“Building High-Performance Teams In A Pandemic”: Elevate 2021 Panel (Video + Transcript)

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


Sukrutha Bhadouria: We’re going to now go into our next session. Like I said, it’s an amazing panel. The topic is “building high performance teams in a pandemic. I’m going to be joined by Rachana Kumar, who is the VP of Engineering [at Etsy], Elaine who’s the CTO at Change.org, Tina who is CTO and Founder at Transposit.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Welcome ladies, I’m really excited to get us started. So first, because you’re such accomplished women, I don’t want to do you the injustice of trying to introduce you all. You will do a much better job yourselves. So please do go ahead and introduce yourselves and explain the different size of engineering teams that you’ll need. We’ll start with you, Elaine.

Elaine Zhao: Thank you. Thanks and happy International Women’s Day and I’m really glad that I have the chance to talk to you all and then share my ideas here. My name is Elaine Zhao and I am the CTO of Change.org, so my entire career is probably very similar to many of you, the start off as engineers and move up to the manager rank so I’m super excited to be here and share some of the ideas with you all, thanks.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Tina?

Tina Huang: Hi. As Sukrutha mentioned, I am Tina Huang, I am the Founder and CTO of Transposit and we are a company that works on DevOps process orchestration so it’s great to hear a little bit of that last presentation on DevOps and this sort of up-and-coming nature. As a company, we were founded in 2016 and we are currently a Series B startup and around 50 or so employees total, about 20 something in engineering.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Rachana?

Rachana Kumar: Hi all. First of all, happy International Women’s Day. I’m Rachana Kumar, I’m currently VP of Engineering and Managing Director for Etsy Mexico. So I have been at Etsy for about seven years so I’ve kind of seen now the whole growth from a smaller startup to a larger company now. Currently we have about 600 engineers and my org has about 150, 200 engineers and yeah, I also have a five-year-old son.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s awesome. I mean, we should get right started. I kept getting questions like, “How does everyone define high performing teams?” Because that being the topic of this panel, let’s level set to begin with. How do each of you define high performing teams and how does this end up influencing the kind of engineers you hire for? Tina?

Tina Huang: Yeah, so Transposit has a few different core values but the one that is sort of nearest and dearest to my heart is we are a culture of pragmatism. And this really came about because at a number of different tech companies I worked for before, I worked at Apple, Google, Twitter, some of these kind of companies that really led the way for how we think about kind of engineering cultures, I found a lot of their tech ladders and the way they thought about what high performance meant is really like I could write a really, really strong and fast algorithm.

Tina Huang: That affected not only hiring and tech ladder and promotion but just the entire culture. I thought that was really interesting because what I saw was a lot of engineers who would hyper optimize a piece that was just not actually important to the holistic picture. So I wanted to build something different at Transposit and so we grounded this on this culture of pragmatism.

Tina Huang: What that means is that I really value everyone on my team to be able to really understand and empathize with the customer and the business value first and foremost, and then decide what is the appropriate amount of engineering to actually build for a particular piece of technology. Some people take that as when I say we are a culture of pragmatism, that you know we want hacky engineers.

Tina Huang: I think that there’s this perfect sweet spot with pragmatism and it’s really being able to understand is this piece of code something that is core to our system and is going to be run a hundred thousand times and we’re pretty certain it’s going to be part of our final product or is this piece of code for a prototype and it’ll be better to get something out to the customer sooner and get feedback and iterate more progressively.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, and going from a startup like yours, I’d be interested to hear your point of view, Elaine. How do you define high performing teams and how do you do it at your company when you’re trying to build a high performing team? How does that influence your hiring process?

Elaine Zhao: I think probably no surprise that every engineering leader at all levels want to be a high performance team. That’s the ultimate goal. So I think the definition is really based on the why, why we’re doing that? And I think that have to take into account for the company strategy, the team strategy and goals and visions. At Change.org, the biggest social change platform in the world and under this umbrella, our goal and the vision is to become the undeniable leader in digital activism, right?

Elaine Zhao: We want people come, engineers come, to become the great engineers. And while they’re doing good for the world. So that really focused on couple areas and tied it up to our mission and vision then also tied up the two area that we want to bring and it’s one is higher experience engineers and continue to learn and improve the existing team that they both have to happen, right?

Elaine Zhao: We want to put a real emphasis on our user first because it doesn’t matter what we want to do, what we say we are good or not good, if our users not being served, then we cannot call ourselves a high performance team, so we really want to switch the emphasis to ours and focus on the user’s impact first, then come back and we drive the velocity, focus on learning and candor, that’s another thing that’s quite unique to Change or I would imagine many social mission focus engineering team as well that would tend to have a very strong culture already and how do we cultivate that we’re very caring.

Elaine Zhao: But when we so care about each other, then we sometimes forget about the best caring that we can have is actually make sure everyone continue to improve, right, we challenge each other to learn new skills and go up to the next level and that’s, whether or not you use the the words radical candor or be trusted, helping each other to succeed and that’s what we focus on and slightly different than many other companies in the world do, yeah.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: And then how’s your experience, Rachana, through seeing Etsy grow and then now expanding in Mexico?

Rachana Kumar: Yeah, I think both Tina and Elaine covered great points from customer focus to pragmatism to radical candor. So I’ll focus more on, as we’ve been scaling, how we are kind of thinking of scaling high performing teams. So in the past, we predominantly have had engineering teams in New York, San Francisco, and remote within the US. And over the last year or so, we have been expanding in Dublin and Mexico a lot.

Rachana Kumar: And for me, as we are ramping up hiring, they are starting to hire in these locations, one thing we are looking at is how do we take the aspects of starting from sourcing to hiring to onboarding to then forming your team, how do you then select projects in these new locations and countries for them to work independently? What kind of projects and what framework do we come up with?

Rachana Kumar: I’m looking with people at Etsy across the board. For me, we have not perfected it, we’re certainly just started figuring it out, how to scale. And there are a lot of other global teams that do that but I think Tina covered a little bit of this, right, what is our values that matters the most? Etsy is a pretty… other than specific skillsets like iOS and Android or DSML and things like that we are a pretty language agnostic company.

Rachana Kumar: We look at predominantly full stack and as long as you are interested and you’re a good engineer and the quality is great, other qualities like are you empathetic, are you kind of good at communicating when things don’t go well, all these basic things that are important for us here will be important irrespective of whatever the location is to build a high performing team, but also to bring all these people together.

Rachana Kumar:One thing I’m really trying to be mindful of is… because a culture has worked for us really well for over a decade, how do we be mindful of new cultures as we enter new countries and what is the best way to merge both of them and build teams together is what I’m trying to be more mindful about, talk more actively, yeah.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Those are all great perspectives and it’s interesting how there is a lot of overlap no matter the size of the company and no matter where the company is expanding. But another aspect of building a high-performing team is getting the right leaders in place, whether it’s from a management standpoint or from IC leadership or technical leadership, right?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: There are times that you reach a crossroad where you’re like, “Should I invest in growing somebody to that leadership role, whether it’s a manager or a an IC, or should I be like hiring externally?” And different choices are made at different stages because building a team is literally like building a dynamic puzzle. You add something, it fits and then it changes the whole puzzle all over again, right?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: So, Elaine, what has been your experience in that whole aspect of choosing to hire versus grow when it comes to IC technical leadership roles? And when you when have you made the choice to do one versus another?

Elaine Zhao: All right, that’s always a a tough question to answer and leaders have to make that choice and decisions that are sometimes it’s external constraints. But what I also want to focus on, we have to look into, I like to focus on at that current stage of the my team and the company, what can we do and cannot do, right? At the current stage, I’m putting all the emphasis in hiring from outside. Part of that is when a huge growth phase, we need more people to the team and every time we need more people and it’s a perfect opportunity to bring in the right skill set into cultural add to the existing team.

Elaine Zhao: And also the other things that I want to highlight is a lot of time I participate a lot of conversations is about a building team and growing internally, we forget to think about whether or not the team itself, the company itself have the bandwidth, have the right mentorships and mentors in place to provide those mentorship to the ICs and all levels.

Elaine Zhao: I also want to focus on from hire outside there’s multiple things. However, of course, most the time we talk about hiring is hiring full time, but you can hire in fixed terms or short-term contractors, bringing the specific skill set to pair with your existing team to help them to fast-track the learning as well. You can also bring in specific skills in that way. Consultants is also a great way to do that.

