20 Female Architects in Engineering to Watch!

This is an updated list of even more talented technical experts in engineering, data, systems, cloud, and more – In 2017, we created a popular list of 12 Female Architects in Software and Data! Below are many more inspiring architects to watch in 2022:

#1 – Aida El-Toumi Murphy – Cloud Architect – AT&T

Aida has over 25 years experience at AT&T, where began her career as a software engineer. She is currently Cloud Architect at AT&T in the New York area. She earned her BS in engineering from Cornell and MS from UC Berkeley College of Engineering. In her spare time, she’s volunteered with Toastmasters.

#2 – Allison Holloway – Architect – Oracle

Allison has over a decade of experience working at Oracle, and is active in the database research community. She is currently an Architect at Oracle. She earned her BS in EECS from The University of Texas at Austin, and PhD in CS from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

#3 – Avery Wong Hagleitner – Software Architect – IBM

With over 20 years of experience at IBM, Avery is currently a Software Architect at IBM. She earned her BS in computer science from UC San Diego and her MS in software engineering from San Jose State University. In her spare time, she is an avid traveler and hiker.

#4 – Bhakti Mehta – Chief Architect, Confluence Cloud – Atlassian

With over 20 years of experience architecting, designing, and implementing software solutions on top of Java EE and other related technologies, Bhakti is currently Chief Architect Confluence Cloud at Atlassian. She earned her BE in computer engineering from Ramrao Adik Institute of Technology, and her MS in computer science from Binghamton University. She is the author of Developing RESTful Services with JAX-RS 2.0, WebSockets, and JSON, Packt Publishing, and RESTful Java Patterns and Best Practices.

#5 – Bing Zhu – Software Architect – Cadence Design Systems

With over 20 years of experience at Cadence Design Systems, Bing Zhu is currently a Software Architect at Cadence Design Systems. She earned her PhD in computer science from Peking University. She holds numerous patents.

#6 – Divya Mahajan – Director of Architecture – Fidelity Investments

Divya has over a decade of experience in engineering at Fidelity Investments. She is currently a Director of Architecture at Fidelity Investments. She earned her BS in information science from Visvesvaraya Technological University, her MS in MIS from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and completed coursework (Data 8.1x: Foundations of Data Science: Computational Thinking with Python) at UC Berkeley through edX. In her spare time, she likes to hike, and can found on the mountains of New Hampshire, Africa, or South America.

#7 – Iris Melendez – Data Architect – Autodesk

Iris has worked as a developer, implementer, business and systems analyst, data modeler, data warehouse designer, data modeler, consultant, web designer and developer, project and people manager, and any other hat you can think of since the early 1980s. With over a decade of experience in data architecture and data warehousing at Autodesk, Iris is currently a Data Architect at Autodesk. She earned her degree in interior design from San Francisco State University.

#8 – Jeanine Walters – Principal Architect, Software Engineering – Salesforce

With over 18 years of experience working at Salesforce, Jeanine is currently a Principal Architect in software engineering at Salesforce. Prior to Salesforce, she held multiple technical positions for companies great and small, including an internet company that she founded. She earned her BS in math with computer science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She enjoys dancing and playing Capoeira.

#9 – Katie Sylor-Miller – Frontend Architect – Etsy

Katie is currently a Frontend Architect at Etsy, with over six years of experience at Etsy. Prior to Etsy, she worked at ConstantContact and EF Education in Massachusetts. In her spare time, she co-authors the zine Oh shit, Git!, based on her eponymous website ohshitgit.com. She earned her bachelor’s in computer science from Harvard Extension School.

#10 – Kris Berg – Senior Software Architect – Autodesk

Kris is currently a Senior Software Architect at Autodesk, with over 24 years of experience working at Autodesk. She’s working on the Fusion 360 product, which allows customers to create mechanical 3D Designs and define the manufacturing process. She earned her BS in computer science from Oregon State University.

#11 – Leena Sampemane – Distinguished Architect – Intuit

Leena has over 25 years of experience working product and architecture at companies like Oracle and Intuit. Currently, she is a Distinguished Architect at Intuit, where she’s been for almost a decade. She earned her BS in general studies from Charter Oak State College and her data science credential from UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business.

#12 – Liping Dai – Lead System Architect – Visa

Liping has over 25 years of experience working in engineering. She is currently Lead System Architect at Visa, where she’s been at for over five years. She earned her BS in computer science from Tongji University and her MS in software engineering from San Jose State University.

#13 – Maria Lucena – Director of Architecture – Fidelity Investments

Maria is currently Director of Architecture at Fidelity Investments, where she’s been at for over six years. She has over a decade of experience working in software engineering. She earned her web development certificate from Strayer University, her Associate’s in IT from University of Massachusetts Lowell, and her BS in computer science from Tiffin University. She considers her two beautiful boys her most significant achievements.

#14 – Minnie Ho – Architect – Zoox (Amazon)

With over 20 years of experience working in engineering, Minnie is currently Architect at Zoox (acquired by Amazon), where she’s been for almost two years. She spent most of her career at Intel as a chip architect. She earned her BS in EECS from Princeton University, her MS and PhD in EECS from Stanford University, and deep learning and self-driving cars course certificates from Coursera. In her spare time, she’s been a board member of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra.

#15 – Mónica Carrillo Goren – Staff Engineer, Platform Technical Architecture – Slack

Mónica has over 20 decades of experience working in engineering and leadership working at companies including The Honest Company, Facebook, MySpace, Verizon, and Lucent Technologies. Currently, she is a Staff Engineer in Platform Technical Architecture at Slack, where she’s been at for over five years. She earned her BS in computer science and engineering from Ohio State University.

#16 – Natasha Gupta – Software Engineering Architect – Salesforce

With over 15 years of experience working in engineering at companies like ExactTarget and Salesforce, Natasha is currently a Software Engineering Architect at Salesforce in Colorado. She earned her BE in electronics engineering from The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and her her MS in EECS from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. She’s volunteered at SQL Saturdays in New York and speaks at women in tech events.

#17 – Snezana Sahter – Distinguished Architect – Intuit

Snezana has over 25 years of experience working in engineering architecture. She is currently a Distinguished Architect at Intuit, where she’s been at for over four years. Prior to Intuit, she was a principal architect at eBay for over a decade. Originally from Serbia, she has spent most of her engineering career in the San Francisco Bay Area.

#18 – Sudeshna Biswas – Lead Data Architect – Visa

Sudeshna has over 20 years of experience working in large scale distributed data warehouse & business intelligence solutions. Currently she is a Lead Data Architect at Visa, where she’s been at for over three years. Prior to Visa, she co-founded Stadea Tools and worked at SurveyMonkey, Intuit, eBay, Cisco, and Apple. She earned her BE in Engineering from Jadavpur University.

#19 – Tong Qin – Software Architect – Autodesk

With over 15 years of experience working in software engineering, Tong is currently a Software Architect at Autodesk.

#20 – Ümit Yalçınalp – Architect – Oracle

Ümit has 25+ years of experience in the industry pioneering products and initiatives for the Cloud, Web, SOA and Java Technologies. She is the co-author of a book, several patents, an editor and contributor to various standards in Web Services, Java, XML and SOA. She is also a co-founder of Turkish Women in Computing community. She earned her PhD in computer science from Case Western Reserve University.

Cadence Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks & Panel! (Video + Transcript)

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Transcript of Cadence Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks & Panel:

Angie Chang: Hi. Welcome everyone to the Cadence Girl Geek X event. My name is Angie Chang, and I am the founder of Girl Geek X. By means of introductions, I mean to say my name’s Angie Chang and I’m the founder of Girl Geek X and Women 2.0. I also spent some time working at a company called Hackbright Academy, which is a women’s coding bootcamp. I also spend a lot of time talking about women starting high-growth, high-tech companies, working in tech, blogging about it. Sometimes I write listicles of women architects, women CTOs, VPs, security chiefs and such.

Angie Chang: Let’s see. Why don’t we do something? Why don’t we pretend that we have our “Hello my name is” name badges, and write in the chat like, “Hello, my name is Angie Chang, Founder, Girl Geek X,” and then put in your LinkedIn URL. I’ll start. I’ll copy and paste this into the chat. That way… I’ve noticed that people at our Zoom events have been sharing their LinkedIn profiles. I want to be the first person to say that, yes, let’s definitely share LinkedIn profiles and share a bit about ourselves more than we can see on these Zoom meetings or Zoom webinars.

Angie Chang: Let’s see. A bit about Girl Geek X. We’ve been doing Girl Geek Dinners since 2008. We started with events at Google and Facebook when they were smaller companies in 2008, and then we went to all these different tech companies. We went to biotech companies. We went to a bunch of companies I’d never heard about before.

Angie Chang: But the thing about that is once I was there, I would learn so much about that company. I’d learn about the industry. I’d learn about the women that worked in it. I would see their job titles and I would be very inspired and educated at that point to recommend that company say to friends. Also, it was really great for networking.

Angie Chang: Hopefully if you have time, you can hang out tonight. Later at seven or so, we’re going to start the networking and Zoom breakout rooms where you can actually chat with each other and connect more in person. But if you can’t, it’s okay, this talk is recorded. All of our events are recorded and put on YouTube later, and that URL is youtube.com/girlgeekx.

Angie Chang: What else? If you want to look at all the events that we have hosted in the past, they’re all on our website. It’s at girlgeek.io/attend, and you can find all our previous events. For example, we were at Discord a week or two ago.

Angie Chang: We just wrapped our annual Elevate conference, which is something we do every year for International Women’s Day.We have an all-day event celebrating women and having a bunch of exciting women leaders speaking about topics like mental health and leadership, not just very ambiguous things. We literally had a keynote on decision making from a VP of engineering.

Angie Chang: We always have a call for submissions. People can in the fall apply to speak at that conference. About 10 of those people who applied to become speakers became speakers at Elevate. There’s definitely a chance that if you submit something, you can be selected to speak. You can also sponsor a Girl Geek event like the Cadence event, where you have an opportunity to put your women on stage and give new tech talks followed by a panel. Then we have some networking.

Angie Chang: There’s just so many companies out there. That’s I think a great opportunity to get out there in front of a bunch of eyeballs and create some great talks that we then put on YouTube. What else? Oh yes. We have a Q&A. If you have a question throughout the course of the event tonight, feel free to put it in the Q&A or you can ask it in the chat, but there is a Q&A feature, so feel free to use it. Some of our speakers may want to answer questions, but they may not have time to answer them on screen so they can pop into the chat and answer them later if you ask them. I want to do my first introduction.

Angie Chang: Alinka is the chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Cadence. She’s responsible for Cadence worldwide legal operations. She has served semiconductor and software companies and her entire in-house legal career at a lot of companies that you may have heard of. Before moving in house, she was in private practice for a decade litigating chemical product liability matters. Welcome Alinka.

angie chang girl geek x alinka flaminia cadence
Cadence Chief Legal Officer Alinka Flaninia welcomes audience to Cadence Girl Geek Dinner 2022.

Alinka Flaminia: Thanks Angie. Thanks for the introduction. On behalf of Cadence, we are so honored to partner with Girl Geek X to host this conference in celebration of Women’s History Month. Women have played a significant role in Cadence’s 34-year history, and I’m thrilled to share with you some of our efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace for women and underrepresented groups in STEM. But before I describe some of our DEI efforts at Cadence, let me first tell you a little bit about the company, for those of you who are not familiar with us.

Alinka Flaminia: Cadence is a pivotal leader in electronic design, building upon more than 30 of computational software expertise. Manifesting our intelligence system design strategy, Cadence delivers world-class software, hardware, IP across all aspects of the design electronic systems. Our customers include the world’s leading companies, delivering extraordinary products from chips to board to complete systems for the dynamic market applications, including cloud and hyperscale computing, 5G communications, automotive, mobile, aerospace, consumer industrial and healthcare. It’s fantastic to work at a company where the same set of tools enables innovation across such a diverse set of industries.

Alinka Flaminia: Actually for me, it’s kind of mind blowing, and I believe that the true enabler behind Cadence’s success is our high-performance inclusive culture. Our one Cadence, one team spirit is core to who we are, and embracing diversity and fostering inclusion are key tenets of our Cadence culture. Cadence encourages and fosters diversity equity and inclusion on many fronts, internal and external, through recruiting and university partnerships, education, leadership training, pay equity and promotion and building community.

Alinka Flaminia: A few examples include our sponsorship, diversity and technology scholarship programs for women, black students and Latinx student to support these underrepresented groups in their pursuit of STEM education. We celebrate and support our employee-led inclusion groups for black, LatinX, veteran, LGBTQ+ and women employees and their allies to build community at Cadence and beyond. Cadence offers professional development through advanced leadership and mentorship programs specifically geared toward our girl geeks and black and Latinx employees.

Alinka Flaminia: Cadence is investing in the pipeline of a more diverse employee population through partnerships with nonprofits and organizations that serve underrepresented groups in STEM like the National GEM Consortium, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, Out In Tech, Girls Who Code, and I could go on.

Alinka Flaminia: Our culture has been recognized globally, earning Great Places To Work awards in 14 countries around the world, including seven years in a row on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies To Work For, rankings on Europe and Asia’s Best Workplaces, listed on Newsweek’s Most Love Workplaces and the Best Place To Work For LGBTQ+ Equality on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are top priorities for me and the rest of the executive management team, and our board of directors.

Alinka Flaminia: We are excited to work with Girl Geek and highlight in this conference some of our amazing innovators at Cadence and hear how they are helping us solve technology’s toughest challenges. I am not a technologist, but I am most definitely a geek. Regardless of your specific interests, we girl geeks are united by our passion, our drive, and most especially by our curiosity. The speakers and panelists are some of Cadence’s very best girl geeks, I’m certain they’ll stoke your curiosity about our business and provide great tips for advancing your career. Thank you for joining us today, and I’ll now turn it back over to Angie to introduce our first speaker.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Alinka for that warm welcome from Cadence. Our first speaker tonight is Helen Zhan. She graduated from the University of Tianjin in 2000 with a double major in computer science and economics. She began her career as an IP/SOC engineer at NEC in Japan focusing on both design and verification. Shortly after that, she joined Cadence, where she’s been for the last decade plus. Her passions for debugging failures and finding the root cause of issues has allowed her to grow her career at Cadence. Welcome Helen, who is joining us from Beijing tonight.

helen zhan cadence growth engineering beyond metrics
“Growth Engineering Beyond Metrics” by Helen Zhang, Cadence Design Engineering Group Director.

Helen Zhan: Thank you everyone. I’m Helen from Cadence. Today, I would like to share my story along with the team girls. Okay. I will use them putting in my later talk. I will use the integrated IC, IP, IPG, DDR, LPDDR, PHY and Mbps in my later talk.

Helen Zhan: Firstly, I would like to introduce the function group of my team. Similar to other any centers, we do have the six different function groups along with our journey like the different kind of the design, verification, solution team and the success team. With all this different function team, it provide the complete system solution for the memory system of each customers.

Helen Zhan: Our team did start from the 2011. Then we have the big growth from that year. After three years, we did break into top four of the senior IP core ranking and along with that long journey, we did achieve many milestones of the word first silicon to ensure our IP become more challenging to the market.

Helen Zhan: Today, I would like to share with the story of the team grows. When we start the team, we need to find the proper goal of our team. So we had we will be the market co-developer of the team start. We did have some big investigation of the market. We find there are two type of the current IP company. One is like the flea market, which you could find everything you want, but that may not give you repeatable supply and with good quality. Another is like the mega store. You could find the product with a good quality, but it may not satisfy all your requirement.

Helen Zhan: Where should we go? We leave this question to the marketing investigation. Then we find in cloud market, we do have the different application like the mobile application, consumer application, cloud application and also automotive application. Often shows the market orientation thing. We figure out our target is to build a different style of the IP vendor and supplier to make a customized configurable solution with a good quality to fulfill the different customer request, satisfy all the products.

Helen Zhan: With this clear goal, then we will build a good team and to make the team improvement to satisfy the market requirement. As I started from the beginning, we did have six different function groups. Today, I will check the digital design group as an example for the team roles. When the team grows, we need to divide the team into different separations to have the different function focus. With that kind of, we could have the expert in each field to make our product become more productive and have the leading age technology.

Helen Zhan: With this subdivision, we need to have the clear ownership of each different field, and we do not want to limit any engineer in that field only. We would also like to expand his focus in different area. We want the clear ownership of the each field. In the meantime, we also want the mixed function focus of the different area. With this kind of definition, we could increase the team skill and we could also back up each other and improve together. This makes the team become better and more productive and efficient with a single one.

Helen Zhan: In the meantime, with a complex of the IC product, we have the clear boundary of the each function group, but we want that boundary to have the team have its own focus. We do not want that boundary become any barrier of the cross-function group communication. we would like this boundary become multi care. That will stress our boundary to avoid any backslide and any part we are missing in the development that to avoid any for other issue and surprise in the later production.

Helen Zhan: With all this strategy and the teamwork, we did build a fully verified DDR subsystem. As you can see in this picture, we could support the different configuration product, and it could have the customized features, which could satisfy the different market requirement like the mobile, automotive, cloud and consumer. That also help us that our DDR product in the leading edge to have won more customer today

Helen Zhan: With this 11 years journey, our team is already increased to a big size. How do the junior engineer now become the senior engineer and the senior becomes an expert and with the supervisor like the leadership? But how to help this big team become more stable and more productive. We considers the two area. One is from the technic side. We want the team always stand at the leading edge of the product. That allow us to always to work with a new protocol and to achieve the highest speed in the world.

Helen Zhan: When we start a product, when we define the protocol, that means there are many unclear area which won’t be exist when we start the product that need us to have the flexibility design to accommodate any new requirement coming later. Also, we need to use our experience to doing the predict and analyze for the orientation to avoid we are going to operate position to the market. Also the high speed is everyone is chasing today. We need to build the high speed architecture to satisfy the design requirement.

Helen Zhan: With this technical innovations, that allow our expert to have their own focus that ensure they always have the interest of this product in their career path. In the meantime, to leverage different Cadence, we could always use the latest methodology and advanced technique that help us to use a new design methodology in that every field and everywhere along with our IP development. Also, we adopted advanced flow and tool in our IP quality check to ensure we have the product with good qualities.

Helen Zhan: The silicon proven is another advantage here because with more and more high-speed requirement, the silicon proven as a big fact for the customers who want the IP supplier to provide. In the meantime with a big team, we also want to improve work efficiency. When we start any new product or any new feature development, we will need to avoid any one-off development to make our effort could be reusable or repeatable in the later product. In the meantime, we also need a comprehensive quality system to have the issue being detected earlier, to send a alert to the design team or other development team to avoid any later surprise in the customer products

Helen Zhan: With all this QC and the strategies we development the automation flow that could help us to release the manual resource to focus on the technical side. In the meantime, it’ll also reduce the effort and error with the manual operation. With all this strategy and technical, I believe that communication is the most important to have all this done. First, I would have to introduce these three word, look listen and learn. We need to look what the team’s working like, what the customer require and what’s the marketing requirement.

Helen Zhan: We also need to listen to the voice from everywhere that will have the leader to clear the request and clears the issues in our team and in the market and brand customer. With all these facts, we could learn what we want to do in the next space and in the next step. Also, we could find what we should do to solve the current to and improve the team. Then I believe the different type of the talk is also very important. That is not the leader to talk to the team member. It also want team members to talk his mentor, his mentor, and his leader to share are the different ideas.

Helen Zhan: I believe everyone did have its own thought on his work. Then we need a clear communication between each channel to help the team members understand the requirement and purpose and the goals of the leader and the management team and also help the leader to understand the consent or problems in the team member side to help them to solve that. With all this good communication and consideration, we will make this become execution that is to help us to make our goals and consideration become true. Thank you.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Helen. Our next speaker is Elena. She is currently the Global Public Relations and Social Media Director at Cadence. Previously, she had held communications and marketing roles at AgilOne, Coupa Software, SugarCRM and more. She spent over five years freelancing and consulting to communications and marketing. Welcome to Elena.

elena annuzzi cadence finding your growth career path

“Finding Your Growth Path” by Elena Annuzzi, Cadence Global Public Relations and Social Media Director.

