You’ve had quite an exciting journey to Allovue, starting with your career transition from finance to software engineering. What prompted the switch?
I worked at a large wealth management firm during the financial crisis of 2008, and life there was nothing short of stressful. I managed to survive three rounds of layoffs but realized that working for a large investment bank was not the life for me. I took some time off to travel and took a circuitous path to software development; working in sales, property management, and finally accounting before realizing that programming checked all the boxes of what I wanted in a career; challenging, stimulating, and fun. I’m a determined person, so when I set my mind to something, I do everything in my power to make it happen.
After quitting my accounting job, I took an in-person front-end development course in Baltimore, which provided the needed structure and community to help me stay focused and motivated as I began my new career. I also made it a point to spend time networking at local meetups so I could learn through the interactions and experiences of others who were once in my shoes and new to programming. After completing my first internship, I put together my portfolio and landed my first full-time development job here at Allovue. I’ve always loved problem-solving in every form, and now that’s mainly the entire focus of my new career.
So how has working at Allovue proved different from your other employers?
I’d mostly worked for larger companies where I felt like a cog in a machine, and I wanted to work for a smaller company where I could see how my contributions were making a difference. It was also important that I worked amongst a diverse team who all took pride in doing their jobs well. During my internship, I came across Allovue’s website. It seemed like a great company, so I kept it on my radar. Some time later, I met an Allovue developer at a networking event, and she mentioned Allovue was looking to hire a junior developer around the time my internship ended. I was pretty excited. After meeting with the team, I was amazed at how the company’s values aligned so well with my own, and it was precisely the environment I’d hoped to find. I’m happy to report that my initial impression was spot on.
How would you describe a day in the life of a Software Engineer?
Every day generally consists of coding, problem-solving, and learning something new. We use a work ticketing system, so when I pick up a new ticket, I may need to resolve a bug or create a new feature. We’re a very collaborative team, so on many days, I’ll spend time pairing with a teammate to get or give help on a problem, or spend time reviewing another developers’ code.
What has been the most rewarding part of your job?
It’s so rewarding to be able to solve problems that help our customers get a better handle on their school district’s finances so they can better serve their students. I love seeing how my contributions make a difference for students nationwide.
So which of your contributions makes you most proud?
That’s too easy, as it also happens to be my favorite Balance feature! The new expansion of our Balance Manage bookmarks makes it so much easier for our customers to manage their bookmarks because they can efficiently manage and switch between bookmarks without leaving the accounts and transactions pages. One of my colleagues also added the ability to create district-wide bookmarks, so one user can create and share bookmarks with all other users in their district.
How has Balance evolved since you joined Allovue?
When I first started working here, the Balance Budget module was just a twinkle in our Chief Product Officer’s eye, so the product has changed and expanded a lot since I joined the company two years ago. Adding Balance Budget was a significant evolution in the Balance suite of products because, in addition to school districts being able see how they’re currently spending funds using Balance Manage, they can plan to fund for the upcoming school year in Balance Budget. Recently, we rewrote a considerable portion of code in Balance Manage, allowing us to introduce new features like ‘group by’ and date filters on the transactions page, in addition to giving users access to the expanded bookmarks on both the accounts and transactions pages. Even with all those improvements, there’s still so much more in the pipeline! I love that we’re constantly improving Balance to serve our customers better - it not only helps them serve their students better, but it also challenges us as developers because there’s always something new to tackle.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
There’s so much to learn in software engineering, which is very humbling. It involves continuously growing your skill set, and that means you have to get comfortable with failure because you will fail. A lot. All the time, in fact. Failure used to be incredibly discouraging for me, but because I have so much practice with it now, I’ve learned to respond to it by saying, ‘OK, that’s fine. How else can I try to do this?’ Reflecting on my “failure” in this way forces me to gather more information to solve my problem, instead of seeing it as a dead end. It’s so exciting to push through failure and build something that stretches your skills, and it’s incredible to look at your hard work come to fruition for the first time.
That’s a very pragmatic view of failing. What other meaningful advice have you received that’s helped you in your role at Allovue?
I’m a very detail oriented person, and can sometimes lose the forest for the trees. Once, I was working on a feature that I just couldn’t quite grasp and our Director of Product Management, Maggie Lubberts, asked me, “What, if anything, makes this hard?” That simple question gave me pause and forced me to step back and refocus my energy. I now keep a sticky note on my computer monitor to remind myself to ask this question when I feel stuck on a task. It’s not only just a great question to ask at work; it’s helped me in everyday life, too.
Here’s a question that might leave you feeling stuck - what is your favorite food?
I think there are two types of people; those who eat to live and those who live to eat. I am firmly in the latter category, so that is a very a difficult question for me to answer. The dish that makes me wish I never had to stop eating, though, is pasta with fresh plum tomatoes, basil leaves, garlic, both butter and olive oil, a pinch of hot pepper flakes, and lots of black pepper. That dish is dangerous.
That sounds delicious! Anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I attended a magnet arts high school where I learned to draw, paint, sculpt, and do other artsy stuff. The piece I’m most proud of is a small full body clay sculpture of myself that I did when I was 16. And despite growing up without a car, I’m a stellar parallel parker.
We’re so happy to have Dianne on our team! Her knack for problem-solving (and for suggesting the best restaurants) make her an invaluable asset.
Have a tasty recipe or Balance suggestion to share with Dianne? Let her know at firstname.lastname@example.org