Elaine Zhao: I cannot have emphasis enough about bringing in the external help to bring in those mentors only that is fair because a lot of time it’s not fair for the for the ICs and they want to learn but there’s no one for them to learn from. It becomes such a frustrating experience in my experience.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah and a parallel story is yours, Tina, where you were at the start of building your company, you have spoken about how you didn’t have management experience and then you had managers who didn’t necessarily have management experience as well. So how did you end up growing them in order to build the leaders that you needed?

Tina Huang: Yeah. I mean, I feel like Elaine is speaking exactly my language. I think that my experience is really for all of you who are out there building early stage startups, but I feel like one of the superpowers that women have is self-awareness and the willingness to kind of put your ego aside. So I was founder and CTO of the company but I knew very well that I had never been a manager, and as much as I’d like to think that I am an empathic person and I could learn that job, that’s very, very different than saying that I have had that experience and I place a high value on just domain experience that you can only really learn from doing that job.

Tina Huang: I saw early on, even though I really wanted the culture to sort of be grown internally and all that value from growing ICs into those leadership roles, well, I’ve seen just from observation a lot of my friends’ startups is they will grow their ICs internally, ignore the management problem, it’s always high risk to bring in your first VP of engineering, it could have a really, really catastrophic effect on your engineering culture, but the way they handle it is to just ignore that problem, right? So they are just growing their startup engineers into kind of quasi leadership, and then they hit a cliff, and all of a sudden there’s an emergency and a fire where you realize, we have a bunch of fairly… We just lacked that leadership experience, we needed it yesterday, and so then the company just gets external leadership and suddenly there’s this really, really strong culture shock to the startup culture.

Tina Huang: So we did exactly what Elaine’s talking about at a much larger org early, early on at Transposit. We hired an external contractor, this team, Bill and Amanda at this consultancy called Thrive Consultancy, and they worked with us and some of our ICs that were trying to grow into eng managers to sort of help understand our culture and build out that leadership internally.

Tina Huang: And I was very honest with the team, I said, “Look, if we grow at a fast enough rate, we will likely need to bring in outside leadership, but having consultants come in and help you all grow at least gives you all the opportunity. And that’s no guarantee that we won’t need that leadership, but at least you stand a chance. If we don’t bring in the consultants early on, we will inevitably have to bring in outside leadership and you will not have even had a chance to grow.”

Tina Huang: We were very fortunate that the internal eng managers, they had that hankering for mentorship, exactly what Elaine’s talking about. So they were really wanting that mentorship that I couldn’t provide for them, and at the same time, Bill over at Thrive that we’re consulting for, he likes to say, he got a little bit too close to the pond and just sort of slipped in. He fell so in love with our team and our culture that he agreed to come on as our VP of Engineering and really get deep into our team and our company.

Tina Huang: And that was really the best case scenario for us because we had the seniority of someone who honestly was too good for our company. He had previously been the VP of Engineering at Venmo and then was retired and we pulled him out of retirement to come work with us. So there was no culture shock there and we got a ton of great, great expertise added to our leadership team.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s great. It’s always a win when you’re pulling someone out of retirement. Rachana, I’m curious to know your thoughts because IC leadership track versus the people manager track is something that people talk about in parallel but not enough of an emphasis on one versus another. So what are your thoughts on whether or not we should hire versus growth for leadership in general?

Rachana Kumar: Yeah I’ve not yet pulled anyone out of retirement so I don’t have Tina’s super powers, but yeah, I think it’s a balance, right? But to reach that balance, you need to reach a certain scale. After we reached a certain scale at Etsy, actually I can speak for my personal belief is if people want to get into management, that’s great, but that shouldn’t be the only way engineers can grow, right? And they’re very deliberate about having a very clear individual contributor growth track and a management growth track.

Rachana Kumar: And even within management, having said that, if someone is interested in becoming a manager, we have kind of process around that, they can try it for three months or they can interview for a role internally then it’s kind of like getting a new job within the company but there’s so much mentorship and support at this scale to make that happen for them.

Rachana Kumar: But also one way I kind of evaluate the question whether, let people grow internally or hire externally is… So at least with me and my directs or the whole manager… There are about 20 managers in my group, the cohort I think of as, say, between me and my directs what are the skill sets that we have significant gaps in right now, right?

Rachana Kumar: It might be technical. It might be industry experience. Or it might be just leadership experience. Like last year as a specific example, I hired a director of engineering for a initiative or a group within my larger group and there were already about four engineering managers and two of them were senior engineering managers and they both had absolute tremendous potential to grow into a director but between what my responsibility was and what they were doing, we could see there was a clear gap in terms of someone with significant management experience coming from the outside and being able to mentor both experienced managers and manage also more junior managers.

Rachana Kumar: And it was a hard conversation because the team had really talented managers within the group and so what was helpful was kind of laying out what are the gaps and can any of us fill that right now in talking about it actively.

Rachana Kumar: I feel like the conversation doesn’t happen enough similarly in the IC track until it’s very obvious that it’s a specialized skill set that we don’t have right now. And because our managers are also hiring managers in that sense, they understand when you sit down with them and I feel like because of that, at least most companies have seen, in the IC track, if they have a robust IC track, they end up promoting internally much more than hiring externally because we’re talking about technical skills here.

Rachana Kumar: In management, it’s easy to say someone at a director we need eight years for these reasons, so I feel like most companies, even if they have a clear IC track, end up promoting more internally.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, that makes sense. And I mean all of your stories do resonate. I’ve worked in larger companies for most of my career. So now that we’ve talked about hiring and building, let’s talk about the dreaded f-word, firing. That is a really, really hard decision to make and it’s something everyone hates doing. It’s not enjoyable by any means, but it’s also not something to be afraid of. So, Tina, I’d love your perspective, let’s start with you on why it is an important skill for managers to learn?

Tina Huang: Yeah, this is something that came up recently, I think actually, as we were meeting up to talk about this panel here where, especially during the pandemic when we know that everyone’s struggling, it’s like how do you have hard conversations and then the most extreme of those is the conversation to terminate employment. And I was thinking about having to have those conversations as well as the follow-on, which is explaining to your team the necessity for these.

Tina Huang: I had previously always thought of the need for firing as part of–I think if you all have read the book, Netflix: No Rules Rules, the need to preserve talent density. And that always had a lot of resonance to me because, as an engineer, I really appreciated working on teams with very, very high talent density.

Tina Huang: But from the leadership perspective, it always struck me as almost a bit of arrogance, and so I sort of went on to a little bit of a philosophical journey to sort of reflect and think, why do I think that it’s so important or what’s another way of thinking about why it’s important to fire?

Tina Huang: One of the things that I realized is, for a lot of companies out there that I’ve seen, there’s a huge difficulty in firing and a huge sort of aversion to doing so. And so you put people on performance plans, you go through a whole rigamarole, oftentimes just transition them to another team. But what this actually ends up happening is this corollary on the hiring side.

Tina Huang: Because we’re so afraid of letting people go and oftentimes just because they aren’t a good fit for the role, not because they aren’t a smart, talented, wonderful person, that leads us to set these ideas on the hiring side which is, when in doubt, don’t hire. And this is something that was very, very common when I was working at Google, which at any hiring panel, if you weren’t 100% sure, you were told vote no on the hire. And so what does that mean?

Tina Huang: Well, if you have this notion that says when there’s any sort of doubt don’t hire, you’re going to look for high pedigree, people who are from known goods, go with your previous pattern matching, go for elite universities, for brand name tech companies, because it reduces doubt. And this is a way that you actually end up with a lot more bias in your hiring process because you’re unwilling to take a risk on anyone who adds a diversity to your company.

Tina Huang: So I started having this framework of thinking about what I told my engineers for how to think about hiring, which is this risk versus reward framework. Rather than thinking of just purely doubt, it’s like, we try to think about what is the risk of this hire but what is the upside that you can have by doing this hire and diversity of experience, diversity of thought, is a huge upside, in our perspective and so we’re willing to take risks if we see a potential hire has high upside but sometimes that risk comes at a cost.

