What do you need to work in tech? We think about software engineers as analytical and precise. But Lauren Clayberg, a recent MIT grad and an engineer at the testing automation startup mabl, says she uses her creative brain just as much as she relies on her technical chops.

Lauren Clayberg has always had a wide range of interests. As a kid, she spent her time playing guitar, writing music, editing videos, designing her own video games, and learning from her computer scientist dad. 

On this episode of Technical Women, Lauren talks to hosts Natalie Vais and Renee Shah about  her journey into computer science and what she has learned since she graduated MIT and started her first job at mabl. Then, Natalie and Renee reflect on their early tech careers and share advice for people who are just starting out.

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Why computer science?

In college, Lauren narrowed her focus and decided to focus on computer science. She was drawn to the problems she’d be able to solve as a software engineer. “The building blocks of computer science have always really interested me, and I like being able to build things and put the different pieces together to come up with a solution to a problem.”

Even though she focused her studies, she knows that the possibilities are endless for her as a software engineer. “Computer science is a really great way to be able to work on a lot of diverse problems. I like the flexibility and the fact that you can really see something come together so quickly that can really change people’s lives.”

The benefits of a startup

Lauren graduated from MIT with her Master’s degree in 2020, but she had a lot to learn on the job. She says she’s grateful to be working in a small company where she can learn quickly and stay close to the decision-makers. “One of the benefits of being at a small company like mabl is I actually got to know both of the co-founders. And so I’m able to ask them questions about how the business is run. They’re a lot more accessible to me.”

Designing for accessibility

In her role at mabl, she’s making an impact by unlocking accessibility — something she’s passionate about. “mabl is a test automation solution. One of the things I’m really excited about is accessibility testing. A lot of companies don’t consider accessible testing as part of their functional testing, but it is genuinely important. If your website isn’t accessible, it’s actually not functional for a large group of people.”

As more and more of our work and day-to-day activities move online, Lauren sees how important it is to make apps available for everyone. “We want everyone to have equal opportunities to be able to succeed. Accessibility is really important.”

Using both sides of the brain

We asked Lauren: What’s something we need to talk about more in tech? Her answer was quick: Creativity. “I used to think I had to choose one — creative work or technical work. It took me a long time to reconcile the fact that I can like math and solving technical problems — and also, I’m a very creative person.” Lauren thinks there’s room for both in her job and in the tech industry at large.

“I’ve realized that the fact that I’m a creative person really helps me in my software engineering role. I enjoy solving hard technical problems in a creative manner. And if you think of yourself as a creative person, the tech industry might be the place for you.”