In our ongoing series, Attentive All Access, we highlight the extraordinary members of our team to share a glimpse of who we are and what it’s like to be part of our company.
For our latest edition, I chatted with Zoe Grippo, Software Engineer, to learn more about her role at Attentive and her hobbies outside of the office. Zoe has lived in Taiwan, Poland, and Singapore. She joined Attentive after graduating from the University of Virginia and has recently taken up embroidery as a quarantine hobby.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and what’s a fact about yourself that would surprise most people?
I would consider myself a third culture kid. Both of my parents work for the US Department of State, so we moved all around the world. My absolute favorite place I lived was in Taipei, Taiwan.
Something that’s a large part of my life but might surprise others is that I can speak Mandarin. Though I don’t use it as much now, I was fluent in college. I majored in Chinese Language and Literature along with Computer Science at the University of Virginia. I loved having the opportunity to study both of those passions.
What are some of your hobbies outside of the office?
Outside of work, I really enjoy exploring Manhattan. During non-COVID-19 times, I would walk to the neighborhoods of SoHo and Chinatown on Saturdays to shop around and try different restaurants. When I have the chance to step away from the city, I love going hiking. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been cooking and have picked up embroidery as a quarantine hobby.
How long have you been at Attentive & what interested you in joining?
I joined Attentive in July 2019. I was coming from a large company and was a little scared of joining a startup, especially because Attentive was much smaller at the time. My roommate, who also works at Attentive, told me about the company and that it’s “going places.” When I spoke with other engineers on the team about Attentive’s collaborative culture, I was really excited to start working here. It ended up being my best decision ever.
What is your role at Attentive?
I’m a Software Engineer on the Core Messaging team. Every message that is received by and sent from Attentive’s platform goes through my team’s systems. As the deliverability engine for all our communications, Core Messaging connects Attentive to the outside world. There is a lot going on behind the scenes in the engineering world to make our systems perform at scale. We face some interesting engineering-related challenges since Attentive is growing so quickly—with more than 2,000 customers now—and sending more messages each month.
There’s really no typical day for me. Some days, I spend the majority of my day heads down coding and doing development work. Other days, I spend my time attending meetings and collaborating on big projects. For example, my team worked to change our platform’s sending infrastructure in Q1 of this year. This project altered our data model, laying the groundwork for future messaging services. Since Attentive is always looking to learn and grow, every change to the system’s infrastructure becomes the foundation for larger projects and future engineering work.
What is it like working in a field that’s typically male-dominated?
In almost every team I’ve worked on professionally, I’ve been the only—or one of very few—women. I’m fortunate that on all these teams, I was treated as an equal. In this male-dominated field, I draw strength from the Women in Tech networks I’ve built over the years. For example, I’m still involved in my alma mater’s Women in Computing Sciences organization. Attentive helped me continue to support this organization and its mission by being a corporate sponsor for its annual “Hackathon” event.
Since starting here as one of the first female engineers, I’ve seen the company’s culture grow and improve. Attentive welcomes all individual contributions and ideas. When I first started, a group of us began meeting with the company’s leadership team to discuss diversity and inclusivity efforts, such as how to recruit and retain more female engineers. As Attentive grew, so did this internal network now known as AWAKE, which represents A Will to take Action for more Knowledge and Empowerment in all things related to diversity and inclusion at Attentive. We now have a more concentrated sub-group called Attentive Women in Engineering (AWE), which has been a great platform for sharing our experiences and supporting one another.
What does being “attentive” mean to you?
From an engineering perspective, being “attentive” means prioritizing your team. This team-first culture is very important to our CTO, Harry Heymann. He acknowledges that building software at scale isn’t something you do alone in a vacuum. It requires a lot of engineers to handle the complexity and the many software services that “communicate” with each other. So besides writing good software that delivers results, my goal is to focus on my team and be attentive to their needs to support overall growth.
What advice do you have for others who are looking to grow a career in Software Engineering?
If you’re looking to pursue software engineering, you should start growing a support network. Coming from a traditional college background, I was able to connect with like-minded engineers through university organizations like the Women in Computing Sciences organization. If you’re not in college or don’t have an established organization, you can start your own! So no matter your background—whether you studied at a university, enrolled in a coding boot camp, or got here through a different journey—you have the opportunity to excel in this field. Don’t be afraid to reach out to new connections, university alums, or current employees of a company you’re interested in. They are likely happy to help and can be a source of support and advice throughout your career.