Tina Huang: And so as an organization, I’ve been trying to coach my engineers to feel more okay about giving negative performance reviews when necessary because that’s the only way that we can continue a culture that allows us to take high risks and have a very, very diverse team.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, these are really important thoughts and you see, when you get the chance, that people are resonating with what you’re saying and they’re adding their thoughts as well in the chat. I do want to take a little bit of a tangent because, Elaine, your stories are not so much about firing but when you have this mutual agreement that the path or the partnership that you had with somebody may not be the right one anymore, so not so much a firing but a polite handshake, let’s meet again, maybe.

Elaine Zhao: Yeah. No, absolutely right. Instead of just talking about firing and I prefer to use the word “part ways” with the staff that the core of the any of these issues is that working relationship no longer works, no longer right, but whether or not it’s performance related, it is skill set related, it’s the drive, the desire, the company wants to go to one direction, the employees career path go a different direction, whatever it is, we need to face that both sides need to face it and then treat it as fully grown adults.

Elaine Zhao: You don’t force a relationship nowadays if we all know it doesn’t work, right? People know and employees know it too. For us to so afraid to talk about performance-related firing or whatever reason that are no longer the right fit and just work around it, we don’t treat each other with the respect in a basic, we don’t believe that employees can understand that we try to treat them as a kids. And that is something that I fundamentally disagree with, we need to treat each other with respect that we’re fully grown adults. Let’s talk about it, right?

Elaine Zhao: What is the best way out? I have heard stories these days and the pandemic people challenge question about we shouldn’t fire people because due to performance because it’s pandemic or shouldn’t be a performance plans, whatever it is. And I think that is really not doing those employees the justice. Instead, we need to open the conversation. If the concerns about because the pandemic, financial related issues, there’s so many way that we can do it right with empathy see and I will take care of that.

Elaine Zhao: Let’s face, it what is the best way to help forward or not that’s a layoff situation, firing situation, a transition. And one last thing sort of talk about not talking about these topics objectively is when we’re avoid doing, make the tough decisions, we actually treated the best performers, our high performance, the worst. Those who deserve the most from the leaders, they end up received at least, right?

Elaine Zhao: When we’re kind of letting the low performance hanging around when there’s no longer the right relationship, right fit there, we actually treat our best performance worse. And guess what, we’re going to lose those top performers or we turn the top performance to mediocre performance, and I think that’s exactly the opposite that we wanted to see, right?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, and I mean oftentimes letting go of someone feels like a difficult decision not just because of how they’re doing but because of how that can cause an impact on the project deliverable. And, Tina, you spoke about encouraging your employees to not be afraid to give negative feedback so I want to go to you now, Rachana, because you were that person who wasn’t afraid to give that feedback and then you saw a difficult decision being made based on that. So do you want to go into that?

Rachana Kumar: Yeah sure. I think both Elaine and Tina made great points. At any given point in time, letting go of anyone is a hard decision. But for me, this was very early on in my career, I was a tech lead and we were working on a project that had like crazy tight deadlines and my manager said, “Can you peer program with another engineer and what if you try to finish something we were struggling with as soon as possible?”

Rachana Kumar: And I went and sat next to him and we were peer programming and I made a suggestion on how we both can best… A technical suggestion for whatever we were working on and he turned towards me and he basically said, “I don’t want a woman telling me how to code. I know how to do my job well.”

Rachana Kumar: And it of course it made it very challenging for me to continue peer programming at this given point in time. I just got up and I realized I had to tell this to my manager because this expectation was we are peer programming and we are going to finish it and after a comment like that, continuing peer programming and I was also new to the US and I said person new to a country and understand still understanding the culture and all those things I was very afraid to say anything. But I felt like I had to tell my manager what he said even because I had no idea what the outcomes were and I was certainly very nervous. I just went and told my manager. “I don’t think we can continue to peer program because this is what he told me.” And my manager actually let him go immediately.

Rachana Kumar: And for me, I have been manager for over a decade but the learning from that incident was… That put the project at risk and the team’s execution at risk but he chose not creating a toxic work environment, especially for minorities, over the project outcomes, which for me was a really good learning experience as a leader and that’s something I always keep in mind because it’s not just about what business and customer outcomes you’re driving, it’s about the culture you’re driving, and it’s like, even if someone sometimes a high performer, if they’re toxic to the culture, it’s a really hard decision to make but it’s an important one.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, that’s a very brave story and I’m glad it ended up in a positive outcome and not just for you but the lesson and the message that was being sent that a toxic environment is absolutely not okay by any means. So now we’ve talked about hiring externally versus growing people versus identifying when it’s time to part ways. We all are very aware that the traditional tech promotion systems, we haven’t figured it out. So let’s talk about the problems with it, right? So what are some of the challenges we see with how it is today? Elaine, let’s start with you.

Elaine Zhao: Talking about getting the opportunity for us, I think couple of things here is, first thing first, you have to, my experience, that have to focus on the opportunity in front of me, which is my current job, right, and actually do a good job in it and I know there’s a lot to talk these days about people not getting noticed but I can tell you if you’re not doing a good job you absolutely would not get noticed. All right. So focus on that one first.

Elaine Zhao: And the other area is really I learned my lesson that I really set the expectations with my manager, I also recognized a very fortunate that I have earlier my career I have one leader, manager hired me four times at four different companies so he become my mentor. The key thing is to really understand the manager’s perspective, and in my case, what he sees I should focus on and go from there. Now there are situations which I also experience my career, especially later in my career, when I get in the more upper management level. It’s just a misalignment.

Elaine Zhao: At that time though, I got bigger responsibility that my focus is actually to talk to peers and talk to different folks within the company to understand a higher level, not just engineering, not just my team, but the overall challenges are other leaders facing and then see what I can help whether or not a [inaudible] standpoint or just technology strategy standpoint that I can meet my team and collaborate with them and that is actually really for me have been served me really well, because the ultimate goal is not just whether or not me getting noticed or do a good job is whether or not we solve a problem, solve our customer’s problem, and I think that’s the most important thing that we need to focus on, yeah.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. And for you, Tina, what do you think are the challenges with the current situation, in terms of how we have the traditional promotion expectations that we have in the tech industry?

Tina Huang: Yeah, so one of the things I noticed from my experience, primarily at Twitter, was I realized that a lot of times one of the challenges is we think a lot of aspects of technical, what was on the tech ladder, is highly quantitative when it really is fairly subjective. And the example that I often give is around code quality.

Tina Huang: Code quality and even the fact that we use it as a metric makes it sound like it is a quantifiably measurable thing that you can look at someone’s code. When in practice, if you think about it, code quality is highly subjective depending on what was that purpose for the code. If the code was to try to get a prototype out or meet a very, very aggressive customer deadline, the best quality code is the code that will actually ship on time. Whereas, if it’s part of a long-term project, the right quality of code might be higher performance or higher reliability, if those are aspects of the system that you really care about. Similarly, when you talk about something like code quality, there’s also, I almost say a historical lens that people try to put towards it, where they evaluate the code without any sort of thinking around what was the context that the code was written in?

Tina Huang: So I was at Twitter in the very, very early days and so there would be questions around, “Why was this code not written on top of this other library?” And no one bothered to look at it and say, “Oh, that library didn’t even exist when we actually wrote that code.” And so one of the things that I try to do very differently at Transposit is I try to think about, set very good high level value metrics that the company should be driving for, especially on the customer and product side and rooted in that aspect of pragmatism that I talked about earlier, and then use that to sort of drive the metrics. What are the product deliverables, the guidelines, et cetera, and then have that sort of cascade into what is the appropriate quality of code to evaluate on?

Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s awesome. Yeah. I mean, I don’t think people are really realizing how difficult it is when it’s subjective or not, right, in terms of evaluation. So I’m curious now next, I mean, Tina, you’ve had an amazing career, all of you have, and not everybody has had opportunities handed to them. Sometimes we’ve had to make it for that for ourselves. So how have you done that for yourself, Tina?

Tina Huang: Yeah, one of the things that I hear a lot from various engineers is they come to me and they say, “Hey, it’s not my fault, I’m not given the right projects in order to hit that next technical milestone, to get the leadership or the technical kind of benchmarks necessary for that promotion.” I often talk about how when given a project, you can take it very, very literally and just execute on that project or you can try to think bigger picture around what are the actual goals and the necessities there?

