Pieces of Career Advice for Recent Graduates (Startup Stories 17.07)

Tammie Thong, NewFoundry, HF 2017

Tammie Thong, NewFoundry, HF 2017

About two months into my first job out of college, I found myself hunched over my laptop, my desk littered with pistachio shells, still feeling like the new kid at school. Everyone else seemed to have their bffs and I still felt like I didn’t fit in. The company I work for, NewFoundry, has two other woman engineers, but I wasn’t sure if I'd jive with them immediately. 

I was telling myself, “I’m not like those girls, they’re so smart. They wouldn’t want to be friends with someone as frivolous as me.”

I do my best at portraying a strong woman with my life under control, with mild success. A classmate once told me “I feel like you’re always smiling, but deep down inside, you’re always falling apart.” I struggle with negative psyching myself out on a daily basis and I am my own worst enemy. One day, while I was feeling rather forlorn and anxious, I remembered my mother saying “If you want to have a friend, be a friend.” I told myself that I’d be brave and ask the other two girls if they’d want to go to lunch at our local falafel shop. It was the best decision I ever made.

At lunch, Jessica (2016 Hacker Fellow), Courtney and I talked about how we got into doing software engineering. I found out that I wasn’t the only one with a life science background! We all agreed that more fun activities was a necessity as a company. Between the three of us, we decided that we were going to throw a surprise Halloween party. Throughout party planning, I found out how cool the other girls were. They both love cosplay, art, baking, and all things crafty.

When Halloween came round, Courtney and Jessica made their costumes. Jessica was kind enough to lend me a Squirtle costume she made. We had so much fun decorating the bathroom as a crime scene and baking Halloween-themed cupcakes and pudding cups. Since then, we’ve decorated the office for Christmas and made strawberry cupcakes and heart-shaped butter cookies for Valentine’s Day.

I’m so thankful that I found Jessica and Courtney. They’ve many a time lent a shoulder to cry on and offer good advice like “take a break and come back to this problem later” and “let’s go on a walk and buy mochi from Trader Joes.”  

Through transitioning out of college and into work/life at NewFoundry as a software developer, I've been able to gathered three pieces of advice for new hires and recent graduates:

  1. Be a friend/find your tribe (I’m so thankful I found mine!)
  2. Do your job so the people who come after bless your memory, instead of blaming and cursing you
  3. Everything is going to be okay

I’ve learned that I am very fortunate to work in a company which is open to letting employees organize fun activities. At the same time, I know that it is up to one’s self to find out what kind of company culture one wants to work in and take initiative in creating that kind of space. 


Tammie is a 2017 Hacker Fellow who studied Computer Science at Calvin College. She is currently working with NewFoundry in Ann Arbor.