From law to engineering - How this Paralegal went from taking her LSAT's to becoming a Software Engineer in Test

Jacqueline Chiu - Automation Engineer at Formation


I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger but as soon as I realized that I would have to interact with blood I changed course. In Asian cultures, the oldest sons usually get the most attention and have the highest expectations to live up to. I had a middle brother and we were both brought up to believe we couldn’t live up to the standards put on the eldest in the family.  By the time I was ready to go to college, a lot of my family had a computer science background and nobody thought I could get through computer science. In fact, I was told by many people that I wouldn't be able to make it through school. I decided to pursue law and my parents thought I had a knack for arguing so they supported me.

I was a paralegal for four years and was getting ready to take my LSATs and during my exam, I realized that I didn’t want to be a lawyer.  I hated the lives that lawyers lived. I worked with lawyers from all over and they were completely miserable. They all had a common drawer of medication and were always edgy with each other and just killing my sunshine. Even though I took my LSATs, I decided not to pursue law school and graduated during the recession not knowing what to do. I started off by becoming a project administrator for a small startup based out of Boston. At my one-year performance review, the cofounder pushed me to go into quality assurance (QA) because I was always fixing people’s technical issues. I started off with doing some manual testing and then got interested in learning how to code. I ended up becoming the only sibling going into tech in my family, even though I never went to school for it.

I eventually moved to San Francisco and I remember my first day at my first job there at a company called Opower. I had no idea what to expect, but when I walked in I saw that 50% of my team was female and was ecstatic. I’ve heard stories of mistreatment towards women in tech but I had never experienced it myself at that point. I don’t know whether it’s because I have blinders on or am desensitized to the environment around me. I used to work with women who have experienced disrespect, de-motivation and even downright harassment. I remember going to a company all hands at my current job and there was a slide posted on all the engineer hires we have; that’s when I realized I was the only on-site female engineer on the team.  I feel like I’ve been treated fairly at most companies I have ever worked at, and it surprises me. The tech industry has so much to offer and the fact that I hadn’t been mistreated at that point in time actually shocks me. It is incredibly sad and makes me reflect a lot on making the environment within tech companies more female friendly. I’ve worked for women who try to pull other women down, which is why I always try to pull women up. It’s been hard for me to make it where I am now. I want to make it a little bit easier for the next generation to achieve what I have.

InterviewsNitasha Syed