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

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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

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, 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!

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

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

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

“Girl Geek X Intro” by Angie Chang and Sukrutha Bhadouria, Girl Geek X co-founders.

Angie Chang: Awesome. I think we’re live now with the Discord Girl Geek Dinner. Hi. Hello from the San Francisco Bay Area. My name is Angie Chang and I’m the founder Girl Geek X. Sukrutha! Say hi and introduce yourself.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi. Yeah. Hi Angie. It’s like jumping numbers, but yeah, I’m Sukrutha and I’m Angie’s partner and supporter and big time cheerleader. Together, we want to bring to you a community for you to be comfortable to be a part of and not try to seek help from. With that, we also have companies that sponsor each event and so if you’d like to partner with us and be a sponsor, reach out to us to see how you can get your company to have access to this amazing community that you are a part of.

Angie Chang: Cool. I’m going to do a quick check in with everyone. Where is everyone logging in from? There’s a chat feature if you can say hello and where you’re coming in from. I feel…

Sukrutha Bhadouria: People are saying that there’s no audio from us, but they’re also answering the question about where they’re from. So…

Angie Chang: Awesome. It’s good to see people coming in from all over. The pandemic has brought us together virtually. We’ve been doing these Girl Geek Dinners since 2008. They started out in places like Google and Facebook when those were smaller companies and over the years we’ve continued to go to all these different companies. And now in the pandemic, we’re virtually getting together and hearing from women at these tech companies and startups and hearing from them and being inspired continually, and always learning about what’s the latest, what people are working on and what are the challenges that they face and what they’ve overcome and getting really inspired by them.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Angie someone’s dialed in from Kenya.

Angie Chang: Oh my God and Jamaica.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: How cool is that?

Angie Chang: Cool.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Jamaica too, that’s amazing.

Angie Chang: So who here has been to a Girl Geek Dinner before? I’m just curious. And what do you remember or like from it? I think for me personally, I always like to tell people why they come to Girl Geek Dinners, you got to learn about what are the job titles, because they change all the time. They’ve changed in tech and they change in business and the word operation comes up a lot more like product operations, product marketing.

Angie Chang: I think we learned so much by just going to Girl Geek Dinners over the years and seeing the women come on stage and seeing their job titles and hearing them talk about what they’re working on and how they do it. And then people pick it up at other companies and startups and other cities around the world.

Angie Chang: So to me, it’s really fascinating to continue to see what women are doing in tech and other fast moving industries. And I’m really excited tonight to hear from the women at Discord. I think now is a time that we have to turn the mic over to our Discord host, Jire, and she is…

Sukrutha Bhadouria: She is awesome.

Angie Chang: Yes.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So many different words to describe Jire, I’m going to grab the mic from you and go ahead and do that because I’m excited to introduce Jire. Jire is passionate about leveraging technology to increase social impact. She has served an elected office, worked on education access in the Middle East and redevelop curriculum to impact the way children learn about the internet. That is so cool.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: An alum of the Brookings Institute, Twitter, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Airbnb, Jire is currently working on inclusion, diversity and purpose at Discord. She holds a degree in international studies and economic development from Boston College. Welcome, Jire. You’re so cool.

Jire Bademosi: Thank you so much for that wonderful introduction. It’s so great to be here with you and with Angie and the rest of the community. It’s so, so, so inspiring. My connection actually to Angie goes so many years ago and I used to be a member of her email for Women 2.0, back in the early, I guess that was Web 2.0 days, but it’s so exciting to be here with you all and also hosted a Girl Geek dinner past when I was at Twitter. And it’s so great to be able to facilitate this online.

Jire Bademosi: As you all heard I’m Jire, I go by she/her pronouns and it’s so again, inspiring to see so many folks in the chat, sharing a little bit about where they’re coming from. I see there’s folks all the way from the Philippines to Kenya, to folks in Orange County, to Louisiana. Again, just so beautiful to see such a wonderful group and community come together for something so important such as this. So I’m excited to meet with you all, and hopefully we can kick things off. First off, let me start sharing my screen. So bear with me.

“Discord Intro” by Jire Bademosi, Discord, Senior Manager, Inclusion, Diversity, Purpose.

Jire Bademosi: All right. Let’s get started. What are you all in for today? One we’re going to welcome you all which we’re doing now, we’ll tap into Q&A where you’ll get to meet some of my wonderful colleagues and first, starting off with Beena Agarwal. One of our directors in engineering at Discord. Then we’ll move into lightning talks where we hope to impart some of both our knowledge that we’ve gained as women in technology, but then also reflections.

Jire Bademosi: And last but not least, we’ll turn it over to some other leaders at the company who are paving the way across our product, community, as well as engineering teams. Then I’ll pass it over to my other colleague, Lauren, who helps to oversee a lot of our technical recruiting work. And then we’ll also have some time for networking afterwards.

Jire Bademosi: Again, hi everyone. I’m Jire, I’m the senior manager of inclusion, diversity and purpose at Discord. And what in the world does that mean to you? Essentially our work fosters and activates a culture of inclusion and belonging in the workforce, workplace and marketplace.

Jire Bademosi: I’ve been at Discord for just over six months now. In my off time, I love all things art, culture, architecture, vintage treasures, hiking, and the occasional versus battle so hopefully I have some friends in the audience that I can connect with on some of these things that I’ve hold near and dear.

Jire Bademosi: But truly, I just love people and hearing their stories and I think that’s kind of the through line between all of my favorites and things to do. But you haven’t just come here to meet me, right? You all came to learn more about Discord so we can tap into that. So a little bit about Discord. Discord’s story begins back in 2015 when our founders really came together and we’re trying to think about how to create a place and a space to find belonging in their lives.

Jire Bademosi: And the hope with Discord is that it creates that place for you to be able to connect not only with those that you know, but also things that you care about and to be able to have genuine relationships based on the things that you care about with your friends and those communities that you hold dear, and truly be across the globe.

Jire Bademosi: I think it’s a testament to that to be able to see people truly from all over both the United States and even outside of the United States and in various continents all coming together, because we care about, Girl Geek X, and similarly, Discord wants to do that for you in the communities and places where you hold dear.

Jire Bademosi: And that’s really what I think makes Discord a really special place to work. So more about the metrics, we have about 150 million monthly active users, which really goes into the monthly folks who are coming across the globe and coming together with their friends, as well as communities.

Jire Bademosi: We have various servers, which really are those hubs of community and over 19 million, and I repeat 19 million are active every week. And there are over 4 billion server conversation minutes every single day. So just under, I don’t know, the population of the world, I guess, or so.

Jire Bademosi: Across this board, what actually powers this place are ton of wonderful, amazing humans and I want to break it down a little bit for you. We have administrative folks who really are that backbone helping to make sure that all of the folks are able to do their best work by providing that administrative lens.

Jire Bademosi: We have folks on the assist development who are making those connections with brands like you have, StockX if you’re trying to get the latest Yeezys, or if you’re trying to see what Gucci’s up to in their new time ball, all that’s happening on Discord.

Jire Bademosi: We have a customer experience team who’s paving the way by really with each and every single one of our users as much as they can. If you ever tweet them on Twitter, they’re pretty active there as well.

Jire Bademosi: We have a data science team, you will get to meet Nancy just later on. We’ll talk a little bit about some of the work that she’s leading. We have a wonderful design team that’s helping to bring to life all things [inaudible], which you’ll hear a little bit probably about later today. We have a wonderful engineering team who helps to build Discord.

Jire Bademosi: Finance is important, that they help keep the lights on and that they pay for all the wonderful things. I might be biased, but I think the people talent and five team is pretty darn cool and that’s our team that I happen to be on, which really works to, one, think of about employee experience end to end from the time that you’re considering working at Discord to the time where you maybe at the company itself.

Jire Bademosi: As well as our product team, getting in the weeds on all the PM stuff. And then legal, which keeps us honest and helps us make sure that we stay not in trouble. And then our marketing team really getting the word out.

Jire Bademosi: And last but not least is trust and safety, which really helps us try and build the right policies and processes to make sure that Discord can be a place for people to belong. So that’s a little bit about what’s behind the curtain as far as the teams that make our company a company.

Jire Bademosi: But I think what also is pretty awesome about Discord is that we have a total wellness program that really takes in to the fact that we’re not just one thing we’re not just a singular person, we’re a whole person. And that includes our physical wellness. That includes our mental wellness. And that includes our financial wellness, whether or that’s through services, such as Headspace to meditate, whether that’s modern health to provide, counseling sessions, coaching sessions. Whether that’s our gender affirmation fund to support our colleagues. Whether that’s carrot to support our colleagues in fertility journeys, or even thinking about financial wellness, especially when we think about inclusion for communities that may not have been provided these resources in the past.

Jire Bademosi: And so really thinking about it through three major lenses and even within each of those buckets, we have a number of traditional perks as well, whether it’s our desk fund or support for employees to be able to get their exercise on or what have you but all of that exists and more within Discord. That just a little bit, give you a little taste a little bit of behind the scenes of Discord thus far.

Jire Bademosi: And then I got to talk a little bit about inclusion, diversity and purpose. One, because I am passionate about it, but two, I think that’s what’s a special sauce about Discord and our team and what it really stands for. And within each of these buckets, we really try to dedicate intentional time, effort to bringing this alive.

“Inclusion, Diversity, Purpose” by Jire Bademosi, Discord, Senior Manager, Inclusion, Diversity, Purpose.

Jire Bademosi: And so number one, within our workforce, we really want to build programs and pathways to attract higher and develop diverse talent. And really the why behind it is Discord again, is about belonging and to actually be able to do that, we have to start within and we have to be intentional about it and we have to communicate it and really build those programs to make sure that that’s successful. Then from our workplace, what about folks who are here and that’s where the internal inclusive culture development comes from.

Jire Bademosi: And so that’s everything from employee resource groups to our employee engagement team, to even employee giving and volunteering opportunities that we have for employees. And then last but not least is the marketplace and I think what’s so exciting about Discord is the reality that it really is a consumer facing product. And people, I’m sure, and I’m actually curious, I might even ask you all, how many folks in the chat, if you’ve ever used Discord before, if you’re using Discord, I’m sure I would see quite a few folks jump in and it’s important for us to have that inclusion diversity and purpose lens, as we’re thinking about the company. A

Jire Bademosi: And that’s where that marketplace work comes into contact with us. And so that’s just a little bit about Discord, but I will pass the mic. I think you all be seeing a lot of me today. So bear with me as we go along for this journey, but I want to welcome up my colleague Beena Agarwal, who is director of engineering at Discord. I’m going to stop screen share so y’all can actually meet and see Beena. All right, welcome. Hi Beena. How are you?

Jire Bademosi: Good. It’s nice to see you. Long time to see.

Jire Bademosi: Amazing, amazing. Well, I have to tell the rest of the crew here, since we have all these friends joining from truly all over and who use Discord daily like Nicole says, Nicole uses Discord every day. I see people saying really stanning Discord and so I think getting to talk to you is pretty exciting in the sense that you are in charge of really seeing how to drive Discord from a multimillion dollar business to a multibillion dollar business.

Beena Agarwal, Discord Director of Engineering, in conversation with Jire Bademosi, Discord, Senior Manager, Inclusion, Diversity, Purpose

Beena Agarwal: Hi, Jire, I’m good. How are you?

Beena Agarwal: Nice to see you too. I’m excited to be here.

Jire Bademosi: And I think it’s so exciting to see you in that position and I want to first start things off with folks who get to know you and learn a little bit more about who Beena is. So I’ll turn the mic over to you and share a little bit more about who you are and what brings you to Discord.

Beena Agarwal: Yeah, absolutely. I can start with my background and start from the beginning and then feel free to go into ask me for any details and I’m happy to go to that. I started out my career as a software engineer. A long time ago, I was at Symantec working on network intrusion detection systems. And after doing that for a while, I wanted something that was still just as challenging and more fun so I actively sought out the gaming industry and was at Electronic Arts as a software engineer.

Beena Agarwal: And then that’s where I got into management and I ended up leading a mobile studio engineering for a mobile studio at EA. And as part of EAs pivot to mobile strategy, I was working on casino games, which made a lot of sense, because they make a lot of money. And after about four years of doing casino games, I had to take a step back and think about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And I wanted to do something a little more mission oriented.

Beena Agarwal: I ended up starting my own education technology company. And I did that for a few years and then I was very curious about the intersection of technology and healthcare. I actively pursued some health tech companies and actually around the same times, I started conversations with Discord and I was completely blown away with everyone that I talked to here. It was clear that there was a very much a people first mentality in leadership style. And that really resonated with me.

Beena Agarwal: However, at that time I had actively gotten out of the gaming industry and also I was just one year into my health tech journey. So I decided to pursue health tech and give it a full shot. And then a couple years later, Discord had grown a lot. My manager reached out to me and a couple things that happened in that time, in those two years during COVID, Discord had actively expanded out of the gaming industry and this renewed mission of creating space and a sense of belonging for everyone really resonated with me.

Beena Agarwal: I pursued those conversations again and decided last year that it was a good time to join Discord. And so I’ve been with Discord for a year and so that’s what brought me to Discord. Outside of work, I am a new mom. I have an 18 month old so I spent a lot of time being a slave to a toddler. So any moms out there, if you have any tips, I would love to hear them. And I like exploring the outdoors.

Jire Bademosi: Amazing, amazing, and lots of congratulations as well in the chat, both for your career and as well as your little one. And I think you shared a lot about your career journey, both into entrepreneurship and also something that I think is something that we can all relate to, which is sometimes maybe it’s not the right time or, and then you find the right time and you still stay close and I think it’s so powerful to really think through that.

Jire Bademosi: And now that you’re a year into your time at Discord, what does your role really entail? I try to give a little bit of a tidbit, but I didn’t want to tell a full bit about your work, but can you tell us more about what you do at Discord?

Beena Agarwal: Yeah, absolutely. So here at Discord, I lead engineering for the premium products organization and that is really building revenue generating products for Discord. So what that truly means is overall Discord’s mission is to create belonging for everyone. And we, our teams exist to fund that mission by creating a sustainable business model for decades to come. We do that by scaling our premium products and ensuring that they truly align with the user’s interests. This includes the teams that work on a Nitro subscription products, a boosting subscription products, and the underlying platform that ensure that our products are robust and scalable.

Beena Agarwal: And my role in particular has evolved a bit for the past year. Truly, we just started focusing on scaling our business models early last year. So it was working with a lot of our counterparts to up with a strategy and clearly applying the goals for the organization and then making sure that we have the tools, the systems and the processes in place, and that we are building teams and setting them up for success to meet our goals.

Beena Agarwal: Since then, we have scaled the engineering organization here within premium products from 10 engineers, when I first started to about 36 engineers now and we have some audacious goals in front of us, so we are definitely adding more and scaling the organization to about 50 by the end of the year.

Beena Agarwal: And then it’s a large part of the role is also cross-functional, so as a core revenue organizations, besides with the product teams and the design teams and the analytics teams, it’s literally working with almost every team in the organization to make sure that we are working on the right things on the most impactful things.

Beena Agarwal: This include finance for all our revenue recognition, it includes partnering with business development to make sure that we are going after the right deals, it literally includes working with any team that is building features for Discord to make sure that we are also thinking about how we going to monetize things and making sure that everything aligns with the users’ interests ultimately.

Jire Bademosi: Right. And I think you say something really important and I think as a unique delineation for where Discord is, and it’s in that at the end, ultimately also about the user, which I think is such a unique lens to how Discord has conversations about monetization that I think is different than many platforms. I don’t know if you want to expand a little bit more on that philosophy.

Beena Agarwal: Yeah, absolutely. And we are continuously rethinking that and evolving that, but at the core of it, it is figuring out what truly engages our users, where our users’ interests are, and because ultimately it’s engagement that leads to conversion and we truly believe that. A

Beena Agarwal: And we are a very data driven organization and by data driven, I mean both from a qualitative perspective and a quantitative perspective. We are constantly doing user studies, looking at the vast amount of data that we have to really figure out where users are spending their time and what is it that they truly value in our products so that we can build upon that.

Jire Bademosi: I love that approach. And again, obviously I’m a little biased, but I think having that qualitative data that really dives into something that you can’t get in a numerical quantitative really allows for that balance to occur to hopefully help us learn more about our communities as well as the folks who come to Discord every single day. But I’m curious, what gets you excited in the morning? What makes you excited about Discord? What makes you excited about your role?

Beena Agarwal: Yeah, absolutely. I am definitely very mission oriented and that’s one of the reasons that I joined Discord. Helping Discord achieve that mission of creating belonging is truly what excites me. And within premium products, that really means how does our organization connect to that mission.

Beena Agarwal: We remind ourselves of that constantly, that we exist here to fund that mission of creating belonging for our users. Working on that is definitely very important and exciting. And then what that tactically means is we have some audacious goals in front of us. We are at 115 million monthly active use like you said, we are multimillion dollar business right now and we are constantly thinking about how we want to get to multibillion dollars in revenue and with a clear goal of getting to a billion dollars in by end of 2023.

Beena Agarwal: We are actively working backwards from that goal and that is super exciting for all of us to figure out how to get to that billion dollar goal. But it also means how are we scaling the organization to get to that goal. So I think about that a lot, making sure that we are bringing in the right people that embody our principles and values and empowering them to do their best work.

Beena Agarwal: And then also defining the culture of the org as we scale and grow. We really understanding what is it that we truly value where we have been a different size of an organization for a long period of time and there are certain things that we enjoy operating in a certain way. What are core principles that we want to keep? What are things that we want to evolve and how do we define the culture of the org as we scale?

Beena Agarwal: Those are some of the key things that are super exciting to me personally.

Jire Bademosi: Yeah. I think all of that’s very exciting and billion dollars is no joke and I think it’s so important and great the work that you’re doing and you’ve probably learned so many lessons along the way. Are there any that you can share with us?

Beena Agarwal: Yeah, sure. There is a book by Jim Collins called Built to Last, where he talks about time telling and clock building. The premises that often leaders spend a lot of time crafting a vision, building and bringing an idea or a product to life and he refers to this as time telling and in studies that he has done, what he found that truly visionary companies are the artifact of clock building.

Beena Agarwal: What that means is building an order company that can prosper beyond the presence of any leader and endure over time. The company and the organization is the true creation and the product and leaders are in service of that.

Beena Agarwal: And I think about that a lot and how that applies to my role here. So the reality is that we have to spend as leaders, we have to spend some time doing the time telling and the clock building, because in reality, we have a lot of audacious goals in front of us and we have to make sure we spend our time in those execution details as leaders and making sure that everyone’s working towards those goals and that we’re executing against those goals.

Beena Agarwal: But the true benefit is from that clock building, like building the org, building the culture of the org. So I’m constantly thinking about how, what is the right balance here? How much time should we be spending building that again? And how do we balance that with the execution details here? And it’s something that it’s hard to find that right balance and that’s something that I’m constantly trying to learn from and evolve.

Jire Bademosi: Absolutely. I feel like all of us in one way or another, I’m curious, I’m sure in the chat, there’s plenty of people who are trying to find balance myself included and especially when you’re a hypergrowth startup environment and really trying to make an impact in such a important way. I’m curious that you’ve worked at both startups and building a team there, you’ve worked within a company like a large one such as EA and you’ve also worked at Discord now for a year. And how have you found the leadership at Discord to be different than at other places?

Beena Agarwal: Yeah, that’s a great question. One thing I will say is that leaders here truly embody the people first part of the culture. And a lot of times when you go through the interview process, you learn a lot about the culture and then when you join the company, you find that aspects of it might be true and there are aspects of it that are not exactly be expected.

Beena Agarwal: And I will say in my one year time, year, I find that everyone has been totally true to everything that I learned as part of the interview process. The reasons that I joined Discord have totally held true. So what I mean by that is everyone is very true to the mission. Everyone really cares about the mission all the way from the individual contributors that I’ve interacted with all the way to the leaders, the senior leaders of the company.

Beena Agarwal: It shows up in a lot of different ways. All the way to how the CEO runs all hands and how transparent he is about everything that he communicates in these all hands. So we have a weekly all hands that is run by the CEO where he talks about things that are top of mind for him. And then we go through the different parts of the organization will also give updates and then in the end we have a Q and A section.

Beena Agarwal: And it’s amazing to me, how you ask any question, anyone can ask a question and the responses are always very thoughtful and how the CEO is very transparent by that. So that’s one aspect here, how leaders are truly transparent here. And then the other thing is, as far as the people first mentality goes, everyone really creates space for us to be our authentic self.

Beena Agarwal: One of the things that I was very concerned about when I was joining is… Joining company remotely during the pandemic is definitely not easy. Building a rapport with the team remotely is definitely not a walk in the park. And then also I was a new mom at the time I had just come out of maternity leave, my kid was five months old.

Beena Agarwal: There were a lot of things that were important to me, including nursing and it was very important for me for various reasons to continue to do that. And I was very upfront with my manager about all those things that were important to me and what I found that all of my apprehensions were totally, they weren’t a problem for anyone. Discord made it very easy to onboard, to build rapport with teams. They truly had frameworks around all of that.

Beena Agarwal: And then also, made space and time for me to take care of things as I needed, whether that be blocking time on the calendar or if I had to attend a meeting, being able to turn video off and nurse the baby as needed. It was also refreshing to see that there were a lot of male allies in the company, including my own manager who often during meetings would say that, “Hey, I actually need to go feed my kids. So I’m just going to turn the video off and make lunch for my kids.” It was really refreshing to say that, to see that and to normalize things and say that, “Hey, it’s okay. This is life in this world and it’s okay to do that.” It truly helped reinforce some of the decisions that I made and why I joined Discord and everything that I learned during the interview process and leadership here has totally helped me.

Jire Bademosi: I think that’s so well said. And I think that commonality is really around, one, the fact that we actually have those action points. Whether it be through the all hands, where our CEO literally every Tuesday really opens up, not only the floor to folks who may have been at the company, whether they’ve been there a day or they’ve been there since the beginning an opportunity to ask questions and to hear the responses live and really creating that community of transparency to talking about what it’s like coming back to a work environment and really having that holistic, whole person application of our values and our principal.

Jire Bademosi: It’s really cool hearing you share that. I know we don’t have too much time, but I’m seeing quite a few questions come in from folks. Maybe we could get to a couple of them with time that we have left. Let me see here. I see a question a little bit about more on our work culture, in particular. And I know we talked about it, but I want to respond to Anita’s question in that how would we describe Discord’s work culture? What are Discord’s future plans or collaborations in the next year? So maybe we could answer that from like an engineering perspective on your team.

Beena Agarwal: Yeah, absolutely. As far as the work culture goes, we definitely strive for excellence, but at the same time, we promote work-life balance a lot. Some of the examples that I give, they were truly important for me. I’ll tell you, from my own perspective, just in my entire career, until I had a kid, work-life balance was misnomer to me, pretty clearly, just because I enjoyed doing what I did and I just worked all the time, not because I had to, but because I really enjoyed it.

Beena Agarwal: When I had a kid, that changed and work-life balance was very important to me, and that was one of the things that I really looked into deeply when I joined Discord. And I can say that we definitely take that very seriously here, and we ensure that folks are not overloaded, that we do planning appropriately.

Beena Agarwal: We make sure we plan for projects upfront and ensure that we don’t have crunch times and avoid them as much as we can. So that’s one thing I’ll note in terms of work culture, from an engineering perspective, and then, Jire, feel free to add… You’re on the people team. You know a lot about this as well.

Jire Bademosi: Totally. Yeah. I mean, I think that was a really helpful example just around how Discord really takes a time to not just say, “Okay, you work at Discord and that’s it.” It’s really holistic, and I think it’s, one, seeing that the company has allowed people to do 80% of capacity, not necessarily saying you have to be at 100% capacity, which really frees up a lot of time.

Jire Bademosi: I mean, I have coworkers who are able to work at Discord and be in graduate school. I have coworkers who are able to be caregivers of children or of family members, et cetera. And so all of that not only is existing but is thriving.

Jire Bademosi: And I think that’s the really unique piece that I want folks to really take with them and that it’s encouraged, not only through the words that we’re saying but through the policies that exist, whether it be the parental leave that exists, whether it be the family leave that exists. We have unlimited sick time in case someone’s not feeling well. We have paid time off where you accrue it and so really encouraging folks.

Jire Bademosi: And even myself, my managers, you need to take time off, encouraging folks on the team to do that. And I think that, again, through actions versus simply saying it, I think really makes a difference between what I’ve seen at Discord versus at other companies. I think that’s really a testament to the work environment that we have here. Let me see if we might have time, Beena, for one more question, because we have to pass the mic and then we’ll come back and make sure to respond to as many questions as we can today.

Jire Bademosi: This question comes from Karen and a little bit more about some of the qualities that you look for as you’re expanding your team, if you could talk a little bit about that. I know teams are growing rather rapidly, but I’m sure folks are keen to hear a little bit more about the engineering process.

Beena Agarwal: Yeah, absolutely. And we have a very well-defined interview process. And as specifically the question talks about, outside of the job description, what are the qualities that we look for? During our interview process, we have attitude and values panel, where we really dig into some of those non-technical skills. What we really look for is folks that will embody our core principles and our core culture. And there is an awesome blog post on things that we value and our principles, so we really dig into those through those behavioral questions, and that’s what we really value besides the technical skills that we go through.

Beena Agarwal: Then, from a leadership perspective, in engineering managers in particular, we are, again, like I said, very much a people-first organization. We believe in growing and hiring really strong tech leads and giving them autonomy in terms of execution and leaving room for managers to really focus on career growth and coaching of individuals. That’s something that we value a lot. We definitely look for leaders that are able to focus on that versus the technical execution. You still have to be technical and be able to guide discussions, but we don’t expect you to focus more on coaching and career development.

Jire Bademosi: Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. All right. I know we’re running up on time, and folks, we are going to get to as many questions as we can, so please bear with us. We also have some recruiters in the audience, but next up, I want to welcome one of my colleagues and fellow east coasters, Megan. Can we give Megan a big shout out for being off and wanting to do this presentation today? Welcome. Welcome. Megan, I’ll pass the mic to you. I’ll see you all in a bit.

Megan Zlock: Hello, everyone. Let me go ahead and get my screen sharing going. Okay. And pop out chat. Can somebody give me a thumbs up just to know I can hear and… you all can hear and see me? Okay. Sounds good. I’ll go ahead and get started. Just to do a little bit of an intro, hi, I’m Megan Zlock.

“Digital Accessibility: Ensuring Access to People with Disabilities” by Megan Zlock, Discord Software Engineer, Digital Accessibility

Megan Zlock: I’m a software engineer on the accessibility team at Discord. I’ve been at Discord for about out 6, 7 months, but I have about 10 years experience as a front-end and full-stack developer. So yeah, new to Discord, but not new to the game. And today, I wanted to talk about digital accessibility a little bit.

Megan Zlock: Before I get started, I want to mention, I know I’m talking to an audience of lots of folks, so this may not be new to a lot of you, but when I talk about accessibility, I tend to start from the beginning. It’s hit or miss. There are definitely tons of veterans out there who know all about this stuff. And then you have folks who haven’t really dove into it yet for one reason or another, so I start at the beginning. But hopefully I’ll have some resources towards the end that’ll be helpful for everybody.

Megan Zlock: Let’s talk about digital accessibility. What is it, what does it mean for engineers, and where do you start? I like to pull this quote… It’s just from Wikipedia, but I do like this particular quote, “Accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with or access to websites on the worldwide web, by people with physical disabilities, situational disabilities, and socioeconomic restrictions on bandwidth and speed.”

Megan Zlock: While that last particular point I do find incredibly interesting, I mostly focus on my job on folks who have physical or situational disabilities. That’s what we’re talking about today. How do we make our websites accessible for folks who may interact with your site in a little bit of a different way than other folks?

Megan Zlock: I also like this quote from Microsoft. They’ve got some really good documentation on inclusive design. So designing inclusively doesn’t mean you’re making one thing for all people. You’re designing a diversity of ways for everyone to participate in an experience with a sense of belonging, and we love that word belonging at Discord.

Megan Zlock: Basically, in practice, when you build for accessibility, it’s really interesting how a lot of folks get caught up on like, “Oh, I have to make one thing that works for everybody.” But really, when you get into the nitty-gritty of how to do certain new things, you really have to build in a couple of different ways of doing things, whether somebody’s using a keyboard or a mouse or a screen reader or something else. It’s really interesting when you start diving in and really connecting all of those experiences.

Megan Zlock: Why does accessibility matter? The first one I always bring up, as my Captain Obvious reason is, it’s just the right thing to do. Inclusivity is important. We want everybody to be able to use Discord. So why not? But if you need further convincing, it’s also our mission.

Megan Zlock: At Discord, we love to say that we create a world where everyone belongs. We love that word belonging. So it’s just part of our mission. We want to make sure that everybody, regardless of their physical abilities, can take part in communities on Discord. And then also, it’s the law.

Megan Zlock: If there was no other reason, there’s also that one. Especially as an international application… Lots of folks all over the world use it… we need to make sure that we’re passing and following all the criteria that we need to follow for disability law. To dive into that a little bit further, typically for engineers, that means complying with the WCAG. That is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Megan Zlock: And just to go over that a little bit in my lightning talk, I don’t have much time, but basically WCAG conformance falls into three levels, A, AA, and AA. And this is an additive process. Any rules in A are also in AA and are also in AAA. Typically, conformance means complying with A. The AAA rules are very specific. They can be very specific to certain audiences. You may want to do some UX, see who you have using the site.

Megan Zlock: There’s one rule that says you can’t use jargon, but then that doesn’t work out so well when you’re doing like a medical site. So yeah, you have to pick and choose your AAA rules. In a lot of instances, it’d be very difficult to comply with all of them. And if you want to get started with WCAG, I really think the best place to start is the W3C. They have this really good quick reference guide, where you can do some filters. You can see what’s in A, AA, AAA, as well as a little bit of filtering based off of your particular role.

Megan Zlock: Just to keep going with that. So what goes into accessible product engineering? There is a complying with WCAG, but WCAG only gets you so far. When you start working in accessibility, knowing the fundamentals is really important, having really good HTML and CSS to start with sets you with a really good baseline, if you’re building a website.

Megan Zlock: Of course, if you’re doing React data or any kind of web app, you’ll want to be using the right components or views or accessibility attributes on those as well. And then you want to build on top of good HTML with Aria. If you’re not familiar with Aria, that stands for Accessible Rich Internet Applications. That’s basically extra attributes added to HTML to imply states or extra labels or extra accessibility information in hints. And it works just like HTML attributes, but it’s an added layer that works well with JavaScript.

Megan Zlock: And then, lastly, testing, testing, testing. I cannot advocate enough for testing, whether you’re trying out a screen reader yourself or just doing some keyboard testing, I would especially recommend doing some level of user testing.

Megan Zlock: I, as an accessibility engineer, am a fairly abled-bodied person. It’s really hard for me to know if I am building the right thing for somebody who natively uses these assistive technologies. So luckily, at Discord, we do have a bunch of volunteers who work with us and can user test with us.

Megan Zlock: And it’s an amazing resource to make sure that the stuff that we ship works how we intend it to. But yeah, just another note on the organizational level, it’s helpful to think of accessibility like performance or security. It’s an ever-present piece of maintenance that you have to do. It’s never done. You don’t just conform once and you’re done. It’s going to be something you’re going to be working on for a long time.

Megan Zlock: Accessibility at Discord, what does my job look like? A lot of it is bug fixes. I am an engineer on the team. A lot of the times I’m adding labels that were missed or reconfiguring some Aria attributes, things like that. Working on the design system, the accessibility team is really, really close with our design system team so that we can make sure that our primitives, or little components that we use everywhere, are very accessible.

Megan Zlock: We’re working on writing some automated testing to catch bugs so that it’s not just us working on accessibility at Discord. People can catch any violations as they’re working and take care of it for us. And then also we do some internal engineering training. My job isn’t just code. I’m also teaching engineers how they can work within our system.

Megan Zlock: Last off, this is a lightning talk. I only have 10 minutes. I wanted to leave you all with some tools so that you can dive in and learn your way around accessibility. And I really think the best thing that you could do is try out some of the testing things.

Start Testing in Design – Useful Links: Testing Libraries – Useful Links:

Megan Zlock: First off, start in design. To give some of the designers who may be present some resources, there’s the Able plugin for Figma. There’s the Stark plugin, which is available for Figma and Sketch, if you don’t use Figma. Color Safe is kind of an interesting tool that I ran into a while back for creating accessible color schemes. There’s Contrast Checker. It’s not a very pretty site, but it’s a nice way to see if your color contrast passes. Is white text on this blue background going to have enough contrast to meet the WCAG standard?

Megan Zlock: There’s also Color Oracle. This is a Mac-only application that I use occasionally that you can turn on, and it changes the colors on your screen so you can get an approximation of somebody with some form of color blindness might see. And then for an additional reading that I don’t have time to go into, Microsoft’s Inclusive Design is great. I really recommend it. And for longer-form reading, A Web for Everyone is a book. It’s got great personas and everything in it.

Megan Zlock: As you code, I recommend checking out Inclusive Components. I go back to it so often, especially for their recommendations on how to build a good card component. And then I really do recommend, while you code, to test with keyboard. Try that out as you’re building. It’s so easy to just hit the tab button and try it out.

Megan Zlock: There’s some tips for keyboard accessibility. There’s the accessibility inspector in Chrome dev tools, idev in Chrome. That’s right there ready to go. If you want to add things on to Chrome, you can add axe DevTools. It can be a paid product, but the free one does allow you to scan your page for any violations. You can get a get around with a free version. If you’re not using Chrome, I do also like the Wave extension. It does mess up your page a little bit when you run it, but you can find all the violations. And then if you’re working more in the app space, there’s the accessibility inspector built right into X Code. You can just turn it on now. And then Flipper is also kind of a nice one. I haven’t used that one much, but we do use that one at Discord.

Megan Zlock And then finally validate. A few things that we do, some testing libraries that I recommend axe-core, especially if you’re using axe DevTools, it’s nice to test with the same thing both manually and in your testing suite. And then I added a couple of other NPM modules that we use as well to check if things have accessible names and things.

Megan Zlock: And then, lastly, for manual testing, this is just a list of tips from WebAIM or from Deque. You’ll see a lot… or actually, I think their names pronounced Deque. Anyway, they’re a big accessibility presence. So a lot of these links have their resources on how to do gestures and all of that. If you’re new to screen reader testing, I kind of recommend starting out with a touch screen, because then you, as a sighted person, can see what you’re touching and hear what it says, but just to start out.

Megan Zlock: And with that, I think I will wrap it up. I like to start here. If you’re new to accessibility, it’s never too early or too late to start. It’s never too early because you’ll always save yourself some work later. And it’s never too late either. If you’re just picking this up…

Megan Zlock: I picked this up like six, seven years ago and it’s been a learning process throughout. You learn so much just diving into it and really just testing and trying to make it work.

Megan Zlock: Anyway, that’s what I’m going to leave it on. I don’t know if I quite have time for questions, but I’ll turn off screen share here and see if we do. Let’s see, chat was going pretty quick, so I wasn’t quite able to follow, but let’s see.

Megan Zlock: Okay. I see one question from the audience. “How often do you work with product designers/UI/UX designers to ensure designs are accessible?” The accessibility team has three engineers, including myself, and we do have one designer who helps us out with that. And that’s if you just count our dedicated designer.

Megan Zlock: Since we work so closely with the design systems team, we technically have access to those folk too, because the design system should be accessible to start with. Of course, they make sure that our color contrast passes all of the standards and things like that. And there’s some work to be done if you go and check there, but we’ve got a really good team on it.

Megan Zlock: Let’s see, so someone else asked, “How do you test for people who are deaf or have no limbs?” I’ll start with the no limbs. There are a lot of accessibility devices out there, and for someone’s who’s paralyzed or has no limbs, there’s single switch buttons, there’s head WANs, there’s eye-tracking software, things like that.

Megan Zlock: For the most part, all of that technology leads back to keyboard accessibility, and eye tracking’s going to be like a mouse. If you are making sure that your application or website is accessible for keyboard, you are covering a lot of folks, so that one is really important. And then for Dev, that one’s a little bit harder. I would just say, as long as as much of your website is text as possible…

Megan Zlock: Media should always have a text alternative and stuff like that. As long as there is some text equivalent, everybody can interact with your content somehow, whether it’s like read back to them or visible to be read and all of that stuff. Anyway, I should probably hand it off since we are doing lightning talks. I’m on the east cost, so sorry if I don’t join you all for social time later, but I will kick it over to Kelsey for the next lightning talk.

Kelsey Shuler: All right, there, looks like I am up now. Let’s see, I will go ahead and share my screen now. And let’s see, can you all see this okay? Actually, I can’t even see chat anymore. Okay. There we go. Cool. All right. So hi, everyone.

“How To Survive Making a Big Mistake at Work? Lessons and Reflections” by Kelsey Shuler, Discord Engineering Manager, SRE

Kelsey Shuler: My name is Kelsey, my pronouns are she/her, and I manage the site reliability engineering team here at Discord. My team is responsible for defending the customer experience, while making sure that we don’t just throw people at the problem. We want to make sure that we’re not sacrificing our engineers to get that done.

Kelsey Shuler: Who am I to talk to you about this? I’ve spent many years as an SRE. I’ve managed teams of SRE for several years after that. And I’ve definitely caused my own share of outages. In addition, I’ve mentored other people as they’ve gone through their first outage. For better or for worse, making mistakes is something I’m used to doing.

Kelsey Shuler: I would like to share with you a story for my very first and worst outage. A few months into my time as an SRE, I was working on a Friday during my company all-hands to upgrade the operating system on some of our servers.

Kelsey Shuler: At the time, this was a manual process. It required running a handful of commands by hand, but as all-hands is going, I see real key engineers get up and leave the room. I think, “Huh, that’s kind of weird, wonder what’s going on.”

Kelsey Shuler: But eventually, I also receive a page that goes to the entire on-call rotation that things are very, very broken. I’ve heard from people after the fact that it was maybe a little bit alarming to see the entire infrastructure team stand up and leave all-hands all at the same time.

Kelsey Shuler: Essentially, what ended up happening is I ran a command that ended up wiping a large number of live production databases, because I just dropped some quotation marks from the command. This ended up leading to a large outage that brought down different parts of the company for four days, led to 20 people working around the clock through the weekend. It was a substantial problem.

Kelsey Shuler: To add even more color to the degree to which things were broken, for years after this happened, this was one of only two incidents that my company continued to talk about. It was part of the new employee onboarding. We used to explain how we handled these sort of situations and was only one of two incidents that we actually gave special names to. This one was called The Last Outage or TLO.

Kelsey Shuler: Not only that, but of course on the anniversary of my outage, we decided to have a whole event for this, called it Trustworthiness Week. People got special stickers to put on their laptops. For years after that, I got to see stickers of my big mistake. And we had lots of conference rooms that actually ended up being named because of this outage.

Kelsey Shuler: Hopefully, I’ve given you an idea of what my credentials are. I’ll go back to the incident itself. As I mentioned, we paged everyone because our site is down. Everyone’s scrambling to try to figure out what’s going on, and I’m mostly just off to the side. I’m very junior at this point, and I’m just waiting around the off chance I can be helpful, but then I had my oh-no moment.

Kelsey Shuler: Someone mentioned something that sounded suspiciously close to something I’ve been doing during all-hands. My stomach had that big, heavy, awful feeling, and I just felt like I knew that somehow I must have done something wrong.

Kelsey Shuler: At this point though, I got one of the more senior SREs, told him that I felt like this might be related to some work I had been doing, and walked him through what I had been doing. He was able to grab other people. They were able to confirm that this was the root cause of what had happened.

Kelsey Shuler: And we used this, actually, work to help recover the site. For my particular [inaudible], It was really important that I worked to get the right people informed, I helped spread knowledge, and get that extra help.

Kelsey Shuler: The next day, I think, is something that you don’t necessarily think about or expect is how hard it is to go back to your job after a large mistake. For me, coming in that Monday was so difficult. I had an entire weekend of just thinking about how things were so broken, how there’s an entire team of people who had their weekends ruined, and everything was my fault. I felt like there was no way they weren’t going to fire me.

Kelsey Shuler: Even if they didn’t fire me, I didn’t know how I was going to keep doing my job, where it was dangerous and I could just drop quotation marks and everything would be broken again and then, of course, they would fire me. When I got in though, I had great people around me giving me the same advice. “It’s okay. This happens to everyone who works in our field. We shouldn’t have allowed the tools to allow someone to wipe the databases. Our backups should have been in a better place to recover faster, but most importantly, we don’t blame you.”

Kelsey Shuler: When it’s your turn, take these things to heart. Come in, but give yourself space and time to get back to normal. Find work to you that feels like it’s safe to be able to tackle.

Kelsey Shuler: Moving forward, for this section, I think it’s really important to talk about things that could be done by the company and by the individual. While an individual could take action that leads to something going wrong, ultimately, it’s the group that’s responsible for what happened.

Kelsey Shuler: Here at Discord, we make sure to adopt a blameless post-mortem process when something goes wrong. We shouldn’t be pointing fingers, but instead, every time that some major mistake happens, we should be learning from it. At every turn, we ask ourselves “What changes can prevent something like this from happening again?”

Kelsey Shuler: But this is only something we can do if people are safe enough to be able to be honest about what occurred. We don’t want people hiding or trying to avoid detection because they’re afraid.

Kelsey Shuler: As a leader here, I’m also that person to make sure that this can happen. I make sure that I help people bounce back from their own mistakes. I work to make sure that they feel understood and they’re not alone as they’re going through something like this.

Kelsey Shuler: For my part of the talk, I’ll leave you with one piece of advice. For you individually, though, be patient with yourself. Find out how you can learn and grow from your mistake and then come back better than ever.

Kelsey Shuler: With this, I have a couple of minutes left. I would love to actually have you all talk about your mistakes. Throw it in the chat, if you’re comfortable. I don’t know if we’re able to have you all come up and share, but I think that would be really amazing if anyone was willing to speak to a mistake that you’ve made. Let everyone know that it’s something that happens to everyone. If we can’t facilitate that, cool, but I think share this.

Kelsey Shuler: I think it’s really good for us to feel comfortable owning the fact that we’re going to make mistakes and we all do it. But yeah, that’s my talk. I’ll go ahead and call it here then. And I will go ahead and hand things over to Natalie to talk about product marketing.

Natalie Grant: Okay, can you guys hear me? Oops. Lost the window here, one second. Okay. Trying this again. How’s that? Can you hear and see me? Okay, great. Thank you for the people who said yes. I was kidding, chat. All right. Awesome. Hi everybody. I’m Natalie Grant. My pronouns are she/her. And I am a, oops. Hang on. Can’t see my screen. Okay, one second. There we go. Go. All right. I got it. Thanks everyone. Okay, I’m going to try sharing my screen one more time. Here we go. Okay. Got it. All righty. Thank you. Such a supportive chat. Thank you guys. Okay, so I’ll start over again.

“Product Marketing: Speaking the Language of Technical Storytelling” by Natalie Grant, Discord Developer Product Marketing Manager.

Natalie Grant: Hi everyone. My name’s Natalie Grant, and I’m a product marketing manager for Discord developers. Those are the people who build apps and bots on Discord using our API. And today, oh no. Are people still having trouble? Okay. Some people can see, some people can’t, I’m not sure why. Okay. I’m going to keep going. But if someone wants to let me know a tip here, I can adjust. Okay. Yeah.

Natalie Grant: I’m a product marketing manager for Discord developers, those are the folks who build apps and bots on discord using our API. And today, I’m going to talk a little bit about what product marketing is and why I love it and how to approach technical storytelling.

Natalie Grant: In a nutshell, you have a product organization with someone who’s managing the product, and you have a marketing organization with lots of subject matter expertise. I’m going to give a quick caveat, lots of companies are different. I’m going to share a high level example of how you can think about it based on my experience. You’ve got a PM and you’ve got lots of subject matter experts who specialize in specific things. And what product marketing is… Oh, good. Someone’s interested in this role. Love to hear it.

Natalie Grant: What a product marketing manager does is connect these groups. Partnering really closely with product to identify the right people who are going to enjoy that product the most. We call that a target audience. And then, you work with the whole marketing organization to make sure that all of those subject matter experts can help you reach those people, which is what they do best.

Natalie Grant: In addition to working out what a target audience would be for that product, some other big things you’d work on are positioning, writing messaging, sometimes the name and the price of something. You get really close to customer feedback. Running qualitative and quantitative research, and just generally being the source of truth for that narrative about the product.

Natalie Grant: A PM and a PMM are really close partners. And a lot of the skills are very similar. Some companies don’t have both, and I’ll come back to that in a second. But first, I wanted to dive a little bit more into what a PMM does, because there’s a lot of acronyms and a lot of buzzwords. I’m going to use metaphors because we all love a good metaphor.

Natalie Grant: The first one is a center of gravity. Subject matter experts that you work with in a marketing organization and all of your cross-functional partners, they work on a ton of products. When you’re the PMM, it’s your responsibility to sort of bring them back continually to a source of truth about what the benefit of the product is and who the target audience is and represent that every single day.

Natalie Grant: And the other thing you want to do is, this is a metaphor that a mentor of mine used many years ago, and it might be my favorite because I still use it all the time, is I think about it like an orchestra. Your marketing partners are all the best at that instrument and they specialize in specific channels. For example, social media marketing, or email marketing or web marketing, PR and comms. And as a PMM, you need to make sure that they’re all in sync together. You need to make sure they’re using the same songbook and you need to make sure that things sound good for all the people who are listening.

Natalie Grant: I kind of think about it like being a conductor of an orchestra and really listening to what needs to happen and make sure everyone’s working together really well. You need to connect a lot of dots. Things like policy and legal and customer support. You obviously need to be really good at communicating, but specifically, you need to work on interpreting different technical information to who you’re talking to, depending on what it is they need to know. And then kind of clear everything else out of the way for them, because people need to know very specific things to do their job, but they don’t need to know everything.

Natalie Grant: Part of communicating with them is interpreting the most important information that they can bring your message out to all of your users. And then this was a bit of a spoiler because it was the title of my talk, but storytelling is very important, too.

Natalie Grant: You need to paint a picture. It’s not just what something is called or how much it costs or when it’s available, it’s really more about why they should care, why it will or won’t make their life better. Will it save them time, will it make them laugh? And there’s internal storytelling as well, pitching ideas and making those ideas resonate with people.

Natalie Grant: And actually before I was a PMM, I was a writer. That’s actually my background. Storytelling is my favorite part of the job. And so, I’m really lucky that I get to do it every day. And then the last one, which is kind of funny, but it’s true is a little bit of matchmaking. You have users who have a bunch of unmet needs and you have really talented engineers that can build all sorts of solutions.

Natalie Grant: When you’re working with technology, a lot of it truly is just matchmaking. Problems and solutions, people, and the solutions that will meet those needs. And so that’s a really fun part of the job as well. I’m rattling off a lot of skills, I do just want to kind of call out one thing, which is hard skills and soft skills are equally important.

Natalie Grant: If you have a hard skill like knowing SQL or getting certified in an analytics tool, or if you have an MBA or you can do strategic planning, you might also have soft skills like influencing and being curious and learning quickly or having executive presence so that you can represent your side of the business well when you’re talking to other teams. If you’re really strong on hard skills, but you don’t have a lot of soft skills, you can do really great work, but it’s harder for people to see it and appreciate it.

Natalie Grant: If you have soft skills without a lot of hard skills, people love you, but you aren’t adding as much value or driving impact. And as a PMM for many years, I really feel this equally, they are equally important and it is a continual practice to build them. And if you’re someone who is curious and likes learning new things, PMM-ing is definitely a great job for you because personally, I feel like almost every week, I’m learning a new skill or practicing a skill that I haven’t used in a long time.

Natalie Grant: If that sounds enjoyable to you, which it is for me, then definitely consider PMM-ing as a career.

Natalie Grant: Going back to these metaphors, I wanted to kind of emphasize some things to keep in mind about when you’re playing this role with all of your internal partners. In order to be the center of gravity, to maintain that source of truth for everybody you’re working with, you need to stay curious and you also need to be comfortable not fully understanding all the technology every day.

Natalie Grant: You kind of need to get to the heart of it, get to the benefit of it, and be able to assess risk mitigation, but you don’t necessarily need to program it or understand all the complexities involved. And that can sometimes be a delicate dance to do with yourself when it comes to confidence and learning things quickly. It’s a continual practice. You also need to be really good at listening and influencing and syncing people up.

Natalie Grant: Sometimes we call this driving alignment. It’s kind of a buzzword-y thing, but it’s true. You need to spot patterns and solutions when you’re talking to multiple people. You might start to hear themes pop out. And so, if you’re able to recognize an ongoing challenge that multiple people are flagging to you, you can then go back to your product team and see if you can build a solution to address all of those at once.

Natalie Grant: Getting comfortable, thriving and ambiguity, as they say. And then, I did mention research, qualitative and quantitative research when you’re getting to know your customer, your target audience. It sounds kind of obvious, but you need to care about people.

Natalie Grant: You need to empathize with people, especially if you aren’t personally in that target audience. And that’s something that I like calling out because I think it’s easy to forget that at the end of the day, when you are a PMM, the power of empathy, the power of putting yourself in someone’s shoes.

Natalie Grant: This was talked about a little bit in the accessibility lightning talk as well, is a really, really important thing to maintain. If you care about people and you like hearing what their needs are, again, might be a good candidate for a PMM. I wanted to bring it back to this image here and end with a little bit of advice for people who are thinking of interviewing for a PMM role or thinking about being a PM or PMM, which not all kind companies have both. I mentioned this earlier. It’s really awesome when they do.

Natalie Grant: I love it when they do, Discord does, but some questions to think through when you’re interviewing for a PMM role.

Natalie Grant: INumber one, ask about the company’s philosophy on product marketing, because companies are different. Some marketing teams are very brand focused, some companies are very and driven, and a PMM being that center of gravity really needs to have a robust understanding of how to be successful in that company. Definitely ask about that, directly, I would recommend.

Natalie Grant: And number two, pay attention to your PM partner when you’re interviewing, because you’ll probably be working with them every single day. And I’m super lucky, we have fantastic PMs at Discord and I love working with every single one of them. And I actually knew that from my first interview because it was something I was specifically looking for.

Natalie Grant: And then the third thing is, like I mentioned, you got to be comfortable with ambiguity. Nothing is ever constant. Things are going to change. Companies grow, people come and go. The world is also unpredictable. You just kind of have to be flexible and jump in and just kind of always think of it with a curiosity mindset and an openness. Personally, I have been in situations at past companies where I didn’t have a PM at all. And I had to step into many aspects of that role until we got someone in place, which brings me to my final point, which is…

Natalie Grant: Many skills overlap, especially the research, communication and influencing part. It’s not uncommon for PMMS to move into product management and vice versa. And at Discord, actually last year, one of our PMMS moved into a PM role.

Natalie Grant: Becoming a PMM opens up a lot of doors for you because you get exposure to all sorts of roles and functions. And this works with the subject matter experts as well. I’ve had friends that started as a more generalist and then worked with all these subject matter experts, the people playing all those instruments, the best at what they do, and were just drawn to one of them. I really just love this person who does paid media or PR.

Natalie Grant: And because you work with all those people, you can kind of see the benefits of being in that position and then you can make a career condition. And I also have a good friend who went the other way. I knew someone who was a social media marketer, worked with me as her PMM and then said, this looks really interesting. And she became a PMM eventually as her career track. It does happen.

Natalie Grant: You get a lot of great exposure being in this role. And I just kind of wanted to emphasize that if you’re curious and you like learning new things and you’re comfortable working with technology and explaining technology to people and telling stories, then you’re a prime candidate to be a PMM. I hope that was helpful.

Natalie Grant: And maybe someone watching just got convinced that this might be a good part of their career. If that’s you and you’re listening, go do it. I wish you all the fun and fulfillment and adventure. I think I’m going to hand it off to Nancy next.

Nancy Liu: Hello. Can you guys see me and hear me? Awesome. Yeah. Thank you so much. This is Nancy and I feel really, really excited to be here and meet with you in this event. And also, thank you so much in advance for your time with me today.

Nancy Liu: Just to share a little bit more about myself, I joined Discord about five months ago and I’m a data science manager supporting the marketing data science team. For today’s topic, I will talk about marketing incrementality test. Let me quickly share screen. Can you see my screen well? Okay, awesome. I understand this topic could be a little bit too technical, so I will try to provide as much context as possible and also speak from high level, hopefully to make it easy to understand for everyone here.

Nancy Liu: Before getting started, I want to briefly share my opinion on how I think data science team can add value to marketing in general. I think, Natalie just gave us a really great talk about product marketing, which really resonated with me really well.

Nancy Liu: And I feel really excited about what our marketing team is doing and how data science team can support marketing as well. In my opinion, I think data science can help marketing from many different areas, especially in two areas.

Nancy Liu: One is targeting, one is environment. Targeting means who we should target with our marketing programs. For example, which users should receive our marketing notification or which countries should receive our marketing campaigns. Environment means how do we qualify the impact from our marketing programs? The marketing incrementality test, which we are going to talk about today, is about environment piece, the second piece.

Nancy Liu: I will first talk about the marketing incrementality task in general. Then I will share a real example about how we measure brand marketing using geo test. Give me a second. Let me try to find my slides. I can only see the screen share for now. Yeah, here we go.

“Marketing Incrementality Test: Mathematical Approach to Measure Incremental Lift” by Nancy Liu, Discord Data Science Manager Marketing Data Science & Analytics

Nancy Liu: First, let me explain what is a marketing incrementality test. This is basically a data science approach that measure incremental lifts to show the true impact of our marketing campaign. You basically have test group and a control group. You can spend your marketing dollars or marketing efforts at a test group while do not spend your marketing dollars or marketing efforts as a control group. You measure the difference between the two in the end. This is called incrementality test.

Nancy Liu: Why is incrementality test important? First of all, it tells us how effective the marketing efforts is. It can also help us understand whether our marketing return is worth a marketing investment, which can help us to optimize the allocation of marketing dollars and marketing budgets. Oh, you cannot see the share screen. Is that a problem for everyone?

Nancy Liu: Oh, awesome. Thank you. There are two general approach or methods we can do to measure incrementality. The first method is called A/B test. Second one is geo test. I just want to highlight that A/B test and the geo test, they are not really alternatives to each other because they’re actually applied in different scenarios or different situations.

Nancy Liu: Let’s talk about each of the methods one by one. First A/B test. I’m sure a lot of people might already be familiar with A/B test. Basically, you define a group of users as the audience. For example, if you work for social media company, the group of users you define could be all the daily active users in US and Canada. And then you can randomly place the users into test group and control group and spend marketing efforts or dollars in the test group. In the end, you compare the difference between the test group and the control group. And that gives you the incrementality.

Nancy Liu: Second, let’s talk about the geo test, which is shown on the right side of the slide. Unlike A/B test, geo test is now looking at individual user behavior. Instead, it’s looking at each geolocation to define test and control. For example, test group could have 5G locations and the control group could have another 5G locations.

Nancy Liu: If we compare the difference between A/B test versus geo test, the biggest differences are that first of all, geo test is not really reliant on the ability to track individual user behavior. And Discord does care a lot about user privacy.

Nancy Liu: On the other side, there are only so many geo locations we can test with. According to news and definition, there are only 210 DMAs, which means designated market areas in US. 210 is really a very small simple size. And what comes with that is there’s always some natural differences between two geo locations.

Nancy Liu: The challenge of geo test is that because of the limited number of geos, geo test actually lose a lot of statistical power to reach stats significance, and cannot really control external factors very well. It’s really hard to say there is a perfect apple to apple comparison between test group and control group. Not as a challenge for geo test. However, given this challenges, there are still several scenarios we have to use geo test and cannot really apply A/B test.

Nancy Liu: The first scenario is that, for example, you want to test your SEM budget. SEM means search engine marketing, which means you increase the visibility of your company in search engine results page, primarily through paid ads, for example, on Google. Because we cannot really control who will search on Google and who will be exposed to search engine marketing, so we cannot really apply A/B task at user level very well.

Nancy Liu: The second scenario that we cannot really apply A/B test very well is about doing a test in non digital world. For example, you set up an ads on TV, or you set up a billboard in a train station. You cannot control which users will see the billboard in train station, right? That’s why you can not really do A/B test very easily at user level.

Nancy Liu: And in these two scenarios, we should consider geo testing instead of A/B test at user level. How do we do the geo test considering the challenge we mentioned earlier? In order to address challenges in practice, what we already do is call a match market test. In a match market test, we carefully select and match the geolocations based on their similarities to form pairs of regions.

Nancy Liu: For example, in a slide here, you can see that there were two orange pairs and two gray pairs. You randomly select one region in orange pair to control group and the other one in test group. And also you select one region in gray pairs into test group, while the other one should go to the control group. And your launch share marketing budget to the test group, and then reserve your marketing budget in the control group. After a while, you’ll compare the difference. For example, new user registration between test and control to conclude your incrementality.

Nancy Liu: We have talked about both A/B tests and the geo test. Now let’s switch the gear a little bit and talk about a real example of how we can measure brand marketing impact using geo test. This is also my last two slides for today.

Nancy Liu: Brand marketing is an upper funnel of marketing, which tends to focus more brand awareness. It’s unlike performance marketing, which is on the bottom funnel marketing and has direct impact on registration. Brand marketing does not really have very direct impact on KPIs, therefore it’s more difficult to measure the impact compared to performance marketing. In order to measure the impact of brand marketing, we do geo tests, use the match market test.

Nancy Liu: For example, we first select a few pairs of geo regions and assigned some to test and some to control. And then we spend the brand marketing dollars to test group only, while reserve the brand marketing dollars in control group. The statistical method we use is called BSTS or business structural time series. The series, not very difficult to understand. It’s just to predict what registrations will look like for the test group without brand marketing. I think Google created a very useful package, our package called causal impact. I also linked it here in case there is any interest to take a look into this for more research.

Nancy Liu: After doing the causal impact analysis with BSTS, you can just compare the counterfactual prediction, which means what registration will look like without brand marketing versus the actual performance on new user registration. The difference between a counterfactual prediction and actual will be the causal impact from brand marketing. That’s basically what I want to talk about for our marketing incrementality test.

Nancy Liu: Thank you so much for listening. Hopefully that’s easy to understand, even for the audience who is not that close to a marketing or data science world. Thank you so much. With that, I will hand it over to Jire.

Jire Bademosi: Thank you so much, Nancy. And thank you all for being here and getting to learn a little bit from some of the leaders at our company. I think we’ve talked about data science with Nancy, we talked about product marketing with Natalie, we talked about making mistakes with Kelsey, and we also talked about accessibility with Megan. And I’m curious, just in the chat, what are folks learning? What are folks feeling? How are we doing? Let’s see, oh, I hear from Felicia that has been wonderful. S

Jire Bademosi: hout out to everyone thus far, but I want to also introduce you to some more amazing leaders at the company. We’ve been so honored to see so many wonderful questions, comments, folks reaching out even on LinkedIn and sharing how this event has been really impactful for you. May want to continue that with this next portion of the event.

Jire Bademosi: I want you to help me welcome with a virtual hello and a virtual warm welcome to Evelyn Masso, as well as Mindy Day. I think Chloe as well will be joining us momentarily, but at least let us welcome a few folks for now. Hello, hello. Oh, there it goes, Chloe. Okay. Now we have a trio.

Discord leadership panel (Clockwise from top left: Jire Bademosi, Mindy Day, Chloe Shih, Evelyn Masso).

Mindy Day: Hello.

Jire Bademosi: All right. Y’all have seen me, kind of gotten to meet me before, but I feel it would be nice to meet some more folks from the Discord team. Maybe what we can do is just quickly start off with just our name, the team that folks are on. And then we really want to use this time to really benefit y’all and hear the questions that you are interested in hearing from. I’m going to just popcorn it around and I’m going to start off with Evelyn.

Evelyn Masso: Hey everyone. My name’s Evelyn, excited to be here. I’m the engineering manager for presentation frameworks. And my pronouns are she, they, and I think I forgot the last thing I was supposed to say or was that it actually?

Jire Bademosi: Well, you shared a little bit about your work so that’s good.

Evelyn Masso: Yeah. I’m the engineering manager for presentation framework, which includes the accessibility team, the design systems team and the foundation and performance team. Lots of UI infrastructure stuff is the part of the area that I work with.

Jire Bademosi: Amazing.

Evelyn Masso: I will go ahead and pass to Mindy.

Jire Bademosi: Awesome.

Mindy Day: Hello. Can you hear me? Test, test. Yes. Okay. Hi everyone. My name’s Mindy. I use she/her pronouns and I am the senior manager of community at Discord, which is on the marketing team. We really focus on surprising and delighting the discord community as well as creating programs for specific segments of our community like our partner program. And I’m excited to be here. Yay.

