Life@Kobalt: The Evolution of Tech and Music with Kobalt Engineers Kaylie McKelvey and Kylie Sunner
Historically, music has been a male-dominated field — not just on the artists’ side, but also within the industry itself. As time passes, however, more and more women are attempting to shift the tides. In fact, last month, we celebrated International Women’s Day by asking eight inspiring Kobalt ladies to share with us what it’s like to be a woman in music today and their best piece of advice for young women following in their footsteps.
Like music, the tech industry is made up of mostly men too. A recent study showed that just 20% of Google engineers are women — a statistic that’s reflective of big tech companies in general. Here at Kobalt, we pride ourselves on building upon and utilizing tech to fulfill our mission in music. Two women who are bridging the gap in both music and tech are Kobalt test engineer Kaylie McKelvey and software engineer Kylie Sunner, members of our London-based team.
Recently, we had an opportunity to chat with both Kaylie and Kylie about their backgrounds, why they’re passionate about technology, and how Kobalt’s stake in tech is helping all our clients across Kobalt and AWAL get more insight into their careers than ever before.
[L-R] Kylie Sunner and Kaylie McKelvey.
Q: How did you both decide to pursue careers in tech?
Kylie: I’ve been with Kobalt for three and a half years. I studied computer science, so I've had a programming background from the start. I've watched this company grow, so it's pretty cool. The tech department, when I first joined, was about 40 people, and now we’ve got like 120. It's pretty awesome!
Kaylie: I was an administrator for about 10 years, and then my partner, who’s a developer, overtook our TV with his computer messing around with a website and I was like, "What are you doing? This looks fun. I'm gonna see if I can do this." Within a couple of months, a junior test role came open [at my previous company]. I interviewed for it and they hired me.
I was with them about two and a half years, and they gave me a really solid base for being a test engineer. I definitely outgrew that role, because I was so ambitious. Kobalt was a company I really wanted to work for. So then I applied for this role, and I’ve been here about six months.
Q: What do “test engineers” and “software engineers” do?
Kaylie: Someone who's called a developer builds a website or a database. A test engineer is the person who looks at what it's supposed to do and checks if it does that or if it does anything unusual that you just wouldn't want it to do. It’s basically like pretending to be the user testing what’s being developed to make sure it's usable.
I would describe testing as a big chest of drawers. I go in, open a drawer, and look to see if what's in there is supposed to be in there. If it is, I close the drawer, and if not, I rearrange it, or I tell someone else about it and then close the drawer.
Kylie: As a software engineer, I come along and deal with [a database] being slow, and then I rewrite what's happening in the background.
Q: What do you think is the significance of tech’s role in the music industry today?
Kylie: It's amazing because so much change is happening in tech, and it's nice that it's coming to Kobalt. When the engineering team is looking at something, they're looking at the way that data can that be useful to the writers. It's making a big impact on the music industry for sure.
Kaylie: I think making statistics and data more accessible to artists, like what we’re doing at Kobalt, is just revolutionary. It's what artists deserve — to see who loves it where, how much you're making, where else you need to go.
Q: Are there any challenges of being a woman in tech?
Kylie: At Kobalt, I think everyone treats you equal. From day one, I've never felt out of place.
Kaylie: Yeah, I agree. I've experienced some sexism in roles elsewhere. But here, I don't feel like there's been any challenges based on my gender.
Kylie: One thing I noticed at uni is that there was a higher ratio of men to women, so there was a lot more competition. The men were always a lot more competitive than me. It was a good thing in a way; it put it a bit of pressure on me having to try to compete against them.
Q: Is it empowering to be a woman in tech today?
Kaylie: There's a focus on women in tech, and it does feel quite empowering to be like, “I'm already one of those, and I can help other people become a woman in technology. I can be a role model for people who want to join technology.”
Kylie: It feels pretty good. I feel like we would be really good role models. “If we can do it, you guys can do it, too. You just gotta keep on trying.”
Q: What inspires you to do the work that you do?
Kaylie: To me, it's the users. Knowing that [the technology] works in a way that helps someone else do their job. I like working with users to get the best possible outcome.
Kylie: For me, it's my team leader, Victoria. She's my role model, because she's been doing what she's doing for years, so she's got so much experience. I look up to that, and I want to learn more, so she keeps me going. It's also being able to [code] something and then see it go through. It's like you're part of something, and you pass that on.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the future of technology and music?
Kaylie: I think continuing to provide data, really tailoring it, and making it as detailed as the artist needs because they're trying to sell and promote themselves. I think that should be where the future of technology is.