After more than two decades in the tech industry, Liz Stanley has a solid understanding of what she values in a company - collaboration over competition, continuous learning over hierarchy, and a diverse, supportive team.
She’s found that at Vizion, the logistics API startup she joined in 2021. As a senior software engineer, she works alongside a talented team of technology professionals building and maintaining the company’s core backend APIs, services and systems. She’s entrusted with making important decisions and tackling complex technical problems, which she cites as key draws to the role.
“When I applied for the position at Vizion, I sought out a startup because they typically offer that type of environment. I was the 17th employee, so I was able to jump in immediately and feel like I could have an impact,” she said.
Throughout her career, Stanley has pushed herself toward new challenges and growth opportunities, beginning with her initial leap into engineering — which she took midway through a Ph.D. in music theory.
With some computer-science coursework and relevant part-time jobs under her belt, she changed her major and earned a second master’s degree in information systems. From there, she began her career as a software engineer and consultant focusing on enterprise Java development. In 2018, though, she saw another chance to broaden her skillset and committed herself to her current area of expertise: Typescript and Node development and AWS.
“Although that was a bit of a learning curve, it only took a few months to become comfortable with it because I brought a solid fundamental knowledge of software engineering,” she recalled.
That focus ultimately brought her to Vizion, where her ability to transition her skills across industries and technologies has been a boon to her success.
Below, Stanley tells Built In about the significance of organizational support in the face of unexpected circumstances and why she believes career advancement doesn’t have to mean abandoning technical challenges for managerial ones.
WHAT VIZION DOES
Vizion streamlines end-to-end supply chain visibility for logistics providers, shippers and cargo owners. Its technology delivers standardized, comprehensive container-tracking data in real-time, giving customers insight into and control over their freight operations.
How does working for Vizion help you make progress toward your career goals?
To be honest, I don't have specific career goals around advancing to different levels or titles. I enjoy being a senior software engineer, mainly writing code and am not particularly interested in moving into a lead or management role. What I'm interested in is working with technology that I enjoy on a small, highly collaborative team, with the ability to improve on what I know and opportunities to learn as an engineer. Although I've been in this field for a long time, there is still plenty to learn, and I enjoy solving interesting technical challenges and being empowered to do so.
What makes Vizion a unique place to work from a professional development perspective?
I've previously worked for a company whose primary product is an API. I intentionally sought this out again because, in my experience, it tends to be more engineering-focused, both within the company and in the customer base. What I've found to be unique about Vizion is the level of collaboration across the entire company. I feel much more connected to the product and our customers in a way that I haven't anywhere else.
Also, on the product engineering team, everyone is a senior software engineer, and we have a flat team structure. We all work well together because there is a high level of trust within the team and with leadership.
How have you grown professionally at Vizion? What skills have you learned?
I've been able to deepen my knowledge within my existing skill set and broaden it to learn new technologies. Part of that learning comes from working with my team, who all bring different ideas and experiences to the table. Also, I've had the opportunity to work in a sector of the system started by an engineer who left before I joined, and it has since required a significant amount of work and improvement. I didn't have much experience with Python and ElasticSearch before this, so it's been fun to dive deeper into both while tackling some interesting technical problems. It involves an important component of the product, and I feel that my contributions are valued.
How has joining Vizion positively impacted your professional and personal journey?
It's had a huge impact on a personal level. Only four months after I was hired, I was very unexpectedly diagnosed with an early-stage aggressive form of breast cancer, and surgery, chemo and radiation took up a significant part of my first year. Everyone in the company has been very supportive throughout all of that. Not only do we have great health insurance, but working remotely gave me the flexibility I needed to continue working while going through treatment. I was able to take time as I needed while contributing what I could to the project when I was able. I think that says a lot about the leadership and culture of the company, and I feel very fortunate to have joined when I did. It's hard to imagine what that experience would have been like elsewhere.
What role does diversity play in creating a strong team?
Throughout my career, I've often been the only female software engineer on my team — and, more than once, the only woman in the company. There aren't many women in this field and even fewer at the senior level; for a variety of reasons, women tend to leave. I've worked at many different companies and, in most cases, have been fortunate to work with some wonderful, inclusive, respectful male colleagues.
I had one negative experience with a "locker room" type of environment, and I ultimately wound up leaving that company because of it. Although it was in a different industry, the role itself was similar in many ways to this one, and otherwise, I didn't want to leave. I learned from that experience that, in a small company, culture comes from the top. The difference between that company and Vizion is like night and day, and it's refreshing to be a part of an organization that understands the need for diversity and is actively pursuing it rather than being dismissive. I think Vizion does a good job of bringing on people with well-rounded backgrounds and promoting a sense of belonging, even in a fully remote culture.
What are you excited to accomplish next?
I'm excited to contribute as we evolve from the early startup stage. There are many improvements we can make to our core applications to provide our customers with more accurate results, support new capabilities and data sources and help maintain and increase our competitive edge. As a team, we want to proactively address the next level of our architectural direction to ensure robust and scalable solutions going forward, and I believe we have strong support from leadership to do that.