Jire Bademosi: Amazing. And Chloe, share a little bit about you.

Chloe Shih: Hey, y’all.

Jire Bademosi: I think we’re kind of matching, by the way. I’m noticing Chloe and I are matching, Evelyn and Mindy are matching. Totally uncoordinated, but coordinated at the same time. I love it. Okay. Sorry. Go ahead, Chloe.

Chloe Shih: No, not at all. I am a sub, so I’m a last minute addition to this panel. I feel I’m not ready with the cool backgrounds, but hi everyone. I’m Chloe, I’m a product manager on the community’s engagement team. We’re working on making Discord the home for your community and we are coming up with all kinds of features to make it easy for people to interact with each other and gather online. A few things we on are events and stages.

Chloe Shih: And if you have seen on my LinkedIn, I’ve posted about some new form type features that we’re testing out. It’s just really neat. Yeah, that’s my team.

Jire Bademosi: Amazing, amazing. Wonderful. Well, I think we have quite a few questions that have already come in, but I want to start with one that I think might allow us to learn a little bit more about the teams that we are part of and follows on the initial conversation that I had with Beena, where she talked a little bit about the people first mentality around how Discord treats both its employees and the environment that it creates.

Jire Bademosi: And this question from Karen asked how does Discord also create collaborative environments? We are a people first company, but really how do we create that collaboration?

Mindy Day: I could start. I think there’s kind of two types of collaboration that comes to mind. There’s collaboration within the immediate team. And so, making sure when we’re going to kick off new work or we get direction about a new area that we want to go, that everyone on the team has a chance to get informed about this work, and we give everyone, no matter your role, a chance to give feedback, brainstorm, because we know that good ideas can and often come from all across the business.

Mindy Day: Then the other part of collaboration that we do is cross-functionally. So not just even within our own community team but making sure that we collaborate with friends across the business and they get looped in with plenty of time to make sure whenever possible, we’re not surprising them with any last minute requests, and they can embed our plans in their plans.

Mindy Day: I think working for Discord and using Discord all day also facilitate that. We’re really casual. We’re always happy to jump into voice chats, to just hash things out with each other. And even though we are working remote, I think Discord really encourages that sort of collaborative environment, which is really fun.

Jire Bademosi: Amazing. Oh, go ahead, Evelyn.

Evelyn Masso: Big plus one on all of that, really. [inaudible] my answer.

Jire Bademosi: Fair enough. Now I’m kind of curious. I know we got straight into what is Discord and the collaboration that happens. But I also am curious just because we have so many folks from different parts of the company. So right now in this conversation, we have, Mindy from the community perspective, we have Chloe from the perspective of product and we have Evelyn from the perspective of engineering and all in different aspects, but all are part of that same unifying factor of what is Discord. And obviously our day to day look totally different.

Jire Bademosi: I’m curious, what is a day in the life of each of you? I know they could be very different but I think the folks want to know. I mean, I also selfishly want to know, but I think the folks as well, that are here would also to know more. Maybe we could start with you Chloe, not to put you on the spot but I am kind of sort of, yeah.

Chloe Shih: Oh man. Wow. It’s been so busy lately but I think right now we are in testing mode to see if this new big bet feature for community is going to work. And I think every morning I come into an inbox of a bunch of DMs from admins, community creators, and I try to get their feedback on what they want to see. I know that the world is moving virtually and we’re building these communities online.

Chloe Shih: We’re connecting online through interests. So how do we make that easy for people and safe and have authentic conversations and get people to connect and do it in a way that’s really natural for everyone? And I think trying to create that is really hard because there’s not a really great way to do that today. And Discord is the default for a lot of communities. So every morning I’m just tackling that question.

Chloe Shih: And then I go to stand-up, I work with all my engineers, I’m a designer. And then we do this thing called bike shedding, where we explore all kinds of different designs, how users might react to it if things don’t look right. Any wild ideas that we want to throw out. We also have couch time, which is unstructured time together to just sit, kind of co-working spaces. We sit together and if anyone has something they want to bring up, they can bring it up during couch time.

Chloe Shih: And then we have tactical meetings throughout the day, with data, with the community team, with Mindy’s team and with design and other leads and engineering. So lots of different meetings just to get to that next step of what do we need to do next? Are we solving the problems for our community members and hopefully have time for hangouts and getting boba with coworkers. Yesterday I had a coworker send me boba and I was like, “I love you.” So yeah, that’s I think the day of my life, yesterday, today combined.

Jire Bademosi: Amazing. That’s pretty awesome. I think that really brings into what the magic of our wompers world of Discord. I’m curious, Chloe, what is your day in the life like snows giving post or pre?

Chloe Shih: Wait, sorry, me?

Jire Bademosi: Mindy. Sorry.

Chloe Shih: Oh, okay. Yeah.

Mindy Day: Yes. I was just looking at my calendar because I was like, what do I do all day? A lot of meetings as well, similar to Chloe spend time meeting one on one with members of my direct reports. One-on-ones with key folks across the company to make sure that we’re staying aligned and we’re on the same path as things do develop very quickly and rapidly. A quick 30 minutes once a month with some people can go a long way and making sure we’re not veering off path.

Mindy Day: Definitely agree with making space for casual collaboration. We have a server where everyone on my team has a voice channel that’s their desk. So like Mindy’s desk. We can say things like, “Oh, meet me at my desk,” but we also have a Boba Guys voice channel. It just kind of makes it feel more fun when we can hang out in those voice channels.

Mindy Day: But yeah, truly a lot of meetings and desperately trying to find unblock off two hour chunks of focus time. Because I think two hours is the minimum amount of time that you need to really deep to then be able to write up strategies, the notion docs, to then hopefully have sources of truth for other people to reference and make sure that we know what the biggest strategy is and the vision.

Mindy Day: I truly love it. I think my career has developed where I’m not spending as much hands on time within the community and more of my focus is on the strategy. So that’s been a shift for me throughout the last couple years.

Jire Bademosi: Very awesome. I might have to take some of these ideas and perhaps bring them into the people talented vibe. I that idea of the desks as well. And next up, Evelyn. I’d love to hear from you a little bit about what you’re up to.

Evelyn Masso: Yeah. I love some of those ideas that I’m hearing too. I’m going to steal some these for sure. So yeah, I mean I’m also a managers, so meetings with one-on-ones usually every day or every couple days a week with folks on my team. All the teams that I work with do stand-ups every day. So there’s a couple stand-ups that kind of kick off my morning usually.

Evelyn Masso: And then since I’m engineering manager, a lot of my work has to do with coordination and project management. And also goal setting and kind of checking in on where we are in reaching those goals with different projects. And that also includes personal goals for people that I’m working with directly as well. One thing I was going to call out is… Yes, I’ve also been working with a larger usual team on a larger than usual project lately.

Evelyn Masso: There’s been a lot of coordination. We have something pretty interesting and exciting happening in a lot of six weeks or so. So there’s just been a lot of… The last couple weeks have been, especially cross-functional I would say, which is really fun. It’s great to have all that energy coming together as we have a project coming towards its completion, its launch.

Jire Bademosi: Very cool. I love the element of anticipation. Everyone heard that little nugget of-

Evelyn Masso: I can’t talk about it for sure. So, sorry.

Jire Bademosi: You can’t talk about it but let’s just keep our eyes peeled for the next six to eight weeks. Some news I guess, will be coming down the pipeline. I have a question specifically for you Mindy from Suzanne Guzman. How are you liking the shift from more community facing to larger strategizing? So more of the leadership role that you’re taking on within your team?

Mindy Day: Thank you for the question. It’s really rewarding. It was definitely a little nerve-wracking because I’d spent… So much of my job satisfaction and joy was getting to help those community members interact with them, build those relationships and hear firsthand the impact of our product on the community. But it was a shift that I had been wanting to make in my career. And a lot of the fulfillment now comes from enabling the members of my team to do that work successfully.

Mindy Day: And the strategy, the work that I’m doing at a higher level now should hopefully be driving a bigger impact for the community. So learning I’m one person, I can never do it all, but if I can shift my focus into build those relationships and securing more resources, we’ll actually be able to have a lot more value for the community. That’s kind of where my passion still drives is serving our community and treating them humans and being playful, but having a bigger picture and a bigger vision about what that could look in the future.

Jire Bademosi: Yeah. I feel there’s a lot of really good nuggets there, especially around moving from an individual contributor to more of a management role and still at the end of the day that core around really putting the users first is such a unique and important lens. And that’s important to recognize as we start to move within different roles within our respective careers.

Jire Bademosi: I know Evelyn not necessarily on the community side, but even on the engineering side, as you’re growing your team a lot even this year, how you’re starting to also think about how to build a team, well also maybe not doing the hands on work that you were doing probably earlier in your career.

Evelyn Masso: Yeah. That’s going to be easier because I’ve been doing management for a minute and I’m not as good as a quarter than I used to be. Part of it is just literally not being able to do it as much anymore. And also I’ve been at Discord about six or so seven months now. And while I’ve worked in tech stack that are similar, previously in my career, I haven’t really worked very much in the Discord code base itself.

Evelyn Masso: I rely on members of the team a lot when it comes to actually getting things done on the engineering side of things. As we think about growing the team and having more folks come on one of the big things that I’m, I guess working through with the teams and with myself is like, “How do I hand off more of the running the team parts too?” Kind of taking it even more of a strategic, further step back over time.

Evelyn Masso: That’s really helping me lean into my skills around coaching and mentorship, which are pretty big reasons why I became a manager in the first place, but those are things that I to do anyways. It’s really just kind of doubling down even more on those skills.

Evelyn Masso: And I think an important part of that is also learning what I need from folks that I work with directly to trust them and build trust with them and what they need for me to have trust in me. I can earn and build that trust reciprocally, and kind of having an active dialogue about what those things are and understanding those things take time too.

Jire Bademosi: Absolutely. Time. I feel that’s such a important phrase to really close with and thinking about how important that is when we’re thinking about this work. I just saw a note here and a question from Des, specifically for Chloe.

Jire Bademosi: And the question is, Chloe, what do you do to organize your time? You seem very busy and I guess Des wants to hear all the code, all of the awesome hacks that you might have in order to stay organized with all of the work that you’re leading.

Chloe Shih: Oh my God, I am the ultimate organizational catfish. It’s not true. I think that I struggle with this a lot, because there’s simply way too many things. And I think in product, there’s way too many priorities and everyone is asking you to do… Pull you in different directions. And you also interface with all kinds of teams and there’s little tasks to do all the time. I think that at the end of the day, there are a lot of different prioritization hacks.

Chloe Shih: You can use the Eisenhower decision making matrix, figure out what’s your high priorities. What’s urgent. There’s so many frameworks decide whether something should be done first or not. You can use task may management and to-do lists, but I’m really simple brained. And I just have a very… If I can only do one to three things today, what are those things?

Chloe Shih: And then I need to sit down and do it. I might also think about for the tasks that can only be done by me, what are those things? And for every anything else, can I delegate to someone else and parallel process the tasks and not let myself be the bottleneck?

Chloe Shih: Otherwise, I feel really bad about myself and my productivity, but I think the answer is setting boundaries and expectations on what should your scope of work be. Yeah. I think the answer is not to do everything and not to do everything as fast as you can is just picking out what to do as the art, which I’m still figuring out. But I think everyone struggles with it. Yeah. Everyone has their own strengths. But if anyone on the panel has crazy life hacks, I am all ears-

Jire Bademosi: Listen-

Chloe Shih: Looking for advice.

Jire Bademosi: You and me, both Chloe. You and me both. I might actually pop that question over to Mindy and Evelyn in case y’all have any hacks. I know Mindy you all use Asana really well on your team. And I think is a really good hack, but not to frame your question.

Mindy Day: Code lifelong struggle as well. I do think, yeah. Plus one to all the things that Chloe said, and so often we do put off the most impactful work in favor of just busying ourselves because it’s always so many other things to do. It’s so easy and comfortable to just let yourself be like, “Oh, there’s no time to do that thing that I kind of don’t want to do,” even though it might be the most impactful.

Mindy Day: I think once a quarter we try and do this little exercise where you just make a grid. Most impactful, most effort, least impactful least effort. And it’s a really just brutal way to just assess the facts about sometimes the high effort things that we are doing, even if we love doing them, aren’t having the most impact. And it’s just a way to kind of review that and reviewing your calendar too, to see where you’re spending your time.

Mindy Day: These things are good practices to start doing to just assess because you got to focus.

Jire Bademosi: Yes. Yes to that. And tomorrow is Thursday at Discord and Thursday everywhere else in the world. But on Thursdays we have a no meeting Thursday which started off as a pilot as a way for us to really try to have more, both autonomy on our schedules, but also thinking about how we might be able to prioritize. I will be the first admit that sometimes end up scheduling a couple meetings here or there, but for the most part, it’s a pretty cool practice. I think just emphasizes that hopeful practice of being diligent with our time.

Jire Bademosi: Evelyn, not to put you out there too, but I’m curious if you have any hacks where the folks who are curious.

Evelyn Masso: Yeah. It’s really a simple hack. I use a paper to-do list and I just cross things off as I do them. And then if I haven’t done something for a while and it’s way back at my to-do list, I will ask myself like, “Is this actually important? Did I not do it because it’s not important or it can happen later or am I avoiding it?” And then I can kind of think like, “Okay, no, you really have to go do that. You’ve been avoiding it for 10 to do items.” Or be like, “Okay. Actually that wasn’t something that you really needed to worry about.” But for some reason, for me, having it be written on a paper and getting to cross things off and just have it go a forever list kind of has been really helpful.

Jire Bademosi: Absolutely. And as I think about all of the lightning talks that we had today, where we were able to hear a little bit from various parts of the company. I think something that resonated with me was also hearing Kelsey’s talk around mistakes or lessons that we might have learned in our career, whether it’s either currently or in recent past or a long time ago or early on in our careers.

Jire Bademosi: Are there any lessons or words of wisdom that you’d to leave the folks here with? I think it would be great to hear from each of you because you have so many different perspectives that could really resonate with folks as we bring our leadership panel to a close today. I’m happy to start as well.

Mindy Day: Yeah, you start.

Jire Bademosi: Okay. Perfect. I mean, I think for me some of the lessons that I’ve learned or one, my mom always told me this, but from a very early age, the worst they can say is no. And that really has helped me a lot, especially when I was starting a non-profit organization out of my college dorm room. Everyone was starting actual for-profit startup. And I was like, “Oh, I’m going to start a non-profit.” You automatically have no money to be made.

Jire Bademosi: I think knocking on doors, figuring out how to get through all of the no’s really taught me a lot and built a thicker skin in me as far as what’s possible and what’s not. And then how I apply that in a corporate lens is sometimes that really gives me some strength as far as like, what is and isn’t possible.

Jire Bademosi: And I always say that, especially in the tech world, it’s Disneyland, it’s make believe and that none of these companies existed when I was five years old. So all of what we can do is really up to us and our innovation and our persistence to be able to really reach what it is that we want to. I feel those are some of those lessons that even from a young age that I still apply to myself today. Go ahead.

Chloe Shih: I can share, I guess a nugget of wisdom. I guess I’m trying to frame it as if I were to tell my younger self, give her some advice, what would it be? And I think that for so long in school and college and how I viewed the world society and work, I’ve always kind of acclimated towards the societal norm. And I always said, “I need to do that because everyone’s doing that.”

Chloe Shih: I think that I was so obsessed with someone else’s system of beliefs that when I finally went to go explore the things that I really enjoyed, and I discovered what I did and didn’t like, and I found my own voice. I just wish I didn’t blindly follow as much. And I wish I questioned more.

Chloe Shih: I wish I challenged myself to really think whether I like what I’m doing and whether it’s the right thing and what it gives to myself and every day is really precious. And I know that some exploration, it requires some exploration for myself to get to that point of deciding what something means to me. But protecting my time and protecting my intentions and how I want to develop and protecting who I want around me and the problems I want to face every day, I wish I took more intentional steps earlier. Yeah.

Jire Bademosi: All great advice. Curious, Evelyn and Mindy, any last words, or if you were to speak to younger self or other lessons along the way that you’d to share with folks? All right. Well-

Mindy Day: Oh, sorry.

Jire Bademosi: Oh, go ahead.

Mindy Day: I was trying to give Evelyn… Evelyn wanted to go. Younger self…

Mindy Day:I think in tech things move very quickly and you finish one project while you are working on another and encouraging yourself just to pause and reflect on far you have gone and how much you have learned even in a month, six months, 12 months, just to give yourself some grace and some kindness with learning new things constantly. It’s very tiring.

Mindy Day:And I think burnout is so prevalent in tech. So making saying those boundaries like Chloe mentioned, reflecting on truly how much you have learned even though you are moving so quickly. And then some of the things that I have written on a sticky note, just remind us for myself every day is just to have fun.

Mindy Day:We get paid to work on these problems together and challenges and anyone who can make each day coming to work a little more fun, makes everyone’s job a little easier.

Mindy Day: Saying no and remembering that you are the expert and they hired you for a reason and they’re paying you for your time and your expertise. And to just be more confident in what your gut is telling you, because so often even now after doing it for 10 years, I still feel an imposter or question whether I should speak up and I need that daily reminder to trust myself.

Jire Bademosi: Amazing.

Evelyn Masso: One other thing I’ll add too which is, I feel a lot of time in my career I’ve been focused on what is the problem? Or what is broken that I need to work on to fix? Whether at work or something I’m working on for myself and a big part of things recently for me have been…

Evelyn Masso: That’s a way to approach things but also making more space for being grateful and appreciating the things that are good or okay, as well alongside of things that you want to change or dig into more. So having a little more space for that is something I think is really important.

Jire Bademosi: Amazing. Well, first off, I just want to thank you all for the time that you’ve shared with us. The gems that you dropped. To all the folks in the audience, major thank you for being here today with us. The time for our leadership panel has come to a close. So big thank you, Chloe, Evelyn and Mindy for your time today.

Jire Bademosi: However, we have a few more things in store and that’s one introducing my colleague in bringing up Lauren to the stage. And then I believe after that, there is a networking session that Andy will be talking a little bit about later. But again, thank you, Chloe and Mindy and Evelyn for your time. And I will be passing the mic over to Lauren. And I think this also ends my monopoly of the microphone today, but thank you all for having me and hopefully I’ll get to see you all. (silence).

Angie Chang: Hi. It seems we’re waiting for Lauren or I could find her. Okay. We’re waiting for Lauren to join. There we’re. All right.

Jire Bademosi: I think we might be having a few technical issues with promoting Lauren up, but I think we can at least do our best and see if we can try and bring her up again. But I don’t see her in the attendees. So Angie, maybe we can quickly tag teams so that we can at least open up the networking rooms while we have folks.

Angie Chang: Okay, cool. So I guess what I could do is say thank you for joining us for our first virtual Girl Geek X virtual event. Jire you are an amazing host. Thank you so [crosstalk] all the things. And first of all, tell us about Discord and then hosting Beena and having a panel and just entire event was this is amazing.

Angie Chang: I think we all can feel the warm energy of the Discord women. So I think everyone’s energized to learn more about working at Discord. We’ll be emailing out jobs to everyone who’s registered as well as a link to a survey. So be able to look out for that.

Angie Chang: We enjoy having Jire, Beena, Megan, Kelsey, Natalie, Nancy, Evelyn, Mindy, Chloe, and maybe Lauren will be joining us to talk about recruiting. But in the meantime, we will be having some networking. Starting now we will be putting people into breakout rooms.

Angie Chang: We’ll be hopping off this webinar and going into Zoom breakout rooms where you’ll be meeting four to six, maybe other girl geeks. Whoever can stay for another half an hour or so. And we’ll shuffle the rooms three times. So you’ll be in each room for about 20 minutes. And you’ll see a one minute warning when it’s time to wrap up and we’ll be putting the link into the chat that you can click on and go to the Zoom meeting. And that way we can see you on the other side and where you can be in your rooms.

Angie Chang: You can have your own little name that you change to say whatever we wanted to say. And yeah, will, you’ll just see you in that Zoom meeting. And if you can hang out with us, please do. If not, if you’re on the East Coast, you can go to bed. You’ve had a long day. So thank you so much for being with us. And we will see you in the Zoom breakout rooms, if you would to continue chatting with girl geeks. Other than that, yeah.

Jire Bademosi: Thank you so much, Angie. Thank you to the Girl Geek X community. We’re incredibly honored to be here with you all. You will be hearing from us. If you are interested in roles, we really would love to meet you and get to know you and hear your stories and hope to find a role that’s right for you.

Jire Bademosi: We have curated a few roles that Angie will be sharing with you all in the next day or so as well as an open opportunity. Maybe you don’t see the role that you’re really passionate about. That is totally fine. We do have an open ended roles so we can make sure to hopefully engage as many of you as possible. But again, thank you so much for your time. We hope you learned something new.

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

Webflow Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks & Panel Q&A! (Video + Transcript)

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

Transcript of Webflow Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks & Panel Q&A:

Angie Chang: Hi! Welcome to Girl Geek Dinner virtually in a pandemic. This is the Webflow Girl Geek Dinner 2021. My name’s Angie Chang and I’m the founder and CEO of Girl Geek X. Hi, Sukrutha! I want you to introduce yourself.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi! I’m Sukrutha and yes, Angie’s partner in crime whenever I can be a good partner to her. Welcome everyone to the Webflow Girl Geek Dinner!

Angie Chang: I wanted to like really quickly say a bit about what Girl Geek is and kind of go back to the beginning where I started Girl Geek Dinners in like over a decade ago, where I was just really excited to put women on stage at different companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now that we are doing this virtually, we can have people join us from around the world. We have people of all genders coming from all cities around California normally. Now we get to have people from all over the world! Thank you so much for coming and if you want to tell us where you’re joining us from in the chat, we would love to see where you’re dialed in from. We not only do Girl Geek Dinners in-person and virtually…

Angie Chang: We also do an annual virtual conference every International Women’s Day – March 8th usually – we are doing our International Women’s Day conference called Elevate. That’s an all day event with lots of speakers and sponsors talking about what they’re working on. It’s like a really all day Girl Geek Dinner, where you learn so much and then you got to meet other women. And you can also… There’s a call for speakers so if you haven’t that email, you should look at the website and there is a link to apply so you can become a speaker.

Angie Chang: We had at least three speakers, I believe last year, who came in through the submission process. I encourage you to think about what your expertise is and apply to speak. We are reviewing everything in about a month. What else is there? Am I forgetting anything else?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: No, but I did want to say given the Elevate conference is our favorite time of year, we absolutely would love you to apply right away. Don’t overthink it, just do it. There’s a lot of times that we don’t see enough female speakers at tech conferences or conferences in general, just because of unconscious bias that we put on ourselves.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I feel like sometimes we think it has to be perfect when it doesn’t, it just needs to be authentic. So please go ahead and apply.

Angie Chang: I think it’s about time to bring on our first speaker. Arquay Harris is going to be telling us a bit about Webflow, I’m really excited to hear her speak about the company.

Angie Chang: She is the VP of Engineering at Webflow and previously we knew her in her previous life as a Slack Director of Engineering and you might recognize her we kind of always say, oh, my God, if someone asks us like, “Did someone get hired from a Girl Geek Dinner?” We’re like, “Yes, Arquay. She got hired at the Slack Girl Geek Dinner and has worked there for about four years, I believe. And yeah, I’m just super happy that you’re now at Webflow. You’re going to tell us all about it. I heard so much about no-code and the growing company, so yeah, I’ll pass the baton to you. Welcome, Arquay.

Arquay Harris: Excellent. I hope like I’m not the only person who’s got hired. I think it’s like I’m in good company of all the people. First we’re just going to learn almost everything that you wanted to know about Arquay – consider it your Arquay 101, if you will. But before I get into it…

Arquay Harris: I’ve been going to Girl Geek for a very long time. I’ve considered myself an OG kind of person. I looked at my email and I thought like, what is the earliest Girl Geek that I ever went to? And I found this ticket from 2009 and it was some company called LOLapps. Does anyone even know what LOLapps is? I literally have no idea what that is. I had to go on Wikipedia, I think it’s like a Facebook game or something and I don’t know if it exists but it’s the funniest thing, and I know I went to one before 2009, but this is the oldest one I could find in Gmail and all my Yahoo mail has been deleted. That was pretty funny.

Arquay Harris: I really support the organization. I really love their mission and what they’re trying to do. I really am sincere supporter of Girl Geek. Really quick pronounced R-kway, really sorry to disappoint, it’s nothing exotic like an African princess or anything like that. My parents really just like SEO. I say this a lot and people don’t believe me, but it actually is the truth that’s why I’m named Arquay.

Arquay Harris: I thought a really good introduction would be to talk about my kind of traditional, non-traditional background. Growing up I really loved math and as you can see, I one day dreamed of visiting this island nation of Sohcahtoa, and so I was president of the math honor society, and I really loved math. I went to college to become a math teacher. It’s because I had pretty humble beginnings and I really believe that math is like the kind of great equalizer.

Arquay Harris: You can math and science your way out of poverty so to speak. I had an after-school job though that really introduced me to things like Photoshop and Illustrator. Even though I loved math, I noticed that I was most engaged when I was kind of doing this stuff. I transferred schools and I studied media arts and design, and I got into coding because I didn’t like this process of handing off my designs to someone else. I thought I’m really analytical like I learned to code, I will have this math background, I could learn to code, and so then I started with Flash and then PHP, later and then Python.

Arquay Harris: I later went on to grad school and I did more coding of fine art painting, and so the really interesting thing about me I would say is, even though I’m a developer and I very much consider myself an engineer, I actually have been MFA. I’m a formerly trained designer and it’s really served me well just in my career and in my life to be able to have these informed conversations about topography and color and understand what can be built.

Arquay Harris: I like to tell that story because people often say like, “Oh, I really want to get into coding. I really want to like do this technical thing. I don’t know if I can do it, you can do it. We can all do it. I think there’s no one true direction or path and everyone’s journey is different.

Arquay Harris: This is a good transition into what I do all day. I’ll tell you a little bit about what I do at Webflow. The thing that I really like about Webflow, especially if you hear my story is how Webflow is really invested in kind of democratizing this idea of creating things for the web, visual development platform.

Arquay Harris: Previously there were these gatekeepers, it was like you had to have a CS degree and it was only coders and only people who had like done a certain thing could really create these experiences for the web. I really identify with that mission as well as the fact that I think it really aligned with my design and kind of artsy background. It’s almost a perfect gig for me. I really dig it.

Arquay Harris: Really quickly, I’m sure you’re wondering VP of Engineering. What does this person even do all day? Well, I do this combination of what you might have heard called the Three Ps, which is people, processes, product. Those are the kind of main things that a VP of Engineering does, but process being like how you actually develop software. People is the mentoring piece. Product is the actual strategy of what we’re doing. And then I even have my kind of own framework where I really believe in advocating for the people on my team execution, which is kind of the bread and butter of what engineering managers do.

Arquay Harris: Then these business priorities, because it really matters like you could advocate all day and you could execute all day, but if it doesn’t align with the business priorities, then there’s probably an issue there. So I just wanted to give you a high level, an intro, setting you up for this talk, telling you a little bit about me and my story.

Arquay Harris: I’ll be here later asking questions in the Q&A, if you have any more questions about me or the product or Webflow in general, because we are hiring, we’ll be here talking to you about our open roles and all that stuff. I look forward to talking to all of you and you’re in for a great night. I’m a little bit biased, but really it’s going to be good. So yeah, I’m about to hand it off. Okay. There you go. That’s it. I highly recommend you put puppies in your presentation if you need to take a sip of water. Who’s up next?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: You’re so cool. Oh, my God. Yeah. You’re one of our favorite girl geeks ever, because every time we’re greatly entertained and amazed by what’s going on in your career. Right. So, before my daughter interrupts us Jiaona Zhang is next. Oh, my gosh, she’s an amazing, amazing, cool coster and VP of Product at Webflow, and she’s also an active angel investor or lecturer at Stanford University and of course created Reforge. Oh, my gosh welcome.

Jiaona Zhang: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here and that is so adorable hearing your daughter’s voice. All right. I do not have a puppy poster or segue while I drink water and pull up my slides so give me one second.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: All righty.

Jiaona Zhang: So excited to be here. I lead product at Webflow and just a little bit of background on me. I started my career actually in consulting and really wanted to not be advising and actually be on the other side of the table and truly operating. I started my career in product by being a product manager at a mobile gaming company. Definitely not something I thought I would do growing up, but it was a really great way for me to get my hands dirty and learn how to ship things. I spent time at Dropbox, at Airbnb, at WeWork, and then ultimately made it to Webflow.

Jiaona Zhang: I’m so excited similar to Arquay, in terms of being able to work on a mission statement that is really about empowering everyone to build. As someone who didn’t have a technical background, I was an econ major in school being able to create tools so that all of us, no matter what your degree was or what you’ve studied, you can build and you can actually build for the web. That’s just something that I think is so exciting and democratizing. I’m happy to talk about my background a little more later in the Q&A but today I actually wanted to share five lessons in product strategy.

Jiaona Zhang: First of all, product strategy is something that I think a lot of people scratch their heads out they’re like, “What is it exactly? Is it the company strategy? Is there something different like what’s a strategy? How do I know I have good strategy?” What I want to walk through today is what I’ve personally learned over my career in terms of what strategy is, and also how do you really go about bringing that to life and going through some examples there? I don’t believe in progressive disclosure so I’m going to go ahead and share the five lessons at a high level. Then we will go through each one and talk about in more detail

Jiaona Zhang: The five lessons that I’ve learned is first, the most innovative company start with a really bold mission, then this concept of your strategy, and we’ll talk about what? This thing, it really should look like a pyramid from your mission down to your strategy. The next thing I’ve really learned is that it’s really important to articulate real user value before business value. Lesson four, you do not have to do it yourself and then lesson five is you to bring your product tragedy to life. You actually design it into your organization. That’s one of the best ways to execute on it

Jiaona Zhang: Let’s go ahead and get started with each one and talk a little bit more about what each one means. So for the first one, the most innovative companies start with a bold statement. We’re going to do a little bit of interactive at Q&A and I sense that I’m going to ask people to put some stuff in chat. So, first of I’m curious if people know what Tesla’s mission statement is, if you do take a moment and just go ahead and type it into the chat, and we’ll see if anyone does, everyone has it.

Jiaona Zhang: Mark saying, just do it, just do it. It’s whatever you think a lot of people have no idea. Okay. That’s really interesting. Ruling the world. Okay. Boom Boom. Well, I know SpaceX is just to colonized Mars so I’m assuming that Tesla is also very grand. Okay. Caroline has, bingo, essentially to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. That’s literally exactly what their mission statement is, to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. And the reason why this is meaningful is because when you have a mission statement that is something like this, it enables you to really innovate towards this fourth star.

Jiaona Zhang: Imagine a world where Tesla’s mission statement was to build the best electric vehicle or to build the best luxury car or to build whatever else, right? Like it would really limit what they do. It would limit the concept of, hey, you know what we actually should do in order to achieve this mission of transition to world sustainable energy, we should have a vehicle, but we also maybe should have solar panels. We should also have charging stations. Like how do we get the world to be using sustainable energy much more? And so when you have something that is much broader than what you’re currently working on a mission that is inspiring and really ambitious, it actually creates that room for innovation and it really allows you to think bigger around how can I achieve that ultimate mission?

Jiaona Zhang: I’m curious if anyone knows what Airbnb’s mission is? How’s the world? Share. It’s really interesting. There’s a very big difference was how’s the world versus share. And I’ll talk a little bit about that later. To make locals share their experience. Okay. Another thing in the vein of sharing. Sharing, okay. Sharing community, something about being at home when you’re not at home. This is actually Airbnb’s mission, which is really to create a world where people can belong anywhere.

Jiaona Zhang: When you are anchored on belonging as your mission as your north star, you’re able to think about all the different ways, all the different aspects of a travel experience that you might want to improve in order to achieve belonging. For example, making that when you feel at home that is a part of belonging somewhere, making sure that you are connecting with locals Tara had the locals and sharing their experience.

Jiaona Zhang: It’s actually part of belonging, making sure you feel it’s part of a community that’s also part of belonging. And so again, when you have a mission statement and that’s where you anchor the company and everything that your company does, you are able to think much broader and open up much more room for, if we were to truly achieve this, what can we do? What are the products we can build? What are the programs we have? And so that actually brings me to Webflow since this is a Webflow and girl geek talk.

Jiaona Zhang: Here at Webflow our mission statement is to empower everyone to create for the web. On top of that, we also really care about making sure that everyone in our company are leading impactful and fulfilling lives while working on this mission statement. The reason why, so I’ll focus more on the first part, which is empowering everyone to create for the web.

Jiaona Zhang: The reason why this is really important and to start here as a part of the product strategy is it is something that we could be working on for the next 100 years. And we will continue to make progress towards this really ambitious mission, getting everyone to be able to engage in the act of creation.

Jiaona Zhang: When we do something like that it also gives us the room to think, okay, to achieve something as ambitious as this, what are the big things we need to do in the short and medium term to ultimately accomplish this journey? When you start with a mission as opposed to we’re going to build X, Y, Z, that’s our product strategy. When we start with a mission, you really get everyone at your company rallied against this is what it means to ultimately long term be successful. These are all the different ways we can innovate towards that, creating much more room for both depth and rep of what you can do as a company.

Jiaona Zhang: All right, the second lesson, it should look like a pyramid. And why say it, I really mean… We just talked about starting with your mission statement that flowing through to your product strategy should look like a pyramid. And so what does that actually look like when you break it down? The first thing is you have your mission statement. So I gave you a few examples. The Tesla example, the Airbnb example, Webflow example. From there, you actually can go and talk about your vision. So if your mission is, what are you ultimately trying to achieve? Your vision is in or we believe that if we do this, that is the best way to help us achieve that mission.

Jiaona Zhang: From there, you actually need to formulate company strategy. And when you have these north stars in place your company strategy will be a lot crisper and focused. And then from there comes your product strategy. And so you can see it’s actually this almost like it’s this nesting doll, this pyramid structure where everything kind of ladders up into your mission statement that we just talked about. So let’s go through a Webflow’s example. So again, this is our mission statement to empower everyone to create for the web. What is our vision? How do we really achieve that over the next five, 10, 20 years? We believe that the best way to achieve it is to build the world’s most powerful no-code development platform.

Jiaona Zhang: Every single word in this sentence actually means something really critical to the way we think about how we approach our vision and also our company strategy. So the first word that I’ll talk about is this concept of power. We believe that in order to empower everyone to create, especially all the different things that you’d want to create, we need to give you power. We need to not just give you a template, but real powerful tools that you can use to customize whatever it is you want to create. We fundamentally believe in no-code, which is instead of asking people to have to learn how to code or all of these different things in order to create, we want to make it much more visual, much more intuitive and give you that abstraction layer.

Jiaona Zhang: And finally, we really believe in order for us to actually achieve our mission, which is to empower everyone to create really anything. We can’t do really do it alone and we have to build this platform. I talk more about that as part of lesson four, but platformization and really creating that platform is a big piece of what we believe we need to do. And as a result, it ladders into our company’s strategy, right? So if this is our vision, how do we then pull that into our company strategy. Okay, what we need to do is ultimately to lean into the power to really, really enable this no-code revolution, and then ultimately create a platform.

Jiaona Zhang: From there, what you actually build, that’s the product strategy and it basically hangs off of the company strategy, which hangs off of the vision, which hangs off of the mission. And so our product strategy, what we actually build what are the features of this no-code platform? What are the ways we can actually bring that power to life? How do we make sure our platform is extensible that comes from our company strategy?

Jiaona Zhang: All right. That was awesome too. It should look like a pyramid and now you kind of have a sense of what is, and we’re going to move on to lesson three, which is, it’s really critical to articulate your user value before your business value. Imagine a world where Tesla’s strategy was, we’re going to build the best electrical vehicle. We’re going to beat Prius, we’re going to beat whatever X vehicle that other brand has. That’s not super inspiring and it also doesn’t ultimately create the best product out there. Imagine if Airbnb was like “We’re going to be We’re going to be even better than booking plus Expedia plus Vrbo plus everything combined. That’s also not something that really gets that. This is what our users need, and this is therefore what we have. We can build to fulfill their needs.

Jiaona Zhang: Finally, going back to Webflow, imagine a world where… What we anchored on was we got to beat WordPress, really. We got to beat X thing that’s out there that people are using today. It really limits what you’re able to do, and it limits your innovation because really the most creative, innovative companies are building something that is like leagues beyond what is out there in the market today. Instead here at Webflow, we really think about the user value first. We think about something like everyone who watches Pixar movies, you see this just richness of animation and just what you can create on the screen that was all done via software so that you don’t have to literally create every single person or molecule or snow drop, or Anna’s like dress pattern, right?

Jiaona Zhang: Like you actually have software to scale that. And so that is really anchoring on the user value of how do build something that’s beautiful and delightful for people to watch. Then how do I make it so that every single person who’s, for example, working at Pixar can do it scalably and do it in a way that you can actually create a beautiful movie in X year’s time. And so that’s the same way we think about Webflow which is the value of really getting people to be able to create something that is powerful and ultimately what they’re looking to do. And so the way we think about the user value is we want to give people the building blocks. And here’s an example of some of the building blocks we’ve had in the past. Just illustrated like as an analogy. And you take these building blocks and you actually put them together and create whatever it is that you are looking to do.

Jiaona Zhang: I need something really custom on the UI side and then I need to add our data layer. I need to add some stuff around the CMS. I need to add a storefront. All of these different things I need to add in order to bring my idea to life, we’re giving you the tools to do that. And when you anchor on user value, you can actually see where that can go. You can think of a world where… Today you can build these particular structures, but what if in the future you can actually build a house and a really elaborate house at that.

Jiaona Zhang: If that’s our anchoring around is the user value that we want to generate for our users to be able to go from literally having to code, to being able to put things together and build some of these like really nifty- like planes and trains. Then one day to being able to build everything up to something like this house, this beautiful tailored, polished house. Everything up to something like this house, this beautiful tailored Polish house. If that’s what we believe in, and that’s the user value, then that is really our guiding principle, as opposed to chasing down features with competitors that might ultimately not be the thing we want to benchmark against. It usually isn’t a thing one at benchmark against, because competing against again, for example, WordPress is not going to get us the type of innovation and type of product unlock that we want, as opposed to saying, “Hey, if we want to be able to enable people build something like this, this beautiful house, what would we need to do enable to… in order to enable that?”

Jiaona Zhang: All right, lesson four, which is you don’t have to do it yourself. And I think this is a big lesson for a lot of companies where they have a very ambitious mission and vision, and you look at yourself and you’re like, “Hey, we’re a startup. How are we going to achieve that?” The answer is, you focus on a very critical core and then extending it and allowing your community help you get there. And so we really think about this in terms of an ecosystem.

Jiaona Zhang: What are the native capabilities that are most important to Webflow? And then how do we actually partner, whether it’s with other companies or with a whole community of developers to enable that long tail of use cases. And what’s really interesting, and this actually is almost bringing up lesson three in sharp contrast again, is when you do this, when you really think about the user value first, you then automatically unlock the business value. And so in this case, when you think about the user value of, hey, in order to get that beautiful house to be something that people can build we need to have a partnership with our entire community. That’s user value. You unlock the business value naturally, which is in this case, when you have a community, you really create this wonderful moat against your product, where it’s a lot harder to displace you because so much of your community has these integrations and are deeply embedded in what you provide. And so it actually results in business value naturally when you first focus on user value.

Jiaona Zhang: The last lesson is to design your product strategy into your organization. This is the best way to bring your strategy to life and ensure that you are executing on it. The reason for this is because as you grow as a company, even if you’re beyond just a very small group of people that can just quickly slack each other at all times, it’s really difficult for anyone outside the people working closest to the problem to really understand the best way to solve that problem. So when you design your org in a way that reflects your product strategy, that reflects the type of investments that you want to make in the user value that you want to unlock, you actually empower the people who are working closest to the problem and on the product to make the right decisions for you.

Jiaona Zhang: Here at Webflow, we’ve really mapped our engineering product and design structure to the things that we really believe we need to unlock. For example, you’ll see on here capabilities. How do we build the best first party capabilities for our creators? Then how do we also unlock this ecosystem to extend those use cases? How do we then make sure that anyone working on our community, or sorry, working with our product, they are able to be successful, whether they’re collaborating with each other or they’re going into larger and larger companies that need very… Like much more specific workflows? And then from a growth perspective, end-to-end, segment-by-segment thinking about that life cycle. And then last, but definitely not least, there are the very important foundational investments, infrastructure investments that we need to make to make sure that everything is able to come to life, and that these things are interoperable and connected.

Jiaona Zhang: All right. I know I am pushing on my time. With that, thank you so much for listening. Those were the five lessons that I personally learned around product strategy that I hold near and dear to my heart, and hopefully that can be helpful to your respective companies.

Angie Chang: Thank you, JZ. That was really an excellent product strategy talk. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m going to just really quickly remind everyone that we are taking questions for the speakers in the Q&A. So if you go below, there’s a little Q&A button that you should be seeing, and you can ask your question there, or you can ask it in the chat, and we’ll copy it over.

Angie Chang: Olena is a tech lead and staff software engineer at Webflow, and she loves react function programming and non-fiction books, and is currently focusing on creating value between engineering and product. Welcome Olena.

Olena Sovyn: Hi, I am Olena. I’m very happy to be, to be here today, and as an engineer, I would like to talk a little bit about how we can make code reviews even better experience for everyone. A little bit about myself before we start. So I’m Ukrainian who lives currently in London. For last nine years, I am working in software industry, and half of the time I am with Webflow. Currently I am a tech lead and staff software engineer at Webflow, and during my last four and a half years, I did more than a thousand blue requests and performed more than a thousand code reviews.

Olena Sovyn: Let’s get back to our topic for today. Let’s talk a little bit what we can do better in our code reviewers. First of all, why I choose actually to talk about code reviews? Why doing bad jobs with code reviews actually matter so much. I choose to talk today about this because I believe this is a unique opportunity as it is a win-win situation for a company, for you, and for your teammates.

Olena Sovyn: When we have code reviews, we have that unique process that can empower both your company, your teammates, and yourself, for you to develop your career, and for your teammates to develop theirs, and at the same time to company to sustainably grow. So typical cycle for code request, look like something like this. Request is ready for a code review, then code review is happening. And then you might think that today at my cloud will be concentrated mostly on this code review, but actually interesting thing with code review can start even before code review itself. And one of the things can be self review.

Olena Sovyn: What is self review? Self review is one full request also is going to his own change, his or her or them, on changes and leaving useful comments for code review body. For example, what these comments can be about. They can provide information why these changes were added to the code base, or they can provide information what specifically code review body should look for the most important part of the change.

Olena Sovyn: What else can happen before the code review and is happening actually? Every time when we are entering code review process? We are choosing code review body, and let’s look how typically this process look like. For example, we have a team with three people, Rose, Mark, and Boris. Rose is very experienced engineer. She is with a company for a very long time. Mark is with a company also for a long time, but he only recently switched to become an engineer. And Boris just joined a few weeks ago, but have been in the industry for a very long time.

Olena Sovyn: Whom would you choose to be your code review body? Looks like Rose is an obvious choice, but actually if you look wider on the code review process, we might want to choose Mark or Boris. Why? Because code review can be not always a place where other engineers provide. You feel bad, but this can be also a place where other engineers can learn from you and from the changes that you introduced to the code base. And if, for example, code review body would be someone like Boris, they can bring fresh perspective on the changes that you introduce into the code base.

Olena Sovyn: You can specifically enforce and empower them to see code review as aligning process, by reaching to them directly and asking them to specifically ask your questions in the code reviews.

Olena Sovyn: Use code reviews as a way to share a general and domain specific knowledge. So we talked a little bit about choosing code review body. What is happening next? I’m calling a magic moment in code review process. What is happening next? Next is actually code review body reading code for the first time. Why I’m calling this a magic moment? Be with me and listen carefully.

Olena Sovyn: Reading this code for the first time is something that you never will be able to do again. You can read this code for the second time, for the third time, for like end time, but never for the first time. Why is this such a unique opportunity and such a unique signal? Because this is a way where you can really evaluate. Is this code readable? Is this code obvious? Will be it easy to work with this code? And my advice for you, how to better capture this signal of following.

Olena Sovyn: How to read code for the first time. Take notes. If you are doing code reviews with GitHub, you actually can make a draft of the comments in the code review process. You don’t need to share them all in code review you when you submitted, but you can capture this your first thoughts when you first saw this code. And at this moment, what I am advising to pay attention to. Ask yourself a question. How easy code is to understand, do all variables make sense? Does code organization make sense? Is it obvious actually what code is doing? And remember that this first impression is your invaluable signal.

Olena Sovyn: After our first read, let’s deep dive in code review process itself. In many cases, code review process might end up being like request for change. Or if everything was straightforward, this can be like, look good to me and look good to marriage, but actually code review can be a great about sharing feedback, about changes that one engineer want to introduce to the code base, share this structure from other engineers. This feedback can be like anything. It can be that code review body lines today. Something that they found useful, something that something surprise them. How to make this sharing feedback on all the ways. This sharing of difference in the code review process be good is to talk from the place of respect.

Olena Sovyn: When I’m code reviewing changes, I trust it’s a person that did these changes did their best, and no matter where they are in their engineering journey, are they junior? Have they been in the in industry for 30 years? Have they just joined the company? Or been with the company for five years?

Olena Sovyn: I believe they did their best and with best intentions to also to come up all my, this understanding in the code reviews. What I try to do is if I’m not sure about anything, any change that happened in the changes I ask rather than state. When I review changes, I am trying to remember that I’m not reviewing a person. I’m reviewing changes. So I try to avoid using you word anywhere in my code review feedback. And also I’m trying to be as specific as possible.

Olena Sovyn: Let’s concentrate on this last point a little bit more. So what does it mean to be as specific as possible? Let’s look at this one example of the code review comment. It’s not the best approach to do this calculation. Yes, it is a feedback, but how can it be better? Maybe something like this? Why the second one is better than the first one? Because it’s contained why changes are needed as well as it is generous with example. The one blue request author will be seeing such code review comment. They will be easy. It’ll be easier for them to act on it.

Olena Sovyn: Make sure that your comments include everything that the blue request author might need. We talked a little bit about like that we need to include why we request some changes, examples, but there is one more thing that we would need to include in the code review comments. For example, be as specific as possible. Let’s look at another example. So this is an example of a code review comment. We have three version of this pattern in our code base now. We should have only one, okay. This is a feedback and it is information, but it is unclear and unspecified in this code review comment is what actually code request also should do business information. So make sure that in your code review comments, it is clear what changes are expected to happen after the code review was submitted.

Olena Sovyn: You can use, for example, for this emoji system. Well, by one emoji you can code changes that are requested before a request will be good to match. With other emoji you can mark with just a suggestion. And with third one with appreciation. This case remember two things. First, your teammates should understand what each emoji means. And second one is that this emoji can’t be only color coded because you want the system to be accessible.

Olena Sovyn: Also make sure that they have different shapes. And also remember to bring some positivity and praise in your code review feedback. It can be in the form of…

Olena Sovyn: One of the tips that one of the engineering manager in the Webflow that is really nice to place some humor in the general code review feedback. Like here is a memes that in some way is connected to the changes that was request also introduced.

Olena Sovyn: After the deep dive, what happened next is end of the code review. What can we do at the end of the code review? Already mentioned that we can in place here, some positivity, some praise, but what else can we do here? I think like in the end of the code review, it might be good also from time to times to connect full request also to the bigger picture, to the big aim, to which the changes have contributed. For example, let’s compare, let’s see this code review summary.

Olena Sovyn: This is really great explanatory documentation. It is a good, positive feedback, but how much better is this one? This is really great explanatory documentation. It’ll be such much easier with each to onboard new engineers in this code review comment. We are connecting changes with a bigger purpose of this change, but from these changes, it’ll be not easy to onboard.

Olena Sovyn: I today talked a little bit about what hidden gems I found in the code review processes during my times at Webflow, but I’m more than sure that between you are many skillful engineers and you also know much more hidden gems in the code review. Please share them in the chat, and I want you to thank you.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much. That was just absolutely insightful and wonderful. Let’s see real quick if there are any questions for any for you. I think there are a few that you can take on the chat. Let’s move on to the next speaker.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: The next speaker is Siobhan. Siobhan is the lead data engineer at Webflow. Getting to work with engineers, scientists, analyst, and everyone else who will talk data with her. That’s awesome. She’s been a teacher, a mentor, and a workplace culture, plus mental health advocate. Some tech topics she loves are functional programming, so less and coding, Fred Brooks on architecture. Her dream is to one day, be in the Kafka Four Comma Club. Welcome.

Siobhan Sabino: Thank you. Let me share my screen. I’m going to mix it up. I’m not going to ask if everyone can see my slides. I’m just going to hope for the best here. In this presentation, we’re going to talk about data engineering. To give you a little bit of background, I am a data engineer. We will talk about what that means. I’m Jersey born and raised. It is very late for me here. Apologies if I yawn.

Siobhan Sabino: I know here is where I would typically put a picture of me, but since we can all see me, here is a picture of my nephew Brody instead, because he has a very handsome cat. What we’re going to be doing and talking about the data engineering secrets is first we’ll go through my journey to become a data engineer, what the job entails, what I’ve learned about it, the glory or lack thereof in the job, the whys of being a data engineer, some of our secrets so you can take them and use them, and then the final slide to wrap it all up. The journey…

Siobhan Sabino: All data engineers tend to have very different ways we came to this job. So my journey is that out of college, with my CS degree, I got my first job in data warehousing and ETL. These are not flashy technologies, but they’re very stable things, very common in finance and healthcare, very well established.

Siobhan Sabino: From there, I moved on to a job where for whatever reason, technology was picked by our manager, seeing stuff on hacker news and going, that seems fun. For some reason, that was how our office picked tools like Kafka and Avro, and they needed an engineer who would be able to feel comfortable working with those. And my options were to learn those or learn JavaScript. And I didn’t want to learn JavaScript.

Siobhan Sabino: I learned those things would put me on this trajectory to becoming a data engineer where I finally moved into a job where I oversaw systems that had more than 2 billion messages a week coming through terabytes of data. And now I’m here at Webflow giving this presentation to you.

Siobhan Sabino: What does the job entail? If you ask a data engineer, what data engineering is, I think this subreddit from data engineering community really sums it up. Where the question was, tell you a data engineer that telling your data engineer and the community you voted the top answer to be, “I have no idea what my job actually is,” which does sum it up immensely.

Siobhan Sabino: If it’s hard to say what a data engineer is, let me sort of show you what a data engineer does to give you an idea of what those might entail. A day in my job might look something like this. I come in nice and early, ready for the day. Overnight, the transformer failed. Why? None of the 35 error we expected or why it failed. So we have to figure that out. No worries. Then someone shows up to say, but the numbers look wrong. I have to figure out, does that mean we’re missing data? Is there a bug upstream? Is there a bug downstream? Or have we accurately reflected what are, unfortunately, just numbers today?

Siobhan Sabino: Then it gets to about 9 o’clock. This is the point where someone tells me the iOS app has stopped sending events. It did that a couple weeks ago. No one noticed. And in looking into this, we realized the Android app, it’s sending events. All of them are wrong. No one knows why this is happening or how to fix it. There isn’t really a statement or call to action there. You just got to figure it out yourself.

Siobhan Sabino: About 10, 10:30, legal asked me to describe about 75 terabytes worth of data by the end of the day. Ironically, this will be the easiest thing I tackle in my day. Right before lunch, find out another team’s going to do a very risky production deployment, because that’s always fun. It might damage our data. We have a big report running the next day. I have three minutes to figure it out. Typical. Then when I finally get to lunch, the new manager tells me they’re excited to hear about my small data platform, which makes me cry on the inside.

Siobhan Sabino: After lunch is when the Postgres incident happens because we all know that’s when database incidents happen. My job doesn’t actually involve Postgres, but as someone who spends a lot of time thinking about databases, pitch in to help. As that wraps up finance of course hits me up on Slack to know why data systems are expensive. This week it’s about why moving billions of messages costs money, because last week it was about why storing terabytes of data costs money.

Siobhan Sabino: At this point, one of the data scientists asked me to explain what a container is. This will be the hardest thing I have to do. And I will hand them off to the junior engineer who is much better qualified to explaining this than I am. At that point, my manager is unfortunately told he gets to tell me that I don’t get to send metrics out for these systems because these are big systems and they’re expensive to monitor. We then get in an argument. I tell him that when someone gets paid, they’re not going to know what’s happening. He says, “We’re going to have to run that risk.” The joke will be on him. He will get paged on in the middle of the night, and I be asleep and not able to help him.

Siobhan Sabino: And at that point, there’s 17 minutes left in my day. So, that’s what being a data engineer is like. The sort of problems you face as a data engineer are not just the immediate, something’s on fire. It’s thinking about this long-term design and maintenance systems that will live for years. I inherited a Kafka cluster so old that the people who made Kafka couldn’t believe we were still running it. I don’t like that achievement. We should not have hit that. We have streaming systems now, which are exciting, but they’re also overwhelming. Because that means lots of things are happening at once, which is a different can of worms than batch problems, because there, you don’t know how you messed up for several hours or possibly days.

Siobhan Sabino: Pick your poison. There is data everywhere. It’s in databases. It’s in spreadsheets, it’s in people’s heads. None of it has schema. All of it looks slightly different from the other, because it’d be too easy if the field state always meant either New York or active and not both of them at the same time.

Siobhan Sabino: People also want answers, but they don’t know what the questions are, and you got to figure that out, which is exciting, but the main sort of problem as a data engineer I face is these problems of negative engineering. Writing defensive code, paying down tech debt, refactoring, updating, upgrading, as opposed to positive engineering, which is what we tend to think of, which is I write code for a new feature. It goes off and it’s a great time, which leads to the glory or lack thereof in data engineering.

Siobhan Sabino: When no one knows what you stop from happening, no one knows what you’re doing, right? So if all of your work is negative engineering, you’re not shifting new features. You’re not shipping new services. You don’t really have updates for the rest of the company to understand, and you tell them everything’s very niche and backend and people sort of nod, but they don’t understand what you’re talking about because you can’t show people very easily. Here’s the incidents that didn’t happen because we made the system resilient and self-healing. Here’s the data that was not lost. There was no loss of data or trust because we’ve been working on the tech debt, and the bugs, and the monitoring people can’t see how much work you’ve removed from their plate by really thinking about how can I make this as easy as pie.

Siobhan Sabino: …plate, by really thinking about how can I make this as easy as possible for engineers or scientists or analysts. When you’re doing your job, you’re invisible and the moment something fails, that’s when that’s all anyone can see and suddenly everyone just wants to know, what did you do and when are you going to fix it?

Siobhan Sabino: It might be obvious by now why a company would want a data engineer. When you have questions, like how do we get the data to answer our questions? How do we move it fast enough? How do we store it? How are we in compliance? How do we make sure that people who need it can use it. Those are the sorts of things a data engineer thinks about and can help you answer. But at the same time, why would someone become a data engineer?

Siobhan Sabino: Because you’re probably sitting at home thinking, Siobhan, you’re not really selling me on this and I get that.

Siobhan Sabino: If what your favorite part of being an engineer is, is producing new features or making visible work that end users can see and use, this probably isn’t for you and that’s okay. I don’t know how front-end engineers like Olena do it, I would not have the patience for it but I appreciate the apps and websites that are built.

Siobhan Sabino: What I like though – and what you might like – is when you have these really hard problems that have no easy or obvious solution. When you think at massive scales of time and space, this is a system that will live for at least five years and how many terabytes of data it will process monthly, weekly. When you’re exposed to every bit of technology in engineering.

Siobhan Sabino: I’ve made an Android pull request. I’ve never used an Android device in my life but I made an Android pull request. I’ve had to have the inner parts of Objective-C explained to me. There is no reason I could have been there but I’ve gotten to work with it because if your favorite part of engineering is getting to help others to do their job, then maybe you’d like being a data engineer.

Siobhan Sabino: I promised you in this presentation, I’d give you secrets. Here are the secrets. This is going to be a crash course, some tools, some ideas that you might need or use or want to look into. That way there is no gatekeeping, no one can make you feel like you don’t belong. These are the magic words to know, that way you can get involved.

Siobhan Sabino: When we talk about data, data is the raw representation of a thing. Information is the value extracted from data. People will often tell you that they want data, what they really want is value from that data.

Siobhan Sabino: A bounded data set is finite which is what we traditionally face. Infinite sets though, those unbounded data sets of constantly growing data, that’s what we’re faced with now in the world.

Siobhan Sabino: A data warehouse is a database that’s been specifically designed to hold all your data for analytical purposes. It’s expensive because it does its job. If it costs half a million dollars a year to run but it lets you make at least $2 million in decisions, it’s paid for itself.

Siobhan Sabino: On the other hand, the data lake is an application that has an actual purpose. Don’t worry about it, that’s not entry level. You will hear lots about data lakes because vendors love selling them to people and many data lakes go awry so often, that has a name, a data swamp. That’s not a helpful term to know but I just think it’s very pleasing.

Siobhan Sabino: What is probably more of interest to you is a data vault, a place where you can keep a copy of all of your data just in case someone deletes the production database, you find a bug and you want to re-run the code.

Siobhan Sabino: When you act on data, a batch engine is a way to process a bounded data set. A streaming engine is processing an unbounded data set. Just because one is newer, does not mean it’s better. They’re both tools that can be used correctly for the right problem.

Siobhan Sabino: ETL is the idea of extracting data from a source, transforming it and then loading it to its destination. This is not a new idea, it’s been around for decades and even if you don’t design your systems to reflect those steps, it’s a great logical way of thinking about acting on data.

Siobhan Sabino: Data cleansing is, heck grating to do but it’s super important. If you want to have opinions about data, start cleansing that data, you will have opinions really fast.

Siobhan Sabino: Data lineage tells you where your data’s been and who’s used it. That’s great for legal and compliance reasons, it’s great for debugging and for making live diagrams of what does the system look like.

Siobhan Sabino: Data tests compliment your code tests so that you know that things are right. This is not an area where the industry really has good examples of the way with code tests, we could talk about a meaningful unit test, integration tests, test driven development, we don’t really have that for data tests. So just do your best and know that, that’s all we can ask of you.

Siobhan Sabino: When you talk about data systems, a change data capture system pushes the events that happen inside of a database out to other systems so they know about it. If you want a CDC, you probably want one going to an append-only log.

Siobhan Sabino: A data pipeline allows large volumes of data to move around freely and quickly. It allows systems to come and go either producing data or consuming data without really needing to worry about each other, they don’t have to be the same language, they don’t have to share the same paradigm. If you want a data pipeline, you probably want to build one around an append-only log.

Siobhan Sabino: If you’re looking into an event driven architecture, you might think you want a message queue or a publish/subscribe system. In reality, you probably want an append-only log. I don’t know if you could tell but I like append-only logs which is great for you because I have a suggestion for one, Kafka.

Siobhan Sabino: Kafka is a great append-only log that can really scale. It’s written in Scala and Java, it has lots of support for non-JVM languages. So, if your backend is Node.js and Python, you’ll work great but for data engineering, JVM, especially Java and Scala are going to be the main languages you’re working with.

Siobhan Sabino: To go with Kafka, I’d suggest the library Avro. This allows you to find schemas about your data, part of that data cleansing and understanding what your data looks like. It also works beautifully with a system called Schema Registry. As this name suggests, it lets you register schemas there so you can see what they all are. That’s why answering a legal request about what terabytes of data looks like is easy. You just go tell Schema Registry, explain everything to me and then you send that to lawyers in a spreadsheet and it makes them happy.

Siobhan Sabino: Functional programming is a paradigm that works really well with data system because it lets you compose together these very small pieces that you can test and feel really confident about and then build them up for each use case.

Siobhan Sabino: Scala and functional programming, both get a bad rap. People will tell you they’re really hard to learn. The official language book for Scala does a really good job covering the basics of functional programming because a lot of people do a lot of crazy things, they get all over the place. Don’t worry about that. We’re looking for basic fundamentals here.

Siobhan Sabino: If you’re looking for setting up cloud storage, use your cloud-of-choice’s storage system for cold storage for that data vault. For the warehouse, just use what your cloud offers. So if you’re in AWS, for example, put your data vault in S3 and Glacier. If you want a warehouse, put it in Redshift. There’s vendors selling other products but your cloud-of-choice’s options, those are going to be super easy and they’re actually going to work really well.

Siobhan Sabino: To wrap this all up, this is my website and email. If you ever need me, if you’re a data engineer and you need someone to talk to or if you’re just having an absolutely terrible day and you want to talk to somebody, that’s my email. So long as you’ve spelt my name right, you hit me up.

Siobhan Sabino: Being a data engineer can be extremely thankless job but it’s still an incredible feeling to get to help others and see what they can do because you were there to support them right?

