Eng Leadership Spotlight: Bethany Foote
by Melissa Martin
As the Recruiting Lead at Outschool, I spend a lot of time working directly with Hiring Managers to learn how they embed our values into the teams they build. I sat down with our Head of Infrastructure at Outschool, Bethany Foote, to chat about leading Engineering at Outschool and what brought her here.
You lead the infrastructure team at Outschool. Can you tell us more about your experience before joining the team?
My engineering background is pretty diverse. I like to say that I’ve never done the same job twice. I’ve worked on software for space applications (the robotic arm on the International Space Station), and I’ve built embedded software for parking meters. I’ve worked on contracted projects for large software companies, supported legacy systems, and developed SaaS applications. I have largely managed engineering teams, but I have also led QA, Product, and DevOps at different times in my career - sometimes all at the same time! I enjoy learning new things, so when I was looking for my next opportunity, I wanted to find something that would challenge me. Leading the Infrastructure team at Outschool definitely fits the bill as we are responsible for developer tools, the build pipeline, data pipeline, security, and more. I’ve already learned a lot and I am looking forward to learning more.
What challenges are you and the Infrastructure team focused on tackling this year?
The Outschool Engineering team is growing significantly in 2021. Our build pipeline and tools were built for a smaller team, so we need to make changes to ensure that everything will still work when we have double the number of engineers.
Out of all the places you could have joined, what brought you to Outschool?
I was already an Outschool parent before I joined. I love the product and the classes. When the job opportunity became available, I was interested to learn more about the company. I was excited to join a startup that was still relatively small, but what really made the difference for me was meeting the team at Outschool and learning about the company’s mission and values. I really wanted to join a mission-driven company that represented my values and Outschool was a perfect fit.
What do you find most exciting about the Outschool product and mission?
I’m most excited about the potential that Outschool has to reach learners with subjects and opportunities that they would not otherwise have access to. For example, programming classes which are often not available in schools to younger learners. I also love that we have diverse teachers on the platform, letting learners see themselves represented in ways that may not be available in their normal school environment.
What is different about the Outschool team compared to other places you’ve worked?
The Outschool team is so incredibly supportive and egoless. A healthy culture is critical for teams to operate effectively, and Outschool’s entire team works hard to uplift each other and support our values. The result is a team that works together to improve our product and fix problems, which in turn benefits our users.
What can you say about Outschool’s value of Bringing Others In?
The greatest joy I get is from helping someone else achieve a goal or to learn something new. I think it is important to open the door for others and help them get a leg up, and it is fantastic to work at a company where this is a core value.
How does Outschool think about employee growth? What do Performance Reviews look like and how often do managers do 1:1s?
Performance reviews are every 6 months, and 1:1s are decided upon between the manager/lead and the team member. I typically run them at least twice a month. Outschool has recently launched a career ladder and rubric to help employees understand how they are being evaluated and empower them to drive their own career. The Outschool Engineering team is also launching a mentorship program to provide opportunities for employees to help each other develop and grow.
What advice do you have for other women in engineering as they build their experience?
My advice is to drive your own career. Have confidence in yourself. Even if you are struggling now, you will be able to get through it and succeed. Don’t let others tell you that you should be doing something else, or that you should give up. You can do it!
As for experience, I recommend spending time to develop technical skills as that will provide a solid foundation for the future, whether as an individual contributor or as a manager. Even today, I use the skills I developed to help me in my leadership role. I also recommend embracing new technologies as part of growth; things are constantly changing in the software world and the latest tech one year is old news the next. Getting comfortable with learning new things is key and will ensure a successful career.