Tina Huang: I think people often look at my experience and they could say, “Hey, Tina, you became a CTO by creating your own company that feels highly, highly unapproachable to me.” I often like to talk about some of my experiences navigating larger companies at Google or Twitter to sort of better ground that into real world examples or examples that feel a little bit more approachable.

Tina Huang: One example was at Google, we were asked to do a front-end redesign. And so we were given some mocks and the obvious solution would be, let me just write a new front-end for Google News that executes against these mocks. Instead, I looked at the actual architecture and what it would take to build that. And at Google, believe it or not, back in the day, for all of their search infrastructure, including Google News, the front-ends were written in C++.

Tina Huang: And I said, “Hey, this is highly unscalable to have and even hire for engineers that both know C++ and also know Javascript and to be able to build a modern web front end with all of these bells and whistles there. So why don’t we take an approach that actually shards that old C++ front-end and make it into an API server and build a Java front-end on top of it?” Because we had a lot of Java expertise at the company, because all of the Google Apps were built on top of Java.

Tina Huang: And so I was a fairly junior to mid-level engineer at the time but I championed this to a bunch of the senior technical team members and pushed forward to actually re-architect the system. And that’s how you take a project that is, on face value, not technically sophisticated and actually turn it into something that is worthy of a promotion.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, it’s really inspiring to hear how one shouldn’t just stop at what’s not in front of them. All right, so on that note, do you, any of you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share, Rachana, let’s start with you. What are your thoughts you’d like to close with in a pandemic situation for everyone?

Rachana Kumar: Yeah, I would just add to what Tina said because I think that’s so interesting about making opportunities for yourself and even for me, throughout my career, it’s been like kind of looking for things that no one is in my peer group, there are obvious problems, but either it’s not glamorous or it’s too risky and no one wants to own and kind of seeing…

Rachana Kumar: Because I know it’s an important problem but no one thinks it’s glamorous enough or exciting enough, owning those and working on them it’s been how I’ve created opportunity and that ties to also the promotion conversation. A lot of my promotions have come because I found a pattern and a problem, either small or big, depending on the stage of my career, and kind of paid attention to it.

Rachana Kumar: During the pandemic, with everything from child care to everyone going remote suddenly, how do you make mind space for that has been really challenging for me and the Mexico job was an interesting one. When they offered me that, it’s again a risky one, we had to move there so in the next few months and things like that. But I’m trying to still keep an open mind to what has made my career successful even during the pandemic, even though it’s hard.

Girl Geek X Elevate 2021 Virtual Conference

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

Girl Geek X Equinix Lightning Talks (Video + Transcript)

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

Full house at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner in Sunnyvale, California.  Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X

Transcript from Equinix Girl Geek Dinner:

Gretchen DeKnikker: Okay, perfect. Hello, everybody. I’m Gretchen from Girl Geek. Thank you so much for coming tonight to this gorgeous space. It’s amazing here. This is our last Girl Geek event of the decade. And Angie started this organization almost 12 years ago. So let’s give her a big round of applause for doing that. We’ve done 250-ish of these events now, so please keep coming.

Gretchen DeKnikker: We have a little swag store and I have something from it, this adorable notebook. So we’re going to play a little game. Raise your hand if you’ve been to three or more Girl Geek dinners. Keep it up if it’s four. Five. Six. Avi, I feel like you’ve not even qualified to win. Okay. Seven? He comes every single week. This is seven. Okay. Eight? Nine? 10? 11? Anybody? In the back?

Geekiest girl

The “geekiest girl” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner and winner of the Girl Geek X swag notebook.  Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X

Audience Member: I’m the geekiest girl.

Gretchen DeKnikker: That is–? All right. I have the cutest, cutest notebook for you. You’re going to love this and thank you for coming back over, and over, and over again. And I hope to see all of you guys at ones in the future.

Angie Chang: Thank you, Gretchen. Hi, I’m Angie. I think what I have left to say is we do podcasts. We have 20 podcasts that we’ve recorded this year and you can check them out on our website. We also have videos from talks like these. So if you want to spend your Christmas holidays or New Years watching Girl Geeks speak on YouTube, you can find us at youtube.com/girlgeekx, including these talks, probably. And also, one last thing, we’re going to be at the AngelLaunch holiday party this Friday and there’s a VIP15 code for you to get your ticket to join us. And we’ll be in Palo Alto–

Gretchen DeKnikker: Mountain View.

Angie Chang: Mountain View!

Gretchen DeKnikker: Yes. AngelLaunch is hosting.

Angie Chang: Thank you. Free tickets with promo code VIP15. Thank you.

Gretchen DeKnikker: All right.

Dipti Srivastava: Thank you so much. Hi. How are you all doing today? Are you all feeling the magic? The magic of Equinix, because we all feel that here every day. So thank you all for coming here today and spending your precious evening with us. Without further ado, I would like to invite our very first speaker, our chief product officer, Sara Baack. Today, Sara will share about her journey from the Wall Street to the C-suites. She will share some key takeaways from her experiences and share her philosophies that she sticks with as a leader. Welcome, Sara.

Chief Product Officer Sara Baack gives talk on “From Wall Street to C-Suite” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner 2019.

Chief Product Officer Sara Baack gives talk on “From Wall Street to C-Suite” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner. Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X

Sara Baack: Thank you, Dipti. I think you’ve overbilled me. I feel like I might … Hopefully I won’t disappoint anybody here who’s probably commuted, who knows how long down 101 to arrive here this evening. First of all, it’s so energizing. I don’t know how many people would agree with me, but when you come into a room that looks like this, and you have some wine, and you have some sushi, who doesn’t feel excited to be here? So I’m really, myself, excited to be here.

Sara Baack: So when we organized this event and Equinix agreed to participate and sponsor this space and I was asked to speak for seven minutes. I thought, I can’t do anything in just seven minutes. So I’m going to be very brief, but first of all, give a great shout out and thank you to the Girl Geek organization for organizing something as momentous and important as these type of venues. And I also want to certainly welcome everybody who’s here and thank in advance the other colleagues and leaders here at Equinix who will be sharing the podium with me today and probably giving you more words of wisdom from a technology perspective than I’m qualified to do.

Sara Baack: And I’ll explain that in a minute. But I’m first told that I need to give you an Equinix commercial. And because I used to be the chief marketing officer of the company, I take that to heart. So for those of you who don’t know who Equinix is, we’re the best known secret in tech, I liked to tell people when I was a marketing leader for the organization. And essentially, what we do is we provide data center and interconnection infrastructure around the world that makes your technology work. And so the biggest of the big cloud providers, E-commerce providers, telecom companies come and put their infrastructure into our facilities around the world.

Sara Baack: And then we interconnect that all together. So the experience that you have when you’re on your iPhone, using AT&T to go to the App Store to download the Amazon app, to shop for a Christmas gift for your daughter or son. That whole digital transaction chain is actually fueled and powered by Equinix as the plumbing behind all of that. So that’s in a nutshell what we do. I could probably explain that in a deeper technology way, but that’s the way I like to explain it to people like my mother or friends at parties who don’t work in tech and don’t necessarily understand the ins and outs of all the layers of IT infrastructure.

Sara Baack: So that’s essentially the power that we supply to the world, but chances are 80% or 90% of the time, when you have a digital transaction happening, it’s touching Equinix in some way. You just don’t know it. So that’s a little bit about Equinix. I was asked to share a little bit about my personal journey in technology. And so I’ll give you that in a two minute snippet, if that’s possible. I’m an accidental girl geek from a technology point of view. I started out as a geek, for sure, but a technology geek was something I came into later in my career.

Sara Baack: So I was the child of two public school teachers who were very, very interested in education and obviously saw education as the way to rise up and to continue to progress as people and as humans. And so they always impressed on me learning is one of the most important things in life. It’s the thing to relish, it’s the thing to put a lot of hard effort into. And so I did that growing up and they were also very empowering to me in terms of making me feel like anything was possible in terms of what I wanted to do from a career point of view.

Sara Baack: They definitely wanted me to become an engineer, but instead of that, I rebelled and I became a history major. And I majored in history and economics in college. And then because I had a lot of student loans to pay off, I did what any person with a lot of loans does and says, “What’s the job that can pay me the most, that can help me get out of this debt?” And I went to work for an investment bank. And I did a two year investment banking program, which turned out to help me with loans, but also helped me with life, in the sense that it gave me a great exposure to all different kinds of companies, all different types of industries.