Siobhan Sabino: In the chart JZ showed, I work in the infrastructure pillar. I’m way at the bottom and I love that. Even if you don’t want to be a data engineer, use our tools and secrets but also if you work with data engineers, maybe be kind to them, they’re probably having a rough day and would appreciate it.

Siobhan Sabino: Again, even if you don’t want to be a data engineer, something like Kafka, that’s a massive ecosystem, it has lots of great community support, lots of great tools and articles. Maybe it’ll give you an idea for something you can do, just another tool in your toolbox for how to solve the problems you are working on.

Siobhan Sabino: Functional programming or Scala, like I said, people give them a bad rap. They’re not that hard and as a data engineer, they’re going to be your friends. Even if you don’t need to move terabytes of data or millions or billions of messages a week, you probably still work with data, so maybe figuring out what it is data engineers would suggest might make your job easier.

Siobhan Sabino: Because I had a manager who believed all presentations should end with a call to action, my call to action is to tweet my sister, that Brody is a handsome cat. Don’t worry about her, she’s in the chat. So she knows I’m doing this. And that is my presentation. Thank you.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Siobhan for that excellent talk on data engineering and for hanging out with us from the East Coast. So, our last speaker is Katie. If you have any questions at all, please do add them to the Q&A in Zoom or ask it in the chat and Arquay will be asking these questions to our speakers after Katie’s talk.

Angie Chang: I’ll do a quick intro to Katie. She is a software engineer on the Collaboration Team at Webflow and she co-leads the Asians at Webflow Affinity Group. Previously she founded and ran a tech meetup in Portland, focused on career development for people who are newer to tech. She’s passionate about helping people from underrepresented backgrounds get involved in tech and creating safe spaces for them to feel welcome. So welcome, Katie.

Katie Fujihara: Hello. I’m going to go ahead and share my screen, one second. Are you able to see that?

Angie Chang: Yes.

Katie Fujihara: Okay, perfect. Hello! Hi everyone, my name is Katie Fujihara. Today I’ll be giving a talk on how to be your biggest fan, a guide on how to self advocate. Just a little TLDR of who I am. Yes, I am Katie, said that already.

Katie Fujihara: I come from a non-traditional background, majored in marketing and Japanese, never thought I’d be a software engineer. In 2018, I attended a coding bootcamp and co-founded and ran a local tech meetup in Portland called Future Leaders in Tech.

Katie Fujihara: In 2019, I joined Webflow as an apprentice software engineer and currently I am a software engineer too, still at Webflow. That’s my baby dog Yochi who is quarantined right now so he doesn’t bark while I’m giving this talk.

Katie Fujihara: Just a little quick agenda breakdown – what we’re going to be talking about today, should be a fairly short presentation. First up, will be Glue work versus Glamour work and how that relates to unconscious bias. Next, will be personal concerns and challenges when it comes to promotions. And the last bit will be the meat of the presentation which is tips on how to advocate for yourself.

Katie Fujihara: First off, let’s go over glue work versus glamour work. You’ll notice that on the slides in the bottom corner, some of them will have these QR codes. If any of these particular topics interest you, feel free to hold your phone up or your camera up to the QR code and scan that, it’ll take you directly to the source of work I got all of this information from.

Katie Fujihara: What is glue work? According to Tanya Reilly, glue work is, “the less glamorous and often less-promotable work that needs to happen to make a company successful.” So examples of glue work can include writing docs, setting up team meetings, improving team process, establishing coding standards, mentoring and coaching, improving new member onboarding.

Katie Fujihara: What is glamour work? So, examples of glamour work on the other hand are what sounds like more glamorous, writing code, and shipping features. As software engineers, this type of work is often valued more than glue work because it signals technical competency. A poor manager may determine promotions and rewards based off of the false equivalence that more code written automatically means a stronger, more impactful engineer, which we know is not always the case.

Katie Fujihara: Next, I’m going to be going over a bit of the importance of glue work versus glamour work. A national study conducted by the Center for WorkLife Law and the Society of Women Engineers surveyed over 3000 engineers. It showed that women were 29% more likely than white men to report doing more office housework, and for the sake of this talk, we’ll call it glue work, than their colleagues.

Katie Fujihara: Prescriptive stereotypes show that women of color are under the most social pressure to volunteer for glue work and the unequal distribution of glue work and glamour work between women and men is evident when you see that men are more likely to be promoted to executive positions. This is an indicator of how much more impact glamour work has when it comes to promotions.

Katie Fujihara: A little bit about my experience with all of this. I’ve been at Webflow for two years now and in that time I’ve gotten two promotions, but I’ve also cycled through four different managers in that time. I’ve also found myself doing quite a bit of glue work and was nervous about it being invisible. As many of you who have worked in the startup world know, organizational change and uncertainty is common among early stage startups and startups going through hyper-growth.

Katie Fujihara: Therefore, it is important to learn how to navigate these spaces and to track your own personal growth. During all of this uncertainty and changes and not wanting my career to get stunted, I had these four major questions on my mind.

Katie Fujihara: How do I ensure my career does not stagnate? How do I ensure that my new manager understands my impact? How do I make the glue work I do visible? And how do I ensure organizational changes do not affect my promotion timeline?

Katie Fujihara: My solution, pretty simple, make all the work I do, glue work included, as visible as possible and to advocate for myself. Next up the meat of this presentation, tips on how to advocate for yourself or tips that I find helped me in getting promoted.

Katie Fujihara: A quick reminder, you can have good peers and a good manager but at the end of the day, you need to be your biggest advocate, your biggest fan.

Katie Fujihara: My first little tip would be to track your progress and wins. Seems pretty obvious but it needs to be stated. I would recommend creating a progress document that you update a regular cadence, whether that’s monthly, bi-weekly, whatever it takes for you to remember to do it, that’s the cadence for you.

Katie Fujihara: If you know what is required to get to the next level, organize your progress doc in a way that highlights how you are satisfying these requirements. Link to PRs, Slack conversations, code reviews, screenshots of public or private praise, anything that can serve as evidence of your impact.

Katie Fujihara: Lastly, share this doc with your managers. If you move managers, bring this doc with you and show it to your new one, that way they can have all the context of work that you’ve done.

Katie Fujihara: I have two examples below of how you could structure your progress doc. For example #1, I have it broken down in six month increments, so January to June, July to December and I’ll usually put bullet points of the things that I’ve done, the contributions and I’ll also link or take screenshots of Slack conversations, PRs, things that serve as evidence that support the contributions that are the things that I’m saying I contributed to in the progress doc. For example #2, this is if it’s structured by knowing the requirements to get promoted already.

Katie Fujihara: Say the requirements are, must write documentation, must write unit tests and provide thoughtful feedback and code reviews. The way I would organize my progress doc would be to have each of these requirements as the headers of each section and then put the contributions underneath each section that support this. That way, you have all of the proof you need to show that you’re operating at that next level.

Katie Fujihara: Another tip is to not lose promotion traction during manager handoffs. If you. #1, know you are close to being promoted and, #2, know you will be changing managers soon, push for your current manager to start the promotion process because there are so many unknowns when getting a new manager.

Katie Fujihara: I actually had to do this when I was going from apprentice software engineer to junior software engineer because I found out I was getting a new manager. Usually the amount of time they want you to be an apprentice is six months but I was at about my four month mark and I was worried that when I switched managers, my new manager wouldn’t have all the context that my current manager did. I really, really pushed for him to start that and luckily he did. I was able to transition before I got that new manager.

Katie Fujihara: The reason you want to do this is because your new manager will not have as much context as your current manager. They may not be as helpful when it comes to advocating for you and they maybe preoccupied with other things as they are onboarding.

Katie Fujihara: Consider that your new manager might be onboarding to your team or onboarding to your company, they have a lot on their plate. I don’t know if any of you are managers, but I’ve heard if you’re a manager, you have just a ton, a ton of things to do that most people don’t ever see.

Katie Fujihara: As a report, do your due diligence to get those things started and to advocate for yourself because who knows your promotion might be the bottom of their priority list at this time. Start it before if you can.

Katie Fujihara: Another piece of advice would be to push for 1:1:1s during manager handoffs. As Lara Hogan states, “Your new manager might not be familiar with all that you’ve done already, which could slow your career momentum.”

Katie Fujihara: What exactly are 1:1:1s? It’s when you, your current manager and your new manager all sit down and go over your previous work, strengths and areas for improvement. It’s a time for everyone to get aligned on your goals. This is a good time for everyone to get context around everything and your new manager to understand exactly your impact. I found these really helpful in the past.

Katie Fujihara: Last but definitely not least, make your work as visible as possible, be as loud as you can about wins, be transparent about what you’re working on.

Katie Fujihara: This could be through updating your Slack status, we could be like, “Oh, I’m working on a bug fix” or something along those lines, just so people know what you’re doing.

Katie Fujihara:Be transparent in stand-ups, just make sure everyone knows what you’re working on, don’t undersell anything that you’re doing and ask questions and be open about any blockers that you’re facing. You don’t need to suffer in silence if you are stuck on something.

Katie Fujihara: Find quantitative ways to measure the impact of your work on a business level. Talk to your product managers or talk to your engineering managers about how what you worked on is performing, so you can get those hard numbers that you can use to your advantage when it’s time for a promotion.

Katie Fujihara: Lastly, talk to teammates and mentors about your progress. The more they know about your work, the more they can help advocate for you when the time comes for a promotion.

Katie Fujihara: A little quick summary, I told you this talk was going to be quite short. You have to be your biggest advocate, track your progress and wins in a progress doc, try to kick off a promotion process before a manager handoff if you’re able to, push for those 1:1:1s and make your work as visible as possible.

Katie Fujihara: Thank you. Twitter is @KatieFujihara if you want to keep in touch or LinkedIn, whatever works for you but that is all I have for you today. Thanks for listening.

Arquay Harris: Once everyone joins, I’m going to lead into some Q&A. We actually have a question come through and since it’s a question that could apply for all of us, maybe I’ll just sort of facilitate for a couple of us to answer it.

Watch the Webflow Girl Geek Dinner Panel Discussion with Arquay Harris (Webflow VP of Engineering), Siobhan Sabino (Webflow Lead Data Engineer), Jiaona Zhang (Webflow VP of Product Management), Katie Fujihara (Webflow Software Engineer) and Olena Sovyn (Webflow Staff Software Engineer).

Arquay Harris: I’ll start with you, JZ. The question is, how did each speaker find their way to their current role at Webflow? The tactical stories help us understand if everyone applied got recruited, how they got to do something new, i.e. if their resume didn’t show the same job title. Effectively, what was your journey to Webflow?

Jiaona Zhang: Sure, happy I started. I joined Webflow at this point about a year and a half ago. I joined Webflow actually coming from WeWork. WeWork was definitely a very interesting journey. I joined after I left four years of Airbnb and what was really attractive about it was to be able to start in the tech organization from scratch in a place that didn’t exist.

Jiaona Zhang: That company did go through a lot, that was very unexpected. After hyper-growth for six months, I was really thinking about restructuring the team in the latter six and so when I was leaving WeWork, I really thought about what I wanted to do next. I actually had the time to think about it because I was pre-planning and working with my team to make sure I was landing in a really good place. I knew that I wasn’t going to be staying with the team long term.

Jiaona Zhang: I thought about smaller companies, I thought about larger companies and what really drew me to Webflow was a couple things. One, I think when you have… Personally for me, when I had the opportunity to lead all of product, was a very different experience than what I’ve done before which was large organizations but not necessarily the entirety of the product team and there’s something that I was really excited about to do that at Webflow.

Jiaona Zhang: The other thing is, why Webflow? There are other companies out there but I think it’s so rare to find these two things, the first one is a mission and a product that just gets me fired up every single day.

Jiaona Zhang: We talked about this before, which is getting to help the world be able to create something that is in 1% of the world today, which is right access to the web, being able to democratize that and make sure that everyone has access to it. I think that’s something that a lot of us here, it really resonates with. I talked about this earlier, where I’m not technical, that wasn’t my background and being able to build a tool that everyone can create, regardless of their… Do you have a CS degree? Do you have a coding background? That’s just something that really draws me.

Jiaona Zhang: The other piece is the people. I truly think that… I’ll say this as a product leader, the product leader and the CEO needs to have a very, very strong relationship and I can’t think of another person who is both a combination of the best chief vision officer and the kindest human but that combination is just so rare and finding both of those things in Vlad is something that was really appealing.

Jiaona Zhang: I, again, talked to a lot of different founders and it’s a really, like a one in a million opportunity to get to work with Vlad to bring that vision to life. Then the team, the team here is just so kind. Our mission statement is not just, this is a thing we want to accomplish but these are the things that we want to accomplish with the people here together. So, again, that is just very rare and that’s how I made my way to Webflow.

Arquay Harris: Great. Although JZ, it’s a little bit hurtful because I thought you told me that the most important relationship is between the VP of product and VP of Eng. I don’t know, this is all just, this is all…

Jiaona Zhang: You weren’t there when I joined.

Arquay Harris: Hurtful.

Jiaona Zhang: Now, Vlad has been replaced by Arquay.

Arquay Harris: That rings hollow. I don’t know. I’m actually going to go second because it’s a good segue into why I joined the company which is definitely the people. Every single person that I talked to… Vlad is maybe the nicest human ever. Everybody read the Steve Job’s book, so you get these kind of megalomaniac CEOs or founders of companies and it’s a little scary out there and he’s definitely nothing like that, has a really great vision.

Arquay Harris: Every single person that I met, I met Brian, I met some of the other people at the company and then, honestly, JZ, one of the things that really struck me, especially considering this demographic, Girl Geek Dinner, is I have literally racked my brain and in over 20 years of experience, I cannot think of another company where both the VP of product and the VP of Eng. are women of color.

Arquay Harris: If someone in chat can give me another example, I thought about it and we are not diversity hires or something like that. We are just women who are out in the world doing our jobs but that is something interesting that you don’t see every day and I think it’s just JZ’s vision and the way she could articulate, not just what we’re doing today but what we’re doing in the future and how she also values that part. Today, what we’re doing in the future and how she also values that partnership between product and engine design, and then just generally every person. I’m coming in…

Arquay Harris: I’ve only been at Webflow for about six months and I’m coming in, I’m kind of doing this operational Excel and stuff and no one is licking all the cookies being like, “No, this is the way you do it.” They’re like, “Great. That sounds awesome! You have a great idea. Let’s try it.” You know, everyone’s amenable to change and they know that we’re here and we are going to have to do different things to get us to a different point.

Arquay Harris: And it’s just a really like amazing place to be. Speaking of that, like maybe we transition to Olena. I’m curious about you ’cause it’s very, very late for you, so I’ll let you go and see what your answer is.

Olena Sovyn: I joined Webflow four and a half years ago when it was like a company of 40 people. And for me it was a company where I was able to solve very difficult challenges while still being on the front-end part of the application. It was very rare for me and also of all people that I met through my interview process were just awesome. As a first retreat, I just understood that these people are my people because they were so kind, so human, so humble, at the same time, so smart and so visionary, focused on our mission. It was just awesome.

Arquay Harris: I’m on mute, but what about you, Katie?

Katie Fujihara: I came to Webflow. Yeah, two and a half years ago actually through… Vlad found me on Twitter, but it was a, you know, I think that when I first joined Webflow, I was in a point of my career, I didn’t have a tech career yet, like I was looking for my first role. And it was at that point where I was just looking for someone to take a chance on me. I know a lot of people who are juniors in their engineering career, this resonates with you, where you just want someone to believe that you can do it ’cause you know, you can do it.

Katie Fujihara: It’s just you need to sell yourself. And luckily for me, I was given that opportunity at Webflow and you know, like everyone else was saying, what really sold me on the company was meeting the people and just like going through the interview process and being introduced to all of the engineers. I’ve always been kind of intimidated by what people consider like the engineering type or the stereotype of engineers.

Katie Fujihara: Everyone I worked with in the interview process was not that stereotype, and it was just really fun. And I could tell that they really value the personality of people here on top of their technical skill and everything like that. They just want people who can work with other people well, and for me to that was really attractive. So, and two and a half years later, here I am so… yay.

Arquay Harris: Yay. And then Siobhan, I’m really hoping there’s going to be a Brody cameo at some point. Your sister’s on there, I saw.

Siobhan Sabino: Well, she is. Oh, remind me tomorrow. I have so many pictures of Brody I’ve stolen from her, I have a whole album. I joined Webflow earlier this year, essentially how I came to here was my previous job I’d been at for a couple of years, we’d finished a couple big projects. My junior engineer that I had been training, I knew she was fine, that she could take this on her own.

Siobhan Sabino: I felt like my chapter there had come to its natural conclusion, of everything was sort of in a better place. And the day I realized maybe it’s time to look for something else, it ended up better. A recruiter I had worked with there, now works at Webflow, and she had reached out a couple days earlier and I felt like the universe was like, “Hey Siobhan, here’s the next thing.” Because as everyone said, it was really the people.

Siobhan Sabino: When I think back on my favorite projects technically I’ve worked on, those teams, it was awful. Whereas my favorite teams I’ve worked on, those have been some of the hardest projects technically, but we were all in it together because it was the right people trying to do the right thing. That’s what really drew me to Webflow, was feeling like, “Yes. We’re going to come in and we’re going to make a change and we’re going to do the best we can and we’re going to do it together.” And that’s what really drew me in.

Siobhan Sabino: Plus now, we have a cat channel and I can show people pictures of Brody all the time and they love it, because I also love them.

Arquay Harris: That’s a great answer. We have an answer that came in through the Q and A, and it is, “What’s the best advice that someone gave you early on in your career in software development engineering?” How are you Katie?

Katie Fujihara: Okay, so actually I will say that… not necessarily a piece of advice, but something that Olena did actually, because I worked with Olena before on a feature.

Katie Fujihara: One thing that she taught me is that even if you or a staff or senior level engineer, you have so much you can learn from junior engineers, and that has stuck with me since. I remember she would vocalize also when I would teach her something that she liked or she didn’t know about or something. She would always just like be so open and humble in saying that to me, and it helps reinforce my confidence that even though I don’t have the years upon years of experience like her, she still can take away something from me and that I have knowledge that is valuable to other people, so that’s what I would say.

Arquay Harris: That’s very sweet. I won’t make every single person answer but I’m curious about you, JZ, I know that you’ve had a very long and kind of storied career. What was some early advice that you got?

Jiaona Zhang: Yeah, I can’t exactly answer the, you know, what advice I get in software engineering since that’s not my background, but the two pieces of advice that really have just stuck with me in my career, and there’s one that was early career and then was one that’s later career. I’ll share both.

Jiaona Zhang: The early career one was optimized for learning. That’s a piece of advice I’d gotten and really resonated with me and something that guided my career for the first five, six years, where when I joined Pocket Gems, which is the mobile gaming company, I was like, “I don’t know what a PM is. I’m here to do it.” When I joined Dropbox, I actually worked on the most technical product I could find because I had that imposter syndrome about working in technology, so I joined the Dropbox developer platform team and I was, “What is an API? I’m here to learn.”

Jiaona Zhang: You know, when I joined Airbnb, I’d worked at engineering driven companies. I’d worked at almost like business product driven companies, but I never worked at design driven company. When I joined, I really wanted to learn what it would mean to build from first principles and design thinking. And again, so that’s really something that guided me early career.

Jiaona Zhang: Later in my career, a piece of advice that’s really stuck with me that might seem unintuitive is “Ask for help.” I think that when you get further and further in your career, it’s almost harder to feel like you can ask for help. And I think, especially in the industry that we work in, that we all work in. It’s like, “Oh, if I ask for help, are people going to think I’m not competent?” Or they think, “I look 20, are they going to think…” Like there’s just like a whole like thing where if you ask for help, is that going to be looked down upon?

Jiaona Zhang: The advice I’d gotten from a mentor was, ask for help because you should always feel like you’re failing. If you’re learning and you’re growing, you’re pushing and pushing on that impact, like there are always days where you’re like, “Man, that did not go the way I wanted to go.” Like you should be in some ways failing and learning from that. And in order to do it in a way where…

Jiaona Zhang: Because the more senior you are, you are responsible for a lot of people and for the impact on the company. And if you do not ask for help clearly and often, it’s just not human to be able to take it on your shoulders all the time. Ask for help is something that I think about every single day, something I push myself to do every single day.

Arquay Harris: Oh, that’s so good. I mean, this reminds me of… It’s a similar question that people ask, like, “What is the advice you give to your younger self?” And for me, there is an extra pressure like, to take you back on what Jay-Z just said, where there’s this famous XKCD comic where, the first pane is like, “Oh, Bob doesn’t understand math.” And the second one is like, “Women don’t understand math.” But for me it’s like, if I admit that, I’ll miss something. It’s like, “See, I told you black women can’t do SQL.” And it’s just like this.

Arquay Harris: I would rather like buy a book on Java Beans than ask for help. And I would have wished I would not done… I wish I would had not done that, because I could have gone farther faster, right? Had I had that support system.

Arquay Harris: We have another question in chat and I’m going to start with you, Siobhan, and the question is, “What advice would you give to someone who has no technical background, that’s starting this from scratch in a bootcamp?”

Siobhan Sabino: Oh, that’s an interesting one. I like that. I think oftentimes engineers, whether intentionally or not, do a lot of gatekeeping, especially in a company where engineers are asked to talk with non-engineers. We are not taught to think about how do we communicate that? How do we make sure we’re using language that everyone understands? We’re bringing everyone along.

Siobhan Sabino: One of the things I’ve really learned as a data engineer and I’ve really loved is getting to work with non-engineers and having to explain technical things to them. It is very hard to explain what is a Docker container to someone who’s not an engineer, but when you practice that, that’s really important.

Siobhan Sabino: I think oftentimes when you come from a non-technical background and suddenly you’re faced with engineers throwing these words around, you think, “I’m the problem.” It’s important to remember from a cultural perspective, “no, this is something where everyone should feel involved.”

Siobhan Sabino: You should feel comfortable saying, “I don’t understand. Can you explain that to me? Can you explain that in a less technical manner?” That way, we are bringing everyone along and sometimes engineers will say, “Well, I understand so why don’t you?” The point is, if we’re all on the same page, we’re all going to do better together, right? High tide raises all boats.

Siobhan Sabino: I think, especially if you’re coming from a non-technical background, I’ve done a lot of interviews. And let me tell you the non-technical people or people who switch careers, they’re always my favorite, because they think about things so differently. And that different perspective is so valuable. They’re thinking about how do I explain this to non-technical people? How do I approach the problem differently? As much as many people will tell you, this is a weakness, it’s not. It really gives you a different insight. And I think it will make you just a better person to work with all around

Arquay Harris: Totally agree. I’m curious about you Olena and then I feel like we should go to Katie as well after that, who actually lived through this experience?

Olena Sovyn: I would dabble on like advice about education. There are so many teachers out there, especially with everything available now online. If you have teacher at your boot camps that can’t explain something, look for another teacher on YouTube, because there are so many approach how to teach others and some approach might work for you better.

Olena Sovyn: Some approach might work for other people better. If you don’t understand something, this is not your problem or your limitation. This is just the way someone tries to educate you, and it doesn’t work for you, but there are so many other ways how you can be educated and learn about something. Maybe your way is to ask for examples, maybe by watching videos, maybe by creating talks, who knows.

Olena Sovyn: Explore how best you can learn, what you want to learn.

Arquay Harris: Oh yeah. Katie, go for it, if you wouldn’t mind.

Katie Fujihara: I think something that is really important when you’re coming from a non-technical, completely unrelated background, doing a bootcamp, the thing that people often don’t tell you while you’re in the bootcamp is how difficult it is once you’re out of the bootcamp to get a job and to get noticed.

Katie Fujihara: What I would recommend is to find a way to differentiate yourself early on, figure out what you like, really double down on your strengths and your weaknesses, like figure out what those are early on and just like really lean into your strengths.

Katie Fujihara: I know for me, personally, like one of my strengths is I’m very community driven. And so while I might not be the most technically savvy person or I definitely don’t consider myself that, I lean into the participating and building communities.

Katie Fujihara: That for me, that meant attending lots of conferences and networking at them or speaking at conferences or speaking at meetups, just getting myself out there so that I could network with people.

Katie Fujihara: Another way, if in-person type of things isn’t your jam, I’ve noticed that people were very excited when they found out that I contributed to open source projects. That shows that you’re engaged with like the open source community, you know? And you have proof that, of your technical skills, by like linking to PRs. It’s evidence. It’s very easy to just point things like, “Oh, I’m active in here and this is my work.”

Katie Fujihara: I found that this was a lot more useful than working on side projects that were never finished or anything like that. This one you just pick and choose what things you want to learn about in open source projects. Maybe it’s “Oh, I want to learn more about CSS.” So you take only those types of issues, and then you get to go through the code review process with maintainers, and so then you get to learn about that.

Katie Fujihara: That would be my recommendation, contribute to open source and join communities.

Arquay Harris: Oh, I love all of these answers and Katie, especially. I remember years and years ago, people used to say like, “Oh, I want to get into coding, like what should I do it?” I would always say, “Code.” Even if you make a website for your mom’s Canasta club, just do it, like just start doing stuff. And so it’s just like, “I love your attitude.”

Arquay Harris: And the other thing that I wanted to comment on is when Siobhan said that the people who are kind of career changers are her favorite. I have had that experience as well, where like, if you say you have a CS degree and you go to college and let’s say you learn something like data types, you might learn it over a quarter semester, like group projects, and they have like a lot of fillers, right?

Arquay Harris: If you go to a bootcamp and for 24 hours, you know, 20 hours a day for two weeks, you learn data types, you’d be pretty good at them. Right? Like there is this like practical thing. And so for me, I always like… It takes all types, right? Like there’s many different roads traveled. And I think that this very much feeds into the next question that we have, which is, what advice… Sorry. Oh, there was a question, and it was deleted, but I remember what the question was.

Arquay Harris: JZ had talked about imposter syndrome. Have any of you ever – has anyone else ever experienced that? And what, what are some ways that you tackled it?” How about we start with, how about you, Siobhan? And then JZ, I think, if you have anything more to add.

Siobhan Sabino: Yeah. I actually started studying computer science when I was 14. My high school had classes. The way I got into it was when I was 13, my mother made a passing comment of, “Oh, you’re always on the computer. Maybe you should go to the computer science academy.” I was like, “Well, yeah, maybe I will.” In that way, teenagers have, so that’s how I got into computer science. And at that point I don’t even think we had internet at home, my sister can correct me if I’m wrong. Like we didn’t have internet at home. Internet was something at the library.

Siobhan Sabino: It’d probably be like 10 years until I’d hear the phrase imposter syndrome. But I remember that was the first time I encountered this idea that because I was a girl, I wasn’t supposed to be good at math or like computers. I remember when other middle schoolers found out I was going into the program. They were like, “Well, why are you in it?” I was like, “You’re just mad, because you’re not as good of algebra as I am. Study harder.” But that was…

Siobhan Sabino: I remember getting to the classroom and there was three girls in the class, which in retrospect is three more than probably most people expected. I remember sitting at my terminal one day because all the boys were having a great time, goofing off, being friends, and I felt so alone crying to myself, thinking, “Either I can quit or I’m going to see this through.” And I look back at that now, and that was probably the closest I came of… I was exposed to that at a very precious age where 14 is a very hard age to do that, but it was in a controlled environment.

Siobhan Sabino: I had a mother who supported me, and I had teachers who were women and supported me, so I was able to make it through. By the time I got into college and then into my first jobs, it was absolutely normal that I was the only woman. And at that point it was what it was. When people say, “Don’t you feel like you don’t belong?” It’s like, that feels like a “You” problem.

Siobhan Sabino: I know I belong and I don’t need to prove that to anybody. That was very unique experience for me, but really having that moment of saying either, “I’m going to quit or I’m going to keep going”, and I loved it too much to quit.

Arquay Harris: That is great. I think this will be our final answer before we head into the break, the networking sessions. JZ, take us home. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this.

Jiaona Zhang: I’ll share my thoughts, but I actually think Arquay, you should take us home, because I’m really curious also in your thoughts on imposter syndrome, but I’ll share mine. Yes, a hundred percent. Definitely something that I’ve struggled with, I still struggle with.

Jiaona Zhang:I think that the first piece is when… so the product has been a discipline that I think has taken lots of different twists and turns, and it really was rooted more in marketing. I think the modern day product management like… a lot of people actually harken it back to Google with APM program, right? They had program managers at Microsoft, so on, so forth, but Google was really where it was like, “You have to have a computer science degree and then like being a PM is awesome. You get to be part of like this club and you get to like make decisions.”

Jiaona Zhang: But the thing is like, it was such a closed door kind of environment, where it’s like you really did have to have a computer science degree to even be interviewed for Google. And so, one of the things that I thought was really important as a turning point, a product as a discipline is like, no, actually recognizing that by bringing in perspectives of like other perspectives that aren’t just the computer science one, in a fact that your role is to really understand the user. Like, do you need to be technical to understand the user? No.

Jiaona Zhang: In fact, the more the user… You were like, the more that you project yourself onto the user, the worse products you’re going to build, right? And so I think that like moving away from that, like you have to have that degree in order to get an interview, into actually the role is really to understand people. That requires empathy, that requires curiosity. It does not require a coding background. I think really where things are changing and have changed.

Jiaona Zhang: I think part of my personal journey with imposter syndrome, especially in the product management role, is really understanding better what is the role of product management. It’s actually a very different role than the role of an engineer, for example. I think that is a big piece, but Arquay, I’m really curious about you.

Arquay Harris: Yeah.

Jiaona Zhang: Yeah.

Arquay Harris: I definitely have struggled with imposter syndrome, my whole career.

Arquay Harris: I was thinking recently, there was this article and it talked about how if you track historically over time, women’s participation in computer science, it was mostly female dominated. You had like the hidden figures. They were literally called computers, Bletchley Circle, like all this stuff.

Arquay Harris: Then at certain point, there was a huge drop off. What people have attributed to is the eighties, because you got into this like revenge of the nerds or like weird science and like, “Computer science is for boys and nerds and white dudes”, and that sort of thing got into the culture. Women began to think that like, “They don’t belong here. This is not for us. Math is hard.” Like all of these things, right? Yeah, I definitely struggled with like, “Oh, do I fit?”

Arquay Harris: Add the race and the gender, like all the things, right? At a certain point, I really just like stopped comparing myself. I have this whole like… When I’m talking to my friends or whatever, this kind of joke, how like I never compare myself to other women, for example. I’m never like, I’m like, “Oh yeah, she looks great in that dress, but I bet she’s terrible at CSS specificity or whatever.” Right?

Arquay Harris: You can’t compare yourself, like it doesn’t work like that. There’s all like apples to apples kind of thing. You really need to think about what makes you special, whether it’s like whatever dress you’re wearing or how good you are at JavaScript or whatever.

Arquay Harris:And thinking about like knowledge is a circle, right? Like no one knows everything in the circle.

Arquay Harris: What part of it do you specialize in? I think we do in culture, you’re sort of ingraining people to focus more on your weaknesses than your strengths, right? Like if there is a thing that you struggle with, I bet there’s something that you’re really great at.

Arquay Harris: We all have value. The thing that I think is also interesting is like, we were all hired. There was all some spark that people saw in us. There’s some potential that we have and it’s up to us, whether or not we live up to that potential and we lean into it or we let others define who we are and how we behave.

Arquay Harris: On that note, this has been super great. I’m not exactly sure what happens, but somehow magically, we are going to go into breakout sessions. Oh, there’s Angie! Oh, save us.

Angie Chang: Well, thank you all so much for joining us. We are going to be wrapping up. I want to say that Webflow is hiring!

Angie Chang: We’re going to be sending out an email afterwards to ask about how this event went and then we’ll have some link to the jobs there, so check those out. If not, just go to the website and look at the jobs there as well.

Angie Chang: They’re hiring for engineers, engineering managers, product managers, design managers, a ton of jobs.

Angie Chang: Tell your friends this is an awesome place to work. You’ve met some amazing women who work there and yeah, spread the word.

Angie Chang: In the chat, there is a link to the Zoom meeting where we’ll be doing the breakout sessions. If you want to join us, I know it’s getting late, please do join us by clicking on that link. It’s also available in an email that will be sent- that’s already been sent to all attendees. There’s a link to the Zoom meeting.

Angie Chang: Thanks so much for everyone for speaking. We’ll see you on the Zoom meeting, if you want to have another 20 minutes of meeting each other face to face. See you on the other side.

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

Strava Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks & Executive Leadership Discussion! (Video + Transcript)

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

Transcript of Strava Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks & Executive Discussion:

Angie Chang: Thank you all again for joining me for this Strava Girl Geek Dinner in the middle of a pandemic.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Post pandemic now being virtual, you get to see more people across different time zones that we wouldn’t otherwise been able to see.

Camille Tate: I was being truthful, we do have a team of all stars and we’re going to talk about a variety of topics that you all may have an interest in.

MacBeth Watson: So what I did was I took a bunch of short term contracts and tested the waters and figured out what was right for me, what I really enjoyed solving, what problems I enjoyed solving.

Tara King-Hughes: I said, okay, I’ve got to do something with this and that led me to a career in development and in development, I always wanted to connect the dots and X, Y, and my boss was like, “Well, maybe you should be a dot connector.” And then that landed me in product.

Shailvi Wakhlu: I always really encourage people to focus on growing their own functional expertise that extends beyond that specific use case for that specific consumer and think towards other use cases and what would be your skill set that will continue to apply in those different situations.

Danielle Guy: Look inside, find what makes you happy, what brings you joy and don’t be afraid to prioritize yourself. When you look into your next adventure, your next company and role, make sure that your values and beliefs align with whatever company that you’re looking at.

Elyse Kolker Gordon: You can do it, you got to put yourself out there to be able to do it.

Angie Chang: Welcome to this Strava Girl Geek Dinner. My name’s Angie Chang and I’m the founder of Girl Geek X. Sukrutha, do you want to say hello and tell us a bit about yourself?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. Hi, I’m Sukrutha and I’m dialing in from San Francisco. Angie and I work together on this. Obviously, we’re backed by an amazing supportive team behind us, Amy and Amanda, thank you. We are excited to have you all join us tonight for Strava sponsored virtual dinner. Pre-pandemic, we would have obviously met in real life, but post-pandemic, now being virtual, we get to see more people across different time zones that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to see.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I use Strava on the daily, and the magic of Strava is being able to bring people together all across the globe with one focus, just trying to motivate each other to work out. So whether it’s a walk or run and I really appreciate the partnership we’ve had with Strava. This is not the first time they’ve sponsored.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I’m excited to introduce our first speaker, Tara. She’s the senior director of product management at Strava where she leads a team of product managers. As a product leader, she focuses on solving the right problems to build minimum lovable product. I love that. In her spare time, she mentors underrepresented groups and helps them build rewarding careers in product. So welcome, Tara.

Tara King-Hughes: Okay. Thanks. Well, I’m going to tell you a little bit about Strava.

Tara King-Hughes: Strava is a global community. We have over 85 million athletes with more than 80% residing outside the US, We have athletes in 195 countries. Strava members upload approximately 40 million activities a week. That’s more than 5.3 billion activities shared to date.

Tara King-Hughes: Our mission is to connect athletes to what motivates them and help them find their personal best. There are over 30 activity types on Strava, ranging from cycling to wind surfing, and we want to continue to expand this list and to support as many activities as our community needs. I’ll now hand it back to you, Angie.

Angie Chang: Our first lightning tech talk will be from Lucinda Zhao. She is the lead senior ML engineer at Strava and she enjoys developing algorithms and applications that bring better insights to millions of athletes on Strava. Before Strava, she worked at Uber on applied machine learning with location sensor data. She spends more and more time exercising ever since joining Strava in 2019. Welcome, Lucinda.

Lucinda Zhao: Hello, I’m Lucinda and I’m a senior machine learning engineer at Strava. Today I’m going to give a high level introduction on the problems, machine learning engineers. The machine learning team at Strava is relatively new and small, the team was built less than two years ago, yet we have good autonomy to discover and decide what to work on within Strava that could greatly benefit from machine learning.

Lucinda Zhao: With tens of millions of athletes on platform and billions of activity records, we have regionally unique data to leverage, to create values and to personalize athletes’ experiences. As we may be expecting a company of a relatively smaller size like Strava, our work scope is pretty end-to-end from data exploration to helps pipelines to model training and validation and a model serving and integration.

Lucinda Zhao: We leverage open source tools as much as possible. Since the team is new, almost all projects start from scratch. Here listed a few projects we have worked on. Some of them may sound familiar and some may be Strava specific. We work on PYMK which is short for people you may know. This is like social network, essential.

Lucinda Zhao: At Strava, we suggest fellow athletes for you to follow to help discover and connect in the community. The suggestions are based on athletes’ activities, interactions, etcetera. We also worked on dynamic notification scheduling. The goal is to intelligently send notifications of different content at different times and cadence to enhance user interactions and provide a good amount of information without too much interruption. We also worked on activity type classification. This is Strava specific.

Lucinda Zhao: Basically, when you upload an activity to Strava, you need to specify the sport type, whether it’s a run, ride, or swim, for example, and athletes could compete with each other by comparing the records of the same sport type and the same location. And that activity becomes the segment and each segment has its own leaderboard. Segments and leaderboard are one of the key features of Strava, incorrect types may lead to inaccurate leaderboards. Activity type detection aims to detect activities of wrong sport types automatically, and such as a correction to help improve data integrity and user experience.

Lucinda Zhao: The last one I like to talk about is segment effort estimation. Strava recently launched the new navigation and maps through which exploring segments and routes has never been easier. In the new map, Strava recommend segments based on intense, for example, as you can see on screenshots, whether it’s popular segments or discover new places or break your records. The names are quite self explanatory. In the break your record and climb leaderboard intense, we recommend segments that we think you have a good chance to score a better rank.

Lucinda Zhao: Let’s take a closer look at the segment effort estimation at this particular application. Under the hood we may have tens of thousands of segments for a given map region. We filter them down to a smaller pool, say, of a few thousand, run a model to get an estimated best effort for all the segments for the given athlete and compare the estimation with the leaderboard or personal records, rank and [inaudible] selected segments in the app. If I take a closer look at the data and model, your [inaudible] projects are composed of two: parts offline training and online scoring.

Lucinda Zhao: For offline training, we take the best effort from the past and records of the label for given athlete and segment here. The future and aggregate past segment efforts to characterize a given segment, which is a segment of features in the chart. Similarly, we filter and aggregate his or her activities on Strava to characterize a given athlete, which are the athlete feature in the chart was labeled and [inaudible] a model can be trained and evaluated.

Lucinda Zhao: The number of segments we have at Strava is at 10 million scale. The number of athletes at Strava is at 10 million scale and the segment efforts is at 10 billion scale. The final model is training model 100 million segment are athlete players. For the online estimation part, the features I mentioned previously are pre-calculated and stored in the productive database which can be batched in real-time based on ID with the train model and features we can provide pretty reliable personalized estimations for arbitrary athlete and segment players.

Lucinda Zhao: Finally, a little bit about the model serving integration. The most common ways to have a standalone surveys. You already in person where you registered [inaudible] model, expose it as an import and do the RPC call with provided features and get output in real-time. However, for this particular application since we may run predictions on some of our segments under the hood for each [inaudible], the size of the input features could be quite large. So it makes more sense to move the model to the data rather than to move the data to the model.

Lucinda Zhao: As a result, we have the models served within the scholar server, always [inaudible] settings. Besides to achieve desired latency would also routine the model complexity to improve the inference efficiency with a bit of sacrifice on accuracy. Details only [inaudible] but hopefully it provides a high-level picture of the workflow.

Lucinda Zhao: Of course, we’re planning a lot more in the future. For example, we may want to recommend challenges, competitions, or local events that athletes can participate in. Maybe it can recognize segment the athletes who are similar to you with a lot and so on and so forth. This technology is in detail, we strive to create unique values and experiences for our athletes. That’s all from me. Thanks for listening, I’m handing it over to…

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you. I’m going to do a quick intro for you, Sara. Welcome. I’m glad to see everybody dialing in from all around, like I said, all around the globe in various time zones. Welcome, Sara.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Sara is is an engineering lead and manager at Strava on the foundation team. She enjoys developing the systems and infrastructure that makes Strava reliable and performance for all the athletes that rely on Strava. That’s amazing. She’s passionate about helping individuals navigate their careers and building inclusive and sustainable teams and culture.

Sara Shi: Thank you for the intro. Hi all, thank you for having me here at this Girl Geek event. My name is Sara Shi and I’m here to talk to you about scaling on-call culture with a growing product or, how I learned to stop worrying and love ownership. I hope there’s some people out there that get the Dr. Strangelove reference, but if you don’t, it’s a good classic film that you should check out.

Sara Shi: A little bit about me. I’m based out of San Francisco as an engineering lead and manager on the foundation team. Our team is more traditionally known in industries as infrastructure or site reliability engineering team. I joined about three years ago in 2018 and before then, I’d never been on call in my life, but we’ll get into that a little bit more later.

Sara Shi: At Strava, we like to say that everyone should have time for the preferred activity type, and contrary to what you might believe, not all of us at Strava are crazy triathletes. In fact, I’m going to go as far as to say that my preferred activity type is eating so that isn’t quite something I can track on Strava. A little bit about Strava, as Tara mentioned in her introduction, we are a global community with over 85 million athletes, adding over 2 million athletes every month.

Sara Shi: We are a rapidly growing product. To give you a sense of the scale that we operate at, we have over 5 billion activities to date and every week we upload more than 40 million activities. And we’re a distributed company. We’re about 250 plus engineers or employees and about 85 people in the engineering org. So all of this might seem like it’s a sales pitch but I’m telling you this just to give you some background on what on-call is like at Strava and the scale at which we operate.

Sara Shi: Strava’s on-call journey, or at least as I’ve known it. As I mentioned before, I’d never been on call before my time at Strava but back at the beginning of 2018 or 2019, the time came for me to go on call and I asked for access to PagerDuty. The response that I got from my colleagues was, be careful what you wish for. That’s not quite what you want to hear when you’re just asking for access to on-call software but I soon came to understand why.

Sara Shi: Back in 2019, we had about 50 engineers. In terms of scale, we had crossed the two billionth activity mark sometime during that year. But when I went back to look at PagerDuty metrics, the top 10 most paged engineers at Strava handled 91% of all incidents. That’s not great. It’s not great for our engineers. It’s not great for the product and it’s not great for the athletes that depended on those. So we resolved to change this, but we knew it would be a long journey. So what did that long journey look like? Well, it’s easy for me to look at the metrics in retrospect.

Sara Shi: In 2020, Strava had grown to about 70 engineers. We crossed a 3 billionth activity mark that year but this time holding steady with my top 10 most paged engineers metric, the top 10 most page engineers handled 69% of all incidents. It’s still not great, but definitely improvement. That brings us to 2021 or this [inaudible] August. We are now at about 85 engineers, well past our 5 billionth activity, and this year, so far, the top 10 most paged engineers handled 60% of all incidents.

Sara Shi: You might imagine that you’d want something where every engineer was responsible for an equal proportion of incidents but that isn’t particularly realistic based on how different services run, how different teams operate, and what different teams consider high urgency. That being said, we’re still not where we want to be and there’s definitely room for improvement, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I’d like to walk you through where we started and what we changed to get the improvement that we did see with our growing scale. So I’m going to cover this in the context of three areas. Technology, people, and culture.

Sara Shi: So, technology, where do we start from? This may feel pretty self-explanatory but you can’t have a successful on-call culture without the right technology. The pillars of observability and metrics logging and tracing provide visibility into our systems and applications while alerting enables us to respond to the conditions that require attention. These two together allow us to investigate and diagnose issues that arise within the systems. Fortunately, in 2019, we had already configured or were in the process of configuring many of our tools. I want to note that it’s a seriously non-trivial effort to configure each one of these components on their own but thanks to the hard work of many engineers on my team, we had a solid foundation to work on.

Sara Shi: How did we improve from here? To shift the ownership of those 91% of incidents from one group of engineers who didn’t necessarily have all the tools they needed to succeed, we invested heavily in building tools and documentation to enable individual team ownership of their own observability and alerting. For example, we built tracing libraries and of course shared libraries into every one of our services so that any service owner can simply follow the library version and get tracing for free. Or for another example, we wrote a product called [inaudible] which enables people to write their own grip on a dashboard easily.

Sara Shi: We also wrote docs on how to use a variety of the tools available and gave the recorded tech talks to demonstrate how to use those tools. We simplified the friction of using these technologies so that our developers would be able and excited to own their services from end to end. So on to people, where did we start from? Back in 2019, we had about three main rotations, but the input rotation responded to nearly all incidents. In the process, we are exhausting a small group of individuals, siloing product knowledge, and struggling to maintain core triaging incident response skills across the rest of the engineering org.

Sara Shi: How did we get better? Beside just forget about it altogether, we started from scratch. We established rotations on the minimum of eight people and up to 10 people. These numbers might seem kind of arbitrary, but they allowed us to avoid exhausting any one individual. Engineers could expect to be on call for about one week, every two to three months, which is just enough for engineers to maintain their core triaging and incident response skills.

Sara Shi: We also established product rotations per product area and team rather than grouping engineers into the broad rotations that didn’t really make much sense. It seems like that’s intuitive, but it was quite a challenge to draw the product area lines, but I’ll get into that a little bit later. We also established primary and secondary rotations across the product areas and teams. If you’re not familiar with the concept of primary and secondary rotations, the idea is you have two rotations, ideally sibling teams on call at the same time to cover for one another in some capacity.

Sara Shi: Typically, the primary rotation for one product area or team is the secondary on another product area or team and vice versa. Our secondary rotations catch any alerts that might fall through from the primary rotations or provide coverage than someone on a primary rotation needs it. This means you always have someone to call in for backup or to cover for you while you go do your preferred activity type. I’m actually on call right now, but thanks to Jacob on the activities team, I’m getting coverage as I’m giving this talk.

Sara Shi: Additionally, we establish the role of incident managers. You may remember in my talk description that I said, even our CTO is on call. He’s on an incident managing rotation. Incident managers, helping [inaudible] incidents to delegate responsibilities, manage external communications and communicate overall business impact to stakeholders, giving us engineers the ability to focus on what’s going on in hand. Finally, culture. Where did we start from?

Sara Shi: Well, we had set product level objectives, latency, request ability, et cetera, across the company. We had relatively good playbooks or sets of instructions for responding to, diagnosing and resolving incidents, mapped to specific alerts and errors. We had effective long-term remediation and prevention. We do and still to this day, take advantage of a weekly meeting called incident review, in which we review all incidents that happened during the week, assign immediate action items and identify where we need to plan out longer term remediation strategies and we have a blameless culture.

Sara Shi: We focus on the contributing causes of incidents without focusing on any individual or change behavior or resolution time. We can always assume that everyone did the best that they could with the information available. Being on-call can be stressful and we want to provide a psychologically safe environment to work, learn, and grow in being on call. So how do we get better? Ownership. How do you know who owns what as your company grows? As teams change, as product focus areas shift? How do you prevent features from being neglected or lost? Maybe at a large tech company, you have the resources to hire a new team for every product area.

Sara Shi: For a company like ours, that’s just not possible when we’re trying to grow modestly in line with our scale. So how do we start this ownership journey? Well, it started with sitting down with a spreadsheet. We conducted a product survey and feature audit in that teams to product areas and features. This was quite a monumental task, especially over areas that have been neglected over the entire 11 year history of the company. This spreadsheet ended up being a whopping 336 line items and I’m sure we didn’t even hit everything with the survey and audit, but it gave us a good starting point to work from.

Sara Shi: From there, we were able to map product features to services and services to teams and with the join we’d already built, it was easy to ascribe ownership of observability and alerts to those teams. The things that I’ve just discussed are a sampling of where we’ve improved. We’re constantly learning, iterating on our processes and on call culture, and maybe in another year I’ll have another update, but in the meantime, what should you walk away with or what should your company strive for? A solid technological foundation, implement observability and alerting, build tools and write documentation that allow any individual to own their own alerts, logs, metrics, and traces with ease.

Sara Shi: Take care of your people. Start with a fixed core number of people per rotation and create rotations per product area. Set up the backup cavalry primary and secondary rotations with the right on-call training and preparation so that you can give your people psychological safety and work-life balance and designate incident managers to help with managing everything else flying around during an incident. Finally, build a sustainable culture. Set service level objectives so that your company level objectives don’t feel so impossible to tackle. Write playbooks that any engineer from any team can pick up.

Sara Shi: Make sure you have long-term remediation and prevention strategies, whether that’s a post-mortem culture or a weekly incident review meeting like ours. Promote a blameless culture where your engineers can work collaboratively and openly learn from their mistakes and own what you built. This is important. Don’t let us become an afterthought. Build this into every step of the process. I hope you’ve learned a thing or two that you can take back to your own companies. Thanks to Girl Geek for hosting and thanks for listening. I will pass it back.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Sara. Really liked that talk, especially about the culture aspect and creating that playbook. So thank you so much. Our next speaker is Michelle Dobbs. She is a senior server engineer at Strava on the competition and community team. She enjoys developing scalable systems to improve the athlete experience for all and is passionate about improving developer productivity and operations. In her free time, she enjoys cycling, basketball, and learning to play piano. Welcome, Michelle.

Michelle Dobbs: Excited to be here. Hey, everyone. My name is Michelle Dobbs, I’m a senior server engineer here at Strava and I joined the competition and community team back in March of this year. I’m based out of the Strava Denver office and I actually just returned back to Denver’s altitude yesterday, so if I’m a little out of breath, I’m just not acclimated to the lack of oxygen yet. Prior to Strava, I was working at Amazon Web Services on a space and satellite project called AWS Ground Station. One of the things I definitely learned from having your full production service require satellites orbiting the earth is how to get a little creative sometimes with your testing strategies.

Michelle Dobbs: Before I dive into how we load tested our new group challenges feature back in June, I want to give a brief background of Strava challenges and what it meant for us to launch group challenges. Global challenges have been around on Strava for several years. These are challenges that are surfaced to all Strava athletes and everyone has a chance to join and complete the challenges to earn digital badges or discounts or products from some of Strava’s partners. For most athletes, the leaderboards of these challenges can be a bit out of reach since it can include so many thousands of people. So, often these challenges can be more about pushing yourself individually to reach a goal that many others are also striving towards.

Michelle Dobbs: By launching group challenges, Strava made a challenge experience that’s more personal, customizable, and competitive. Athletes can challenge their friends to a specific goal of mileage to run or total time span active and they’re able to view leaderboards and send comments back and forth to this smaller group of athletes. This feature was developed reusing some of the same backend as global challenges, but there was also a sizeable amount of new code. When we launched this back in June, we wanted to do everything in our power to ensure both that the new feature was working correctly and that the existing global challenge features were not negatively impacted by the launch.

Michelle Dobbs: What can we do to increase the likelihood of a smooth launch day? Throughout the development of the feature, we ensured that we had third unit testing and code reviews for the new logic added to our challenges services. We also launched a beta testing round with athletes well ahead of launch so that we could gain insight into what pieces of the system might not be functioning as expected. And that’s both on the user experience side and also on the software performance side. But the missing piece that both these strategies have is the ability to gain insight into the performance at scale.

Michelle Dobbs: We need to be sure that when our millions of users have the opportunity to explore and play around with this new feature, they aren’t met with bad performance or high latency while our engineers have to scramble in the background to repair issues post-launch. With this load testing goal in mind, we developed a high-level testing plan that we believe would have the best chance of exposing any performance issues ahead of launch.

Michelle Dobbs: First, we’ll create hundreds of thousands of challenges and add athletes to them. Next, we’ll drive activity, upload traffic, so that the business logic of leaderboards and challenge updates is exercised. Lastly, we’ll leverage our metrics and dashboards so that we can identify where any bottlenecks might exist.

Michelle Dobbs: Once this plan was developed, our next task was understanding how we would run it logistically. Do we want to use Strava’s pre-prod staging environment to avoid unnecessary prod impacts or do we want our load test to be as realistic as possible, running in production with the competing traffic and capacity that it will have on launch day? Staging had the added challenge of lacking like a consistent activity upload pattern, whereas, our users in prod are constantly uploading new activities of all kinds that would exercise the code path that we’re interested in.

Michelle Dobbs: As you might expect, our solution here was to use a mix of both production and staging. We developed a four-phase approach that used Cron jobs to create challenges called the challenge-related endpoints for steady-state traffic and to delete all the test challenges. We planned to run these Cron jobs in four separate phases, a small-scale testing phase and staging to validate that the jobs code worked as expected, a larger scale test in staging using fake activity creation to stimulate prod uploads.

Michelle Dobbs: A small-scale testing in prod to ensure that load tests acts as we expect and, again, that athletes will not be impacted by the test. And then one last large-scale test in prod with hidden challenges that were created in the background for random athletes. We used existing traffic patterns on the global challenges side to estimate what we imagined was the ceiling for how many challenges might be created on launch day. And then for these larger-scale testing phases in staging and prod, we tried to hit those ceiling numbers that we’d estimated.

Michelle Dobbs: Once these phases were determined, our next question became, what exactly should we test? So the graph here is a pretty simplified version of the architecture for this feature. The athlete begins interacting with the group challenges feature through the high-level Strava APIs. Those APIs then call into the challenges service, which has several dependencies of its own. So we needed to understand what we would gain and lose by having our testing enter the system in different places.

Michelle Dobbs: The first decision we made was to have the testing entry point be in the challenges service rather than in the Strava API. The Cron jobs code became much simpler by moving it to develop against the challenges service, just due to the authentication methods required for each of the systems. We also did some due diligence there to investigate the Strava API code that called into the challenge of service, just to ensure that there were no risky areas that we needed to include in the test.

Michelle Dobbs: Next, we wanted to consider communication safety, so when users join or are invited to group challenges in production, there are several different notifications they may receive over the life of the challenge, like push notifications or emails. And we needed to ensure that when athletes were added to hidden challenges in production, they would never receive notifications. The negative side of this decision is that it eliminates a dependency from our load test. But we determined that our load to the notification service would not actually be significantly different from its existing steady-state load from other Strava features.

Michelle Dobbs: Having the confidence that we wouldn’t send unnecessary notifications was worth removing this piece from the load test. Before we ran the test, there were a couple of other safety precautions we wanted to take. We needed to be able to quickly stop all the load test traffic if there was a negative athlete impact in the production phase of testing. So we created a feature toggle for this purpose and ensure that all the on-call engineers understood when testing was happening and how exactly to stop it if it was suspected to be causing issues.

Michelle Dobbs: We also made sure that in staging, the feature toggle actually worked, which is key. When generating challenges, we also use the same random string names so that it was very easy to identify exactly which challenges are related to the load test. Lastly, to validate that no notifications are being sent, we added logging and feature checks that we could verify in staging and prod that no notifications were ever going to be sent for the test challenges. Once we ran this, what did we find? In staging, we discovered a missing index on a table that was causing queries to become extremely slow once the table had a large number of rows. This could have caused a complete service outage due to how slow those queries became like both on launch day and if we had chosen to run the load test in production.

Michelle Dobbs: We also found a small race condition in some of the notification generation logic. After correcting these issues and staging, we continued with the production test phase and found a couple more issues. There was a periodic challenge job that caused contention in the database with athlete traffic and increased the latency of non-group challenge-related calls. We were able to fix this by more evenly distributing that jobs load over time and over different service components. We also found an edge case bug that was affecting two to 3% of all create challenge requests in prod, which we didn’t catch in the beta test phase due to the low volume of that test.

Michelle Dobbs: All of the issues we discovered we were able to fix before we launched the feature in early June and we didn’t have to push back any deadlines. That was great. So after finishing the load test, we took a step to analyze how we could’ve made our testing better. The biggest pain point for the load test was the ability to upload quality activities in staging. Because we had no way to do this programmatically, we had to do generation of manual activities, which are completely separate from the Cron jobs that ran the rest of the load test logic.

Michelle Dobbs: Manual activities are also less useful than the activity uploads that you might see in prod, just because they’re less diverse activity types and they never contained GPS data. So what do we do in response to this finding? We didn’t have time to implement any of these changes during the development of this load test without pushing back our deadline. But thankfully Strava has this awesome concept called Guild week where engineers across teams can work together to develop solutions to problems that span across all of Strava. After identifying these pain points during load testing, I was able to propose a Guild week project, get buy-in from other engineers and then spend a week with them making the staging activity process better.

Michelle Dobbs: We built a new service that only runs in staging and allows programmatic generation of full GPS activity uploads in staging. Along with being able to use this programmatically, like in the Cron jobs for this load test or another testing code, we also created a UI where Strava employees can go and clone their own product with these, into their staging accounts with just one click. Not only did our load test secure a smooth launch for group challenges but also led to work that helps improve the development and testing experience for devs across all of Strava engineering.

Michelle Dobbs: What are key takeaways from this load testing process? First is staging first. We caught multiple issues in staging that would have really impacted production if we had started testing there, one of which could have taken the entire challenges service down. It was super important to start testing in staging and find the big bugs first. Next is isolate systems when needed. Isolating certain parts of our load test made the load test safer and simpler to write. As long as you’re aware of what you’re cutting out and the trade-offs that are involved, it can be really beneficial to make the tests run more smoothly.

Michelle Dobbs: Next, we have timing awareness. We caught multiple bugs through the testing process and because we started load testing sufficiently early, prior to launch, we didn’t have to push back launch at all to fix them. If you’re load testing without expecting to have to fix anything, you’re probably confident enough in your architecture to just not load test in the first place. Lastly, pay attention to pain points. Even if you don’t have time to fix issues with your testing environments or set-ups during the load test development, take note of the issues and then advocate for working on them later.

Michelle Dobbs: You have the potential to not only benefit future load tests for your team but also potentially multiple aspects of testing across your entire company. Hope you all found some of this info helpful or interesting. I’d really like to thank Girl Geek for hosting this event and I’m really looking forward to the amazing panel we have coming up. Thank you.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you. That was just super insightful and things for us to pay attention to when we’re rolling out whatever our big launch might be at our respective companies. Next up is Camille.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Camille is the head of talent at Strava where she leads an amazing group of talented professionals in building diverse teams. 16 plus years recruiting veteran, she enjoys the day-to-day foundational building of talent acquisition, establishing a path for teams to attract and retain exceptional talent. She is a sought-after speaker, panelist, and contributor to the human resources and talent acquisition community. Welcome, Camille.

Camille Tate: Thank you so much for having us. I truly thank you, Girl Geek, for this partnership and setting this event up. I also am so excited and glad to have the opportunity to have listened to those amazing lightning talks. I learned so many things, even though I work at Strava. Thank you for that.

Camille Tate: I want to spotlight our amazing panel, throughout this panel discussion, you might hear me say amazing and awesome over and over again, just because this panel is truly a team of A-players and all-stars. I would like to introduce them and let them introduce themselves in a way I know that they can. We’ll start with Shailvi first, if you want to come on Shailvi and introduce yourself.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Hello. Hi everyone. Thank you so much, Camille, and thank you so much Girl Geek for hosting us. My name is Shailvi Wakhlu, I go by the pronouns, she/her. I am based out of San Francisco and I’m the Senior Director of Data at Strava. I lead the analytics and the machine learning teams. You heard from our wonderful teammate Lucinda who’s on my team earlier today. My one fun fact, similar to Sara, I also like activities that are food-related. So my favorite activity is looking for new things that I can fry in my air fryer.

Camille Tate: Love it, me too, Shailvi. Next, we have Elyse.

Elyse Kolker Gordon: Hi, I’m Elyse Kolker Gordon, my pronouns are she/her and I’m a Senior Director of Engineering at Strava and I am based out of San Francisco. My fun fact to share with you is that I have technically been a professional musician. I have been paid to play the drums in a concert. So yeah, and excited to be here tonight.

Camille Tate: Wow. Elise, I learned something new, that’s good to hear. Now I’ll pass it on to Tara.

Tara King-Hughes: Hello everyone. My name is Tara King-Hughes, I’m the Senior Director of Product Management, calling in from Atlanta on the east coast. I’ve been with Strava since February and it’s just been a wonderful time partnering with so many to build products and features that our athletes love. One fun fact about me, I’m a Marvel junkie, love all things action movies. So that is my thing. If I can just chill and not be focusing on fitness, it’s binge-watching a good action flick.

Camille Tate: We have that in common, Tara. Awesome. I’ll pass it to Danielle.

Danielle Guy: Hi everyone, I’m Danielle Guy, my pronouns are she/her. I am a Principal Technical Program Manager at Strava, and I joined right along with Tara in February. I am based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, the lone wolf, holding it down. A fun fact about me is that I am actually afraid of chickens. We go way back with an unhealthy relationship, but an additional fun fact is I’ve been trapped two times by chickens in a bathroom, both of them in Hawaii.

Camille Tate: Such a cool fact, Danielle. We pass it along to MacBeth.

