Moving up the ladder can take years for most people, but for Julia Grace, Slack's Head of Infrastructure Engineering,  it took only nine months.

Before joining the cloud communications platform Slack, Grace was the co-founder and CTO of Tindie, a marketplace for electronics, and previously worked at IBM Research. Grace tells International Business Times what exactly she does to bring Slack to millions of users, and some career advice for those who want to climb up the ladder faster.

What Grace does at Slack and what she brought from Tindie:

As Head of Infrastructure Engineering, I lead the team responsible for building and maintaining the lower levels of our stack, such as the edge services, real-time messaging, asynchronous job processing and data infrastructure. At Tindie, I led the scaling of the marketplace from a prototype to a platform used by tens of thousands of buyers and sellers. That experience is directly applicable to managing the work my team is doing at Slack where we have 800+ employees across seven offices and 9M+ weekly active users.

What are some of the challenges Slack faces today?

Slack continues to experience rapid growth, so our challenges lie in scaling our infrastructure to meet the needs of a quickly growing user base. When your organization is changing that fast, you have to imagine the unimaginable and predict the unpredictable. Consumers use your products in ways you didn’t consider, thus creating unique and interesting challenges you couldn’t plan for. To give you a flavor of our scale: 1.5 billion messages are sent per month, half of those outside the United States. Every day we see over 3.5 million simultaneously connected users, over a billion web requests, and tens of billions of database queries. This means we’re constantly learning how to evolve and scale to fit our product and customers’ needs.

Cloud Computing Event Newsweek Media Group is partnering with Structure for a Cloud Computing event Nov. 14-15 in San Francisco. Photo: Newsweek Media Group

How does Slack protect its large number of users from hackers?

Slack has made serious investments in building enterprise grade security. Our security team adheres to the most stringent standards that enterprises expect around encryption, access and authority. They perform regular scans, penetration tests and a growing set of third-party audits that help our customers see for themselves what we are doing on the security front. We are always thinking about how to protect our platform, which has unique challenges as people build more integrations and apps that connect with other enterprise software tools.

You climbed up the ladder so quickly at the company. What advice do you have for others based on your experience?

Be eager and open to moving across departments or roles. I started on Slack’s platform team, which made sense coming from Tindie where I managed the scaling of the platform. Then I moved into infrastructure which allowed me to not only move up the ladder but begin to tackle large-scale problems. I also believe it’s vitally important to find a company whose mission you really believe in. Having a passion for and believing in the work you’re doing every day will show and help you grow in your career trajectory.

Why it's important to give back to young people:

Mentoring and working with students and early career engineers is important for me personally because I lacked strong mentors and role models in computing while I was growing up. Having someone who can help you with job applications, negotiate salary, and navigate through the challenges of the corporate world can be life changing. I hope that in mentoring this next generation of engineers I can also show them that Slack is not just a great place to work, but a place engineers can thrive, grow in their careers, and work on some of the most challenging technology on the back end.

On mentoring young people at Cal Poly:

The mentorship program I participated in at Cal Poly is still connecting industry board members with female students today. I sit on the Industry Advisory Board for Cal Poly’s Computer Science Department and from there I’m able to help shape the curriculum for the next generation of engineers.

Advice for those who are going into the tech industry:

For those who are current students looking to break into tech or even those making the jump into a different field in the tech sector, I would recommend staying in touch with your former colleagues, professors, internship leads, and classmates entering a similar field. The technology world is surprisingly small and having an established, connected network is helpful in finding a great company to work for.

Disclosure: Julia Grace is speaking at Newsweek Media Group's Cloud Infrastructure Intelligence Structure conference Nov. 14-15 in San Francisco.