Sara Baack: And it also introduced me to just how hard and how many hours one can work because it’s a bit of a sweatshop when you’re working for an investment bank as a junior person. And so I learned a lot about what my mettle was as a worker and how much effort I could put in to get a result. And while I was doing that job, I ended up getting approached to be offered to work in the private equity arm of my company. So the part of the company that invests in other companies. And so I said, “Sure, that sounds great.” And so I did this job where my job was to interview all these management teams and decide if my company wanted to invest in them.

Sara Baack: And I thought that was really an enjoyable job, but I was totally unqualified to do it. And so I thought I need to go to business school and actually figure out how businesses run. So I went to business school and out of business school I thought I’m going to go work in an operating company and actually learn how people create value in a real enterprise. And then I’ll go back to investing some day. And for me, I just got hooked on what it’s like to be part of creating value in the real world versus on a spreadsheet.

Sara Baack: And so I never went back to investing, but I used that financial background to begin to leverage my way into other operating roles in companies that I worked for. And so that gets to how I become an accidental technologist because the first time that I really learned something about network engineering by accident was when I was asked to model the cost structure of a network. And so I had to go and interview every single engineer and say, “Okay, there’s this piece of architecture. What does that do, and how much does that cost, and how do you break it down on a per customer basis?”

Sara Baack: And then after that, what happens next? Where does that bit go? It goes into this box? And what does that do? And how much does that cost? And so I accidentally learned my way into aspects of IT infrastructure and networking engineering as a result of my finance background. And so one of the key lessons that I would impart to folks here is the opportunity that you have to mold yourself. And the assumptions that we sometimes make about so-and-so’s an engineer and so-and-so’s a history major. I think I’m evidence that you don’t necessarily have to live by the label in terms of what you can aspire to do and what you can learn from.

Sara Baack: So that’s maybe lesson one. Am I at seven minutes yet? Probably. I have three or four more minutes to go. So that was lesson one that I had in a career that I think is maybe relevant. Another thing that I’ve learned in being someone who’s bridged from maybe a business finance background into a technology background is being a good listener, a really applicable skill to everything that we all do, is being a good listener. The way that someone asks a question to you might not be actually the answer that they’re seeking. So really trying to understand the spirit of what people are asking and being a good listener, to try to uncover the problem that’s being posed or the opportunity that you have to add value, I think has made a real difference in my ability to make impact in my jobs in life.

Sara Baack: The other thing I’d say about my lessons learned is that nothing comes easy. I mean, I learned that in my first life as a Wall Street investment banker in as much as you have to work your butt off. And I did work my butt off. And so I think there’s an honest reality for all of us, that a certain part of success is sweat and effort. And at least for me, there has been no getting around that fact. But the other thing that I would like to acknowledge is that for folks that have been lucky enough to be in a position that I now enjoy at Equinix, being a senior leader at an S&P 500 company, is luck is just that point, luck.

Sara Baack: Being lucky is part of the equation. And so it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge that part of the reason I get to enjoy the opportunity to work at this company and the role that I have is being in the right place at the right time, along the path of life, and having the good fortune to have good mentors, or talk to the right person at the right time. And I do think that’s something that’s important to acknowledge because all of us, I think, are generally wired to work hard and succeed. And if you don’t acknowledge that luck is part of the success you have in life, I think you’re selling you’re maybe selling yourself a little bit of a tale.

Sara Baack: And so I think luck really matters, but, as they say, luck favors those prepared. Right? Luck favors people who are willing to put themselves out there and willing to take risks. And that gets to my other life lesson, which is that vulnerability is a strength. Which is something that I think many of us women, that’s a scary proposition, right? We can tend to be, and I don’t want to generalize, we can tend to be folks who feel like almost as a need to fit in to a world that’s more male oriented, that we have to act a certain way. We have to be strong in a certain way.

Sara Baack: And for me, one of the things that is probably the message I like to tell a lot of other women colleagues, is that it was the time that I was courageous and confident enough in myself to be vulnerable, to cry in front of my all hands, which I have done regularly in my life, to display that kind of emotion, to be able to be willing to say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I can find out.” To be willing to say, “I really screwed that up. Wow. How can I fix it?” Having those kinds of moments have actually been probably some of the most leadership credibility building moments of my career.

Sara Baack: And so I think getting to a place in your career growth where you have the confidence to display that vulnerability, it can yield remarkable outcomes. Outcomes that you don’t predict because you’re spending a lot of your time figuring out how do I make sure I show up like I know what I’m talking about all the time. And in some weird way, being yourself, giving yourself permission to be yourself is actually your most empowering asset, I think, as a leader and as a person who’s growing in their career.

Sara Baack: And then maybe the last thing that I’ll talk about, which is a value that we have at Equinix. Equinix is a company that just has an amazing culture. And so I feel lucky to be part of it, but one of the values that we espouse is something we call speak up and step up. And that’s another way of saying don’t be afraid to share your views, to put the elephant on the table in a meeting. I mean, obviously you have to do those things in a polite way and in a constructive way, but I think being a person who has the courage to ask the stupid question.

Sara Baack: One of the blogs I write is you’re only stupid if you don’t ask the stupid question. Fear of asking stupid questions makes you stupid because I can count on … I need more than the appendages I have to count the number of times that I have asked a question in a meeting and someone after the meeting comes up to me and says, “I’m so glad you asked that question.” And so I really encourage people to use their voice, whether you’re male or female, and you’re working to show your mettle, and grow in organizations is people want your contribution, right? We’re all earning a paycheck and we’re all sitting in our chair because people want to know our thoughts.

Sara Baack: And so overcoming your fear of thinking your thought is maybe not the right thought is something you really need to focus on, in my opinion, to be successful in the workplace. I can tell you for every one or two good ideas that comes out of my mind, there are certainly eight stupid ideas that come out of my mind. But you’re playing the volume game, right? So as long as you’re willing to voice all of those ideas, and use your peers and your colleagues to help you test those ideas, I think that’s been a key to success for me, is overcoming that fear of just putting my thoughts out there and being willing to share those. And so I know I’m over my seven minutes now.

Sara Baack: So hopefully some of these tiny tidbits have been a smidge of value and slightly worth the commute down here to join us this evening. And so I’m going to now pass the mic to much more august technologists than myself to hear more about what we see happening in the world of technology and to share ideas about that. So I’ll pass it back to Dipti. Thank you.

Dipti Srivastava: Hi. Thank you, Sara. Those were very, very informative tidbits. Our next speaker is someone who was a winner of the Woman of Influence award from the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Dr. Yun Freund. She’s the senior vice president of product engineering. She will share how to thrive in a male dominated tech world and the best practices to be a better leader. Welcome, Yun.

VP of Engineering Dr Yun Freund gives talk on “How To Thrive In The Male-Dominated Tech World” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner 2019

VP of Engineering Dr. Yun Freund gives talk on “how to thrive in the male-dominated tech world” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner.  Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X

Dr. Yun Freund: Thank you, Dipti. Thank you, welcome. This is the first time we sponsored Girl Geek and we’re so excited to have all of you joining us. And I was sharing with some of the girls during dinner, some of you said, “Why do you join? What makes you want to come to the Geek Girl dinner?” One of them says, “Wow, you always have great food.” Always sushi, it’s great food. The second one says, “Well, we would like to explore this business, the company who sponsored this event,” because certainly business is doing well and they can have the budget to sponsor it.

Dr. Yun Freund: We’re hiring, of course. And third and the most important, I think, is we care. We care about diversity, we care about inclusion, we care about women. So with that, let me give a quick introduction about myself. Right, so my leadership journey. So, Sara, shared about her leadership journey. I’m, I could say, the first generation immigrant. 30 years ago I came here from China. I grew up in a very small village in China, don’t speak any English. And I came here 30 years ago to pursue my PhD in computer science. After five years of working in a university, I did receive my PhD in computer science.