Elena Annuzzi: There we go. All right. Thank you, Angie, for the intro. Hello, everyone. Welcome. As Angie said, my name is Elena, Elena Annuzzi. I’m the Global PR and Social Media Director at Cadence. My presentation tonight is going to be focused on Finding Your Growth Path.

Elena Annuzzi: How many of you have ever felt stuck in your career and you’re trying to figure out how you might be able to move it along? I think a lot of times it’s seen that promotions are an obvious way to move yourself along in your career, but there are also a lot of other things that you can do to propel your career and take it to the next step. I’m going to talk to you tonight about my own personal growth journey and also impart some tips that you can leverage to find your own unique growth path.

Elena Annuzzi: With that, I will start with my own personal growth journey. I’ve been in technical communications positions for the last 22 years. A lot of my career has been spent handling public relations, but I’ve also spent a lot of time doing analyst relations programs, content marketing, social media marketing in customer marketing programs. When I started, my role was strictly doing PR and I worked in house in a corporate environment.

Elena Annuzzi: A lot of times people in my career field do start in the PR agency realm, where they have access to lots of training and resources. I kind of missed out on that a little bit. I did find it a little bit difficult to be in a corporate position and kind of rise through the ranks in there, but I absolutely did best that I could to try to learn different facets of the business. Ultimately, I decided I wanted more growth, which led me to a path to consultancy. When I did that, I worked for a few Bay Area PR firms and also had clients of my own.

Elena Annuzzi: I definitely had my hands full for sure, but what that it is it kind of pushed me out of the comfort zone PR box that I started in. I got to dip my toes into other areas such as the ones that I mentioned, analyst relations, customer programs, things like that. It also imparted a lot of confidence in me as well because I had clients who were in all different industries, big or small. Oftentimes, if they were small, they might have been a one person marketing shop, so they were looking to me for leadership.

Elena Annuzzi: That really gave me the confidence to become the leaders that they needed and also acquire a much broader skillset than I ever anticipated. That was really a great period that I think then after five and a half years, I decided to reenter corporate. As I did that, I came in at that point as a very experienced person, leading teams and working on projects to get visibility for the firms that I worked in a lot of times from the ground up. They had never had PR before and they didn’t know what to do, so I kind of in there to build it back up.

Elena Annuzzi: Now, for the last seven years, I’ve been at Cadence. I started at Cadence as a senior manager in an individual contributor function. Now, I’m the director of the group, and I manage a team. The team is responsible for handling anything that is publicly distributed in the form of news releases, as well as contributed content. All the social media platforms are managed by our group and a variety of other things. We also work very closely with executive management. There’s lots of things that are sensitive or require them to do media interviews and things like that. Definitely something I really enjoy.

Elena Annuzzi: I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try lots of different things. I kind of take my consulting experience and I’ve sort of taken that along with me as I’ve gone along through my career. I try to always look kind of at the company from an outside view and try to establish, “Okay, well, if I was consulting, what would I recommend that this company do?” I’ve kind of had an interesting path and I’m currently very happy at Cadence and I have a great team, all amazing people.

Elena Annuzzi: Let me now continue with some tips. I will share some growth tips with you. The first one I have is make sure that you’re having open in conversations with your managers. If you haven’t discussed a growth plan already, make sure that you do that. If you haven’t really thought about it, maybe write some notes down before you have that conversation so that you then go into that conversation prepared.

Elena Annuzzi: Another thing I would say is to offer to take on new projects that are outside your comfort zone because then you’re sort of pushed to try something that you may not have otherwise done. You may experience a very pleasant surprise and that something worked out so fantastic for you that it would definitely be worthwhile to make the investment to try something different. Another tip would be to find groups who have similar interests to you, and that way you can gain new inspiration from others, as well as make some good connections.

Elena Annuzzi: There’s lots of ways to do that online today, for example, and you may be familiar already with social media groups in your related career field, so feel free to take a look at those. LinkedIn is probably the most obvious place, but other platforms have groups as well that relate to professional fields. The other thing too is if you have local meetups, check some of those out or even leverage your university, if they have alumni groups and more specifically alumni groups within your field of study.

Elena Annuzzi: Lastly, maybe volunteer with an organization that is also passionate about the things that you’re passionate about from a work perspective, like say you’re volunteering with a STEM group and you’re in a STEM field. You may meet some great connections that way and gain some new insights.

Elena Annuzzi: Continuing on, the next tip is be relevant. What I mean by that is making sure that you’re always kind of staying fresh and up to date on what the industry’s current best practices are. How might you go about doing that? You can have conversations with others, whether they’re peer groups in your company or people that you’ve worked with in the past who hold similar job functions and just kind of ask them how they’re approaching their job. Obviously certain things are proprietary, so there’s limits, but you can kind of get a good gauge as to how others are tackling a similar job to you.

Elena Annuzzi: The other thing that I’ll recommend, and this is not meant to sound intimidating to employers in the least… It’s actually for your benefit… is to check out job descriptions. The reason that I say that is you can take a look at job descriptions in a role that’s similar to yours and even look at those that are above your level because then you’ll quickly figure out what companies are demanding of people in those functions today. You can quickly realize, “Okay, I have these skills, but maybe I’m missing a couple,” so you can identify the gaps and then work to figure out how you can get that experience in your current role.

Elena Annuzzi: That would be something to talk to your manager about. If you’ve identified a gap, “Here’s something that I’m interested in trying, let’s do that.” Then in looking at the job of positions above yours, then you also have a gauge of what to shoot for kind of in your next step. Similarly, if you realize that you have some gaps, then you can work to address those. The next thing I would say is acquire new skills, taking new courses or attending conferences where you’ll have access to new information that you may not have otherwise had, or ask your employer, your HR department, or your manager about job sharing.

Elena Annuzzi: If you’re not familiar with that concept, it would be where you essentially do a job swap for a limited amount of time. Let’s say you have a peer organization and you want to take on some function of your peer because you have an interest there and want to explore that, you can maybe switch jobs for five hours a week and both of you are actually gaining a new skillset by doing that. The next thing I would recommend is mentorship. I would say find a mentor if you don’t don’t have one or be a mentor. Both things are absolutely critical.

Elena Annuzzi: I am so glad that over the past five years or so, I’ve seen a lot of mentorship programs kind of budding in the industry. That’s really a great thing to see. I kind of wish that I had those types of things when I was first starting my career. Cadence also does a really great job with this, by the way. We have an internal mentorship program where they match pairs up. It’s really just a phenomenal thing. If you’re not already in the realm of finding a mentor or being a mentor, I highly recommend that. The mentor for you can obviously serve as a sounding board. Whether the person’s in your industry or not, or maybe they’re your manager, maybe they’re someone who’s completely disconnected from your field altogether, it’s great to have somebody who can function as that sounding board for you.

Elena Annuzzi: Also being a mentor. It’s such a rewarding experience to pay it forward. I highly recommend that you try this and there may be some of you who currently aren’t managing a team, let’s say. If that’s the case for you, being a mentor, that will give you leadership experience. I highly recommend that next.

Elena Annuzzi: Next, here’s a few points to keep in mind. No two growth paths will look the same. Try not to compare yourself to others. The next thing I’ll say is always be curious. I always tell my team members the minute you’ve accepted the status quo, you’ve stopped growing in your career. Always keep that explorer hat on and try to figure out what you could be doing that’s different. The next thing I’ll share is ensure that those new areas that you decide to explore align with your organization’s business. If what you want to try aligns with the business, then it’s a much easier sell when trying to get buy in.

Elena Annuzzi: The next thing I’ll say is surround yourself with people who support you, whether it’s people inside your company, outside your company. It could be a mentor or just your team members, your manager, people in peer groups, make sure that you have great support all around you. Then the last thing I’ll say is have fun in the process. We all need to have some fun.

Elena Annuzzi: To conclude, I want to encourage all of you to start taking steps today to grow your career path. Those moves that you take today will start impacting your career now and well into the future. As a key takeaway, remember that it’s you who’s in the driver’s seat. Thank you very much for your time.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Elena. That was excellent. Our next speaker is Didem Turker. She’s a design engineering director in the IP group at Cadence, where she leads development of high-speed, high-performance communications circuits and systems. Before joining Cadence, she was the Senior Design Engineering Manager at Xilinx in the service technology group. She holds 11 US patents and authored numerous technical papers in the field of analog and mixed-signal circuit design. Dr. Turker has a PhD degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M University. Welcome Didem.

didem turker melek cadence engineering director ip group effective technical presentations a powerful tool for your career success
“Effective Technical Presentations: A Powerful Tool for Your Career Success” by Didem Turker Melek, Cadence Engineering Director, IP Group.

Didem Turker Melek: Hello. Thank you, Angie. Okay, let me share my screen. Okay. All right. Okay. Thank you for this introduction, Angie. Hello, everyone. I’m Didem. Today, I’ll talk about effective technical presentations and how they have a key role in your and your team’s success. Before I begin, throughout my career, I found that being able to will communicate my work to my colleagues clearly had significant impact on the type of feedback that I got, but also on my work being recognized.

Didem Turker Melek: Over the years, this is something I championed in the teams that I worked with and we always saw really positive results. I’m hoping that this discussion will be helpful today for you too. Okay, let’s begin. When we talk about technical presentations, they are different than the general presentations that we may give to a wider audience.

Didem Turker Melek: We also need to share data and talk about more detailed material with certain technical complexity. Now, throughout our career, there’ll be different occasions where technical presentation may be called for. This could be academic conferences, customer presentations or when we are collaborating across different organizations in our company, it could even be within our own team if this would be to our close peers, our colleagues and maybe our management.

Didem Turker Melek: It is this last one that I want to highlight because this is a situation that we encounter really frequently, yet it’s also the one that we overlook the most. I really want to emphasize how important it is to communicate technical information through well prepared, clear presentations and especially around the audiences, people that you work with every day.

Didem Turker Melek: Even though the occasions and audience may be different, there are common goals when we are giving you technical presentation. The first one is effective information sharing. Being prepared with proper organized material will make a big difference over opening live results, showing live data or giving a verbal description. This is true even in a more informal team setting because for a discussion where we have technical complexity to discuss, the audience will have a hard time following if you’re doing it verbally.

Didem Turker Melek: The second goal would be to get feedback. You probably have bright people from different technical backgrounds and experience living in your audience, so use that brain power. The best way to get good feedback from them is by communicating your findings in a clear way. Third goal would be to train others so people can learn from your experience and maybe save some time.

Didem Turker Melek: Finally, it’s documenting our progress. The presentation material that you prepare will serve as good documentation of your work. It’ll help you look back in the future to track where you have been at a certain time. It’ll also help others in the future to look back and understand your work better. Depending on the situation, one of these goals may be more dominant than the others in your talk and you can prepare your material accordingly.

Didem Turker Melek: Okay, let’s talk about some presentation tips. First is know your audience. It’s important to know who the target audience is and their familiarity with the material. But here, what I want to emphasize is that they are not you. What I mean by this is when we spend so much time in the details of our work, we tend to forget that what’s obvious to us is probably not obvious to others. It’s important to keep this perspective in mind when preparing your material.

Didem Turker Melek: I think something that helps with this, and it’s a really good strategy overall, is to have a story. As you plan your slides, remember to build this story so you can bring your audience up to speed and along with you. Start by setting the big picture, why we started. This would be where you talk about the goal, the problem definition and big picture stuff. Next would be how we got here. If there were previous discussion or decisions that were taken, try to recap. Next is where we are now. This was the main discussion that you want to cover. Finally, where we go next. It’s always helpful to finish with next steps and a plan.

Didem Turker Melek: Now, another very important tip is use your voice and your point of view. I can’t emphasize this enough. When you are presenting your work, please remember that you are an expert and this is true even if the audience have people with more experience. You are the expert on your own data. What can we do? Each slide should have at least one key takeaway that you highlight. Please avoid doing a data dump and letting the data speak for itself. It’s really important that you make observations because that’s your contribution. You can use metrics to help people interpret the data, metrics such as target value specification, maybe margin to that spec and so on.

Didem Turker Melek: Finally, don’t be afraid to raise possible issues and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Let’s look at some examples. Here is a slide you may encounter in a technical presentation. Now, this is what I would call a data dump. This is a bunch of numbers and while it may be obvious to you, for someone who just saw this and has only minutes to digest, it’ll not be clear. What’s the takeaway here? Is there a target value and what are the units?

Didem Turker Melek: How can we make this better? First, notice that I removed some columns. When you have a large amount of data, it’s helpful to do a divide and conquer approach and present it in smaller, meaningful pieces. Now that I edit the target specification, this will help set the key numbers here in this table into context. I’m also using getting a visual help by making the most important column, which in this case is bandwidth mode and using color according to mark failures.

Didem Turker Melek: Finally, in the second bullet, I’m including my key takeaway and observation from this data, which is that we fail the spec at certain cases. Now, in addition to the key observation from the data that I just showed, I can also build up on it by adding more information. For example, I can explain why I think this failure happens and propose a mitigation plan. Now, the goal of this is to facilitate the right discussion. This is why you think the problem may be happening and this is how you think you may be able to solve it.

Didem Turker Melek: By sharing it this way, you can get the right feedback about your plan and maybe come up with a better plan as a team. Okay. I want to pause here and add a bonus tip. While I mostly focused on how you can help your audience better understand the data, there is one significant benefit of having slides like this with clear points. Let’s go back to this slide. You may have attended presentations where someone needs to share large volumes of data, maybe 50 to 100 slides. Every now and then, a slide like this will appear and they will go, “What was I going to talk about here?”

Didem Turker Melek: Now, it can happen to any of us? Instead, if you have a slide like this, now, even if you’re tired or anxious or nervous, or if you’ve just lost your train of thought, you have all the help you need in your own slides. You have the key point that you wanted to make, you have the discussion points to help you, and you have the visuals to make that up. By preparing slides like this, not only you’re helping the audience understand you better. You’re also helping yourself present it in a more clear and easy way.

Didem Turker Melek: Okay, Let’s go with another important tip. Drive the discussion. As the presenter, we are in the driver’s seat. It’s our responsibility to guide the attention of the audience to key points. Please remember that just because something is on a slide, doesn’t mean that the audience will notice it. You can use visual aids like the ones that I used in the previous slide, such as bold lettering, colors, boxes and circles. You can also use keywords such as issue, risk, meets, does not meet to grab the audience’s attention.

Didem Turker Melek: Okay, let’s look at another example. Here I am summarizing some results. This is basically a big block of text. There’s too much information packed in this one slide. It’s too busy and it’s not easy to digest. You may also notice that it’s inconsistent in the way it talks about results. I first see a number about some typical corner. Then I talk about something else meeting a spec. I throw in some comments about some simulation set up or environment and then I throw in more numbers and more setup related material.

Didem Turker Melek: Instead, what I can do is divide this into multiple pieces such as first setup and then the results and clear it up. But there is one more problem that I want to show. I don’t know how many of you here even noticed this, but there seems to be a major issue and it’s buried in a small bullet in the text. Something does not work. If we want to talk about an important issue or make sure that our audience knows about an issue that we observe, this is really not the best way. Now let’s try a different way.

Didem Turker Melek: First, notice that I use the keyword in the slide, issues observed. Now, this will definitely get the attention of the audience and I. There is no doubt that now this issue will be noticed. Next up, I state the issue itself. On top of that, I add some explanation and a possible resolution. I also included data in a graphical format. Now, whenever we highlight a key discussion point, it’s very helpful to have the data to back that up especially in a visual form like this.

Didem Turker Melek: I do want to note that when you include graphs, please remember to include axis titles because again, they may be obvious to you, but it may not be obvious to everyone and it makes it much clearer this way. Overall, when I present the issue like this, it’ll help me highlight and make sure that I get the right feedback and it’ll facilitate the right type of discussion

Didem Turker Melek: All right. Let’s recap with some key takeaways. First, well-prepare, technical presentations are powerful tools to help you communicate your work better, and you can utilize them in your weekly or regular technical meetings with your own team too. Two, if you’re presenting data, do it in a clear and organized way, so you’ll be accurately interpreted. A bonus tip here was that well organized slides will actually help you too when you’re presenting.

Didem Turker Melek: Third, for effective communication, use your point of view and guide the audience’s attention to where it needs to be. I’d also like to add that this is a skill like any other and practice will make it better. Start preparing those slides, everyone. Okay. Thank you. Thank you for your time.

Angie Chang: Thank you. That was excellent. Now, I’m going to bring up our panel and introduce to you our moderator for tonight. Jeannette Guinn leads the demand generation marketing organization at Cadence. Her experience includes a 20 plus year career in B2B tech marketing, owning a floral business and performing vocals of various cover bands across the Bay Area. She has volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, CASA, to foster children and currently serves on the Child Advocates of Silicon Valley board of directors. Welcome Jeannette.

rishu misri jeanette guinn dimitra papazoglou karna nisewaner cadence girl geek dinner
Clockwise from top left: Rishu Misri, Jeanette Guinn, Dimitra Papazoglou, Karna Nisewaner.

Jeannette Guinn: Hello, good to be here. I’m sorry. My audio cut out when you started the introduction. I’m assuming we’re going to kick this off. Hello everyone and welcome to the Cadence Panel on Women Empowerment. My name is Jeanette Zelaya Guinn, and I’m the Group Director for the Demand Gen Marketing Team here at Cadence. It is a true honor to be here today and it gives us a wonderful opportunity to have our voices be heard and valued. I’m joined here on the virtual stage by three amazing Cadence colleagues. To get this, this discussion going, I’d like to take a moment for each of them to do a quick introduction. Karna, let’s start with you.

Karna Nisewaner: Hi, my name is Karna Nisewaner, and I’m a vice president and deputy general counsel in the legal department here at Cadence. I started my career as an engineer, studying engineering at Princeton before moving to Singapore to teach basic electronics and seed programming at one of the polytechnics there before I pivoted my career over to law.

Karna Nisewaner: I’ve been honored really to be able to work for a number of different technical companies and for the last almost 11 years here at Cadence. I feel like my background in technology makes me a better lawyer for the company and allows me to really engage with all of the different teams and people here at Cadence. To me, that’s one of the best things about starting out your career studying technology is you have all these different options available to you, both as somebody that’s designing the IPs to somebody that’s marketing and telling people about stuff to somebody that’s helping on the backend with the legal patent protection, IP protection, or just basic contracts.

Karna Nisewaner: It’s just really so exciting to be part of what I think of as the future of the world, which is technology. For me, it’s great to be at Cadence, a place that’s really helping all these companies out there build the future. I’m just so excited to see where things can go. That’s why I really love my job and my company.

Jeannette Guinn: Awesome. Thank you so much, Karna. Thank you for being here. Rishu, let’s go to you.

Rishu Misri: Thanks Jeanette. Hi, I am Rishu Misri Jaggi. I work with Cadence as a senior principal technical communications engineer, but that’s a very long title. Doesn’t mean that I do the most important job at Cadence, but what it does mean is that I work with an organization that is at the center of technology, that I work with a male-dominated workforce.

Rishu Misri: Being a woman and a mother working at Cadence, what it means is that I get to maintain a very good work-life balance. I get to spend a lot of time with my kids whenever needed. I can attend to the parent-teacher meetings. At the same time, I can also be at the [inaudible] working and supporting on technology advancements with my other male counterparts. I can volunteer for various Cadence-sponsored community outreach programs that are focused towards empowering other women, kids and students.

Jeannette Guinn: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Rishi. To close it out with Dimitra on your introduction.