MacBeth Watson: Okay. My name is MacBeth Watson. My pronouns are she and her and I’m based out of San Francisco. Right now my title is VP of Design. I’m a member of our senior leadership team and all that involves but I’m deeply involved in both marketing and product. And then I lead the design teams, which includes, at Strava, brand design, product design, copywriting, user research, as well as creative ops. It’s a pretty broad team that supports across the company. And then before Strava, I was at places like Pinterest, X-Box, and Starbucks. And then my fun fact or random fact is I think sprinkles are really good luck and so I pretty much put them on everything and I have an entire shelf in my kitchen for sprinkles.

Camille Tate: That’s awesome, MacBeth, thank you. I was being truthful, we do have a team of all-stars and we’re going to talk about a variety of topics that you all may have an interest in. First, we’re going to talk about working in consumer tech. So we might have a lot of people attending this event tonight that would benefit from how you all got into consumer tech. So give us a quick elevator story on getting into the industry. So, we’ll start with Shailvi and how you got into consumer tech.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Yeah. I started my career as a software engineer in, which was a job search engine back in the day. It was one of those original dotcoms that had a Super Bowl commercial. So, really it was one of those moments. But yeah, I loved working in a place where I had impact directly on people and really enjoyed that space.

Camille Tate: Thanks, Shailvi. That’s cool. Elyse.

Elyse Kolker Gordon: I accidentally wound up in consumer tech. In college, I thought that I wanted to be a video editor, was lucky enough to have taken a few coding classes and found my way eventually to be an engineer. Worked in a consultancy at first and got to work on some really cool projects, including the first online live streaming Olympic player. Then went from there to do more video at Vevo, which does music video online, and now at Strava.

Camille Tate: Thank you. Tara.

Tara King-Hughes: Okay. For me, it started off with, I really wanted to just focus in undergrad and really focused on helping children and I got this amazing, amazing internship. I realized the system to help protect children was broken and I said, okay, maybe I can be more effective outside of the system within it. Just like with any internship, you get busy work and the busy work was working on the company’s website. Lucky for me, my mother had put me in over seven computer camps and I was like, “This is not what I want to do.”

Tara King-Hughes: But the computer camp skills actually was brought to life and then it connected me with technology and I said, okay, I’ve got to do something with this. That led me to a career in development and in development, I always wanted to connect the dots and X, Y and my boss was like, “Well, maybe you should be our dot connector.” And then that landed me in product, where I can take my love of the human mind and tech, and build consumer products.

Camille Tate: Awesome. Thank you. Danielle?

Danielle Guy: Yeah. I started my career in consumer tech also unintentionally. I was in graduating college right after the economic recession in 2010 era and it was very difficult to find an entry-level civil engineering job, which is what my degree was in. So I took an internship at a local company in Las Vegas named I hope some of you have heard of them, and I worked in the project management department and fell in love with the company, the culture, the role, and just continued learning on the job, went through lots of trainings, and here I am 12 years later.

Camille Tate: All right. MacBeth, how did you get into consumer tech?

MacBeth Watson: Yeah. When I graduated college from — I have a degree in visual communication and design, and so the spectrum is pretty wide. So I wasn’t sure. So what I did was I took a bunch of short-term contracts and tested the waters and figured out what was right for me, what I really enjoyed solving, what problems I enjoyed solving, and wound up at a number of different places, but the major one was Starbucks corporate working on their website and they had a label back in the day, like music label. So I got to design that website and some of those kinds of things, which was really fun. And ever since then, I’ve been in tech.

Camille Tate: Awesome. I love that because talking and hearing from all of you ladies, it just proves there’s not just one way to get into the industry, there’s multiple different paths and experiences you can have to get into our industry. So thank you. I actually want to direct a question to Shailvi and MacBeth about pointers or advice you would give on achieving a sustainable career in consumer tech. So, Shailvi?

Shailvi Wakhlu: Yeah. I feel very strongly that in consumer tech, there is a natural affinity heading towards just looking at things from a consumer’s perspective, which is great, but I always really encourage people to focus on growing their own functional expertise that extends beyond that specific use case for that specific consumer and think towards other use cases and what would be your skillset that would continue to apply in those different situations. I think that is what takes someone up and further in their career because they’re able to adapt to new psychology of the users that they’re trying to support and build out those unique use cases more effectively.

Camille Tate: Thank you. MacBeth?

MacBeth Watson: Yeah. Completely plus one to what Shailvi just said. Adaptability is really huge. I would also say that a lot of it also is that passion and drive to push yourself into places that may not be a one-to-one match. For example, for me, I went from designing webpages to that kind of like, okay, this is what I know. And then I switched to Xbox where I was designing operating systems for Xbox. And it’s like, yes, it’s similar, but it’s different enough to kind of push those other skills. I worked with a very different team. You learn your way through it, but I think it’s also being aware of when you’ve reached that point of what are the challenges that you’re facing? Are you still challenged and then pushing yourself further so, and exploring other options.

Camille Tate: Yeah. Great. Thanks for that. Next, I want to jump into the topic of how do you become great at your job. Obviously, you all are on an executive panel discussing Strava and the work that you do, you’ve been successful in your roles. I have a question for Elyse, Tara, and Danielle, in terms of, from your experience, how do you excel and become great at what you do in your respective roles? We’ll start with Elyse.

Elyse Kolker Gordon: I think from my perspective, starting as an engineer and then in leadership also, it’s being willing to seek out and say yes to opportunities that seem outside of your comfort zone and seem like maybe it’s you’re not ready, but to do it anyway. I think you’ll often surprise yourself and now working with people from a management perspective, I get to see people do that, which is really cool to see. So you can do it. You just got to put yourself out there to be able to do it.

Camille Tate: Thank you. Yeah, Tara?

Tara King-Hughes: I think always be a student because you always want to continue to learn. You don’t necessarily know at all and the great thing about technology, it always evolves, so you want to always stay ahead. Being an active listener, really sitting in and listening to the people around you because you can learn so much. I think you can gain so many insights when you just pause and open your ears. I would also say that sharpening your negotiating skills, especially if you’re in products because everybody wants everything to be number one priority and there have to be trade-offs and so you have to really learn how to negotiate that.

Tara King-Hughes: Then also sharpen your decision-making skills under fire. I would plus one what Elyse said by watching other leaders on how to best handle that with an even temperament will help you go far.

Camille Tate: Yeah. That even temperament will help you to go far. Danielle.

Danielle Guy: Yeah. Definitely remaining calm. Part of a TPM’s responsibility is to be that first line of defense with escalation for teams. When they come to you with a problem, it is best to present calmness back to them so that they can impact, have that temperament when they’re moving into their conversations to find the proper solution to whatever they have going on. Also, developing a growth mindset. Looking at challenges or failures as opportunities to grow and expand on your abilities so that it enables you to be a better partner with your colleagues so you can solve problems more effectively.

Camille Tate: Thank you, Danielle. We’re going to talk about building products. I know that’s what some people came here to talk about how we build inclusive products, but I want to interject a fun question to the panel. I did tell the ladies before we started that I probably am going to catch them off guard with the fun questions. Here it is, if you had to describe your work, what you do every day with a song, what would that song be? Elyse, I know you have one because you’re the musician on the panel.

Elyse Kolker Gordon: I mean, I like this question but I don’t know if I can come up with a song this fast.

Camille Tate: Or even the song that you listened to that gets you motivated. If you’re on a project and you crank it out and you get stuff done.

Elyse Kolker Gordon: I am totally blanking on the name but the first song on the Baby Driver movie soundtrack is very good pump up, need to get in the zone, get excited song. So that’s been my go-to for a while.

Camille Tate: Okay. Shailvi, do you have a song that you listen to or describes your work?

Shailvi Wakhlu: As soon as you said that question, the first two songs that popped into my head, I think they apply, it was, “Under Pressure” by Queen and “Delicate” by Taylor Swift. I think my work is somewhere between those two.

Camille Tate: I love that because I love Queen. Tara, quick song?

Tara King-Hughes: Like Shailvi, I do have one song by Taylor Swift but my first one is “Work That” by Mary J Blige because you always have to work it in product. And the second one is “Shake It Off” because there’s so much stuff that comes your way you just have to “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift.

Camille Tate: Okay. Lastly, Danielle and Macbeth.

Danielle Guy: Yeah. “Under Pressure” was the first one that came to my mind, but I’d also say “Eye of the Tiger”. Coming in and seeing my list of to-do’s that I have to do and just gearing up and getting into it.

Camille Tate: Thank you. Macbeth?

MacBeth Watson: I would say there’s a song called “Confident” by Demi Lovato and you have to find it some way or another to show up every day.

Camille Tate: Yeah. Thank you for indulging me, ladies. So let’s talk about building inclusive products. What do you all think are the best strategies and pathways to building inclusive products? We can start with Tara.

Tara King-Hughes: Well, first of all, you have to take a very deep breath because it is not easy to build a framework for inclusive product and in fact, just take several deep breaths, but you have to do it because it is absolutely the right thing to do. It’s imperative to include in an inclusive lens throughout the product development life cycle. And if you don’t necessarily have all of the lenses covered, put together an advisory board to help broaden the lens. I think also too, making sure hiring diverse staff, making that a priority, will also help tremendously.

Camille Tate: Danielle?

Danielle Guy: I’d say to come up with a plan, surprising coming from the TPM, but you can’t boil the ocean and there’s a lot of dimensions with inclusivity, so we need to focus in order to make progress. So come up with all the dimensions that you want to target and then lay them out in the phase plan and then get started on the first phase.

Camille Tate: Okay, awesome. Thank you. I’m going to use that, you can’t boil the ocean. In the interest of time, I do want to ask you all some questions about change management and leaning, we’re obviously still in a global pandemic and you all are leaders at Strava. So I want to talk about how ways of work and what change management tools or techniques have you all embraced during this time. So Shailvi, do you have any tips?

Shailvi Wakhlu: Yeah. Absolutely. I think one thing that has become very, very apparent during the pandemic is that everybody’s in a different location. Everybody’s trying to collaborate across a lot of different things and documentation is something that has almost become an absolute requirement in this thing. It’s to not just make sure that you have a plan that is securely communicated, but also make sure that everybody in the team feels included in that plan. They have that transparency on what those pieces are. I think at Strava, we’ve definitely invested a lot of effort into doing that. I’d love to hand over to Danielle to maybe refer to our V2MOM progress, which was such as a fun thing that we rolled out.

Camille Tate: Yeah, Danielle.

Danielle Guy: Yes. Shailvi’s definitely singing my song on documentation and communication. We implemented a V2MOM this most recent cycle for planning and it stands for vision, values, methods, obstacles, and measures, and it actually comes from Salesforce and so we implemented it. It’s similar to OKRs, for anyone not familiar with V2MOM. With this, it allowed us to align what each team was working on across the organization. Everyone was aware, we could highlight dependencies and prerequisites early. It also allowed leadership and cross-functional partners to understand what each of the product teams were working on.

Danielle Guy: With that, we also implemented a more consistent way of documenting our work with backlogs, roadmaps, and we have a status that goes out every Monday so that everyone’s aware of what we’re working on. And I’d like to add to documentation, is to maintain focus. It’s very easy right now with most of us working from home to extend our hours and to have a difficult time in disconnecting. With our most recent cycle, the leadership team all has the same alignment on maintaining balance. We set some guard rails in place to ensure that that teams didn’t overplan them with the amount of time that they had available and that they could still balance the work and their life, along with not being burnt out.

Camille Tate: That’s awesome. That’s great. MacBeth you have anything to add?

MacBeth Watson: Yeah. Actually on a much more something that anyone can take on through is this is one of the things I found is making sure that it’s safe for people to try different approaches. We do not know how to handle this. We are still learning and so how to create an environment where people can try what works for them as well as what works for their teams and by knowing what the goals are and things like that, it really helps. But to be able to check in on that and be intentional, like going back to the office, does that work for this of meeting? Maybe not, maybe it does, things like that and trying different tools.

MacBeth Watson: You may try them for a week and walk away from them but it’s worth the effort and know that no one’s got it right. So you can definitely do it.

Camille Tate: Thanks. Macbeth. There’s a comment in the chat, psychological safety is crucial for innovation within teams. Thanks, Eilene. Yeah. So I want to talk about pivotal career moments and ask you all, this will be our last question in the interest of time, but I want to, there might be a lot of people from various backgrounds here with us tonight.

Camille Tate: I wanted to ask all of you, what are some tips you would give someone who’s at a crossroads in their career, or who wants to transition into the consumer tech industry, whether it be design or product or engineering or data. Can you talk a little bit about that? We start with Elyse.

Elyse Kolker Gordon: Yeah. I mean, I think this goes back to my how do you learn and grow answer. It is like you really leaning into the opportunities. When I was thinking about this topic in advance, I actually was thinking about — I wrote a technical book, which sounds glamorous, but I can assure you that is not a glamorous endeavor and thinking about that I did that with this vague feeling that it would open doors for me and that part was true.

Elyse Kolker Gordon: It definitely helped me move forward in my career, established me as a subject matter expert, got me more opportunities to speak. Probably has helped me with finding jobs. I think that was a very scary thing to do. I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never done it before, being an engineer doesn’t prepare you to be a book author, really. Those are not really adjacent skillsets. I think that’s a good thing to think about is like lean into that fear and being willing to try.

Camille Tate: Yeah. That’s awesome. Leaning into fear. I like that. Thanks, Elyse. Tara, you have any pointers or advice on people that may be at a crossroads or want to get into consumer tech or product engineering, design, program management?

Tara King-Hughes: The only thing that I’d add to what Elyse just said, is just network. So if you see someone out, maybe on LinkedIn, who is in an area that you’re interested in, reach out to them and see if they would mentor you or just have one or two Q and A sessions. There are so many resources out there, free resources that can help you learn and hone in on your craft, and don’t be so hard on yourself, it’s consumer tech, it’s not rocket science, you will definitely get where you want to go.

Camille Tate: Thank you. Danielle?

Danielle Guy: Yeah. Plus one to all of that, for sure, and in addition, I’d like to add, look inside, find what makes you happy, what brings you joy. And don’t be afraid to prioritize yourself. When you look into your next adventure, your next company and role, make sure that your values and beliefs align with whatever company that you’re looking at or whatever role you’re looking at. I think that’ll take everyone very far if they do that.

Camille Tate: Yeah. That’s great advice, Macbeth and then Shailvi.

MacBeth Watson: I think one of the things I have used between each of my big things is recognizing that the skills I have connect to the skills I want to learn and really focusing on what are those things that I want to learn and how do they connect. If it’s a different industry, if it’s a different space. Even if you’re a coach, you could be an amazing manager in a tech company. There’s so many ways to transverse across skills and how they apply into a tech industry that it’s actually just thinking through some of those kinds of things or having the conversations with some the other women have mentioned.

Camille Tate: Okay. Shailvi.

Shailvi Wakhlu: Yeah. Plus one to all of those wonderful thoughts. I think for me, when I think about it, I think of getting comfortable advocating for yourself is so important. I think it’s the best skill that you can learn. I think it’s the best investment that you can make in your career. If you prioritize looking for places that treat you with respect, that provide you a good learning environment and that really have respect for what you bring to the table. So I’d say, go out there and look for those opportunities. As Tara also mentioned, get the help that you need, find those mentors and move forward.

Camille Tate: Thank you so much. Thank you to the panel and I wouldn’t be head of talent at Strava if I didn’t mention that we are hiring, you can go to our website and take a look at what we have to offer. Thank you to Girl Geek for this partnership again, and I’ll transition it back to Angie.

Angie Chang: Thank you. That was awesome. Thank you all so much for speaking on this panel, to all the Girl Geeks who gave lightning talks, those were all really great. These will all be hosted on YouTube later, so you can check them out if you missed them they’ll be emailed to everyone who signed up. So keep an eye out for that.

Angie Chang: The jobs that Camille mentioned, they’re all in the emails from Zoom. We’ll send out another email with the survey and thank you all again for joining for the Strava Girl Geek Dinner in the middle of a pandemic, it is still ongoing, and hopefully one day we’ll see you again soon in person!

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

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

Angie Chang: I want to say hi to everyone. My name is Angie Chang, the founder of Girl Geek X…

Morgan Cole: And welcome to Girl Geek X Opendoor Dinner! I’d like to spend just a few minutes chatting with you all about how you can start or continue cultivating a successful career by prioritizing your own self-awareness…

Heather Natour: One of the things I love about Opendoor is seeing that demonstration of leadership every day with every single person I work with. And I’ve personally seen that leadership demonstrated by these particular panelists…

Annie Tang: …Really keeping in mind that execution matters. It’s not all about like coming up with cool ideas. We need to keep a high bar for what we do.

Maggie Moreno: There’s no shortage of good ideas, only people to make those ideas a reality…

Amy Yang: I’m going to give you a flavor of the type of problem and a project data scientists are working with at Opendoor. Specifically, this is a multiple hypothesis testing problem…

Sumedha Pramod: I’m going to start with an opener. We actually filled out a variety of customer experiences and dashboards, which spanned from educating the customer on buying and/or selling their home, all the way through to actually digitally closing on their home…

Angie Chang: Thank you all for sharing your insights and your journeys with us! Really enjoyed all the talks and the conversation about this is what leadership looks like. Cool. We are going live with our Opendoor Girl Geek Dinner. I want to say hi to everyone. I see people are joining us. Can you chat to us where you’re coming in from. I’m coming in from Berkeley, California. How about you, Sukrutha?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi everyone. I’m Sukrutha. I’m dialed in from Yosemite this weekend.

Angie Chang: Cool. Awesome. Quick intros. My name is Angie Chang, the founder of Girl Geek X. When we started Girl Geek Dinners over a decade ago, I was the only female engineer at a startup, and I really just wanted to meet other women in tech.

Angie Chang: I started asking companies to host Girl Geek Dinners, so that we could go to different companies and hear from the women on stage about what they’re working on. And then also be able to meet other amazing people like yourselves, which we’ll be doing after the talks. I was able to meet people like Sukrutha. So Sukrutha, why don’t you just tell us a bit about you and what you’re up to?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. I met Angie because I was looking for things to do outside of work and that’s how I ended up finding out about Girl Geek Dinners and Angie. Honestly, I think everybody is craving a network now more than ever, and this is part of why us doing it virtual makes it possible. We encourage you to have your respective company that you work at to sponsor a Girl Geek Dinner. We hope that at some point in the near future, we’ll be able to see you all in real life.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: By day, I also work at a large company, namely Salesforce, and we’re also transitioning back into the office. The way people are working right now is so different. We can work from anywhere, so we should also be able to network from anywhere. So yeah, I look forward to tonight’s content and the speakers are all amazing. Over to you, Angie.

Angie Chang: While we wait, we have a few minutes to say some things. I wanted to quickly say some things that we’ve done since we started. We have a virtual conference every International Women’s Day called Elevate and it’s March 8th. And it will be again, March 8th, in 2022. And all the talks are recorded and hosted at – you can actually find all those conference talks, all the Girl Geek Dinner events, and tonight’s talks. If you have to drop off, go make dinner, we totally understand that. Everything’s available on YouTube later in case you can’t stay for the entire hour or two.

Angie Chang: And pro tip, look at the playlists, because they’re actually categorized into different things like career journeys, management, engineering, machine learning, and you can dig into what you’re interested in and see what other girl geeks have spoken about over the years on those topics.

Angie Chang: We also have a podcast. So if you like to listen, like I do, we have two seasons, I believe, of podcast and we have another season coming out this summer, so stay tuned for that. We’ll have some new content coming out.

Angie Chang: And then we also are going to be contributing to our local community here in the San Francisco Bay Area and adopting a middle school/high school and really contributing to enriching and helping support the students there who are interested in STEM. So stay in the lookout for news on that.

Angie Chang: That’s another opportunity where we can see you and hopefully engage you with some students and get them inspired to stay in STEM. So a quick note, I want to kind of say, who is here tonight. I looked at our attendee list about half an hour ago, and I saw that we have about 45% of you, have over a decade of work experience.

Angie Chang: Often when I go to networking events, people always say everyone’s junior or they just got out of college or they’re looking for their first job out of a bootcamp. That might be true, that might not be true, but also at the same time, there’s a lot of really, I would call mid-career people, who are out there, and continue to come back to these events, so I really say thank you for coming back! And continuing to dig in and learn more about companies and the people that work at them.

Angie Chang: And I’m really excited that tonight we are going to be listening to the women at Opendoor. If you haven’t heard of Opendoor, it is a real estate startup company and I’m sure the women will be talking more about what they’ve been working on at Opendoor, so I’m going to turn it over to them, the experts.

Angie Chang: Our first speaker, the keynote speaker, is Morgan Cole. And Morgan Cole joined Opendoor in 2017, where she’s helped many, many customers transition to their dream homes and served as a people leader for sales and support. And she’s currently supporting learning development team as a senior trainer and curriculum specialist with an emphasis on instructional design, internal partner relations, and creative problem solving across multiple organizations. So when she isn’t navigating the world of L and D, you can find her spending time with her sour patch, pup, Arthur. So welcome Morgan.

Morgan Cole: Hello. Thank you so much for the warm welcome, Angie. I really appreciate that. I am going to go ahead and share my screen and then we’ll go ahead and get rolling. All right. Can you see that okay?

Angie Chang: Yes.

Morgan Cole: Very good. All right. Hello everyone. And welcome to Girl Geek X Opendoor Dinner! My name is Morgan Cole, and I’d like to spend just a few minutes chatting with you all about how you can start or continue cultivating a successful career by prioritizing your own self-awareness.

Morgan Cole: Now, before we dive in, I should share just one quick tidbit about myself. I am a words of affirmation girl. It is the love language that rivals all others, in my book. So that said, I am going to need your help just to make sure we’re all on the same page this evening. So if you all are ready to kick off this conversation, just take two seconds for me and go ahead and type the word yes, Y-E-S in the chat box at the bottom of your screen, just let me know you’re ready to rock and roll. Go ahead and type Y-E-S. Oh, they are trickling in. I like it. Very good. Very good. That was a test, and you all pass with flying colors. So let’s do it.

Morgan Cole: So a few years ago, Dr. Tasha Eurich, who is a best-selling author, she’s a psychologist and founder of the Eurich Group, her and her team, they conducted a study with nearly about 5,000 participants. And the purpose of this study was to better understand the meaning of self-awareness. Here we are. The research team’s findings, they were actually pretty astounding, they learned that there are actually two types of self-awareness. The first one is internal self-awareness and the second is external self-awareness. Now, the thing to note here is that these are not mutually exclusive, meaning it is possible to possess one or both types.

Morgan Cole: Now, before I dive into each type of awareness and the role that it plays in our professional and in our personal lives, I am curious to know your thoughts on this next question. So if you look on your screen here, you’ll see the question reads, how many people do you believe are actually self-aware to some degree? Do you think it’s A, 10 to 15% of people, B, 15 to 20%, C, 20 to 30%, or D, 30 to 40%? If you had to guess, how many people do you think are actually self-aware? Go ahead and type in A, B, C, or D in the chat box for me and let me know your thoughts.

Morgan Cole: Oh, a handful trickling. It’s a mixed bag. Very good. Thank you all so much for the responses. I appreciate that. So while you all are still continuing to put in your choices, I’ll tell you the not so fantastic news is that the average human believes they’re self-aware, but only 10 to 15% of those people actually fit the criteria.

Morgan Cole: The good news is that self-awareness is a learned behavior. What that means is that we can strive to inch just a little bit closer to fully understanding how we tick and what truly motivates us and how to dissect the depth of our perceptions of the world around us. And it also aids in stronger leadership competencies too.

Morgan Cole: Going back to the two types of self-awareness I spoke about a few seconds ago, let’s explore internal self-awareness first. Now internal self-awareness, it represents how clearly we see our own values and passions and aspirations, your thoughts, your feelings, your impact on others.

Morgan Cole: Studies have shown that this type of awareness correlates with higher job and relationship satisfaction, as well as just general happiness. Meanwhile, external self-awareness, it represents understanding other people’s perceptions of our value systems and our thoughts or our feelings, right?

Morgan Cole: Essentiall,y folks that drift toward external self-awareness, they typically understand how others view them and they’re more skilled at showing empathy and taking in other people’s perspectives as a result.

Morgan Cole: The takeaway here is that it’s most impactful to try to strike a balance between both subtypes of awareness, rather than over-indexing on one or the other, because here’s the truth, being crystal clear about who you innately are, your own behavior patterns, and what you need and want is form of leadership.

Morgan Cole: Self-awareness – it catapults your ability to clearly articulate your desires and ask for help in forging the appropriate path to get you there. This next slide, it’s a quick map that actually breaks down four self-awareness archetypes, which is basically how we present to the world based on the depth of internal or external self-awareness that we possess. I’m going to save you a bit of time, and I’m just going to give you a quick overview of these four categories. No need to read through each line.

Morgan Cole: The top left quadrant, it shows how high internal self-awareness and low external self-awareness is typically referred to as introspective. It depicts people who clearly understand themselves, but they rarely challenge their own views. And in some cases, this particular quadrant can limit their interpersonal relationships.

Morgan Cole: Now, the bottom left quadrant symbolizes seekers. These are folks with low internal and external awareness. And people that are currently navigating this quadrant, they might be in a state of self-discovery and may perhaps be a bit unsettled or in a state of flux in their personal or professional lives. Now going over to the bottom right quadrant, low internal and high external awareness, those are telltale signs of a people pleaser. This means that someone may be hyper-focused on how other people view them, sometimes to the detriment of their own personal or professional contentment.

Morgan Cole: And in many instances, folks that work through this category, they’re known to make decisions that are not always in service of their own success. And in some respects, it can be considered a self-saboteur. And last, but certainly not least, at the top, right quadrant, that depicts high internal and external awareness, which insinuates that a person is keenly aware about themselves or the external environment and they value candid feedback from other people. There was a study specifically from Gallup that show people in this particular category are generally proven to be good leaders in a plethora of environments because they intentionally seek out balance and inter and intra personal skills. So those are the four archetypes.

Morgan Cole: Now with those four archetypes in mind and in the spirit of bravery and transparency and leadership, I would love for you all to just take a few seconds, just to think about which one of those four categories you believe you are currently in, in your career. Go ahead and just write it down on a sticky note, or perhaps the note section on your phone or a piece of scratch paper, whatever you have nearby in your home. And this is only for your personal use. But take a look at those four categories and jot down which category you believe you’re currently in. Now, I wouldn’t ask you all to do anything that I wasn’t willing to do. So in my case, I’m actually going to share my self-awareness experience aloud. So full transparency, I toggle between being aware and the people pleaser. I do.

Morgan Cole: And I’ll share an example that clearly depicts this. Two of my former leaders at Opendoor, they taught me very early on in my career that in order to gain sustainable success, it was going to be my responsibility to always ask questions, to always raise my hand for help and to speak up and finish what I started. But here’s the only problem with that, I interpreted most of those tasks as signs of weakness, almost like a bird’s eye view of my professional inadequacies or inefficiencies.

Morgan Cole: And let me just tell you this, thank goodness for patient and nurturing leaders, because it took about two years for me to really get over this hump. And while it sounds a little half witted for me to say now, I truly believed asking questions or raising my hand for help would inadvertently highlight the things that I had not yet mastered. And my aha moment was, “That’s the point, Morgan. That’s the point.” I needed to acknowledge the things that I had not mastered because you can’t fix what’s hidden and you can’t practice what you refuse to acknowledge.

Morgan Cole: So when I finally came to terms with what was holding me back, myself, I held onto this quote from Thomas Edison that I love, and it reads, “Having a vision for what you want in life is not enough. Vision without execution is hallucination.” So while I could go on and on about this topic for days, I do know that time is of the essence, but I want to leave you all with a parting gift. So I challenge each of you to take about 30 seconds, and I want you to recall a book or an author or a podcast or perhaps maybe even an article that has been especially helpful in building your leadership skills or self-awareness or interpersonal skills, anything that has helped you in your career.

Morgan Cole: Go ahead and take a few seconds to just think of that one resource, or maybe there’s a few of them that you always go to when somebody asks you for a recommendation. And once you have that resource in mind, I would love it if all of you can go ahead and type it in the chat box below for me. And while you all are typing and putting in your resources, I’m going to share three books that have been especially impactful for me.

Morgan Cole: Now, the first one is called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. It’s really a good book about getting out of your own way. And it was really helpful for me about a year and a half ago. The second one is a person that we all know and love, Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead. It’s a classic. I would venture to say reading it once a year is always a good idea. I always get gems from Dare to Lead. And the last book that I loved is actually called Get Over It! by Iyanla Vanzant. It’s a really great self-help book that talks from a professional and a personal standpoint about removing yourself from yourself, so that you can present your best self when you are in a professional setting. So just to recap, my top three books, The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, and then Get Over It! by Iyanla Vanzant.

Morgan Cole: Now, let me see what you all have in the chat box here. I’ve got a couple coming in, The Power of Gentleness. Ooh, very good. Thinking Fast and Slow. Thank you all. Continue to go ahead and put them in as you see fit. And as books and articles come to mind, please continue to trickle them in for me. This is actually my first time reading about some of these titles. So thank you. Thank you to everybody who’s sharing so openly. This chat is chock-full of resources, and it’s an endless gift to each of us. There’s an African proverb that says, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. And tonight’s conversation and your willingness to offer resources to cultivate your peers will continue to build an equitable bridge between different ethnicities, self identified genders, and neurological differences in this ever evolving world of business.

Morgan Cole: So take that sticky note or that note on your phone with your self-awareness type on it that I mentioned earlier, and the plethora of resources that you now have in this chat box, and I would love for all of you to use it as a first step to discovering how you can continue to evolve into the best version of yourself in business and in life. So thank you all so much for your open hearts and your listening ears and collaboration and huge thanks to Girl Geek team for cultivating a platform that acknowledges and celebrates women in tech. I am so, so appreciative.

Morgan Cole: For our next speaker, I would love to introduce the one and only Annie Tang. Annie is a Senior Design Manager for Seller at Opendoor where she works on drastically simplifying the home selling experience. And in her time at Opendoor, Annie has worked on designing various aspects of the Opendoor consumer experience like trade-ins, buying and mortgages, but outside of that, she loves to hang out with her sweet pup. So without further ado, Annie, I’m going to pass it off to you.

Annie Tang: All right, here we go. Sorry. I don’t use Zoom every day. Oh my gosh, Morgan. That was such an amazing and inspiring talk. This is actually not my first time hearing it from Morgan, but actually I always feel inspired the second time around too and it really got me thinking about the internal self-awareness piece, especially because I think as we think about self-awareness, it’s easy to think about the external piece, at least for me. And so this really got me thinking about the internal piece. With that, I’ll transition over to my talk for the day and that is about design and strategy at Opendoor. So like Morgan said, I’m the senior design manager for Seller. Seller is one of our teams here at Opendoor and I manage the team of designers that work on that experience for our customers.

Annie Tang: A little bit about me. I started out at architecture, so did not study UX design at all. And worked at a couple of various larger scale companies before I found my way to Opendoor. And the reason why I joined Opendoor about four and a half years ago was really I wanted to work on a very complex real-world problem. And at the time, it was a pretty small startup and I was really excited by the opportunities that it gave.

Annie Tang: But most importantly, I was really excited to design for online and offline experiences where I wasn’t really selling an app or an interface, but I was actually thinking through selling a service that included both the digital experience and a real world component to it, and that felt really exciting to me.

Annie Tang: And so today, I’m going to talk to you a little bit about design and before I get into it, I wanted to get a signal maybe in the chat, you can put it in the chat if any of you guys have been watching Mythic Quest, it’s been a favorite around our house lately. Angie definitely has. There’s a couple other people. I personally am loving it. My husband and I really love to watch this show. But one gripe, I will say, that I do have about this is that it really centers around this myth of the creative genius where you’ve got this creative director who over the course of the night comes up with these amazing visions for the new game and the art director and team just creates it and there’s no research or anything and makes for great TV!

Annie Tang: But unfortunately that is not really how design actually works in real life. And so over the course of designing and my design career, what I’ve realized is core for design and for product design actually, and creating products is that the genius-ness, the coming up with the ideas isn’t actually the hard part.

Annie Tang: And it’s a good thing and a bad thing. It means that even if you feel like you’re not an ideas person and you don’t have that, it’s not the end-all be-all to being a designer and also at the same time, being a designer doesn’t mean that you’re just the one coming up with ideas and other people execute.

Annie Tang: A lot of being a designer is validating the idea, effectively communicating across the company and figuring out how to build it out. And so I’m going to go over that little bit with a two-part agenda.

Annie Tang: I’ll talk through some of the principles that we have within design team at Opendoor that help guide us to make sure that we’re really being diligent about how we design for our customers. And then I’ll also walk through a case study for what we did for our Seller experience last year where we designed the experience end to end when COVID hit and really helped our customers figure out a way to sell their home faster and on their own time.

Annie Tang: Principle number one that I have with our team is we always start with research, we never forget the data. Every idea should be backed by reasons why people’s lives will be better with it. What we do is we spend a lot of time talking to our customers, our users, to discover problems and validate possible solutions before we even get into any ideating phase. It’s really important for us to really empathize with our customers and really understand what those needs are.

Annie Tang: A couple of ways that we do this, at a high level is qualitative research and quantitative research. On the qualitative level, that’s really talking to our customers, doing user interviews. An insight that we might get out of qualitative research could be something like I have here, which is, meet Linda. Linda’s looking to sell her home and buy a new one. She is completely overwhelmed with the process of coordinating two transactions to line up her move, and that’s the buy and sell transactions.

Annie Tang: We’re talking to customers and really getting at what is really difficult for them in their process. Quantitative research is really about sizing this opportunity. So it could amount in something like this, like Linda, 70% of home sellers in the United States are simultaneously buying and selling a home at the same time. This basically tells us this is a real need. And actually, a ton of people are experiencing this need. And so that really centers around a problem that we can obsess over then that we can ideate upon. So the second principle that we really adhere to is first visualize the experience, not just the UI.

Annie Tang: I’ve worked with tons of designers over my career, designers junior and senior. I’ve seen so many folks, when we get a new prompt, or we get a new idea, we immediately hit the pixels and we design out a shiny experience, and it’s really, really amazing.

Annie Tang: We forget that actually the customer needs to be the star of the story. It’s not about the UI. And so what we really emphasize is when we start thinking about new ideas or solving problems, we think about the story, we think about the customer and how they experience the flow from end to end. And sometimes when we do storyboards like this, sometimes we do flow charts, but it’s really about putting the customer at the forefront of the story first and then the UI and the pixels fall to support that.

Annie Tang: Here’s an example of some work that we do when we put together flows and comps. You’ll see that we have the digital experience, but also first, we have images that support kind of telling a story of what happens in real life. We’ve got text updates and someone on the couch receiving them, we’ve got a walkthrough prep and imagining that a customer is cleaning their home and getting ready for a walkthrough before they log onto their mobile app to do that walk through. Really putting it situational with the designs is really core to how we try to think about designing new products.

Annie Tang: And then the last principle that we have is really that execution matters and we sweat the details. Again, design isn’t just about the idea and the strategy, equally important is the craft and the execution. Actually, a lot of times what I’ve seen is the final idea that gets executed might not be the most novel thing, but if we execute it really well and really diligent about it, and we track it, and we learn from it, that’s really what makes a product successful. What we really enforce is every detail, every pixel of experience matters, not just the strategy, also exactly how we execute it so that we’re delivering a high quality experience to our end customers.

Annie Tang: With those principles, I’m going to walk you guys through a tactical case study to kind of bring this to life and show you guys at a high level how we go about big design projects at Opendoor. What this case study is at a high level, I’m going to walk you through how we ended up designing a centralized dashboard for our Opendoor experience, where the design team created a vision to unify several parts of our experience, which guided a lot of the product roadmap throughout 2020.

Annie Tang: Starting with the problems and the research. What did we find? In 2019, throughout the course of the year, what we found is that our experience that Opendoor was just really disjointed. Customers were telling us that they were getting dead ends, that there was a lot of long wait times in between parts of the experience, and one thing that we give to our customers is they come to us and we give them an offer on their home.

Annie Tang: Starting with the problems and the research. So what did we find? So in 2019, throughout the course of the year, what we found is that our experience that Opendoor was just really disjointed. Customers were telling us that they were getting dead ends, that there was a lot of long wait times in between parts of the experience, and one thing that we give to our customers is they come to us and we give them an offer on their home. There was a really long wait time and they didn’t know what was coming up next. There was a lot of scheduling coordination going on. There’s a lot of things happening and a lot of dead ends and people didn’t really know what the next step was, and that was really impacting our customer experience.

Annie Tang: At the end of the 2019, what we did is we got together a group of cross-functional leaders, PMs, designers, engineers, and operators and we did a sprint over the course of a week. What we really wanted to do was figure out a strategy to solve those problems that we have identified from our research team and try to help to come up with a visualization of an end state, a future state that we want to aim towards by the end of the year that would solve all the identified problems that we had, and that would hopefully guide our work. And that way we can break it out into chunks that we can kind of slowly build towards over the course of the year.

Annie Tang: And the output of that sprint, what we created was a single narrative for that in-state. So we actually did, was we created a deck that included pieces like the images that we see on the right where we actually just laid out a story for our customer, Jill, who was looking to buy and sell, and we put together a couple screens, but really focusing on the story and how she feels and what she’s interacting with. We created this vision deck, and we actually tested a couple of these high-level concepts with potential customers.

Annie Tang: What we aimed to do is we really want to show strong concepts that were new to the experience that we could refine at a later time, but it was really about thinking about this new experience for our customer (Jill) that would solve all of her needs by the end of the year.

Annie Tang: A couple of the big ideas that came out of this was the idea for the Opendoor dashboard where we would centralize all of these disjointed experiences into one place where our customers can come back to see what’s next.

Annie Tang: But a couple of different ideas too, was like this idea of an instant offer. Previously we were having customers wait 24, 48 hours. What if we can give them an instant offer? As they were telling us information about their home, we can update their offer live.

Annie Tang: What if we could give them clear milestones? We always internally call it pizza tracker kind of like the Domino’s pizza tracker, but what if we could make it super clear like that for every stage of this buying and selling process on their dashboard?

Annie Tang: Another big pain point was that customers were having to schedule these inspections and figure out how to line up having people come to their homes. What if we leverage technology and help customers do self guided inspections where they could just upload a couple of photos of their home and we could do the inspection without having to actually go into their home?

Annie Tang: All of these ideas culminated into this vision deck and what was really cool that came out of it, is once we had an aligned vision where we were wanting to go towards for the end of the year, we could then formulate a roadmap and piece off different projects that each team would then take to work towards that vision. And we could get really tactical and figure out what the right way to execute towards it would be.

Annie Tang: And the great thing about this is that the sub teams then had a more or less unified idea of where we wanted to head towards and build towards for the year. So these are just some screens about how we sweated the details. We started from each project then, went through various rounds of research and low fidelity mocks on the left side to high fidelity mocks in the right side. Ultimately, whittling down to one experience that we ultimately shipped. I have Q and A on here, but we’re actually going to save Q and A until the very end, but that’s it on an example of how we design at Opendoor, both on a principle level and also in terms of case study.

Annie Tang: And with that, I’m going to introduce Amy. Amy is a Senior Data Scientist on the advanced analytics team at Opendoor. Her responsibilities include defining and leading pragmatic, casual learning practice at a company level using advanced experimentation and decision science techniques. So welcome Amy.

Amy Yang: Hi everybody. First, thank you, Annie, for the great showcase of all the cool design work your team have been working on. I’m a senior data scientist at Opendoor. I’m going to give you a flavor of the type of problem and project data scientists are working with at Opendoor. Specifically, this is a multiple-hypothesis testing problem. As you all know, this multiple-hypothesis testing problem means when we do more statistical tests, we’re more likely to make a type one error, which is a false positive discovery.

Amy Yang: Here is an illustration where we test 20 kinds of colors of different colors of jellybeans and how they show a correlation with acne. One out of the 20 tests will show a significant correlation, even though it’s purely out of random noise. That’s telling us whenever we do statistical tests, we want to control the overall type one error rate in case there is cumulative inflation by… The more tests we do, the more likely we are going to see a significant result.

Amy Yang: At Opendoor, the problem came up frequently specifically for product improvement, sometimes we want to track multiple outcomes of interest, not just one. When we want to evaluate the effect of certain product change, long-term or short-term outcomes, we are encountering this problem. Or if we want to dissect the data set into multiple subgroups and then do a statistical test within each subgroup, we are encountering the same problem.

Amy Yang: Sometimes we want to run an experiment with multiple treatment groups, not just one case which is one control group., where we have multiple treatments, we want to test each one compared to the other one, which one give us a [inaudible]. So other scenario we’ll generate this multiple hypothesis testing problem. If you look at the literature, you will find out statistically, there are ways to control this type of type one error rate inflation by adjusting your p-value.

Amy Yang: For example, some common measure you will see are Bonferroni corrections or a Holm’s method, false discovery rate control. Those are all thoroughly researched statistical methodology to control this problem. However, practically we have some objections when using this type of statistical method.

Amy Yang: People will say p-value adjustments are actually pretty arbitrary by the number of tests we are going to consider. How do you decide what’s the correct number of tests we are doing to adjust? Should we adjust tests we have done in the past? Should we adjust tests have been done in other teams but not specifically our teams.

Amy Yang: This number becomes very arbitrary and sometimes people will use this arbitrary concept to falsely adjust the total number of tests. The other objection is when we reduce the type one error, we are inherently increasing our type two error rate, which means we don’t have enough power to detect a significant true result which also means we are going to increase our total sample set.

Amy Yang: To solve this controversial problem as a data scientist, we come up with a very practical recommendation and strategies not only for researcher and the data scientists, but also for leaders and stakeholders who are going to review and read those report.

Amy Yang: For example, we would recommend not just focus on interpreting the p-value part, but also focus on the true magnitude or the effect size of the finding from the data. Also, we want to pay attention to the quality of the study and the data set.

Amy Yang: Focus on more from the design and the data quality side of the report and the study, not just purely based on the p-value from the study. For researcher and the data scientist, we come up with a set of statistical methodology recommendation, for example, when handling correlated outcome or metrics.

Amy Yang: We have this index method that can utilize the correlated information from multiple outcomes. Try to aggregate the common information and reduce the type one error rate, or we have this Bayesian multilevel modeling method. Completely move away from the frequent test p-value based decision making process and move to a more Bayesian probabilistic recommendation system.

Amy Yang: Practically, we also give recommendations. One of my favorite recommendation is rewrite the error rate into family-wise error rate control system based on theoretical related test groups. Let’s say you have two set of tests. Three tests, all measuring user satisfaction. You may have different metrics, but you are going to run three tests, they are all follow the user satisfaction category. You have another set of tests which are testing the total error rate or page load speed, which can fall into the safety metrics category. In this case, instead of submitting the total error rate across all the tests equally, you can divide them by the two family. So each family can share their own overall error rate.

Amy Yang: Now that’s just one project data scientists are working on at Opendoor. I also want to use this opportunity to introduce some of the other projects data scientists work with at Opendoor. Why is Opendoor investing so much on data quality and data rigorous and that data science role? It’s because Opendoor business is really unique and it’s very complex.

Amy Yang: If you think about housing transaction, it’s very important, and maybe you only do one or two housing transactions in your whole life. It’s very complex, the transaction process. Second challenge is our data is super sparse. Due to it’s a rare event, we don’t have repetitive interaction with a customer. Sometimes we only serve the customer once or twice in their whole lifetime. It brings a lot of analytical and statistical challenge. We don’t have the luxury of the e-commerce or internet type of traffic.

Amy Yang: A lot of the decision we are making need to depend on statistical influence and statistical expertise at Opendoor. The last point is optimization. We want to produce the best user customer experience with constrained amount of time and constrained cost. We want to work within limited costs and trying to optimize within the constraint and the produce the best customer experience.

Amy Yang: I’m going to share with you some other typical projects our data scientist team work with, for example, in the buyer team, we study the local housing demand and the price elasticity, and we feed that information to our resale pricing team in order to better or more accurately price the resell price for the home we acquired.

Amy Yang: In the seller team, we try to target specific seller group and provide more customized seller experience by serving based on seller input. Their characteristic provide a different type of unique service. So that’s our optimization model our data scientist team work on. From pricing side, we want to understand how to combat risk, adverse selection, and the competition and build other factor and the macro information into our pricing model. So that’s an overall introduction for the data science team and some of the cool project we’re working on.

Amy Yang: I’m going to introduce our next speaker, which is Maggie. Maggie is a Senior Software Engineer on the sales and the support team at Opendoor. Maggie has been a part of a wide range of projects at Opendoor, and recently she co-designed and is currently implementing a new role-based access control system for the company internal tooling. Outside of work, Maggie is a competitive swing dancer. Welcome Maggie.

Maggie Moreno: Thank you, Amy. Hi. I’m Maggie. And I’m going to talk about role-based access control at Opendoor. In this talk I’ll go over what role-based access control is generally, what the design goals were for Opendoor’s RBAC system, technical design of our RBAC system, and some challenges and recommendations from our experience. If you aren’t familiar with the term role-based access control, I can almost guarantee you are familiar with the concept. At a high level, in an RBAC system what a user can and cannot access is based on their assigned role. There are three main data entities, users, roles, and permissions. Let’s take GitHub as an example.

Angie Chang: Hey, Maggie. Real quick. Can you share your slides? I don’t think we see them.

Maggie Moreno: Oh, yeah. You know, it goes to show all the preparation in the world…

Angie Chang: Perfect.

Maggie Moreno: Let’s take GitHub as an example. Can you guys see my slides now?

Angie Chang: Yes.

Maggie Moreno: Excellent. Thank you. GitHub. I am part of the backend infra team, which means that my role is an administrator on the web Repo, which means that I can access admin features like merging pull requests without all the checks passing.

Maggie Moreno: For Opendoor’s role-based access control system, we have some very specific design goals. As a result of going public in 2020, we needed to comply with the Financial Operations Act, widely known as SOX. SOX compliance can mean different things for different companies, but the most pertinent part of SOX compliance for Opendoor was showing that only authorized employees were allowed to perform financially sensitive actions.

Maggie Moreno: Other goals for the system included easy use of maintenance for engineers, straightforward management for IT, and peace of mind for security. Security was a bigger concern than usual for our new RBAC system because we would be trusting the system with protecting financially sensitive actions from both internal and external users. We wanted employees to follow a clear process to change role and permission assignments.

Maggie Moreno: In our design, we assigned roles to users in Okta, an industry standard authentication and authorization tool, bringing a lot of advantages for security and IT. We already have moved towards using Okta for authentication for our internal tooling and this change felt like a natural extension of prior work.

Maggie Moreno: We store our permission to role mapping in a separate service config, which means that changes were handled through GitHub. It also means that for every API we call a role to permission service Gatekeeper to check the users roles. API end points are tied with permissions directly in the code, which is easy for engineers to implement and maintain. And once we get the users roles from Gatekeeper, we check whether they match the permissions for that API end point.

Maggie Moreno: Our biggest challenge for this project we encountered in the design phase. We had a big challenge understanding what SOX compliance would mean for Opendoor and what actions we should take to limit access first. Like many companies, Opendoor has a few different deployment environments for our internal tooling, and one of our biggest questions was whether we could limit our RBAC gating to one of these deployment environments. After further exploration, we discovered that that was not the case and this significantly changed our design requirements.

Maggie Moreno: Additionally, this project stress tested how major engineering design decisions are made at Opendoor. Getting alignment on the critical design decisions was especially difficult given the lack of clarity on the scope of the project. If you happen to find yourself in a similar situation in the future, we recommend that you clarify and align on your RBAC project goals before you start the design process. We also recommend involving cross-team stakeholders early in the project and communicate to engineering management early and often if the project needs more resources. Thanks.

Maggie Moreno: The next speaker is Sumedha. Sumedha is a Senior Software Engineer at Opendoor on the seller core experience team. She builds out various tools and interfaces to help customers find a home selling experience which best suits their needs, whether that is listing or selling their home using Opendoor services. These range from dashboards to see their home value to a digital closing experience.

Maggie Moreno: She also manages and maintains Opendoor’s design systems and React UI component libraries, which power the Opendoor site and admin tools. Outside of work, Sumedha is an avid baker and always trying to find ways to fit more plants into her environment. Welcome Sumedha.

Sumedha Pramod: Hi. Thanks Maggie. Sorry for taking over a little bit early. Role-based access control and SOX compliance are so important now that we’re a public company. It’s really great to see what went on behind the scenes to make that all happen. Hi. I’m Sumedha.

Sumedha Pramod: On the Seller team at Opendoor, we actually filled out a variety of customer experiences and dashboards, which spanned from educating the customer on buying and/or selling their home all the way through actually digitally closing on their home.

Sumedha Pramod: As you can imagine, the UI gets increasingly more complex as the functionality gets more and more important. This means that customers need to be 100% sure that they’re trusting their home and their money with Opendoor and that the site that they’re on, and that they’re signing contracts on is legit. Delivering on these expectations while continuing to add new features requires pretty thorough testing and it also helps us as a company build trust, brand, and consistency across all of our customer experiences.

Sumedha Pramod: With different UIs, it’s not as straightforward to catch a lot of UI changes and things like colors, font sizes, mobile responsiveness, and all those little nitty gritty things aren’t as easy to catch. Especially when there’s a ton of engineers working on the same UI, it’s pretty easy to miss if one person’s change unintentionally impacts everyone’s experience. I spend a lot of time personally staring at my team’s customer experiences, so I tend to notice some pretty nitpicky changes, but that doesn’t mean that an engineer from another team has the UI memorized the same way. This is amplified even more with design systems and shared component libraries, because a lot of these components that are changing are used across tons of different experiences.

Sumedha Pramod: At Opendoor, we have a bunch of micro front ends and a single change to a shared component like the button here on the left-hand side can have an unintended side effect on pretty much every experience at Opendoor without people really realizing it. UI regression tests are one of the ways that we found to actually help mitigate a lot of these unintentional UI side effects.

Sumedha Pramod: It allows us to compare screenshots of the UI or visual snapshots against a predefined baseline. It really helps us catch a lot of these really nit picky things. And it also helps us QA the user experience in a way a lot easier. And it helps us QA against design expectations. Additionally, we can also develop a lot of these components in a completely isolated environment without any kind of network calls. We don’t have to worry about data loading or any of that, we can really focus just on the UI and the pixel perfect stuff.

Sumedha Pramod: At Opendoor, we use a combination of two frameworks called Percy and Storybook, which are two different open source tools that enable the development and documentation of UI components and also automating a lot of that UI screenshot testing. In this example, you can see that we have a dashboard being rendered, but what we can actually turn this pretty simple unit test into something that renders a component.

Sumedha Pramod: If you want, you can have it mock out some data calls, do all that stuff, and you can actually render that and test it against a specific baseline. UI regression testing or UI visual screenshots don’t actually replace your standard unit tests or smoke tests or integration tests. Since those actually validate the expected behavior and experiences, this is really just to focus on the nitpicky UI things, so things like the CSS changes that I mentioned earlier.

Sumedha Pramod: Also you have all those other tests to validate behaviors such as whether or not a [inaudible] pops up when a user clicks a button or typing something in an input field will enable a button somewhere else. And this isn’t just useful for engineering, it’s been extremely helpful when QAing new features and designs. It’s also greatly reduced the amount of back and forth as we’re launching new features with design where we’re like, “This is a little bit off, this pixel is a little bit off.” As we’re developing, we can send these over and we can make sure that any future changes isn’t actually breaking that experience.

Sumedha Pramod: All of these things combined allow us to develop really beautiful and seamless experiences for customers and really make one of the most expensive and biggest transactions in people’s lives a little less scary.

Sumedha Pramod: Now, I’ll turn it over to Heather for our next segment. Heather brings 22 years of engineering experience to Opendoor, having led teams at Lyft, Capital One and Blackboard. At Opendoor, she leads the engineering organization focused on the core product experience for home sellers along with growth initiatives and retail partnerships. Heather lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two boys. Welcome Heather.

Heather Natour: Thank you, Sumedha. And thank you so much for presenting on the Storybook and Percy testing. I’ve personally seen the impact of that on our quality and productivity. And I’m really excited to host this next session which will be a Q & A with our panelists.

Heather Natour: I’d like to invite everyone back to come back on the screen. And while they’re doing that, I wanted to talk about leadership in this Q & A, and as an engineering leader, I believe we should be creating opportunities for leadership at all levels, whether you’re an intern or a staff engineer.

Heather Natour: And one of the things I love about Opendoor is seeing that demonstration of leadership every day with every single person I work with. And I’ve personally seen that leadership demonstrated by these particular panelists.

Heather Natour: I’d love to ask each of you first, what do each of you believe has contributed to your ability to demonstrate leadership at Opendoor? I think we have everybody on now. So Morgan, maybe we’ll start with you.

Morgan Cole: Sure. Thank you, Heather. I appreciate the question. There’s two things that come to mind for me. The first piece I would say is, it sounds pretty simple, but I have practiced the art of assuming good intent at all costs in every scenario. Because I think sometimes in leadership, it can be quite easy to become a little bit defensive because you want to do well and you want to show up correctly, and so I think if you operate from a perspective of no matter what’s thrown at me, I’m going to assume that this was thrown at me with good intention, it will help calm that defensiveness so that you can respond in an appropriate manner. So that’s the first piece.

Morgan Cole: The second piece I would say is the team that I’m on specifically has done a really good job of teaching me how to lead collaboratively. I think it’s super important that whenever you are leading, whether it’s a new project, whether it’s a team, whether you’re just building new relationships with other partners throughout your business, it’s vital, it’s paramount that you don’t look at yourself as the single source of truth, but rather you work in conjunction with the parties that are involved to make sure that you all are leading in the same direction. So the two that I would say is assuming good intent and leading collaboratively.

Heather Natour: Yeah. That’s so true and really insightful, Morgan. I really appreciate your thoughts. How about you, Annie?

Annie Tang: Hey guys. I am unable to start my video, but I’m here. If whoever’s hosting could start my video for me, that’d be great. If not, no worries. Oh, here we go. All right. I’m back. This is such a great question. I think that my ability to demonstrate leadership at Opendoor has really been stemmed from as a designer and as a design leader related to what I was talking about in my talk, really helping everyone at the organization really obsess over problems, over ideas, and really… One of the key values that we have at Opendoor now is to start and end with the customer, and I think a lot of being about a designer is building that empathy and really obsessing over our customers. And that ultimately gets you to obsess over problems rather than solutions, so I’d say that’s one aspect.

Annie Tang: And the other aspect is really keeping in mind that execution matters. It’s not all about coming up with cool ideas and cool visions and stuff. That at the end of the day, we need to keep a high bar for what we do. And so execution really amounts to making sure that teams are working really collaboratively, that designers and PMs and engineers are working collaboratively and are in sync, can we do these workshops to make sure that people are in sync? So I think the dual sense of just making sure that we’re obsessing over customers and problems, and also making sure that we’re really executing to high level is kind of my leadership style.

Heather Natour: Yeah. That’s really great. And I agree, I’ve seen so much of that at Opendoor, the collaboration, especially collaboration that you facilitated. And it’s certainly a differentiator, I think, how much Opendoor obsesses over their customers. So that’s great. Maggie, what are your thoughts on the topic?

Maggie Moreno: Yeah, I feel like one of the best things about working at Opendoor is that there’s no shortage of good ideas, only people to make those ideas a reality. Opendoor’s business has a lot of different facets and there are opportunities everywhere for taking on more responsibility. So for me personally at Opendoor, I just feel like getting more leadership opportunities and developing myself as a leader has mostly just been a matter of raising my hand.

Heather Natour: Yeah, that’s very true. And I think the business complexity at Opendoor is really interesting and absolutely creates those opportunities. I love that. Amy, how have you experienced leadership at Opendoor?

Amy Yang: Hi. Not only the complexity of the type of problem Opendoor trying to solve, but also I would say, I admire this whole industry is still very new and young, like a startup feel when you join Opendoor compared to… I used to work at a more mature, larger technical company. I can definitely feel the culture difference here. Not everything is perfect is set up already. You don’t see maybe a perfect data engineering team prepare a perfect data that can be consumed by data science team. A lot of times you need to do the heavy lifting and see where the gap is, where the problem is, not just complaining for the missing pieces, but actually propose a solution and just do it. So that naturally you creates a gap create an opportunity for emerging new leader, especially for me coming from an IC now transition into a leadership role.

Amy Yang: The other thing I want to mention is this one team, one dream culture that is core value for Opendoor. So when you see area for improvement, even not within your immediate team, maybe it’s a cross-functional team, but you can contribute. There is nobody will stop you and say, “No, just do your own team’s work.” There’s always collaboration opportunity and you can just extend your influence outside of your immediate team and service area.

Heather Natour: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s spot on and the sense of ownership that everyone has and doing that as a team, it’s so much more powerful, it becomes real multiplier. How about you, Sumedha, how do you feel the Opendoor experience has allowed you to demonstrate your leadership?

Sumedha Pramod: Okay, sorry about that. Honestly, one of the best ways I’ve been able to actually demonstrate leadership and grow is every week, every other week we have these kind of architectural meetings, and it’s really allowed me to not just have ownership of the code and the surface areas that my team operates in, but really expand that beyond that. And gives us a lot of opportunities to propose and facilitate a lot of discussions that have impact beyond just your specific team. And so really getting to establish that level of ownership at a much, much, much broader level and really expand your impact across the company. Yeah, that’s been really one of the most unique and interesting ways that I’ve been able to really develop leadership here.

Heather Natour: Yeah. I’ve seen that there’s a lot of people and we really want to include everybody in that process, and I think it’s really elevated a lot of amazing ideas, much more long-term thinking and has really pushed the organization to the next level. That’s a great example. Clearly each of you have developed deep domain expertise, and so on top of that, each of you have considered the direction in which you grow and whether it’s moving to people management or focusing on deepening your multiplying impact.

Heather Natour: Were there specific things you considered in order to decide which direction to take your career? And maybe we’ll start with Maggie.

Maggie Moreno: Thanks, Heather. I have been thinking a lot about going into people management. So I’m working on that transition right now. About a year ago, I got the opportunity to be a tech lead for a team, and I found that performing the leadership role was a lot more rewarding than being an IC. So I’ve really been taking on pursuing that and getting involved with the crafting of our transition role and starting to craft those documents.

Heather Natour: That’s great. And I think your selflessness that you demonstrate every day is really a huge impact to the rest of the team. And so it’s really great to see you moving into people management. Amy, how about you, you mentioned you were recently transitioning more from IC to leadership, what were some specific things you considered?

Amy Yang: Yeah, I think I’ve summarized the decision making process. I consider two factors. One is what my strength is, two, what my passion is about, three, is what’s the company goal is. I think the perfect position is how the three factors can align the best. Sometimes what you want to do doesn’t really align with the bigger picture of what the company want to go. Either the long-term goal, I haven’t seen sometimes, especially technical, a very deep technical person, they just want to utilize specific technology or tooling but that doesn’t necessarily solve the immediate business problem. That is a misalignment. I think the perfect position are when everybody would try to evaluate what’s the best role is. Do you see opportunity or can the next position that help you align the three factor better?

Amy Yang: For me, I joined Opendoor relatively recent, end of last year. I joined as a senior IC. Now I’m in the tech lead position. I enjoy my current position. It gives me both the freedom to do some project roadmap planning management, and also stay close to the technology while I’m still learning about the business, but eventually, based how I feel, how I evaluate the three factor alignment, I will make my decision for the next step.

Heather Natour: Yeah, that’s great. It’s so great that you’ve gotten these opportunities so quickly and yet, you can always change your mind and feel supported in how you grow here, I think that’s great. Sumedha, how have you thought about your career direction?

Sumedha Pramod: For me, it came down to as simple as I really just like writing code, as nerdy as that sounds. Writing code and really spending a lot of time diving into our customer experiences, whether that’s from a product design or even engineering standpoint. Obviously, as I grow more as a senior IC, it’s definitely less about doing a lot of the nitty gritty code myself, but really figuring out how I can better enable those around me to accomplish whether it’s technical goals or OKRs or things like that. And then also, how can I set some technical standards around best practices while really starting to think a lot more big picture about our systems and those are the challenges that really excite me and made me really want to go down the route of becoming a more senior IC for sure.

Heather Natour: That’s great. It’s hard to debate not liking to code. Annie, you’ve provided leadership at Opendoor for quite a while, how have you thought about your career direction?

Annie Tang: Yeah, so I started off at Opendoor long time ago as a senior designer as a senior IC, and I worked on much of the end to end experience and various part of the experience. And then, about two and a half years ago, I moved to management. And I think one guiding principle that I really had about my career has always just been to optimize for growth because I am happiest when I am learning and challenged. And so I was honestly really happy being an IC. I loved designing, I learned a lot, especially going from designing, just digital experiences at previous gigs to Opendoor, where I was really challenged and designing these online and offline experiences. And as Opendoor grew, I got the opportunity to manage.