Dr. Yun Freund: And I started my journey as just regular engineers. And over the time, I climbed up the career ladders through hard working, collaborating with the teams, and have a lot of great mentors and sponsor along my career. I’ll share some of the tips later. And now, I’m working in various different companies. And I have taught classes at San Jose State. It’s almost three years teaching in San Jose State. Computer science as an adjunct professor. I care very much about women in tech and diversity. And I’m an advocate and passionate about STEM girls. I have a 16 year old girl, so obviously it’s a very important topic for me, too.

Dr. Yun Freund: So talking a little bit, I think Sarah shared a little bit about what Equinix is about. I was sharing with some of the ladies in the audience what do we do. So a lot of you know we are data center, but we are also best secret in high tech. We’re building a software platform that can enable you to go to cloud. So whether you are doing cloud on ramping, whether you’re doing a hybrid [inaudible] cloud. And we have a software platform to help you to have a single button, easy journey to onboard to the cloud. So we will work with all the various cloud service provider. So building the software platform using the latest technology and ReactJS, Java, and any big data, Kubernetes, and even UX designers, and product management, we’re hiring.

Dr. Yun Freund: So if you’re interested, talk to some of our Equinix talent acquisition team. So talking about a little bit about how to thrive in the male dominated tech world. So one of my base tip I can share, being an immigrant, don’t speak the language in a male dominated world. When you go into the conference room, all [inaudible] 20 men sitting in a conference room with me, English not so good. How do I express my opinion? I think first and foremost is about confidence. But how do you build up your confidence?

Dr. Yun Freund: I, actually earlier this year, spoke at the LGBT conference in San Francisco. My tip is know your shit, right? So know your stuff. You got to work twice as hard. Know your stuff in depth so you know every single bits of the details. You can conquer. So no matter how they ask you a question, you know it. So over time, you will build up your confidence because statistics says men speak up early only 50% of the time know about will speak up early. Women has to wait until they’re 100% confident about the material, then they speak up. Don’t do that.

Dr. Yun Freund: When you know 60%, speak up and speak early. And always sit at the front of the table, first line on the seats. So everybody can see you, everyone can hear you. Right? When you apply a job, don’t wait until 100% match of your skill. Apply. Men, only when they’re 50% of the time a match, they apply. So that’s my tip, right? So over time, you build up your confidence, right? That’s the most important thing. I see a lot of women, you are so talented. You work so hard. And sometimes, you say a women has to work twice as hard.

Dr. Yun Freund: But I would say you need to work hard, but you have to share your work. Otherwise, your work is buried in your cubicle. Nobody knows about it. So that’s, I think, the most important tip, over time I see this is one of the great way for you to build up your confidence, to share your work with others, and to bring it to visibility of all the other team members. So I think that’s one thing that’s most important. I went through that journey myself, right? When I was young, I don’t have a lot of confidence.

Dr. Yun Freund: Over years, as you achieve your career and with a lot of supporting sponsors, you can build up that confidence over years. So the second items I want to share is about the mentorship and sponsorship. So I do see that over years you do need a lot of mentorship and sponsors. Sometimes, it’s not easy to find, but I think you will with your perseverance of finding the person who’s willing to invest in you and care about you is so important, right? So sometimes people say, “Well, I don’t need a mentor,” but sometimes you need a sponsor, right? Somebody truly believing you, think you can do the work. And then you have to share your work and outline an impact that you’re driving, the outcome you’re driving.

Dr. Yun Freund: And those sponsor will speak for you when there’s opportunity arrive. And they will help you. So that’s, I think, the most important thing. And then sometimes we do think that men maybe they don’t believe in us, they have unconscious bias, but I would say, I was reading this book, it’s really about bringing men as part of your allies. They want to know you and they want to be able to help you, but sometimes we don’t approach them, or we have a fear approaching them. And I think that’s something that is a mystery. So along my career, actually there were a lot of male leader helped me over my career path, and really believed in me, and moved me to the next level. So with that, that’s all my tips for today. And thanks so much.

Dipti Srivastava: Thank you, Yun. So remember, one takeaway from Yun’s speech, if I would remember, is speak up when you know about 60% of what you’re talking about. That’s still 10% more than the 50% men are supposed to talk about when they know something about. I’m happy to introduce our next speaker, Dr. Danjue Li, who is the director of product engineering. She will talk about how driving innovation is never easy. In this lightning talk, Danjue will share how it connects us turning customer inspired innovation into winning products. Welcome, Danjue.

Director of Product Engineering Dr. Danjue Li gives talk on “turning customer-inspired innovation into new product offerings” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner 2019

Director of Product Engineering Dr. Danjue Li gives talk on “turning customer-inspired innovation into new products” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner. Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X

Dr. Danjue Li: Wow. I really love the crowd and the energy in the rooms. We have some really good leadership tips from Sara and [inaudible] since this is Girl Geek, we have to be a little bit geeky, right? So I am going to take the opportunity just talk to innovations and at Equinix how we turn the customer inspired innovations into products that we can offer to our customers through the platforms. And I actually got that question when I was talking to one of the attendees. And she was asking, so hold your question. We’re going to share.

Dr. Danjue Li: I’m going to start with one of my favorite questions, is what is innovation? If I walk around and ask you to answer, very likely, depends on who you talk to, you get very different answers. So innovation sometimes is considered probably one of the most about terms in business. What it really means, sometimes it can be very nebulous. And even sometimes it can be constant and becomes a buzz word, right? So what is really innovation and how do we look at innovation at Equinix?

Dr. Danjue Li: I’m borrowing some of the graph. Probably sometime you might recognize this from the idea book. So this graph is called the three lenses of innovation, desirability, feasibility, and viabilities. So this is the model that usually startup company founders leverage to build their business models. And nowadays, it’s also being adopted by [inaudible] companies who apply design thinking process to their product creation. So this is how we’re looking at this, is in order to create a successful product, we need to build something which someone wants, right?

Dr. Danjue Li: And then also something which we call desirable. And then also something that is feasible, means from organization and technology perspective it’s totally doable. We can do it. And then, also, it needs to be something which is viable to make business sense. If we build it, we can bring it to the market. And then it would not be broke if we push it to the market, right? So if you look at the middle part, what we call the sweet spot for innovation, and then when we build upon it, we want to target at that sweet spot. So at Equinix, basically that’s the target that we’re looking at.

Dr. Danjue Li: By working with our customers to find that customer inspired innovations that are desirable, feasible, and viable. And then in order to do it, the approach that we take, we’re summarizing three phases. Dreaming it together with our customers, deciding it together, and then developing it together. What does that really mean? So we, as Yun was mentioning earlier, we’re in that perfect spot of intersection of multiple different coats, the intersection of network providers. So we get the opportunity to work with a wide range of customers. Service providers, call providers, enterprises, common providers.

Dr. Danjue Li: So we work very closely with them and dream with them to find out what are the innovative ways for us to help them to build their digital infrastructure globally. And some of the great ideas came up because of that what we call co-ideation process. One of the examples that we’re … A list of the few logos there, those are the things that just came out. And then we also have a pipeline of new stuff that we’re incubating right now. So Equinix smart key, that’s a perfect example of the great results we’re seeing when we dream it together with our customers.

Dr. Danjue Li: So the idea actually was a result when we’re talking to our customers to help them to solve the data encryption issues in a multi cloud environment. So for folks who are in that cloud computing industries, one or more customers are moving, for enterprises specifically, their infrastructure into the cloud, right? And then they start with the one cloud and end up, like, “I don’t want to be locked into one cloud. It’s better to have multiple clouds.” And guess what? Your data moves there, as well.

Dr. Danjue Li: Then you start to have very sensitive information distributed everywhere. And then how to secure them, right? You don’t want to trust the person who keep your stuff and then keep the box of your values at the same time give the key back to them, as well. So this is where Equinix can basically come up with a solution, joining with the customers to help them to encrypt the data, secure that data while they can safely build their digital infrastructure. This is actually one of the product that give me a bragging power whenever I was talking to my daughter.

Dr. Danjue Li: So I believe almost everyone who tried Taco Bell, tried KFC, right? Nowadays, if you go there, swipe your credit card, guess what? Equinix smart key is actually being used to help to secure the transactions. So then the other very good example is Equinix Cloud Exchange. Again, it’s the results from the collaboration or the co-ideation process with one of the largest cloud providers out there, is they asked us to build some private interconnections to connect them with our joined customers. So we work together and we build a product called Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric. And nowadays, [inaudible] Fabric is serving over 1,000 enterprise and service provider customers.