Dimitra Papazoglou: Okay. Hi everyone. My name is Dimitra Papazoglou, and I’m an application engineer at Cadence. I support the analog and mixed signal front of Cadence tools. My base is in UK, so it’s a bit late for me, almost 2:00 AM. At the same time, I need to watch my daughter. She’s 12 months old. She’s sleeping, so that’s good. That’s good. We can go and continue.

Dimitra Papazoglou: I’ve been working with Cadence nine years. I joined Cadence straight after university. I can say that I built my career at Cadence. I want to share with you my experience so far. When I started, I realized very quickly how challenging it is to work in this male-dominated industry. I still remember my first visit when I visited customer site and there were 10, 15 men, very experienced, and I was on the other hand very young and with no experience.

Dimitra Papazoglou: Since then, I had been trying to find answers to questions like how should I… What is the right position to stand? How should I use my voice? How can I look confident? In the end, I found all these answers to these questions, and then the support that I needed through a women community that was built internally at Cadence. I had the chance to meet and listen to the stories of several women and quickly realized that these are the women that really inspired me, my female colleagues.

Dimitra Papazoglou: Through them and through their stories, I got also inspired how to get promoted to the next level, how to face my return back to work this January when I came back from maternity leave. I’m really happy to have my female colleagues and those are the ones that really have inspired me and motivated to continue and navigate my career.

Jeannette Guinn: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Dimitra. I wanted to kick off the conversation with talking about current advocacy and what each of us do to empower women and underrepresented groups and why you do it. Why is it important to you?

Jeannette Guinn: I’ll kick it off. I recently became involved with a couple programs that were important to me. In my intro, as Angie stated, I am a board member for the Child Advocates of Silicon Valley program. It’s a nonprofit organization that provides court-appointed advocates for neglected and abused children. I was a former CASA volunteer. If you don’t know what that is, either reach out to me or look it up. It’s amazing. I did that for about five years and it changed my life and it made me realize how badly I wanted to become a mother. That’s where I started off my volunteer work.

Jeannette Guinn: I currently lead the Latinx inclusion group here at Cadence. It’s an opportunity to provide education on the Latin community. I’ve learned a lot and we’re interacting and learning a lot from the other DE&I groups at the company, which is just fascinating. Also, a committee member for the women and tech organization here at Cadence.

Jeannette Guinn: Then in my spare time, I just joined my local Little League board. I have two little girls, six and eight years old, Mia and Zoe. I often call it the Mimi’s and Zozo’s show because that’s pretty much my life. They’re both avid softball players. This was the second year that the league decided to do both baseball and softball under one organization. I saw the lack of softball visibility, and the girls were definitely treated differently. Wasn’t going to sit back and watch. I joined the board and with another female board member, we elevated the softball side significantly.

Jeannette Guinn: Yes, I use my very loud voice when I coach Mia and Zoe’s green Yoda’s softball team. Yes, very involved in that organization. Why do I do all of it besides trying to go crazy? I found myself just constantly complaining about things that were happening around me, and I didn’t want to sit back and watch. I wanted to make a difference and I wanted to make a change. I also want to be an example to my girls. I’m proving that we can make an impact in this world. That’s why I do it. What about you, Rishu?

Rishu Misri: Well, yes, I think I started with saying that I do get a lot of opportunity at Cadence to volunteer for various community outreach programs. I’ve been a member of the Make A Child Smile Society. We do anything that can bring a smile to a child, organizing fundraising events to sponsor the education or painting their schools or looking after their healthcare, taking them out for health checkups, even emotional care. We could take kids out for a day trip if needed, whatever that can make them feel a little better.

Rishu Misri: I’ve also been a member of the FMA committee at Cadence, which works towards female welfare. Under this program, we partner with an NGO in India called Goonj. We sponsor and one of the initiatives which focuses on welfare. The initiative is called Not Just A Piece Of Cloth and it focuses on increasing the importance in awareness around menstrual hygiene. There’s a taboo around talk about it, so we’re trying to break that taboo. Also raise funds that can go into providing for safe supplies for women and underprivileged sections.

Rishu Misri: More recently, I’ve also been volunteering for the Cadence scholarship program. Here we interact with military students from underprivileged societies. These are kids who are very bright, very enthusiastic, clear about their vision. A lot of them want to get into STEM careers, and the Cadence scholarship helps fund their academic goals. As mentors, we try to give them support with confidence building, time management, communication skills, and sometimes just act as sounding boards because the kind of issues they face with their academic sites, they may not have anybody at home to give them the ear. We sort of just support them there.

Rishu Misri: Those are all the kind of things. Sometimes also go and volunteer outside at my personal level. That’s really all the kind of things that I’m doing. Talking about why it’s important to help empower somebody, every time I come back from these events or an interaction like this, I may want to say that I have empowered somebody, but I think what I hear is I am empowered. It brings a lot more energy back into me when I come back from an event like this. It is not just the beneficiaries’ win. It is my win as well. It strengthens me a lot. That’s why it’s important.

Jeannette Guinn: Awesome. Dimitra, what about you?

Dimitra Papazoglou: For me, some years ago I’ve been asked and I’ve been honored actually to build and lead an internal women community at Cadence. I had the great chance to travel and meet in person more than 50 women from Cadence in Europe and Middle East. I had a great chance to talk to them and listen to their stories, understand their needs, and also the challenges that they face working in this environment, in this industry.

Dimitra Papazoglou: We as community team, we wanted to listen first to women and then set the objectives and find the best ways to empower them. What we have done is a set of actions, events. I’m going to mention some of them that I think that they can be also beneficial to everyone here, for the audience. Very beneficial is the talks given by women. The woman can be from outside or inside the Cadence organization. It can be from any level, from senior level or from an early career woman.

Dimitra Papazoglou: I do believe that everyone… You can always learn from a woman, no matter the level that she is. I can tell you an example. Karna, she’s also part of the panel. She actually gave an inspiring talk to the women of our community. She talked about her story, her career, the obstacles that she faced and how she overcame these obstacles. As you see that listening to this woman, you actually get the strength and the confidence on how to navigate and achieve your career and achieve your goals.

Dimitra Papazoglou: Another thing is what we do very interesting is regular meetings where we talk about topics like leadership, work-life balance. We talk about the talents that those topics have, and we try to find solutions together. Again, we talk to each other and try to help each other through these regular meetings. Another important thing is the trainings. We have done career trainings, but also body language trainings. I totally recommend this one. It’s one of the best trainings that I have ever done.

Dimitra Papazoglou: It is all about position, the right position to stand in, how to do the best use of your voice. I think many, many people have these issues like how should I talk? How should I present? I totally recommend these kind of trainings. They definitely can help you to strengthen your confidence. Why I think the women community is very important? Because through the networking that offers you and also the set of actions and events that I mentioned some of them, you can find through a community the mentors. You can find the role models. You can find the sponsors.

Dimitra Papazoglou: You can find all the answers about how to navigate your career and how to go to the next level. It can certainly contribute on how to achieve your career goals. I think it’s one of the best way for all the women.

Jeannette Guinn: Awesome. I just have to say a side note, the fact that you’re able to complete sentences at 2:00 AM in the morning is just impressive within itself.

Dimitra Papazoglou: And having a 12 month daughter, right?

Jeannette Guinn: Huge praises to you and onto Karna, your thoughts.

Karna Nisewaner: I feel like one of the things that I get the most joy from and that really helps benefit the community is the mentoring that I do for people, both internal to Cadence and external. You don’t have to be in the same subject matter as someone to help be that person that bounces ideas off of. As Elena mentioned earlier, it’s important to go to your manager with a plan or ideas to be that person that helps people come up with those plans or ideas and helps them review things ahead of time.

Karna Nisewaner: I feel like the internal mentoring I do within Cadence, particularly during the pandemic… I think it’s been important to help people as they’re just dealing with a lot of different issues and to be that sounding board. I feel like the more I progress in my career, the more important it is for me to reach out and be there for people.

Karna Nisewaner: Now, in the past, one of the things I loved doing was traveling. I think three or four years ago for International Women’s Day, I did a talk at one of our India sites. I went to all of our India sites and did talks to the women’s groups there. I loved being able to reach out to Dimitra’s group and do a talk right before she left on maternity leave. I thought that was great.

Karna Nisewaner: For me, it’s that ability to reach out and connect with people internally and externally and help be that sounding board that helps them move forward. To me, that’s how you, as an individual, can help others. You don’t have to be more senior. You don’t have to be in the same area, but you can be that really good sounding board and person who can walk through the ideas with somebody or can brainstorm things to think about. In the greater community, one of the things that I’m passionate about is making sure that women are able to work.

Karna Nisewaner: One of the things that really makes it difficult is effective childcare and during the course of the pandemic was also having school, which is a place where many of us have our kids and that allows us to have time at home to work. I’m on the board of a childcare organization in my community that runs the afterschool program and several infant and preschool programs because if you don’t have a place for your children to go, the people that tend to stay home are the moms, not the dads. I just think it’s important that we don’t cut people out of the workforce because they don’t have the support necessary to be able to go into work.

Karna Nisewaner: Then I think it’s also important to support your local school. I’m on a school psych council and help planning to create those environments where achievement gaps are addressed in kindergarten, where you’re looking at why is one group behind in reading, behind in math and behind in writing. What can we do starting in kindergarten, first grade, second grade to really stop the achievement gap there, build the confidence of everyone there, so that by the time they hit middle school and high school, everyone’s excited to learn? Everyone has that same background and the necessary ground level education in order to be successful. That’s another place where I spend some of my time.

Jeannette Guinn: Awesome. Then I guess I want to take it to… For all of be, what advice do you have for other women based on some of your experiences, your influences? I know that a couple people mentioned the importance, and Elena talked about it too, importance of having a mentor. I agree. Being a mentor and having one, the benefits of that just are endless. Dimitra, you talked about being influenced by Karna. I can say that the same has happened for me, so thank you, Karna, for everything that you’ve done for me. Just working on confidence, how to present in front of executives, how to become politically savvy, all of that is so important to growth. Dimitra, how would you like to expand on that?

Dimitra Papazoglou: Okay. I’ll share advice not really coming from my experience, but again, from women that talk about their stories, their experience through the women community. I’ll tell you three stories and what I have got from them. The first story was about the new role. There was a new role in her team. However, this role was in a different location, very far away from her location. Her manager never thought of her as a candidate because of the location, but then what she managed to do is to persuade that she’s the best for her role. No matter of the location, she actually managed to take the role. They found, together with her manager, a solution about the location issue and she actually got the role.

Dimitra Papazoglou: The advice that I got from that is that don’t wait to be given the opportunity, just believe in yourself and go and just take the opportunity. The second story is mostly advice. I’ll talk about my experience. I thought in the beginning that in order to go to the next level and get promoted, my manager actually will see that I’m doing awesome things and she or he will offer me the role, the promotion.

Dimitra Papazoglou: But then what I got through advice actually from another women was that when you want the role, just go to your manager, make it clear about what you want. Ask what you need to do in order to get the next role and just make sure that you take all the bullets and then just go to your manager and say, “I do all of this, so I can get the role.”

Dimitra Papazoglou: On top of that, she actually told me that even when you take the role, when you take the promotion, even then, go to next day and ask what you need to do for the next promotion. That’s also good advice. The third story that I want to share is about a pay rise. She wanted to get a pay rise in the beginning. She couldn’t really get it. She thought that she should give up, but then one thing that you said about mentorship, she had a great mentor.

Dimitra Papazoglou: In Cadence, we have great mentorship programs. The mentor was very, very supportive. Also through the community and, again, listening to other stories about similar topics and negotiations, she actually decided to keep trying. She got the confidence and then in the end, she got the pay rise. I will say just keep trying and never, never, never give up. That’s all.

Jeannette Guinn: Thank you.

Dimitra Papazoglou: I want to say that this advice… I’m sharing this advice because this advice has also influenced me and also has affected how I navigate my career.

Jeannette Guinn: Yeah. Yeah. Karna, what about you, influences, experiences?

Karna Nisewaner: I think one of the most important things is really just your own internal confidence and knowing that you are the best, knowing that you are capable of doing things and knowing that even if you don’t check all those boxes, you can check all those boxes if you’re just given an opportunity to try. I think back to several of the jobs that I got, where people were like, “Oh, you only got that job because you’re a woman.” I was like, “No, I got it because I’m better than you. I have more potential than you. I’m smarter than you.

Karna Nisewaner: I think feeling that and knowing that… Yeah, we’re all absolutely capable and you just need to internalize how capable and confident you should be because you can do it. You can absolutely do it. One of the pieces of advice I give to people is really just know your worth, know how valuable you are, know how much you can really do and do that.

Karna Nisewaner: I happen to have been raised in a family by a father that just made me feel super confident. I think that’s the best thing everybody can do is work on that however it makes sense to work on it. The other thing I to talk about is really work on building relationships with others. It doesn’t have to be anyone specific, but building the relationships across an organization will really help you grow your career because you’ll hear about things that are going on that you might not otherwise hear about. You’ll be able to make connections and help other people. Then in the future, they’ll know, “Oh hey, maybe I should help Karna.”

Karna Nisewaner: The other thing I would say is ask for things that you want. I wanted different experiences. I was focused in one area and I was like, “I want more. I want something else.” I said, “Hey… to my manager… “I want something more to do.” Then they gave me something more to do, and I did a good job with it, so then they gave me even more to do. I feel like you have to ask for those things because people don’t know what you want until you tell them. They can’t read your mind. They might say no, or it might not be the right time, but at least they’ll have that in their head and you’re no worse off by sharing what you want than you would be. You’re worse off not sharing really.

Karna Nisewaner:I just feel like raising your hand to say what you want, getting yourself out there… Being competent in your capability and ability to do any job that’s out there if just given the time and support to do it is really, to me, what I think is important that everybody kind of take away from this. Then as leaders and as members of the community, how can we help other people do that? How can we be the person that listens to what somebody’s saying in this, “Okay, this is what you can do. Let’s role play. Let’s make it happen.” I feel like that’s how we can really empower others is be that amplifier of other people’s voices. When somebody does something great, remind people, but then also shout out for yourself because you’re valuable.

Jeannette Guinn: I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m pumped. I’m like, “I’m going to take over the world right now, Karna, that was awesome. Thank you so much and, Rishu, your thoughts.

Rishu Misri: I think pretty much whatever everybody else has already said, but my two cents will be just we need to make our tribe grow. For that, whatever it takes. Depending on where we are in our life and in our career path… If you’re in entry level, you will probably have to be focusing more on building your skills, trying to build the right networks. We’ve talked about mentorship and having that confidence. Like we say, that’s the most important thing, having the belief in yourself that you can do it, being resilient.

Rishu Misri: As you grow and are in a position to even be able to support others, then be compassionate towards the other women. Being a woman and being in a workforce, it’s not going to be easy. There are going to be times when it’s going to be tougher for you than it is going to be for your male counterparts. I mean, no offense there. I know everybody’s competent, but we’re going to be taking so many additional roles and nobody can take it apart from us.

Rishu Misri: I think it’s important that as a community, we stay more connected and we stay more compassionate towards each other and support each other in whatever positions we can and I think we also need to get more focused to bringing those women back who had to apply brakes to their careers. Be compassionate towards them. If there have been a lot of women who’ve applied brakes because they wanted to take care of children or they had had elder care to take care of or whatever other personal requirements…

Rishu Misri: If anybody had a career aspiration, a dream and we can help motivate those people back into the system, the workforce, I think that’s important. Just as everybody said, having belief in yourselves and just continuing to take the risks, I think that’s very important. Being able to try out new things and having the confidence that it’s… Tough times will be there, but I’m going to overcome them with my training, with my mentor support or whatever.

Jeannette Guinn: Yep, absolutely. Thank you Rishu, and as we wrap up this panel, last words of wisdom to women that are in the tech space that are working towards advancing their career… I’ll kick it off because it’s kind of wrapping up some of the things that you’ve all said. I say this to myself, to my team, to my family members. Don’t allow a struggle or a hardship to bring you down. It’s an opportunity or use it as an opportunity to grow stronger.

Jeannette Guinn: I could have a whole other session on my history, but I was financially on my own starting at the age of 17, and suffered years of abuse until I was about 23 years old. It sucked and you take each and every moment as learning opportunities and you make the best out of those crappy situations. Anything that I had to deal with in my 20s, as I was trying to advance my career, there were little nuggets of learning lessons.

Jeannette Guinn: If you want something, you go after it. Take that chance. There are going to be risks involved. There are going to be failures and that’s okay. You just don’t look back. You just keep looking forward. There’s a phrase that I use a lot. I say it a lot, but I was in a 12-month program with Women Unlimited, fabulous program. They taught me that you strive for excellence, not perfection because perfection’s just not possible. every day I just do my best and you strive for excellence. that’s my last words of wisdom. Rishu, any last words of wisdom from you.

Rishu Misri: I think I just continue build on what I said in my previous… I think it’s important that we continue to be resilient. That’s what is important. Just stay there, hang in, and if needed, seek support. There will be a lot of we people willing to help you. A lot of times, we may feel, “Am I doing the right thing being here? Is this where I should be? Maybe I should quit. Maybe this is not for me. Maybe… There’s so many questions that be come in to our mind. It’s not just for you. It’s for everybody.

Rishu Misri: Seek support. If you need to apply the brakes, do that. I’ve done that as well. When I had my daughter, I applied the brakes. Then when I had my son, I sought support. That’s ways I was able to continue doing what I wanted to do. I think that’s the other most important piece of advice that I have. That is whatever you choose to do in that moment. Do not be guilty about your choices.

Jeannette Guinn: Yes, yes, absolutely.

Rishu Misri: It was your decision. Don’t be guilty for whatever the choice you made. That’s important. Be resilient, seek support, don’t be guilty. That’s important. I think that’s all that I would say. Thank you.

Jeannette Guinn: Great. Thank you. Dimitra?

Dimitra Papazoglou: Yeah. For me, I’d like to actually say three things. For me, always have a career plan for the next two to five years and make it clear to your manager. Second thing, find the ways to strengthen your confidence. It can be this conference, it can be this panel. Find the Karna that will help you to have the confidence and say, “Okay, I’ll go for it. Karna said that. I’ll get all this confidence and I’ll go for it and I’ll take it.” The third is seek for opportunities. Don’t wait for them, okay? Don’t wait for others to give you the opportunities. You need to seek for them.

Jeannette Guinn: Thank you so much, Dimitra. And Karna?

Karna Nisewaner: I’ll build on what Dimitra said. It’s not just seeking opportunities. It’s being okay with change, being okay with saying, “This isn’t working out for me. I need to find a different environment, a different set of colleagues,” and having that community, having the people to support you.

Karna Nisewaner: I feel like you need to also be open to new things and maybe it’s a change in your role at a company. Maybe it’s a change of companies, but being flexible with yourself and not feeling like you’re stuck or stagnated into one thing, but that you can really do anything because I do believe that there are so many possible options for everyone. We just need to try and we just need to experience them. Sometimes things will be great. Sometimes they won’t be great. What can you change to make it better? Because you control your environment.

Karna Nisewaner: Yes, there are certain things we need. We need our paychecks, but you do control a lot of your environment and you need to create and find that environment that’s supportive, that’s there for you and that wants you to be successful. I feel like that’s what I found at Cadence is an environment where managers, colleagues, other people I worked with, they wanted me to be successful and they wanted to help me find that next thing.

Karna Nisewaner: You don’t find that in all jobs. If you’re not finding that, find people that will help you. Find a new role. Find others that will really amplify the value that you’re adding and really appreciate the way in which you add that value. I feel like we control our future, but we need to be out there saying what we want, sharing what we can do for others.

Karna Nisewaner: We can all have great careers. I just love how many more women are engaged and how many more of the underrepresented minorities are engaged in the community here at Cadence, are engaged in the Bay Area and are engaged worldwide. It’s great to see that growth. I just really hope it continues and that we continue to really show everyone that we are amazing. We are the best. We’ll rule the world, right?

