Inside Smarty - Kiersten Nelthorpe

Dan Lambourne
Dan Lambourne
June 22, 2023
We have the luxury at Smarty of working with some incredibly intelligent, kind, and friendly individuals. Learn more about Kiersten as we spotlight her here!

We have the luxury at Smarty of working with some incredibly intelligent, kind, friendly, and in many cases, funny individuals. Today we showcase one of those fantastic individuals, Kiersten Nelthorpe.

Kiersten is one of our amazingly talented Software Engineers and is the team lead over our Backend Accounts Engineering team.

Her accomplishments include building Microsoft API services for enterprise software, developing features for supply chain tools for Vivint, and building backend reporting APIs for Imagine Learning.

Kiersten's employee photo

But that’s just her professional bio. To really know who Kiersten is, we asked for some clarification.

What do you do at Smarty?

I go to meetings so the software engineers on my team don't have to.

What's something surprising you've learned since joining Smarty?

That a city can span 2 or more counties or even 2 different states.

What do you like most about your role at Smarty?

I love getting to interact with most of the departments at Smarty. My team gets to work on both customer-facing and internal projects, so sometimes our coworkers are our customers, and it's fun to help them out too.

Kiersten on a ship

What's the most challenging part of your job?

We already have several years' worth of work lined up for development, which is both a blessing and a curse. While we know there’s plenty to do, it can be tricky when brand new work items come in to balance them out against the existing backlog.

What projects and accomplishments here at Smarty are you most proud of?

I have a love-hate relationship with working on implementing sales tax in our checkout processes. I now know more about sales tax than I ever thought possible and even that’s probably 0.001% of what there is to know about it. It was incredible to realize how massive and complex that space can be, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who’s a sales tax expert.

What talents of yours do you enjoy honing outside of work?

I used to be a classical oboist. I'm also very knowledgeable about planning Disney parks vacations. In fact, when I was a child, I wanted to be Cinderella at Disney World. I've been known to ride motorcycles as well.

Kiersten on a black motorcycle Kiersten at Disneyland Kiersten on a tan motorcycle

What do you love about your hobbies?

I actually don't ride motorcycles anymore because I have become much more risk-averse since having kids. But for the few years that I did ride, it was really fun to get to know a whole new community of people. I love the little motorcycle wave even strangers do when they ride past each other on the road.

I love Disney parks (and cruises) because the attention to detail is always incredible, and I find the entertainment enjoyable. There's always something new happening, especially at the parks. Sometimes I'm going to look for hidden Mickeys, sometimes for new rides, and sometimes to try new food and snacks. It's fun to go with different groups of people and tailor the day to that group's interests. And there’s so much to learn about! I almost love planning Disney trips even more than the actual trips themselves.

Who inspires you?

I will always remember one particular phrase from my dad: "If you never ask, then the answer is always no." It reminds me that sometimes my fears are the only thing standing in my way, and there’s always the potential for opportunity in being courageous.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell myself not to be so scared to ask questions at work. When I started working full-time, I was terrified that not understanding everything would make me look useless. There's a reason we have teams to divide the workload, and each individual will have more or less knowledge of different parts of the codebase. Everyone doesn't have to have a perfect knowledge of everything all the time. We got farther working together as a team.

Have you learned anything valuable in your time at Smarty so far?

JO encouraged me to read the book Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet. The author describes building a culture of bottom-up leadership by encouraging everyone to come up with ideas and solutions on their own and stating, "I intend to do such and such thing." It helped me realize that if I see a problem that needs solving, I can go ahead and come up with a solution rather than waiting to be tasked to do so.

I also love scheduling Meet-to-learns with people around the company to get to know them better. I like to learn about their job, what they do, and what they like to do outside of work. The better we know each other, the more comfortable we are initiating conversations and knowing how to communicate with each other. It helps us clarify cross-team expectations faster and do our work better. Taking the time to do fun things as a company gives us space to get to know each other beyond just lunchtime conversations. I try to take the time during each activity to learn a little about someone I haven't yet interacted with quite as much in my regular day-to-day work.

Have you got any tips for folks in the software industry?

  • Learn strong testing and debugging skills. Writing new code is more fun, but sometimes we spend more time on testing and debugging. Proficiency there will free up more time for innovative work.

  • Talk through your ideas with someone before implementing a large feature. You may have a solution that works, but someone else may have insights into optimizing it further. Or your solution might help someone else figure out how to solve something they're working on. Sharing and collaborating helps the whole team.

  • Specifically for mothers returning to the office after maternity leave: don't be afraid to ask for what you need when returning to the office. Not everyone has had a baby themselves, and it can be hard for them to anticipate your needs. In my experience, most employers want to be helpful and appreciate your input on what you need. I once was at a company that set up a beautiful mother's room, but there was no mini fridge to keep milk in. It was just something that no one had ever thought about before. Once I asked about it, there was a mini fridge in there within a couple of days. It was a super simple thing, and I could have just assumed no one cared. They definitely did care, and I just had to ask.

We love having Kiersten on board and look forward to learning more from her and more about her.

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