Meeting… Natalya Shelburne, Senior Software Engineer

Illustration by Claire Merchlinsky

“Meeting…” is an ongoing series from NYT Open that features New York Times employees from different corners of the company. In this installment, we meet Natalya Shelburne, a senior software engineer.

What is your name?
Natalya Shelburne

What are your pronouns?
She/Her

What is your job?
Senior Software Engineer

What does that mean?
I work on all things front-end at The New York Times.

How long have you been at The Times?
It will be four years in October.

Most Times employees are working remotely right now. Where are you working from these days?
My tiny apartment in Midtown Manhattan.

How do you start your day?
I usually wake up to a loud “mama!” shouted sometime before dawn, and I make a quick coffee (or two). I then do everything I can to set up as many Montessori-style activities for my daughter that allows me to work in enough 15-minute intervals to get through a day. Basically, I feel like I accomplish a whole day’s worth of tasks before 9 a.m.

What is something you’ve worked on recently?
A book! I collaborated with incredible design and engineering leaders on a book called “Design Engineering” about modern ideas, workflows and tools. The future of design and engineering collaboration is bright.

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on at The Times that you’re especially proud of.
The year I served on The Growth Framework committee — a team tasked with updating our old software engineering career ladder. My favorite contribution was pushing for intentionally shifting language to include the variety of contributions made by engineers at The Times. For example, shifting from “having ownership” to “showing initiative” to explicitly recognize the contributions of collaborators and discourage gatekeeping.

What was your first job?
A Christmas elf! Pointy ears, stockings, candy canes. It may have also been the best job I have ever had and definitely set a high bar.

What is something most people don’t know about you?
Last year, I co-wrote a short film that was accepted into three film festivals.

What is your secret to career success?
Reconciling the potential of what something could be with the reality of what it actually is and accurately measuring the impact I can have. In other words, the ability to read a situation and know when to push through, wait out, or move on.

What is your superpower?
The simultaneous coexistence of relentless optimism and deeply pragmatic preparedness.

What are you inspired by?
People who have a clear mission and whose actions line up with their priorities. Also, toddlers: they know how to live in the moment better than anyone.

Name one thing you’re excited about right now.
The world is in a state of unprecedented disruption, but I have to believe that the potential for profoundly positive change exists. For example, the sudden shift to remote work and lack of childcare has pulled back the curtain on the realities of just how much extra work parents and caregivers do, and the fragility of the support systems we have had to cobble together in order to go to work during the pandemic. Will we, as a society, rise to the occasion and improve these systems so that we can better support people? I hope so. We have to. Teaching and childcare are both full time jobs, and they should be valued and funded.

What is your best advice for someone starting to work in your field?
Value yourself, your opinions, and your contributions. Seek out and work with people who see your value and potential, and who don’t ask you to repeatedly prove yourself to them.

There are a lot of people out there who are willing to take advantage of your self doubt. Don’t fall for it. Spend your energy on learning, growing, and creating.

More in “Meeting…”

Meeting… Tiffany Peón, Senior Software Engineer at The New York Times
Meeting… Nimpee Kaul, Lead Program Manager at The New York Times
Meeting… Katerina Iliakopoulou, Lead Software Engineer at The New York Times


Meeting… Natalya Shelburne, Senior Software Engineer was originally published in NYT Open on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: New York Times