Annie Tang: And when there was the opportunity, I was actually really excited and I actually told my manager that I wanted this opportunity. And I think that’s one thing that I would advise everyone too, is I actually don’t believe there is a certain stereotype for ICs, like if you are this way, you’re a great IC or if this way, you’re a great manager. If you’re curious and you want to grow into one or the other, make it known to your manager. It might not be that immediately you can do it, but that’s one thing I always tell, especially females. If there isn’t a right or wrong answer, if you’re curious about something, just to say that, because that’s ultimately how I ended up in management. I was really curious about it. I saw an opportunity, I told my manager and he helped me work my way through it.

Annie Tang: And as our company grew, I got to scale our team and I have really found a lot of enjoyment in supporting my team and not being the hands-on IC. I also haven’t ruled out though that maybe in the future or next gig, I want to be an IC again. And so I believe that there’s a lot of fluidity to this.

Heather Natour: Yeah. That’s excellent advice. I wholeheartedly agree. I have similar experiences. Morgan, you inspired us with just your self-awareness talk. How do you think personally about your own career direction?

Morgan Cole: Sure. Well, let me just tell you Heather, my career has been nothing short of a jungle gym. I have been a senior manager, an entry-level IC, a senior IC, a lead, back to management, back to IC. All of that’s happened in the span of about six years, and in different sectors too, whether it’s sales, whether it’s marketing and advertising, leadership and development, or learning and development, rather.

Morgan Cole: My decision-making process generally speaking, is with regard to the skills that I like to nurture. That’s basically how I base my decisions. So the trajectory of my career, it’s based on the skillsets and the acumen that I hope to cultivate at a specific time. And whatever those skillsets are, I am going to look for a position or role in which it will specifically help me get to that next step, and I’m less concerned about what the title is and more concerned about what the end result could potentially be.

Heather Natour: Yeah, that’s great advice. It’s sometimes hard to take the time to even think about that, but I think it’s really important. I appreciate all of the panelists’ thoughtful answers and that’s a wrap for the presentation portion. I also wanted to thank the Girl Geek team for all you do for the community.

Heather Natour: Here’s my LinkedIn – feel free to connect with me and reference this event if you want to hear more about Opendoor. I’ll invite Angie back on the screen to share the next portion of the breakout sessions.

Angie Chang: Awesome. Thank you all for sharing your insights and your journeys with us. Really enjoyed all the talks and the conversation about this is what leadership looks like. We will be sharing some Opendoor jobs via email. Keep an eye out for that.. that’s actually an event survey, and also links to the Opendoor jobs!

Here is a list of recommended resources – crowdsourced by attendees to help each other evolve into the best versions of ourselves in work and life!


The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brene Brown

Get Over It! Thought Therapy for Healing the Hard Stuff by Iyanla Vanzant

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change by Camille Fournier

Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Living by Anne Dufourmantelle

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Short on cash? Here’s a helpful hint: It’s easy to find sites with used copies if you Google the book title. In the results, there’s even a section to see the library closest to you that has the book!


HBR Presents: Coaching Real Leaders

Women Inspiring Women

Dare to Lead


Marcus Buckingham

Daniel Pink

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

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

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

Transcript of Cadence Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks:

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi everyone, welcome to our Girl Geek Dinner tonight.

Angie Chang: We have an hour of talks tonight for you, from really amazing women at Cadence, and they will be sharing what they’re working on, and also, they have amazing career advice.

Tahrina Ahmed: Tonight, I will talk about Tensilica, a platform that lets computer enthusiasts to create their own [inaudible] specific processors, DSPs, AI accelerator, ensuring most optimized power performance, and area efficiency. And I’m glad to be here, with all of you, my fellow girl geeks.

Sanjita Chokshi: I took the tough decision to press that pause button, in professional side, and today, here I am to share with you all that journey, and what it looked like, coming back to work. Hopefully, it will help some of you, maybe now, or in future.

Rania Hassan Mekky: Today, I’d like to talk to you about a block that has a lot of importance in our daily life, which is SerDes. If you ask yourself what is SerDes, I can tell you that you have kinds of it, at home.

Neeti Bhatnagar: In this world, in this very technical world, in order to succeed in building the next generation engineering product, that ability to zoom into technical details when you need to, and then zoom out to create the larger strategy and vision for the next generation technology is a must.

Alessandra Costa: Think about, if you walk in the hallways of your company, your college, will you be recognized? Are you a familiar face? Will people trust you if they see you? They’ll think, “Oh, okay, so Alessandra, this is a person I can trust.” Lead by example. And so, without further ado, just do it.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi everyone, welcome to our Girl Geek Dinner tonight. I’m Sukrutha, from Girl Geek X, we’re seeing so many people coming in, and joining in right now, and that’s amazing. Angie is here, as well. So, a little bit of back history. Angie and I used to, pre-COVID, commute to Girl Geek Dinners all across the Bay area, so each event, each dinner is sponsored by a different company, and post-COVID, we’ve been doing this virtually. So here we are. Angie, would you like to introduce yourself?

Angie Chang: Yes, sorry. Every time I get in Zoom, I feel like they changed something on me, so thank you. Sorry for being a little late today. My name is Angie Chang, and I am the Founder of Girl Geek X, along with Sukrutha. We’ve been hosting these events in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 13 years now. Thank you, LinkedIn, for telling me all the time how many years I’ve been doing this.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: (laughs)

Angie Chang: [inaudible] That’s because we have so much fun going to different companies, when we’re not in a pandemic, and eating their food, seeing their office, talking to people who work there, and then most importantly, hearing and learning from women on stage, who are working on the tech, who are leading departments, and teams, and sharing their tips and tricks, as well as what’s going on, or the new processes and products that they’re working on. But we also love meeting girl geeks, in the networking sessions. So that’s why we have, now, since we’re in a pandemic, we do these on Zoom, and we have a networking session to follow.

Angie Chang: So, we have an hour of talks tonight for you, from really amazing women at Cadence, and they will be sharing their … what they’re working on, and also, they have amazing career advice. So, I learned something, and I think she’ll share it later, but it was a Girl Geek Dinner that someone learned about a returnship, from. So, I was really excited to hear that people are going to Girl Geek Dinners, and they’re learning new things, and continuing to come back, as speakers. It’s really inspiring to see that. Full circle. What else is new? So … we have-

Sukrutha Bhadouria: What else is new? We have potential … we are going to have a female Vice President of this country, which is huge.

Angie Chang: Yes, Madame Vice President, we … I was like, “Oh my God, we have to do something.” So we made some schwag. If you’re familiar with our cute pixel people, we have a new one, celebrating the woman who is going to be in the White House. So we have some schwag available on our website, we have face masks, so you can be very safe, and you can also buy hoodies, and you can get some throw pillows, bumper stickers that talk about how a woman’s place is in the White House, and the Senate. And women deserve to be in places where decisions are made, so you can find those all on our website, at GirlGeek.IO, and all proceeds for those products will be going to Fair Fight, since we believe in fairness.

Angie Chang: So, I think it’s time to introduce our first speaker, her name is Annamarie, and she is the Vice President of Culture and Talent at Cadence. She believes that employee engagement is not a nice to have, it is a key ingredient to creating a great company, and a high performance culture. She holds a JD from Santa Clara University of Law, and a BA in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz. Welcome, Annamarie.

Annamarie Dunn: I can just speak, if that’s okay? Sorry I’m not able to show up there.

Angie Chang: No worries. I know Zoom is like, changing every week, there’s always some new quirk, that we’re like, “Why is this happening?” So, sorry about that.

Annamarie Dunn: Oh, that’s okay. Well, I really just wanted to welcome everyone, and we’re so excited to partner with Girl Geek and highlight our talented innovators at Cadence, to show how they’re helping us solve technology’s toughest challenges. These six women are strong technologists and leaders at Cadence, and so I’m really excited to hear their lightning talks this evening, and for some of you, this morning, around the globe.

Annamarie Dunn: Just a little bit about Cadence, we are a leader in electronic design innovation, we’re building on more than 30 years of computational software expertise, and we’ve also been on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, for six years in a row, and on their World’s Best list, for five years, highlighting our strong culture.

Annamarie Dunn: Women have played an important role in the advancement of technology throughout our 30 year history, and we’re committed to empowering women across the globe, and elevating more women in technology. Thank you so much, Girl Geek, for the chance to showcase the accomplishments and expertise our speakers bring to the field. And with that, I’ll turn it back to you, to introduce our first speaker.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: All right, so next up is our speaker, Rania. I’m going to do a quick intro. Rania is the Principle Design Engineer at Cadence, she will share about SerDes, a hardware IP that is responsible for transmitting and receiving data. Recently it has been used in several serial link applications like PCI Express, HDMI, and USB. Welcome, Rania.

Rania Hassan Mekky: Hello everyone. This is Rania Hassan-Mekky, I am a Principal Design Engineer in the [inaudible] group. Today, I’d like to talk to you about a block that has a lot of importance in our daily life, which is SerDes.

Rania Hassan Mekky: The outline of this presentation is Data Transfer, Examples of SerDes, Applications, SerDes Definition, Advantages and Disadvantage, History and Future of SerDes, and finally, Conclusion.

Rania Hassan Mekky: Data Transfer. Just ask yourself one question. Do you think how much data you are transmitting and receiving every day? The online meetings, the Zoom meeting, downloads, video streaming, it’s a lot. All this come with heavily infrastructure of network and server kit that serves this purpose.

Rania Hassan Mekky: We have one fast train that is responsible for transmitting and receiving all this data, which I’m going to talk about it in this presentation. I call it SerDes.

Rania Hassan Mekky: If you ask yourself, what is SerDes, I can tell you that you have tens of it, at home. It’s not new. One of the SerDes that you already know is USB, Universal Serial Bus. We all have some of it. This is maybe one of the very famous SerDes probably you have some on your hand, right now.

Rania Hassan Mekky: And it got evolved with time, it’s not only for transmitting the USB data and giving power to systems, but also now we can transmit high definition video, on the type C USB.

Rania Hassan Mekky: It’s not only USB, is the SerDes that we have. We have also other application like PCI Express, it’s widely used in graphic cards, artificial intelligence, and- and machine learning. CCIX it’s used in high performance computing. XAUI, it’s widely used in networking, and ethernet. And SATA, which is famous for storage.

Rania Hassan Mekky: So, what is SerDes? SerDes stands for Serializer Deserializer. Serializer means that a transmitter that takes a parallel data and convert it to serial, and send it to a media. Like, let’s say for example, like a chip, like what’s shown in this photo. Say that we’re going to get 16 bin out of this chip, and say that let’s make this as communication channel. So we will send 16 bit per second.

Rania Hassan Mekky: Instead of using 16 dedicated bins to do so, and of course, 16 BCB trace, we’re going to convert the parallel data to serial, and just use one bin, and eventually one BCB trace.

Rania Hassan Mekky: Deserializer is exactly the opposite, it’s the receiver. It will take the serial data, and convert it back to parallel for it goes to processing.

Rania Hassan Mekky: So, the advantage of this technique is less pin count, instead of using the 16 bit, the 16 bin, we’re going to use just one bin. However, we still need to transmit the data at the same amount, so if this 16 bit was meant to be transmit in one second, we still need to get the communication channel fast 16 times, to transmit the same amount of data then the same time.

Rania Hassan Mekky: We again have the first disadvantage, that we have to speed up the communication, less bit communication, and this will come with faster clocks. So, using faster data clock means that we have to increase the power, and here we’re going to have another trade off. Given that that clock will be faster, then we really have to make it running with lower power.

Rania Hassan Mekky: Another thing that we can use to help us with the challenges that we facing from getting the clock faster, and the power lower, that we can move to advanced technologies, like, say, instead of using 65 nanometer technology, for example, we can go for lower, like 28, 12, 16, something like this. And we still, we’re going to have some challenges in the design and the architecture itself.

Rania Hassan Mekky: So, let’s talk about the history and future for SerDes. Here we have a graph, for the data rate versus years for the [inaudible] data for ISSCC 430s. The green dots, these ones, represents PCI Express, the cyan dots represents storage, and the orange dots represents video.

Rania Hassan Mekky: We can see that at early beginning of series, at 1995, there was as slow as just one gigabit per second. And as time just goes, it just keep going faster and faster to the right top of the curve, here that we can [inaudible] and find that the PCI Express now is running at 72 gigabit per second.

Rania Hassan Mekky: Not only getting the clock faster and using advanced technologies and advanced design will help in the development of SerDes. We had also another breakthrough in this technology, which is a change in the modulation. Changing the modulation from [inaudible] to zero, which was the most used modulation in all techniques, to band four, pulse amplitude modulation four, that easily can double the rate. We can go from 28 gigabit per second, to 56 gigabit per second just by changing the modulation. And this will come at the cost of … more advanced architecture and more advanced designs.

Rania Hassan Mekky: This can go not only to 56, getting everything combined, it can lead us to a faster SerDes at 112 gigabit per second, not only making it high speed, but customers need other stuff, too. Needs more flexibility and configurability. We at Cadence can provide a multi-protocol SerDes that has different links that each link can be configured to serve as a certain protocol, like the photo that we’re seeing here, that we have four different lanes, that each one can be configured. Like, one to serve as a PCI Express, one to serve as a CCIX, one to serve as SATA, or whatever. This will provide more SOS configurability, maturity, flexibility and ease to use.

Rania Hassan Mekky: To summarize, you have SerDes at home, I am pretty sure of that. It’s an essential block that we use every day. Not only for the less bin counts, and fewer communication channels, it open the lead for more data to be transferred. More design challenges from faster clocks, needing lower power, using band four, and all this opens a new era for innovation. Thanks so much for your attention, I’m going to give the mic back to Angie.

Angie Chang: Awesome. Thank you. That was an excellent talk on the importance of SerDes. So, our next speaker is Sanjita, and she will be talking about jump starting her career after a care taking break. She is a lead application engineer at Cadence, and she’s a member of Cadence’s first return to work initiative, and she’ll share her experience tonight about getting back into the tech world after choosing to be a full time Mom for four years, and how her returnship, what enabled her to go back to designing cutting edge Cadence tools. Welcome, Sanjita.

Sanjita Chokshi: Thank you, Angie. Hello, everyone. My name is Sanjita. Glad to here with you all, virtually today. I joined Cadence as a returnee, as Angie mentioned. And before I took this role, I have tried my hands at different engineering fields in industrial automation, to wireless, to various software fields, before I finally realized and settled down with ASICs, which is also popularly known as silicon chips.

Sanjita Chokshi: On personal front, I am a mother of two boys, and a first generation immigrant, which means life is something … and my presentation is stuck. Oh. There you go. That’s my life. You’ve got to be the village, for your child, raising them here, and my only ally being my husband, life was full and I somewhere felt like I am not able to juggle enough and give the kind of attention I wanted to give to my kids.

Sanjita Chokshi: At one point, when they were going through crucial transitions in their lives, I took the tough decision to press the pause button on professional side. And today, here I am to share with you all, that journey and what was it like coming back to work? Hopefully it will help some of you, maybe now, or in future.

Sanjita Chokshi: What was it like? As I look back, I realize the most important part of this whole journey was managing my thoughts, and my decade long meditation habit has played a very crucial role in that aspect. Constant thoughts of, “Oh, what will people think of me? Am I making the right decision? Am I losing out on my career?” This whole circle of fear, negativity, anxiety, meditation really helped me to keep [inaudible].

Sanjita Chokshi: Over time, it was multiple different times, at points of time, that I had to remake that decision and reevaluate my choices. At the end of it, I realized one thing. I became completely unapologetic about the choices I had made. I stopped explaining to people why I took the break, why I chose to be a stay at home Mom. I could accept within me, that I have done this for myself and not for others. And all that was thanks to a meditation. I strongly recommend for any challenges you’re going through in life, this was one thing that worked wonders.

Sanjita Chokshi: Realize one more side effect of being on a break, I had a lot of time for myself. I could dig deeper, and that was the time when I really spelled out and embraced my strengths. As a result, when I decided to go back to work, I was very clear on what I bring to the table, what I have got to offer. That positive outlook, that confidence, my own confidence in myself was something I felt was the very foundation, when I decided to go back to work.

Sanjita Chokshi: More than any other [inaudible] and catching up to technology, this was the part that really gave me the jumpstart. One more thing that I would like to mention, I feel looking back, that helped, was continuous learning. As I was on a break, it was not technology, but then I learned a new language, I picked up gardening, to permaculture. At one point, I even considered a career as a edible landscape designer. I explored spice mixes, I picked up things I knew nothing about. That was the joy of learning.

Sanjita Chokshi: Now, as I join back, I am learning new tools, new methods, new stuff every single day, and all those things together, I feel is playing very crucial role, as I come back from my break, to start the journey again, in the corporate world. All in all, this is what I was, as a result of all these three things, in my break.

Sanjita Chokshi: As I decided to come back, get back to work, my very first thing was, I started going out, and when I say it, I really mean it. I attended almost 40 events, Angie was mentioning about Geek Girl. Over six months, 40 events, Geek Girl was on top of that list. Back in the day when life was more normal, and events were in person, it was a lot more fun. I look forward to see how it works in breakout rooms, now.

Sanjita Chokshi: I attended a lot of women-centric events wherein I got to meet with the whole range of women in tech, which was pretty unusual experience for me, because all this time, wherever I worked, there were very few women around me. So this was a really liberating experience. I learned a lot on semiconductor focused events, as well, on where the world is going, that gave me a perspective on how market has moved and where things are going forward.

Sanjita Chokshi: At the same time, I connected with a lot of people, learned a lot from other women. At the same time, learned about returnship initiative, which I knew nothing about. I realized, this was something … for people who don’t know what this is, lot of corporates have started programs wherein, it’s like internship, but meant for professionals who have prior experience and they have decided to take a break, to take care of family. So it was tailor made for me.

Sanjita Chokshi: Another thing that I did, and discovered more on LinkedIn, there is a setting that you are open to opportunities. As I turned that on, recruiters started reaching out to me. A few of the things, already I could see there’s a lot of traction in the market. I had to just prepare myself, and I knew that it was a process of going and finding the right match.

Sanjita Chokshi: I started talking to people and I realized, even when there is a 10 or 20% match, they are willing to engage with me, and talk forward. As I was going through all those experiences, I realized, it’s only a matter of time when I find my right match. And sure enough, I see a rec one day on LinkedIn, from Cadence, which was 100% match. I look at the job description, I look at the requirements, the minimum three years of break, three years of experience, and two years of break. I fit right in.

Sanjita Chokshi: By then, I was already ready to face that interview, and I knew that the job is going to be mine. What was life at Cadence like, as I joined? It was a 16 week program that gave me perfect time to ramp up where I had left off. In my previous job, I was a design engineer. I took customers’ designs, made it work on the silicon, as [inaudible], and the goal was to make it first time right. And I had met it 100% success rate.

Sanjita Chokshi: Now, in this job, I was offered to do the same, make it happen for the customers who are using Cadence’s state of the art technology leading tool set. So, I started with the product training first, and then I got on-the-job training, wherein I got to see, A, what is the real life experience in this job, as an application engineer, which was really going on the other side of the table.

Sanjita Chokshi: I found one thing, working at Cadence, that was one Cadence – one team, this motto that they are writing trickled down everywhere, across the teams. It was about collaboration and achieving success as a team. And I felt right at home, being in that culture. So at the end of 16 weeks, when management offered me a full time position, it was a no-brainer, for me. I knew this was the place where I’m going to be happy.

Sanjita Chokshi: Another thing that drew me was management’s commitment towards employees. This is real, they were not just talking about it. I could see it, they were walking the talk. Second thing was, focus on women. This was my first job, actually, never seen anything like this in any other company, the kind of focus that is there, on women. I am yet to finish my five months in this company, and this is the sixth women-centric event that I am attending. That tells they’re really walking the talk.

Sanjita Chokshi: All you ladies out there, one thing I would say is, make the bold choices, be confident in what you’re choosing for yourself, and go for it. Cadence is hiring, if you are matching, whether any of the profile you have the skillset, this is a place to be. One more thing I would like to put out there is returnship. See if your company is also open to starting programs like this. It’s a win/win for both sides. Down the road, it will offer professionals like us that crucial choice at some part in our life when we feel that juggling of too many balls is too much. Even the professional life ball can also be put down, temporarily.

Sanjita Chokshi: So with that, I would like to thank you all. And thank you, Angie, for giving me this opportunity here, and the platform.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, that was such an interesting and personal story to share. We always are hearing more and more about people wanting to take a break, but then being afraid about how that will impact their career also. It’s especially important to share your side of the story, as well. Thank you so much.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: All right, so our next speaker is Tahrina Ahmed. Tahrina is a senior director at the Design Enablement Group in the Tensilica IP group at Cadence. So yeah, welcome Tahrina.

Tahrina Ahmed: Good evening, everyone. I’m Tahrina Ahmed, senior director of Design Enablement Group at Tensilica IP, in Cadence Design Systems. A little bit about myself. My academic career and professional background is in computer architecture. I completed my PhD from Stanford University, where my thesis was on distributed domain specific architecture.

Tahrina Ahmed: Well, from very young age, I had keen interest in math and logic that later led on to my love for engineering. And I’m glad to be here with all of you, my fellow Girl Geeks. Tonight I will talk about Tensilica, a platform that lets computer enthusiasts to create their own domain specific processors, DSPs, AI accelerator, ensuring most optimized power performance and area efficiency.

Tahrina Ahmed: In this presentation, I will cover the basics of embedded systems, followed by the definition of hardware and software co-design. Then I will go over a concise technical overview of Xtensa architecture, a quick guide to build and customize Tensilica processors and DSPs. And finally, I will end with some PPA data.

Tahrina Ahmed: Tensilica develops IP blocks to be included on the chip designs, such as a system on a chip for embedded systems. So, what is an embedded system? An embedded system is a microprocessor based computer hardware system, with software that is designed to perform a dedicated function, either as an independent system, or as a part of a large system.

Tahrina Ahmed: Some of the key characteristics of embedded systems are low cost, lower power, with high efficiency, high reliability and minimal user interface. Cadence Tensilica processors and DSPs are based on Xtensa architecture that exploits hardware-software co-design.

Tahrina Ahmed: To implement hardware and software co-design, the developers need to specify, explore, refine a flexible design strategy. It enables hierarchy of models at different abstraction levels, with hardware and software iterative interaction. After evaluating PPA trade offs, the developer finalize the design.

Tahrina Ahmed: Essentially, two major requirements for the design practice are first, each developer to embed their own design specification. Second, hardware with optimal PPA, tuned for application software.

Tahrina Ahmed: So now let’s delve into Tensilica solutions. Tensilica based architecture is a 32 bit reduced instruction set architecture, with low gate count design, which is around 20K gates for a five stage pipeline. The base instruction set supports 24 bit, as well as 16 bit encoding. Thus, the modeless 24/16 intermixing provides great code density.

Tahrina Ahmed: This architecture comprises efficient branch instruction. For example, combined compare and branch, zero-overhead loops, etc. For bit manipulation, it [inaudible] funnel shift, bit test and branch, field extract operations, etc. As mentioned earlier, that Xtensa is a flexible architecture by design. The robust nature of this architecture allows designers to scale from tiny low powered micro-controller to high performance VLIW controlled CPU. Designers can extend performance further, with application specific single instruction multiple data, very long instruction work, and IO features.

Tahrina Ahmed: So, how can you build your own unique processor and DSPs? If you have access to the basic [inaudible], using the Xtensa processor generator interface, you can choose from pre-configured templates. Then simply configure utilizing the click button features, and only include what your application needs. For example, the application could benefit from half precision, single precision operations, single or multiple load store or FMAO needs. Similarly, you’ve got a very wide range of data types, from eight to 64 bits. You can choose from 20 plus application specific DSPI cells.

Tahrina Ahmed: Finally, you can customize adding instructions, and/or IOs to meet application requirements and optimize and differentiate. So the bottom line is, with Tensilica solutions, it is easy to build, easy to optimize, easy to program. You get one development environment, with automated tools generation. And you always get to write your program in C, you don’t have to worry about assembly coding.

Tahrina Ahmed: So here’s some of our automation utilities that make the development experience seamless for processor designers. Essentially, you start with Tensilica ID that provides you with base processor, which is dozens of templates for many common applications, in addition to pre-verified options. For example, off the shelf DSPs, interfaces, peripherals, debug, etc.

Tahrina Ahmed: You can customize your own IP by creating your own instructions, data types, registers, interfaces. Then using the [inaudible] interface, within minutes you develop complete hardware design, and simultaneously, you have access to advanced software tools. Even customization is is highly coherent and straightforward with Tensilica Instruction Extension Language, that is also known at TIE language. This high level language helps you to describe hardware and software aspects of instruction extension.

Tahrina Ahmed: The TIE compiler generates software tools such as compiler, debugger, simulator. It also generates RTL and implementation flows. So now I’m going to show you this chart, that illustrates how by tuning processor ISA for application specific characteristics, developers can achieve PPA efficiency.

Tahrina Ahmed: Considering this best guess scenario, which is ATM header error correction application, by including less than 2K additional case, developers can get greater than 10 access data. How convenient is that?

Tahrina Ahmed: Even the use cases that require higher ideational date count suggest [inaudible 00:35:27] space conversion, by adding around 10K additional gates, you can still achieve around, in fact more than 4x speed up. Finally, when do you see our Tensilica processors and USBs? The good news is, our LX and NX controllers, and audio vision RLC DSPs have footprint in various products, in multiple segments, many of which perhaps you are using in your every day life.

Tahrina Ahmed: For example, in automotive, Bluetooth headsets, digital TVs and home entertainment systems, smart phones, smart speakers and [inaudible] devices. Yes. You name it, you could find Tensilica here.

Tahrina Ahmed: And with that, I would like to thank Girl Geek for giving me the opportunity to present Tensilica solutions in this event, and thank you all for joining this session. Back to you.

Angie Chang: Thank you, that was an excellent talk. So, our next speaker is Alessandra, who is the Vice President of North America Field Engineering at Cadence. She will share her journey, and what she learned along the way, with advice on leadership, insights on the importance of diversity in technology, and the inspiration to help you own your own personal brand to drive your career. Welcome, Alessandra.

Alessandra Costa: Good evening, everybody, and yeah, as was mentioned, my name is Alessandra Costa, and I manage the North America team, and I’m very proud to call Sanjita and Julia two of my members of my organization. Great presentations, you ladies were phenomenal.

Alessandra Costa: So, I’m switching a little bit, the gear from the technical side and actually, I am going to take you on a trip, on a trip to Africa. And this was us, my husband and I, in 2002. It was Fall, and we decided to go on a trip to Africa, and more precisely, Namibia. So we were extremely excited about the prospective of being gone for a couple of weeks, and then the week before leaving, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter.

Alessandra Costa: So, we really wanted a child too, but just we didn’t want the first trimester to coincide with the trip in a land that was far from home. There was a lot of debating, and lot of agonizing over the decision, and then we decided to go. So, we were reassured that the weather would be cool, because it was sort of Spring, there. We were actually going with a group of friends, and some of them I had known for quite some times, and one of them I didn’t know, at all.

Alessandra Costa: Then off we went, and unfortunately once we got there, things were quite different from the way we imagined. So, first of all, the temperature was the hottest Spring that they had in like, the previous 50 years. So it was extremely hot. The roads looked like the one you see here. Actually, some roads are paved with salt, and the terrain is not regular at all. The company, especially the person I didn’t know, was nightmarish.

Alessandra Costa: I would wake up in the morning, super hot, dry, but still super hot. I had the morning sickness. I was completely miserable and the people around me didn’t make my life better. So, every time I woke up, and you might imagine that the first thing I could dream about, could be some oasis along the way, or a final destination, in a hotel. No, all I was dreaming about was potato chips.

Alessandra Costa: Well, if you think about it, potato chips are salty, and that’s all I craved, actually, in the morning. I’m not a big fan of junk food, but I have to tell you, since then, potato chips have become my comfort food, actually, when I travel. You can imagine, my husband and I in this larger group, and every morning, being miserable, and every morning, just looking for the next stop, to get some chips.

Alessandra Costa: And some of the brands were completely unknown to me, and although I am fully convinced that Simba is a very nice guy, I was not willing to trust my morning sickness to a brand that I didn’t know. Okay? So, of course, in the shelves, among the unknown brand, there was something that I could easily recognize, and I felt comfortable with, which is Lays, of course.

Alessandra Costa: And why did I go for Lays? It’s because, again, it’s something that was familiar to me, because of course, in the US we see a lot of it. And it’s something I could trust. Of course, it’s kind of funny to trust junk food. But anyway, it’s something I could know, and I felt comfortable buying and eating.

Alessandra Costa: Now, talking about recognizable brand, can you guess the content of this can, even if you don’t read or speak Arabic? Normally when I do this presentation live, everybody recognizing this can, a can of Coke. Which is really interesting, because it means that their marketing is phenomenal, because the only thing that you can recognize really, again, if you don’t speak Arabic, is the fact that it’s a red can, it’s a particular red, right? But still, red can, white writing, and the swirl on the right, right?

Alessandra Costa: So, I think they do a pretty good job at just nailing these colors and the logo in your brain. If we look at the most valuable brands according to Forbes, which is quite a reputable source, these are the top 10. One thing that is really interesting to me, is that out of the top 10 brands, lots of them, actually, the majority of them, are actually high tech companies, which is very different from what was the reality maybe like, just 10 years ago.

Alessandra Costa: There are these big tech company that really came to the forefront of the scene, and they’re able to brand themselves to the public, and to possible employees. But what does it mean? How did Forbes rank the companies? It was based on three criteria. First of all, the financial performance of the company. Reputable company, good revenues, good margins. So that was the first thing.

Alessandra Costa: The second thing was really the weight of the brand on customer choices. Think about me, in Namibia, potato chips, I went for Lays, right? So, the brand definitely had a weight on my choice. Third, which is really interesting, is the premium, the price premium that companies can charge because of the brand. One example I like to bring up every time is, think about the Louis Vuitton bags. Especially the one with the monograms, the ones that are made of plastic, they are sold for hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollar, and it might be very high quality plastic, still plastic.

Alessandra Costa: Now, why branding is important, we talked about recognition, the can of Coke and that you can recognize it just by virtue of the colors, and of the brand, of the logo. Trust, we talked about me trusting junk food, then trusting potato chips. But also, financial value, meaning how much financial value is the brand bringing to a company. And last but not least is also inspiration. No matter where you stand on the political side, if you think about Kevin Kaepernick here in North America, he became the image person for a while, for Nike, and that was decided based on his political stand.

Alessandra Costa: So, companies spend a lot of money to make sure that you recognize their brand and you associate their brand to what they stand for. Well, how about people? That’s me when I was still going to the hairdresser, before COVID. If you think about yourself, and if you work for a company, or you’re in college, think about if you walk in the hallways of your company, your college, will you be recognized? Are you a familiar face in the environment that you work at? Will people trust you if they see you? Will they think, “Okay, so Alessandra, this is a person I can trust. I know she made some decision. I know that she delivers what she promises.”

Alessandra Costa: Financial value. If I think about Cadence, does Cadence see a financial value in me, and on the flip side, is Cadence willing to pay me the right amount of money for the job I do? And then, last not but least, let’s go through inspiration again. Will I be an inspiration for people around me? I certainly hope so, and especially for women in my organization and also outside of my organization.

Alessandra Costa: I want to share a few things that you ladies should focus on when you think about your brand. This is a presentation that normally I deliver like, in half an hour, 40 minutes, and so I am much more than this, but I just condensed, focusing on the most important thing. The first thing is really understanding the priorities of the company you work for, the group you work for, the priority of your manager, even. And then align what you do with the priorities of the companies.

Alessandra Costa: Sometimes, we like going and trying science experiment and we fall in love with a project, we fall in love with a topic, but then, does it matter for people around you? Does it matter for your manager? Does it add value for your company? An example I give, believe it or not, I love knitting, and I love also crochet. I do beautiful things, I believe so, right, that these things are beautiful. I do a lot of blankets, I have one in process, and I like to do it because I can see the result of what I do. There is something that I can touch, right? While my job is kind of immaterial. I don’t work on something and then I can just hold it in my hand.

Alessandra Costa: I do beautiful blankets, I make beautiful blankets. Perfect craftsmanship. Do you think my manager, who by the way, is the VP of Sales, of North America. So he carries basically half the revenue, of our company. Do you think he cares, if I show up at the one on one with my blanket and say, “Look, I’ve been working on this. Are you proud of me?” Of course he doesn’t care. Of course, this is an exaggeration, but every time you do something, think, “Is this valuable for my team? Is this valuable for my company?” And align.

Alessandra Costa: There are ways to align. You can listen to communication meetings, I mean, big organization, we have communication meeting, that our CEO, Lip-Bu Tan holds, we have communication meetings inside, smaller organization inside groups. In fact, my manager had a communication meeting this week. So listen to that. Learn the lingo. Learn what is important and one thing, and for especially the ladies that are part of my team, they know, I push everybody to listen to the earning calls. So, if you work for a public company, they have earning calls where they share, typically the CEO and the CFO, they share the data on how the company is doing. But above all, the analysts ask a lot of questions, about the company.

Alessandra Costa: And so, you’re going to learn very quickly, what matters to the executive of the company, and you’re going to learn how to translate those care abouts to your daily life. Okay? So, understand priorities and align with the priorities of your company. The second one, this is very much a female trait, I hear all the time, for example, when somebody tries to apply for a job, women typically, if they don’t check all the boxes, if they’re not perfect for every single thing, every single requirement of the job description, they don’t go for it. It is this quest for perfection that sometimes is really career limiting, for women.

Alessandra Costa: What you see here, this symbolizes to me the quest for perfection, sometimes imperfection being better than perfection, and this is a pottery technique that is typically in Japan, where something breaks, they fix it and yes, it was broken, but it looks even more beautiful than the original item. So, overcome the sense of the quest for perfection, because that’s detrimental to what you do.

Alessandra Costa: Last but not least, I am asked frequently, how do I change at work, compared to my life at home? Of course there are differences, I mean, the way I express myself, I do much more yelling, at home. You can imagine, right? Italian family. My husband is actually American, but two Italian women. One 100% Italian, the other 50% Italian. So there is a lot of yelling. I don’t yell at work. I try, actually, to customize my message depending on the people I talk to.

Alessandra Costa: But I myself, every single morning, I get up. I wash my face, I look at myself in the mirror, and I bring myself to work. I don’t bring another person, an avatar of what I am in real life. Okay? So, by the way, this is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Now, there is much more than that, for sake of time, I’ll jump to the next thing. Everything I said, if you think about it, it applies equally to men and women. Why am I so keen on giving this presentation to women?

Alessandra Costa: It’s because we’re still a little bit behind, in the way we are represented, and so there is still a big gap between the opportunities we are given, the way we are paid, the political representation that we have, and the one that men have. So, again, for sake of time, I’m not going to go too much into this, but there is the World Economic Forum, it’s an international organization, measures actually what is the gender gap between men and women. As you can see, this year, so we’re talking about 2020, a woman is, let’s say, “worth” 69% of what a man is worth.

Alessandra Costa: So, we have similar opportunities when it comes, for example, to education. But when you look at economical participation, and above all, political empowerment, then we’re very behind. And so, if you think about how big is the progress that we have made since 2006 when they started measuring this, it’s only 4.6%. It’s a very detailed report. I encourage you to look at it, and also the data is split by country. We’re not doing very well in US, and we’re doing even more poorly in my country of origin, Italy.

Alessandra Costa: And talking about political representation, this is G20, few years back. The picture on the left is the original, the one is with men photoshopped out, three women are left. And one is the Queen, by the way. This is the G7, last year, G7 is the meeting of the seven most industrialized countries, in the world. And they send their representative, and here they are. How do you feel about being represented by these middle aged men? So, these people are speaking also on your own behalf.

Alessandra Costa: But alas, I had to change my presentation, because I had sent it a few weeks back. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and yes, Kamala, finally. This Vice President Elect, Kamala Harris. I was listening to her speech, and this is maybe the quote that impressed me the most, because it’s a quote that speaks about ambition, in a positive way, not in a negative way. Speaks about conviction, and speaks about seeing ourselves as deserving, and as having opportunity, even if other people don’t think we do, because they have never seen that before.

Alessandra Costa: But you know, women can have a place in technology. These are two women working on the ENIAC, the first computer that was created. But then what happened, women have sort of disappeared from the technology scene, and in my opinion, it starts at very early, it starts in childhood. If you Google “Best Toys for five year old girls,” look. I mean, it’s all pretend play, and it’s shopping carts and cute girls’ pots and pans. And nothing wrong with cooking, I like cooking. And on the right, look at how much more the toys on the right can influence decisions later in life. Okay? And why can’t men, can’t boys play with pot and pans and learn how to help around the house?

Alessandra Costa: Now, talking about women in high tech, the numbers are not great. 25% of computing jobs are held by women, only 25%. 50 plus percent of women are leaving their jobs in mid-career, and so I’m very proud of the returnship program that we launched, because we could find phenomenal application engineer like Sanjita.

Alessandra Costa: And in Silicon Valley, which is very liberal and advanced, only 12% of engineers in start up are women, and last but not least, only 11% of executive positions in Silicon Valley are held by women.

Alessandra Costa: Anyway, so I don’t want to just sit here and admire the problem, and just close with like, this sad and somber note, because there is a lot we can do. We can support our sisters. I hate the hearing, when that the worst enemies of women are women. So … I don’t buy into that. It comes from … think of scarcity, as if there was a limited number of resources, and if a woman makes it, the other one cannot make it. It’s a fight, with elbows in our faces. I don’t buy into that, because the possibilities are out there, and we need to be able to grab them. Share with younger women the passion for what we do. There are plenty of opportunities to be a mentor, too. I’ve been a mentor in my daughter’s school. Be vocal for women, who do dare to do it. It happens in meetings, it happens everywhere. We are interrupted, people talk over us.

Alessandra Costa: Like, for example, my boss doesn’t hear well, when there are a lot of people talking, so it’s nice when somebody says, “Okay, she’s talking,” or like Kamala Harris has said, right? I’m talking. And there are a lot of other organizations that can be supported worldwide. Girls Who Code, IEEE Women in Engineering, Girl Scout, you have the list there, and why not Girls Geek, too?

Alessandra Costa: So anyway, in conclusion, let’s go back to personal brand. Your personal brand is important. Is important for you, for your company, for your fellow human beings, for the women who are around you. Lead by example. And so, without further adieu, just do it. And with this, I’m done.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, Alessandra. Next up is our next speaker, Neeti Bhatnagar, she is a senior software engineer and group director of System and Verification Group at Cadence. Welcome, Neeti.

Neeti Bhatnagar: Let me get started. Since I’m the last speaker of today, and I come after these wonderfully inspiring speakers, I’ll try and keep up. So, good morning, good evening, good afternoon, depending on which part of the world you’re dialing in from, today. Thank you for being here.

Neeti Bhatnagar: My name is Neeti Bhatnagar, and I’m the senior group director for leading Cadence’s product on virtual prototyping, hybrid software, code debug, code validation and so on. I’ve been with Cadence for about over 25 years now, and I’ve had a very rich career working as a technical leader in the R&D organization, driving innovation, especially where hardware meets software.

Neeti Bhatnagar: So, in my career, I’ve gone back and forth a few times between management and being an individual contributor. But across it all, I always had my geek, my technical hat on, because in this very technical world, in order to succeed in building the next generation engineering products, that ability to zoom into technical details when you need to, and then zoom out to create the larger strategy and vision for the next generation technology is a must. So you have to be able to go back and forth between the two.

Neeti Bhatnagar: I have an undergrad and a master’s degree in computer science. On a personal note, I’ve been privileged to come from a extended family of engineers, scientists, economists, including several women cousins who were pioneers and leaders in their chosen scientific fields. So, I never saw these limits. It never occurred to me to do anything else, especially since I loved math and physics in high school.

Neeti Bhatnagar: I’m the proud mother of a 23 year old machine learning researcher. Besides nurturing his passion for math and science, I’m really, really proud to have nurtured that sense of equality across genders. Because I’m very passionate about this, I truly believe it is our job as parents, to not only nurture that sense of equality in our daughters, but to do the same in our sons, because they play just as much of a role in making sure we have a more equitable world out there.

Neeti Bhatnagar: My husband is a senior executive in the tech world, as well. So, as two parents, as two working parents with demanding careers, our responsibilities at home as parents have never been fixed. It really adapted to the time and place, and depending on whose career was on hold, and who needed to travel, it really was a juggle. And I heard the wonderful stories from Sanjita, from Julia, about taking the break when you needed to. I am one of those people who didn’t take that break.

Neeti Bhatnagar: So, life, for the longest time was … I always thought it was just one tiny hair away from disaster. But you know, we got through it. And so to answer, to a lot of you young women who are thinking, “Can I do this?” Do it. Whether you take a break, that’s absolutely the right thing to do, if that’s what makes sense in your life. But persist, because kids grow up. And there is life after kids, and the juggling becomes better, and you have so much more time to do things you really want to, which in my case still happens to be very technical.

Neeti Bhatnagar: So, but kind of moving on to what I’m here to talk about, this is a technical talk. I’m here to talk about intelligent systems, and how they’re all around us, and the role that software, particularly, the growing role of software in these intelligent designs.

Neeti Bhatnagar:

As you know, we’re in this era of design, where intelligence has become integral to pretty much everything we’re doing, right? Learning systems that interact with our environment, and make decisions to optimize the experience of the user are pretty mainstream, now. And this has had a profound impact on design challenges and complexity. You have to consider performance, safety, low power and the cost, so you can deliver that value to the users, right? So, today, we’ll talk about one specific slice of that complexity, which is software.

Neeti Bhatnagar: You can see, intelligent design, especially a company like Cadence, where our job is to help the next generation design, pretty much anyone you can think about is using our software to design their next device, their next complicated electronic system. Intelligent design is really fueling the growth at some of these largest companies, right? It’s driving the design revolution. It is, you know, really a game changer, and it’s not limited to just autonomous … people are very familiar with autonomous vehicles and robots and drones, but the networking and the mobile space are also undergoing the same design revolution with the advent of 5G, you have these self organizing networks in the mobile space, and you have intelligent cloud and data center services that are a absolute necessity to manage that scale.

Neeti Bhatnagar: Intelligent devices are increasingly ubiquitous. This is a very wide range of devices, but examples of intelligent devices are everywhere. You may not even know what you’re using is an intelligent device. So, take modern hearing aids, or take things like built in, real time language translators that are showing up in many next generation devices and applications, so if you’re doing a meeting, and there’s somebody speaking in say, Hindi on the other side, and it could get translated into Mandarin, on one side.

Neeti Bhatnagar: So these things are becoming more and more common, and they’ll show up everywhere. And, of course, if you look at automotive systems, most of the new cars, without even going to autonomous driving, if you look at cars these days, modern cars, they all come in equipped with safety features like proximity sensors, so you get too close to a car, or a car gets too close to you, your sensors go off and alert the driver. Or you wander off from your lane, or even things like how your gears are being changed, that’s being done through intelligence. Much of this adaptive intelligent functionality is implemented through software that interacts with the underlying electronics, and hardware.

Neeti Bhatnagar: To make these intelligence devices deliver that value added experience, a lot of technical details have to come together. It requires high performance, power efficiency, and really, that perfect union between the hardware and software. Let’s take something pretty commonplace. I don’t know if you’ve recently taken a parent, or a child, or a spouse, or yourself to get one of these newer modern hearing aids? I took my mom recently to get one.

Neeti Bhatnagar: I was just blown away by how amazing these devices are. So they can adapt to any environment, they can sense are you in a crowded market space, or are you in a music concert? And then they adapt to mimic the functioning of a normal ear and brain interaction. For instance, if you’re in a concert and you’re listening to music, your brain automatically tunes out some of the ambient noises. So these devices are designed to do the same thing, so that you can maximize the experience of listening to that concert.

Neeti Bhatnagar: In order to do something like this, you need to determine, for instance, as a user, you want to know where that sound is coming from. So that the sound can be amplified in the right ear. In order to do that, it has to classify all the streaming signals. So it streams the full audio bandwidth in real time, bidirectionally, battling, challenging listening situations by simulating what the brain does with sounds from both ears.

Neeti Bhatnagar: For instance, if you get a loud sound and you’re crossing the street, and you hear a sound of a car from your right side, that device will amplify the sound in your right ear. All of this is accomplished by a combination of hardware and software. If that software and hardware don’t work perfectly together, the device doesn’t deliver the functionality for the user, and it can be life threatening.

Neeti Bhatnagar: A little bit about the specialty of this software, especially embedded software. It comes with its own unique set of challenges. The thing about it is, it’s fundamentally hardware dependent. So, many system related bugs can be tied back to this interdependence. Oftentimes, the software team which is developing the software, we talked about all of that adaptive functionality coming through software, these are software algorithms. But these are software algorithms very much designed to work with a specific hardware.

Neeti Bhatnagar: When the software team develops, they’re often developing to a spec, because the hardware is also under development at that time. Very often, the first integration between these two happens when the hardware design is already done. Now, what happens with the late integration is you find that the design functionality doesn’t work together, because they are out of sync with each other. Sometimes you have to respin the hardware design, which is very, very expensive, so this software kit becomes a challenge.

Neeti Bhatnagar: Therefore, it’s really valuable to verify the software with the hardware, before your hardware is committed and the cost of change increases. How do you do that? You do that through starting the software, even though the hardware’s not done, on something called a virtual platform. Now, what is a virtual platform, and how does it let you get this hardware and software integration started early?

Neeti Bhatnagar: The virtual platform is really a high abstraction model of your hardware. But it’s got enough of that interface details captured, that it lets you run the actual software unaltered. And what does this do for your project? Basically, the use of virtual platform enables that software development to begin nearly simultaneously with the hardware design. This is really key. We see across the board, more and more companies have huge delays, something like nine to 12 months in delay, because of the issues related to hardware and software integration.

Neeti Bhatnagar: In conclusion, intelligent designs are everywhere and they’re pervasive, and this is here to stay, and this really complicates our customers’ design challenges. You need power efficiency, you need high performance, if you’re doing something like autonomous driving, it’s all real time. And so, it’s not just hardware and software in one subsystem, these things are very complicated. There are multiple subsystems. They all have to work together in true perfection, because your life may depend on it. And you can’t just design the hardware, and then design the software, and then sign off on the hardware, before you’ve done this integration. Early software development and hardware/software integration has become a absolute reality, an absolute must. And these virtual platforms really help enable.

Neeti Bhatnagar: So, I want to close with a note that one of the most interesting parts of my job, and my team’s charter is to develop that most effective set of tools, technologies that help our customer surmount that hardware/software integration challenge. Thank you. Thank you for your time.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Neeti, that was excellent. So now we are going to be starting the break out sessions. We are going to be clicking on the link that will be going into the chat, that will be taking us to the Zoom meeting, down there. We will see you on the other side, and then I’ll explain more, once we get there, about how this is all going to work. We’re going to be in breakout groups with four to six girl geeks in each room, and we’ll have some prompts, some icebreakers, and we’ll get to know each other a bit. So see you in the Zoom meeting [for networking hour]!

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Inflection Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks (Video + Transcript)

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Transcript of Inflection Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks:

Angie Chang: Thank you for joining us tonight. I know there’s a lot of competition for what to do with your evening. It is time for our Inflection Girl Geek Dinner. I’m going to hand it off to our first speaker.

Mikaila Turman: Today, I hope to reach all of you, regardless of what stage of knowing and understanding your core values are. For those of you that said you know your core values, I want to challenge you to really, really, really think about how you would define your core values, if asked. Inflection’s core values of integrity, transparency, and innovation were significant drivers for why I came onboard with the company seven years ago.

Ellen Perelman: One of my favorite values is speed with rigor, which means that we move quickly, but we make sure that as we move and we make decisions, we use data to inform those decisions. In marketing, we rely on data a lot to answer key business questions and help us make decisions and measure our impact of our efforts along the way.

Mahu Sims: So, what a year this has been so far. 2020 has been a year of great challenges, and not to discount all the sad things that have happened so far, there was a lot of positivity. 2020 has made us more creative. I’ve seen people come together more now than ever before. From a year ago to now, my life did a complete 180. I learned a few invaluable lessons. My learnings fell into two general themes. If I, one, leaned into my challenges, and, two, always planned, there was no way I could fail.

Izzy McLean: By definition, it’s the application of new tech, emerging tech to solve regulatory and compliance challenges for businesses. So, I thought it might be a cool topic to chat about today, just so you can keep it top of mind in your own professional pursuits or at your own organizations.

Avanti Ketkar: When we make products, we want to think about our products from our customer’s perspective. We want to familiarize ourselves with the features and flows that are outside of [inaudible] expertise. Overall, just understanding our customers better makes us better engineers.

Mikaila Turman: If you are here networking because you’re looking for a new organization, and you’ve identified your core values, now you can take the next step and see organizations that align with you.

Angie Chang: It’s 6:00, and it is time for our Inflection Girl Geek dinner. Thank you for joining us tonight. I know there’s a lot of competition for what to do with your evening, but I plan to be reading the Twitter later, and seeing what happened. In the meantime, we are continuing with our fine tradition of Girl Geek Dinners for over 12 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m based in Berkeley. Sukrutha is in San Francisco, and we’re really happy to be continuing this tradition of bringing women together across companies to hear from other incredible women, talking about what they do best, whether it’s HR, marketing, product management, engineering, you name it.

Angie Chang: So, we have a really great roster for you tonight of some of the amazing women from Inflection. First, I want to talk a little about what we’re working on at Girl Geek X. So, we have a virtual conference coming up. It is going to be March 8th, 2021, and we’ve been doing it for our fourth year now. It’s always been virtual. It’s been a full day of women talking about their new technologies, their leadership skills, and helping shout each other out, sharing what they have learned along the way, so that they can help you advance your career faster. Also, plenty of companies who are hiring also sponsor. So, they can have their speakers and their opportunities showcased to our community of 40,000 women in tech.

Angie Chang: Another thing that we have is podcasts. So, we have a great library of podcasts, which have the best of our Girl Geek dinners. They’re available on any of your podcasting services that you like to use. You can find Girl Geek X there. We have about 20-something podcasts there. You can also check out all of the events that we posted in the recent history. You can find our videos on YouTube. So, if you go to, you can find all our videos there, and you’ll also find tonight’s talks there in a few weeks, after we do some production, add some music, make it shorter. Feel free to loop back, and then send those videos to your friends.

Angie Chang: Also, I wanted to talk a little bit about how Inflection is hiring. I’m really excited, because when I saw the job listings, I was like, “Wow, there’s so many engineering, marketing, accounting, different roles in the tech company that they’re hiring for.” A lot of them are remote. So, I’m really excited that you can definitely apply for those jobs from anywhere around the world, and also hopefully share them with your friends, because we know in this pandemic women have been disproportionately affected, and unemployed, and in dire straits. So, please do feel free to share those job listings that are in your Zoom email, and I’m sure in a followup email. You’ll also see those job listings there. So, please feel free to share them with fellow girl geeks and anyone that needs that.

Angie Chang: So, let’s see. What else is there? I think that’s all we have for now. I’m going to hand it off to our first speaker, Mikaila, who is the Vice President of Human Resources at Inflection. She is a very skilled HR professional, who’s been working for over 16 years, and has been at the company for over seven years. She is passionate about cultivating and maintaining the culture, and intently focused on upholding the core values of Inflection, which she’ll be talking about next. So, I wanted to welcome Mikaila. Here we go.

Mikaila Turman: Hello, everyone. Hi. I’m Mikaila. Thanks so much. It’s great to see you and be with all of you tonight. As Angie mentioned, I’m the VP of HR at Inflection for the past two years, and been with the company for seven. Just a little bit about Inflection. In 2006, Inflection was started by two brothers, Brian and Matthew Monahan. They created and rolled out several people data-driven products over their tenure, most notably,, which was later sold to Over time, other online people search products have emerged, such as, which was a B2C subscription-based service and the bread and butter of our business for several years, and where the concept of GoodHire began.

Mikaila Turman: In 2018, the brothers handed the Inflection reins over to our current CEO, Mike Grossman. Since then, our primary product focus has been on and our associated APIs. GoodHire is the easiest, most flexible, and most delightful employment background screening experience you can find. Yes, that’s directly from our website. As the VP of HR for Inflection, I’m also a GoodHire customer. In HR, I usually say, “Nothing is ever easy,” but I love GoodHire because it truly makes background checking easy. Currently, GoodHire has assisted about 80,000 organizations with their background checking needs.

Mikaila Turman: As Angie was referring to, open positions, Inflection has open positions in various departments, and we’re diligently focused on having an inclusive workplace and on increasing the diversity of our workforce. To quote our D&I statement, “We believe in empowering everyone to be themselves at work, so we can be better together.” Please check us out, and our open positions out, at or We’ve also recently partnered with as well, if you’re familiar with that. So, you can check us out there, too. Okay. Now moving on to core values.

Angie Chang: Quick question. Is there slides that are supposed to be displayed right now?

Mikaila Turman: Yeah. I’m sharing my screen right now. Hopefully everyone can see that.

Angie Chang: Perfect.

Mikaila Turman: Okay. So, core values is a topic that I am truly passionate about for two main reasons. One, Inflection’s core values of integrity, transparency, and innovation were significant drivers for why I came onboard with the company seven years ago. I got recruited to Inflection by a previous coworker. As I looked at the website … Of course, we all do that. I interviewed with various leaders in the organization. The as-advertised core values were truly apparent in the people that I met with. As I look back now, my previous company had a decent mission statement, but it wasn’t rooted in core values. I would venture to say that the customer is always right was their core values, which does make sense for a staffing company, and you think it’s okay until you’re told you shouldn’t bother recruiting people of color for certain clients, because, well, the customer is always right.

Mikaila Turman: One of my best friends still works there. Data shows that a best friend at work is a shoe in for employee retention. But I’d argue the data and say core values may just be more important. Two, I’ve been in HR now for 16 years, and I’ve, obviously, seen a lot of people come and go in my organizations, and for various reasons. But I believe a person’s decision to stay with a company or leave a company always connects to core values, one way or the other. It’s basically like the Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Mikaila Turman: Stop for a minute, and think about this. Core values, as I say the words, core values, I know that some of you who are out there immediately said to yourself, “What are my core values?” Some of you said to yourself, “Self, I know my core values. Right?” Some of you said to yourself, “I know my core values. They’re honesty, integrity, grit, work-life balance,” yada, yada, yada. Today, I hope to reach all of you, regardless of what stage of knowing and understanding your core values are. For those of you that said you know your core values, I want to challenge you to really, really, really think about how you would define your core values, if asked, and how those core values shape your life.

Mikaila Turman: During the interview process, I always ask, “What are your core values? Tell me examples of how I would see those core values displayed in your work.” I’m continually surprised how many people, at any level, are thrown off by those questions. The answer lies in you. You know this answer, if you’re willing to dig a little deeper. Let me express what core values mean to me, from an HR leader perspective. In an organization with well defined core values, transparency, integrity, innovation, accountability, those words should be the foundation in which employees perform, work, and behave. In order for that foundation to be solid, organizations should expect employees to uphold those values, and do something about it if they’re not.

Mikaila Turman: So, true confessions here. I’m an HGTV geek. So, the word foundation makes me think about the rare occasion when I actually get to sit down and relish in the joy of watching a house flipping show with a glass of wine. Inevitably, most of the houses with the crumbling foundation are the hardest to fix up. They end up costing a lot more money. Wow! How true is that, also, for an organization with crumbling foundation of core values? Okay. But there is good news. A house with a crumbling foundation can be fixed and repaired, and it ends up beautiful and way more valuable. Same for an organization. Right?

Mikaila Turman: Regarding back to my previous life before HR, I was a personal trainer. So, the term core always makes me think of six pack abs. But we all know now that core is everything under the service, the food we put in our body, the muscles we work, the chemicals interacting internally, all the things that get that external surface of six pack abs, hopefully. When you develop and understand your core values, they should be packed with deeper meaning. So, I define personal core values as the deep rooted beliefs that a person operates from, and are externally obvious. For example, if you asked my coworkers what one of my core values may be, I’m certain that they’d say, “Mikaila has a core value of family first. Her kids and her hubs are her priority. She will adjust everything else in her life to ensure her family comes above all else.”

Mikaila Turman: So, let’s step back to where I started. For those of you that said, “Self, what are my core values,” then think about when you wake up in the morning. What gets you out of bed? What gets you on that first Zoom call of the day? Why do you do those things, even when you don’t want to? Is it because of your core value of responsibility? Is it because of your core value of money? Is it your core value of teamwork? Think about what your family members, best friends, closest colleagues would say about you. Would they say you’re the family glue, the dedicated wife and mother? Would they say you always did the right thing? Would they say you work hard and play harder? What words would they use to describe you? Because those are the obvious core values you exude every day.

Mikaila Turman: For those of you that said, “I know my core values,” again, I challenge you to dig deeper into that, and define them. Actually write a definition. Have you fully considered what those closest to you would say about your core values? So, here’s an example. One of Inflection’s well defined core values, and my personal favorite, is the Golden Rule. We are intensely collaborative and treat one another as we want to be treated ourselves, with respect, civility, and empathy. Know your core values. Take the time to really define them, as if they are as important as updating your Instagram. I mean, your resume. Then use them as your superpower.

Mikaila Turman: If you are here networking because you’re looking for a new organization, and you’ve identified your core values, now you can take the next step and seek organizations that align with you. You can ask questions in your breakout sessions. “What are the core values of your organization? How could I possibly align?” If you are currently in a role at a seemingly good company, and you just can’t figure out why you are not satisfied, look at your company’s core values. Are you and your coworkers living up to them? Do they align with your own? Sometimes employees come to me and they are unhappy, and they can’t put a finger on it, or verbalize their frustration. In those instances, I ask them, “If you are honest with yourself, what is not working for you in this role? Where is the organization not upholding the core values, from your perspective?”

Mikaila Turman: Usually we can turn things around and take some actions to get back to good. But if it’s clear that a person’s core values are not well enough aligned with the organization’s, it doesn’t work, and that’s okay. Because a company has to uphold the core values of the organization, and the individual has to uphold their personal core values, as well. Thank you for joining us tonight. I hope this chat helped you think about your core values and dig deeper, so you can live your best life in your current adventure, or into a new one, maybe even at Inflection. With that, I’ll hand the virtual mic over to my colleague.

Angie Chang: So, our next speaker is Ellen. She is the Chief Marketing Officer at Inflection, and she has over 20 years of experience. She’s worked at large public companies, like Yahoo and Intuit, and also venture backed startups. She has a journalism degree from Northwestern and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Go Bears! Welcome, Ellen.

Ellen Perelman: Thanks. All right. Hopefully everyone can see my screen. Well, it’s great to be with you all tonight. I’m going to talk about marketing and numbers. When I first–wasn’t in marketing, I didn’t really necessarily associate marketing with numbers, but, in fact, I was pleased to discover that there’s a lot of data underlying marketing. In fact, as an organization, one of the things that Mikaila didn’t mention, we are a very data-driven organization. One of my favorite values is speed with rigor, which means that we move quickly, but we make sure that as we move, and we make decisions, we use data to inform those decisions.

Ellen Perelman: In marketing, we rely on data a lot to answer key business questions and help us make decisions, and measure the impact of our efforts along the way. We use data to answer questions such as how much money should we invest in a campaign? How is our website performing? What content should we create? How can we drive more revenue for the business? Today, I’m going to just walk you through a couple of examples of how we do this, some actual case studies, if you will. To set some context, we, as a business, marketing is responsible for driving a lot of leads. Leads is the lifeblood of our organization. Leads are prospective customers.

Ellen Perelman: We drive leads into the business primarily through our website. We use a variety of channels or sources to drive those leads, paid search, organic search, referring websites, partner relationships, et cetera. We drive those leads to our website, and then we work, in marketing, to either convert them to a paying user or to create what’s called an MQL, or a marketing qualified lead, which we pass on to our sales team, and then the sales team works to convert those leads into opportunities, and eventually to close deals and customers. So, that sets the context.

Ellen Perelman: So, next, I’d like to talk to you about paid search. Paid search is a really big channel for us. We spend a lot of money on paid search, but we spend it efficiently, and we are very intentional about how much we spend and where we spend it. So, to just provide some context for folks who may not be familiar with paid search, or how it all works, you probably have encountered paid search ads, if you spend any time on Google. At the top of the page when you do a search, you probably see an ad. I’ve got an example of one of our ads on the left side of the screen. We bid on placements. We have hundreds of keywords we bid against, and then we measure our performance with a few key metrics.

