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Tropic Spotlight: Francesca Hamm

Brandon Pham
July 26, 2023
4 min read

Meet Francesca, who joined Tropic as a Software Engineer last August. 👋

As the first hire on our Rapid Response team (also known as the "bug team"), she is front and center in evaluating and fixing issues in the platform. Since then, she's expanded her role to include building "quality of life" improvements in our software and providing assistance to Feature teams. As she says, "I get to get my hands dirty in all different parts of the platform."

What surprised Francesca the most about her role and industry?

How collaborative a job engineering is and how willing everyone is to jump in and offer to help. I was so intimidated coming in as a more junior engineer, but since day one, my team has offered me so much support and patience. They make me feel that there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

Learn more about her career switch from academia to software engineering, her childhood connection to pioneers and Abraham Lincoln, and more.

What sparked your interest in engineering, and why did you decide to pursue it as a career?

During the pandemic, I finished my Master's of Arts (MA) in English Literature and taught classes online. I intended to pursue a PhD in English. However, I began to feel uneasy about a career in academia given the rapid changes the pandemic was bringing to higher education and the lack of tenure-track positions available. With some sales experience I had during college, I decided to hit the job market with my MA. I applied to some SDR positions at a few startups.

I quickly realized that I was more interested in how the software was built than selling it. I started teaching myself JavaScript and loved how the challenge felt on my brain. I found that a lot of what I was looking for in an academic career, I could also find in software engineering. There are endless opportunities to research and put my curiosity to work. I signed up for Flatiron’s Software Engineering bootcamp program soon after. ⌨️

Why did you decide to join Tropic?

On the day I completed the coursework in Flatiron's bootcamp, a mutual friend introduced me to Nick Smith (currently the Director of Engineering at Tropic). A few weeks later when Flatiron awarded me my certificate of completion, I lost my dad very suddenly on the same day. Only four months after, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. I spent the summer doubling down on my mental health and supporting my mom as she prepared for treatment. Around the same time, Nick reached out and mentioned that Tropic was building a new team and asked if I was interested.

As a recovering perfectionist, I jumped on the opportunity to interview. I wanted to see what would happen if I just showed up even if I didn’t feel 100% perfectly prepared. I loved how approachable everyone was throughout my interviews. They really emphasized the opportunity for me to grow as a developer.

I was also appreciative of Tropic’s commitment to a remote-first work environment. If not for that, I either would have had to make the decision to leave my mom to go through treatment alone to pursue my career goals or find work in rural Illinois, where there are very limited career opportunities. I’m beyond grateful that I never had to make that compromise.

What project are you most proud of working on?

My first solo feature was building out the functionality to deactivate an organization in our platform (a feature no one ever hopes we have to use!). I was so nervous going into the work. It touched a lot of important data and had to do a lot of different things, but I ended up finishing a week ahead of schedule and was able to take on some stretch tasks. One of the stretch tasks turned into an ask from Product to basically change up the way the whole feature worked. I took it on and still got it done within our build cycle. 

What has been the most surprising part of your job or career?

How collaborative a job engineering is and how willing everyone is to jump in and offer to help. I was so intimidated coming in as a more junior engineer, but since day one, my team has offered me so much support and patience. They make me feel that there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

What's a fun fact people would be surprised to know about you?

As a child, I was a massive history buff. I went through a whole phase where I was obsessed with pioneers à la Little House on the Prairie. I voluntarily spent a couple of summers going to this pioneer camp in the town where Abraham Lincoln got his professional start. They taught us things such as how to split wood for fences, churn butter, make candles, and weave baskets. I absolutely lived for the last day where we would dress up in period attire for the whole day. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Most of the time if I’m not working, I’m reading. I finished 62 books in 2022 and I just hit 30 for this year. I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs lately. 📚 I enjoy biking, listening to music/podcasts/audiobooks, and spending time outside in the sun. This one might be kind of weird, but I also love wandering around fancy grocery stores and admiring all the specialty products and dreaming of all the hypothetical dinner parties I could throw. I think this comes from being in the rural midwest for most of my life where going to a Whole Foods was a rare exotic treat. 

If you could choose 2 celebrities to be your parents, who would they be?

Probably Tom Hanks. He has quintessential dad energy and seems like he would be great at giving advice. I feel like Dolly Parton would be super fun to have as a mom. She seems so kind, vibrant, and wise.

What are three items you cannot live without?

  • My planner: I’ve kept a paper one for years in addition to my Google Calendar. For me, there’s just no replacing being able to physically write things down. 📅
  • Away luggage and packing cubes: I travel quite a bit (perk of working remotely), so I decided to finally invest in getting a matching set of luggage. All my bags are obnoxiously pink so they’re easy to spot in baggage claim. I tend to pack pretty heavy (I’m working on getting better) so I love that they’re built right up to the maximum dimensions for most airlines. The packing cubes keep me so much more organized and keep my bags from becoming chaotic. 🧳
  • Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup from Sonoma Syrup Company: During grad school, I "pavloved" myself into only being able to get work done while sipping on a $6 latte. I realized that this was neither fiscally responsible nor sustainable for a regular everyday 9-5 job, so I had to figure out a way to make my at-home coffee feel just as special. Some flavored syrups taste overly artificial and sweet, but this one is perfect. 

If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

It would be the carnitas quesadilla from a taco truck in Oakland, California. I literally think about it every day. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Self-compassion is not just a fluffy, feel-good idea or something that you have to earn the right to extend to yourself. It’s an absolute essential for survival. 💜

If you’re interested in seeing what Tropic is all about, take a peek inside our culture here. 🌴

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Brandon Pham
Brandon Pham is the Content Marketing Manager at Tropic.