Jeannette Guinn: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I love it, Karna. Thank you so much, Karna, Dimitra, Rishu. It’s been a pleasure. On behalf of Cadence, thank you all. I hope this was helpful. Angie and Girl Geek, thank you for this opportunity. It was a wonderful experience. With that, go onto networking. Thank you so much.

Karna Nisewaner: Thank you.

Rishu Misri: Thank you.

Dimitra Papazoglou: Thank you.

Angie Chang: Thank you for being a part of that panel. I feel very empowered and ready to dig in. Now, I want to just really quickly plug that Cadence is hiring. They’re hiring for engineering jobs in cities like San Jose, California, Cary, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas. Now, we’re going to move onto our Girl Geek X networking hour. There’s a link that will be put into the chat. If you click on that, it’ll go to Zoom meeting, and we’ll see in a Zoom breakout room very soon.

cadence girl geek x speakers zooms
Cadence Girl Geek Dinner on March 16, 2022.

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Best of Elevate 2022 Sessions – From Decision-Making to Engineering Leadership, Mental Health to Career Growth

Our 5th annual Girl Geek X: ELEVATE all-day Conference on March 8, 2022 in celebration of International Women’s Day hosted over 3,600 around the world.

Here are the top 15 sessions from Elevate 2022, as voted on by attendees! You can watch (or re-watch) them at the links below, or watch the YouTube playlist:

  1. Decision-Making at Scale – Arquay Harris, VP of Engineering at Webflow
  2. Break the Bias: From Work to Mission – Leyla Seka, COO at Ironclad, and Jiahan Ericsson, Senior Director of Engineering at Ironclad
  3. Riding the Highs and Lows: Navigating Bad Mental Health Days in the Workspace – Ashu Ravichander, Principal Product Manager at Workday
  4. How to Get The Promotion You Deserve – Ali Littman, Director of Engineering at Modern Health
  5. Career Growth for Humans – Kristen Warms, Senior Manager, Learning Development at Atlassian
  6. Engineering Leadership – Jenn Clevenger, Senior Director of Engineering at Etsy, Kamilah Taylor, Head of Financial Products Engineering at Gusto, Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin, VP of Engineering at Salesforce, and Sukrutha Bhadouria, Director of Engineering at Salesforce
  7. Your Ableism is Showing: How You’re Missing the Mark By Not Including Accessible Practices Erin Perkins, Accessibility Educator and Founder at Mabely Q
  8. It’s A Hot Job Market. Do You Stay or Do You Leave? Aliza Carpio, Director, Technology Evangelist, Autodesk, Rocio Montes, Senior Engineering Manager at GitHub, and Sharon Hunt, Head of Product at Clovers
  9. Why Knowledge is the Future of DataMichelle Yi, Senior Director of Applied AI at RelationalAI
  10. You’re a Sales What? Life as a Sales EngineerMelissa Andrews, Sales Engineering Manager at Splunk
  11. How to #HumbleBrag EffectivelyShailvi Wakhlu, Senior Director of Data at Strava
  12. Tech is a Team Sport: When Women Lead, Everything is Possible Clare Martorana, Federal CIO at Executive Office of the President and Mina Hsiang, Administrator at United States Digital Service
  13. Launching and Leading Cross-Functional Initiatives as an Engineer – Izzy Clemenson, Senior Staff Engineer and Tracy Stampfli, Principal Engineer at Slack
  14. Become the Role Model You Wish You Had – Reeny Sondhi, Chief Security Officer at Autodesk, and Susanna Holt, VP of Strategic Technologies at Autodesk
  15. Economic Justice and Cryptocurrency / Web3 – Jen-Mei Wu, Community Organizer at PaRTEE4Justice

Special Thank You To Elevate 2022 Sponsors and Government Participants!

Thanks to the great folks at Atlassian, Slack, StravaAutodesk, Front, Intel, IroncladMosaicML, Opendoor, RelationalAI, SplunkUnited States Digital Service, Fisher Investments, Meta for supporting the 5th annual Elevate virtual conference for International Women’s Day!

Don’t forget to check out their jobs—they are actively hiring!

Top 10 Tech Talks from ELEVATE 2022 Conference

Our 5th annual ELEVATE Conference sessions are online! Watch the conference talks on our YouTube playlist. Scroll through the speaker highlights below as we’ve re-watched, conducted attendee surveys, and found you the BEST sessions to watch from Elevate 2022!

We’ve compiled the best of 2022 Tech Talks, from NEW TECHNOLOGY (and the latest startups), to tactical advice for ENGINEERING LEADERS – both individual contributors and managers!

#1 – Michelle Yi, Senior Director of Applied AI at RelationalAI, talks about why knowledge is the future of data. Harnessing knowledge and data together leads teams to faster modeling and insights. In this session, she demos relational knowledge graphs.

#2 – Julie Choi, Chief Growth Officer at MosaicML, in conversation with Laura Florescu, AI Researcher at MosaicML, about their unique career paths to machine learning. Laura is working on accelerating neural network training with research in natural language processing and computer vision, combining multiple algorithms to train models faster. Check out the Composer open source ML library on GitHub.

#3 – Izzy Clemenson, Senior Staff Engineer at Slack, talks about leading and launching a product as a IC, along with Tracy Stampfli, Principal Engineer at Slack. The engineers talk about large projects they led at Slack, tips for getting stake-holder buy-in, and metrics.

#4 – Melissa Andrews, Sales Engineering Manager at Splunk, talks about Sales Engineering (SE) as a career for mid-career women with a curiosity for tech. She talks about the confusing set of job titles SEs can have, the skills and activities for the role, and how to get started!

#5 – Maria Lucena and Divya Mahajan, Directors of Architecture at Fidelity Investments, discuss AWS, GraphQL, with Apollo: Vue.JS delivering enterprise grade-applications. They review the architecture for a project, explaining the decision-making process behind the tech stack.

#6 – Ashu Ravichander, Principal Product Manager at Workday, builds resiliency into her professional life to successfully navigate the ups and downs of a mood disorder. She lays out tried-and-true toolkits, playbooks, and best practices for setting herself for success on bad mental health days to bring her best self to work, every day she needs to.

#7 – Ali Littman, Director of Engineering at Modern Health, shares scaffolding for getting promoted. She lays out alignment with manager, understanding the career path at your company, having a growth plan, asking for regular feedback, and effectively sharing your achievements across all levels (manager, department, and company).

#8 – Jen-Mei Wu, Community Organizer and Founder, balances healthy skepticism with her excitement for the web3 opportunity to address financial inequity. She reveals different ways to make a difference with a small and mighty entrepreneurial team (e.g. decentralized finance helping fund non-profits, dealing with carbon).

#9 – Arquay Harris, VP of Engineering at Webflow, asks how do you know what is the “right” decision? Which actions are easily reversible and which cause irreparable harm? Perfect is not the goal.

#10 – Mina Hsiang, Administrator at the United States Digital Service, and Clare Martorana, Federal CIO, discuss the challenges of government tech, and how they are building a team transforming government services for millions by putting people at the center of everything they do.



Check out the top 10 ways our speakers spoke about interrupting bias (this year’s #IWD2022 theme) and blazing a new path forward. 🏆

“Economic Justice and Cryptocurrencies / Web3”: Jen-Mei Wu, Community Organizer at PaRTEE4Justice (Video + Transcript)

Like what you see here? Our mission-aligned Girl Geek X partners are hiring!

Angie Chang: So our final session is Jen-Mei Wu, who will be talking about cryptocurrency and how it is a lever for inclusion and economic justice. Welcome, Jen-Mei.

Jen-Mei Wu: Hi everyone. Welcome to the talk about economic justice and cryptocurrency. My name is Jen-Mei, and I will tell you a little bit about myself. I am based in Huchiun, an unceded Lisjan territory, aka Oakland, California.

Jen-Mei Wu: I’m an activist, an engineer, an artist, and one of the founders of LOL Maker Space in Oakland. Also, Power and Resilience Through Experiential Education, our PaRTEE4Justice, and I have a bunch of experience working both in non-profit tech and also in for-profit techs as well. And I have a particular interest in digital privacy and security. And part of that is what brought me into this space. So this is just an overview of what I’ll be over today.

Jen-Mei Wu: We’ll be talking about an opportunity to address inequity in financial systems and going over some examples of projects that are making a difference in this space, and how small teams can have really big impacts and that there’s a role for everyone. So including you, if you want to come and join this stuff.

Jen-Mei Wu: I’m going to talk about the importance of self-determination and also some collaborations that I’m doing with Black Voices and Gaming and Sistah Scifi, as well as the future, which is the decentralized web or Web3, as you may have heard. And also about how to get started in this space.

Jen-Mei Wu: So this slide here is showing the market cap of cryptocurrencies altogether. As you can see, just in the last two years, we’ve had more than a trillion dollars flood into the space. A trillion. That’s a trillion with a T. That’s a lot of money. And actually, at some point last year actually, it was two trillion dollars, and I’m guessing it will get there again in the future. And so the question is, so all this wealth is being traded, but who’s benefiting? Well unfortunately, right now, cryptocurrency isn’t the most diverse space. It’s not the most inclusive space, and this talk is about how that can change.

Jen-Mei Wu: So moving on, before I get into the opportunity though, I just want to share a quick note doubts. So when I talk to people about cryptocurrencies some of them are really excited. But others are like, “well, but what about the dark web?” Or isn’t it bad for the environments? Or are there like a lot of tech bros running around doing tech bro things? And most of all, “isn’t it all made up? Is just fictional? Is there any value there?” So I’ve done my own research, encourage you to do your own research. I’m not particularly concerned about these. And in some cases I see some of these challenges, which are real and are legit, as being opportunities for us to make some really big and important changes.

Jen-Mei Wu: I just want to share what I found to be an inspiring experience that had to do with another disruptive technology, and that would be 3D printing. Some friends a few years ago, I think it was like eight, nine years ago, were really concerned that 3D printing is a technology that could take jobs away from workers. It’d be an opportunity for large corporations to create 3D printers and the materials that go into those 3D printers, and have people make stuff at home. Therefore, centralizing control and hanging out to the profits, which is ironic because 3D printing was meant to be decentralized and meant to be hyper local. And that’s kind of attention that you see and cryptocurrencies.

Jen-Mei Wu: But the interesting thing about this story is that a few days later, I went to a talk by Grace Lee Boggs, who’s very amazing. I encourage you to look her up if you don’t know who she is. And it wasn’t a talk about 3D printing, but she mentioned 3D printing. And what she mentioned was that she, and she’s 99 years old at this time, this is about a year before she passed away, and she said that she saw 3D printing as being really exciting because it could be a way to end capitalism. So she saw how 3D printers could be used to create other 3D printers and how a lot of initiatives are helping people create materials to feed into their 3D printers locally without having to rely on filament companies. And so, she was able to think big, and that’s what I would like us all to do is to think big. Think about how challenges can be opportunities. And in that spirit, I’m going to talk about what some of those opportunities are.

Jen-Mei Wu: We talk about some projects making a difference, just to give you a sense of the space. This is a screenshot from the Movement for Black Lives webpage. They take cryptocurrency donations, and they do that through this project here called The Giving Block. The Giving Block allows organizations to accept crypto and individuals to donate crypto. And that’s great. Endaoment is another website that’s similar. Except with Endaoment, they don’t already have to have signed up to accept crypto. You can give to Endaoment, and it’ll create a donor-advised fund for you. I’ll let you do some research on your own about what a donor-advised fund is. But the idea is that you can donate to Endaoment, a nonprofit organization, and then later have those funds go over as regular cash to the organizations that you want to support. For example, the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust. Sorry, I have to adjust my image. That’s for straightforward, right? That’s like, “Hey, you can give cryptocurrencies away.”

Jen-Mei Wu: Where it really gets interesting is when you can start doing some things that are pretty unique to decentralized finance, which is built on top of the blockchain. So this is an example of Angel Protocol. And their idea is that instead of donating directly to a nonprofit. You donate to a nonprofit’s endowment and Angel Protocol will reinvest those funds, generate a yield, and that yield can go to fund the nonprofit’s operations, potentially funding that nonprofit for forever. And the way that they’re able to do that is Angel Protocol is on the Terra Blockchain, which is a low energy blockchain FYI, and another protocol on that blockchain is Anchor protocol.

Jen-Mei Wu: And Anchor protocol is a savings account where people can take their U.S. dollar equivalents in UST. It doesn’t go up or down like some volatile cryptocurrencies does, it’s always equal to a dollar, and you can get 20% interest on them. Which is pretty amazing when you compare that to the savings accounts that banks typically offer. And that’s just an example of how one protocol, Angel, is able to leverage another protocol, Anchor, in this case.

Jen-Mei Wu: And another example of that is… I’m going to have to do this again. Is carbon credits. So Moss and Toucan, are two projects that have put carbon credits on the blockchain. Carbon credits are created by things like forestry initiatives, things that are good for the earth, and are purchased by polluters like airlines or manufacturing companies to offset the emissions that they do so that they can claim to be carbon neutral. And that’s interesting, just being able to buy your own carbon credit. So you want to be carbon neutral yourself, just like the airlines, so you can buy your carbon credits on the blockchain real easily. That’s great.

Jen-Mei Wu: But it also created at a building block for KlimaDAO to create a black hole for carbon. Using game theory, KlimaDAO has encouraged people to invest in locking up carbon so it is off the market. And the idea that if it’s off the market, then it becomes harder for companies to get carbon credits. It’s more expensive, which will either generate more money for the forestry initiatives and others, or maybe it’ll encourage companies to think about other ways to reduce emissions, such as by reducing emissions.

Jen-Mei Wu: And I also just want to mention that some of these projects that I mentioned are maintained by small teams. There’s many projects, in fact, that are maintained by small teams. So I’m used to, as many of you might also be used to, being in the tech space… Especially here in the Bay Area, there’s a lot of venture funding and a lot of startups are actually pretty big and require a lot of funding in order to make their work possible. But because projects can be small teams, that means that they have smaller budgets. A smaller number of people can do really interesting things. And protocols can build on top of each other so they can have a very narrow focus. And that also makes things a little easier and helps facilitate the small teams.

Jen-Mei Wu: And there’s a lot of different project types. Sure, there are big projects that have hundreds and hundreds of numbers, and thousands of numbers, maybe even. But there’s many project types that have maybe even one member. There are some artists who have created their own NFT projects. NFTs are non-fungible tokens. They’re basically a way to track art on the blockchain. So you always know the provenance of your art, or whatever, and where everyone’s unique and cannot be duplicated. But there’s individual artists who started these projects and don’t even have other people helping them out. That’s not everybody, but it has happened.

Jen-Mei Wu: And that brings me to my next point, which is just there’s a role for everyone. There are engineers and designers, of course. There’s some very lovely web apps that I showed you that engineers and designers did a big part in, but also game theory, as with KlimaDAO. There is a role for artists in NFT projects and other things as well. But also for community organizers, community is the lifeblood of many of the projects that exist. And people who facilitate community connections, who run events, who help connect other people together. They’re very important, and they come from a variety of backgrounds. Likewise, the space really needs a lot of educators because there’s a lot of unknowns in this space. And it’s important for people to have easy on-ramps. To be able to learn how to participate and about the different projects that are always coming out. There’s always something new as well as analysts and more people. So these are just some examples.

Jen-Mei Wu: And one of the things that I’m really excited about is trying to get away from this slide, which is funding with compromises. Which I feel is what a lot of us are used to. If you work for a VC funded tech startup, you’ll probably have noticed that VCs have the big influence on how tech companies survive. VCs are not after making companies successful. They may disagree with me, but I would say that they’re into helping companies gamble so that their successes are ginormous, but some of them are just going to explode. And in so doing, they pump funds into companies that allow companies to hire above market and at a very high pace. Bringing people from, for example, out of the area, into the area. This has fueled displacement and gentrification that we have all noticed, at least those of us in the Bay Area and other places where this phenomenon has happened. Foundations, similarly, have an influence on nonprofits. Many nonprofits get a significant amount of their funding from one or two or three foundations. And sometimes find that their priorities must be affected by what the foundations want.

Jen-Mei Wu: I see crypto as a way of moving towards funding without compromises, or at least with fewer compromises. Of course, you can do grassroots fund fundraising. You could have people contribute, for example, to an Angel protocol endowment and operate off of that. Or you could create an income generating project, some of which do not require years of development or even months of development, or even weeks of development. You can build projects, but there’s many other opportunities as well, like validation, NFT projects, content creation.

Jen-Mei Wu: And if we can fund our projects without compromises, then we can work towards self-determination. And just another example, like DEI efforts. I have been involved in DEI efforts at tech companies, many of you may have as well, and they’re great. They get people a seat at the table. And they get people in income and that cannot be understated. That’s really important. But having a seat at the table isn’t as good as owning the table, and it’s not as good as being able to design or build something, which might or might not be a table. Right now, if you feed into the existing infrastructure, then you’re playing by their rules, but self-determination means making our own rules.

Jen-Mei Wu: And with that, I’m going to mention a couple of collaborations that I am excited about. Alfonso is one of the folks behind Black Voices in Gaming. He’s also one of the other founders of Liberating Ourselves Locally, the maker space I mentioned earlier. He has this program where he teaches black and brown youth in Oakland how to do DevOps, which is pretty amazing, and we are going to be looking at building on that curriculum, and combining some crypto activities with that as well, to create a program that generates income, for example, by validating blocks on the blockchain.

Jen-Mei Wu: And the idea is that when students come in, and we’ll obviously have to do some investment upfront, and create some of that infrastructure. But when they come in, they can learn while also potentially getting paid to learn. The idea is that… Coding schools, great, but also not everyone can afford $20,000 or whatever in tuition and to take months off work. But if you can get paid to learn, that really changes the game. Now the work that they would be doing would be something that they can do on their own as well. And so they don’t have to join a VC funded startup in order to succeed. They could just keep doing this stuff, self-determination.

Jen-Mei Wu: So the second collaboration is with Isis, Sistah Scifi. She sent me a little video that I’m going to play for you so you can learn about her.

Isis Asare: Hi, I’m Isis Asare. And I just wanted to take a second to introduce you to Sistah Scifi, your new favorite book boutique. We focused on science fiction written by black women. In addition to selling books, we also host a lot of online and in-person events, book clubs, watch parties, you name it. It’s a black, queer own company. It’s owned by myself.

Jen-Mei Wu: What we’re doing is we’re starting an NFT project, which is an opportunity for us to diversify the NFT space. To tell our stories, to fund our initiatives, and increase representation and create opportunities for artists who are not currently in this space. NFTs are like other parts of crypto, not extremely diverse.

Jen-Mei Wu: That brings me to the future. So right now there’s a lot of stuff. A lot of promises in crypto that are not quite realized yet. Like the decentralized web or web3, it’s definitely not here yet. A lot of the websites I showed you are traditional websites. They run on the same hosting that you’re probably used to. If that hosting goes down, the website goes down, and unless people know how to interact with smart contracts on the blockchain directly, it’s definitely not decentralized.

Jen-Mei Wu: But in the future, hopefully there will be a future where corporations don’t control the infrastructure. Where the infrastructure will be distributed and decentralized across the world, and it won’t go down when a single computer goes down. It’s still being defined, and now is a good time to be part of that definition.

Jen-Mei Wu: So here’s some information about how to get started. Social media is a great place to learn about this stuff, but I would consider being anonymous because there are scammers out there. In any extremely non-diverse space, there’s some potentially unpleasant interactions that can happen. I, myself, interact with crypto communities using anonymous accounts, not the ones I’m about to show you. And also suggest some healthy skepticism. I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, but I think it should be balanced with some skepticism as well. And don’t be too quick to trust folks because people will offer to do tech support for you or show you all sorts of things, but they do not have your best interest in mind.

Jen-Mei Wu: I would suggest joining communities that are supportive. And there’s new communities starting all the time. Some of these are communities for women, non-binary folks, LGBTQ+, people of color. And also, we will be having a future workshop at PaRTEE4Justice.org, and you can check out our website to learn more about that.

