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Meet a Dragon: Zaida Mejia

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In Komodo Health’s "Meet a Dragon" series, Zaida Mejia, a Data Engineer at Komodo, talks about her path to computer science and data engineering, what it’s like to work on a remote team, and what keeps her most engaged and challenged in her work at Komodo. 

How did your interest in computer science develop; what led you down that path?
I never intended to be an engineer. I have always liked learning and I was pretty sure I wanted to be a math teacher, perhaps one day I still will be! I took some computer science courses in college and really liked seeing how math was used to create things in the digital world.  After getting my Masters in Computer Science, I worked with kids who came from low-income and tough neighborhoods, just like I had. I realized that the kids’ responses to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was always “doctor,” “lawyer,” “teacher,” or “police officer.” Coming from the same background, I knew exactly why they would respond with such limited options; it was because they interacted with people in those professions, or they were told by their parents “what they should be.” When I started to tell them about other careers, especially engineering and coding, I piqued their interest. They questioned me more about engineering, but I couldn’t answer because I had not given myself the chance to become an engineer. So I contacted my friend to try and get an internship with Komodo. I ended up loving it, and I’m still here! 

After starting six years ago, what’s your journey at Komodo been like?
It was tough at first. Having been away from tech for two years after graduating, I had a lot of learning and catching up to do. But Komodo has an amazing culture that allows people to thrive if you put the hard work in. I started working with the Aperture pipeline, where I got my first taste of what it was like to work with different data sources and understand the functionalities of what is very important to data engineers such as automation, scalability, and data quality. I have now worked in several teams at Komodo and continue to grow, while also creating meaningful friendships with my peers. 

What factors helped you be successful as you moved from intern to full-time engineer?
Having great teammates who are willing to guide and mentor you was critical for me. It is especially important to find those people when you first start your career; you can then take those learnings and be that coach for others. I was lucky to have started at Komodo, which has a a wonderful culture of teaching each other. The other key element to my success is keeping a positive attitude about learning new things. Not being afraid to work on something that is outside your comfort zone will help your growth tremendously.

Can you tell us a little bit about the culture of the Data Engineering team? How does your team collaborate in a fully digital world? 
The Data Engineering team has always been very collaborative. Although there are many different teams working on different products and services, we try to keep information flowing, teaching each other through presentations, documentation, and Slack channels. In my team we like to keep each other informed about what we are working by demoing and making sure we have appropriate documentation. In this fully digital environment, we try to make ourselves available to help each other or answer questions we may have by having both formal and informal time scheduled for learning. Of course, we always make sure to respect each other's time because the Data Engineering team is working on many critical projects for our business and customers.

What are you working on now, what do you love about it, and what are some of the challenges?
At the moment I am working on a service that will validate data produced by our pipelines before we deliver it. I love that this will ensure we produce the best data quality possible for our customers as well as the fact that this could potentially be used by other teams at Komodo. Some of the challenges with this project would be having to work on areas outside the scope of data engineering, such as the API layer and UI. However, I am excited to work with other parts of the Product and Engineering teams with whom I don’t normally have the chance to collaborate with, and welcome the challenge! 

At six years, you're one of Komodo’s longest employees! How have you seen the company grow and what's been most exciting about being a part of that change?
It has been a great experience. I feel like I grew my career as Komodo was growing. I started when there were only four data engineers and got to experience many fun evenings with our semi-automatic Airflow DAGs and debugging sessions, making sure we maintained the highest data quality for our customers. Now Komodo has grown into many different products and teams, and it’s been wonderful to watch our skills and teams grow as we work to achieve our mission of reducing the burden of disease.

Our Dragons are a diverse bunch! Co-workers hail from places as far flung as Belfast and Mumbai to the American heartland. The uniqueness and diversity reflected in our people make Komodo a stronger team, and we are all united around one common mission: to reduce the global burden of disease. Interested in joining the Komodo Health team? We’re hiring!

Read more about life as a Dragon in our Culture series, and to learn more about Komodo, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

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