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Meet Francesca, who joined Tropic as a Software Engineer last August. 👋

As the first hire on our Rapid Response team (also known as the "bug team"), she is front and center in evaluating and fixing issues in the platform. Since then, she's expanded her role to include building "quality of life" improvements in our software and providing assistance to Feature teams. As she says, "I get to get my hands dirty in all different parts of the platform."

What surprised Francesca the most about her role and industry?

How collaborative a job engineering is and how willing everyone is to jump in and offer to help. I was so intimidated coming in as a more junior engineer, but since day one, my team has offered me so much support and patience. They make me feel that there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

Learn more about her career switch from academia to software engineering, her childhood connection to pioneers and Abraham Lincoln, and more.

What sparked your interest in engineering, and why did you decide to pursue it as a career?

During the pandemic, I finished my Master's of Arts (MA) in English Literature and taught classes online. I intended to pursue a PhD in English. However, I began to feel uneasy about a career in academia given the rapid changes the pandemic was bringing to higher education and the lack of tenure-track positions available. With some sales experience I had during college, I decided to hit the job market with my MA. I applied to some SDR positions at a few startups.

I quickly realized that I was more interested in how the software was built than selling it. I started teaching myself JavaScript and loved how the challenge felt on my brain. I found that a lot of what I was looking for in an academic career, I could also find in software engineering. There are endless opportunities to research and put my curiosity to work. I signed up for Flatiron’s Software Engineering bootcamp program soon after. ⌨️

Why did you decide to join Tropic?

On the day I completed the coursework in Flatiron's bootcamp, a mutual friend introduced me to Nick Smith (currently the Director of Engineering at Tropic). A few weeks later when Flatiron awarded me my certificate of completion, I lost my dad very suddenly on the same day. Only four months after, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. I spent the summer doubling down on my mental health and supporting my mom as she prepared for treatment. Around the same time, Nick reached out and mentioned that Tropic was building a new team and asked if I was interested.

As a recovering perfectionist, I jumped on the opportunity to interview. I wanted to see what would happen if I just showed up even if I didn’t feel 100% perfectly prepared. I loved how approachable everyone was throughout my interviews. They really emphasized the opportunity for me to grow as a developer.

I was also appreciative of Tropic’s commitment to a remote-first work environment. If not for that, I either would have had to make the decision to leave my mom to go through treatment alone to pursue my career goals or find work in rural Illinois, where there are very limited career opportunities. I’m beyond grateful that I never had to make that compromise.

What project are you most proud of working on?

My first solo feature was building out the functionality to deactivate an organization in our platform (a feature no one ever hopes we have to use!). I was so nervous going into the work. It touched a lot of important data and had to do a lot of different things, but I ended up finishing a week ahead of schedule and was able to take on some stretch tasks. One of the stretch tasks turned into an ask from Product to basically change up the way the whole feature worked. I took it on and still got it done within our build cycle. 

What has been the most surprising part of your job or career?

How collaborative a job engineering is and how willing everyone is to jump in and offer to help. I was so intimidated coming in as a more junior engineer, but since day one, my team has offered me so much support and patience. They make me feel that there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

What's a fun fact people would be surprised to know about you?

As a child, I was a massive history buff. I went through a whole phase where I was obsessed with pioneers à la Little House on the Prairie. I voluntarily spent a couple of summers going to this pioneer camp in the town where Abraham Lincoln got his professional start. They taught us things such as how to split wood for fences, churn butter, make candles, and weave baskets. I absolutely lived for the last day where we would dress up in period attire for the whole day. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Most of the time if I’m not working, I’m reading. I finished 62 books in 2022 and I just hit 30 for this year. I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs lately. 📚 I enjoy biking, listening to music/podcasts/audiobooks, and spending time outside in the sun. This one might be kind of weird, but I also love wandering around fancy grocery stores and admiring all the specialty products and dreaming of all the hypothetical dinner parties I could throw. I think this comes from being in the rural midwest for most of my life where going to a Whole Foods was a rare exotic treat. 

If you could choose 2 celebrities to be your parents, who would they be?

Probably Tom Hanks. He has quintessential dad energy and seems like he would be great at giving advice. I feel like Dolly Parton would be super fun to have as a mom. She seems so kind, vibrant, and wise.

What are three items you cannot live without?

  • My planner: I’ve kept a paper one for years in addition to my Google Calendar. For me, there’s just no replacing being able to physically write things down. 📅
  • Away luggage and packing cubes: I travel quite a bit (perk of working remotely), so I decided to finally invest in getting a matching set of luggage. All my bags are obnoxiously pink so they’re easy to spot in baggage claim. I tend to pack pretty heavy (I’m working on getting better) so I love that they’re built right up to the maximum dimensions for most airlines. The packing cubes keep me so much more organized and keep my bags from becoming chaotic. 🧳
  • Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup from Sonoma Syrup Company: During grad school, I "pavloved" myself into only being able to get work done while sipping on a $6 latte. I realized that this was neither fiscally responsible nor sustainable for a regular everyday 9-5 job, so I had to figure out a way to make my at-home coffee feel just as special. Some flavored syrups taste overly artificial and sweet, but this one is perfect. 

If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

It would be the carnitas quesadilla from a taco truck in Oakland, California. I literally think about it every day. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Self-compassion is not just a fluffy, feel-good idea or something that you have to earn the right to extend to yourself. It’s an absolute essential for survival. 💜

If you’re interested in seeing what Tropic is all about, take a peek inside our culture here. 🌴

Share this post
Brandon Pham
Brandon Pham is the Content Marketing Manager at Tropic.
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