Ellen Perelman: One is impressions. How many times did that ad show up on a search result page? Clicks, how many times did people click on that ad? Those two metrics combine to form something called click through rate, which is our efficiency of converting impressions into clicks. Then CPC are the cost per click. How much do we pay for each of those clicks? That’s certainly important, as we think about how much money should we invest in paid search? Then we drive those clicks over to a landing page on our website, which I have an example on the right. Once the lead gets there, the person gets there, we look at a couple other metrics.

Ellen Perelman: One is the number of visits to the page. The number of visits that convert into a lead, meaning how many people filled out that form and hit the submit button. The conversion rate, which is just the efficiency of us converting visits into leads. Then how much do we pay for that lead? Because that becomes really important. So, let me put it all together. This is a lot of numbers and a lot of data on the page. Just to summarize how we think about this, we’ve got impressions, how many times our ad shows up. How many people clicked on it? How many of those clicks turn into leads? How much do we pay? How much is the applied rate we paid for those leads, based upon how much we paid per click? How effectively those leads convert into customers. In this case, this example here is 20%.

Ellen Perelman: So, from 24,000 clicks, we end up with 375 customers. Well, that’s interesting, but back to the original question, which is how much to invest? Well, in our company, we are very mindful of a 12 month revenue per customer. So, how much money can we expect to generate in revenue for that customer over a 12 month period? That would be an average customer. We operate under the model of we’re willing to spend as much as we can to break even. So, our costs equal our revenue. So, let’s just say, for example, that the cost … The 12 month revenue generated from that customer is $500. So, we’ll spend up to $500 to acquire that customer. That’s not just on media expense. That’s all expenses.

Ellen Perelman: So, there’s a mathematical equation there. The gist of it is that we’ll be willing to spend up to $100 for that lead, all in, to generate that $500 in revenue for that first year. So, with the example I’ve shown up here, we could actually spend more money, because we’re not hitting that break even number yet. The key to this, interestingly enough, if you look at the math, it’s that conversion rate, that 20% conversion rate from a lead to a customer. The better we are at converting that lead into a customer, the more money we can spend.

Ellen Perelman: Let me share with you another example. As I mentioned, once we get that lead to the website, how effectively can we convert that lead into a paying customer? So, what I have up here on the screen are the steps on our website that a prospect would follow, from submitting a lead to selecting a background screening package, to maybe choosing to add on some additional options to that package. So, adding more to the shopping cart, if you will. Eventually, giving us a credit card and purchasing that background check. Now, what I’ve included at the bottom, these are all example numbers. These aren’t real numbers. Let’s assume that 10,000 people made it to that page where they could fill out the lead form.

Ellen Perelman: Let’s say we have tools that allow us to measure this. 50% drop off and never complete that stage. So, that means at the next step there’s only 5,000 visitors that make it to the select package page. Another 50% drop off. So, then 2,500. Another 75% drop off. So, the final page, 625 people make it to the page where they’re going to actually purchase a background check. Then only 15% of those actually end up purchasing. So, starting at 10,000 visits, that means out of every 10,000 visits, with this example, 94 paying customers, or a 1.9% MQL, or marketing qualified lead, to purchase conversion rate.

Ellen Perelman: So, what we’re trying to do every step along the way is to improve the conversion rate. Right here, what I want to show you is we do a lot of AB testing. So, right now, this is actually a live AB test we have in place right now. We’re trying to improve the conversion rate, getting more people to click on this page and move to the next page. This is a select package page. Now, these two pages, the control and test, might look similar to you, but there’s one minor difference, which appears to be minor, but it very likely could be a significant difference. That is on the example on the left, we do not have a description of the value or what the benefit of each package is.

Ellen Perelman: So, allowing people to make a more informed decision as to which package they should purchase. On the right we have descriptors. So, for standard on the left it says one to two business days. For standard on the right it says more comprehensive and up-to-date criminal records, one to two business days. Then how we’re going to measure the effectiveness of this test, again, back to conversion rate, is the percentage who make it to the next page, as well as the percentage who eventually make it to purchase, and the dollars they purchase.

Ellen Perelman: So, just a few key takeaways. Hopefully this came through. Conversion rate is key to everything. Optimizing conversion rate, meaning improving the conversion rate, allows us to drive more revenue and increase our budgets, and drive even more revenue. Small changes can sometimes yield really big payoffs. Thank you.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much. That was so insightful. Super helpful for all of us to learn and understand more, at least for me. I feel like I learned something new, and I always learn something new with every single Girl Geek dinner that we have. So, thank you so much for your time. Up next, we have our next speaker, Mahu Sims, who’s the Director of Marketing and Digital Marketing. She’s responsible for managing the marketing deck stack, reporting on marketing performance, launching digital campaigns, and maintaining the GoodHire website. She recently received an MBA from Rutgers and became a mom to a beautiful baby girl. Welcome, Mahu.

Mahu Sims: Hello. Happy to be here. Let me just share my screen. Great. So, I’m going to talk a little bit about the lessons I learned in 2020. First, since this talk is about both my personal and professional experiences, I thought I’d share a little bit more about myself. I’m the director of marketing operations and digital marketing at Inflection, as you heard, as of about a month and a half ago. I’ve been in technical marketing for about six years now. I currently live on the East Coast in New Jersey with my husband, Muta, my four-month-old baby girl, and our three-year-old Goldendoodle. I love hiphop dance, reading, exploring new tech platforms and gadgets. A fun fact about myself is that I made it to a green belt in karate as a child, and I’m looking to get back into it.

Mahu Sims: So, what a year this has been so far. 2020 has been a year of great challenges. Not to discount all the sad things that have happened so far, there was a lot of positivity. 2020 has made us more creative, and I’ve seen people come together more now than ever before. Personally, this year has been the most polarizing year of my life. I’ve faced some of my greatest challenges, and I’ve accomplished some of my biggest goals. Since I often like to learn and draw from the experiences of others, I thought it might be beneficial to share my 2020 story, and what I learned along the way.

Mahu Sims: About a year ago, in October 2019, I’d just landed a new role after working at my first company for about five years. I had finally decided to leave. A week after taking on that new role, we found out that we were pregnant. We were super excited, but I was also really nervous to enter the working world as a pregnant woman. One of my biggest fears going into 2020 was that I didn’t think I would be eligible for a company sponsored maternity leave. Now, that just seems silly. Jumping into 2020, we were hit hard right off the bat with bad news. Our baby girl was diagnosed with club foot. Club foot in itself isn’t that bad, but it could sometimes mean that your baby has larger chromosomal abnormalities, resulting in disorders like Down syndrome. So, we decided to take a test and find out. The whole time we were freaking out. We were relieved to find out that Nala was completely happy. She only had a club foot.

Mahu Sims: The next event in our life was another blow. Around March 3rd, I received a vague but demanding email from our HR team, stating that I needed to be at work the next day, and I could not miss it. For me, this meant one or two things. Either I was getting a promotion, or I was being laid off. It was, obviously, the latter. I was devastated. Being laid off is stressful, but I was also six months pregnant. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I felt like a complete failure. A few minutes later though, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and went out to find a job. I gave myself a pat on the back because I found one in just three weeks. Due to COVID, my offer was converted into a contract offer. So, that didn’t give me the stability that I was looking for, but it was truly a blessing in disguise.

Mahu Sims: The next month my mom tested positive for COVID. Our family was extremely nervous, because we didn’t know much about the virus. We were happy though to find that she began to recover quickly. She ultimately recovered fully a few months later. We were forced to cancel our baby shower. In May, racial injustices against Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery had received national attention. This was tough for me, as a Black woman, but also as a mom-to-be. I was constantly thinking, “How do I explain to my daughter that she should be proud to be Black, but sometimes it was really hard?”

Mahu Sims: In June though, I finally got a win. I graduated from Rutgers Business School with my MBA. A few weeks later, this win was followed by a stressful birthing experience. We weren’t allowed to bring family and friends into the hospital, and we had several complications with delivery. Right on the other side of that stressful situation was a beautiful baby girl, who was happy and healthy. About a month and a half after delivery, I had to take a break from bonding with my baby 24/7 to focus my efforts on finding a full-time job again. In September, I started my role with Inflection, which has proven to be an amazing company. In October, we made another large life decision to finally move out of state to Georgia after debating for several months.

Mahu Sims: So, from a year ago to now, my life did a complete 180, but I learned a few invaluable lessons. My learnings fell into two general themes. If I, one, leaned into my challenges, and, two, always planned, there was no way I could fail. On the professional side, I learned that there were jobs out there, and getting one was possible. I managed to do it twice within just three months. I also learned that in order to get a new job that I loved, I had to own my job search. I had to think about what was most important about the location, the job itself, and the company that I worked for. In terms of location, I calculated that I spent over 2,000 hours commuting in my career so far. These hours were better spent with my daughter and family. So, I preferred working remote.

Mahu Sims: In terms of the job itself, it had to pass a passion and skills test. I was open to new roles, and I didn’t want to rely solely on my current experience. I wanted to find careers that I hadn’t thought about, but where my experience was transferable. So, I wrote down all the things that I’m passionate about and the things that I’m skilled at, and the list aligned to two types of roles: technical marketing and product management. I ended up in technical marketing again, but it was a fun exercise to do. Finally, the company that I worked for needed three things. One, a great product that customers love. Passionate employees that cared about the culture and core values. Finally, a company that cared about diversity and inclusion. I’m happy to say that I’ve found that at Inflection.

Mahu Sims: On a personal note, I learned to talk through tough scenarios. If I had the what-if conversations with my family about the tough birth, or potential defects, it could have reduced our stress in the moment, and we would have been better off for it. Finally, I needed to find ways to give back. With all that was going on in the world, this had become super important to me. So, as you’ve noticed, I’ve had many ups and downs this year. As a person prone to stress and anxiety, I needed to implement what I like to call my CORKSS framework to get through it. C stands for continue to plan. I planned through my job search and pregnancy. The more I planned, the better prepared I was. The more prepared I was, the less anxiety I felt.

Mahu Sims: I own my routine. I was extremely intentional with my time, even when I was unemployed. This meant setting time aside to learn, manage my job search, and even doing things like working out and reading. I remained introspective. I continued to inquire about my stress, asked myself why am I anxious? What can I control? I would try to ignore the things that I couldn’t, and go all in on the things that I could. I kept my physical health in mind. It’s super easy to fall into unhealthy patterns when you’re stressed out. But eating right and exercising actually made me feel better. Since I didn’t like to exercise all that much, I would pair it with something that I love. For example, I fell in love with the Hamilton play over the summer. So, I would watch it every time I worked out, which certainly increased the number of times I exercised.

Mahu Sims: Speaking to everyone. As I mentioned earlier, I love learning from the experiences of others. I joined various personal groups and professional groups, and managed to talk to as many people as I could about what they were going through. Finally, stay positive. It’s definitely harder than it sounds, but I try not to get consumed by the negativity around me. I would take breaks away from my phone to read a book, play a game, or hang out with my family uninterrupted. So, yes. 2020 has been tough so far. But I know that if I lean into my next challenge, plan my way into success, and remember CORKSS when I’m stressed, I’ll come out on the other side of it just fine. I wish the same for you. Thank you.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Mahu. That was so inspiring to hear your story and this transparency that you shared with us. I also remember that you shared your story about getting your job in COVID, which I think is super impressive. We keep hearing in the news how women are disproportionately affected by this crisis, and it’s really great to hear that you were able to get an offer, even though it was [inaudible 00:36:28] contract, but also now that you’ve found this great role at Inflection, which has shown its DEI initiatives. It’s been really inspiring to hear you share that story. So, thank you.

Angie Chang: Our next speaker is Izzy. She is a general counsel at Inflection, where she oversees, or leads, the company’s legal and risk functions. She’s been with Inflection for about five years. Before she was at Inflection, she was an attorney for Hirease, and she also received her journalism degree. I think that’s funny, because I had an English degree. So, a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina and a Juris Doctorate with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law. Welcome, Izzy.

Izzy McLean: Thanks for that introduction, Angie. I’m Izzy McLean, general counsel at Inflection. Super excited to talk to you all a bit about this concept of regtech and how it is a really ripe area for innovation, maybe in ways you wouldn’t traditionally even expect. I think a lot of us here enjoy problem solving, and doing it in really creative ways. That’s probably a big reason why you all here have connected with Girl Geek X. I think that’s what’s really cool, in my opinion, about regtech. By definition, it’s the application of new tech, emerging tech, to solve regulatory and compliance challenges for businesses. So, I thought it might be a cool topic to chat about today, just so you can keep it top of mind in your own professional pursuits or at your own organizations.

Izzy McLean: What do I really mean by regtech? Generally speaking, regulatory technology is a new area of tech. Usually it’s software-based, but not always. It aims to ease the regulatory and the compliance burdens for businesses that have to juggle a lot of different laws, that are usually in a state of flux, or they’re ever changing. Examples would be tech solutions for companies that have to deal with GDPR compliance or privacy obligations, tools that banks use for know-your-customer or anti-fraud, anti-money laundering requirements. So far, regtech, it’s been associated with the financial services industry, but there is a growing need for regtech solutions to come out into other verticals and into SaaS services for customers.

Izzy McLean: We’re just starting to see the nascent stages of that, especially in the privacy sector where you see more changing laws. A lot of you might have heard about the recent changes with European Union and some of the privacy laws there. So, aside from that, I want to talk about today how we at GoodHire have baked in a regtech solution to our own screening services, and we’ll use a case study to work through that. Suffice it to say that you don’t have to associate regtech with financial services. We’re starting to see it in our other spaces, and I think it’s safe to say that in pretty much every vertical there is a value add for some sort of regtech solution.

Izzy McLean: Aside from the personal benefits of maybe getting your hands dirty and creating new, easier ways for people to follow the law, as they run their business or as they use your services, there are some other benefits to think about with regtech. It might be that your services themselves require the customers have some foundational knowledge about the law. That’s our situation at GoodHire, because we’re very regulated. Background checks are extremely regulated. It’s worth asking, if you have a corporate responsibility in those situations, to guide your customers toward compliant use of your product. That is the tack that we’ve taken at GoodHire.

Izzy McLean: Not only do we want to help customers understand their own legal obligations, so that they can stay safe and solvent, but we also want to make sure that those customers who are using our services follow the law, so that their job applicants receive all the rights they’re entitled to receive under the law. That’s just simply the right thing to do. Then there’s customer peace of mind to consider, as well. A lot of organizations might not have sophisticated legal teams or in-house compliance teams. When they feel that your service or your product, either by the way it’s designed or the features that it includes, if it actually helps them understand their legal obligations and then provides them a way to comply with those obligations, those customers are going to feel safe. They’re going to have peace of mind. They’re more likely to stick with you. They’re less likely to churn. All good benefits to consider.

Izzy McLean: As I mentioned earlier, I thought it might be helpful to use a case study from my experience at GoodHire to talk about how regtech can be added to an already existing SaaS service. So, GoodHire is our employment background screening service, as I mentioned. Customers use us to background check their job applicants before they hire them, or maybe throughout the course of employment. The procurement and the use of background checks is highly regulated under federal law, state law, and local law. Meaning, unfortunately for customers, there are a lot of laws and rules that they have to follow when they use our services. Those rules can differ based on the customer location, the job location, and the candidate, the location of the candidates they screen. It’s very complex.

Izzy McLean: We were finding that a lot of our smaller customers, especially, were having a hard time understanding what the law was. They were having a hard time understanding how to comply. So, that was something that we immediately wanted to improve. We decided to invest into educating our customers, so that we would raise the probability that they would follow the law and compliantly use our services. By doing so, they avoid litigation and fines and enforcement, and also they ensure that their job candidates receive all their rights under the law. Again, super important to us, as a business. We felt it was the right thing to do. So, we decided to research every applicable background check law in the country, at the state, the federal, and the local level, document them, understand them, interpret them, and then bake them into our service using the genius of our engineers.

Izzy McLean: So, on the educational resource side, we built a comprehensive guide that set out each of those laws in every jurisdiction, so that all of our customers can read it and have access to it and understand what the laws are for them, and how to comply as they use the service. Then on the automated solutions side, our engineers created the ability for us to take into account customer location, candidate location, and job location, and figure out, based on those inputs, which of the 180 legal rule sets should apply to that particular candidate, as the customer used the service. So, the research alone was about a six month investment. There was a lot of product and engineering work, as well. We now feel that compliance is a big part of our brand. Recently, I’m pretty sure compliance was rated the number five reason that customers come to GoodHire.

Izzy McLean: So, I think there’s definitely been some meaningful ROI on that one regtech project, that helped formulate that brand for us, of compliance advocacy. It really is the gift that keeps on giving, because it was built in a way that is very scalable and adaptable. So, as the laws change, we can easily just pull the levers and make tweaks internally, and update our system for compliance. I would just ask that you keep regtech in mind as a potential area of employment for yourself. There are companies that specialize in the creation of regtech tools in multiple verticals. So, that’s an option. Also, keeping in mind, if you’re at a business, for new features, or processes even, in the services and the products that you sell. If you think that you’ve identified an area that is a pretty ripe one for opportunity for regtech, go ahead and chat with your product teams. Get buy-in from executives.

Izzy McLean: I think that customer advocacy can create value for your brand, can reduce churn, and improve revenue. So, that’s a talking point you might want to use. Your competitors may already be working on something similar. So, you want to be sure that you’re staying ahead of the curve with regtech solutions. Also, you can manage cost of regtech development internally, if you form tiger teams to do a lot of the upfront research and due diligence in-house. Also, just be sure to think about how you would balance any increased risk that comes with offering a solution for compliance. That’s something that executives are probably going to want you to discuss as you make this pitch. So, those are just a few starting points, of course, but keep regtech in mind as you create and as you go out into the world and do cool, professional stuff. That’s it. Thank you so much.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you. That was awesome. All right. Next up, our next speaker, Avanti, who’s the VP of engineering at Inflection. She oversees data engineering, platform engineering, and customer success engineering teams. So, welcome, Avanti.

Avanti Ketkar: Hi, everyone. So, it’s a pleasure coming back to Girl Geek Dinner. So, today’s topic is more around how we can bring the engineering teams closer to our customers. When we talk about technology teams and engineering projects, we talk about the robust architecture we want to build. What are the different modern technologies and tools we want to explore? [inaudible ] we want to build, how much automation we want to do, and, obviously, the focus is on the quality of the code, the development processes, and generally building high energy, fun culture for the teams.

Avanti Ketkar: There is a very important aspect of building products that is often overlooked by the engineering teams. So, definitely one of the factors that we typically overlook is getting closer to our customer side. Why do we want to do that? Because when we build products, we want to think about our products from our customers’ perspective. We want to familiarize ourselves with the features and flows that are outside of our current expertise. We don’t want to just build to the requirements, but we want to build products that actually delight our customers, that gives them an excellent experience, and the products that want them to keep coming back to our experiences. Overall, just understanding our customers better makes us better engineers.

Avanti Ketkar: So, here at Inflection, we also try to do the same, and to do that, we take several measures. There is a lot of focus on working closely with the customers, not just with the product teams, but also with the engineering teams. Different ways that we can do this is getting involved into the product development side early. By early, it’s not just requiring [inaudible], but even earlier than that. Right? When there is discovery happening, when there is customer calls happening, even when the customer started requesting features and they’re not even prioritized yet. So, as early as possible being part of that whole process, I think, is very important.

Avanti Ketkar: Also, there are customer meetings that happen on different business teams. There are quarterly business reviews. There are sales pitch that happens. Customer success teams always work on retention, have continuous interaction with our customers. So, it’s really good for having those interactions, as well as understanding the customers’ complaints and requests, as we build new products. What do we do specifically to actually address those needs? We have built several different efforts and programs within Inflection, so that the engineers can work more closely with our customers. Right?

Avanti Ketkar: One of the processes we follow is something called agent escalation process. So, we have a big customer support center in Omaha, Nebraska. That is the team that is talking to customers every day. Right? In every capacity. They have emails, and chats, and phone calls happening with our customers. So, whenever our agents come across issues, we have a set of processes called agent escalation process. That directly comes to the engineers, as well as product managers. We can actually look through and understand what are the things that our customers are not happy about? We have a customer-focused on-call program, and I’ll talk about that in a little bit of detail in a bit. We also have quarterly ship-it events. That’s nothing but hack-a-thon, as some places call it.

Avanti Ketkar: These are the events where engineers take several days completely out of their routine work, and focus on fixing things, not only just for customers but different flows, anything that our agents want. In fact, two weeks ago, we had a completely customer-focused hack-a-thon, which was driven by the customer success week. That was a big event. We had a huge success. Many different features that our engineers developed actually made it to production. So, that was a very fun event. We also have a dedicated customer delight team. Even though we have all the engineers working towards the customer’s delight, we still have a team dedicated to that. So, the things that don’t get prioritized to be worked on right away, this team is continuously focusing on improving our customer experience.

Avanti Ketkar: We also have frequent communication with our internal customers, because, as you all know, the engineers don’t just work for external customers. Right? We have several internal tools and platforms and various different things that we cater to. All our customers are internal as well as external. So, one of these programs that I want to dive deeper into is the on-call program. It’s a typical on-call program, in a sense that we do deal with production issues. We do deal with production escalations. We have resolution SLAs that we place. We try to fix things within 24 hours on production if something is broken, 72 hours if something is broken but not as much of a priority. We have several guidelines as to how we fix things.

Avanti Ketkar: In addition to that, what we have done is we have taken this program to the next level. Engineers actually go on-call for an entire week. What that does is that it gives them a complete break from the routine development work. So, they don’t pick up stories. They don’t do the regular scrum work. They don’t have to attend all the meetings. What they focus on in this week is everything that is customer-centric. So, they can plan ahead of time, talk to the sales team, attend some customer meetings, or they can plan ahead, talk to the customer success team, and listen to some calls. They might be having some codes or bug fixes that they have been thinking about for a long time, and that are good for customers. They can take that time and actually work on fixing those things.

Avanti Ketkar: So, this is basically a dedicated customer-focused week that every engineer spends when they are on-call. This program so far has been very useful. This is just one of the examples that we do. We use it [inaudible] our sales, as well as customer success teams, use it. We have access to these various tools that typically engineers won’t use. What we have done is we have opened them up to our engineering teams, as well as product teams. Here is a screenshot, for example. Recently, we launched background checks in Canada. We are going global. One of the features was Canada background checks. So, you can see here, if you go to Gong and search for Canada, the tool actually shows you all the phone calls that use the word Canada.

Avanti Ketkar: So, you can go and read about what the customers are asking for. You can go in there and see if there is any feedback when the feature was launched, or what is the feature that is missing, that maybe we should implement next, and so on and so forth. So, there are several ways you can use this tool, and has been so far proved very successful. This is another tool, another screenshot. This is something we use for our interactions. So, all of our phone, and email, and chat interactions are recorded here. We can just go here. You can see I’ve filtered it with the chat. I can literally see all the chat logs from the customers that are coming to us. This is another way we can go in there when we are on-call. We browse around here, look at features that we are interested in, and learn a lot about our customers.

Avanti Ketkar: While doing that, we have learned several lessons. It doesn’t come naturally for us to think about being closer to the customers. So, it’s definitely a significant amount of work to actually double up this documentation, to double up the processes. This also needs to be a continuous feedback loop, not just from engineering teams, but from customer support agents, our product teams, our QA teams, and we need a continuous feedback loop to keep on improving our programs. This is just from the customer perspective. Right? There are more things that we are learning. Our escalations are getting fixed faster, because the engineers are learning the products and features that they were not familiar with before.

Avanti Ketkar: We are more comfortable with looking at areas that we haven’t worked on before. When we now test a product or a feature, we test it in a better way, because now we know how our customers are going to use it. So, our testing is getting better. In general, it’s making us well rounded engineers. As a result, we definitely have happier customers. So, for us, this has been a great effort and has been a great program that we’ve been running. I will definitely encourage you all to take a look and see how you can embed this philosophy into your product development process. Thank you.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Avanti, for sharing that insightful dashboards about how engineering gets closer to the customer. So, that’s the last talk of tonight. We will be sharing these with you on YouTube. So, feel free to check your inbox. It will come to you, along with the jobs, because Inflection is hiring for many remote roles and entry level roles in Omaha, and also just remotely for wherever you are. So, the roles include things like senior software engineer, help desk analyst, senior product manager, email marketing manager, senior accounts, learning development specialist, and a director of product marketing.

Angie Chang: Now, we are going to be moving on to our networking hour. So, if you are still hanging in there, go grab some water or a snack, and then come back and click on that link in the chat. There’s also a link in your email for the Zoom breakout sessions, where we’ll be putting you in rooms of four to six other girl geeks to chat for 20 minutes. Then we’ll rotate a few times, so you can meet some different groups of people. So, I will see you on the other side. Thanks for coming.

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

Sentry Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks (Video + Transcript)

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Transcript of Sentry Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks:

Sukrutha Bhadouria: We’re so excited to do this event today.

Angie Chang: It’s always super exciting to be able to go to all these companies and see what the girl geeks there are doing and hear from them. And then also be able to network with other women.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Once you turn on and see a ton of amazing people showcase their amazing achievements and talk about all the amazing projects they work on and tips and tricks they’d like to give out.

Sophia Lawhead: What I wanted to talk about was the step that everyone has to go through at some point when you’re looking through a new job, or looking for a new job, and that’s the recruiter screen. And so, this is the step that usually comes to the second step after you either applied or you’ve been reached out to over LinkedIn by a recruiter.

Virginia Badenhope: If there’s someone else out there who’s not getting the kind of traction that she wants in her career, as a reminder, that’s not a thing that is unique to you. It’s a thing that happens to a lot of people, that you’re not alone, and that it is not a permanent state.

Mimi Nguyen: So, it’s been a very windy path getting to my role here at Sentry. I was working as a creative writer for a while until I realized that my very beautiful dream of one day owning a house in the Bay area was quite possibly not going to be achieved by creative writing.

Saloni Dudziak: I lead the people organization team at Sentry, and my talk here is going to be focused on how to respond effectively to and in times of crisis and uncertainty. Even more so in that’s very not normal, new normal environment where myself and my teams have continued to be challenged to repeatedly pivot and respond in these uncertain times.

Meredith Heller: I joined as the first support engineer. What’s relevant to this talk today is building out the innovation platform. So, I’m here today to talk a little bit more about that and why I think it’s great.

Priscila Oliveira: Today’s agenda is open source. How did I become an open source contributor? How open source impacted my career. How can you become an open source contributor? And Sentry, it all started as an open source project.

Angie Chang: Stay tuned. We will be back and see you again, and have a good day. Bye.

Priscila Oliveira: Bye.

Angie Chang: Hi there. Thanks everyone for joining us. Sorry we’re a few minutes late. Once again, I had a lovely Zoom surprise. My name is Angie Chang, and I’m the founder of Girl Geek X. And for anyone who hasn’t been to a Girl Geek X event before, like a Girl Geek Dinner or our annual Virtual Conference, this is our event series that’s been running on for over 10 years now. It’s actually about 12 years that we’ve been doing these events at companies across Silicon Valley. We started at Google, and then Facebook, and then we did a bunch of all these different startups.

Angie Chang: And we just had so much fun going to these companies and hearing about what the women there were working on, from engineering, to product, to anywhere from startups to business development, to even fun things like sales and being the general counsel of a company. We also learned about, for example, being a genetic scientist. So, it’s just always super exciting to be able to go to all these companies and see what the girl geeks there are doing and hear from them. And then also be able to network with other women. So, after this one hour of talks, we’re going to be having some networking in the breakout sessions. We will be breaking you into little rooms so that you can chat with a smaller group of people, and then be able to talk about some of your career goals, your anxieties.

Angie Chang: Right now it’s a really crazy year, and so we just wanted to able to connect everyone to share about how we can stay engaged and what’s exciting for us and how to help each other be accountable to our goals. So, is Sukrutha here? I know she was…

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, I’m here. Hi. Welcome everyone. Just like Angie said, we’re so excited to do this event today. Obviously this is a different time from what we usually do it, but we’ve also been seeing that people are joining us from all over the world. Sometimes staying up at two AM to be a part of this. So, we’re hoping this is going to make it a little bit easier for our members overseas.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, just that this has always been so inspiring for Angie and I. And for me, every time I hit a difficult time where I feel stuck at work, it’s always been super empowering for me to just go into a room, virtual or not, and see a ton of amazing people who happen to identify as women, showcase their amazing achievements and talk about all the amazing projects they work on and the tips and tricks they’d like to give out. And that has helped me in turn. And I know it’s helped a lot of our attendees and even our speakers to then go on to do bigger and creative things.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: In fact, I’m noticing that Grace Hopper is going on right now. A lot of people who have posted on LinkedIn that they’re speaking who are on my LinkedIn network, their first speaking opportunity was at a Girl Geek Dinner. And we always would tell them it’s a very forgiving crowd. Go for it. Try it out. And people were always a bit nervous. And after they were done, they were so excited and feeling super empowered.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So, that’s all I want to say. Angie, was there anything else before we hand off to the first speaker?

Angie Chang: No, I think that’s it. Thank you.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: All right. So our first speaker’s Meredith Heller. She’s a software engineer on Sentry’s ecosystem. Now she gets to maintain both Sentry’s core integrations and the integration platform. Welcome, Meredith.

Meredith Heller: Hello. All right. So, let me… okay, so hopefully everyone can see this okay. Hi, my name is Meredith. My talk today is going to be about the Sentry integration platform. So, a quick overview of Sentry, very high level, if you don’t know what it is, Sentry’s platform helps developers diagnose, fix, and optimize performance of their code. With Sentry, software teams can easily trace issues related to errors, performance problems, and trends in code quality.

Meredith Heller: At Sentry, we use Sentry every day and I could not imagine doing my work without it. It’s an incredible developer tool. And it’s grown so much over the last few years. So, these numbers are just to impress you, but also show you that a lot of people use Sentry, not only use it but depend on it.

Meredith Heller: So, a little more context about me and my journey at Sentry. 2016 was definitely a big year. A lot of change happened in that year. And for me specifically, it was the year that I joined Sentry. I joined as the first support engineer at Sentry, and then later moved to the engineering side where I’ve gotten to do a bunch of things, most of them integration-related. And most relevant to this talk today is my work that building out the integration platform.

Meredith Heller: So, I’m here today to talk a little bit more about that and why I think it’s great. So, kind of a little outline of where I’m going to go with this, talking more about just integrations in general, why we wanted to build this platform and how I think the UI augmentation really helped achieve the goals that we set out when building the platform.

Meredith Heller: So, first and foremost, integrations are important. Like I said, most of my work that I’ve done at Sentry over the past four years has been about integrations. Sentry offers a lot out of the box. It’s a great tool, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. People like to use all sorts of tools and the developer workflow and we want to be able to support as many people as possible. I’d say that the top three categories of integrations would be project management, alerting, and source control. Most people have one integration from each of these kind of categories.

Meredith Heller: And the other thing that makes them important is data from these integrations can actually make Sentry more useful. So, for example, our Github integration, you can have commit tracking, and that can help you triage the issues more quickly. Jira has issue syncing, which can help to decrease resolution time. So, they are pretty important to getting the full Sentry experience.

Meredith Heller: But they are also very hard. And there are a ton of things… I could complain about integrations, as much as I love them, I could complain all day. But I think the things that stood out to me the most about integrations are that they are different enough where you can’t just say, “Okay, here is our skeleton for all of our alerting.” And just plug them in and have every one of them work the same. This is because different companies have different ways of integrating, different ways of authenticating, different ways of returning response codes or the error messages. It just varies a lot.

Meredith Heller: And we have a pretty small team, so that means that every time that we decide to build integration at Sentry, we invest a lot of that domain knowledge on our team being towards knowing these external APIs, the nuances between our integrations, what integrations share and what they don’t. And then, the other part is, okay, well we’ve built the integration. That was a lot of work. Well, debugging and maintaining this integration is also a lot of work. It’s hard because you may not know what’s over there. There can be unexpected changes in those end that you’re relying on, or even the whole app that you’re relying on.

Meredith Heller: So, enter in the integration platform. We know they’re hard. Integrations are hard, and we know the importance though. We want to build a platform that makes it easier for people to build more meaningful integrations on top of Sentry. Yay. So, we went and we did this. We went and we built the integration platform.

Meredith Heller: So, now I want to talk about the UI augmentation, and how I think that helped with this goal. But first, I want to give a little bit more context. What is this? What are we augmenting? And this is straight from the docs, so there’s a lot more information that you can get on this if you’re curious, but basically the UI augmentation piece of this is the ability to add UI components to Sentry itself through this JSON-Schema-based system.

Meredith Heller: And we currently have two ways, or two places in Sentry that you can do this. So, here, I don’t know if you can see this super clearly, but basically this is a screenshot of what… if you’re looking at an error in Sentry, what it would look like. The first example here is the stack trace link. I’m not going to go over the details of this, but that is one of the ways in which you can augment the UI.

Meredith Heller: The other is this linked issues here. There’s a bunch listed here because this is a test account. But essentially, if you’re looking at this error and you’re like, hey, I want to track this in Jira. I want to track this in another service, you’d click that little plus button and this module would come up. So, this is an example of the Azure DevOps issue, which we built this integration.

Meredith Heller: But now, for other developers building on the platform, for example, Clubhouse, the scheme on the left is all that you need to define to get this module basically to pop up. We’ve already done the work to hand all the front-end stuff. You just need to tell us what fields you want, whether they’re required or not, and if you have a field that’s like a select field that you want to have the data be dynamic, meaning we make the request to your server as to get back data. You can just put the URI there. So, this is pretty cool .Clubhouse is one of the first partners to build on this platform. So, that’s why I’m using them as an example.

Meredith Heller: So, how did this UI augmentation help with out goal? This is our goal again. Build a platform that makes it easier for people to build meaningful integrations. Currently, if you look at our project management section of our integrations, basically half of these are on the platform. Clubhouse, ClickUp, Linear, and Teamwork are all on the platform. Linear and Teamwork were just added recently, actually.

Meredith Heller: It’s a win for the developers that use Sentry. There are now more integrations. They have more options. I think it’s a win for the teams building the platform because they have flexibility within the schema to find what form fields they want, whether they;re required or optional and even if they want Sentry data to pre-populate, for example, in the description area.

Meredith Heller: And it’s a win for Sentry because we don’t actually have to build the integration. The work for us is to review and publish application. And the maintenance is only for the platform. So, we’re always going to have to maintain the platform. Just because someone builds another integration on top of it doesn’t mean that the maintenance gets larger. So, that’s pretty great.

Meredith Heller: And the one last thing I didn’t have a ton of time to go over in some more detail, but I think, for me, one of the most unexpected things, benefits of the integration platform is we actually have what we call internal integrations which means I’ve been talking a lot about how you’d use the platform as another company to build on top of Sentry and have that app be distributed through other users. But what if you want to build something custom? You can do that, too. Enterprise customers have actually used the platform to build their own version of Azure or their own version of Jira because of restrictions and permissions, or even just the customizations. So, it’s been really cool to see this platform grow and be successful. And yeah, so thanks for listening. This is… hit me up if you have any more questions. I’ll stop sharing.

Angie Chang: And that’s really great. Thank you, Meredith. Our next speaker is Mimi. She is a technical writer at Sentry. And she is also an organizer for Write/Speak/Code. And she is a proud coding bootcamp graduate. And so, fun fact, she can order from a restaurant menu in under 15 seconds, has zero regrets. Welcome, Mimi.

Mimi Nguyen: Yay, thank you. All right, one second. I want to make a quick note. A bunch of us were using templates for our slides and it says confidential in the left-hand corner, but they’re not confidential. So, feel free to tell everyone how great Sentry is.

Mimi Nguyen: Okay, cool. So, I’m just going to assume you all can see my slide deck here. Tell me if that’s not true. All right. Here we go. All right, so hello again. My name is Mimi and I’m tahe technical writer here at Sentry. So, I just wanted to get started with a little bit more about me. These are my cats. That’s Maple and Pancake a couple of weekends ago when it was super, super hot in the San Francisco Bay area. And that’s my current progress on a paint-by-numbers, or as I like to call it, how to chill out and stay inside, #2020.

Mimi Nguyen: So, it’s been a very windy path getting to my role here at Sentry. I was working as a creative writer for a while until I realized that my very beautiful dream of one day owning a house in the Bay area was quite possibly not going to be achieved by creative writing. So, I went to a coding bootcamp and graduated. Then I became a software engineering intern. And now, I’m a technical writer, a role that uses two of my skillsets, writing and software engineering.

Mimi Nguyen: So, I work on docs. And let’s dive into the creation of docs and how it can foster inclusivity with your teams. All right, so three of our topics today, collaboration, inclusivity, and why words and people matter.

Mimi Nguyen: Collaboration. Cool, so we’re going to go through these pretty quickly. I never regret setting a flexible agenda, whether it be for my goals for a project or even the topic covered during a meeting. And I always share this agenda to provide visibility to other teammates and collaborators. It helps facilitate… I’m going to wait for the garbage truck to drive by.

Mimi Nguyen: Okay, so as I was saying, these agendas help facilitate meetings. Right? But also, once you all have a plan together, it’s easier to communicate that plan to the whole company because you have buy-in from your stakeholders.

Mimi Nguyen:And we all should remember that communication is hard. There is always room to misunderstand or forget details. So, make sure to track your tasks in a calendar or something like Asana, which is what we use at Sentry. But most importantly, follow up with your collaborators. Sometimes you need to be assertive, which is personally hard for me because I hate nagging people. But if you really want something done, just follow up very assertively. And if you have time, have a retro. Discuss what worked, what didn’t work. Then gather that information into templates or guides. And this will help others be more self-sufficient, but also serve as a record of your iterations. What worked for a past project might work for another project in six months.

Mimi Nguyen: Inclusivity. Okay, so through your collaborative process, you’re already being inclusive. And you’ve most likely encouraged others to be inclusive, too. And thoughtfulness in your preparation and sharing agendas and plans, this all creates a space for ideas and questions and the feeling of inclusion. Constant communication with your teammates is an exercise in being intentional and effective with our words. Different people, leaders, teammates, everyone, everyone, thinks in a unique way. And the more intentional you are with your words, the smoother the collaboration. Intentional word choice also leads to accessibility, which we’ll cover in a few slides.

Mimi Nguyen: And again, iteration. Something we hear all the time here in tech, right? But really, iteration should be embraced. Record what works and what didn’t work. Write it down and share it with others. Someone with experience sharing their knowledge with some newer folks is a form of inclusion.

Mimi Nguyen: Words and people. All right, so we’re going to talk about why American idioms aren’t international, how assumptions are distracting, and how words evolve, oftentimes for the better.

Mimi Nguyen: Okay, so external documentation is international, and that’s what I work on, external documentation. Sentry customers read our external documentation to install, configure and understand our product. That means we avoid idioms or any communication that involves a very deep level of cultural knowledge. So, I’m going to have some examples coming up, and these are things that I’ve encountered in the Sentry docs or docs from other companies as well.

Mimi Nguyen: Okay so, “roll your own.” I know many people in tech are familiar with this phrase. It usually goes something like, “roll your own SDK.” But roll your own originates from cigarette culture, and it alludes to rolling your own cigarette. So, even if your reader can contextually understand what roll your own means, it’s still more clear and to the point to say, “Make your own.” Make your own SDK is clean, and again, to the point. There’s no guessing if you have to physically roll something.

Mimi Nguyen: Okay so, this phrasing was pointed out to me by a friend. Typically in western culture an introductory class is designated with the numbers 101. This indicates it’s the first class in a series of classes. Right? However, not everyone goes to culturally western schools. To be more inclusive and accessible, it’s more clear to say something like, “Blah, blah, blah intro class.” Or even, “Class one, blah, blah, blah.”

Mimi Nguyen: Okay, hurdles. So, hurdles is a word choice I’ve recently noticed in some documentation, and I think the phrase was something like, “that’s the last hurdle in setting up.” Hurdles are these fences that runners jump over during a track event. There’s definitely an argument to be made that the word hurdles is international because there are hurdles in the Olympics and the Olympics are international. But you’re still relying on a reader to understand the feature of a track race, when really what you want to say is step. Like, “that’s the last step in the installation process.”

Mimi Nguyen: Okay, so assumptions are distracting. Being inclusive means avoiding assumptions. What is easy or simple for you may not be easy or simple for the next person. Also, how does one measure easy? Is it five minutes? What are we comparing this to? Is it running in zig-zags for five minutes? Or is it running in a straight line for 10 minutes? Do you see what I’m kind of getting at? I just avoid the words easy, simple, or normally, because they’re vague and there’s probably a better way to have cleaner communication.

Mimi Nguyen: Okay, so try your best to consider the newcomer, or what some like to call the beginner. And I try to avoid saying beginner because we are all beginners. I used to laugh when people said, “The older I get, the less I know.” But I think I kind of get it now because I know that I know a lot, but also know that I don’t know a lot. I also don’t know what I don’t know.

Mimi Nguyen: But what I do know is you should know your audience. So, being inclusive means trying to understand the needs of your audience. If you’re writing documentation for Python Developers, there’s a really good chance you don’t have to explain what pip install means. You could just write pip install and move on.

Mimi Nguyen: Okay, so words evolve towards inclusion. Sometimes you need to exclude words in order to be more inclusive. So, at Sentry, we’re constantly trying to evolve the way we communicate. For example, we’ve removed most instances of the word blacklist from our code base and our documentation. And I know this sounds kind of obvious, but changing variable names takes time. And sometimes a lot of effort, and I want to recognize that effort. We are also still working on removing instances of the word whitelist. We still have a master branch, but we are also working on removing the word master from our code base. And I just checked earlier this week and it looks like all instances of the word grandfathering are no longer in Sentry docs, so hooray!

Mimi Nguyen: Also, I am super happy to answer any questions later about why these words should be removed from your code base and documentation. Ta da! That’s it. Once again, I’m Mimi. You can tweet at me @Mimi_Dumpling. Although, the closer we get to the election, the less likely I will be on Twitter. You can also email me at Thank you everyone.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you Mimi. That was amazing. I learned so much. I do want to say when I was first… a few years ago when I was… well, no. I’m a lot older than I think I am. Several years ago when I was reading some articles and I saw the reference to 101, I didn’t actually get the connection because just like you said, I didn’t get my early education here.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: All right, so our next speaker is Sophia Lawhead. She’s a tech recruiter. She has a background in hiring data and software engineers. And we all know how hard it is to hire really strong engineers with diverse backgrounds, so I’m sure she has a really tough job. She’s also focused on product managers and data scientists of all levels.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: When she’s not reading through LinkedIn profiles, you can find her enjoying local stand up comedy and trying to perfect her at-home pizza making skills, which I’m sure we’re all trying to do in this lockdown pandemic situation. So, welcome Sophia.

Sophia Lawhead: Thank you. All right. I will share my screen. Thank you everyone for coming. Again, I’m Sophia. I’ve been at Sentry for about six months, and like what was mentioned, I’m a technical recruiter. So, what I wanted to talk about today is related to hiring, and it’s something that I think is relevant to everyone here working the tech industry, working at startups. And I know that about 40% of you, I think, indicated that you’re actively looking for a new role right now, or you’re considering it.

Sophia Lawhead: What I wanted to talk about was the step that everyone has to go through at some point when you’re looking through a new job, or looking for a new job, and that’s the recruiter screen. And so, this is the step that usually comes, the second step after you’ve either applied or you’ve been reached out to over LinkedIn by a recruiter. And what I’ve come to realize over my last about three years of recruiting experience is that a lot of people don’t really know the purpose of this call. They’re not really sure what they’re supposed to share, what they’re not supposed to share, what this recruiter is looking for and how they can move past this step, move through it to the next step, which is usually a lot more interesting, talking to a hiring manager or doing the technical screen.

Sophia Lawhead: That’s what I want to talk about today is in these screens, how can you best present yourself? How can you be most prepared and have the information that these recruiters are looking for? To get the most out of this call, make it quick, efficient, and hopefully pretty painless?

Sophia Lawhead: We’ll start out with what are these recruiters actually looking for? These are the four things we’re going to cover. It’s wanting to know what are you looking for. Then it’s getting into what is the compensation range that you’re going to require for your next role. And work visa needs, if that’s relevant to you. And then finally, your work history.

Sophia Lawhead: When you’re thinking about starting to look for a new job or if you’re actively doing that, think about what are you looking for? What is most important to you? What needs are not being met at your current job that you’re going to look to find in your next role? This is something that I want to know, any recruiter wants to know, and it helps us determine fit for not just this actual role, but for the company overall. So, it’s a good thing to have prepared.

Sophia Lawhead: Then the next thing you want to have ready to go is what is my compensation range? And the reason that we ask for this is actually not because we want to try to find what is the lowest amount of money that you’ll accept. That’s actually not in our best interests as recruiters, as hiring teams to try to low ball people. The reason is is it’s not great for our retention. This is something that’s been seen in the tech industry many times and most industries. If you bring someone in at a low salary, they’re not going to want to stay very long. They’re going to probably within a year start looking for something new where they can be better paid.

Sophia Lawhead: So for us, it’s really about finding what you’re looking for. Does that match what we have budgeted for this role? And making sure there’s this alignment there, mostly so we don’t waste any of your time. And so, how do you determine what you are looking for? This can be determined by not just what do you need? We all have bills. We all have rent or mortgage. So, what do you need to maintain your lifestyle? But then also, what are your goals? Are you looking to buy a house? Have a child? Open a taco truck, maybe when pandemic is over? But whatever those goals are and your needs, that’s how you determine what your ask should be. What level you’re looking for.

Sophia Lawhead: And something a lot of people don’t take into consideration when they’re thinking about that is it’s not just about your base pay. It’s about the whole package, right? So, some companies, for example, will often a referral bonus, or… I mean a… sorry. Annual bonus. And that annual bonus is something that you should factor into your ask if you want to keep that same level of compensation at your next role.

Sophia Lawhead: So, the next thing to think about is what if I need work visa sponsorship? I know a lot of people in this industry do. So, if that’s something that’s applicable to you, it’s really good to just come to the call with all your details prepared. The policies of what a company can and cannot move forward with are pretty black and white and generally set by the HR and finance team. So, if you… if this isn’t brought up by your recruiter, definitely ask them. They should be able to tell you right away or get that information for you. And if we have the information about your expiration date, up to date with what type of visa you have, where you are in your visa journey, this can help the whole process move swifter, especially actually the end process of creating an offer for you if you get to that stage. So, it’s in your best interest to have this information ready to go.

Sophia Lawhead: All right, and the final step is and many ways most important is thinking about what is my work history? What is the story I’m telling through my work history? So, what we want to know in your work history is really about the last five to seven years. And that’s because a lot of hiring managers don’t really consider past about six, seven years to be super relevant to what you’re doing today.

Sophia Lawhead: As we all know, technology moves fast especially if you’re using a different language, if you’re doing a different skillset, if you’ve moved up. What you were doing back then, it’s not that it’s not a foundation that you built on, it’s just not necessarily as relevant today. So, that’s why it’s more focused on the past five to seven years.

Sophia Lawhead: Your LinkedIn is where you can put all of your work history. And I encourage you to put every single detail in there. I think you can never have too much information when it comes to that. But you want to keep your resume to the one page, and that’s why I think that you can cut off after about five to seven years.

Sophia Lawhead: So, and when you’re thinking about who’s looking at my profile? Who’s looking at my resume? Most likely the first person at any company is going to be someone non-technical. I myself don’t have a STEM degree. I, like many engineers and tech workers out there, Google things on the fly. That’s how I learned. So, I will be looking up any terms I don’t understand, but the way for me to understand it the easiest, fastest and be convinced that you will be a right fit for this role is for you to break it down in simple terms for me. So, to use as little jargon, as little acronyms, and as little internal terms as possible.

Sophia Lawhead: For example, here at Sentry we have a visibility team. And if you just put on your resume I’m on the visibility team, I don’t really know what that means unless I work at Sentry. But saying I work on the data visualization team, I instantly know what you did. So, that’s what I mean by breaking it down into simple terms. And it also shows me you deeply understand what you did if you can explain it to me in a very simple way.

Sophia Lawhead: So, when I’m looking at someone’s past work history at each job, and when I’m asking them questions about their work history in a call, and all recruiters do this. What I’m really wanting to know is at your work, what you’ve created, the app, the data pipeline, whatever it was, what was the purpose behind it? What did it accomplish? Why was this created? How did what you engineered, what you built, the dashboard you made, how did that affect the business goals? Did it move the needle? Did you affect KPIs, especially if you can show me with numbers or percentages that’s very… indicates that you were a big part of the process and your work was impactful.

Sophia Lawhead: And also, I want to know what did you work on? What were you responsible for? How involved were you with planning? Also, team size and structure. This all goes back to knowing how responsible you were for it and how much work burden was on your shoulders. For example, if you are on a project and there was a team of 20 working with you, that’s really different than working with two other people. That’s a lot heavier work burden, a lot more hats. So, it’s a very different work experience. And then also, I always want to know what technologies you worked with.

Sophia Lawhead: So, when you are booking your recruiter calls, those recruiter screens, I think it’s great to have this checklist to think about. This, if you have all of these boxes ticked, you’ll be totally ready for your call. So, I would review the company website and the job description before the call. You’d be surprised how many people do not do that. It will definitely set you apart.

Sophia Lawhead: Something I would do even maybe before setting up the call, too, is test out the product if you can. Can you do a tutorial? Can you read reviews? Can you create a free trial version, free subscription? That might tell you if you even want to be working on this product, but it will also surface a lot of really good questions for you and give you a better sense of what you would be doing day-to-day.

Sophia Lawhead: And then, think about again, your desired compensation, know your visa details. Also some things to think about and have ready to talk about are your flexibility around things like title, how far are you willing to commute, are you willing to relocate, will you need assistance, how much assistance in terms of monetary assistance would you want? Having that ready to go can really help you in those first calls know, is this company going to be right for me? Are their policies, are their location, everything going to line up with what I’m looking for?

Sophia Lawhead: And again, talking about things like unusual work gaps like length or short durations. That’s something we’ll ask about. So that’s actually something you can put on your resume if you want, and then that kind of cuts out that conversation. We already answer it, so it can make that call a little bit shorter.

Sophia Lawhead: And also, come prepared with some questions. This is another way to set yourself apart. And it does surprise me how many people will say, “I don’t have any questions.” And so, here’s some ideas of questions that you can ask. It just shows your interest. It shows that you are invested in this role, but these are all important things for you to know. Benefits that are important to you, is there things like parental leave? That’s something that a surprising amount of people don’t ask about til the very end of the process. Pandemic plans. What does that look like for your company? Any of these I think are great to ask.

Sophia Lawhead: And so, I’m going to leave you with two tips that are weird a little bit. A little out there, but they’re definitely effective. And this is great if you have a little bit of anxiety. If these calls make you a little bit nervous. You don’t really like talking about yourself. So, the first one is every recruiter should be on LinkedIn and have their own profile photo. If they don’t, I would be a little suspicious. I’m just kidding. But so bring up that photo, have it in front of you and talk to the photo while you’re on your call, almost like it’s a video call. And that can actually give you this sense of a real person is talking to you. It gives you a sense of I’m having a real conversation. It’s much more fluid, natural and can bring the anxiety down a little bit.

Sophia Lawhead: And then the next one is called superhero pose. And I think was on a Ted Talk potentially, but so in those one to two minutes while you are waiting for that call to come to you or you’re waiting to make the call, sit and… or you can stand. Either one’s fine. Put your hands on your hips, elbows out, chest back or chest out, shoulders back and take a couple deep breaths. And I did it before this event. It definitely instills a sense of confidence, power, it calms down the amygdala, brings down the adrenaline and it can really just set you in the right mind frame to have this call and have it go well. And I, like I said, I’ve used this on three on-site interviews and I received an offer for all of them. So, tested and proven. Very small sample size.

Sophia Lawhead: But that has been my presentation. If anyone has any questions, and interested in Sentry, want to talk about roles, please reach out to me. That’s my email. But thank you for your time.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: All right. Thank you so much. That was so amazing and actionable, Sophia. I learned a lot. So, what do you think you… where did you get this idea of the superhero pose?

Sophia Lawhead: I’m trying to remember. I was actually thinking about that. It might have been from a Ted Talk. I was also a psych major, so it might have been something that I picked up in my psych classes. But it’s something that’s been out there. It’s something I didn’t make up, but it is actually surprisingly effective.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, I’ve tried it, too, actually. So, I do think it’s been… oh, someone just posted it. It was a Ted Talk delivered by Amy Curry. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to switch over to our next speaker, Saloni. She’s the VP of People. She’s an experienced [00:38:43] who has worked with many, many early and mid-stage high-growth companies, building and running key foundational [inaudble] from the ground up. While when not People-leading, she’s a wrangler of little humans and puppers while experimenting with different cuisines and attempting her hand at horticulture and farm-to-table foods. Welcome, Saloni.

Saloni Dudziak: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here. Hi everyone. I’m Saloni. I’m glad you could join us here with our wonderful, delightful speakers and hear a little bit about what our Sentry geek girls are passionate about.

Saloni Dudziak: I lead the people organization team at Sentry, and my talk here is going to be focused on how to respond effectively to and in times of crisis and uncertainty. I have generally been passionate about these topics and obviously even more so in this very not normal new normal environment where myself and my teams have continually being challenged to repeatedly pivot and respond in these uncertain times.

Saloni Dudziak: So, I’d like to start with a little bit of history and talk about where we were just at right before the world kind of got turned upside down with this global pandemic. We were about seven months into what will be a 16-month process that involved completing a total gut and rebuild of 36,000 square feet across two floors of a high-rise building in the financial district in San Francisco. However, as things began to start unfolding in late February and early March, we made the decision to shut down all of our physical locations in early March. And then once the shelter in place order in the Bay area was enacted, our construction on the new build out was paused until around mid-June.

Saloni Dudziak: So, as of this week, we’ve finished our build out on one of our floors. We’re set to finish another one in November. Obviously, it’s been a very bittersweet process to see a year and a half long project come to fruition and then no certainty of when we’ll be able to enjoy that space. And I think that almost every single People leader and anyone on a People team would agree that navigating those initial few weeks and then all of the many months that have followed have been extremely challenging in many unusual and unprecedented ways.

Saloni Dudziak: So, unfortunately I wasn’t able to deliver live tour as I planned. We’re still in move-in phase, and it’s a bit messy. But I’m giving a quick sneak peek to one of our spaces because I think it really represents the care and effort that our folks have put into the small details. And it’s a good indication of what the rest of the space will look like.

Saloni Dudziak: So, we’re in the middle of an office build out, and then this new crisis ensues. What’s the first go-to step? The number one motto in my home is don’t panic. And I think that’s key when you’re responding to a crisis, whether it’s momentary or ongoing. So, this starts by putting on your metaphorical life vest, taking a step back, assessing the situation quickly and then responding with an action plan that will need to be highly iterative as the nature of responding to crises means change is imminent and requires adaptability.

Saloni Dudziak: So for me, using the shelter in place example, putting on my metaphorical life vest meant establishing a very regular routine to my day. I’ve been a distributed worker in the past, so that gives me a bit of an advantage, but this was more than just that. This was a crisis that was changing day-to-day and week-to-week. So then, my goals were to assess this unfolding situation on a daily and weekly basis in a much more structured way. So, time blocking when I would check in on the news. What type of information I was consuming, making sure I was taking care of how often I was consuming that information.

Saloni Dudziak: And so, obviously not panicking doesn’t mean that I wasn’t or haven’t been stressed. There have been certainly highly-stressful times. But it does mean that I could more clearly understand what I could control and thus, respond to those events, and let go of the things I couldn’t control.

Saloni Dudziak: So, once you’ve got the two buckets of things you can control, things you can’t control, you’re setting yourself up to be more adaptable and able to respond effectively when things do change again. And then a part of this will soon fall establishing a positive psychological mindset where you can view a setback or a situation as temporary, changeable, it’s specific, that it will pass and it won’t remain in a permanent state.

Saloni Dudziak: So, if I took all these initial lessons, I can then formulate an action plan to respond to crises and that involves communicating with your teammates often, providing regular updates to establish some consistency as events unfold, and providing tools and resources for this different state of working.

Saloni Dudziak: So, what does that look like in real life? When you’re dealing with crises, finding ways to be resilient and adaptable is the first thing you do. You prioritize your connections to your people who will provide you with that positive reinforcement. People who will support and uplift you, but also give you the space to just be and feel your feels. Could involve joining social support groups or simply relying on your friend groups, partners, family members. I think just knowing somebody that has your back and will help to actively help build you up sets the foundation for that psychological resiliency.

Saloni Dudziak: The next up is having a sense of purpose and proactively working towards some set of goals. If you don’t feel connected to something that drives you, it’s really hard to stay resilient. So, making sure you’ve got something to work towards to make progress on. It doesn’t have to be big or grandiose in nature, but it does need to inspire you.

Saloni Dudziak: And then ultimately, don’t burn out. This goes back to kind of the life vest analogy where you need to make sure you’ve got yours on, but then you have to continue to inflate it. And when it inevitably starts to deflate, this could be setting your boundaries and taking breaks from being other people’s person, so that you can replenish yourself, avoiding negative outlets, getting your sleep, taking care of your physical health and practicing some form of mindfulness that will work for you.

Saloni Dudziak: So, if you’ve gotten resilient and adaptable, and once you’ve not panicked and come up with a plan of action, how do you maintain that motivation and productivity? If you’re an individual who’s trying to stay motivated or if you’re a manager trying to help your team stay motivated, you first need to understand what it is that drives them, and what their sources of motivation are.

Saloni Dudziak: I like referring to the infamous Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I’m also a previous psych major as well. This touches upon all of the key elements humans need in varying degrees to feel productive and motivated. And even though in the original theory it’s presented as these stacked building blocks, these hierarchy of needs often overlap with each other. Some take more precedence than others depending on individual circumstances and are often situational in nature.

Saloni Dudziak: Ultimately what you’re doing is finding out what motivates yourself or your teammates. And once you’ve spent time understanding this, you’re able to start building the frameworks for keeping yourself and your teams motivated.

Saloni Dudziak: I’d like to share a little bit of some of the ways we’ve worked towards inspiring continued motivation and productivity over the past many, many months that involve some tangibles and intangibles. We had rolled out this wellness stipend in January for our employees. And I think typically people associate wellness and health with physical well-being, but we’ve tried to specifically highlight to also consider using this for psychological and emotional well-being, even more now so than ever.

Saloni Dudziak: We also created a wellness guide with a ton of different resources in addition to the stipend, and various ideas on the ways that you can use the stipend. And then we also included meditation and mindfulness resources, ways to keep your kids or your inner-child busy and engaged, ideas for staying social while staying home, physical wellness resources for home fitness options, and then self-care and emotional well-being tools, too.

Saloni Dudziak: We also introduced resources for working from home. So, initially when we moved to this distributed work, we weren’t sure how long this would take given the shelter in place date kept being moved. And once it became clear that the timeline was going to be a longer term, we wanted to make sure that employees had the ability to get their home spaces set up properly. And so, the stipend allows for setting up an environment that allows you to have the right tools for productivity.

Saloni Dudziak: And then for us internally, we also wanted to create a how-to guide for distributed workforce. So, more qualitative information on how to be effective in this remote environment.

Saloni Dudziak: And then, of course, you’re constantly reiterating the focus on communication because you don’t have the luxury of a quick chat over desks or passing through hallways. How you communicate and how often and the forum which you’re doing so are very important in this kind of crisis distributed world. And then, reinforcing those expectations for managers at every level to stay connected with their teams in multiple ways.

Saloni Dudziak: Doing a pulse survey regularly. We’ve been doing that to gauge where our people are at and our organizational health by gathering real-time data. We can continue to tailor our processes and responses to meet people’s needs, and then address any blind spots. And then of course, always encouraging and supporting a healthy mindset, leading interactions with empathy, understanding, allowing for flexibility in trying times, trying to find joy and humor in small moments and being compassionate are all key to crisis management.

Saloni Dudziak: So, ultimately building resilience and being adaptable, finding ways to stay motivated and productive are really hard. I can’t stress how much people just need to be kind to themselves and acknowledge that sometimes there’s going to be moments where it’s just not going to happen. And that’s okay. But having the tools and resources that can help you navigate through those types of moments is really key to finding those ways to get back on track.

Saloni Dudziak: And ultimately, everyone is playing a game of Twister. Sometimes you might have all your hands and feet firmly on the grounded spots, and sometimes you might feel a bit of teetering. But always go to the just don’t panic.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, Saloni. That was really insightful, and I love that image of Twister. That was really fun, but yet true. Our next speaker is Virginia. She’s the general counselor at Sentry. She’s a tech lawyer who’s been around the block, having practiced at firms big and small, as well as tech companies ranging in size from startups to [inaudible]. Oh, and she also tries to make sure her kids are doing what they’re supposed to be doing in remote learning. That’s a super mom and super parent, I have to say. Welcome, Virginia.

