How to Succeed in the Tech Industry with Pinterest Engineering Manager Whitney Mak

Whitney Mak is currently an Engineering Manager at Pinterest working on their inspirational shopping and merchant products. 

Here is what Whitney had to say when we asked her about pursuing a career in tech:

GenHERation®: How can you embrace an innovator’s mindset?

Whitney Mak: For me, inspiration comes from all over the place. Outside of my day-to-day job, I do a lot of things that are not necessarily related to my job. I like to dance and run a food blog on the side. To be an innovator, you have to have an open mind and be willing to explore. I’m a big traveler, and I find that going to places that are out of your comfort zone really helps expand your mindset and inspires you to build new things. 

GenHERation®: What are ways young women can learn about engineering to see if it is a field they are interested in pursuing?

Mak: For me, it was important to be involved in a lot of STEM clubs when I was younger. Robotics club was a huge factor in me choosing to pursue engineering as a career. Joining these activities or participating in hackathons can give you a quick sense of what it’s like to work in the industry. That’s going to be the closest experience you can get, especially when you’re younger. 

GenHERation®: The tech industry is fast-paced and cross-departmental. How do you maximize your daily productivity in this type of environment?

Mak: Time management and organization are big here, especially in an engineering management role where you’re interfacing with a lot of different people, disciplines, and teams. I keep organized by having a color-coded schedule and have found it to be very helpful. It helps you identify what high priority items need to be done that day and what tasks can be pushed out if need be. Having that flexibility and knowing how to manage your time is so important. I also have a list of to-do’s, so I don’t forget, and divide it into technical and management tasks to keep them organized. 

GenHERation®: What qualities are most valuable in the tech industry?

Mak: A big one for me is adaptability, and the ability to pick up new things quickly. Technology is always changing, so you need to have the mindset that you’re always learning something new. Just having that curiosity, desire to learn, and problem-solving abilities will help you get far in the tech industry. 

GenHERation®: What advice do you have for succeeding in a male-dominated industry?

Mak: In a male-dominated environment, it can get very intimidating. When you’re out there, I would advise you to look for some really good allies—people who inspire you, people who you can talk to, and who are supportive of your ideas. Having strong allies will take you a long way in terms of just building your confidence. An important thing for you to remember as you step into a male-dominated space is that you worked hard to be there, you deserve to be there, and your voice deserves to be heard. You need to take the opportunity to talk about all the little things that you see that may be different than how other people see things because you’re there for a reason, and are now a new leader in this space. Just because an industry is dominated by people who don’t look or act like you it doesn’t mean you don’t belong there, and it’s so important to use your voice in that space. 

Whitney Mak is currently an Engineering Manager at Pinterest working on their inspirational shopping and merchant products. Prior to Pinterest, Whitney worked at Zynga leading teams and building mobile games played by millions around the world. She graduated from Computer Engineering with an option in Management Sciences at the University of Waterloo, and has worked at various tech companies focusing on mobile, gaming, and communications technologies before starting at Zynga. Whitney is a huge advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, and loves supporting the community around these topics, often offering mentorship sessions and giving talks at tech events. In her spare time, she enjoys playing video games, dancing, and food blogging. 

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