Cloudside Chat: Jun Gao Discusses Work-Family Balance and Marie Curie, Part 2
Rip Gerber Welcomes Jun Gao, Senior Director of Engineering, in Part 2 of a Cloudside Chat
As one of Vlocity’s top engineers, a mother, and a team leader, Jun understands the unique challenges that women face in the technology industry.
Rip Gerber: Since we're celebrating International Women's Day today, and as this is Women's History Month, let’s cloud chat about what it means to be a woman working here in Silicon Valley.
Jun Gao: I consider myself very fortunate because I know that sometimes there are unique challenges that women face in the work environment. For a woman working in Silicon Valley, I’d say the biggest challenge is maintaining a healthy work-family balance.
Rip: You hear a lot about that balance in tech. What does it mean for you?
Jun: For example, as a mother, when I joined Vlocity I had to concern myself with the commute – that ’s a big change to my daily life. And while work-family factors also exist for men, I think it's especially hard for women because as a mom, you just end up taking care of kids more. And for me, that’s the greatest struggle – working to gain that balance. But I think I’m doing a pretty good job.
Rip: It is great that you are able to achieve that at Vlocity. Let’s talk a little about your influences and inspirations. Who inspires you the most? What role models, inside or outside the industry, do you look up to?
Jun: It's kind of unrelated, but my role model has always been Marie Curie, the renowned physicist.
Rip: She was the chemist who pioneered radioactivity research. The first woman to win a Nobel Prize.
Jun: She actually won it twice, and as a physicist. She’s been my role model ever since I was a child. After I transitioned to software development, another inspiration has been Steve Jobs. Just consider the arc of his career, his big ideas, the ups and downs he experienced and the extent of his innovations. I found it encouraging to realize that periodic downtimes happen to the best of us; the key is learning how to adapt and deal with them in a positive way.
Rip: Great statement. Jun, you are role model engineer yourself. What can we do – and not just here at Vlocity but all across Silicon Valley – to inspire more women to get into software engineering?
Jun: I just try to show that it can be done. We need to do a better job inspiring girls with the thrill of science and technology earlier in life and in school. There are challenges with getting women on board even when they have the education. There is a delicate dance that happens at certain moments in life, and clear communication is essential.
Jun: Finding the right balance of communication is essential to convince these highly skilled job seekers to join a great software company. Like Vlocity. This is a great team here. So we need to talk to young girls more about how they can start along this incredible path of software development early in their careers. Don’t wait. That's how I encourage the other engineers.
Rip: You always seem to show engineering recruits a track record that puts them at ease, a roadmap that excites them.
Jun: For women in tech, the possibilities are endless.
Rip: Let’s talk about your team. You’ve assembled a great team at Vlocity. Can you share a little bit about how you manage teams?
Jun: I think the best part about my team – and I tell them this before anyone joins – is the freedom and mobility they have to work on all types of projects – front end engineering, back end, wherever you’re curious and wherever you can add value is where you’ll go. I try to enable a creative and agile environment where everyone can grow, technically or through leadership.
Rip: Sounds like this is something that really touches a chord with you.
Jun: Absolutely. It’s one of the main reasons why I structure things the way I do – because in my previous work life, before Vlocity, the work was more restrictive, more top-down, more linear. Basically, you had to stay in your lane and focus on one thing over and over – often at the expense of professional growth. That’s the logic of a big company that is risk-averse and doesn’t embrace new ideas. I wanted to change the culture to ensure my team members didn’t have the same narrow experience that I did.
Rip: Terrific. The team is certainly doing a lot. I understand there are some new things with OmniScript™ coming. Can you talk about your roadmap before we end?
Jun: Salesforce just released Lightning Web Component in their Spring '19 release. We wanted to adopt this technology to build a second generation of OmniScript™. The first gen needed to be angular based, but now with Google announcing its retirement and the dynamic needs of our customers, we went looking for something new. Then Lighting Web Component emerged and we’ve incorporated that technology in our newest version.
Rip: Sounds exciting – but not surprising. You work so closely with Salesforce.
Jun: It’s the great part of the Vlocity-Salesforce relationship, the innovation collaboration. We’re adding significant functionality to an already state-of-the-art, enterprise-class, cloud-native and fully declarative form and process-building technology. Who in the Salesforce ecosystem is not going to love that?
Rip: Awesome – and what about the Vlocity Installation Assistant you mentioned earlier?
Jun: Customers are always evolving. As the industry cloud innovates, we want to help our customers with their upgrade processes. So we establish clear steps for them to follow so that as they perform their cloud installations, the steps were right there with them, easy to follow and easy to execute. Vlocity Installation Assistant enables that.
Rip: It’s great to hear about all these projects and tools and apps in the pipeline and the ones that have been recently released – these are very exciting times at Vlocity, like you say.
Jun: I could actually go on, but these are the main ones that are keeping us busy.
Rip: Just one last question. Any advice to young engineers out there who may be studying physics now - or any other major - and may want to go into coding? For the next generation that's coming, any advice or words of wisdom?
Jun: I think, based on my personal experience as a software engineer, that individuals always need to improve their coding skills. However, I don’t think that's the most important thing. The most important thing is the attitude, the hunger for curiosity and learning, being proactive and open to all the new technologies that constantly emerge. Also, when you take a job, don't wait for people to tell you things. You should say, “What can I do to help”? Being more proactive, hunting for knowledge – these are the things that will get you off to a great start to becoming a highly skilled and indispensable engineer and leader.
Rip: Sage advice. Thank you very much, Jun. it’s been wonderful to hear your unique perspective.
Jun: My pleasure! Thanks for having me.