OwnTrail | Blog

Meet team OwnTrail: Q&A with engineer Kathleen Fisher

One of the best ways to build with a community is to make sure that our community knows the people building OwnTrail. We’re shining the spotlight on the individuals that make up team OwnTrail, and while we might be biased, we think you’re going to think they’re as incredible as we do. Get to know our principal software engineer Kathleen Fisher in this authentic interview that digs into some of the meaningful milestones on her trail.

You first graduated with a degree in French, then returned to school for another bachelor’s degree, this time in computer science. What drew you to tech and what has kept you with it through the years, the dot com bubbles and the obstacles that many women in tech face?

When I picked my major this first time through, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career. I was pretty equally matched in language and math skills, and was interested in pursuing languages, linguistics and math. I picked French as a major in order to study in France (which was worth it). But after graduating, I was really limited in the jobs I was getting. I didn’t want to teach, which is where a lot of French majors were headed. I did some entry-level technical support jobs that were not very satisfying. My friend group included a lot of engineers and I saw the choices that opened up for them, both in what kind of jobs they were getting and where they could live. I wanted a career that gave me a lot of choice and financial security so I decided to go back for a Computer Science degree and get into programming. The dot com bubbles definitely have affected me in terms of companies folding and layoffs, but there always seems to be a demand for engineers.

When I picked my major this first time through, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career.

Sideways 8 was your consultancy that you started and ran with several friends, which sounds like it was a lot of fun! What advice do you have for people considering going into business with friends?

Being a business partner is a really intimate relationship like being in a band, or a romantic relationship. You’re going to spend a lot of time together and make joint decisions on financial issues and other important stuff, so make sure you really trust your partner(s). And remember that your business relationship is likely going to end in one way or another before your friendship does, so make sure you can deal with that eventuality. In more specific advice, create a business plan early and spell out who will be responsible for what areas. Be open to change if things aren’t working. Make sure you have a similar vision for the business before you dive in.

You decided that alcohol no longer served you, which is a powerful milestone, especially with the alcohol culture in both tech and parenthood (all those wine mom jokes!). Many women are exploring sobriety right now — what would you say to those who are sober-curious?

What do you have to lose to give it a try? The U.S. culture is pretty steeped (pun intended) in alcohol use, but I found when I quit there’s also a community of people out there who abstain for either general health reasons, addiction issues or they just don’t care for it. If you think you may have alcohol use disorder, I would be honest with a healthcare professional about it and check out the 12 step programs that are out there. The community support in 12 step programs can be really helpful to someone trying to quit. For casual drinkers, just try switching out alcoholic drinks for fresh fruit juice drinks, seltzers, teas and see how you feel.

One of your aspirations is to apologize less, which is so relatable! Lots of women think about doing this, but don’t put it into action. Why is this important to you, and what steps are you taking to make progress on this?

[O]ver-apologizing makes me appear less confident than I actually am. It also devalues it when I do actually have something to apologize for.

Kathleen stands between her children, who are wearing masks, outdoors at her daughter's graduation

It’s important to me because over-apologizing makes me appear less confident than I actually am. It also devalues it when I do actually have something to apologize for. To make progress, I’m working on pausing before I speak to think through what I’m trying to communicate. Pausing to reflect on a situation before I just react to it.

You joined the OwnTrail after having a trail and being a part of our Trail Guides program, so you were definitely a part of our community before you became a member of the team. What are you most excited about doing this year as a key member of our engineering team?

I’m looking forward to growing the Help Beacons feature to make them more discoverable, shareable and helpful to the community. It’s something that’s really needed and the response by the OwnTrail community has shown that.

Have ideas for what to build next? Are you working on apologizing less? Connect with Kathleen and start a conversation!