Tamika Kalule is VP of Software Engineer at JPMorgan Chase. She is passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and participated in the company’s VP/ED sponsorship programme.
Tamika, tell us about your career journey as a software engineer. How you ended up at JPMorgan Chase?
As a student, becoming a software engineer initially seemed quite daunting. Although I had never written a line of code, my deep interest in technology inspired me to pursue an intensive three-month Java development programme. Upon completing my training, I secured a job as a developer at a financial services company.
I then went to a JPMorgan Chase networking event, where I learned about the innovation taking place at the company. I’ve now been at the bank for four years.
How has software engineering changed during your time in the industry?
With just over six years of experience in the industry, I’ve seen several significant developments, including the rise of cloud computing, which has become increasingly popular for large organisations looking to modernise their infrastructure and services.
As a software engineer, this is of specific interest to me and an area I’m currently upskilling in to help improve my domain expertise.
Adopting microservices architecture involves breaking down large applications into smaller services that can be developed and deployed independently.
Overall, software engineering has continued to evolve with new technologies and practices emerging to help organisations build better software more efficiently and securely.
What was your mentorship experience like at JPMorgan Chase? How has it impacted your career growth?
I’ve benefitted from executive guidance, as it offered me a new perspective, helped me identify gaps in my skillset and nurtured my skills so that I could fulfil my full potential as I advance in my career.
I was ready to listen to and learn from the senior sponsor whose insights supported me as I explored my professional interests and met my goal of becoming a Vice President. The exposure to senior leadership at JPMorgan Chase broadened my network and helped me apply new knowledge, skills and information within the organisational culture and business environment.
Since the programme, I have assumed more responsibility within my team by becoming a product owner and a subject matter expert for user interface/user experience (UX/UI) development. I am creating a UX/UI community within the bank in partnership with my colleagues.
Overall, mentorship helped me learn to think more strategically and develop a holistic view of how the business strategy informs our technology strategy.
You are very active in DE&I. How do you see these values implemented in the tech industry? What more can be done to improve representation?
The tech industry has faced longstanding challenges related to DE&I however, there have been some positive developments in recent years, with more companies recognising the importance of DE&I and taking steps to address these issues.
Some ways that DE&I values are being implemented in the tech industry include diverse hiring practices, creating an inclusive and welcoming work environment for all employees, and considering the diversity of product users in the development process.
Despite these positive developments, much work must be done to improve representation in the tech industry. The industry can address these issues by addressing bias in hiring, broadening the talent pool, encouraging youth to explore future technical career paths, and creating safe and inclusive work environments.
Personally, I’m proud to be a part of JPMorgan Chase’s Black Organisation for Leadership Development (BOLD) Business Resource Group. This group is responsible for advancing professional development and leadership opportunities for Black employees.
In this role, I have led several significant projects for BOLD’s Career & Talent workstream, including events to promote internal mobility, provide networking opportunities, and help attendees better understand JPMorgan Chase’s business.
Overall, while the tech industry has made some progress in implementing DE&I values, much work still needs to be done to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive sector.
What advice would you give young professionals looking to advance in the tech industry, particularly those from underrepresented groups?
You spend a lot of time at work, so finding a place where you can grow, learn, and continue to be challenged is important. In the meantime, work on building a strong network by attending industry events, joining communities, and connecting with professionals in the tech field.
Seeking out mentorship or sponsorship will help you advance your career. JPMorgan Chase has internal mentoring and sponsorship programmes, and I’ve leveraged both at different points in my career.
Continue to develop technical skills by taking courses, attending workshops, and pursuing certifications. I’d also advise taking on leadership roles within your organisation or community. Leading large-scale projects as part of my involvement in DE&I initiatives has helped me build valuable skills and demonstrate my ability to lead and manage teams.
Remember, building a successful career in the tech industry takes time, effort, and dedication. Stay focused on your goals, seek opportunities to learn and grow, and persist in pursuing your dreams.
How do you stay current with new developments and trends in software engineering, and what resources do you recommend for others to do the same?
I attend conferences and events to learn about new developments and trends in software engineering. For example, last year, I had the privilege of attending DEVUP, JPMorgan Chase’s internal engineering conference. There I explored interesting concepts like Platform Thinking and learned about new internal tools; whilst connecting and collaborating with peers and thought leaders from across the firm.
I also read blogs and listen to podcasts that cover software engineering and related topics. And I take advantage of learning opportunities, such as online courses on various software engineering topics.
One of the things I also enjoy is participating in hackathons and coding challenges. They are a great way to stay updated on new technologies and trends while building your skills and network.