Virginia Badenhope: Thank you. Okay. So, hello everyone. Thank you for having me. I am the general counsel of Sentry. And as was stated in my introduction, you can see that I have had a long career arc. I’ve been at big law firms. I’ve been at small law firms. And eventually, I made my way to a number of tech companies. And what you can also see on this slide is that I didn’t really find my niche until I was kind of like seven years out of law school. And twice during that time I thought about quitting law altogether.

Virginia Badenhope: And I highlight that because part of what I want to do in the talk is to acknowledge how normal struggle is, and that… I don’t know. If there’s someone else out there who’s not getting the kind of traction that she wants in her career, as a reminder that that’s not a thing that is unique to you. It’s a thing that happens to a lot of people, that you’re not alone and that it is not a permanent state. I think this talk is also sort of a follow onto what Saloni says in terms of different ways that you can try to be resilient.

Virginia Badenhope: So, one of the major factors of my early misery was that I started my career in some big, prestigious law firms where the primary form of feedback was yelling. Right? And I think the thought was that that was what was necessary to achieve the level of perfection that clients expected, that the partners of the firm expected. And I also think that in some ways that that kind of unforgiving environment was by design. It was intended to help toughen us up because I guess the thinking was law is a profession where it’s someone else’s job to find and exploit all the flaws in your work.

Virginia Badenhope: And I guess from the law firm’s perspective, this was effective because all the work that I produced was perfect. Right? From the header to the footers, to the pagination, to whether the text was full justified or left justified. Every detail was perfect.

Virginia Badenhope: The thing is that when it came time for me to supervise other lawyers, I knew that this was not how I wanted to be. So, I wasn’t that way with other people, but somehow I never learned to stop yelling at myself. And I think part of what contributed to that was this idea that you need unflinching criticism to get to the kind of success that I wanted. And that if you had anything less than that, then it’s just sort of BS and it’s the kind of stuff that ends up on SNL as sort of self-affirmation that is really laughable.

Virginia Badenhope: And it wasn’t until I hit a roadblock with my kids that I started working, knowing that I needed to work on this sort of idea of criticism. And what was happening is that I was finding myself yelling at them more and more. And I felt really bad about it. I was able to get the behavior that I wanted most of the time, but I’m pretty sure it was damaging my relationship to them. And my deepest fear was that it was actually damaging not just the relationship, but them.

Virginia Badenhope: And I didn’t turn the corner on that until somebody pointed out that sometimes the reason that people are hard on other people is because they’re hard on themselves. So, then the suggestion was okay, so if you learn to be gentler with yourself, maybe you’d be gentler with the kids, too.

Virginia Badenhope: And so that was really when I started trying to break down this idea that you need to have this sort of unforgiving, unrelenting criticism in order to be successful.

Virginia Badenhope: And so then I started looking around for different kinds of inspiration because I’d been to talks before. I had been to… these were not new concepts, but none of them really stuck. And so, I’m going to share some things that did stick just because it helps it… it’s easier for me to think about these when I have key specific things to think about.

Virginia Badenhope: So, the most influential book I have ever read and the most helpful in my life is this book about actually How To Talk To Kids So That Kids Will Talk and How to… How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. And some of the core concepts that it revealed was, one, that it is actually possible to be kind and gentle at the same time. To be firm and gentle at the same time. Because I had this idea that if I was gentle, it meant that you were kind of ignoring problems and you were just sort of giving this sort of everything-is-happy point of view. And the point of the book is no, that’s not true. You can stick to the whatever standard you have, but you don’t need criticism to achieve it. That there are better ways to engage cooperation.

Virginia Badenhope: Another key point that it makes is that feelings are actually easier to deal with if you acknowledge them rather than if you push them away. And that was like… it’s probably second nature to a lot of people, but for me, that was sort of like a revelation because I was brought up to be like if you have a bad feeling, the way to not… you just need to push it away and… like it’s a sign of strength to be able to just set it aside.

Virginia Badenhope: And then the last kind of insight from that book is that it’s really hard to get to problem solving if there is any kind of distress going on. Right? So, if you don’t feel good or if you feel defensive or whatever, it’s just really hard to get any kind of input and to put your mind in a place that you could actually solve the problem at hand, or get to the behavior that you want.

Virginia Badenhope: And so that kind of flows into the next kind of inspirational thing that I heard which is that you don’t get people to change by telling them that they’re bad. You get them to change by asking them to be better than they’ve ever been. Right? And I think the important thing about that is that it’s hard to get anywhere if you don’t feel good. And so, if you make a judgment about you’re not good at something or… like if I had said, “I’m impatient with the kids.” That connotes… or “I’m an impatient person and that’s why I yell at the kids.” That connotes some kind of… like something of the identity and some kind of permanence. And it’s really hard to make any kind of change from that space.

Virginia Badenhope: And so, I’m learning now not to judge. Right? Whatever it is I’m feeling or whatever difficulty I have is to basically suspend judgment and see if I can get to the problem-solving element quicker. And the imagery I like to use for problem solving is soccer. So I spent a lot of time watching youth soccer. And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that the players who are the most successful are the ones that basically shrug off a mistake and move to the next thing. Right?

Virginia Badenhope: So, if it’s impossible to win every tackle. You are going to lose the ball some percentage of the time. But the ones that are the most successful are… they don’t just go uh, I lost the ball. They’re like, man, I’m going to get that ball back. And they immediately pivot to try and to recover the ball. And a lot of the times they do because what… they’re looking to the next thing. They’re ignoring whatever happened in the past and then moving on to the next stage, which is sort of like the problem solving aspect of it.

Virginia Badenhope: And I noticed that one of the most useful things that a coach can say is to basically acknowledge the problem, but then immediately say next time. Right? That didn’t go well. You’ll get them next time.

Virginia Badenhope: And so, here are some examples of reframings that I have found to be helpful. And I actually had to use a lot of reframing on getting ready for this own talk. One second I thought I was a genius for coming up with this topic, and another it was like, oh my God. Who cares what I think? This is a dumb topic.

Virginia Badenhope: And I don’t know how that happens, but I’m not going to judge. I’m just going to try and reframe that to be in a more helpful spot. Right? So then, it went something like well, even if not everyone is interested in this topic, I can’t be the only one who has self-doubt from time to time. No one is confident all the time. And so, if one person feels like this is helpful, or that she is not alone, that might be good enough.

Virginia Badenhope: So, be brave and show some vulnerability. So that was sort of the thinking that got me to this point. And I thought it was pretty meta to be having to employ the techniques that I was talking about to get through the thing that I was trying to do.

Virginia Badenhope: And so, here’s some examples of reframing that I have found to be useful. So, I try to get rid of shoulds. I should’ve blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Right? That’s backward looking. I try to change it to be like well, I can’t change what’s already happened, but I can still do X, Y, and Z to improve the situation, mitigate the damage, whatever. Basically recover from whatever the mistake was. And followed up with next time I’m going to do something else.

Virginia Badenhope: So, this isn’t like you ignore that something didn’t go right or that you sort of gloss over mistakes. It’s just that okay, there was a mistake, and now here’s what I’m going to do to fix it.

Virginia Badenhope: Here’s another should. I should be or I should blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I think it’s been more helpful for me to reframe it like I would like to. Right? So basically suspending the judgment but still acknowledging whatever it is that you’d like to have happen. I’m not good at. So, we basically banned this from the house. The children are not allowed to say I’m not good at. I told them I would rather have them swear or curse, say bad words, but I do not want to hear I’m not good at. They can say I’m not good at blah, blah, blah yet. But what is preferable would be to say, okay here are the things that I can do to get better. I can develop the following skills. Right? That’s very different than I’m not good at. Because I’m not good at, again, implies some kind of permanence.

Virginia Badenhope: Here’s another one. Comparing. Oh, So and So is so much better at me then blah, blah, blah. And so, then I try to turn that around. It’s like oh wow, I really admire that person. What is it that I can learn from her? A little bit more helpful than judging myself against some standard.

Virginia Badenhope: So, it kind of goes on. I can’t stand it. You can say… or I can say I can handle it even if I don’t like it. There it is. I can’t. Reframing I can’t into the thing that I can do, which is to learn techniques. And then finally, oh that was dumb. What was I thinking? I try to reframe that. Well, that didn’t work. Let me try something else knowing what I know now.

Virginia Badenhope: And so, those are just some examples of reframing that I have found to be helpful. And so, so far I’ve shared ways that I had found to be successful in getting myself out of a negative spot. Now these are the words that I use or that I have found to be most helpful in encouraging other people. And these are the words that I use with my children when I’m… to help them gather the strength to face their challenges. Right? Because sometimes it’s really powerful to know that someone else believes in you, even if you don’t yet believe in yourself.

Virginia Badenhope: And so, I tell them I have confidence in you. And I have found that this phrasing has advantages over you can do it or it’ll be fine because there’s no possibility of getting pushback that’s like, no I can’t or you don’t know that, because the only person who knows how I feel is me. And I feel confidence in you. So there. Thank you.

Angie Chang: Thank you. That was a really great talk on reframing. I really appreciate that. So, we have one more speaker. If she’s still here, Priscilla. She is a software engineer at Sentry. I know she was here. So, great. We will find her and bring her right up.

Priscila Oliveira: Hello everyone. Before I get started, I’d like to thank you for joining me today in Girl Geek X and thank you for this opportunity. It has been a while since I’d like to give a second talk being this talk about my experiences in the open source world. So today, I’m going to talk about how open source impacted my career.

Priscila Oliveira: My name is Priscila. I’m a software engineer at Sentry and an open source contributor. In the open source community, you may know me as a maintainer of [inaudible]. I’m coming to you from my home in Vienna, Austria, and I’m really excited to give this presentation.

Priscila Oliveira: Today’s agenda is open source, how did I become an open source contributor, how open source impacted my career, how can you become an open source contributor and Sentry, it all started as an open source project.

Priscila Oliveira: So, I’d like to start this presentation by asking you do you know what’s open source? Let me tell you. Open source is [inaudible] creating and sharing content and software in a collaborative and public way. It’s when someone puts out an idea and a community forms around this idea, making it better. The community is made up of different people around the world who share ideas, opinions, experiences and learn from each other. Open source is really cool.

Priscila Oliveira: So, how did I become an open source contributor. My first contact with open source was years ago when I was in a technical high school back in Brazil, and I was told to install Ubuntu Linux because it was nice and I didn’t need to pay for it. Back then, I didn’t know much about open source. I only knew that it was some sort of a free software that I could use and people were very excited about it.

Priscila Oliveira: Many years passed and I found myself living again in Vienna. By the way, I’m from Brazil. And one day I felt the need to integrate more in the tech community. So I decided to join a local meetup called React Vienna. In this meetup, I was introduced to Verdaccio, a private NPM proxy registry. I was introduced to this open source project by it’s main maintainer, Juan Picado.

Priscila Oliveira: And after a few more meetings talking about open source, Juan convinced me to try to contribute. And that’s how it all started. So, at the beginning, the imposter syndrome began to take hold. I thought that I had to understand the whole application very well before anything, that my code had to be perfect. After all, everything was going to be public and everyone could see my code.

Priscila Oliveira: But besides all these thoughts I said to myself, “You know what? Just submit the pull request. Just do it.” And that’s what I did. This was my very first open source pull request. It was very simple. I just disabled an [inaudible].

Priscila Oliveira: So, how open source impacted my career. After more than two years contributing, I can say that my mindset changed, and this has had a great impact on my career. I see a couple of things different now. As for example, documentation. Documentation makes everything easier for those who wanted to use a project and those who are wanting to contribute. We have to think that not every contributor is a developer, and not every code is readable enough. Documentation is important.

Priscila Oliveira: Feedback. Always give constructive feedback. Code reviews are opportunities to learn and to ask and to share knowledge, et cetera. If we just agree with something, expand why and try to give examples of what is it that could be a better solution, a better option. And if you get bad feedback, don’t take it personally and try to get something positive out of it.

Priscila Oliveira: Communication. While you’re working on an open source project, you will contribute alongside many people from all around the world with different cultures and backgrounds. You have to be always polite and respectful.

Priscila Oliveira: Tests. I learned how important they are. They increase [inaudible] ensuring that the release version is always a stable build and that no users will be impacted by bugged developmental code.

Priscila Oliveira: Networking. Open source allows us to work in on real world projects and helps us build networks. You will have also the opportunity to meet many interesting people, even if only virtually. This is also related to job opportunities.

Priscila Oliveira: The most visible way to measure our contributions outside of work and to be discovered is through open source projects. I would also say that nowadays, most of the companies value open source projects a lot. And one of the reasons behind this is that these projects are part of their code base.

Priscila Oliveira: So, when you mention during an interview that you are contributing to open source or that you have contributed, it will definitely make the interview more interesting.

Priscila Oliveira: I’d like also to share that I truly believe that open source helped me a lot when it came to interviews, and also to get the job that I currently have at Sentry.

Priscila Oliveira: So, how can you become an open source contributor? I’ll just say that you should start by choosing a project that you like and believe in because it has to be enjoyable.

Priscila Oliveira: Read the contributing guideline and project documentation. You mustn’t to read the whole documentation at once, but only parts that you need in the moment.

Priscila Oliveira: Simple pull requests. Do like I did. Just simple tasks at the beginning until you feel more confident to work on something more complex.

Priscila Oliveira: Hacktoberfest. I think that is no better time talk about Hacktoberfest than now because October is already here, knocking on our door. So, this is one event that offers a good opportunities for new contributors. And normally, the projects that participate in this event use the tag good first issue or Hacktoberfest in their issues indicating simple tasks for beginners. By participating, you may also get a new T-shirt. Look, I have this and this T-shirt, and I hope to get a new one this year.

Priscila Oliveira: A common misconception about contributing to open source is that you need to contribute code. But there are several other ways to contribute. As for example, writing maybe could improve the project’s documentation or write tutorials for the project, or help with the translations. Here at Sentry, this is one of the core responsibilities. All our engineers regularly contribute or review our documentation.

Priscila Oliveira: You could also helping people. How? Maybe by answering questions about the project on Stack Overflow or Twitter, for example.

Priscila Oliveira: Sentry, it all started as an open source project. I think a lot of people are familiar with Sentry, the company or the software. What many may not realize is that Sentry is also an open source company that started from a personal frustration from our co-founder David Cramer. Back in 2011, Cramer was frustrated with the lack of exception tracking, so he decided to create his own project using the Django framework. The project was named Django DB log. Since it was open source, at a point many people got interested and involved over time. The project grew and in many communities were created around [inaudible]. The wider community contributions has been code documentation, user experience, et cetera.

Priscila Oliveira: If you are interested in open source and in contributing to Sentry, a good place to start is in our documentation. I’d like to end my presentation by saying contributing to open source can be intimidating at first. But in the end, it’s rewarding.

Priscila Oliveira: So, that’s it. I hope this presentation has inspired you and you have enjoyed it. Thank you. Yes, if you have any questions, any questions please send me here.

Angie Chang: Great. Thank you. Thank you, Priscilla. So, she’s still here. You can chat with her. And now we are going to… oh wait. Before we go to our break out sessions for now, we want to quickly share that we are so happy that Sentry’s partnered with us and that are hiring. They will be hiring for head of customer success, solutions engineering, product marketing and all kinds of engineering.

Angie Chang: So, there’ll be email after this event, which will ask you some questions about ratings for the event. But also, there are some links to the jobs there. So, please check them out or send them to a friend who’s interested. Stay tuned. We will be back and see you again. Have a good day. Bye.

Saloni Dudziak: Bye.

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

CodeSee Girl Geek Dinner – Female Founders of Developer Tools Panel & JavaScript Talks! (Video + Transcript)

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

Transcript of CodeSee Girl Geek Dinner – Panel Discussion:

Angie Chang: I’m glad we are still finding the opportunities to get together and hear from amazing Girl Geeks about what they’re working on. Tonight, we are having a panel of female founders of dev tool startups who will be sharing about their stories and what some industry trends are and really educating us in that space.

Michelle Ufford: Women innately just want to help. We want to help solve other problems in other people and when you’re in dev tools, you get to interact with your customers a lot more than you might be in more of like an external facing product role. I think that there’s a strong opportunity to recruit women to dev tools.

Renee Shah: I love the connection too, between new dev tools and getting more women and under represented groups in the dev tools world. I wouldn’t have thought of that.

Shanea Leven: We need to be able to just support more women in developer tools and there just needs to be a few pioneers to just say that it’s cool!

Marissa Montgomery: You can get started whenever you want, even if you just want to start it as a side project. You don’t really need anyone’s permission. Invest in the people that are cheering for you. I would say go for it if anyone wants to.

Shanea Leven: We just need to say, “This is what we’re doing. Hey people, come join us.” Learn from all you amazing women in what you do and just have some people to say, “Yes, let’s all do this together.”

Angie Chang: And then we’re going to have three JavaScript engineers talk really quickly about some things they’re working on or have worked on.

Karin Goh: A lot of my days definitely spent in Chrome Dev Tools, so I just wanted to share some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way that have really helped me get my job done on a day to day basis.

Palak Goel: Ember.js is an open source free JavaScript client side framework, which helps us in building web applications. There are different kind of other JavaScript frameworks like React and [inaudible] that you might have heard of.

Pearl Latteier: My goal is to answer for you two questions. First, what is a progressive web app? Or PWA as the cool kids say and why might you want to build one?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi, I’m Sukrutha. I am CTO of Girl Geek X, I also work at Salesforce as an engineering manager by day. Super excited for tonight’s virtual dinner, or should I say “dinner” in air quotes, not the virtual part. Obviously, with Covid and everything, we have taken it virtual, but we used to have these in real life. Angie, how does it feel to be doing these virtual dinners?

Angie Chang: It feels good. I’m glad we are still finding the opportunities to get together and hear from amazing girl geeks about what they’re working on.

Angie Chang: Tonight, we are having a panel of female founders of dev tool startups, who will be sharing about their stories and what some industry trends are and really help educating on that space. And then we’re going to have three JavaScript engineers talk really quickly about some things they’re working on or have worked on.

Angie Chang:We are going to move on to the panel portion of the evening, we have four panelists, actually three panelists and Renee who’s going to be our moderator tonight. Renee is a principal at Amplify Partners where she focuses on developer tools and infrastructure startups. She graduated from Harvard and also an MBA from Stanford GSB. Welcome, Renee.

Renee Shah: Hi, guys. It’s great to be here, thank you for having me. Angie, are we ready to kick it off?

Angie Chang: Yes.

Renee Shah: Great. I am so excited to moderate this panel just because we have so many fabulous women on it. Without further ado, I thought that all of our panelists could introduce themselves and talk about their path to becoming CEO.

Shanea Leven: I can go first. I’m Shanea, I am so excited to be here with really great personal friends and people who are inspiring me every single day. I’m the founder and CEO of a company called CodeSee and we are a code comprehension platform that helps professional developers quickly explore, understand, visualize, and reason about their codebases. And we’re just really, really excited to help JavaScript developers really understand, onboard into new codebases, really understand how it works with our new system. We’re really, really excited to be here and chat about our journey. Michelle, why don’t you go next?

Michelle Ufford: Oh, sure. Hello, I am Michelle Ufford. I am the CEO of Notable, which is a early stage start up that is focused on collaborative Jupyter Notebooks for data driven enterprises. I am very excited to be here, this is actually my first talk as a CEO officially. This is going to be fun, thank you.

Marissa Montgomery: Hi, everyone. I’m Marissa Montgomery and I’m the founder of Instantish. We’re building an issue tracker that is for small teams that move quickly and it’s different in two ways. One is that it’s designed for everyone in the company to use, so not just engineers or designers. The second thing is that integrates really closely with Slack. Yeah, also excited to be here, thanks.

Renee Shah: Great. Those are wonderful intros and my first question would be, other than building something meaningful for the world, which all three of you are doing, what do you love most about your day to day?

Shanea Leven: Okay. I get a chance to talk to developers just like everyone here, basically every day. And I get to hear about their problems, I’ve personally experienced their problems. The same problems that we’re solving and as we’re building CodeSee, understanding large scale codebases is exactly what everybody else deals with. I get a chance to not only learn a lot, but just build something that I know that my people need, essentially. That’s probably the most fun.

Michelle Ufford: For me, it’s everything. I feel like I am having the time of my life, living my best life and that sounds cheesy, but it’s true and even the hard days. There’s a lot of long days, a lot of hard things and challenges that come up, but yet it feels different. It feels different because we have built such an amazing team, it’s such an positive environment and it’s really much more focused on problem solving and how can we rather than focused on all the reasons why this might not work. It’s been such an extraordinary experience.

Marissa Montgomery: I feel very much the same way. I just feel very creatively fulfilled every day with what I’m doing. It’s cool because as a CEO, you obviously wear many different hats, like you’re hiring. I code probably three to four days out of the week still, so I really enjoy that. Also, just working with an awesome team and getting to talk to customers is really exciting and inspiring.

Shanea Leven: I think all of us have probably worked at big companies before. I feel like it’s just this really awesome transition to be able to not be at a big company, but then you get a chance to create your own company. It’s a really awesome experience to be a part of that.

Renee Shah: I can imagine. Got what you love and maybe in the opposite fashion, what do you feel like is most misunderstood about being a CEO in dev tools or just an early stage CEO generally?

Shanea Leven: I think, for me it’s a lot about the sales aspect of it. That you don’t just get to code every day, because I get a chance to code and I get a chance to work on the product just as much particularly, at this stage, as any other person in the company. I think that particularly if you’re venture-backed like we are, I actually get a tremendous amount of help often by a lot of people. When we were raising, I texted Renee and Michelle very often. It’s not you have to do all these other things, sure there’s new things that I’m doing like learning about HR, learning about accounting and finance, but those are all just a really great opportunity to learn new things. I think that part is misunderstood, particularly when you’re building a product for your own market. The “selling” part of it is just like you’re just talking to your people, essentially.

Michelle Ufford: I would agree with that. I think that what I did not fully understand was how much of the job is really just communication and translation between your engineers and your potential customers and your investors and your advisors. It’s just a completely different way of communicating and even though I got into a pretty good place, in terms of speaking with engineers and with business leaders. It is very different when you’re trying to do sales calls. The way that you approach it or the types of things that you talk about are very different and you really have to shift and evolve and then yet, still be able to go back and talk to the engineers and business leaders. I think that was something that was unexpected, but has been very positive.

Marissa Montgomery: I would definitely agree with that. It’s a lot of context switching and when I envisioned building a company, I envisioned spending a lot of time just designing and coding with the team, but it’s a lot of communication and finding the people that are most excited about your product and communicating really closely with them and keeping them updated. Also, I was surprised just at how much time hiring and interviewing takes up. Obviously, a super valuable exercise and great use of time, but that was definitely something that surprised me.

Renee Shah: Those are great answers. I wouldn’t have thought about how much selling and hiring and just overall… I thought my cross-functional communication days were Google only, but it sounds like they keep going. Because a lot of the folks on this call are technical and we had some fantastic technical talks, I would be curious what trend everyone is most excited about in the dev tools world that’s upcoming. Marissa, do you want to maybe kick us off?

Marissa Montgomery: Sure. I don’t know if this is a trend or maybe a theme, but I’ve been really excited when I see the blending of the different stages of the engineering life cycle. You’re discussing what work you want to build, you’re creating issues, you’re writing code and then there’s the whole PR and code review process ,and then deploying and monitoring. It’s been really cool to see, there’s the typical concept of linting where while you’re in your IDE editing your code, you have this tool that’s making suggestions that you normally catch in code review, which is a later stage.

Marissa Montgomery: I’ve been seeing a lot of interesting things like that, like design linting and it’s been cool to see GitHub’s code scanning feature as well, which is they scan your codebase, I think it’s opt in, obviously, but they scan your code base for secrets that you might have published publicly which you would have caught much later. It’s kind of cool to see new tools and features that blend those stages together.

Shanea Leven: Michelle, you want to go next?

Michelle Ufford: Sure. For me, I’m a data person, it’s the convergence of the data and machine learning and data visualization with dev tools. I find that really exciting because when I was doing a lot of development work, there was so much stuff that was tedious, it was just the routine stuff or just trying to track down and understand the codebase or all of these things that were tedious and were not really value add to the company. I thought, man I just wish I could get to the cool stuff a lot faster. I see with the convergence of these things and I think of the kinds of dev tools that Marissa and Shanea are building, I think we’re going to see that you get more time to spend on the fun stuff and less time worrying about, why did my codebase break again?

Shanea Leven: Yeah, thanks. I was actually about to mention that I am actually very fortunate to get to ride this trend. As new types of people, women, under represented people, get into engineering, our dev tools need to evolve with it and I get a chance to build a developer tool to help people learn how large scale codebases work, so that we can spend more time building the things that we were meant to be building, as opposed to spending 60% of your time figuring where this line of code is. Actually there are a bunch of startups that are popping up in that space to really help you understand and build features faster and help you understand in a very different way than traditionally you’ve had to understand a codebase because you’re — traditionally, the way that you get it in your head is you read code one line at a time, you hold it in your head, you imagine data as it flows through your system.

Shanea Leven: That just doesn’t work for everybody. I’m excited to solve a problem like that because I’ve personally struggled with that problem of holding whole codebases in my head and I see that as a starting trend as these tools start to merge together. How we add visuals, how we add visualizations and just make it easier for people to comprehend so that we can do our jobs better.

Renee Shah: I love the connection too, between new dev tools and getting more women and under represented groups in the dev tools world. I wouldn’t have thought of that and that’s a nice segue too, of just what do you think we can do to get more women in dev tools? And maybe, Michelle, you can kick us off.

Michelle Ufford: Okay, so I have a theory. You guys tell me if you agree or not. I believe that we actually will see more women in dev tools, we’re seeing a decent surprising amount there, because women innately just want to help. We want to help solve other problems and other people and when you’re in dev tools you get to interact with your customers a lot more than you might be in more of like an external facing product role.

Michelle Ufford: I think that there’s a strong opportunity to recruit women to dev tools, but we need to make sure that we are supportive of them and we are explaining the problem space to them and the opportunity in a way that really resonates for them. I think a lot of this stuff is more like a language barrier, I know I’ve had many conversations with females about what does dev tools really mean and once I explained it to them they’re like, “Oh, that actually sounds more fun than this other stuff that I’m doing.” I think there’s a real opportunity for us there.

Renee Shah: Shanea, what about you?

Shanea Leven: I’m quite prolific in my thoughts. Basically piggy backing on what Michelle said, we need to be able to support more women in developer tools and there just needs to be a few pioneers to just say that it’s cool and it’s really awesome, particularly with dev tools — I think they are basically force multipliers because you enable developers to do something better to enable their end users.

Shanea Leven: We just need more women in Dev Tools. Snowflake had the biggest freaking IPO ever and it’s like, there’s no women there on their founding team. We just need to say, “This is what we’re doing. Hey, people come join us.” Learn from all of you amazing women and what you do and just have some people say, “Yes, let’s all do this together.”

Renee Shah: Totally.

Marissa Montgomery: I would… Sorry. Yeah, I definitely agree. There should definitely be way more women in dev tools. I get really excited when I meet female founders, it’s super exciting to me, all of you. One thing that I think is helpful too is talking about the different between a sponsor and a mentor and I think a lot of people talk about how they think, “Oh, I should mentor this person to help them get to the next stage of their career, to find the confidence to start a company.” And it’s really about sponsoring them. Talking to their manager about the great work they do, putting them up for opportunities. If they’re starting a company, advocating for them when you’re talking to other investors to get funding. Stuff like that.

Michelle Ufford: Can I just add on one more thought? This is just more generally with women in technology and something that I think that we really need to do is, we need to have real honest conversations with our leadership when we’re not happy and be willing to walk away. Being willing to leave that job or leave that team because it’s not a good fit, rather than leaving the industry, which actually might be a good fit if you were on the right team. I think that there’s a lot of people that just feel like, “I’ve got this job, I’ve got this team, I’ve got this project, I’ve made a commitment. I have to see it through.” The reality here is that employment is a two-way street and they need to be treating you well and you need to be performing for them and if one of those pieces is not working, then it’s not the right fit for you.

Shanea Leven: Yes, snaps.

Renee Shah: I love it. I can see in the comments, you’re getting a “well said.” Totally agree with that and I can’t think of a better group of three women to lead the way, especially for female CEOs and just CEO in general, let’s be clear. When I think about early stage startups, I’m also fascinated. You have incumbents that you’re competing with, you have other early stage startups and in dev tools particularly, you have open source projects as well. Which aren’t mutually exclusive from companies, but they’re there. What do you see as the biggest threat to early stage dev tools companies? As leaders, how do you think about mitigating those threats? And maybe, Shanea, you can kick it off for us.

Shanea Leven: Yeah. I think, honestly… Okay, this is going to be spicy. I think that the thing that’s the biggest threat is just the reputation of our industry. A lot of companies do a lot of really shitty things and there’s a lot of things that could be threats. I can talk about the big companies. I’ve worked for the big companies, I’ve worked for Google and all the places, but I think if we don’t do the things that require creating a good business.

Shanea Leven: If we don’t think about our users, particularly in developers, if we don’t think of all of the different types of developers or we aren’t thinking about the people that we’re serving or the teams that we have in our companies and making sure that we support them, that’s the biggest threat to early stage companies. There’s plenty of opportunity, there’s plenty of things left to build.

Shanea Leven: There’s plenty of problems that need to be solved. We need to be able to get a group of people together and support them and make sure that they can live their best lives building solutions for the world and not doing really kind of shitty things to them.

Renee Shah: Yup. Marissa, what do you think?

Marissa Montgomery: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I’d also say, something that came to mind for me was just focus and discipline for companies, but that’s not a threat, like a certain trend or something. Especially with developer ttools, you have so many choices with what stack you use, which services you integrate with and there’s a lot of different things that you could build, but I think it’s important, especially in the early age to simplify that mentor model for the user and really double down on what your product is best at.

Michelle Ufford: I agree with both of those. What I’ve seen is it really comes down to two really big things and there’s a lot of different threats like the team that you build and who you choose as your investor. There’s a lot of potential challenges, but there’s a huge opportunity in the marketplace and what you really need to do is make sure that you are really thoroughly understanding your customers.

Michelle Ufford: You cannot assume that just because it worked at that one company or two companies that you were at, that it’s true of the general industry and so having lots and lots and lots and lots of conversations with potential customers and not even that you’re trying to sell to them. You’re trying to understand the problem space and if this idea that you have really makes sense for them.

Michelle Ufford: And the second piece of this is really making sure that you have a business model that’s going to work and it’s going to scale. I think that a lot of people have these really great ideas, but there’s no really good way to monetize them and if you take that time to think about it up front, you can kind of shift the business in a direction that would be more viable.

Renee Shah: I think those are all great answers. Just doing a lot of up front work and understanding the dev tools industry and being really focused. Awesome, awesome answers. Sort of similarly and piggy backing on that topic, I’m sure a lot of folks on this call would love to be CEO someday. What is the one piece of advice you have for a new founder? And maybe Marissa, you can kick us off.

Marissa Montgomery: Sure. I guess I would just say, you can get started whenever you want, even if you just want to start it as a side project. And you don’t really need anyone’s permission and there’s going to be people early on who try to reduce your idea or dismiss it. Probably more people than are excited about it, but just listen to the people who are excited about it and invest in the people that are cheering for you. I would say, go for it if anyone wants to.

Renee Shah: Michelle, what are your thoughts on being CEO and your advice for new CEOs?

Michelle Ufford: I think trust and transparency go a long way and you need to find partners and advisors and potentially invite those advisors to be investors in the company. If they are people that feel like they are up front and honest and direct with you and people that you can trust just to give you the truth, I think that is so huge to find those right partners. People like Shanea and Renee who have given me advice as we were starting. I think that those things are so incredibly valuable and it makes all of the difference.

Michelle Ufford: The other piece of this is really, don’t try to do it alone. Go and find a network of support and find out people who have done this before because if you pull all of that information, you’re going to find a lot of very common themes and those are really good lessons for you to learn vicariously through others, if you can.

Renee Shah: Yeah.

Shanea Leven: I’ll speak to that. The advice that I would give, because I would say very similarly to what Michelle said. Most of us are really just learning as we go and that’s very similar to if you’re a CEO or you’re a junior dev.

Shanea Leven: In addition to what hasn’t been said, what has really, really helped me besides my support system, it’s reading a lot. I read a lot, I listen to Audible a lot and getting frameworks and getting information in as quickly as possible has really helped me to grow my career and I didn’t just one day decide to be CEO. I kind of stepped up over time and grew over several years until I had the confidence to do it. And the same things that I do today are the same things that I did five years ago.

Shanea Leven: I think that all the things that we’re talking about today, finding your support system, being transparent, actually communicating your needs, are relevant at any stage whether you want to be a CEO today or if you are just getting your first developer job.

Renee Shah: Yeah. I think all of that is well said across the board. You made me think of something, which is just how much content there is out there right now. Whether that’s articles and podcasts and Twitter, and I think it’s an awesome time to learn, particularly in the dev tools space. Very curious what everyone’s favorite thing is, your most helpful thing is to read, whether that’s for company building or just to your domain specifically. Open to recommendations and maybe, Michelle, I’d love to hear your recommendation first.

Michelle Ufford: This is a great question. I don’t have any one source that I go to, in fact I try to aggregate across a variety of sources just so I can make sure that I’m not missing something. I would say some of the ones that I enjoy reading the most would be articles on Medium, taking the time and just liking the stuff that you like and you’ll continue to get good recommendations.

Michelle Ufford:There’s also something called Stratechery, if you’re not familiar with that, and that has been also just something that I really enjoy reading and hearing Ben’s thoughts on it.

Renee Shah: I’m a big Ben Thompson fan as well. I’m right there with you. Shanea, what about you? What’s your favorite thing to read?

Michelle Ufford: She’s muted.

Renee Shah: Oh, yeah I get it. I was in that boat earlier on the panel.

Shanea Leven: I was trying to move my chair and not disturb anyone, so I muted myself. Actually, what I’m reading right now is not related at all to dev tools, so I’m going to share anyway. Unapologetically Ambitious is what I’m reading right now, it’s about… Her name is escaping me, but it was just released. She was a female CEO of color at a tech company. She used to work for IBM, and it’s just about how to be…unapologetically ambitious.

Shanea Leven: I’m not really podcast person because it sounds like talk radio without the music, but my very first podcast that I actually really love is by Bethenny Frankel, she just launched a new podcast [Just B]. She had SkinnyGirl Cocktails and she’s had some pretty amazing people on. Bozoma Saint James from Netflix, CMO Netflix and she’s pretty famous. Mark Cuban was on there and it’s just a really awesome, just fantastic person to listen to, very entertaining while I run. As far as business and how to just live your best self.

Renee Shah: Love it. We all need to be a little bit unapologetically ambitious.

Shanea Leven: For sure.

Renee Shah: Marissa, what’s your favorite thing to read?

Marissa Montgomery: My go to recommendation, it’s kind of a timeless book. It’s High Output Management by Andy Grove and I actually read it once a year, every year. I’m probably due for my re-read. It just has such great advice in it, I especially like the first chapter where it talks about this manufacturing process. I think it’s called the breakfast factory and it’s really cool because it talks about how you assess quality at each step and I think it’s just a great framework for thinking about any sort of process. And then it also has a great section on one on ones and how they’re really under valued as a management tool and it talks about different strategies for how to invest in them. Every once in a while, I’ll still Google some notes and re-read the notes and re-read the book.

Michelle Ufford: Actually, Marissa, you just made me think of another book that I absolutely love, which is called Principles by Ray Dalio. If you’re not familiar with that, that’s just a book that really describes different principles that they use to articulate what the goal is at Bridgewater so everybody has clarity. When you really, truly break it down, it’s like this makes a lot of sense because there’s so much miscommunication in the organization, that by defining your principles up front. Everybody knows, here’s how we’re going to make decisions and here’s how we’re going to operate. Saves a lot of confusion and misunderstandings down the road. If you’ve not read that, I would recommend it.

Renee Shah: I’ve read Principles too and I will +1 that one. There’s a question from the audience, so I want to ask it, which is, “there’s a perception that dev tools should be free, at least for individuals.” I totally agree with that. “How do you tackle it and get your first customers?” Shanea, do you want to kick us off?

Shanea Leven: Yeah. I agree. It’s weird because in order to get customers at all, you have to meet their expectations. If everyone determines that it should be free, then you should have some free component. What we do, what we’re playing around with is our data flow, which is our first visualization, is going to be free. It’ll be based like a credit and usage system that they’ll be an amount of credits that you can use, just try it out, understand what’s going on and then they’ll be features for larger teams and enterprises that features that most individual developers don’t give a crap about. And then those things are things that you pay for. That’s basically how I would tackle it.

Renee Shah: Marissa, what do you think?

Marissa Montgomery: Oh, sorry. The question was about free tools?

Renee Shah: Right. Is there a perception that dev tools should be free and what do you pay for? Is it an open core model, bottoms up?

Marissa Montgomery: Yeah. We have thought about offering a free tier. One thing that we have done until then is we invest in open source projects, which is really just energizing because anyone can contribute and give feedback and ideas. That’s been something exciting. These projects are geared toward solving the larger problem that a lot of our customers face, so it’s kind of like if Instantish can’t address that problem completely right now, at least we can give you these resources or free tools in the meantime. It’s one of our company values, is just generosity. So when you’re doing something, not always thinking about how is this going to directly lead to revenue extremely quickly, it’s more about proving to our customers that we’re on their side and actually trying to solve their problems. Even if that’s doing some free tools. I’m just really excited about open source in general, so definitely wanted to incorporate that.

Renee Shah: Michelle, I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts as well.

Michelle Ufford: I agree. I think that there is certainly a perception that dev tools should be free and I agree with Shanea that they should be up to a point. There is this expectation, but I think that also, we should look at giving away dev tools for free in a different light. Which is that we really need to level the playing field here for small/medium sized businesses. In our case, we’ll be giving away a community edition that’s going to be fully functional Jupyter Notebook that’s very collaborative and it’s meant to be good for a single individual or good for a team and then you can grow all the way up to the enterprise.

Michelle Ufford: When you’re in that single person mode, you usually don’t have a lot of support. You don’t have a lot of understanding from management about why you need to buy these things. It’s not really until you start growing that you’re able to get those types of budgets behind you and then you got other companies that are non-profits or that are small businesses that just don’t have the money or can’t afford it at all. And yet we need to give them the same kind of tools so that they can continue to compete and stay in business.

Michelle Ufford: I’m a strong advocate for open source, I’m a strong advocate for some sort of freemium type of model for a lot of these dev tools or generally just software tools in general.

Renee Shah: It makes a ton of sense. I know we’re about at time, so I was going to get to our very last question, but I want to read a comment from the audience first. Which is, “Marissa, Shanea, Michelle, keep speaking, building excellent companies. You have the right stuff to grow and create.”

Shanea Leven: Aww. We heart you.

Michelle Ufford: Thank you.

Renee Shah: My final question, which I am actually personally dying to know the answer to is that, any tips or tricks to hire and sell? Because I certainly see it with the companies that I work in and I think those are the two of the absolute hardest things to do, particularly at the early stage. I couldn’t think of a better group of people to crack that for us. Michelle, maybe you can start off with your thoughts.

Michelle Ufford: Sure. For both the customer selling and for hiring when you’re in this early stage, it comes down to transparency and spending the time. If you have somebody that is an amazing employee, that’s at some company that it’s a very prominent company and you’re trying to recruit them or just some place that they are that they’re not quite sure that if they want to make that leap, especially in today’s times. You need to give them all of the information so that they can really make an informed decision. It’s not really about pushing them one way or the other, it’s about really laying out your case and saying, “Look, here’s why I think this is a great opportunity. Let’s talk about the company and the company culture. Let’s talk about the team. Let’s talk about the customers. Let’s talk about what this is going to look like in the next year, in the next five years, in the next 10 years.” When you take that time to answer all of their questions and really lay out your case, we’ve been very, very successful with recruiting taking that approach.

Michelle Ufford: Similarly with customers, the same thing. Just being transparent about where we are, what our goals are and trying to find things that are win wins for both of us has been very effective as well. Also, on taking the time with customers, take the time to research them, take the time to read their blog posts or watch their videos or trying to understand the business. If you’re in the super, super early stages and you really need those customers, take the time to personalize your demos. It’s going to take time, but when they look at those demos, it’s going to feel familiar. Now they’re not sitting there trying to understand, what is this all about? They can see things that feel familiar and they can immediately start to grasp the benefit of your product.

Renee Shah: Great tips all around. Especially the piece on personalized demos, that’s one I haven’t heard yet. I’m going to definitely hang on to that in my back pocket. Shanea, what do you think?

Shanea Leven: Funny story, I definitely stole Michelle’s job description. That was the key piece and everybody that we interviewed loves it by the way. I think that it’s our responsibility as people on call that grow into leadership positions to create culture from the beginning and we have had heavy time and energy put into making a good interview process and making sure that it’s fair, making sure that we are bringing in people who are kind, self-aware, who provide good feedback and good communication skills in addition to their tech skills. Because as we decide to grow the company, we want to make sure that we actually walk the walk, is that the phrase? Walk the walk of having an inclusive culture and we have turned down some really awesome people because there has been some red flags in our interview process.

Shanea Leven: Just personally and it’s really, really important to us and I think that that carries over, not just in candidates, but also in our customer calls. The way that we do business, the people that our customers interact with, they can clearly see that we desperately care about our people and really care about the problem that we’re trying to solve and that just makes everything a lot easier, to be honest with you. I think that’s generally kind of the way that I’ve approached things throughout my career, before building a company, if that makes sense. Even on just teams.

Renee Shah: Marissa, what do you think?

Marissa Montgomery: Yeah. I would definitely agree with that. Authenticity goes a long way in showing that you care about your customers. Selling was definitely something that I had to adjust to, I’ve never done it before. I’ve been in engineering all my career, so it was very different and I try to default back to just listening as much as possible. Which is interesting because sometimes I’m really excited about talking about features that we’ve released and things like that. I think just listening to the people that you’re talking to as much as possible is always a good thing.

Renee Shah: +1 to everything, and I see a question. I’m assuming Angie will give me a warning if we’re very over time, but I may just get this one question from the audience so that they can participate too, so actual last question — “would love your insights on pivoting your business. How hard is it when you try to love the problem you are trying to solve?” I’d be curious because I actually don’t know this, but I actually don’t know if any of you have had to pivot, so I will just let the first person, if somebody wants to just chime in.

Shanea Leven: I had to, not necessarily pivot, but because I have experience in products, we did a lot of, “What could we build to solve this problem?” first. And so we initially had an idea and then we pivoted before we built it, which made it a little bit easier. In the event that we talk to our users and we talk to the developers and they were like, “No, this is hella stupid. You shouldn’t build this.” We would have absolutely thrown it out without question and built what is important for them and I will still do that today. Everything that we built, I could probably throw out tomorrow and start again. We just need to make people happy. We just really want to make people happy.

Michelle Ufford: I do think that there’s something to that, do what you love or love what you do and I couldn’t be an astronaut, so I decided to be in dev and to love that and it’s really worked out well for me. It actually was a conscientious choice for me to sit there and say, “This is what I’m going to do. I think this is a great career and I’m just going to really go with everything and really embrace it.” It’s been really great. I think that whenever you’re trying to start a company, you have to have the same mentality. You truly have to love what you’re doing or you’re going to be miserable. If you’re not finding the right problem space or if something doesn’t feel right, I think you just need to continue to try to solve that problem and pivot until you can find something that works for you and for the market and for your customers and as a business model.

Michelle Ufford: The way that I’ve seen it in my experience has been that there’s always a path forward, always. You just need to sit there and take the time to look at it, think about things from different perspectives. If you can’t see it, go talk with others, get their input and see if that opens up your eyes, but I truly believe there’s always a way forward.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, ladies. This was super insightful for me and to everyone else. I’m sure you’ll be able to get a chance to look at the amazing comments that everybody had to share. Thank you all.

Angie Chang: Why don’t we get right to it? Our first lightning talk is from Karin, who is a Senior Software Engineer at Salesforce and she graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Computer Science and minored in Human Rights. We’re really excited to welcome her to give a quick lighting talk, so welcome.

Karin Goh: Hi. Let me share my screen. Cool. I’m Karin, I’m a Software Engineer at Salesforce, where I’ve been doing front end web development for about two and a half years. A lot of my day is definitely spent in the Chrome Dev Tools, so I just wanted to share some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way that have really helped me get my job done on a day to day basis. For those of you who aren’t really familiar with what the Chrome Dev Tools are, it’s sort of like a browser in built IDE that allows you to explore everything that’s on your page. This is everything from the DOM to your source code to all the network requests that are going out among a lot of other cool things.

Karin Goh: I’m just going to jump straight into a demo. This is a super simple web page that I have. It’s just a bunch of inputs and some buttons and it’s sort of like a calculator, except instead of adding numbers, we’re adding strings based on these different inputs. For example, if I take these two things and I hit this build query button, we get some output. Straight off the bat, it looks a little suspicious because we’ve hit na here and eu, but we’re seeing two na’s. What I would do from here is I would open up the Chrome Dev console and you can either do that by doing command shift I or what I personally usually end up doing, is right clicking and hitting inspect.

Karin Goh: Now that I have this open, I can use this nifty little tool and sort of explore all the different elements on my page and so what I usually like to do is select the button that did the thing that looks incorrect. If we look down here, we can also see the console and some suspicious looking things and you can actually just click straight on these things and it’ll take you to that line of code and you can easily see what’s happening. In case you have a lot of things, for example, there’s just a lot of noise because I clicked the button a lot of times, you can actually filter this. And this is really helpful because you can just really filter by type or even by source file. If you’re working in a large codebase, you probably have way more than just the one file and you can see exactly where your console logs are coming from.

Karin Goh: But back to the bugs that we’re trying to figure out. In this case, I know there’s only one file so it’s definitely somewhere in this demo.html file, but if you’re new to a team or you’re new to the code, you might not know where to look to actually fix this bug. What I like to do is I actually, again, like to go to the button and I think a really easy way to figure out where the code is, is if you go over to this event listeners tab you can actually see a whole list of all the event listeners on something. In this case, I just have a simple click function and I can jump straight to the code. Then from here, what I would do, is I would stick a break point in, and you can do that just by clicking on the line number. You can also make this a conditional break point.

Karin Goh: Other things you can do are adding logs, so if you don’t have a console.log statement, but you want one, you can actually do that straight in the console here. I’m going to go ahead and click this button and now we can see that our debugger is paused. From here, we have some pretty basic IDE functions, so I’m just going to go ahead and step into my code. Now we see a whole bunch of stuff appear. These are all my variables and my local scope, this is pretty badly written code so there’s a lot of things here and they’re pretty poorly named, but we’ll just go with it. You can also see the call stack.

Karin Goh: Again, this is really simple code, but if you’re working in a more complex code base, this becomes really helpful because you can just jump around and it’ll take you straight to that line of code and it’ll open up the file so you know exactly where it is. We’re going to just jump ahead and now we’re trying to figure out why it says na twice instead of the expected eu. Again, this is pretty trivial code, you could probably eyeball it, but you could also just step through it and what I like to do personally, is add these watch expressions. You can actually see the variables down here, but obviously there’s a lot here and I know that can become pretty overwhelming. If I know I’m looking for something in particular, I’ll just go ahead and add it up here.

Karin Goh: In this case, I want index list. There’s also a console down here, so theoretically you could type what you want to look at every time you step over a line of code, but that becomes pretty inconvenient if you’re really stepping over a lot of code. You can also hover, there’s a lot of ways to view the same information and there’s definitely easier ways and harder ways, but there’s a lot of ways. This is sort of how I would begin to approach a bug if I had one, just looking at all these different things, looking at what’s happening with variables, stepping through code, stepping through my call stack. That’s sort of just an introduction of what you can do there.

Karin Goh: One quick thing I want to show, also, is sort of how you can play with these DOM elements and style them straight in your browser. From here, you can actually just drag and drop your elements in case you want to see what it looks like somewhere else. You can also pop over to styles and you can do CSS straight in there. For example, if I want to change the color of the button, you can see here it’s green now and I can just sort of play around and it’ll immediately update. You can also update classes or edit HTML. There’s really just a bunch of really powerful stuff you can do straight in the browser so that you don’t have to keep going back and forth between your IDE and the browser. You can also force state, so this is helpful if there’s something that’s only happening when you’re hovering.

Karin Goh: And there’s definitely a lot of really cool things to explore in the Chrome Dev Tools console. If you haven’t already, I would highly encourage everyone to explore all the different tabs, all the different buttons. They also like to hide things in the little things, so just definitely look around. There is lots of neat things you could do. Hopefully that was a good introduction and you learned something and you’ve all been inspired to use the Chrome Dev Tools more. If you have any questions, you can ping them in the Zoom chat or you can connect with me in LinkedIn. Thanks.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you, Karin. That was awesome. Our next speaker.

Palak Goel: All right. The topic of today’s session is UI automation with Ember.JS. Before I talk about testing what exactly is Ember.JS? Ember.JS is an open source free JavaScript client side framework, which helps us in building web applications. There are other different kind of other JavaScript frameworks like React and [inaudible] that you might have heard of. A very important aspect of development is that we want to make sure that every time we are bringing light to the production, the existing functionality is working as is. There are no regression bugs introduced and in order to do so, either we maintain a manual checklist and execute those test cases every time we are going live or we’ll be a little smart and use all those online infrastructure and tools that are open source and automate these test cases.

Palak Goel: Talking about testing. Ember provides three types of test out of the box, unit, integration and acceptance. Unit test actually forms the foundation of your test suite. Whenever you are writing tests to actually test the method, you’re actually writing test to test your code, those kind of tests they fall into category of unit test. An example is like, you might have a function in your [inaudible] which is taking a string import and string has comma separated numbers and after taking that as an import it is stripping the numbers on the string and returning the sum.

Palak Goel: If your unit is like a lot of possible combinations around this method that you can have. Like the import can be empty string or that import of the string can have decimal numbers or fluid numbers or it doesn’t have numbers at all. If you’re actually testing your method with various combinations, those kind of tests they would fall into category of unit test. If anywhere you create unit [inaudible] like model or [inaudible], adapters in your web app and Ember auto generates the file for you.

Palak Goel: You would have to definitely build those test cases on that. Talking about the integration category. Whenever you’re developing a web app, you will be adding component to your applications. An example is like, your web app can contain an image tile where you click on the image and it enlarges and you click again on that image and it restores back to its normal size. If you’re having test cases around a component, a single entity, those would be categorized under integrational rendering test.

Palak Goel: The code category application or the acceptance test, they actually refer to test where you are actually mimicking the user interaction where you are actually mimicking the user story and automating that as your test case. I’m going to give you an example of how can we add an acceptance test case. I have this web app in my local, it’s a super simple web app, it has Super Rentals home page and there is about and contact. You click on about, it’s going to land you on about page. You click on contact, there’s contact page. On Super Rentals home page, you can see the listings of a few different properties.

Palak Goel: Let me tell you the source code is available online on GitHub, so in case you want to explore it after the session, feel free to download the source code and explore it for yourself. Here is the source code for this app and this is where test resides. There is this folder called test and as I mentioned that there are three categories, unit, integration, and acceptance to categorize the test. Let’s try real quick automating a scenario where if a user types about, we want to make sure that he lands into the URL is about and that this about page gets [inaudible] and let’s say that it’s this contact us button on this particular page.

Palak Goel: How would we automate that scenario? First things first is that under acceptance test you would have to create a test file. Either you can create via manually new file or you can use the power of EmberCLI that gets installed when you set up Ember on your end. You would have to install it explicitly. We’re just going to run this command. It’s a simple, simple command which is going to create a file for you. I named my test file as about. You could name it anything you want. This is how the test file got created with a boiler plate called [inaudible] into it. I want to explain these three statements that we have in our record and so the first thing is importing the [inaudible] Q unit. Q unit is the actually test framework that comes by default with Ember.JS.

Palak Goel: There other testing frameworks that are available in market you can use it too, but this one is default. What it does is like you see that there is a third method, this third method has support from Q unit. There are other things that Q unit support is like organization of test, maybe you want to label your test or you want to skip your test. All those organization of test cases, all that support, you can get that from Q unit. The second package that we’re importing over here is Ember test helpers, this is a super important package because it provides you support to mimic all those user interactions that I talked about.

Palak Goel: For example, you want to mimic a click event in your test, that click event comes from this Ember test helper package. A really important point about this is that this package makes sure that whenever an event is run, all these events are asynchronized, so whenever these events are run, it makes sure that Ember is returned into it’s synchronized state. Before execution under the step after the event would make sure that even that has currently been executed is completed. There is a promise that is being returned and then only you move to executing another line. This particular set of line set of application test is helping and [inaudible] the application instance and all these interaction helpers that I just talked about in Ember test helpers.

Palak Goel: You get this test case and what this test is doing is it is just visiting this about URL and making sure that the current URL is this one like /about. You can add test case further and you can just make sure that, as I mentioned we want to automate the scenario where contact us button is getting rendered on this particular page. I have this code already, I’m going to just copy paste it to right [inaudible]. What this set of code is doing is it is finding the DOM element, which is referring to contact us button, this is the CS selector for this particular button and once it finds a button, it is clicking on this particular button. Once you click on it, it is going to navigate user to this particular link so we can add in a solution for that also that user gets navigated to the current URL after the button is clicked is getting in touch.

Palak Goel: One more thing is like the current URL, this support is also again coming from Ember test helper and it is asynchronous helper. This supports both synchronous and asynchronous. Since I’m using this click, I would have to mention that we that we are… We have just created a simple test case where we are trying to automate that if user lands on this about page, there is this particular button and if he clicks on contact us button, he gets to getting in touch page. Now, before I wrap my session up, let’s see how can we run the tests. There is this particular command and where tests are [inaudible], this is going to spend the server [inaudible] and all those test cases that are here in my project are going to run.

Palak Goel: Just going to execute this command and the support for this particular command also comes from CLI. This is how the test server looks like and imagine I had 28 tests including all integration, acceptance, and unit test cases. They all ran in a few milliseconds. If you notice that I have this set of code where I’m mentioning them with you, this helps in actually scoping of your test cases. If you do not want to run all your test cases and you just want to filter out by a particular [inaudible], you can just click it from here and then maybe just apply it just to run the particular test file. That’s what I had, I’m going to wrap my session up now, but let me tell you whatever I just said, it’s very preliminary information, but I hope this can act as a primer and everything that I showed you is open source.

Palak Goel: It’s there on GitHub, the source code file at Ember is open source. You just go ahead and download the source code and install Ember at your end and keep exploring. That’s it.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: We’re going to hand over the mic to Pearl next. Pearl, I’m going to do your intro. Pearl is a Senior Front End Developer at Propeller Health in Wisconsin Madison. Welcome, Pearl.

Pearl Latteier: Thank you. What a fantastic panel. I was really thrilled to be able to hear your experiences.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Can see your screen and we can see your video and hear you so go ahead and get started.

Pearl Latteier: All right. Well, I’m thrilled to be here and thrilled to have just heard that fabulous panel. Let me get started here. My name’s Pearl, I work at a digital health company in Madison, Wisconsin, so a couple hours difference, so it’s almost my bedtime. I won’t doddle. Whoops, sorry. Technical difficulties.

Pearl Latteier: In the next five to seven minutes my goal is to answer for you two questions. First, what is a progressive web app, or PWA, as the cool kids say, and why might you want to build one? I’m not going to talk about how to build one, there’s no code in this presentation. We don’t have time for that, but I’ll point you to some resources to get started.

Pearl Latteier: What is a PWA? A PWA is a website, this website that I’m showing you is a PWA. It’s also the site for a conference that I’m organizing, so you can take a look at that later. But getting back on track, a PWA is a website that can act like a native mobile app in some important and interesting ways. For instance, a PWA is installable. Here’s an image of that website that I showed you installed on my laptop and you can see it looks like any other app that you would have installed. You can also install a PWA on your device’s home screen, it will live like any other app you’ve got on your phone in a little icon and when you click the icon, it will expand without the browser Chrome around it.

Pearl Latteier: It will display just like any other app will display. Not only is it installable, but PWAs work offline and this work offline stuff is super important. This brings us to the heart, really to the magic, of the PWA. The superhero of the PWA is the service worker. A service worker is a web worker, like Spider-Man, but unlike Spider-Man it’s written in JavaScript and it acts as kind of a proxy between your web app and the network. In our normal day to day, our web applications interact directly with servers on the network.

Pearl Latteier: You can drop a service worker in there that can mediate those interactions. Service workers can intercept network requests and this means that some pretty cool things can happen. For example, say your web app makes a request to a server and you’ve got a service worker, the service worker could see that request, pass it onto the server and then when the server responds, the service worker can take whatever assets are in that response. Images, data, HTML, CSS, it can take those assets and tuck them in its cache. The service worker has it’s own cache and it can put assets there and then the next time it receives the same request, the service worker could say, “Oh, well I already have the assets that I need to respond.” So it can just respond with the assets in the cache.

Pearl Latteier: And that’s pretty huge, that means that your application can respond to a request without making a round trip to the network. It can even respond when there is no network access at all. I think that this is super exciting, I think the implications of this are pretty huge. A service worker can make your web application super reliable, regardless of network connectivity, and it can also make your web application super fast. Because the service worker can serve assets from the cache without having to make the round trip to the network, it can load almost instantly if it has the assets it needs in the cache.

Pearl Latteier: Even if you don’t really care about installability, a progressive web app can really help you have great performance. I think that’s pretty cool, right? This is just only scratching the surface. Service workers aren’t the only tech involved in progressive web apps and there’s a lot more that service workers can do. But enough about service workers, let’s talk about you. Should you build a PWA? PWAs aren’t the solution to every problem. For instance, if you need to interact with device APIs that aren’t supported by browsers, then it would make a lot more sense for you to make a native app.

Pearl Latteier: But if your use case allows it, a PWA can be a great alternative to a native app. First it’s a lot cheaper and easier to make one web application than multiple mobile apps plus a website. And in addition, if you’re a web developer rather than a native developer creating a PWA is working with a completely familiar web stack. It’s HTML, JavaScript, CSS. Even if your target isn’t mobile and using the progressive web app techniques can make any web application quicker, more reliable, and installable and all together more awesome. There are lots of resources out there for getting started. These are a few that I would recommend, I would start with the free course on Udacity. It’s a good course and a great place to start. If you have any other questions about resources or anything else, we can do what a good service worker would do and take it offline. Thank you.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, Pearl.

Angie Chang: We are now going to roll into breakout sessions. We’re going to get off the Zoom and go to a Zoom meeting where the breakout sessions can commence. We’re going to have girl geeks in groups of four to six. This is the feedback we got last time, which is that people like to meet in small groups so we’re going to be doing that! Just follow the link in the chat, it’s also in your email that you received when you signed up for this event. So we will just click on that and head over and meet you at that Zoom meeting. Which is again, the link in the email that confirmed this event at about 5:00 Pacific Time. I’ll see you on the other side!

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Confluent Girl Geek Dinner Lightning Talks & Fireside Chat (Video + Transcript)

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Transcript of Confluent Girl Geek Dinner – Lightning Talks:

Angie Chang: We have people joining us. Very exciting. Let’s just catch up, Sukrutha.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi.

Angie Chang: Hey, good to see you.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Good to see you, as well. Happy Sunday.

Angie Chang: I feel when we were talking about this Confluent, I’m like, “There’s a confluence of events.” We have the pandemic and now we have these California wildfires, and we’re all set to run at any moment, but we’re all here and we’re really excited to host this event with all of these amazing Girl Geek speakers. First of all, I wanted to first talk about why it is so important, and it means so much for women to be speaking about their expertise. When we started Girl Geek dinners, about 12 years ago, we were just so thrilled to have all of these women speaking on stage at places like Google and Facebook, and talking about their expertise, whether it was product design, product management, engineering, venture capital, entrepreneurship. We kept getting all these requests to have more of these events over and over again. Here we are, in 2020, hosting over 250 events, at over 150 companies. Since the pandemic has started, we’ve taken our events online, and we are so thrilled to be able to continue to do this work of bringing amazing women on screen, sharing their expertise and the challenges that they face in the workplace.

Angie Chang: Because as we know in the tech leaver study that the Kapor Center ran, the reason why women and underrepresented people leave tech is because they feel that there is a bias or there is some unfairness. We want to help people understand, and level the playing field so that they can succeed and they can continue to be awesome in the workforce, and with the help of a community. That’s really what we are. We have over 23,000 women now on our mailing list, who are excited to go to events like this and continue to support each other, and share what we learn so that we can help people who are earlier in their career. We don’t always mean earlier as when you’re out of college or anything, but I feel there are so many women that we talk to, who are trying to get back to the workplace after having a kid or two, or care taking responsibilities, and want to help be able to give these women a pathway and inspiration, and connections to make that step, and continue to work in this industry that we love, that’s called tech.

