Bel Teh is a Senior Software Engineer in Silicon Valley working on Toyota’s futuristic Concept-I car. Previously she worked for custom shoe designer Shoes of Prey where her coding efforts allowed customers to see exactly what their shoes would look like as they were designing them.
Finding a pathway to Silicon Valley is the dream of many an up-and-coming engineer, what’s it like to work there?
It's the cutting edge for technology, the job market is thriving and it's full of career opportunities. Tech companies provide great benefits as they compete to provide an environment people want to work in. Free food, for example, is a staple. There's also a great sense of mission, no matter whether you're a startup or a big company.
What does an average day look like?
It starts with our team stand-up to discuss blockers and milestones. Then I could be designing the software architecture for a new feature, programming the implementation, code reviewing for a teammate, or testing out our latest build on our hardware simulator.
What innovations in your industry are the most exciting, and why?
Simulation and learning are fascinating because of their amazing potential. With simulations that run faster than real-time, we can test combinations of situations that would be impossible to achieve in a human life-time and use that data to improve our learning. Simulating risky situations helps us to prepare without endangering human lives or wasting resources, for example, a complicated surgical procedure or dangerous mine rescue.
What is your fondest memory from your time on campus at UNSW?
It’s hard to choose just one, but I’m going to have to pick working on the Robocup soccer team. It was one of the reasons that convinced me to study computer science at UNSW and I stayed involved after becoming an alumni. My sense of pride and the friends I made have lasted to this day.
Can you describe a career highlight?
One of my proudest achievements was in 3D rendering while I was at Shoes of Prey. We wanted to make beautiful renders accessible to our customers, even if they didn’t have the latest computer or fast internet. It’s a highlight because it was a challenging technical solution, it helped my colleagues, and it created products that anyone, not just engineers, could appreciate.
What are the most important skills that engineers need to thrive today?
The ability to learn. Nothing is stagnant in tech, whether it be the field, the tools or even business priorities, things will keep changing. Engineers need to be able to keep learning and adapting to new challenges.
Is there anything surprising about you that you’d like to share?
I practise jiujitsu and kickboxing/muay thai. I like musicals, I’m a certified rescue scuba diver, and I’m on a mission to visit all of America’s National Parks while I’m living here.
What career advice would you give your 13 to 18-year-old self?
Be open to opportunities and try as much as possible. Don’t worry about figuring out what you want straightaway - narrowing out the things you don’t like is still a step in the right direction.