puzzle-solving.
If you weren’t in this role, what would you be doing?
In first grade, I wanted to be a teacher, an artist, and a writer. I think it would be cool to be a writer, but I don’t know how good I would be. My biggest problem is that I don’t know what I would write about!
What’s your favorite thing about working at Namely?
I love our core values. A lot of companies have core values, but Namely does the best job I’ve seen of living up to them. They aren’t just something you pull out during performance reviews. They really are ingrained in the culture here.
Engineering has historically been a male-dominated field. What is it like being a female engineer at Namely?
We don’t have as much diversity as we would like yet, but we’re working on that. Everyone here is so kind and mindful that I have never experienced any issues. On my first visit to the office, Paul was very transparent about diversity at Namely and how we’re trying to improve it. People at all levels of the company are great about checking in and asking about inclusion, not just regarding gender but all aspects of diversity.
What’s your favorite thing about working in engineering?
We have so many things that we want to do. There’s so much room to improve and iterate on things that no one is going to be bored. We have a lot to do and we need more people to help us.
What’s your favorite office snack?
I like chocolate a lot. The chocolate covered pretzels are pretty good—they’re definitely a favorite!
What's something your co-workers don't know about you?
I really enjoy theater. In my freshman year of college, I lived on a themed floor called “All the World’s a Stage.” A lot of my friends on that floor are now professional actors and singers. I used to do it as a hobby, but I was never good enough to seriously pursue it.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to do your job?
I would recommend finding a good organization strategy. With all the context switching, figuring out a way to stay on top on everything is crucial. I have a lot of to-do lists so I know when to follow up with people and keep things moving. It’s certainly easy for things to fall through the cracks if you aren’t organized.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like to go to theater shows and spend time with friends and family. Right now my husband and I are “house hunting” in New Jersey, so that’s consuming most of my free time.
Who has inspired you to get to this point in your career?
I would definitely credit my parents. My dad got me into computers and technology at a really young age. He was an electrical engineer and he’s what sparked my interest in technology. My mom is the ultimate multitasker and she can juggle so much at once. My job now is the perfect mix of those two skills.
At Namely, our coworkers are one of the top reasons we love what we do. The Meet Namely series spotlights real Namely employees across the company. Stay tuned for more from the series to learn how we put HR for humans into practice.
Lyssa Test is a Sr. Content Specialist at Namely, the all-in-one HR, payroll, and benefits platform built for today's employees. Connect with Lyssa and the Namely team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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