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Published May 26, 2021
Seema Shariat-Hoover is a senior front-end developer at BetterUp. Over three years, she has grown her leadership skills, personal development, and ability to make a purpose-driven impact. Seema has been recognized for being a role model of our BetterUp values. In this Q&A, Seema shares challenges she’s overcome and how she embodies the BetterUp value of Zest!
What initially drew you to your work, and specifically the work you’re doing at BetterUp?
Seema: About five years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. Six months later after going into remission, I was diagnosed again. I couldn’t work during that second time, but I came up with an idea for an app to help people with their mental health — to feel more connected if they were ill, for example. The app didn’t take off, but when I heard about BetterUp, the whole mission aligned with my dream project. At BetterUp, I felt a sense of belonging with people who have the same sort of mission to bring a product to this world that creates value and helps people feel a sense of purpose, clarity, and passion in their lives.
Also, I spend 90% of my job writing code, so that’s a lot of time. I wanted to know that every single thing that I wrote actually would benefit the greater good. Because of BetterUp’s mission, I felt a strong calling to create and build things that impact people’s lives in a very positive way.
How has your experience working in engineering at BetterUp impacted you, personally and professionally?
Seema: I’ve grown so much and become really self aware about my growth areas. I strive every day to do my best and bring my best self to work. It’s a learning process, and I love paying it forward to help others grow, too. Development is highly valued at BetterUp, along with staying on your edge and caring for others. At BetterUp, we’re a team, we’re BetterUp citizens, we’re more than our jobs, and a big part of that is sharing and learning.
What are some challenges you’ve overcome in your career?
Seema: A challenge I’ve overcome has been becoming a leader at BetterUp — I currently lead the Accessibility Guild, which is a cross functional team that works together to make BetterUp more accessible to people with disabilities. I’m still learning the day-to-day challenges of leadership, but before, I could never see myself as an actual leader. Watching people grow, helping foster their growth and learning, making big changes for inclusivity, getting people excited around a mission — I really love doing that. So having that opportunity at BetterUp has changed my life. It’s eye-opening to do things that I never thought I could do before.
You’ve also taken on a leadership position within Women at BetterUp. Tell us about that opportunity and this community.
Seema: The opportunity to start Women at BetterUp came through a conversation. I was introduced to a new member on our engineering team along with a cross-functional colleague. We were talking about how we don’t really have a place to share our experiences and support one another. It was during the pandemic, so we thought, “let’s have some fun activities and events!” We felt a need to connect, and it just sort of blossomed into this beautiful thing. We have new members every day and fun exciting events happening every month that bring another sort of excitement into life.
I really wanted a space for women to get together to share experiences and support one another, help each other, mentor each other, be able to speak their mind and get help if they need it. We also love the fun aspect. There’s always something new to talk about and relate with one another over.
How has having a coach affected how you show up as a leader?
Seema: I love my coach. She’s really helped me with smaller and bigger goals, both in and out of work. One was reframing. We talked a lot about things that happen to you, versus the control you have over your reaction to things. She’s helped me learn to reframe situations. I know I can always talk to her and get ideas and advice any time I have conflict. I don’t know where I’d be without her, and I feel everyone deserves a coach like that. She’s helped a lot with my work-life balance, giving me tips and tricks I can actually use in my life to make changes. I just feel very lucky to have a coach in my life.
You also recently won BetterUp’s Culture Value Award for Zest. What does Zest mean to you as an engineer?
Seema: My first day at BetterUp, they were doing Culture Value Awards. They had little toys, like a little Simba lion for the courage award. Eventually they got to zest, and I remember Eddie saying the Zest award was the most coveted of all the Culture Value Awards. Whoever won it got a big hat with fruit on it – it definitely looked zesty. I told myself, “I want that award - one of these days I’m going to get it.” Zest is probably one of the hardest things to define, but it’s a feeling where you’re so invigorated by your work and being around people with similar and different mindsets, all united towards the same mission with that energy of vigor… To me, that’s what zest means.
I bring zest to my work as an engineer anytime I’m building something or working with a designer. We always try to add a little bit of delight or “plus” our experience so it’s better for members, whether that’s adding new animation or brushing up some design. Zest is that something extra.
What’s it like working on the engineering team at BetterUp?
Seema: Empathy is what makes us unique. We’re all learning and growing as we do this together, but we’re at different levels too. There’s no blaming, which is a tendency in technology — to see people arguing a lot at code reviews. But I’ve never experienced that at BetterUp and think that’s very unique.
Another thing we do very well is recognition. If you and your team build something – no matter how big or small – once you share it and do the walkthrough, you always get recognition and praise for your work. You even get feedback on how you can make it better, and everyone is open to feedback, too.
So empathy, recognition, and openness to feedback are the top three things I think we do best.
What advice would you have for someone looking into becoming an engineer at BetterUp?
Seema: My top advice is to be yourself, be vulnerable, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s gotten me very far. I’ve never had to hide my true self to anyone. I speak my truth, and people often offer to help and give me the opportunity to help them, too. So if you feel like you might not be good enough or you have imposter syndrome – a lot of people struggle with that – we talk about it. We’ve always got your back.
We are so grateful to have Seema on our team leading important work that increases accessibility and inclusion at BetterUp. If you see part of your own story in Seema or want to find out more about the leadership opportunities on our engineering team, check out our careers page.
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