Jen-Mei Wu: That brings me to the end of the presentation. I hope you go and build stuff. I hope you keep in touch. These are my socials. I’m not really the best at them. Feel free to message me more than once if I happen to miss your message. And a link to the website PaRTEE4Justice.org.

Jen-Mei Wu: And that brings me to the end of my presentation. I do see there’s a question, some questions, but I don’t think I have time to answer them. So I’m going to suggest that you follow up with me, and I can answer those questions, and I’ll hand it back to Angie.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Jen-Mei, for that talk on crypto and web3, and definitely see some possibilities. I like your argument, and I am going to look at all those projects that you’ve mentioned later and see how I can get involved. Thank you for sharing.

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“Why Knowledge is the Future of Data”: Michelle Yi, Senior Director of Applied Artificial Intelligence at RelationalAI (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: So our next session is Michelle Yi from RelationalAI. She is a Senior Director of Applied AI, and she’ll be speaking about harnessing knowledge and data and show us relational knowledge graphs in action.

Michelle Yi: Great. Thank you so much, Angie for the introduction. I’ll just go ahead and screen share, make sure everything is going smoothly. And let me make this big. Here we go. Okay. I think we are good to go. Okay. Yes. So happy International Women’s Day, everyone. And I, plus one, I saw in the chat, a comment about Reggie for president. So plus one to that.

Michelle Yi: So my name is Michelle Yi as Angie said, I’m super excited to share a little bit of perspective on why I believe knowledge is the future of data and how my personal experiences in the data space also align to this common vision that brought me to RelationalAI.

Michelle Yi: And so I thought I could start with sharing a little bit of context and background on myself and the journey that has brought me to RelationalAI. Our vision for what we’re doing really spoke to a lot of the challenges and problems that I saw in the machine learning and data space.

Michelle Yi: And actually to make this a little more fun and interactive, if you guys want to share a little bit about your own journey technology. I’d be curious to see what did you all study, whether it’s undergrad, PhD, masters.

Michelle Yi: What was your last educational focus? Something Heather said in the last talk actually really ties to the demo I have at the end of my talk, which is going to show a little bit of the backgrounds of the women that signed up for this conference.

Michelle Yi: So for me personally, I spent the last 16 years or so in the AI/ML space working with data from both our products R and D side, as well as a consulting perspective. So specifically, I don’t know if anyone will remember this, but in 2012, one of my first projects that I worked on actually aired as IBM Watson and this whole thing with Jeopardy where the computer was playing against the humans.

Michelle Yi: So that’s my one claim to fame. And then after that, I moved more into management consulting because I really wanted to understand the data and data science problems that many customers across many verticals were facing. And so through these experiences over the last couple of decades, I really got a lot of exposure to the impacts of the constantly shifting technical paradigms and how that impacted business.

Michelle Yi: So to give you an example, when I started at IBM ML 16 years ago, was on mainframe. This was before the Cloud. If you can even imagine an era before the Cloud. And then we were after we started getting migrated and pushed to go more Cloud oriented, moving away from on-prem, there was a big, no pun intended, big data movement.

Michelle Yi: Essentially saying, like, “Go collect all the things.” And we didn’t… We collected a lot of data without really always thinking about why did we need that data? And then we were sort of pushed to like, “Okay, well, if you want to use this big data thing and you want to make all those things that you collected useful, you need to go to MapR and Hadoop.”

Michelle Yi: And then what ultimately resulted was this data swamp architecture where we had data everywhere in different silos of many different types. And then that shifted into what’s now more of the modern Cloud data warehousing. So think about BigQuery, Snowflake, Redshift et cetera. And then after we consolidated all of these things, we’re like, “Oh, okay. We finally got it figured out.”

Michelle Yi: But then you kind of see another kind of paradigm around machine learning and for people to take advantage of that you need yet another patchwork tool chain. And we’re going to dig into this a bit more, but the question is why is it that every time we see a paradigm shift, or a new technology, or a new data structure that we kind of go through the same motions over and over again.

Michelle Yi: And so just to speak to a little bit of those problems, I don’t think this is going to be new to anyone in the data space, but basically with each iteration that we’ve gone through, we still see the same needs from the business and the technology side.

Michelle Yi: There’s this desire for kind of more data driven decision making across the board from your executive teams all the way down to the engineering teams. And then there’s this other problem of like, “All right, we went through big data and we collected all the things, but now we don’t really understand everything that we’ve collected.”

Michelle Yi: So we even today, I think many of us would agree that there’s really kind of a lack of understanding of the full extent of the data assets that an enterprise or even a startup has.

Michelle Yi: And then as a result of that, there’s this third bucket of problems where we’ve really seen a rise of just too many point solutions or too many point data applications that sometimes can be repetitive of each other.

Michelle Yi: I don’t know how many times I’ve [inaudible] this and seen to a customer and we’re like, “Hey, you’re interested in a fraud detection, no problem. Oh, by the way, they also built their own fraud detection solution over there in teams D or E.” And so we’re kind of seeing like this common theme across companies and across a long period of time. And again, we need to ask ourselves what’s the root cause of this.

Michelle Yi: And ultimately I think what I saw over and over again is that there’s really something missing from this modern data stack. If we’re really evolving the way that we think about data, why are we seeing the same problems manifest over and over again? And so this is the question I really want us to kind of hone in on and specifically around this concept of knowledge and I’m going to share because you’re like, “All right, knowledge.” That can mean so many different things to basically everybody on this call.

Michelle Yi: And I’d be curious how many data scientists, more on the ML side we have in the room today versus more of the software engineering data app side, I’ve lived in both sides of those worlds. And they’re converging in many ways, right?

Michelle Yi: Because a lot of intelligent data applications today at the core of them, they really are having embedded machine learning whether that’s a machine learning model that you and your teams build or managed service that you receive from a vendor that you buy.

Michelle Yi: And so from my personal experience, I wanted to share an example of a day in the life of a data scientist or a software engineer working on an intelligent application and really hone in on this question using a workflow example of like what happens to the knowledge. And tell me in the chat, let me see.

Michelle Yi: I want to make sure I have it topped up in the screen, but please tell me in the chat if you resonate with this, but one common thing that I think people really have experienced is that we tend to spend like 80% as a data scientist or someone building an intelligent app.

Michelle Yi: We spend like 80% of our time productionalizing things and maybe 20% of our time really modeling, collecting the requirements and the data, et cetera.

Michelle Yi: And if I go into this just like one more level deep and not to get too trapped in the weeds, but just to really hone in on the pain point and why knowledge and embedding knowledge in a workflow is so important is let’s say like all of us are on the same team together.

Michelle Yi: And we want to build this fraud detection application. And at the heart of this application is a machine learning model that gives some predictive score of like, “Yes, that transaction is 50%, 60% likely to be fraudulent.”

Michelle Yi: Well, let’s think about this. So step one, what do we really go do? We let’s say one, we get a sense of our own intuition of what kind of data we need. We probably need something about transactions.

Michelle Yi: And we probably need something about accounts and people related to these transactions and maybe that lives in, I don’t know, BigQuery, let’s say it lives in Teradata, and then it lives in Excel because how many of us store data… Plenty of us store data at Excel. And then let’s also say that we probably need some information from the public web because when people steal things, they need to go sell them and make money.

Michelle Yi: So we get this intuition, we make a list. And then we ultimately, what we end up doing is we go to the business owners or the business experts and saying, “Okay, does it make sense to have this kind of data? What are we missing? Oh, I see, this data has this flag that has a transaction type one. What does that actually mean?”

Michelle Yi: And so we spend a lot of time upfront collecting and gathering data. We work on a subset and that in this 20% bucket of data science work, in that 20% of time, we get a model working that we’re pretty happy with.

Michelle Yi: Let’s say we use Python and a Jupyter Notebook. steps one and two are done. We’re happy. And then we need to scale this up to production. And then what we end up spending 80% of our time on is rewriting everything that we learned in terms of collecting the knowledge from different business stakeholders and our own data science knowledge.

Michelle Yi: And we rewrite that in like Java, Spark and much more heavier imperative programming languages, just so we can productionalize what we already did in steps one and two.

Michelle Yi: So the question is why can we not preserve knowledge across the data, across this entire workflow end to end. And that’s where I really kind of started to think more about this problem, because imagine how many like teams, how much time it would save if I could just preserve all of my learnings that I collected up front from the business about the relationships between transactions and customers, and accounts, and then also like the different constraints.

Michelle Yi: So for example, if I am looking for pictures of cats, I know that cats have two ears. I shouldn’t even think or waste any time processing things with four ears or five ears. I mean, this is a toy example, but I think you get the idea. And then 0.3 is really like, “Okay. If I on team A, I’m building this fraud detection app, why can’t I just easily share this knowledge with somebody in team D so that they don’t have to go do the same requirements gathering?” Because you know, that happens in any organization. And so when we talk about knowledge, it’s how do we preserve these relationships and really save ourselves time and.

Michelle Yi: We preserve these relationships and really save ourselves time and make that accessible to more than just one team. So, there is this concept of a knowledge graph and so you’re like, “Okay, well, yeah. I’ve heard about knowledge graphs.”

Michelle Yi: And there’s sort of like this way of structuring and thinking about data that can somewhat solve this issue, but not exactly and let’s… I want to get into that a little bit really quickly.

Michelle Yi: And so, one of the things is that, here is just an example of a knowledge graph concept, right? And the thing about this picture is even if I don’t give you all the details of like, oh, this lives in inquiry [inaudible], this one lives in another database.

Michelle Yi: Conceptually, you can kind of get that a product has a brand and a product has a category where shoes is an example of a category and a company sells products. It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineer or a business person, you can pretty quickly see what this is.

Michelle Yi: And now imagine if you could actually just query your data as easily as you can read this picture. The thing with knowledge graphs though is that they’re actually not necessarily a new concept.

Michelle Yi: So, it was coined by Google when they created the Google knowledge graph. They wrote this paper that came out in 2012, over 10 years ago now, and it’s been a core competitive advantage to them.

Michelle Yi: So if you ever wonder why search is so powerful at Google, this is one of the secret sauces to that. And when you’re shopping on Amazon, if you’re like, “Wow, my recommendations are amazing.”

Michelle Yi: That’s also another reason why they’re so powerful, is that they’re using this thing called knowledge graphs. And so a lot of other companies have really adopted this thing called the knowledge graph. And you’re like, okay, you can do all these cool things. You can express your business knowledge in the same place as you would do your programming or your data querying, why isn’t everyone else adopting this?

Michelle Yi: Well, the problem is that, and there’s many, many problems, but there’s kind of like three that all high level boil it down to. But one of them is that yes, knowledge graph expertise is kind of rare and not everyone is Google or Facebook or LinkedIn, and they can’t hire hundreds of engineers to go build these things for them, right? There’s not enough people out there to do this.

Michelle Yi: And the second thing is that building and scaling knowledge graphs is really difficult because a lot of the existing solutions are built on really old paradigms. So like the Google knowledge graph paper came out 10 years ago, a lot of the commercially available systems today make it hard to use.

Michelle Yi: Some of these systems are based on theories that came out in the seventies in terms of navigational systems, right? And so it’s really, really hard to use any existing thing to build your own knowledge graph if that’s really what you want to do. And so similarly, operating and maintaining them is really challenging as well.

Michelle Yi: So it’s an amazing concept that just really hasn’t been more commercially viable and accessible to a broader audience. And so, there’s one thing that I want to quickly over is we’re kind of taking a slightly different take and then I’ll show a really fun example to make this more real and in honor of international women’s day here.

Michelle Yi: But one of the things that we’re trying to do is say, let’s build that next generation thing. What does that really look like if we were to take a knowledge graph and make that supercharged and really available to a broader audience.

Michelle Yi: And one of the things that’s key is you see the word knowledge graphs, and then you see this thing called relational and RelationalAI. So I’ll share a bit more before jumping into the demo quickly and then wrapping up.

Michelle Yi: But essentially when it comes down to what we’re trying to do is build this next generation database platform that really gives you that infrastructure layer that’s going to help you consolidate and keep knowledge in the end to end workflow based on a solid shared foundation of a relational knowledge graph.

Michelle Yi: So one of the things that being a relational knowledge graph does is, and this is a bit of an eye chart, but I’ll summarize it in one point, which is that the relational paradigm, when you think about why SQL databases, for example, or you think about why snowflake or BigQuery or Redshift are so popular today is because it separates a lot of the what from the how. So you don’t worry about this huge list of super technical things in the middle, right?

Michelle Yi: A lot of that is actually handled for you. And so that’s something that’s really, really cool about a relational knowledge graph versus other systems. Because again, we share those same technical foundations of what you really expect from that modern data stack and including things like warehousing, et cetera. And so when you think about your favorite SQL system or your favorite database system, I guarantee a large part of that adoption is because your business users, not just your engineering teams, can use it.

Michelle Yi: And so in the future what we’d love to see is like, because we share these same fundamental architectural paradigms, we’d love to see that layer of knowledge that sits across and really pairs with and augments the work that many organizations have already done to consolidate and clean up their warehouse. Basically all the work that everyone’s done going from Hudu to cloud data warehousing, et cetera. This is the thing that we want to say is missing from that modern data stack and that we want to augment and really bring out the power of these things across your organization.

Michelle Yi: All right. So with that said, I’m going to take a look at the chat here and just see at some of the backgrounds. Okay. I love it. Business management, psych. All right. So, in the last three minutes or so I want to wrap up again with just like a simple example where we took some data, thank you to Girl Geek X for providing some of this as well.

Michelle Yi: But basically we took some data on the types of folks we knew would be presenting and attending the conference today. And then we also took some information that’s already… So, for those of you that don’t know about DIFA, we took some information from them. They actually structure all of the information on the public internet in a knowledge graph. And so it’s super easy for us to be able to leverage that in our system. And we took a high level view of kind of the women participating.

Michelle Yi: And basically what you’re seeing here is we put a visualization of what’s called the weakly-connected components graph, right? And so it’s a type of graph algorithm where what you can see quickly is like there’s certain densities and there’s certain areas that are less connected on the edge here.

Michelle Yi: And so we took a survey of sort of what did people study, right? And for women that are in engineering or technology, what did they study as the most recent education? And so what I thought was really fun about this is that when you zoom in, you can kind of see the clusters you might expect.

Michelle Yi: This is a New York if I remember right. And then in New York, there’s lots of people with computer science degrees, et cetera, et cetera. But when you get to the edges a little bit further out, you see a lot of really, really cool majors and folks of women that are in our fields and that have really, really diverse backgrounds.

Michelle Yi: And I love seeing this. So you see like economics, I saw English, English literature. I saw health informatics right here, design and art direction. And so I thought this was like a really fun way using knowledge graphs to quickly show that it doesn’t matter what background you have, but there is a place for you in tech.

Michelle Yi: And the thing is that when you are kind of one of these weakly-connected components, you might sometimes feel like you’re the only one. Right? But actually it’s not true. There’s so many of us that are out here.

Michelle Yi: And so I thought this was a fun way to show that using some real data. So yeah, I thank you so much for all of your time. I think we’re right at the 45 minute mark. And so, really appreciate it. And if you have any questions or you’re interested in graphs or the tech, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Thanks so much.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Michelle. That was very informative. I love the chart and the graph and for explaining everything so clearly. 

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“Moving Up: How To Fast Forward Your Career by Shifting Out of Auto-Pilot and Rising to the Top”: Raji Subramanian, VP of Engineering at Opendoor, and Heather Natour, Head of Engineering, Seller and Consumer Growth at Opendoor (Video + Transcript)

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Sukrutha Bhadouria: So up next, we have Raji. This is a great segue actually into our next session with Raji who is the VP of Engineering at Opendoor. She’s joined by Heather, Head of Engineering for Seller and Consumer Growth at Opendoor. Welcome to both of you, Raji and Heather.

Raji Subramanian: Thank you.

Heather Natour: Thank you. So first I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Heather, I’m Head of Engineering at Opendoor responsible for the core product experience for home sellers, along with growth initiatives and retail partnerships. And I am very excited to sit down with my colleague Raji Subramanian, Opendoor’s VP of engineering. So Raji do you want to share your role at Opendoor and experience in tech?

Raji Subramanian: Yes. Thank you, Heather. I’m very, very excited to be here. So again, as Heather mentioned, I’m a VP of engineering at Opendoor where I’m responsible for Opendoor’s and to end real estate transaction and operational platform build out.

Raji Subramanian: The goal of this platform is to enable Opendoor to create remarkable consumer experiences and enable the company to scale. Prior to Opendoor I co-founded a company called Pro.com which was acquired by Opendoor late last year.

Raji Subramanian: And at Pro, I was the COO and the head of product and technology as well before starting Pro I had a long stint at Amazon where I was a pioneering member, as well as led a lot of teams within Opendoor… Within Amazon’s marketplace, as well as AWS and also led teams within Amazon’s Kindle organization, as well as Yahoo Finance.

Raji Subramanian: I care deeply about diversity. I also care deeply about ESG. Both of them are very inter related. I’m a board member and advisor to BoardReady a not for profit. that’s improving the board diversity in public and private company boards.

Heather Natour: It’s an impressive background and really excited to dive in. Before we do that, I wanted to provide all of you just a quick overview of Opendoor. So our mission is to take the complex traditional home buying and selling transaction and make it simple and on demand. And we’ve completed more than 150,000 customer transactions. We operate in 45 markets nationwide, and we continue to scale the company and the team rapidly.

Heather Natour: So as I mentioned, we have a great talk planned. Raji is going to share insights, advice, and experience on setting goals to advance a career in tech.

Heather Natour: Deconstructing, common career roadblocks and delivering measurable impact that helped her get to where she is today. And the goal of the discussion is to help you make the most of your career and serve your organization well by setting meaningful and measurable goals.

Heather Natour: So Raji you co-founded a successful technology platform and helped it grow to one of the nation’s largest general contractors. You were the pioneering member of teams that helped develop Amazon’s online marketplace and AWS.

Heather Natour: How did you set personal and professional goals that empowered you to make the most of your career while impacting the tech industry?

Raji Subramanian: That’s a really good question, Heather. And again, I use a sort of like a self-developed framework, which I call three P framework. The three Ps stands for passion, purpose, and people.

Raji Subramanian: Passion is all about what I like doing, it’s what you really enjoy doing. And you can do day in and day out with the same level of intensity that you started doing it when you started the journey. For me, that’s building businesses at scale, as well as engineering.

Raji Subramanian: The second P is purpose, just about taking your passion and applying it to something that you really care about. In my case, I care about creating transformative customer experiences. An example of it is about how homes impact the lives of so many people. And that’s why I started Pro and that’s what brought me to Opendoor as well.

Raji Subramanian: It’s a purpose that I deeply care about and the last of course is the people. It’s just about loving the work that you do and doing it with people you enjoy working with who are very smart and help you grow.

Raji Subramanian: With that said, with that framework, I actually apply or do a goal setting exercise which is four parts to it. The first thing that I do is I ask myself what’s the value I’m creating. It’s anchored along value creation. Are my goals enabling me personally, as well as where I am working, create value for its customers, employees, and stakeholders, and the business itself. Value creation is one of the most fundamental things from a goal setting perspective. And that’s kind of what, when you create value, you move forward in your career.

Raji Subramanian: The second aspect of goal setting that I look at is a scale of impact. Again, things that you can do can have a small impact and can have large game changing impact. As your revolving in your career it’s important to slide through the scale of moving and transitioning your goal setting from small impact to larger and larger impact. It does not mean you don’t go about making incremental changes, but there is a moving forward in terms of the scale of impact.

Raji Subramanian: The third thing that I look for from a goal setting perspective is, are the goals that I’m setting, helping me grow in a multidimensional way, from a leadership perspective. It’s about bringing in that intersect between engineering, what the customer cares about. It’s about the product, it’s about the P and L of the company.

