We were excited to chat with Mia de Búrca from 99designs, where she works as a Senior Software Engineer. She was promoted into this position shortly after returning from parental leave. Mia is full of energy and drive, which is why balancing both a new job in the office and at home as a new mum was a fun juggle. Perhaps what we didn’t expect to learn was that Mia is also a circus performer and has performed at the Melbourne Fringe. In our chat, Mia shares her fascinating career journey and the importance of giving back.
How it all started
Mia was chatting to another student at a class on how to master a handstand. It was this serendipitous small talk with a stranger that led to Mia’s first tech role in Australia.
“He seemed a little flustered when he entered the class, and I naturally asked if his day was alright. He said he was busy at work as they were trying to find an engineer. I had been working fulltime but having trouble breaking into the industry, so it was lucky this small conversation led to exciting opportunities.”
Mia soon started at a small startup with five engineers. The company was attempting to launch a telehealth app. However, nine months in there was a restructure, and Mia had to keep her options open.
A fortuitous introduction to the engineering manager at 99designs landed Mia another exciting engineering role almost instantly. Fast forward three years and with a newborn baby in tow, she was promoted to Senior Engineer.
I didn’t see it [the promotion] coming. I remember thinking, ‘Are you sure about this?’ I guess the feedback in my annual review was very positive! I almost didn’t apply to 99designs in the first place as I thought it was out of my league, but the great thing here is you’re always supported and not made to feel silly.
A couple of months into this senior role, Mia still loves the new challenges and the opportunity to coach and mentor members of the team.
“In my previous role, I would work on user-facing tools, build websites and troubleshoot. Aside from all the coding work, as a Senior Engineer, you also help the team out further with mentoring and troubleshooting.”
Circus, code and creativity
While performing in a circus and engineering seem like opposites, there are actually many crossovers and complementary skills needed. Mia shares that both require a great deal of creativity.
There is a lot of creativity and problem solving that goes into both performing in a circus and engineering. You’re thinking about the most creative and efficient way to solve a problem.
This certainly expands the thinking into what it means to lead a creative life and career — and it proves you can be very creative in engineering.
On giving back to the world
Mia’s impactful work doesn’t stop at 99designs; she has also worked teaching aerial performance at a women’s community centre. On top of that, 99designs has partnerships with many charities and not-for-profit organisations aimed at advocating for more women to get into STEM careers. One organisation Mia has enjoyed volunteering with is Girl Geek Academy.
From time to time, year 12 students are welcomed to the 99designs office, and Mia along with other members of the team are proud to share what a rewarding career in tech can look like for women. And if that’s not enough, Mia also hosts a book club at work for engineers starting in the industry to come together and swap notes on classic tech books.
Bringing your whole self to work
Mia’s daughter is just over 18 months. She shares how 99designs made the transition from parental leave back to work so easy. We asked her to share a little more about her experience.
“There was a lot of keeping in touch days while I was on parental leave to make me feel like I was still part of the team. Once I was back at work, it was great that there was a pumping room to make breastfeeding easier.”
Once I was back, it was flexible hours, where I was in the office from 10 am to 4 pm for critical meetings and then outside of that, it’s up to you to decide.
Bringing your whole self to work is important to Mia, and is something which 99designs fully supports and celebrates.
“We can bring our whole self to work every day. Leaders make a conscious effort to check in on your wellbeing. I’m comfortable being myself, and people are comfortable the way they are here. One of the values we have at 99designs is everyone should be happy to come to work.”
Our chat with Mia was full of humility — but we all know she worked very hard to get to where she is.
“I know I am not going to be the strongest at everything, but I try to find gaps in any process. It’s up to us to become the owner and proactively solve issues.”
My career advice is to identify the unique value and skills you bring to the team and advocate for yourself with conviction.
Mia counts her lucky stars to work for such a supportive and flexible company.
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