Dr. Danjue Li: And then the same story goes to Network Edge. So once we start dreaming it together, and I think the second step that we took is how we prioritize stuff, right? How you decide it together because there are so many great things out there. And then when you look at it, I want to build this, I want to build that, I want to build that, but you only have limited time. You have limited resource, how to prioritize? And, actually, that’s the dilemma that only innovators are actually facing. So this is where we take the approach to decide it with our customers. And IBX SmartView is the product which actually result from the prioritization with some of our customers. And IBX’s Smart View is a data center infrastructure management product that leverage AI and the machine learnings to help us better manage our data centers.

Dr. Danjue Li: And it also will automatically alert our customers and us if there is any issues detected. So the last part, I want to point it out here, is once we dream it together, we decide it together, you have to build it. Okay? So most of the times, we join forces with our customers to build those products together, the different vehicles that we’re leveraging or the channels that we’re leveraging to handle that code development process. For instance, we have something called customer advisory board and also a technical advisory board that allow us to build that direct communication channels with our customers.

Dr. Danjue Li: So they will be able to come in and then tell us this should show up in the road map, this is great, this is added value. And to help us to decide and also take their input and build tha product together. And then the other one that we introduced is called Minimum Viable Traction, MVT. Probably lots of you have heard of something called MVP, Minimum Viable Products. Actually, that’s an often used term in startup companies, as well. So MVT is the process to help us to bring products to the market, to our customers in a very early stage.

Dr. Danjue Li: So that as we discuss in the very beginning, we build a product. We want to make sure that it’s desirable, feasible, and viable. So MVT basically allowed us to do that early market testing. And they make sure that we are building something which is sitting in that sweet intersection spot. Well, if you are a product company nowadays, how can you do that without a developer platform or developer forums? So we provide developer forums to help us to connect directly with developers out there. So it’s a great vehicle for developers to provide feedback. So we will be able to take that input and improve our products together.

Dr. Danjue Li: And then, also, I was very excited to announce that now we are a proud gold member of CNCF and that we’re also actively contributing back to the open source communities because we believe that’s the new way of building products. It’s not just by yourself, it’s to build with the communities out there. Last, but not least, we host meet up sessions. And we recently did one in [inaudible] computing domains. And then we are going to host more in a coming month, as well. And this event is also a great channel for us to reach out to tell you more about our products, to get your feedbacks, and then to basically collect all the inputs.

Dr. Danjue Li: And to make sure that we’re building something that customer wants. So if you’re interested in knowing more about how we’re turning those innovations into products, if you happen to be very excited about incubating your products, come to talk to us. We actually have a table over there set up to tell you more about the things that we’re doing. And by the way, we’re hiring. Okay? So that’s one thing that I was talking to our HR partners, is as a hiring manager I feel like I’m a kid in a candy store, right? There’s so many talented women here. And you know that in Silicon Valley it is really hard, okay?

Dr. Danjue Li: So please take a few minutes to talk to us if you are interested. Thank you.

Dipti Srivastava: Thank you, DJ. That was so impressive. I’m sure you inspired a lot of folks here for thinking about innovation and remembering how to reach that sweet spot. Our next speaker is Rozanne Stoman. She’s the director of IT for sales and marketing applications. Rozanne will share her journey in career and technology. She will talk about an alchemic blend of science, art, and language that helps her teams deliver exceptional solutions. Welcome, Rozanne.

Director of Applications Rozanne Stoman gives talk on “finding tech: delivering innovative solutions” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner 2019

Director of Applications Rozanne Stoman gives talk on “finding tech: delivering innovative solutions” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner.  Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X

Rozanne Stoman: So good evening, everyone, and thanks so much for this opportunity to coming to share some thoughts with you. So here at Equinix, my team and I take care of a portfolio of enterprise applications that are used primarily by our sales and our marketing legal teams. And so in a given day, my team that primarily business systems analysts. Any business systems analysts in the room? Analysts of any type? I bet there are a lot of analysts who just don’t know that’s what they are. So in any given day, such an analyst may troubleshoot an issue, they may propose a data model, they may give input to a user interface design, they might evaluate a new tool if there’s a gap for us that we haven’t built ourselves.

Rozanne Stoman: Some things we build from scratch and some things we stitch together from existing tool sets or applications. And so with that, what I wanted to talk about, this unique blend of characteristics that we found often makes for a really good systems analysts. And I’m a proud mama hen on my team. Boys and girls, we’ve got really just such a strong team. And often I sit around and go, “How did I get so lucky?” And when I started my career, I must confess, I had this slightly linear view of what may predict success later.

Rozanne Stoman: I remember I was maybe around 25, I was working for a small company and we were expanding our team. And I was given a recruiting assignment. And so I got a whole lot of university resumes, and I looked through them, and I selected … I think I was playing it safe, so I selected the highest grades, and all the subjects that seemed the smartest. So that was my short list and then they put me on a plane and I could meet some of the faces behind these resumes, had some really interesting conversations. And I walked away thinking, “Well, these are really smart people that I’ve just spoken to, but what am I missing? I’m not sure I’m looking for the right stuff yet.”

Rozanne Stoman: And my mentor at the time, he gave me all sorts of interesting advice. One piece of advice was, “Rozanne, you got to grow some teeth. You’ve got to sharpen your teeth.” I don’t know if I ever did that, but he also told me you got to look for the sparkle in their eye. And so there I was, trying to now reconcile math grades with eye sparkles. And over the years now, as I’ve been watching my teams, who as I said, they rock, I do think that there’s this special combination of science, and I think that’ll echo some of what DJ shared with us, as well, and Yun, language, and then art, or maybe I would just call it an eye. And those things together, I think, can make a great predictor for success.

Rozanne Stoman: As we’ve heard, and I’m really happy that this has come up tonight, the science part is table stakes. You got to know your stuff, right? So that analytical mind always wants to improve stuff, who isn’t daunted by team dynamics, or process complexity, or perceived obstacles, but who can patiently unpick process complexity and then forge this path to success. That’s invaluable. And we often joke on our team and we’re like, “If you’re an analyst, you have one job. You have to take complicated things and make them simple.” And sometimes, very smart people like to take simple things and show you how complicated they can be.

Rozanne Stoman: And part of an analyst is, yes, you want to see all the angles, but a good analyst gets great joy from presenting solution options and not just problems. I’m also learning that technical adeptness can take many shapes. It manifests in different ways. We have non-IT counterparts who are deep technologists. And I think with all the new technologies that we now have available to us, we’re learning that you can sometimes forge really good solutions without necessarily understanding recursion, or be able to tweak database indices, or program in R. So there’s just these new solutions standing up so fast that you have to be comfortable with transferring whatever knowledge you have to this domain or tool sets.

Rozanne Stoman: I still believe you have to understand enough to anticipate the consequences or the impacts of what you’re designing, but it’s a dance. Which gets me to number two. I think there’s enough anecdotal references to the links between music and math, et cetera. So I’m not really that surprised at the number of photographers, and designers, and dreamers in our midst here at Equinix. We make space for everyone. We have art galleries up in some of our buildings, we have different forums where people can share all the talents that they have. And I think the desire to explore every problem, whether that’s the composition of a photograph, or how we will navigate our GDPR legislation, or how we will help our marketing team to score leads, or how we will put apps governance in place and they navigate all the teams there.

Rozanne Stoman: For the right personality, any of these are just exciting puzzles to solve. And it’s just as natural as choreography or gaming a tournament. So for us, it doesn’t really matter what the passion is, but what matters is that you see that here is an active analytical mind that’s always looking to optimize whatever gets put in front of it. And then finally, the last piece in that toolkit that I really appreciate is language, that ability to craft a sentence, or distill, or read between the lines, or hear a problem empathetically. The natural teachers in the team who tend to educate their peers, to raise the bar for the whole group, or educate their customers so that they get can better requirements and better results from them.

Rozanne Stoman: That combination is often the last bit in an analyst superpower. So in short, science or tech, knowing your stuff, some kind of art, or expression, or eye for that. And then language combined, for us, are a powerful combination that help our teams to create very innovative solutions. So the takeaway for me, whether you’re a Girl Geek or whether you’re mentoring and inspiring Girl Geeks is, one is don’t underestimate your superpowers. I also came to tech in a roundabout way. I thought I loved writing, then I studied accounting because I thought that’s how I would find my way into a career, and then accidentally on the way I fell in love with programming, which is how I started my career.