Raji Subramanian: And being able to operate in that space are the goals allowing you to operate in a multidimensional way is a third thing, or the third prong of goal setting I look for.

Raji Subramanian: And the fourth is very important and close to my heart. It’s about, be purposeful. Diversity is something that I care about very deeply. That’s kind of what took me to BoardReady. Again in the teams that I built, whether at Opendoor or outside, I look for diversity. I seek diversity. I’m an advocate for diversity. And I also promote diversity.

Heather Natour: Yes. Passion, people, purpose. I really love that. And I totally agree. It’s always been important to me to join a company with a mission that I’m passionate about. I really want to be working with people who are smart or challenge me to grow and learn in a positive way.

Heather Natour: And I really want to dive into some of these goal setting parts. I’d love to also hear from the audience, what role does goal setting play in your own career while we move on and post in the chat.

Heather Natour: But before we do that, as one of the first and few women technical leaders and principal engineers at Amazon, what were some of the common career roadblocks you faced and how did you overcome those challenges?

Raji Subramanian: Yes. Again, the challenges that I face and what I’m going to be sharing, you’ll find that there’s a lot of similarities with what all of us have faced. And in fact, as you called out earlier, as we are having this conversation, I’d love to hear from the audience as well, where they can post what the challenges that they faced. Again…

Raji Subramanian: And you’ll find that there’s a lot of commonality. But again, to touch upon a few things, and this is not specific to a certain company, but it’s more specific to the journey itself.

Raji Subramanian: The first, I’m sure all of us as technologists in whatever role that we play in technology, one of the biggest challenges is to become a recognized technical expert. And this is a nuanced topic. The reason I say it’s a nuanced topic is, there is being recognized as a leader, and then there’s being recognized as a technical leader.

Raji Subramanian: There are so many preconceived notions that we as women might be recognized as a leader even amongst our organization but are we recognized as technologists and engineers who can transform that world.

Raji Subramanian: And so how do you break through those preconceived notions?

Raji Subramanian: The next is about being in the know and being in the know is a lot about the ecosystem that you’re working with, the network that you have access to and the network you have deep relationships with.

Raji Subramanian: And as women how do you go ahead and build those deep relationships, whether it’s with peers, with colleagues, with managers and with mentors, and wherever you work is one of the key gateways for you to be in the know and being in the know within any workspace that you are in is what takes you… Is what gives you one aspect or one dimension to what you can… What actually takes you to the next level.

Raji Subramanian: The third is something that I’ve observed. And I’ve personally followed. It’s about leading from the front.

Raji Subramanian: We as women do an incredible job at work, but often we find ourselves that we ourselves sometimes or because of the forcing function of the environment leading from behind. We are silent leaders. It’s important that as we are making the transformation, we not just lead from behind.

Raji Subramanian: We also lead from front. Examples of that include as women leaders, and women technologists, and women engineers, we might vision something. We might be strategizing on something. We might be driving something.

Raji Subramanian: It’s important to also hold the mic and be actually the representative, who gives the voice to it. And that’s super critical, and not let our demons hold us back. I’ll give one example, Heather, both you and I, for example, are leading two of the most critical initiatives, literally the top two initiatives at Opendoor. In many ways as a part of that, it’s important for us to not just lead from behind, but also lead from the front.

Heather Natour: Yes, definitely. And becoming recognized as a technical expert really resonates with me. I personally didn’t study computer science in college. And so I always had this imposter syndrome about my technical aptitude and frankly, it took half my career to realize I was often the tech technical expert in the room.

Heather Natour: Also, as you mentioned, we are each leading from the front driving key engineering organizations at Opendoor. And, I actually think it was a result of very conscious decisions that we’ve respectively made to transform the technical vision in order to make greater impact. So I think these are all really great, helpful points.

Heather Natour: You mentioned Raji that you’re also very passionate about diversity, and environmental, and social governance. How are you working towards bringing change in in the tech industry and at Opendoor?

Raji Subramanian: It’s a combination deal, Heather. And there’s two parts to it. The first is it always has got… It’s always got to start from home.

Raji Subramanian: We’ve got to walk the talk. For example, I’m looking to hire 50 plus people on my team and I’m sure you are as well. And again, it’s about how we walk the talk and make sure that we build the diverse teams and building those diverse teams is what helps companies become durable and generational. And for example, that is one of the core values that we follow at Opendoor.

Raji Subramanian:And so it’s important that it starts at home, we’ve got to live, breathe, and make sure that our hires are the diverse. And we should never compromise on that. It’s got to be a non-negotiable goal, and the second part of it is about what you do beyond just your workspace.

Raji Subramanian: As I called out earlier, I do a lot of work in the ESG space and DEI is the S, the social part of ESG. And it’s one big component of ESG. The other two being environmental and governance, to make sure that we have a holistic approach to how we look at not just DEI but beyond DEI as well.

Raji Subramanian: So the work that I do with BoardReady is about, how do you make sure that management teams and boards are the most diverse? So I do a lot of work in that space. I also publish in that space, the research that I do.

Raji Subramanian: And I also work with a lot of companies, as a part of BoardReady to make sure that we are able to bring in the diversity. The last thing I’ll share is something that my parents actually had conversations with me when I was very, very young and this hit me then, and it still hits me.

Raji Subramanian: And one of the conversations that we had, we’ve had this conversation multiple times is what if women were engineers, innovators, and builders as a part of the Industrial Revolution? Would the companies stream of products may be very different than what they are?

Raji Subramanian: My heart says, “Yes, they would.” Then it’s super important for me that as we go through the digital revolution, women are not just key players, as a part of this revolution, but all the builders, innovators, founders, entrepreneurs, and creators, because that’s when you know, diversity really breaks through all of the ceilings and breaks through all of the biases.

Heather Natour: Yes. I mean, yes. Absolutely, yes. More diversity on boards, we’re getting women in places where decisions are being made, even at the smallest level, your point about it being non-negotiable is I think about being in multiple technical meetings at Opendoor a week where there are multiple women and you don’t maybe notice it when they’re not there, but it makes a huge difference in how you come to work and how you contribute when you do have that. I’m interested as you reflect on your career journey, what is your advice to other female engineers or women in technical roles looking to take their career to the next level?

Raji Subramanian: Yes. And again, and this is something we’ve all asked ourselves and it’s so timely given where we are in the year today, the first thing that I have reflected on my career journey and I’ll also encourage all of us to reflect, visible versus invisible results. Again, two simple words.

Raji Subramanian: So a lot of times you’ll see that as we have done a lot of work and as women, after we put in a ton of effort, we actually feel that the results that we’ve delivered are invisible results.

Raji Subramanian: It’s important to make sure that as we are going through a career, we’re delivering visible results, results that are measurable in their impact. And the measure need not be just a number.

Raji Subramanian: It need not just be a metric quantified, it can be qualitative in terms of the impact that you had on a customer’s life, on a platform that you built, on a pattern that you created, or an innovation that you drove, or an impact to a P and L. It could be any of those.

Raji Subramanian: It’s super important to parcel out. If you look at 2021, it would be great if each of you look at what were the visible results and the invisible results, and where do you spend most of your time? So that’s one, the second we talked about goal setting earlier, I use that framework and I use that framework in most things I do in terms of goal setting.

Raji Subramanian: The three P framework that I called out earlier, even when I try to find a new job or things to do.

Raji Subramanian: The third thing I look for or the third thing that I did personally and I highly recommend is work with mentors who question and challenge you.

Raji Subramanian: Work with mentors who enable you to break through your blind spots, work with mentors who approach you with a growth mindset. I think we, as women need those type of mentors to keep pushing us beyond and enable us to adopt that growth mindset. And the last I would say is be authentic.

Raji Subramanian: This is something that I’ve had to do. And I’ve had to learn how to do, coming in culturally from in the workspace. I think we have to build a leadership style that is unique to us. And that is one thing that I would recommend. And it goes a long way once you reach that point.

Heather Natour: Yes. Those all resonate with me. And I love those challenging the status quo is something I learned from my father. And while it’s sometimes uncomfortable for others, it’s really served me well.

Heather Natour: And I think we’re running out of time, but I encourage people to tell us what advice has made the biggest impact in their career. In the chat, Raji and I will answer a couple questions there and post how you can get in contact with us. Raji, anything else you’d like to share before we say goodbye?

Raji Subramanian: No, again, the only thing I’ll kind of share is that feel free to connect with both Heather and me. Happy to talk about our experiences, happy to talk about the transformation that we’re bringing in with Opendoor, as well as we grow our teams.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Raji and Heather for all your insightful thoughts on technical leadership. That was a fascinating conversation. Thank you.

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“How To #HumbleBrag Effectively”: Shailvi Wakhlu, Senior Director of Data at Strava (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: Our next session is a Strava coffee session. I think we’ll have to rename it up to, as Sukrutha said, chai, or other teas. We love Strava. So now let’s welcome Shailvi Wakhlu from Strava. She’s here to help us humble brag and advocate for ourselves.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Awesome, thank you so much for the introduction. Angie, let me share my screen. All right, hopefully you can all see that. Hi everyone, my is Shailvi Wakhlu. I go by the she-her pronouns and I’m the Senior Director of Data at Strava. Welcome to the Strava coffee break on the topic “How to humble brag effectively.”

Shailvi Wakhlu: If you want to get better at self-advocacy or know someone else who does, then I hope this talk resonates with you.

Shailvi Wakhlu: So first off I wanted to briefly cover what is self advocacy. It is speaking up for oneself and one’s interest. It’s a simple enough concept, but I found it to be very powerful for us to incorporate for our career success. Understanding, prioritizing and communicating our needs is how we grow ourselves and our careers.

Shailvi Wakhlu: So self advocacy is unfortunately not a skill that comes naturally to most people. Many folks, face difficulties in shining a light on their achievements or talking themselves up.

Shailvi Wakhlu: If that sounds like you, then you should know that you’re not alone. I think culturally, anything that remotely even resembles boasting can be considered a vice. And I also belong to one of those cultures that really encourages people to keep a very low profile as a norm

Shailvi Wakhlu: . Sometimes it’s for safety, sometimes it’s for acceptance and sometimes it’s purely out of habit. Women and marginalized genders also often receive direct and indirect feedback, “Do not be too loud and to focus on being a supporter rather than a promoter.”

Shailvi Wakhlu: Society in general also tends to really discourage self-promotion. Appearing, salesy or flashy often tends to have very negative connotations to it. Our brains have been programmed from society to sometimes just ignore messaging where our people are praising themselves.

Shailvi Wakhlu: And finally, usually at least for me, this has been true. It’s usually our own inner voice with whom we struggle to reconcile the desire that we have to be seen and heard, and to not be seen as bragging. And all of these in many other reasons can make self advocacy very hard.

Shailvi Wakhlu: So while it is hard, it’s still remains extremely important. And I’d like to say that advocating for ourselves is not bragging. In fact, it is a key skill, we all need to practice and learn to make sure that we are doing the right thing by our careers.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Self advocacy is absolutely crucial when it comes time to make more money, negotiate, better salaries. Because after all, how can someone pay you more than they think you are worth when you are the one responsible for telling them your worth.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Promotions also tend to be very heavily dependent on people, clearly articulating how they continue to add value to the business leaders who are in a position to sponsor or promote you, they often tend to need reminders of that.

Shailvi Wakhlu: If you’re a leader of a team or a project, your ability to get resources and head count often needs buy-in from superiors and peers alike who need to comprehend the value of what you and your team are doing.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Your ability to attract talent can really depend on how easy it is for you to convince someone that you’re working on something great. And it’ll be helpful to their career path as well.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Overall, I feel unless you get lucky, success really depends on your ability to make sure that people understand your value. So my pitch is, “Take that time to practice being comfortable, confident, and genuine and advocating for yourself.”

Shailvi Wakhlu: So many of you today in the stock are in the mid to senior part of your career. And I wanted to take this opportunity to plug that self-advocacy, isn’t something that only career professions need.

Shailvi Wakhlu: In fact, you are absolutely never done with self advocacy in your career. Even if right now you are in a stable situation, you’re successful in your role, know that situations can change any time with or without notice.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Maybe you currently have a good boss who’s an advocate for you, but bosses can change. If your current company and or your team supports you remember that can change too. Or maybe you switch something out, maybe you decide to switch companies or you get assigned to a new team.

Shailvi Wakhlu: So in that situation, you will lose access to some known situations that maybe you felt a little bit more prepared for, where you knew how to amplify your message.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Even if absolutely nothing changes, the fact remains that your legacy compounds. You cannot hope to rest on your past successes forever. And if you want your legacy and your impact to grow, you have to continue investing in your success to make sure that people don’t forget about it and make sure that people don’t overlook it.

Shailvi Wakhlu: And finally, this is an example that I often bring up that even CEOs need visibility. How else will you otherwise in that position, get funding, hire great people, support your employees, or get the best outcomes for shareholders? So just separating out that feeling, that you’re at the top of your career and you’re well respected doesn’t mean that you no longer have to invest in self-advocacy.

Shailvi Wakhlu: So with all of that in mind, how do we actually get better at self-advocacy?

Shailvi Wakhlu: I have three things to walk you through. We will first learn how to reframe our own internal narrative mental narrative. And we’ll walk through couple of examples. Then we reframe the external narrative, which is how we choose the right words.

Shailvi Wakhlu: And finally, we will practice, which is why my #humbleragchallenge comes in. So let’s examine some of our mental narratives that tend to hinder our self-advocacy.

Shailvi Wakhlu: The first example is “I am too busy for self-advocacy”.

Shailvi Wakhlu: How many of y’all feel that you just don’t have the time for a lot of things in your career leave alone self-advocacy? However, I feel that if you don’t make for self advocacy, you will hinder the progress you can make in your own growth.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Investing in your growth early is important, and it is essential. You don’t know what tomorrow holds and putting in the habits and processes in place today that might help you get to the next set of opportunities that you desire can really pay dividends when you need it.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Next example is that feeling of my talent to just speak for itself. And a lot of us have actually been told that if you do really good work, you will eventually be rewarded for it. Shine rightly and the world notices, but maybe, maybe people are just not in the same room.

Shailvi Wakhlu: So at the end of the day, if people can’t see something, they can’t acknowledge it. So we tend to assume that our talent will shine and everybody will know that we are great. But maybe everybody around us is really busy and they can’t keep track of the tiny details and examples of how you add value. So acknowledge that you need visibility, and it’ll be much easier to talk about your achievements.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Another mental narrative is that, as you get to more senior roles, the ambiguity increases, and that is true. Often, I think just the previous talk was talking about this, that sometimes there’s no defined part.

Shailvi Wakhlu: There’s no job description, there’s no… Especially for senior roles. And the implication is almost at a lack of defined path means you don’t need to focus on self-advocacy because everything is a little bit of a gamble.

Shailvi Wakhlu: And so focusing on your own visibility may not lead to predictable outcomes and may instead be a distraction. And to that, I say that self-advocacy is indeed taking that time to create your thoughts.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Write your own job description, define what success looks like and connect the dots on how it adds value to the company that you work for. The need for self-advocacy, doesn’t end just because there’s no defined playbook. It still needs intentionality and it still needs attention for you to move forward and grow, even if you’re not sure exactly what the destination is going to be.

Shailvi Wakhlu: And my final example for the mental narrative is that feeling that we have that hey, maybe celebrating wins is just… It’s flashy. It’s unnecessary. And maybe some of us find it inauthentic. However, here again, I say, and I especially say this to leaders that celebrations aren’t just for yourself. They are for absolutely everyone around you. Therefore, that colleague who’s struggling with their work.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Therefore, the people who are looking for their examples of success, or just your teammates, anybody who is involved with the project and anybody who’d like some validation that their work produced something that was good. You are essentially thanking the universe for that opportunity to produce value. And you’re expressing gratitude for that successful outcome. So you’re acknowledging the hard work behind it is going to help really boost everybody’s morale in the process.

Shailvi Wakhlu: So now we’ve covered a few of the mental narratives. We’re going to pivot to the external narratives. And once we feel comfortable in our own mind, that self-advocacy is the right thing to do.

Shailvi Wakhlu: We can focus a little bit more on improving the specific messaging that we use to talk to others. So I’m going to walk through an example of how you might choose to talk about a project that was just finished. That went well.

Shailvi Wakhlu: And there are obviously multiple ways that you could do this. So the default way you maybe… Maybe it’s not default for you, and that’s great. But maybe it’s just downplay it. Project was no big deal. Anybody could have done it. And that’s it. Then there’s the other extreme, which is that you brag about it, which you say, “I did the best job. Nobody else could have done it.” And that’s sort of the other extreme.

Shailvi Wakhlu: So here’s my version of it, which is the team came together to land an incredibly challenging project which also became a fun way to expand our skills. We pushed hard and were able to finish it in half the time that it was expected to take. So this is a mix of sharing a win, but with authenticity that translates into a humble brag.

Shailvi Wakhlu: So notice the keywords that I highlighted here, acknowledging that something was challenging and that you worked hard on it. It shows your ability to accept and shine on tough problems.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Highlighting that you’re capable of bringing together a team to actually collaborate and you are sharing credit for it. It shows important leadership qualities, including a measurable achievement provides something which is a tangible win for people to focus on.

Shailvi Wakhlu: And showing that you actually learned something and grew from it and had fun doing it. That just brings it all together to confirm that this was a natural fit for you. And you’d like some more opportunities like this in the future. So coming up with the right words is helpful, but you don’t need to overthink it.

Shailvi Wakhlu: If you sit down and think about the true feelings that you have about a success story, the words will come to you and your messaging will be authentic. This is just an example. So don’t try to retrofit every story into a success template. Just be genuine and talk about what you truly care about.

Shailvi Wakhlu: I think you’ll be humble bragging effectively in no time. So finally, no commitment is complete unless we figure out a way to go practice it so that it comes naturally. And for that, I have two simple challenges. If you’re new to this, you can start with something small and one is personal, one is public. It really depends on your comfort level.

Shailvi Wakhlu: So on the personal side, this is something you do for yourself. You can just start documenting your wins, make a habit of it. It doesn’t have to be something big, just anything that you’re proud of. Anything that you feel you hit some success on. It can be as simple as, “Hey, I connected two people and they made something else successful.” That’s a win.

Shailvi Wakhlu: So additional guidelines here is be specific so you remember the details and it’s easier to tie back that connection later on and do it with the intention that you will plan to use it for your next promotion. If not the specific example, then at least the themes that you come up with over time, and maybe you don’t end up sharing the list exactly. But it’s really helpful to have that place to reflect back on things that you do well on things that work for you.

Shailvi Wakhlu: And it also makes it easier for you to talk about your work and not blank on it if someone asks you questions about it. So my suggestion here is to do it at least weekly at the bare minimum. And I think it’ll go a long way in building confidence.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Next level is to go public. So whatever your team’s shared mode of communication is find one avenue that you’re comfortable with and post your achievements there. Make it into a team thing. Make it where you share learnings.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Do it at least once a month. And that’s a good way to get everybody involved. We used to definitely do this in one of my teams previously and everybody found it a good way to actually learn from it and just grow from it.

Shailvi Wakhlu: And yes, if you do decide to do this, please… If you do this on Twitter or LinkedIn, please tag me. I would absolutely love to hear about your personal success stories and celebrate with you and amplify you. Thanks all for listening.

Shailvi Wakhlu: I hope this was useful. You can follow me on social media if you’d like to stay in touch. And if you’re interested in the content that I share.

Shailvi Wakhlu: I am also releasing a book later this year on self advocacy and would love feedback on any of the subtopics that might be relevant to you. And finally, a big thank you to Angie and Sukrutha from Girl Geek X for hosting today. Thanks.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you, Shailvi. 

