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Interviews / Software Engineers & Developers

Balancing the Grind With Pamela Assogba, Systems Engineer at Vox Media

Pamela Assogba is a full stack developer, working as a systems engineer at Vox Media. She also runs a community called Color Coded and a small bakery called Madjé’s Cookies.

This conversation is sponsored by graphic design platform Canva. Empowering millions of people around the world to design.

1. To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

Sure can! I have a bit of a meandering career path. You can join me on the detailed journey by reading this Elpha article, but otherwise, here are the juicy bits.

I studied architecture in college and graduated with a Bachelor of Science. There was only one problem: I didn’t want to be an architect.

Shortly after graduation – and following a failed internship, I decided to pivot and get my masters in fashion design. I taught myself how to sew and eventually got the idea to start a fashion blog to showcase my creations.

I was clearly on a self-teaching kick, because I decided to make the blog from scratch, coding and all. That was my first exposure to code. It led me to becoming a student at a coding bootcamp called General Assembly.

After graduation from GA, I transitioned into a junior teaching role for the following cohort. I quickly realized that teaching was not for me (kudos to all the teachers out there), and found my way to an engineering role at Vox Media where I now work as a systems engineer.

On the side, I run a community for people of color in tech called Color Coded and a small bakery called Madjé’s Cookies.

2. What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I’ll be honest, my routine, like most people, has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent quarantine. So instead of a recent day, I will take you on a typical good day in my life:

6:00am – 8:00am: I wake up, brush my teeth, journal, and go for a workout usually at the gym or on my yoga mat.

8:00am-12:00pm: Work! As a systems engineer, I work with other developers and try to make their lives easier. My team sets up infrastructures that help their velocity and productivity.

I spend a good amount of time working on tools that I will implement in other team’s projects as well as helping out with general support questions (bugs, broken internal tools, etc.)

12:00pm-1:00pm: I’ll get lunch or go on a lunch walk. Depending on where I’m working that day, I may also be on my way back home.

1:00pm-5:00pm: More work! The latter half of the day is a little less organized because I am a textbook morning person. Alongside the work I’m supposed to be doing that day, you may find me browsing the old Youtube, especially if there’s a new Bon Appetit or Binging with Babish video.

5:00pm-8:00pm: I’ll work on whatever is on the to-do list for the side activities. It could be baking for the cookie business or planning things for the community.

8:00pm-10pm: I’ll do a fun activity before winding down for bed, like cooking, reading, or watching New Girl for the nth time.

3. Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

My current role is very flexible and I’m grateful for it everyday. I’m 100% remote, which makes managing my numerous tasks and activities easier.

I also love the fact that I can work from different places and change my scenery. That’s obviously not happening much these days,, but I cannot wait to be able to work from my favorite coffee shop again.

I’m hoping that happens sooner rather than later!

4. What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance is, in my opinion, all about preventing work stressors from seeping into my personal life. Being remote empowers me to do that by putting me in control of my time and how I use it.

It also helps working on interesting problems that don’t feel like work. That makes it easier to pull out my laptop on a weekend if I’m feeling inspired to code and spend some time working on a ticket. It’s fun!

5. What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

As much as I can, I try to be disciplined.

For example, I’m generally very disciplined about my fitness. Building consistency in that realm has made it easier to be consistent with other things.

6. Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

I predominantly read fiction, so I’m not the most versed in self-help books. That said, here are some books that have positively impacted me throughout the years:

  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris
  • This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

7. What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I workout! There is a noticeable drop in my clarity and productivity when I don’t. It doesn’t have to be intense or long: even just a few minutes spent getting my heart-rate up is good for my anxiety, focus, and overall happiness.

8. If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Alisha Ramos! She is the creator of the wonderful Girl’s Night In newsletter and is refreshingly honest about her relationship with work and how it impacts her life.

9. Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Try to have fun with what you do, take screen breaks, take walks, and most importantly, be kind to yourself!

Before you go…

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.