As director of engineering at Dispatch, Jackie Madden doesn’t take her role — or its significance — lightly.
Not only is she responsible for managing and directing software engineers, career development strategies and cross-team projects — but when her laptop enters sleep mode, Madden’s leadership hat remains on.
“I’m currently mentoring high school girls as part of the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute — something I don’t think I could have done before Dispatch,” Madden said.
Madden didn’t always picture her future as a specialist in coding, design and product. In fact, when her career journey first launched, she was working in human resources before eventually earning a computer science degree. Madden went on to work as a financial software developer for over a decade before a close friend working at Dispatch pushed her to apply.
“I didn’t think I was qualified, but boy was I wrong,” she laughed. “By stepping out of my comfort zone, my career goals became clear.”
WHAT DOES DISPATCH DO?
Over the course of three years at Dispatch, Madden has evolved from an integrations engineer and senior software engineer to a team lead, even creating a new calendar integration and building a financial billing module.
Now, as director of engineering, she’s paying that same growth forward. Whether she’s motivating individuals to forge potential career trajectories during one-on-ones or reviewing opportunities for improvement on previous projects, Madden is determined to help everyone succeed together.
“Dispatch has been a place of discovery: I have learned that I am a leader, a mentor and capable of learning new languages,” she said. “When opportunities don’t come to me, I create them for myself by taking chances.”
“If you aren’t willing to take a chance on yourself, why would anyone else?”
How has working at Dispatch helped you make progress toward your career goals?
When I started at Dispatch, I never thought I would want to be a director — but it has been a place of discovery for me. I have a seat at the table and I’ve become a part of the decision-making process.
I have led a new onboarding process, interviewed and trained many new engineers, and advanced security initiatives all while running my team. I’ve demonstrated that I could manage growing professionals and improve the weaknesses in the department. I have a vision for how the department should be run that I’m working towards every day.
“By stepping out of my comfort zone, my career goals became clear.”
What makes Dispatch a unique place to work from a professional development perspective?
Dispatch offers a rich environment with a variety of languages and technologies. I’ve developed relevant and applicable skills for this industry while working in a collaborative and encouraging environment. We’ve created a successful co-op program, where we bring in young college students and build their skills. We have two hackathons a year with the main purpose of learning, trying new things and sharing our results with others. We even meet in guilds to present ideas and push learning in our backend, frontend and quality assurance.
We’ve also created a chart for each position in the career path and provide that to each engineer so that they know exactly what we are looking for. There’s a roadmap for them to follow and guidance to get there. We’re encouraged to try new things and we’re allowed to fail — it’s only through that failure that we can really learn.
“Sometimes, we only find what we want by moving away from the things we don’t want.”
What skill-building sessions or professional development resources have helped you grow during your career at Dispatch?
I’ve moved up the career ladder by learning new languages like Golang, Ruby, Python and C#, AWS components like Lambda, SQS, SNS, DynamoDB, S3, Athena, RDS and Cloudformation, and full system architecture. I earned two STEM degrees to provide a solid foundation, but I believe what has accelerated my professional development is a “yes” attitude when opportunities were presented to me.
Because of my growth, I’ve learned how to mentor. I hired a young woman engineer and became her manager. When I asked her what skills she wanted to develop, she didn’t know. So I asked her to think about what she didn’t want: What were the days she never wanted to experience again? Because sometimes, we only find what we want by moving away from the things we don’t want.
What are you excited to accomplish next?
I’m exploring getting my master’s degree and plan to continue to move up the ladder. I have an important voice. Vice president and chief are exciting possibilities.