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“It’s A Hot Job Market. Do You Stay or Do You Leave?”: Panel (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: So our next session, I want to bring up a panel of three mid-to-senior technologists who changed jobs for a bigger role at another company. And they’re here to talk about how it’s a hot job market and how to know when it’s time to leave. This is very timely with the great resignation, or great reshuffling, you all hear about. And so now let’s welcome Aliza, Rocio and Sharon! And I’ll let you introduce yourselves.

Aliza Carpio: Hello everyone, and welcome to our session. I’d like to take a moment to recognize that we are all in challenging times. And for those of you out there with family, friends, and loved ones who are impacted by the conflict in Ukraine, our hearts and our thoughts are with all of you.

Aliza Carpio: Now, we hope that our story and the tips we’re going to share are helpful for you and we’ll inspire you as well. But before that let’s do some intros. We’ll start with Sharon.

Sharon Hunt: Hey everybody, my name is Sharon Hunt. I am the Head of Product at a company called Clovers. We’re fairly new. I’ve had a pretty, I would say eclectic career journey.

Sharon Hunt: So I’ve done everything from selling cars and bartending to spending the last 10 years in product management and in technology where I had the good fortune of meeting these two ladies, add into it first hand. Rocio, tell us about you.

Rocio Montes: Hi everyone. My name is Rocio Montes. I am a Senior Engineering Manager at GitHub. My team, that compute engine team powers, all the runners that provide the compute power to all of the actions workflows.

Rocio Montes: Like Sharon said, I have also recently switched jobs from Intuit to GitHub. And it was definitely a challenging decision and an emotional rollercoaster to really make that jump. But you grow and you challenge yourself. So here I am very happy with that. So we’re here to tell you all of about it.

Aliza Carpio: Rocio, what’s your fun fact?

Rocio Montes: My fun fact, you always get me on this one Aliza, I can lay on the beat for eight hours straight.

Aliza Carpio: That’s a good one. Hey, everyone, I’m Aliza Carpio, Director, Technology Evangelist at Autodesk. In my role, I get to work with teams and leaders from across the globe to amplify the engineering magic that’s happening at Autodesk and help build our tech story.

Aliza Carpio: Now my fun fact is that, and I think these ladies know, my favorite song to sing in karaoke, if you can get me to sing is Britney Spears “Hit Me Baby One More Time”. So for those of you out there that are Britney fan, I’m definitely with you. So we chose the title. It’s a hot market – do you stay or do you leave?

Aliza Carpio: Because as Rocio mentioned, each of us were faced with this question and the opportunity last year and the year before during the height of the pandemic. Now this pandemic accelerated existing trends in remote work, eCommerce and automation. And many as you all may have heard, even from Angie may have heard the term passive recruitment or job search because for technologists like yourselves, you probably are not having to pour too much energy in searching for that next opportunity.

Aliza Carpio: And I’m sure many of you out there, the opportunity is already knocking at your door. Sharon, let’s start with you.

Sharon Hunt: Yeah, it’s such an interesting time right now. In fact, that’s why we started Clovers because it’s such a candidate’s market. And a lot of companies just don’t know how to create a great candidate experience and that bleeds into creating a great culture, creating a great place where people feel like they can grow. A

Sharon Hunt: And if you really look at what’s going on right now, this whole era of the great resignation, it’s really highest among people between 30 and 45 years old, right in that middle career. And there’s a lot of theories about this. Now that there’s been some really definitive, causal factors there, but there are certainly some indicators. So the fact that it’s, mid-career definitely is a big indicator.

Sharon Hunt: And I think the fact that so much of technology now has opened up to remote work. It really just blew up the landscape of opportunities for people. Because you don’t have to think about, “Hey…” Especially for people with families, “Where can I travel? What’s close by? What’s convenient? How can I grow my career at a place that also lets me live my life?” A lot of that is now way more…

Sharon Hunt: There’s so many more opportunities to do that across the country and even across the world. So one thing I read it in Bloomberg recently actually, is that the number one factor for people, even companies is culture 12 times more likely than compensation? Which is really interesting, especially for us ladies out there.

Sharon Hunt: So I think there’s a lot of… I look around and look at my colleagues. I see the career shifts that people are making and I think there’s a lot of women, other folks as well, but especially women who feel like maybe they’ve reached a little bit of a ceiling at their current roles.

Sharon Hunt: And that’s baked into the culture to a certain degree. And company who are attracting that talent are going to win in the long run. And I really believe that’s a big driver for especially people are leaving. It’s that culture? It’s that feeling you want to grow? And finding that all of a sudden you’ve got way more opportunities than you’ve ever had before because of the nature of remote work. Rocio, what are some things that you’re seeing in the job market?

Rocio Montes: Oh man, Sharon, definitely. These are significant shifts. I also read that as many as 25% of workers may need to switch occupations than before the pandemic. Also saw an article from Hack Reactor where the demand of engineers will continue to increase due to these shifts, right? So it’s definitely a hot market out there. Things are changing.

Rocio Montes: And I have some friends and past colleagues like YouTube who are lending new opportunities, sometimes bigger ones, sometimes different ones. As for me, I recently moved to GitHub from Intuit. And this happened after eight years of being with the Intuit family.

Rocio Montes: And it was definitely a very big decision to make. Some of the things, and I’ll walk you through some of those motivators for me to switch, was that in the last road Intuit, I was reporting to the chief architect with Aliza focusing a lot on development productivity. We founded the open source office and started to kick off the inner source initiative.

Rocio Montes: And GitHub was at the center of both of those things. So for me, it was more of a natural, transition, because I started to get very passionate about all of the features that GitHub was releasing, getting involved with, GitHub as a maintainer, et cetera.

Rocio Montes: And when I saw the opportunity at GitHub as an engineering manager, it just made sense for me as the continuation of my career growth, the continuation of the journey I had been as an engineer.

Rocio Montes: So that was for me, right? Aliza and Sharon, what shifts did you make? And what elements do you think we need to consider when planning your next move?

Aliza Carpio: So you probably all heard that we all kind of came from Intuit. I also made a shift last year. I actually started at Autodesk late August of last year and I actually was seeking growth and learning.

Aliza Carpio: I had been in the company for a long time, started off as an engineer and did a lot of different roles, including product management, dev manager, and even marketing and what I ended up doing, and we’ll talk a little bit about, this is I did write my job description and I’ll tell you all about that.

Aliza Carpio: But my big thing that I’m going to say out there is a principle that I learned from a mutual manager that Rocio and I had, which was the chief architect. Where he always gave people the same advice, “When you were looking for that next role, make sure you are running to somewhere or to something versus away from something.” And it’s a big principle. Hey Sharon, I want to ask you what about you?

Sharon Hunt: Yeah, that’s a great principle, reflecting back on my own career journey for the last few years. When I left into it both of you were there as well. And I was really looking for more ownership as a product manager, those of you and the audience might commiserate with we’re a little bit of control freaks.

Sharon Hunt: We like to be in control of things. And I really wanted to own more strategy, more of the roadmap. And I just realized at a really large company like Intuit, that was going to be much harder to do in the time period that I was looking to get it done at. So I moved to a company called Housecall Pro really exciting, well established startup that was doing field service management work. Spoke to my soul because I come from a family of painters and landscapers and tree climbers and the whole blue collar scene.

Sharon Hunt: So I was building software for people that I love, but really, then was quickly promoted into director at that role and got to fully lead and owning the roadmap and realize what it meant to experiment in the product led space. And I fully felt like I realized what I was looking for in that position. Then I hit another little bit of a, I would say, not a ceiling, but the company shifted.

Sharon Hunt: We went into more operational mode we had product market fit. It was time to scale. And at that point we had been running very lean and we brought in more product management talent and the company wanted to bring in a VP that had gone through a period of massive growth before. Because there are certain lessons that you learn when you go through that if you haven’t been through it before you can’t bring to the table, which was quite fair.

Sharon Hunt: And I actually had a one-on-one with Aliza, because at that same time, my current opportunity fell into my lap as the Head of Product that a new startup. And I said, “Aliza, what should I do? How do I even navigate through this?”

Sharon Hunt: And she really encouraged me to write down all the things that I was looking for in my new role. And why I thought that, I was qualified to do it at Housecall Pro and really be transparent with my manager that time around what I wanted and why I thought I was a good fit.

Sharon Hunt: And he heard me, but I think he had already made his choice. But the exercise of doing that, just writing down what I wanted really codified in my mind what that was. And it helped me make that decision between, “Okay, do I stay here? And I’m going to learn going to continue to grow through a product position. That’s going to go through crazy growth or do I go back over here into a new opportunity to really build something from scratch, to establish processes, to establish leadership principles that I’ve sometimes felt were a gap in previous companies?”

Sharon Hunt: So writing it down really helped and what it made me realize, and this kind of goes to I think what you’re saying Aliza about running to versus away from something is, “What are your hygiene factors? Are you feeling like you’re not appreciated or you’re not paid well enough or you’re being mistreated in some way. If that’s the case, then you might be running away from a position – and that’s probably not a bad thing.

Sharon Hunt: Maybe that’s a toxic position for you and you deserve and belong to something new. But don’t let that make you underestimate or under serve yourself when you go to the next position, because you might not fully bake and understand what truly motivates you, what you really want out of your next role.

Sharon Hunt: And you might just jump on the next thing that at least meets your basic criteria. So it really helped me kind of codify what are my hygiene factors at my last position I felt like I was getting that. But what did, what did I want on top of that was going to help me to grow?

Sharon Hunt: So I would say a principle here is make sure that if you’re leaving your current role, because your basic needs aren’t being met either monetarily or from a respect position, don’t move to your next role just because if they meet those baseline criteria. Still understand, what on top of that you want, and then still aim for getting that full package in your next role.

Rocio Montes: Yeah, I think I would add again, I would go back to what, “What are you passionate about? What excites you in the morning?” To me, it was really clear year about what are some of the things and the features that I wanted to work with and how I was always trying to pull in GitHub features and trying to onboard to all the new features that you know were coming out and it was just that what motivate me…

Rocio Montes: What I realized that I was very passionate about that drove me to really find and to make the leap, to changing roles.

Aliza Carpio: Folks, this is really golden. Let me share a couple of things here. I love what you all are sharing and Sharon and Rocio please do add if I miss anything. But in that question around what elements do you need to think about or consider when planning their next move? Do you want to take that first one, Sharon, and I’ll take the second one?

Sharon Hunt: This is your journey. Take a moment to self reflect. Yeah, I think this kind of pairs with the last one, honestly. What is it that motivates you? It’s all kind of boils down to that. Are you motivated by trying to escape or are you motivated by trying to grow?

Sharon Hunt: Sometimes it’s a combination of the two, but don’t just escape if that’s what you’re trying to do, escape and grow at the same time. Why are you looking? What is it that is driving you out of your current position? Fully understand that.

Sharon Hunt: And then a click deeper really is once you understand what is driving you… Do you understand where that driver comes from? Is this something that you really want? You yourself as a fully formed human, or is it what you were told that you should want by your parents or by society, or by your significant other or your church or your religion?

Sharon Hunt: There’s so much of that influence that is imposed upon us from the outside, that it takes some really deep thinking to truly know what it is that’s driving you so that you can make sure that the next thing that you pick is going to really check those boxes in a deep way, in terms of motivation. So I’d say Aliza, that kind of combines…

Aliza Carpio: The one and three?

Sharon Hunt: Yeah.

Aliza Carpio: That second one I mentioned already around making sure that you don’t do a couple of things. That you avoid running away from something, but shift your mind to running to something thing. And then there’s this second one, which I actually got from Shannon Lietz. She’s VP of Security at Adobe. And I really love it when she asks me, “Are you letting your current job interfere with your career aspirations?”

Aliza Carpio: You might love what it is that you do, but you really need to also think about the fact that you own the destiny of your career. So think about what is it that you are aspiring to do or want to achieve and not let the current job interfere with that. There’s a lot more potentially that you could be doing to be more impactful. So thanks for that. I’m going to stop sharing and get back to our chat. Rocio, I know you were going to maybe have a story about a friend who reached out to you.

Rocio Montes: I wanted to share that I recently had a friend reach out to me because she was contacted by a recruiter and she wanted my advice about what are some of the things that she should consider when switching jobs? And I’m sure that both of you have advise that you could give us, right?

Rocio Montes: What are some thoughtful techniques in searching for the next role or your next organization? What are those things that we should take into account? I can start with one and obviously we all have a great value, a great worth. So look out for compensation. You want to grow, you want to make sure that all of your skills are getting compensated correctly.

Rocio Montes: Think about when you’re asking for your new offer, why are you leaving behind? If you have stocks that you’re leaving behind, really try to think about that monetary aspect, because obviously yes, we need to follow our passion, but we don’t leave out of love. There are bills to pay and things to buy. So it’s really good to sit down, look at numbers. And if you need advice on that, always try and find someone that could give you that advice for those calculations. Sharon, what do you think?

Sharon Hunt: Yeah, I think it got two pieces of advice. One goes back to what we were just talking about around really understanding your motivations. Actually came across a really great article a while back called How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You) by a fantastic writer named Tim Urban. He runs a blog called Wait But Why. I highly recommend, its hysterical. But the article is really about deeply understanding what motivates you.

Sharon Hunt: And he has this concept called the yearning octopus, where sometimes you can have conflicting needs. Sometimes we want social status, but we also want to give back to humanity, but we also need to support our parents. So sometimes these things are really in conflict with each other. So really diving deep and articulating all those disparate needs. He breaks this down in a really wonderful framework. The blogs called Wait But Why? And the article is called How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You) by Tim Urban.

Sharon Hunt: I really recommend it. It’s a bit of a read, but he actually provides a series of exercises to go through. I actually did it myself and it was one of the things that made me choose to lead my position at Intuit and really helped me understand what it was that drove me, which person was doing work that was more aligned with helping people that I loved, which is why I picked Housecall Pro, which built software, or like I said, for people that I care about.

Sharon Hunt: The other tip that I have is if you are thinking about doing something that is a little bit new, definitely go find someone that does that job and just if you’re able to shadow them, literally sit with them and see what their job is like.

Sharon Hunt: That might be a little tricky, but in lieu of that, at least have a deep conversation. Actually tell them to walk you through what their day was like. “Tell me what you did yesterday.”

Sharon Hunt: Ask them what their favorite parts about their job is and what their least favorite job parts are. And really do that a few times with folks that are in that position to get a deeper understanding of what the role is because your assumptions about the role might not actually be the reality. And so really getting that ethnographic connection with the person who’s doing the role might really have help you understand whether or not it’s going to meet those motivations that we just chatted about. So my [crosstalk].

Aliza Carpio: Sorry, I know we’re running at overload time because we have one more minute, but let me just squeeze this in.

Aliza Carpio: I do recommend that everyone write your own job description. What is it that you want to see in your own reality in what you want to become? And I will tell you right now that I have my role because I wrote my job description and I presented it to a couple of VPs in Autodesk. I also did the same exact thing in my last role at Intuit. And it will actually help you also find your ideal, not only target state, but your ideal job out there.

Aliza Carpio: Whether you’re looking at LinkedIn or just looking around and talking to people. And so we hope that these tips are great. We’d love for you all to connect with us. We’re out of time, but please to connect with us and let us know how we can help you.

Angie Chang: Thank you for sharing job search experience and strategies.

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“Engineering Leadership”: Engineering Management Panel (Video + Transcript)

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Sukrutha Bhadouria: Right now, it’s time for our next session. It’s the engineering leadership panel with Jenn, who is a Senior Director at Etsy, Kamilah, who is the Head of Financial Products at Gusto, and Willie, who is a VP of Engineering at Salesforce. We’re going to get together and discuss all things engineering leadership. Hi.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So as we have all the amazing panelists join us via Zoom, I’m going to quickly run through their backgrounds and their experience level as managers so it can set things in context.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Let’s start with Willie. Willie has been a manager for nine years. Within less than a year of turning into a manager, a role that she sort of begrudgingly got into, she even started to manage a manager.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So now that I started with you, Willie, and we have everyone here, let’s go into why you had to go into the role of management begrudgingly. Why did you have to be coaxed into it?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: And since you’ve gotten to managing a manager so quickly after that, which one was the harder transition to make? Was it being a new manager or managing a manager?

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: Yeah, I call myself a reluctant manager, because the 14 years that I was a software developer, all my managers would always ask me, “Oh, why didn’t you go into management?”

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: And I always had this feeling that management managers were, I didn’t have a good [inaudible] them. They played and they had, they manipulated and they weren’t very transparent. That’s what I felt like. And during my time, all of them were men and I didn’t see myself in it.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: So then I joined Salesforce as a developer, and after a while I became scrum master, which I really enjoyed and I loved working with my team. Then there was a reorg and reorganization and our team was moved from one place to the next and our manager stayed behind.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: And at that point, my peers on my team apparently said, “Hey, why didn’t you ask Willie to become the manager?” And that had never happened to me. And so, the guy I was going to be reporting to was a super good manager. And he said, “You know what? Why didn’t you try it for one year? And after a year, your development skills haven’t atrophied. So after a year, you can always go back.”

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: And I started and I’m still doing it. So that’s been going well. For me, the actually getting a manager under me was more, I will say, almost dramatic, because I hired a wonderful one and she was super excited, and she would come to me. She’s like, “Hey, why are we doing this? And why are we doing that? And, we should be looking at this.” And every time she said that, I was like, “Oh, I should have done that. And I’m such a failure because I didn’t.”

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: And then of course, luckily as she was doing such a great job and I saw what that did to the team, I realized that it was perfect to actually hire her. Because I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t give the team really what it needed. And so because I had other things to work on. So that shift in thinking that it’s not just, I’m a failure, she came in. That was hard. And only when she ended up hiring a manager under her, did I fess up and tell her, and it helped her when she had to go through it. So, yep.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s so interesting. I see a lot of people commenting that they can sort of connect with that. Now, interestingly, you, Jenn, you’ve been for over six years now and you had a little bit of runway before you started to manage managers. And your belief is that your transition into management, first time management was a bigger jump than your org growing and you having to manage a manager. Tell me more.

Jenn Clevenger: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’ve been in management about six and a half years. I managed, a little bit before that in consulting, but it’s the people portion of the management wasn’t there is more about projects.

Jenn Clevenger: And so, why was my transition into management a bigger jump than managing managers? I think it’s because, at the end of the day, I had never really had a good manager before.

Jenn Clevenger: And so the very first job that I accepted was at Etsy and that was my first job into true management as I defined it today. And the job was offered to me by someone named Brave, who was the best manager I had ever had. I’d never had a manager like him before, so I’d never had that experience.

Jenn Clevenger: And so this is a really, really big eye opening experience for me. And a really big jump because honestly, I kind of had to redefine and rewire everything that I thought that I knew about this job, but also while doing the job right. Because I was already hired to be a manager.

Jenn Clevenger: And I figured out pretty quickly that I had no rubric or real understanding of what it meant to be a good manager, had to threw everything away. I had just never seen it. And just like to paint the picture because it’s fun, I wasn’t young at this time. I was like, well into my thirties, I had one and a half kids, I was super pregnant.

Jenn Clevenger: I had already gone through kind of a big long chunk of my career at multiple big companies.

Jenn Clevenger: And I had gotten used to kind of struggling through my career, looking for a mentorship or this elusive thing that people called sponsorship. That’s what you really need is to find an ally and support. And I just never was able to do it successfully. And so I felt really, really alone all the time in navigating my career.

Jenn Clevenger: And so I had to do a lot of reprogramming because it turns out that is actually the manager’s job to help you with those things and to support you. And so that was now my job and I just didn’t even know that.

Jenn Clevenger: So just to make it super tangible, a few things that I remember learning really early on just by watching Brave do his job. And it was kind of this epiphany like, “Holy crap, this is the job. It’s kind of cool.”

Jenn Clevenger: I realize as my manager’s job to advocate for me in places that I’m not, that’s a huge one. And it’s my manager’s job to help me navigate my career and to think about me in opportunities for me, and that is part of their job and not just like a favor or a two minute piece of advice that they’re going to, they have a couple minutes and they’ll drop some advice as they walk past your desk, because that’s like it’s actually a foundational piece of their job right?