Angie Chang: It’s also super interesting because there’s so many types of job titles. I didn’t know until going to all these events that there were titles like—When I met Sukrutha, she was a software engineer in test. I was like, “Tell me about your awesome job of yours.” Now, she’s an engineering manager. It’s been a super interesting ride to learn so much. I think now, it’s 6:03, so hopefully everyone has joined us. It is our first… This is our second Confluent Girl Geek Dinner. We are so excited to have all of you here. My name is Angie Chang, I am the founder of Girl Geek X. It was formerly known as Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners. Over the years, we have actually expanded what we do beyond dinners, to podcasts, to our annual conference, to all of these different initiatives that we’re actually going to be talking about later. First of all, I’ll introduce Sukrutha.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi. Thanks Angie. Hi, everyone. I’m Sukrutha, like Angie said. Girl Geek Dinners and now Girl Geek X, the goal is to bring us all closer together, and this is more important now with the pandemic, with all.. I would say, living at work, not even working from home anymore. We have difficult situations, all of us, where we’re not white boarding or in a conference room, and so that opportunity that we would have otherwise had, where we would have been able to network with people within our company, or even across companies, is getting harder and harder. The availability of opportunities, or the visibility of it, reduces when you don’t meet and talk to other people. This is why we’re excited that we’re able to even live in a world where we can do a lot of what we already were doing, virtually. We encourage you to get your companies to sponsor a Girl Geek, a virtual Girl Geek dinner, because with all the craziness of the week, you want to disconnect, and you want to be able to meet other people who are like you.

Sukrutha Bhadouria:That’s the feedback we would oftentimes get from people who would come to their events. They would tell us that it was such a great escape. They would come to these events, meet other cool people, and then feel energized and charged to go back and ask for what they need to do to get that next promotion, and get that next raise, and learn tactics on how to deal with the glass ceiling, or the sticky floor, or the broken rung, or whatever challenges that they might be facing. One of the big topics that keep coming up is the fact that we don’t always notice opportunities because we just don’t even know about them. Sometimes people are often offered opportunities just because they are the first person someone thinks of just because they’re right in front of them. These are things that we definitely deal with through all of our events. Before we go any further, Angie and I always ask this question. Who’s attending a Girl Geek dinner for the first time? Please comment in the chat below if this is your first dinner, virtual or not. We’d love to know.

Angie Chang: Also, we want to do a roll call, see where everyone’s dialing in from today. Berkeley, California here.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. I’m dialing from San Francisco.

Angie Chang: Cool. I see people from the Bay Area. People were texting me talking about packing up their cars and getting ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Thank you for hanging in there with us.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I’m seeing some interesting locations. Mexico City, Sydney, Singapore. Wow. I’m loving this. This is awesome. Auckland, New Zealand. The chats are going so fast I’m doing my best. I’m not a girl, that’s okay we welcome everyone.

Angie Chang: For sure. We do Girl Geek Dinners because we want to give women the opportunity to be on stage as speakers at these events, but they are attended by everybody. We like our allies, and we’re very inclusive at the end of the day. South Korea, thank you for joining us.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Oh, that’s awesome. We’re getting more and more people telling us where they’re from. This is so fascinating to me, to see how the minute we go virtual, we’re able to reach more people, which is part of why we wanted to do our annual conference virtually. That’s why we dropped the tag Bay Area in the first place, because we were going way beyond the Bay Area at that point. Someone’s talking about how their car is packed and ready to evacuate if needed. Good luck and stay safe, everyone. Angie, what’s on your mind right now? Besides the wildfires and the pandemic and the heat.

Angie Chang: Actually, Sukrutha and I have been chatting, she’s been itching to apply to be a Tech Fellow. I looked into the opportunity and I was, “Sukrutha, it’s perfect for you. We could come up with a great talk for you.” At the same time, we get so many Girl Geeks who come to us, really excited to become speakers, who want to be able to share their story, figure out their own narrative, and to be able to be established as an expert or a leader, or a speaker. We’re actually putting together, right now, the beginnings of a program that will be launching this Fall, that we’re piloting for small groups of women who are like minded and with similar goals, to meet several times to help each other get to that next level, and create that narrative and establish those goalposts, so that they can go toward it and have accountability buddies. Stay tuned for that, we’re really excited. Let us know via email or Twitter, if you are interested in this. This is something that we are planning on announcing in the next month, so stay tuned.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Angie and I were also talking about how, for me, I was consistently… Initially, I would have that one goal, and then I would go after it and then I would have this void. It was really important to me to continuously move the goalposts that I had in the first place, but also appreciate the one that I just accomplished. Think about that, think about your goals, but also appreciate how far you’ve come. Oftentimes, I feel once I passed the goal, I’m like, “Oh, that wasn’t that hard.” And I discount it, but it’s pretty impressive every time you look back to see how far you’ve come. Don’t forget to do that in respect to that regard, too.

Angie Chang: For sure. We are actually going to have to move on to tonight’s Confluent Girl Geek speakers. We have an exciting night of women giving lightning talks and then a fireside chat. Stay tuned for that. Our first speaker is Anna McDonald. She is going to… Sorry. Anna McDonald has over 20 years of experience, and she will be speaking tonight to us about how popular and necessary event streaming has become.

Anna McDonald: Hi, everyone. I’m going to go ahead and share my own screen here. All right. How’s that looking? Good?

Angie Chang: Looks great.

Anna McDonald: All right. Excellent. I’m here, I’m going to talk about event streaming in seven minutes or less. Hopefully, people will time me because I timed myself and I made it three out of four times. I am a customer success technical architect at Confluent. Hello. There we go.

Anna McDonald: Prior to this, I was a principal software developer at SAS Institute for 16 years, which is a super long time for most people to stay at one job. Then I met Kafka two years ago, I like to talk about her like it’s a person, but it’s not, I know that. I’m well aware. I’m working on it. And decided to work on it full time at Confluent. I’ve been here for almost a year, and I love it. I could not love it any more.

Anna McDonald: Other things about me, I love event streaming, integration architecture, and I take horrible photos. I like this slide because I just want anyone else out there who also takes horrible photos to know you’re not alone. That’s about me.

Anna McDonald: The way that I want to run this presentation is, we’re going to start and talk about three of the most popular patterns in event streaming. Then we’re going to talk about how you might bring that into your organization. And then we’re going to talk about once you’ve decided to do that, and you know what events to track, what goes into an event in terms of a schema. What’s important to track, no matter what. Let’s get started.

Anna McDonald: The first event pattern that’s pretty popular is event notification. And that’s where you just kind of throw out an event and that’s it, you’re done. This could be something like, “Hey, an address got updated.” Or, “Hey, an order was placed.” Maybe there’s something in your organization that you need to do every time someone places an order, no matter what. It’s very simple. It’s easy. It’s a great first step for eventing, and this is one of the main ways people get started into events.

Anna McDonald: The next one is event carried state transfer. That’s where you go one step further and you say something like, “Okay, I’m not only going to tell you that an address was changed, but I’m going to give you enough information about that change to let people downstream update, maybe a local cache, or a steet store.” That really becomes a more valuable event. Then the third one that people talk about quite often is event sourcing. Event sourcing is very, very wonderful, and very, very complex. It’s not a good fit for everybody. It basically comes down to tracking every single change that’s ever happened to an entity.

Anna McDonald: The way to know if you’re doing it is, is your state optional. However your application is maintaining state. Can you blow that away and then rebuild it from an event store? If you can’t, you’re not fully event sourced. This can be great if you want to time travel. Me, for example, I would love to time travel back to March 13th, before the pandemic ended, and maybe play out these things a little differently. That would be good. Maybe, I’m thinking. In an organizational setting, a lot of times people want to do things like, “Hey, let me test this new model for energy pricing, or demand, or on older data and see if we can make it more accurate.” If you need to do things like that, event sourcing might be for you.

Anna McDonald: What do you do now that you say, “Okay, well I want to bring a eventing into my space.” There are three things that I recommend everybody does. One, know the events that matter. Nothing is more important than being prepared. Don’t ever just dive in. There’s something, it’s a process called event storming. It’s where you get together with all your lines of business and you say, “Okay, I know that most of us care about addresses. We need them to do our jobs. We want to know and what states we’re doing well. What else do we care about? And what do we need to know to act on it?” You get everybody together, you decide what events are important. They should be things in plain English, again. And then you can act from there. The second is to know your systems. If you don’t know where these things happen, you’re going to fail. It’s not very valuable to track orders placed 50% of the time. You need to make sure you understand what systems these events occur in.

Anna McDonald: Then here’s my next most important capture, broad categories of events. Don’t be narrow. If somebody says, “Look, we have a new mandate. And that mandate says, we got to know every time an order is placed in Italy.” Grab every order, every time an order is placed. You can filter later downstream if you need to, to just have orders from Italy. If you’re going to go ahead and do that work, make sure you make it count. Always grab a big categories. Once you have this wonderful stuff, and you know, “Oh, I want to event. This is how I’m going to do it. This is what’s important to my organization.” What does that event look like? This is a common question I get asked all the time. What should go in an event? I will tell you, right now. One of them is the name. You have to have a name for your event, that’s just common sense, don’t be silly. It should be something in plain English, like I said, or plain whatever language that you want to communicate in. It doesn’t have to be English. It could be any language, but the name should be order placed, address updated, something that makes sense.

Anna McDonald: The next is event production time. Here’s where it’s going to get just a little bit complex. There’s absolutely no guarantee that the system that throws this event, is the system it happened in. That would be way too restrictive. There are patterns like derivative events where you can derive events from change data capture from a database, so there’s no guarantee that a decoupling hasn’t occurred, that you’re going to need to know what time the event was produced, as opposed to what time the event actually happened. There could be a disconnect there, and both are really important things to track.

Anna McDonald: The next is source systems. I really dig legacy applications, more to the point, I really dig killing them and retiring them, and having people get to work on new fancy employable things. I like to call the source system an old evil application. I also like dinosaurs. Then, event creation system. Again, the system that created the event might not necessarily be the same system it was thrown it. Then your detail block. This is going to be what makes that event storming all worth it. You’re going to have the information that you need to make these events valuable, to multiple lines of business. They’re all going to love it. “This is just fantastic. I’m so happy. That’s it. Time. I think I made it. Now, I’m done. Thanks, everybody.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi. That was awesome. Thank you. All right. Thank you so much, Anna. That was really insightful. I want to introduce our next speaker, Leslie Kurt. Leslie joined Confluent as a field engineer and will share how through self exploratory and networking, pivoted her career path to product management. Welcome, Leslie. This is definitely a talk a lot of us, we definitely want to hear how you can move from one role to the next. I know product management is something that a lot of people are interested in. It will be fascinating to learn how Leslie’s navigated and adjusted that way. A lot of good comments for Anna. People commenting on how exciting and interesting your doc was, Anna. Welcome, Leslie.

Leslie Kurt: Welcome. Thank you for having me, as well. One second. I’m trying to get the screen to share. Does that look all right?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, looks good.

Leslie Kurt: Awesome. Well, hello everyone. I am Leslie Kurt and I am a product manager here at Confluent. A little bit about my background. I have worked at two different companies, and I’ve had two different roles at each company. My bio really tees up my presentation today, as I will be talking about how to navigate an internal career transition. Specifically, I’m going to talk about my most recent internal career transition, where I moved from a sales engineer to a product manager role here at Confluent.

Leslie Kurt: First off, I want to provide a little context and background as to what motivated my internal transition. Both times that I made a career transition it was based on what day to day activities made me the happiest at the end of the day. Throughout my career, I have periodically and consistently checked in and asked myself the following questions. What makes me happy? What do I want to learn? What am I good at? What challenges me?

Leslie Kurt: Every couple of months, I would sit down and write down all the projects, interactions, tasks, that answer these questions for me. As I started to compile this list over time, I realized that this list of things really answered the question of what career path should I take for me?

Leslie Kurt: If I think back to where I was about a year ago today, I recall some of the things that helped lead me to want to make this transition from sales to product. I had learned that I really liked talking to customers, and working with new technologies. I knew that one of my strengths was my empathy, and advocating for customers. I knew that I liked solving problems and figuring out how to make a solution work for a customer, but I was also really interested in improving the product and how to influence the direction of the product to improve the experience for the customer.

Leslie Kurt: I also knew that I missed building things from back when I was a software engineer, and I wanted to figure out a way to incorporate that back into my day to day. As I looked at these individual pieces, I realized that these types of activities described the day to day role of a product manager. I realized that it might be time for a career transition.

Leslie Kurt: Before I made any rash moves to change my career path, I wanted to make sure that this was the right move for me. I decided to dip my toes in the product manager pond. I did this by finding more ways to interact with the product managers in my company.

Leslie Kurt: When a new product was released, I would reach out to the PM who had launched that product, and ask them questions on what it took to build that product, what types of decisions and trade offs they made, and what their role was in the release. I even collected some customer feedback from some of our different products and presented it to a few product managers to try to put myself in their shoes and see if this was the right role for me.

Leslie Kurt: After observing, and even trying out some of these day to day activities of a product manager, I reflected on the experiences I had had. I sat down again and asked myself the same four questions from before. What makes me happy? What do I want to learn? What am I good at? What challenges me? It was also important, at this point, for me to reflect on if I wanted to make the transition within Confluent, or if I wanted to join another company. For me, I really loved the company culture here at Confluent and the direction I could see the product going. 

Leslie Kurt: I also had a good understanding of the culture of the product team here. I could see myself fitting in well with that team. After reflecting, it became pretty clear to me that this role, product management, was what completed my puzzle, and that I knew that I wanted to stay at Confluent. So I decided to make moves towards an internal transition.

Leslie Kurt: The first thing that I did was talk to my manager. This wasn’t and isn’t an easy conversation, but I knew that transparency was key when navigating an internal transition. A few tips in bringing up this conversation are, one, expressing interest early. As I was dipping my toes in the product manager pond, I let my manager know that I liked working closely with product management. I liked completing this feedback loop between our customers and the product team.

Leslie Kurt: Second, is that internal transitions are beneficial to the company. My experience on the sales team would help provide a unique and valuable perspective to the product team. Third, it was important for me to reassure my manager that having a seamless transition was a priority to me and that I was willing to put in the work to ensure that the team was left in good hands.

Leslie Kurt: Now that I had talked to my manager, it was time to reach out to my network within Confluent and express interest for the new role. But after expressing interest, I realized that it was also important to be patient. With internal transitions, timing was everything.

Leslie Kurt: My goal was to put myself out there so that if and when an opportunity arose, I would be the first person they would consider for a job. After a period of time, I was lucky enough that a position opened up. I went through the application and the interview process, just like any other candidate. I will caveat that interviewing for a position with coworkers you already work closely with is a bit strange, but all in all, it went well. I was offered the job.

Leslie Kurt: Now, it was time to figure out how to make the transition seamless. I had promised my manager that was a priority for me, and it was. One thing that helped me a ton in this process was having a hard stop on my role as a sales engineer and a clear start date for my role as a product manager. I wanted to provide my best self to both teams. I realized that I couldn’t have one foot in both roles and still provide my best work. I negotiated a start date that would provide me enough time to wrap up loose ends and train my replacement on the sales side so that when I started my first day on the product team, I could really hit the ground running and devote all of my attention to the new role in my new team.

Leslie Kurt: One problem I had not foreseen was the difficulties I would have adjusting to the new role. Over the last two years, I had known myself as, and other people had known me as a sales engineer. Then, one day, thanks to my hard transition date, I showed up and was now a product manager. I found myself continuing to play the sales role, just now, on the product team. I thought like a sales engineer. I asked sales questions, and I was constantly putting myself back in my old role. While this was a potentially valuable perspective on my new team, it was not allowing me to embrace the new role. I realized that I really had to reframe the way that I thought about problems, so I watched other PMs on my team and how they thought about problems, phrased questions, et cetera, in order to reprogram my brain for the new role.

Leslie Kurt: Lastly, internal transitions are not easy. I could not have done it alone. I was extremely fortunate to have many coworkers and friends, willing and available to provide me advice, guidance, and reassurance during this process. So thank you to Brandalyn Powell, who had navigated an internal career transition at Confluent before me and provided endless advice on how to navigate the transition. Thanks to Dani Traphagen, who was a mentor to me from day one at Confluent, and has continued to be a mentor to me after the transition. Thanks to Larry McQueary, who was my sales engineering manager, for being supportive in helping me pursue the career that I wanted, and to Mike Agnich, who really helped me navigate the product management process and transition. With that, thank you, everyone, for listening. It’s been a pleasure to speak with you all today.

Angie Chang: That was really great, Leslie. That was, I think, really illustrative of how someone can advocate for the role that they want and then get the right help that they need to get there. We had some questions about, for example, how would you advise a Girl Geek on finding the support within the company, or, if not within her company, if her manager says no, how can this person still be able to gain the skills that they need to become a product manager or a different job?

Leslie Kurt: Yeah. I think when I was looking for people to provide advice and mentorship during the internal transition, I looked for, one, mentors that I’d already had in the company. I think building those up from the day that you start is important so that you have them available to you when you need some guidance. The other thing I did was, I looked for other individuals within Confluent who had actually gone through the process before so that I could really understand the inner workings within Confluent and what that process looked like.

Angie Chang: Cool. Awesome. Thank you so much. We’re going to move on to our next speaker, Victoria. For anyone, who’s curious, please use our Q&A feature. It is a little button down below that says Q&A. You can ask a question to our speakers. You can upvote them so that we get the best questions out of the crowd, and we can ask the speaker for you. Let’s see, where is Victoria?

Victoria Xia: Awesome.

Angie Chang: Great.

Victoria Xia: Let me pull up my slides here.

Angie Chang: I’ll introduce you. Victoria hopes to encourage open conversation by sharing her experiences and counter-tactics she’s found helpful in combating negative patterns of thinking, a common phenomena of imposter syndrome. Welcome, Victoria.

Victoria Xia: Thanks, Angie. Can you see my slides?

Angie Chang: Yes.

Victoria Xia: Awesome. As you now know, my name is Victoria. I am a software engineer at Confluent working on the event streaming database, ksqlDB.

Victoria Xia: My freshman year of high school, I somehow made it onto the varsity tennis team where I was the worst player by a noticeable margin. I was frustrated with my performance and didn’t enjoy the sport as a result. I also felt out of place on the team, since my teammates had all been playing for many years, whereas I’d only learned recently. I felt like I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t. After a particularly rough practice session, where it seemed as if less than half of my shots went in, I shared my frustrations with my coach. His response was, “Hey, remember when you started? Almost none of your shots went in.” I said, “Gee, thanks. That makes me feel a lot better.” But sarcasm aside, he was right.

Victoria Xia: I’d been so caught up in my current performance. I’d forgotten how far I’d come. I’d forgotten to enjoy myself along the way. What I learned from this first exposure to imposter syndrome is that if you’re a perfectionist like me, you’ll never be satisfied with where you are, but that doesn’t mean you need to beat yourself up over it. Don’t forget to step back, look holistically, and acknowledge your strengths and the progress you’ve made in addition to seeing your weaknesses.

Victoria Xia: Fast forward to 2018, a couple of weeks before my master’s thesis deadline. I was frantically assembling plots and turning outwards when I learned that the startup I’d signed a full-time offer to join after graduating, had been acquired by a company called Confluent. That was the first I’d heard of Apache Kafka or event streaming. I was unsurprisingly behind the curve when I started at Confluent a few weeks later. It didn’t help that this was before Confluent’s first new grad recruiting season, which meant I was the only new grad engineer at the company.

Victoria Xia: It was intimidating to be surrounded by people who knew more and had more experience than me, but it was also an amazing opportunity to learn. I was lucky to have a manager who emphasized the importance of focusing on learning, rather than feeling pressure to get things done. He explained it’d be better for both me and the team in the long run if I took things slow and ramped up on solid foundations, rather than rushing to get things done with partial understanding. He couldn’t have been more right. I eventually ramped up.

Victoria Xia: Things got better, before taking a turn for the worst. Because Confluent was doubling in size each year, that meant, when I was less than a year out of school, I’d already been at the company longer than half the other employees and was seen as a veteran, though I definitely didn’t feel like one. I felt like tasks that took me weeks could have been done by any of my teammates in a matter of days and found myself working long hours in an attempt to make up for the difference. My manager said I was doing fine. I wanted to believe him but found it hard to accept. It turns out these thought patterns are common enough to have a name, the imposter cycle.

Victoria Xia: The cycle starts with a task or anything on which our performance may be measured. This triggers worry and typically leads to either procrastination or over preparation. Once the task has been completed, we reject any praise or positive feedback, dismissing it as luck or something else outside our control, which allows us to repeat the cycle with the next task. To break the cycle, we first need to realize it’s happening in order to stop encouraging thoughts like, “What if I disappoint?” and, “I just got lucky this time,” and instead accept our accomplishments and say, “I can do this,” knowing that it’s okay and totally normal to sometimes slip up.

Victoria Xia: Additionally, the most effective countermeasure, in my experience, is sharing how I’m feeling with others and realizing I’m not alone. One day, during lunch at the office, pre-COVID, of course, I ran into a friend on a different team who was a few years older than me. As we caught up, I was amazed to learn she was feeling all the same things I was. Perceived pressure to deliver, even though her manager said otherwise, feeling behind her more experienced peers, and working longer hours as a result. I couldn’t believe someone I so admired, and looked up to, shared my insecurities. I felt suddenly more okay with myself and was able to break the imposter cycle in doing so.

Victoria Xia: A big part of imposter syndrome is feeling alone, but we can counter that by finding friends, family, and colleagues to serve as personal cheerleaders who we can share our feelings with. Unfortunately, imposter feelings can be hard to talk about, since at its heart is the fear that others will realize we’re frauds. Sharing our insecurities feels like it might contribute to that, but personal cheerleaders help overcome this by making us feel safe and not alone.

Victoria Xia: So to recap, overcoming imposter syndrome starts with identifying what’s happening. A few weeks ago, I received an email asking whether I’d like to give a lightning talk, with the Confluent Girl Geek X event. I was excited, but also a bit apprehensive since I couldn’t think of a topic I felt qualified to talk about, particularly to an audience with more industry experience, tech experience, and life experience than me. I fought these doubts by thinking about my strengths and choosing a topic I feel strongly about and reframed my fear of failure as an opportunity to expand my comfort zone and grow. Rather than worrying about audience members being disappointed, I focused on the fact that if my talk helps even a handful of people overcome imposter syndrome, then that’s wonderful.

Victoria Xia: Of course, I shared how I felt with my friends and with the event organizers too. Their validation gave me the confidence to be here today, which I’m extremely grateful for, since one of the most harmful consequences of imposter syndrome is to cause us to give up opportunities we might otherwise take. That said, while these strategies for beating the imposter are powerful, they also have their limits. If you find yourself in a toxic environment, where those around you put you down or belittle you, it’s better to address or leave the situation than focus on internal reframing. Additionally, it may be prudent to seek professional help, especially if your physical or mental health are suffering.

Victoria Xia: To sum up, focus on your own progress and growth rather than comparing yourself to others, watch out for the perfectionism trap, and remember that imposter syndrome is common when starting something new, or if you perceive yourself as different from those around you in any way. Acknowledge your strengths in addition to your weaknesses, reframe intimidation and fear as learning opportunities and chances to grow, know that it’s okay to mess up sometimes, find personal cheerleaders to talk to. Remember you’re not alone. Go grab that opportunity you’ve been wanting to take. Thanks.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Victoria. That was an excellent talk on imposter syndrome and breaking out of that cycle. We do have a question for you from Puja. She asks, “Do you think imposter syndrome is mostly seen in women?” She relates to this feeling. Most boys around her know less but are very confident.

Victoria Xia: Funny that this is asked, actually. In digging into this talk, I did look at the academic research. It’s pretty split. Earlier studies suggest that imposter feelings are more common in women. More recent studies are more ambiguous about it. In terms of my personal experiences, I think, for me, it’s any time I’m in a situation where I feel like the odd one out. That could be being in tech, in an industry that is male-dominated, it makes total sense for women to feel more this way, or in situations where it’s hard to point to leaders or success stories that look like me. Again, it’s depending on the industry. It makes a lot of sense.

Angie Chang: For sure, I think you had the example about the tennis. When you played tennis, was it girls’ tennis?

Victoria Xia: It was girls’ tennis, yeah. In that case, the reason I felt different was just because I was new to the sport. It was definitely an internal feeling rather than my teammates making me feel different or anything like that. That was enough to trigger it.

Angie Chang: Well, thank you so much for sharing your story. It seems to really have resonated with a lot the girl geeks in the audience. I think we have time for one more question. Someone asked, “Would you suggest sharing your feelings with coworkers, managers, or people on your team? Why or why not?”

Victoria Xia: I think my metric is just whoever I’m comfortable with. I have my go-to friends and family members, of course. If I have friends at the office or people who I can trust to understand where I’m coming from, rather than to misinterpret, or even worse, accidentally spread information that I wouldn’t want to be spread, then I find that those are great people to talk too. I guess my advice there would be to trust your instincts. I think we tend to have pretty good reads on who’s trustworthy and who we want to open up to. If you think someone’s trustworthy, then I’d say give it a shot, even though it can be scary to talk about.

Angie Chang: Thank you. Let’s see. I think that’s all the questions we have time for. Thank you, Victoria, for joining us and giving us a great talk. Now, we will be moving on to our next speaker.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you, Angie. Evelyn Bayes is our next speaker. In terms of a quick intro, Evelyn will share her many experiences of coming out, the benefits of living an open life, and some helpful strategies to achieve it. Welcome, Evelyn.

Evelyn Bayes: Hey, thank you. My talk is “Coming Out at the Workplace”. A little bit about me, I’ve been at Confluent for roughly two years now, in the last year as a manager. Prior to that, I was with a mobile service provider named Instaclustr, and then Accenture before that. No formal education as a software engineer, but instead I taught myself after taking a related class in the last year of uni.

Evelyn Bayes: If you’re not LGBT, you might be wondering, “Cool topic, but this doesn’t apply to me.” But actually, most people go through a coming out experience at some point in their life. Some people go through many, and plenty of these happen at the workplace. For one person, their coming out experience might be letting their boss know that they suffer from mental health issues. For another, it might be telling a colleague they’re dealing with domestic violence. These coming out experiences have different subjects, but the reason for people staying silent and coming out are often very similar.

Evelyn Bayes: In this talk, I’d like to share some of the lessons learned on coming out from the queer community, why you should consider coming out, and how these lessons learned can be applied to your situation. Before we get into things, I thought I’d share a few more details that my About Me left out. First, I’m bisexual. Second, I’m transgender. Third, I suffer from major depressive disorder. These are all things I’ve had to come out about at some point, sometimes more than once. Granted coming out as transgender felt like a bit of a bigger deal at the time, but I think coming out gets easier the more times you do it. Either way, I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’d like to share that experience with you.

Evelyn Bayes: Now you know that coming out is something that applies to you, you might be thinking, “Okay, why should I come out though?” Well, first, you’ll feel better. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I can say, at the bare minimum, you’ll feel free. Free of the burden of keeping a part of you and your experience secret. Second, and more importantly, you’ll have access to support. Many workplaces have a number of policies and resources in place for people going through a range of life experiences. These include provisions for carers leave, access to counselors, heck, my partner gets gender diversity leave that covers things like dealing with paperwork associated with transitioning, surgery, and a range of other things.

Evelyn Bayes: Third, you’ll have access to community within the workplace. I personally know at least two other trans women at Confluent. No one else is going to get my weird pickle jokes. I swear. It’s a thing. Ask a trans girl. Finally, there’s pride. Pride in being out. Pride in being visible. Nothing beats knowing you’re the reason someone felt safe to speak up. Safe to be themselves. Safe to seek help. This happens more than you’d think. I’ve been on both ends of this. Earlier this year, I had a girl reach out to me a few months after I gave a speech at Accenture. My own experience of coming out as trans, it had given them their own courage to begin their own journey coming out in the workforce. You’ve been listening to me ramble for a bit. Now, we’re at the crux of it, so let’s keep it short.

Evelyn Bayes: Step one, find resources. You’re going to want something short, a good one-pager on the subject of your coming out experience. You’re going to want to be able to link people to it on demand. What’s pansexual? Is that someone who loves pans? Link. What are your pronouns, or what are pronouns? Link. What is it like being someone who suffers from whatever? Link. Nothing is more cruel than the burden placed on people going through these coming out experiences, than the expectation that they educate every man and his dog on the topic. Don’t do it. Make them teach themselves.

Evelyn Bayes: Step two, find an ally. This might be a favorite work colleague, a manager, or someone who just feels safe. I, personally, stress seriously considering anyone with the phrase “diversity and inclusion” in their title. Those people kick ass. My all-time biggest coming out success was with my friend and colleague, Rachel. She was with me every step of the way. She fought so many of my battles. Today, she advises on global policies for gender diversity at Accenture. Rachel’s a rock star.

Evelyn Bayes: Step three, create a plan. A plan can be as simple as a few dot points to discuss with your manager, or as complex as an organization-wide email followed by an instructor-led educational session for your team with a Q&A, while you take a much-needed vacation, but a plan is vital. Also, that is legit what they offered me at Accenture and so much regret for not taking it.

Evelyn Bayes: Step four, do it. But in case you still need a little inspiration or you need to see it in a practice, on top of being bisexual, transgender, and suffering from major depressive disorder, I’m also non-monogamous, sometimes referred to as polyamorous. For me, that means I’m in a loving relationship with my partner, and also with my other partner, both of whom have other loving relationships of their own. If you want to know more about non-monogamy, I suggest checking out In particular, I’d suggest checking out their frequently asked questions page. For anyone working at Confluent, please feel free to talk to Sam Hecht. He’s been given the rundown. Have a lovely day. Everyone and good luck with your own coming out experiences.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, Evelyn. When you get the chance, you must read the comments, some really, really amazing comments. I want to just read out one that says… Kathy says she’s watching with their eight-year-old daughter and 11-year-old non-binary kid. They’re finding this really helpful too. The 11-year-old plays hockey with mostly boys, so related to a lot of what you spoke about. Thank you. This has been helpful.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: And for people who want to be allies as well. So we have one question from Elizabeth. Evelyn who were some of your champions in coming out at work? How did your manager support you? I think this will be helpful for us to know how to support our colleagues and coworkers?

Evelyn Bayes: Yeah. So first of all, my friend, Rachel that I mentioned, so she worked with me on my first job at Accenture and she was actually the first person I came out to out of anyone, not just in the workforce, as trans. And so she, like I said, she fought so many battles for me. She represented me in so many different ways, helped me some steps through it. But in other places, I think Confluent’s probably a good example. With Confluent, I guess I never felt the need to come out as trans. it’s just I’ve always been very open about being trans and the big things that they do is they just, they support me when people get pronouns wrong or things like that. And it’s really just normalized, but a good example would be coming out as non-monogamous to my boss, which was quite a scary experience.

Evelyn Bayes: And he was the first person I came out to at Confluent, but was just generally supportive. And when I told him about this, he was thrilled about it. And he’s also just stepped up as the executive or one of the executive sponsors of the LGBT inclusion program as part of a Confluence diversity and inclusion program. I’m not sure if I’m getting the wording on that right. But I think a lot of people are just, they’re ready to step up and be supportive. People will amaze you. Probably my favorite story is and I’ll try and keep it really quick.

Evelyn Bayes: When coming out at Accenture, I remember having this colleague who was devoutly Muslim and would pray morning and evening and afte. I came out — at the time, it was so uncomfortable because I was a bodybuilder and had just gotten rid of my beard. And it was a pretty traumatizing experience, but he came up to me and took me aside and said that if I ever needed anything, he was always available and there to be supportive and people really care.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Oh, that’s lovely. Someone else commented that they’re non-monogamous. So definitely when you get the chance please do take a look at the chat. So many good comments for you. Quickly, one last question. What is something you think people shouldn’t ask or shouldn’t say? What’s the one thing that people ask you and you feel like, “Oh my gosh, don’t.”

Evelyn Bayes: There’s always one with everything. Like I said, I got that question. When I came out as pans, like pansexual to colleagues. I remember them joking about pansexual being people who are attracted to pans. I’ve had a lot of people… The big one for me, which always blows my mind, is when people ask me about what I’m going, what surgeries I’m going to go get with my body parts. And I’m like, it is no more appropriate for you to ask me about my genitals as it would be for me to ask you about your genitals. So you start. But I think just asking for good educational research and doing the research yourself is good. There’s so much burden placed on people when they’re coming out. And it’s so unfair to get these questions all the time.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Of course. Yeah, definitely. So I had a feeling that’s what you would say when I asked this question. So thank you so much, Evelyn, for your honesty, for the education you just provided. All right. So thank you. That was a great talk.

Evelyn Bayes: Absolute pleasure.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So up next.. What you would have seen as in person getting off the stage and getting on the stage is what you’re seeing right now. Our next speaker is Candace. Blackfluent is the name of the Black and African American community Slack channel at Confluent. Candace and other black employees are taking it to employee resource group status, which is awesome. Welcome, Candace.

Candace Garton-Mullen: Thank you. Can everyone hear me? Wonderful. So as you can see here, hopefully on my screen. I am the Executive Business Partner, which most of you know as executive assistant and I work with Roger Scott at Confluent. Which you can see here on this next slide. I’ve been a business partner to Roger Scott, starting at New Relic. And now at Confluent for the last few years, I’m not…

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Candace, sorry to interrupt. We can’t yet see your slides. You need to share your screen.

Candace Garton-Mullen: Oh, so sorry. Let me go backwards. I’ll share my screen. And there we go. Now, can you see my slides?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. I can see your slides now.

Candace Garton-Mullen: Wonderful. Okay. Moving forward then. This is the slide that I’d gotten to was talking about my partnership with Roger Scott. I will, again, be back to this slide later on. So I’m going to move past that.

Candace Garton-Mullen: First, I think it’s important to explain what Blackfluent is. In the literal sense. The word is a combination of ‘black’ and ‘confluent’ as a result of the company name. Plus the focus group name. To me personally, it means how to speak to your black colleagues, peers, and community members. Taking you back to the beginning of my journey. This is my very first day of kindergarten in 1984. That’s my mom and my almost four year old little brother helping me onto the bus. My father was taking a photo.

Candace Garton-Mullen: After stepping on the bus. I looked for a place to sit down and for the first time in my life, I heard the utterance of this word… A little boy called Danny was the little boy who spewed the word at me and caused me to wander up and down the aisles of the bus. Very much like the scene from the beginning of Forrest Gump, I eventually ended up sitting in the front seat, which was reserved for students with disabilities, which I didn’t know at the time. I sat next to a young man called Eric that had mild form of cerebral palsy. Eric was my first friend and he taught me a lot about humility in the years to come.

Candace Garton-Mullen: After school that day I went home, told my parents what happened, which prompted what we call ‘the talk’. ‘The talk’ is the formation of what becomes a natural understanding of the way that the world works when you’re a child. A world that our ancestors were thrust into and that we inherited.

Candace Garton-Mullen: This creates a dynamic in which we culturally were taught, what was expected and proper of us to blend in a white owned world. In other words, we are all ‘whitefluent’, regardless of if we choose to behave in a manner that shows that or one that potentially helps us in the world, we are taught and aware of how we need to behave should we decide to.

Candace Garton-Mullen: Moving along to my journey to high school. This is Hudson high school in Hudson, Ohio. Hudson is a small middle class, upper middle upper class suburb in Ohio, which is extremely similar to the dynamic of Palo Alto. If you’re from California. You can see by the demographics taken from the year 2000 in the upper right hand corner, that I was the literal minority in my high school. Especially at that time in 1997, when I went. Specifically, you can see me swimming in the sea of my senior classmates.

Candace Garton-Mullen: And if you can’t find me yet, I’m right there. More importantly on the day that this picture was taken, it’s the same day that everybody signs yearbooks, passes around school pictures and hopefully gets one from their crush. I received one from someone who is not my crush, but I think I might’ve been his. Kyle passed me this picture at the end of homeroom. On the last day of school and disappeared before I had a chance to process the PS. “I’ve always wanted to tell you that you’re super pretty for a black girl.” I know what Kyle was trying to say. Unfortunately, the veiled insult in the comics took precedence even in my 18 year old mind. Kyle was definitely not Blackfluent. At the time. I didn’t realize how desensitized I was to things like this, because it’s just the way that things have always been.

Candace Garton-Mullen: After high school, college, and a decade in the legal field in Ohio. I moved to San Francisco. When I arrived. I leaned on the same tools that worked for me in Ohio. I learned that I was able to move forward really quickly and blend, as many of us do, if I wear my hair straight, instead of curly. These quotes were taken from an article written in 2013. So you can imagine how much more applicable they were in the eighties and the nineties. The fear of wearing my hair in its natural state of curls in corporate America was really real. And as I mentioned, it followed me to the bay area wherein I wear my hair straight for every interview. And for the majority of my 10 years at Salesforce, Lyft, and Ripple. It wasn’t until I arrived at New Relic and began working alongside of Roger Scott, that I was encouraged to bring my authentic self to work. And then again, encouraged to bring that same authenticity with me to Confluent.

Candace Garton-Mullen: I’m very thankful to Roger and to New Relic in general, either way. When Roger asked me to join him at Confluent, I was extremely nervous that I would be sliding backwards into the blending. But a few weeks after joining the company, I was approached by the head of diversity and inclusion team and asked about the possibility of forming an employee resource group. Now known as Blackfluent. Within those efforts. Our newly forming resource group came up with the following mission statement. The mission statement is to grow and empower the black communities within and outside of Confluent while fostering meaningful action from allies.

Candace Garton-Mullen: We want to promote understanding through community engagement. Promote awareness through professional development. Demote discomfort through encouraging a sense of belonging. Demote misunderstanding through allyship. Offering a safe space to engage. And some of the ways we plan to do this are through the Executive Sponsorship using our executive sponsors and their connections to get the things that we need to make this group work for us and for the employees. The equal opportunities in organizations with career counselors and such. Observing other mentorship programs from other companies to get ideas about how we can help the people in our company and grow inside and then outside, when they’re not even at work and community building and leveraging resources from previous jobs. It’s really important to the group, it’s leaders, and me specifically to create a space where any, and everyone can be Blackfluent, should they wish. And I look forward to working with my colleagues at Confluent to provide a space where they can do that, learn and grow and thank you all for your time.

Angie Chang: Hey, that was really awesome. Thank you, Candace.

Candace Garton-Mullen: Thank you.

Angie Chang: We have a question for you from Valerie. She asks ‘Do you like the idea of the word ‘Blackfluent’ becoming mainstream vocabulary because it’s such a positive word and fluent has a connotation of being well-read in a subject and fluent indicates someone that has taken the time to study the subject as opposed to generally getting it?’

Candace Garton-Mullen: Yes, absolutely. That specifically I came up with the word Blackfluent. So it means even more if it were to go mainstream because it’s like hashtag Blackfluent, my word, but also obviously the bigger implications of that being that it would be so great if we can make that a mainstream word that people use to represent that type of inclusion and the way that they can speak to their peers with comfort. That would mean a lot.

Angie Chang: Awesome.

Candace Garton-Mullen: Absolutely.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Candace.

Candace Garton-Mullen: Thank you.

Angie Chang: Great. And now we’ll be moving to our last speaker of the evening, Tejal. She will be speaking about being pregnant and networking. It can be hard, but being new at both is altogether a different ball game. So Tejal will be sharing her CPR technique to ease you through the bump and help you deliver like a boss.

Tejal Adsul: Oh, thanks for the awesome intro. Hi everyone I’m Tejal Adsul and today I’m going to share my journey of working while pregnant. So a little about myself. I did my undergrad from Pune University and Master’s from Arizona State with specialization in software security. And after graduation, I joined Intel and was pretty much working on securing data trust for solid state drives. And after working for a couple of years for a big giant, I was highly motivated to join a startup. And so I went ahead and I joined Springpath, but my startup dream was pretty short lived because we were soon acquired by Cisco and I was back with the big giants. And so now I joined Confluent, another startup, and I’m mostly working on platform wide security features for the conference platform.

Tejal Adsul: So as most of y’all must have heard the famous saying that be careful what you wish for you will get it, but be even more careful what you work for, for you will get it even more quickly. And I like to call it my year 2018 as my genie year, because it was determined to grant me all my wishes. Well, not all, but most of them. So when I was looking to join a startup in the year 2017, I joined for a software engineering position at Confluent. But unfortunately, by the time I applied, that position was already filled and I went ahead and joined Springpath instead. Luckily, in 2018, they had this position for platform security engineer. And as they were just forming a brand new security team, and I felt like this is a perfect opportunity for me because it’s in the domain of my expertise and the company I had been following for quite some time.

Tejal Adsul: So I applied, went through all the interview process, and joined Confluent in October. Now Mr. Genie then decided to grant me my second wish about the same time. And I came to know I was pregnant just after a month of joining Confluent. Initially I was super ecstatic, but soon my excitement was replaced with a lot of anxiety because I somehow believed in the stigma that pregnancy derails your career. And now I had to choose between the two, but as I was going through the entire process, I realized it’s not really choosing of one over the other, but finding the right balance between the two. And so I go in this technique, which I like to call a CPR, which helped me transition into a working mom. So the first daunting task, which most of us face, is how, and when, should I break this news to my manager?

Tejal Adsul: And honestly, my first gut feeling was, Hey, I don’t really need to tell them at all. Right? And if I start to show, I can just blame all the good free food they gave me at Confluent and no one will ever know, but then you have to pee like a freaking million times in a day and no exaggeration there.

Tejal Adsul: There is absolutely no way you can hide it. So I was so nervous wrecked that I decided to have this conversation with my manager pretty early on. I was almost just eight weeks pregnant and I just scheduled a quick one on one with him. And I just broke the news that, Hey, I know I just joined, but I am pregnant. And I was so surprised that he took the news so well.

Tejal Adsul: Rather he shared his own experience, as he was new to the parenthood as well. And that instantly put me at so much of ease. So this is one of my recommendations to all the moms to be. When you are comfortable, have this conversation with your manager and preferably early on and divide this conversation into two separate meetings. First, schedule just a quick meeting to announce the good news. So it gives them time to think through any concerns that they have, but most importantly, schedule a followup meeting in another two, three weeks so that you can gloss over your work plan, job requirements or your maternity leave plans, but be sure to be highly prepared for this particular meeting so that you can answer of any concerns that they might have.

Tejal Adsul: Being pregnant is like having a flu or being hung over all day every day. And this is especially true in the first trimester. So you cannot really work with a hundred percent of your capacity. So you have this limited energy and limited time before you go for your maternity leave. But most importantly, you have limited caffeine. So it’s highly crucial to plan how and where you want to put this energy into. And that brings us to the P in the CPR technique. And this is a very important lesson I learned during my pregnancy. And it took me some time to get into this mindset that you cannot do everything and you cannot do everything perfectly. And that is perfectly okay.

Tejal Adsul: So if you’re going to choose to do X, you are definitely going to miss out on doing Y. So for instance, I choose to do all these fill-ins or hard slogs. I am going to miss out on those quick wins and major projects. So what I did and what y’all should do is spend some time using this graph and try to analyze where and how you’re going to put this limited energy and time to achieve those quick wins and impactful project. And once y’all have wisely chosen your X, y’all can then use it in the conversation meeting, which we just discussed.

Tejal Adsul: Lastly, stress, nausea, those mood swings, all these are part and parcel of pregnancy. All you can do is embrace them and try to relax by consciously inculcating relaxation techniques into your day to day routine. So I used to literally schedule breaks after every two hours. And when I say schedule, I literally had them on my calendar and every time I got those pop up reminders, I would just stop working on whatever I was doing. And I would just listen to music or walk around the office or meet a friend on a different floor. And these 10 to 15 minutes of break would give me my energy back and it helps to improve my efficiency highly when I was actually working. And my biggest reward of working while pregnant is that I have this daughter who has intimate knowledge of Apache Kafka because we pretty much started our journey together. Thank you.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Tejal. That was a really excellent talk about delivering like a boss. We are going to now go into our Fireside Chat with Neha.

Neha Narkhede: Hi there. Can everyone hear me?

Angie Chang: Yes. Can you turn on your video?

Neha Narkhede: I’m trying that. Can everyone see me?

Angie Chang: There you go. Perfect. So I’m going to do a quick intro. So Neha is a Co-Founder at Confluent, the company behind the popular Apache Kafka streaming platform. She is one of the initial authors of Apache Kafka and a committer and PNC member on the project. So, Neha, why don’t you quickly give us a… am I missing anything in your bio?

Neha Narkhede: I think you did a wonderful job of covering it. I’m so excited to be here. First of all, thank you for inviting me into what is my favorite event of the year. Thank you.

Angie Chang: Thank you. We had such a good time.

Angie Chang: So our first question for you is what is the most overlooked obstacle for women when it comes to asking for a promotion? So what are the differences in promotions at startups versus medium and larger companies?

Neha Narkhede: Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, something that I’ve thought about at every stage of my career, it doesn’t seem to ever get easier. I’m not sure how overlooked this is anymore, but I think that a significant obstacle for women and minorities alike is the fear of being judged negatively for coming across as being too ambitious. You know, when you get ready to really advocate for yourself. And I think that this fear is actually rooted in some reality as well. In my observation, this obvious bias that normalizes ambition, advocating for yourself, for men, typically white men, and while expecting minorities and women to wait for the term or the right time.

Neha Narkhede: The other obstacle is that men tend to be assessed more on their future potential while women are assessed more in the past experience as has been shared by so many women leaders. And so it really isn’t easy to ask for promotions or advocate for yourself when you know that there are so many factors working against you. And so I just wanted to sort of share my own experience and say that it is okay to feel a little bit out of place. It was okay to feel all this fear because you’re not imagining it. Some of it actually does exist in varying proportions, in different cultures. I think the trick is figuring out how to ask for it, regardless, right? And so what I wanted to share is what has worked for me, other than being okay as being viewed as ambitious has actually been to navigate the communication around it carefully, right?

Neha Narkhede: Ultimately you have to have a productive conversation and actually a series of conversations to make the change happen. So I typically just write down what I want to say ahead of time, and have the best possible clarity. That gives me a chance to really rehearse what kind of objections might come through, what I really want to say, keeping the emotion aside of feeling the bias. Because there is very little opportunity, or very little appetite to hear that out. I also make it okay for myself, I think this is probably the most important thing that I had to train myself to do, is to actually be okay to hear “No” a couple of times before it finally gets to a yes.

Neha Narkhede: So just know that a “No” should follow with clear, actionable feedback that allows you to make progress. If you see a situation where consistently it’s, “No, but we don’t feel that you’re ready.” That actually doesn’t mean much and it’s probably time to move on, however hard it might seem.

Neha Narkhede: The other thing to say is most people, including myself, we didn’t really know how to negotiate. What’s the science and the art behind negotiation? So something practical that I wanted to share here, a book that really helped me learn about the secret of negotiation. It’s called, Never Split the Difference, Negotiating As If Your Life Depends On It. It’s literally written by an FBI negotiator. I find that it has a lot of practical advice on how to navigate this situation and many others. I hope that everyone else finds it helpful as well.

Neha Narkhede: The other question you ask, I think, is a little different. Where the differences in promotions and startups, versus midsize companies, versus large companies. I think it’s very important to realize the back of the field that you’re walking into. Startups are really chaotic. Startups don’t really have a process around much of anything, really. Career growth is just one part of the puzzle. It’s not that people, whether they’re managers, or executives, or founders, they’re not interested in it. It’s just it’s, it’s a matter of survival versus not. You’re really focused on something else. So I think knowing that the reason for not being able to have a structured conversation around this is not so much your own performance, it’s just that it’s a startup and it’s going to be a little bit harder to bring it up.

Neha Narkhede: The secret in startups to grow as what we shared is, to just take ownership of what needs to be fixed. That’s the secret to growth. As the startup grows and it goes through its own sort of teenage years, as I think some of the hyper-growth companies are, including Confluent. There is actually a process, there’s actually plenty of opportunity to have those conversations. It’s not perfect like the large companies, but I think there’s plenty of opportunity. I think the secret there, or the obstacle just is that it’s not evenly across the organization, however much you might like it. So you might find yourself in pockets of the organization where it’s just not ready for the new process that has been instituted, because the company is growing so quickly that no matter how well you tried, every policy is not evenly applied.

Neha Narkhede: There’s another chance to give the benefit of doubt to your leaders, your managers, your teammates, and yourself to actually go at it a couple of times and have a positive conversation. Like I said if at any point in time there’s a repeated lack of clarity, I think maybe it’s a time to reconsider whether it’s the right time in your career to be in that kind of work environment. Larger company is much more stable, a lot of process. Obviously there are trade offs, so more process and more stability also means probably fewer opportunities for step function growth in career.

Neha Narkhede: It’s really more of a balance. It’s so different, I’ve been at really, really tiny startups, I’ve been at hyper-growth companies, at LinkedIn when I wasn’t really a c -founder or anything like that, and large companies. I still think that as long as the company grows, you have plenty of opportunity for growth if you figure out how to navigate the situation and then a lot of persistence to fight it through.

Angie Chang: Absolutely. I agree that it’s a matter of asking and asking again and getting no. Then asking, “What do I have to do to get to that next level?” Then being persistent and then coming back with, “Well, I’ve done these things. Let’s talk about this again.” It’s one of the Girl Geek Dinners, last week that I hosted with a woman who everyone respected, was a director of engineering. She gave this great example of, every job promotion I’ve been given it, wasn’t given. I had to ask for it and show up with my list of the things I’ve done, and asked for it, and asked for it. So you have to be your biggest advocate, so definitely-

Neha Narkhede: Plus one. Always ask for it.

Angie Chang: Absolutely. So we get a lot of questions from the Girl Geek Community about technical interviewing. So I wanted to ask if you have a story that you could share that would resonate with our community, that finds technical interviewing extremely challenging or daunting to think about.

Neha Narkhede: Yeah, I want to start by sharing that earlier in my career when I had to get into this technical interviewing process, it was extremely daunting. It felt like the hardest thing to do, despite knowing how to code and knowing how to do the job. What I did is what I usually do when I’m presented with daunting experiences that I want to navigate anyway is, I over-prepared. I signed up for lead code and back then, that was the thing. Just went ahead and practiced and went ahead and over-prepared.

Neha Narkhede: Unfortunately, that’s what I had to do. So, what I want to share here is that, what I also did is give myself power in the situation. I changed my perspective from feeling like a victim of an obviously unideal situation, to taking control of it. By just realizing that how you’re made to feel in a technical interview process is really a reflection of the team, and the company culture you’re going to sign up for. Ultimately hiring is a two-way decision. I remember picking LinkedIn over another social networking site, and another file sharing company, simply based on the quality of my interview experience, and it worked out.

Neha Narkhede: Realizing that it’s your choice too, it actually just oddly gave me a lot of comfort. I do think that having been on both sides of the table, there are many things that need to change about technical interviewing. So that’s another thing to realize is it’s really not perfect, and it’s not you. It’s a collective effort that we all have to work towards. There many things that we were able to institute at Confluent that I think really worked. I think the first is just realizing and making a decision that it shouldn’t be an adversarial experience. It should feel like a collective brainstorming exercise that you want to do with the future colleague. So interviewers need to adopt a friendlier stance, you need to communicate with empathy, you need to challenge the candidate and vice versa, respectfully.

Neha Narkhede: The other thing we did was to institute a take-home exercise, which is literally the first step in the interview process. Because that gives you the best possible window into thinking, to understanding how a candidate works, as we all do. There’s no one watching over our shoulders when we’re writing code. So it’s kind of silly for that to be our whole entire experience. The other thing that this take home does is, it allows you to prepare for the unique onsite interview that that candidate needs. Because we all need to prepare. It’s not just the candidate that needs to prepare. We need to prepare as interviewers to come in and actually understand their perspective and creatability.

Neha Narkhede: The third is to leave enough time and opportunity for the candidate to ask you questions. I can’t stress that enough is, you actually learn a lot of valuable information about a future colleague by just studying the quality of questions they ask. It’s really not just bombarding the candidate with questions, and trickier questions, and laying down the landmines to kind of win that situation. We found a lot of success that Confluent started instituting these changes for technical interviews. I hope that technical interviews in general, in the whole industry change for the better. It’s really a situation that needs to change collectively. It’s not just what you can do.

Angie Chang: Absolutely. I have one more question and then we’re going to turn it over to the Q&A. For people who are tuned in from home, you can put in your questions in the Q&A feature and then people can upvote it if they like it, and will ask Neha a question from there. My final question is, and Neha, you’re such a good communicator, what are some advice you can share about interpersonal communication, or salary negotiation? What’s the piece of advice you want to leave us with?

Neha Narkhede: First of all, thank you. It did not come naturally to me. I wasn’t into all the inter-school debates and whatnot that train you to just be good speakers. So I want to say that it’s okay to start off as a shy introvert engineer like I was, and find yourself up on the keynote stage.

Neha Narkhede: Take every opportunity, however super uncomfortable it feels to be on that stage and speaking. So a couple of secrets is it’s so different, communication in one-on-ones, and communication in team meetings, and communication on stage is they’re entirely different, the way I found it, because I literally had to learn that on the job.

Neha Narkhede: Communication on the stage, a little secret I did want to share as we do all these sort of… There were many speakers here, and if this was a live event they would all be on stage, is… I’ve had the opportunity to speak to really celebrated speakers, and literally all across the board, the secret is great speakers, practice a talk about more than 10 times. You don’t have to do that, but if you find a speaker that you really like, and you think that they go up on stage and write the talk like three days before, they might’ve done that, but they practiced more than 10 times. That’s sort of the happy number.

Neha Narkhede: A lot of us have speaker notes, and writing the talk prior to giving the talk is the second secret. So you literally imagine what you’re going to say. It does not make you too rehearsed, it just gives you clarity of thought. Believe it or not somehow magically you go up on stage and you say all the right stuff, and you don’t forget, and you’re not nervous because you can see your speaker notes. Because all of us tend to forget something really crucial because you focus on someone who’s looking at you and then you lose your focus. So that those are some things to share about onstage.

Neha Narkhede: About negotiation, other than what I shared, which is I tend to resort to writing to get clarity of thought. I carry those notes with you, and will try to get my notes, and studying how to communicate.

Neha Narkhede: Another book, and I feel bad about just recommending books, but this is definitely widely accepted, this particular book called Crucial Conversations. That is just amazing in terms of having both hard conversations, as well as high stakes conversations, at work. It’s specifically written for at work situations. I just think that there’s a lot of value I found. I don’t think I’m great at applying all the different techniques used in the book, but I think it’s super valuable. A lot of executive and personal coaches do recommend that book. So you might as well get your hands on it without having to hire some fancy coach.

Angie Chang: Great. That’s an excellent recommendation to have notes, to use them, and to read that book. So we have a question, I think we have time for one question before we finish and go to networking. Someone asked that they have a strange case at work. Their company says they don’t have titles and there’s a flat structure. So how do they ask for promotion without sounding like they’re not conforming?

Neha Narkhede: Yeah. This is something that’s somewhat of an emerging culture, especially in engineering. There are pros and cons of this culture. On one hand it allows people to make their case and win arguments without using their title because “Hey, everyone is called software engineer.” So I wouldn’t know it if you’re three levels higher. It allows me and gives me a level ground. But at the same time, it’s hard to see yourself really grow, right? Really what does growth even mean? So sometimes, as companies grow and mature, what they actually end up with is they have internal levels so you know the expectation of every level, and a level really means growth and opportunity and responsibility. That really is the way to look at growth.

Neha Narkhede: It does not satisfy the ego, but you are so capable that when you go and look for your new job, you are ready for a much bigger job. That’s always the safest way to navigate your career is to just be so ready. So I think if there aren’t levels established in a company, despite what the titles say, I think it’s very important to advocate for that. I found a lot of value because when you’re put in that situation, we are thinking of what levels you have to think about, what are the expectations? Why would I say, “Hey, I don’t think you’re quite ready for that staff engineer level five promotion.” It doesn’t allow for those unsaid things to happen. So I like that is like a healthy balance between no titles and career growth.

Neha Narkhede: Having said all that no matter what the culture is in your company, I think it’s very important to ask for specifics. Really good leaders would carve out a roadmap for you to get to the next level. If you don’t have that, it’s going to be much harder. Like I said before, it’s something for you to think about on how long you want to continue in that environment. If this was really something you find value in. There’s no judgment, some people ask for promotions and that’s okay. You’re ambitious and you want to push yourself and you’re going to learn fast.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Neha. That was all really helpful advice and great book recommendations. I’m sure everyone’s writing it down and putting it in Amazon so they can get it shipped so they can read it, so-

Neha Narkhede: Oh, that’s great.

Angie Chang: We are going to be switching over to Elizabeth. Elizabeth is Confluent’s Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She would like to share a few words on Confluent’s commitment to increasing diversity of the workforce. Okay. Oh, hold on a second. I need to unmute. There you go.

Elizabeth Borges: There we go. My first thing to share, piece of advice, if you ever get asked to speak at a Girl Geek event, don’t go last because there is no way that I can match any of the wisdom or the stories of the folks that’ve spoken tonight. So not going to try. Instead, I want to do two things quickly. Yes, we’ll definitely touch on a little bit of what we’re doing at Confluent from a DEI perspective. So first of all, just want to say thank you. Thank you to all of you for being here with us.

Elizabeth Borges: Thank you to our incredible speakers. I got a chance beforehand to hear some of the practices of the talks, but there’s something different about seeing it at the actual event. I definitely had to get some tissues for some of those. Just really appreciate the vulnerability and all of the wisdom that you shared. So happy you’re part of the Confluent Community.

Elizabeth Borges: I also want to thank all of the folks who are on the line today. You are actually helping us kick off our Confluent Kafka Summit, which starts tomorrow. I don’t know if it’s an official or unofficial Confluent Kafka Summit kickoff event. This is the second year in a row that we’ve done a Girl Geek Dinner the night before Kafka Summit. So we’re starting to get into a little tradition here that I hope that we maintain for a bit. I want to thank you all for helping be a part of kicking this off. As we think about our job at Confluent, our mission is to put an event streaming platform at the heart of every organization around the world.

Elizabeth Borges: As we think about being able to do that as a company successfully, we know that that’s going to take a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We need to, as a company, embrace and reflect the diversity of the global community, if we want to successfully bring that event streaming platform into organizations all around the world. As Angie mentioned, there’s a lot of great work that we’ve been doing over the past year at Confluent to help us get better at being able to realize that mission. You heard a little bit tonight from folks who mentioned employee resource groups, so internal communities of folks that serve people of different backgrounds within the organization. That’s Blackfluent, for example, like what Candace talked about. We’re also doing a lot in terms of training and starting to really talk intentionally about what it means to build an inclusive culture.

Elizabeth Borges: But I also want to point out that we want to connect with communities and folks outside of the company because we know that we can learn from you all as well. So that’s part of why partnerships, like the one that we have with Girl Geek are so important to us and part of why I’m so grateful having all of you be here tonight to help us kick off Kafka Summit. Then also celebrate diversity and inclusion and some of the amazing women from our community. So that’s first thing, very sincere thank you.

Elizabeth Borges: Second is, as Angie mentioned at the start of the event tonight, it is a unique time. I think we can all agree that 2020 is one for the history books. Obviously, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. That’s why we’re doing this virtually. Those of you who are in California, I woke up this morning, there was smoke. It’s definitely a scary situation for many of us, given the wildfires here. There are natural disasters. I think I saw something about a hurricane coming to another part of the U.S. Then of course we’re experiencing all of this natural disasters, things that are happening out in the external world, on the heels of a very difficult summer. Having a much needed, but difficult, conversation about systemic racism and persistent racial injustice that exists in the U.S. So it’s a lot, there is a lot going on. I think at a time like this, it’s never more important to build a community, and to find people who you can be open and honest and vulnerable with.

Elizabeth Borges: That’s one of the reasons that we love partnering with Girl Geek. I think this is one of the only tech events where you can have somebody speaking honestly, and openly about coming out at work. Or having to run to the bathroom when you’re pregnant, or talking about what it’s like to grow up in Ohio as one of the few black kids at your school, and to be able to do that and be so supported. So as we are in the middle of a very difficult year, I just want to encourage all of you to continue to invest in this community.

Elizabeth Borges: We at Confluent are so excited to support it. Know that you’re also now part of our extended community at Confluent, and we’d love to stay in touch. So encourage you, if you can, to join the icebreaker afterwards. Definitely reach out to any of us who’ve spoken here tonight on LinkedIn. If there’s anything that we can do to further help you, or support you during this time. Thanks so much.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, Elizabeth. That was great. So thank you to Confluent for sponsoring this dinner and making this happen.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: I encourage you all to move to icebreaker. The link is in your confirmation email. I want to give one last thank you to everybody who spoke at this event, and also to all the amazing people behind the event from the Confluent side. If you have any questions about how to get to icebreaker, please comment on the chat. I am hoping to see you all there.

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