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Meet Lydia Gorham: The Fast Interview

Lydia Gorham, Senior Backend Software Engineer at Fast

Lydia Gorham

Role: Senior Backend Software Engineer

Team: Engineering

Talk about your career background and how you got to Fast.

I was a political science major in college and planned on becoming a professor. I never took computer science classes. 

My first job out of college, I worked at a financial research company, where I started to learn Python for data analysis. The tutorials I was doing were all more web development-focused, and I discovered it was very satisfying to build something that people can use. I ended up quitting my job, moving to the Bay Area, and going to a coding boot camp. I was lucky enough to get a job at Slack as a backend engineer right out of boot camp. I was there for three-and-a-half years, mostly on the Identity, Security, and Compliance product engineering team, which is where I first started getting interested in identity. So when I saw Fast, I was very excited about the idea of an identity layer for consumers online.

Where did you grow up, and where were you like as a child?

I grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, which is a super tiny ski resort town. As a kid, I spent a lot of time outdoors and reading. I didn't really play around on computers much or watch TV.

What are some of your favorite books?

Fiction: I really love Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, the sense of place in that book is really well done. I just finished reading Dubliners (a collection of short stories by James Joyce), and am now reading Exhalation (a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang). For nonfiction, I'm reading this book on artificial intelligence (Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans) by Melanie Mitchell.

What was your first job ever?

I was a busser at a restaurant when I was 14. I couldn't drive yet, so I had my parents pick me up every night. I worked restaurant jobs 14 through 17, but I wasn’t very good at it. When I was 18, I decided I would rather go work in a salmon processing plant in Alaska, where I chopped up fish all day, rather than spend another summer waiting tables.

What public figure do you admire most and why?

I generally think that it's specific accomplishments or traits about a public figure that I admire, rather than them as a holistic person. In that framing, I have a huge list but for a random selection across domains: Geoffrey West and Melanie Mitchell, for being amazing academics who can write about complex, cross-discipline scientific topics in a way that is captivating and clear to both experts and non-experts. Joan Didion for her wide-ranging ability to critically examine and paint a picture of messy, complicated realities – including her own grief and loss. Sallie Krawcheck for taking an unpopular position at Citi to reimburse clients during the financial crisis and then building a whole new career as a startup founder dedicated to getting more women into investing.

What app on your phone do you use the most?

It’s between Slack and Twitter. I never actually tweet on Twitter, but I find it a very easy way to consume a lot of random news and hear interesting things.

What food do you uncontrollably eat?

Definitely great guac and chips.

What personal goal would you like to achieve in the next five years?

On the professional side, I want to continue to build up deep domain expertise for the field I’m in, both on the technical side and also learning more about the product and business side. I’m enjoying it and feel like I’m learning a lot. On the more personal side, certainly writing more. I used to love writing, both fiction and nonfiction, but I really haven’t done much of it over the past few years.

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