Jenn Clevenger: And then, outside of me, me, me, me, and it’s also your manager’s job and responsibility to prioritize things for your org and your team like fairness, inclusion, diversity, building a culture of psychological safety. Like those things don’t happen for free or out of magic, it’s your actual job to build these things into your team. And that was really fascinating to me. I just never seen it before and I’d never considered it as part of the manager’s job.

Jenn Clevenger: And so, I think it was a really hard transition for me because I had to relearn all these things very late in my life. But it was a really good one, and I’m so thankful for having had such a great manager at that really important transition point in my life, to show me what I think is the difference between being a good leader, versus just being a manager. Like, can you imagine the type of manager I might have turned out to be with this whole life of experiences that I was carrying along with me and going in this total other direction. So that was a really big, big change for me.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s interesting Jen, because we have on the other side of the spectrum, our newest entrant into the dark side, Kamilah. You’ve not been a manager for a full year even.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: We’ve known each other a long time and when I first met you, I feel like I remember you saying you’d never move into management. You were, “an IC for life.” like, wanted to grow as a tech lead.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So I’m curious and I’m sure most people will be, what made you change your mind? We meet a lot of people at Girl League events that are sort of sitting on the fence and not really knowing what their path is. So I’m sure it’s going to be insightful for everyone.

Kamilah Taylor: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I very much had the, I just wanted to grow on this tech lead path, which I actually did. And so I think there was part of it where I got to that goal of like, “Okay, I can really do this. I can be a very senior tech lead, I’m able to accomplish this and I can be really effective at this as well.”

Kamilah Taylor: And I think that was a really rewarding experience for me. But I think sort of similar to Jenn, I’d also had just a lot of anti examples of what to do as a manager. And I think that was a huge part of my hesitance is that I was like, “I couldn’t see the value in the job because I wasn’t seeing a lot of great examples of it, and it seemed like a fairly thankless role.

Kamilah Taylor: And there were a couple of things that happened. One was that, I took this course some years ago, General Management through Harrison Metal. And that actually started to shift my mind and I was like, “Oh, I understand what the role of management is and in making this a functioning organization and really what you want to see.”

Kamilah Taylor: And I think that was like the beginning of my, maybe not opposed to trying this out at some point. Like, I can see where this, how impactful it can be to have the right people in this role. So I had that in the back of my mind.

Kamilah Taylor: And then when I joined Gusto, I think similar to Jenn, I had finally my first example of like, “Oh, this is what a good manager is.” And I voiced pretty early on when I joined that this is something I was thinking of.

Kamilah Taylor: And again, very similarly, he really advocated for me and had me in the right rooms. And when I wasn’t there, would voice and sponsor me. And I remember having this moment, I think the first time that happened like, “Oh, is this sponsorship amazing?” I read about this for so long, now I see what they mean when they talk about sponsorship.

Kamilah Taylor: And then seeing who would work through coaching people on his team at different levels and really helping to grow engineers. And I think all of that just gave me okay, like, this is something that I think would be really rewarding.

Kamilah Taylor: And then the last part of it is that there’s, I think if you’re really a very, or there are a couple of different archetypes of the senior tech lead and I’d say there’s at least one of them that starts to overlap with an engineering manager, because you are coaching a lot of engineers, right? And you’re helping with that prioritization and the strategy.

Kamilah Taylor: And so as I found myself growing into that archetype of the tech lead, I thought, “Let me try this out and see how this goes. So, I’m still within my one year, I have a friend who has a bet. They believe I will stick through it past the one year. And I’m honestly, I am enjoying it. It’s been very rewarding so far.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s wonderful, glad you’re more inclined to stay and now you’re also managing a manager. So [crosstalk].

Kamilah Taylor: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I probably owe my friend a hundred dollar dinner, but that’s fine.

Kamilah Taylor: So, Willie you spoke about the early struggles and I know from our conversations you’ve considered not really having that strong network as one of your early missteps.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: Yeah.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Well, tell us more about that and what is it that people can do and what the benefits are?

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: Yeah. I think for me, it was very much, there were very few women around during my whole career, not until I got to Salesforce to become a little bit more common. And so I was not used to confide in people or reaching out to people. Asking for help is actually a skill. And I definitely then wasn’t good at it.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: So what happened was, I became a manager, had some manager under me and then I would feel super, super heavy that everything depended on me, and I had so much responsibility, and it freaked me out from time to time.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: So what I would do is, this was still pre-COVID in the office. So I would get through a very difficult meeting, run to the bathroom, get a cry out and just like, “Ugh…” And then suck it up, and kind of like, “All right, I got this, going there.”

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: If I look back on it, there’s such a waste of energy and such a lot of, it takes too much out of yourself. And so the stupid thing of me was that I did tell my ICs that they needed help and they needed somebody to commiserate with. But I hadn’t figured that for myself yet.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: Now I’m a lot better. I have a very solid network of friends and peers, but also people above me and people below me. So people above you is super important because they kind of have the experience and that viewpoint that you’re striving to get to.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: And so one of the benefits there was, early on when I had to add more managers, I had this feeling like, “So, I’m I just going to hire the same person over and over again in a way the same template?”

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: And my then mentor, who was, I think even two levels above me, she was just like, “No. Well, if one of the things that have worked for me is that I hire for what I am not good at or what I don’t like to do.” And that was spot on, right? Because you’re forming a team and in a team you need different abilities.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: For myself, I actually really enjoy mentoring. I have quite a few. From time to time, I’ve had to cut back because it does take time and it takes a lot of listening. But it’s a way of giving back.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: My network is where I commiserate, where I vent, where I ask for help, where I start my first ideas. And, “Hey, what do you think?” I’m thinking this, or there’s this situation.”

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: Doesn’t mean that they’re all at the same company. Keep people around, I would say, people that I trust and that have nothing to do with my current company. That can be super helpful too. So yeah, having that network is really important. Everyone in my org, I ask, “Do you have it? If not, can I help you get one? Like, can I matchmaker?” That kind of thing. It’s important.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: I feel like, especially remote, right? It’s so valuable to have that network of folks who are doing this job or similar jobs in other companies, helps you like right now you’re not going crazy or everybody’s trying to figure this thing out right now.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: Yeah, and anything in life almost takes a village, right? It’s not just rearing kids, as they always say, but, it’s almost anything. And that village, that can be your network and that can be so much easier. Life doesn’t have to be that hard. Not like I’ve made it.

Jenn Clevenger: I wonder. Can I ask, because I feel like that’s one of the things that I struggled with is building that network. I’m just not great at it, I never really have been. And then the past two years have just made it so much worse.

Jenn Clevenger: I’m not even really good at keeping in touch with my friends, let alone going so far out of my comfort zone and building a network from scratch. Like what kind of tips?

Jenn Clevenger: It sounds like you have had a lot of success in being able to build and maintain that and that’s awesome. I feel super jealous. Like what kind of tips can you give about that?

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: I picked up many of them through work, different jobs that I’ve had. Then at classes, very often at certain courses that you take, there’ll be somebody and you’re put together and you have to do some stupid exercise and yet you find and it clicks and then I’m like, “Oh, okay, let me talk some more.” And the ones that it clicks with, I kind of stay in touch with now.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: During COVID, just like I’ve had a really bad time, I have not added on anyone for me. I’ve had mentees reach out and I’ve taken on new mentees, but yeah, I’m really looking forward to the next kind of big gathering, and talking, and meeting people again in the hopes that something happens there.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: But most of them are different projects I’ve done, classes, that kind of stuff. It’s hard. Networking is super hard.

Jenn Clevenger: Yeah. It’s super hard.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: It’s super uncomfortable. Yeah.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, and it’s also like, how do you break the ice like you said? Jenn, things have just gotten so much harder with COVID, but I feel like just from the comments we’re seeing in this conference, that there’s a lot of people who are feeling very energized to go outside of their comfort zone, including me.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So I feel like all of you spoke about having this, not such a great opinion about management and through that I sort of sensed and also directly got that you probably just didn’t have the right examples of good managers.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So Kamilah, now that you are, you’ve been managing a manager for the last few months, what are the qualities you believe should be in a manager? That’s not just managing an IC, but also managing managers, more junior or more senior, what is it that everyone can learn from?

Kamilah Taylor: Yeah, it’s definitely been really an interesting transition to, and in fast succession, which is part of the life at a growing startup, for sure. Something that I found interesting is that there are a fair amount of similarities to managing or coaching, coaching a manager and then also coaching a more senior engineer.

Kamilah Taylor: I think that was something that I didn’t sort of got on onto immediately, and of course did my thing, I read, read lots of books, read lots of things as I tried to figure out how to get into that mindset. And there was some differences, but also like honestly I think a huge overlap.

Kamilah Taylor: The other thing that’s been helpful for me is to also recognize that everyone has their different way that they prioritize or think of things when they’re making those decisions and leading a team and not trying to, like for me to be an effective of manager, I have to meet people where they are and understand what is the right types of guidance and advice to give people, that’ll resonate with how they work through and how they lead on.

Kamilah Taylor: And yeah, I found that helpful, as I said, yeah, for managing tech leads and also for managing manager is really a large overlap.

Kamilah Taylor: The one other, I would say sort of difference and something like I’m still learning though, is that you do have to, there’s definitely a, when it’s someone immediately an IC on your team, right? You have a little bit more insight and overview around how the project is executing, right? And a ties loop, feedback loop, when understanding when you need to adjust how you’re operating and it’s a little bit more of a delay.

Kamilah Taylor: You get it back in layers. So I would say that’s the other thing. And you see, folks talking about that a lot. I think it’s in some ways, maybe even a little trickier with us being remote and distributed, because it takes a little bit of a while sometimes to get that signal back.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. I mean, while we are trying to be that perfect manager, because we all know what a bad manager looks like, but it’s a little bit harder to turn into that perfect manager that we wish we had. There’s going to be missteps along the way. And Jen, from our last conversation, you had a really interesting story about how you needed to adapt, while you all changed, so tell us more about that.

Jenn Clevenger: Yeah. Yeah. I’m glad you thought that story was fun. It’s a learning story for me. And it’s kind of about growth and change. Etsy has changed a lot and grown a lot in the past few years, not just in size, the company overall, but kind of in our commitment.

Jenn Clevenger: To like, being a data driven machine learning first company and I run a data engineering team. So this is like a lot of change and growth, and fast paced movement in my org. So just for context, I’m a person that loves context. When I first started at Etsy, I was hired to manage a small two data engineers within a smaller data end construct.

Jenn Clevenger: And now fast forward six years, I run six teams with 60 people on them and with eight managers, and two directors, like me and my reporting chain. And I’m not giving you this context to be braggy, but because it’s very relevant to my story in the less and that I learned.

Jenn Clevenger: And I guess my point is like, when I first started at Etsy, we got big, but first we were small, right? And we felt really small. And I kind of grew up with this small team of people around me with two to three managers reporting to me. And we worked side by side, making decisions together, blurred reporting lines, it was a very, very flat hierarchy.

Jenn Clevenger: And my reports, even the ICs that report to me, we all felt like colleagues. I always leaned really, really hard because of that into leadership by consensus and that worked really, really well for us. And it feels good, leadership by consensus feels good. Everyone’s agreeing and kind of coming to these conclusions together.

Jenn Clevenger: And then, it felt pretty all of a sudden without any announcement or flagship moment, or I didn’t get a ribbon, or something to indicate that this was going to happen.

Jenn Clevenger: Things just stopped working so well, and I started noticing that the old practices weren’t working anymore and they’re actually like creating a ton of confusion and the gutty within this org that had grown, had kind of grown, grown.

Jenn Clevenger: So what happened? We had hired more managers, people who didn’t know me and via osmosis, people who didn’t me but also who didn’t even report directly to me there, like skip level reports.

Jenn Clevenger: And by osmosis I was kind of hearing that they’re confused by my engagement style. Like in our weekly managers meeting, people were confused by my questions, “What is Jen asking us to make a decision? Or is she like, why is she oversharing? Is she telling us what’s to do? Or all these open ended questions?” Like it was just creating a lot of confusion for people.

Jenn Clevenger: And it was confusing for people because I was still treating them like what I thought was the management style, leadership style that had worked for such a long time. It’s like, familiar old friends sitting around a living room together, troubleshooting problems for the org and then going out and fixing them altogether.

Jenn Clevenger: But what I learned was that my org had grown and changed and I knew that and that was obvious. Because you can see that change, but there were less obvious changes that had happened that I did not detect. Like more subtle and that I had to change my leadership style in order to accommodate for that, and the leadership style that I was using, that I was leaning into, it just wasn’t working anymore.

Jenn Clevenger: And it was actually causing like a negative impact for my people. So it’s not just that it stopped working, but it was creating a bad experience for people. We had outgrown this. And this was a really big change for me. And it was a change I didn’t like it.

Jenn Clevenger: I didn’t like to feel like I wasn’t part of this group of people anymore. And so what worked and what I ended up doing is I started to kind of distance myself from this. Like now large group of people, these managers, who I had thought of as my peers, my collaborators, and I had to play a different role for them and find a totally different way to lead for all of them. Not just the ones I knew and the ones I didn’t know, but for all of them in aggregate, there wasn’t any picking and choosing.

Jenn Clevenger: It was a little bit lonely, I had to find, kind of back away from these people that I felt so familiar with and find my own peers elsewhere, other directors in other orgs to seek advice from, this goes to your networking. I’m not awesome at networking.

Jenn Clevenger: And it’s an interesting lesson to learn because if I look back, it feels super obvious, like I’ve read a million articles that say that this happens. It’s not an amazing epiphany. Everyone’s like, “Wow, I can’t believe you learned that amazing thing.”

Jenn Clevenger: But it surprised me how subtle the change was. I didn’t get a memo or anything and I didn’t recognize it until it was right on top of me, kicking me in the face. So, I thought that was a really, really interesting lesson to learn that I learned on the path.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. It’s a little unfortunate sometimes because by the time you get feedback as a manager, it feels like it’s coming in when a lot later than you would like, because it’s almost like everyone expects you to have your crap together [crosstalk]

Jenn Clevenger: Yeah, that feedback loop, right? The feedback loop is so slow. That was one of the things I noticed in transitioning from being an IC to management is there’s no satisfying feedback loop where you can finish something, run the test and be like, this is good. I did a thing today. Like the feedback loop in management would be like a year, like months, maybe even multiple years. And it’s very, very rewarding work, but that you got to have some patience for it.

Kamilah Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I think that my managers had said was that, like adrenaline that you get when you’re able to build something, you’re like, “Yes.” Compiles or like, “Yes, it went through.” The way you don’t get that hit, but you do get it but isn’t a different thing.

Kamilah Taylor: It’s like, you’re able to get your intern an offer, like you’re able to get someone promoted or a thing that someone was working towards, they did that and you were able to see them do that.

Kamilah Taylor: But it’s a much longer investment. And so it takes longer to get that like, “Oh yes.” Or conversely, if you were trying to coach someone towards something, also takes longer to be like, “Oh no, this is not working.” Like you got to change tactics.

Jenn Clevenger: Yes. I feel like the highs are higher, but the lows are lower.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: The lonelier, that’s for sure.

Kamilah Taylor: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You also, you don’t have to like the same, like as I see can sort of rant to anyone and it’s just not, it’s not true anymore.

Jenn Clevenger: Yes.

Kamilah Taylor: Yeah.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: The more senior you are as a manager, you get more and more feedback about how you show up. Which sometimes feels like, “What has this got to do with anything, how much I smile?”

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: And how other people see you show up can be completely different than from inside, right? Like I’ve had moments where I thought I was being, because I was so angry that I was really being raging.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: And I asked somebody and they were like, “Oh no, no, you were just very strict. And you let it be known that you did not agree with that.” And I’m like, “What? Really?” Or they think I’m authoritarian, and I’m like, “That’s the last thing I want to be.” That to me, it’s almost like bad thing to tell me. So yeah, it’s almost a bad thing to tell me. So yeah, it’s difficult.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, when it feels a little personal that’s when it’s a bit heartbreaking. But you know what, through all the missteps, like you said, “There are successes.”

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So let’s switch on to the more positive side of things we, because you know, why you learn a lot from your missteps. You also learn from your successes because it’s this loop, right? Sometimes things are going great and sometimes they’re not. And how you deal with it is…

Sukrutha Bhadouria:How you emerge from it is the mark of how you’re going to end up. So over you Willie. And I want to hear from all of you, but starting with you, Willie, what was that project deliverable? What is that one thing that you achieved that made you finally feel like, “I’ve got this. I’m actually good at this?”

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: I realized after last time we spoke. I’ve kind of had that every single step when I have grown. And there’s these milestones that you have where suddenly, boom, you do something new. But one of the first ones was where I was asked to help on a project that was behind on the time deliverable. It had people that didn’t report into me at all. And it was very high profile. So it was around a mobile app for our user conference. And that was not easy. And I had never had it where people don’t report into me yet I am going to have to get like, “Come on, guys, let’s go! Or let do this or…” And so in the beginning I was… And then I was just like, “Okay.”

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: I said yes to this. So I might as well just do my thing. And my thing is just get to know the people, talk to them, make sure that they have a voice and get them to trust me. And those things kind of go in hand. You start small with like, “Hey, shall we do this?” You promise something or you show something, you make it happen. And then you just repeat and repeat. And we did it ended up being super rewarding because people that didn’t report to me suddenly gave me feedback of like, “Oh, this was super cool. And that was great. And thank you for doing so and so.”

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: And they didn’t have to, because it’s not like I control their salaries, so that was super meaningful to me. And yeah, we became a nice type tight group and we delivered what we had to deliver. It was hard. It was a bit of a death March, which I am not a fan of. But we did it and that was the first time once it was delivered and I was at the user conference, I was just like, “Yes, did it. Now I can take a break.”

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s amazing. We almost at time, Jenn or Kamilah, did you want to share a quick story?

Kamilah Taylor: I mean, at least as a manager, I think the first time where I felt like, “I got this,” was probably going through my first performance review cycle and then coming at end feeling like, “Yeah, as able advocate for the folks on my team, this went well.” So I think that was my big break like, “Okay, I think I can do this. This is a thing.” There were no surprises, I was able to argue for folks and I felt really good about that.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Nice, how about you, Jenn?

Jenn Clevenger: I’ll say that I never really feel like I got this. But when I had to pick one thing that I felt like that was a really useful learning, that made me feel more confident if you will, is at some point in the past few years, I’ve had a huge past few years, I guess I realize as a manager or person who leads a team and then an org and then multiple teams, no one is going to do the work if you don’t do it.

Jenn Clevenger: And I don’t know, as an IC, a lot of people do things for you and they put things in place and then you follow along. And even that’s true for entry level managers. And there’s always someone above you who is setting the framework for you, to insert yourself on it gets a little bit more and more amorphous over time.

Jenn Clevenger: But at some point I realized these teams are not going to grow unless I advocate for them. No one is going to tell me like, “Oh, your teams look small. You should probably ask for more head count.” You independently have to come up… And it’s a level of creativity that I didn’t think that you could exercise, not being an IC anymore. Because engineering’s … you’re creating things and it’s so fun.

Jenn Clevenger: And as a manager, I just tell people what to do [inaudible ]. But there’s actually an element to it which is really fun and creative. Once you embrace all of the different pieces that you have to use to paint your picture, if you will.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, oh my gosh! Absolutely. But I’m with you. I’m like that too sometimes I’m like, “Have I really got this?” And I go despite this, but with that, I’m going to wrap.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, ladies, for taking time out of your absolutely busy day to, educate in smile and lead us through this. Thank you so much.

Jenn Clevenger: Thank you for having us.

Willie Hooykaas-Baldwin: Thank you, and now I have three extra people in my network.

Jenn Clevenger: I know. Winning!

Angie Chang: Thank you all.