Rozanne Stoman: And here in the US, I’m really inspired by the number of paths that there are to become part of exciting tech projects and to contribute. So in closing, you keep your analytical mind brewing and you keep the sparkle in your eye. Thank you.

Senior Manager of Product Software Architecture & Engineering Dipti Srivastava gives talk on “leveraging IoT and big data to level the playing field for remote populations” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner 2019.

Senior Manager of Product Software Architecture and Engineering Dipti Srivastava gives talk on “leveraging IoT and big data to level the playing field for remote populations” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner.  Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X

Dipti Srivastava: Hi. So the next speaker is yours truly. My name is Dipti Srivastava and I’m a senior manager product engineering at Equinix. Today, I’ll be talking to you about how to leverage IoT and big data to monitor data centers. So a little bit of trivia about me, when you get introduced to somebody, what’s the next thing you might ask? Well, you might ask where are you from? I get this question all the time, especially from people of Indian origin because they are always interested to know where you are from because I’m an Indian or I used to be an Indian.

Dipti Srivastava: Well, my answer is I’m from Jhanse and immediately 100% of the time the response is you are a Jhanse Ki Rani. Well, Jhanse Ki Rani. Rani means queen and I am privileged to belong or being brought up in a city or a town where she lived. She was a freedom fighter and I can only dream to compare the valor, her courage, her determination. So we are surrounded by role models and she’s been one of mine. As a little girl, I was interested in science and one of my role models was Madam Curie.

Dipti Srivastava: The reason I bring this up, and it was a recent incident, that I was at Warsaw, right, where we have one of our product development centers for Equinix. And I was visiting the downtown Warsaw and there was somebody who just showed me, that’s where Madam Curie lived. I was grounded, I was floored because I was seeing the place where one of my role models lived. Thank you to Equinix. I got this opportunity to travel to Warsaw and see where she lived. Fast forward, I was a science student. And, really, I loved science. So I got into computer science and then into software development. And the same story of a lot of people here in Silicon Valley, right?

Dipti Srivastava: I had the good fortune of starting my career in a platform company. I got introduced to platform thinking, where you think about that you cannot solve all the problems out there in your domain, in your space. You need a helping hand. You build an ecosystem of integration points, APIs, other things with which you can leverage developers, partners who will help build solutions on top of your platform, right? To enhance and solve the problems out there in the world. Fast forward in the digital age, in the IoT age. Welcome to digital platforms. And I have been working on digital platforms for a few years now, working on smart cities, intelligent building, and most recently here at Equinix, data center monitoring.

Dipti Srivastava: Thinking about monitoring, I was introduced to monitoring a long, long time back at school. I keep going back to my school where I had all my education. So I was a class monitor. And what did I do as a class monitor? Well, if there is something happening, you report to your teacher. If there’s something happening, report to the other students, or students of the other class keep an eye for somebody doing mischief. So there are a lot of things happening which I had to monitor all the time, right?

Dipti Srivastava: Well, here I am, building data center infrastructure monitoring platforms, right? So why do we need monitoring and data centers, right? Well, on any given day, a lot of things could be happening in any data center around the world. Equinix has 200 plus data centers around the world. In these geographically distributed data centers, we have heterogeneous devices, assets which power our data centers. There could be a number of things happening, like equipment failures, extreme weather conditions where temperature and humidity could be of abnormal values, impacting our operational efficiencies.

Dipti Srivastava: There could be significant changes in power draws. And by the way, who all is not familiar with the PG&E outages over the last few months. Right? So utility power interruptions can impact data centers, right? So some or all of these things and many more is something that we need to monitor and make sure are working everyday in order to ensure that our customers are really driving value from Equinix. They are stress free, they do not need to worry about their work loads running in our data center. So what do our users want? Our users want visibility to work their core infrastructure, which is running their workloads, right? They might have critical business applications running on our data centers.

Dipti Srivastava: They would like to have actionable insights, which give them realtime information about any issue that happens, which might impact their workloads. And as such, their customers, right? And they want to have access to this information any time, anywhere. And we are able to provide that to them through our web interfaces. They also want integration points in the form of REST APIs and realtime channels so they can integrate with any of the solutions that they have in house. So what is the approach to solve these problems, right? We defined it as an IoT problem and that was the key, right?

Dipti Srivastava: All the data centers that we have around the world, they are the Edge, right? And as soon as we define what Edge we have, we had an IoT solution. We also planned to design a solution which could scale as you grow, as our customer needs grow. And we also made sure that for our data center we could handle 500 terabyte plus of data, 2.5 million plus stream of events across 60,000 industrial IoT devices. So this is a 10,000 feet view of our data center infrastructure monitoring platform. There are three key things to observe here. One is the Edge, right? The Edge is all the 200 IBXs plus IBXs that we have.

Dipti Srivastava: Then there is the data processing and storage. And finally, all the applications, tools, integration points, and partner ecosystems. I’ll just talk about two things here. The Edge. The Edge is our data center, like I said. And the Edge is complicated, right? It is comprised of heterogeneous assets. They could be your power supplies, they could be generators of different make and models and different manufacturers. The key thing to do here is to make sure that we normalize them. That way, our machines can understand them. Right? The second thing is to collect this data. All of these devices may talk any language or not and talk different languages, too.

Dipti Srivastava: So we need to make sure that we understand that language and collect all this data, process it, analyze it, and then feed it to all our applications. Which can then be leveraged by our customers and by ourselves in order to provide operational efficiency for Equinix and Equinix customers. This is a 5,000 level view of the application platform. So drilling down a little bit. The key thing I just wanted to highlight here was, if you see, this is the applications platform concept, where we provide integration points via REST APIs and realtime feeds on Google, AWS, Azure, and through private channels, right? And through REST APIs for all of the things that you’re hearing about in the data center which are relevant, like power, electrical, mechanical assets, and environmental assets which can measure temperature and humidity.

Dipti Srivastava: Our tech stack. In order to build these world class solutions, we need to make sure that we have a tech stack which can support this, right? So we have chosen, I’ll just name a few, Kafka, Cassandra, Redis, Storm for our realtime processing, and many more. Fire Applications, Spring, Play, Java, right? And for the tooling, we have Kubernetes, Jenkins, and so on. So we have a variety of tools, applications, and platforms which power our data center monitoring platform. Now, how do we all do this, right? That’s what we do, but how do we all do this? A day in the life. A day in the life of a product development, you could be doing anything here. We follow Agile and Scrum, and you could be doing requirements, design, development, CI/CD, quality, availability, monitoring.

Dipti Srivastava: The key thing here, what differentiates us is that we measure each of these things. We measure how we do things and ensure that with every time we keep improving. That way, we can keep getting better and better at what we do. So what’s different in our solution from what it was before? Before, the way the data centers were getting monitored were through heterogeneous localized building management systems, right? Today, with our monitoring platform, we get globally consistent data across all the footprint, across all of Equinix for about everything you would like to know about your infrastructure.

Dipti Srivastava: So that’s the key thing. And the other thing is about our API first approach, which allows customer and partner to integrate with their own applications, if they would like to do so. Why I love Equinix. Do I have to say that? So we had two Hackathons this year, which were a great success. So I work with a lot of innovative people, they’re full of creativity. And the other thing, as you already heard from Yun’s talk and other speakers here, really believe in diversity and innovation, and inclusion of how it enables us to build better products and create value for our customers. Thank you, everyone.

Dipti Srivastava: So finally, I think we are hiring, right? And you heard from Yun, Danjue, and others that we are hiring. This is a list of some of the positions that we have open. And there is many more on our careers website. We have a TA team back there with a lot of giveaways. So please say hi to them. They are waving at you. And so you are welcome to go talk to them if you are interested in any of these open positions. We have people who are in these black shirts who are Equinix ambassadors. So, please, if you would like to chat with them to know more about Equinix, Equinix product, or anything you would like to talk about, you are welcome to talk to them.

Dipti Srivastava: Finally, I would like to thank you all for being here at Equinix spending your precious evening with us here today and listening to all the awesome speakers that we have had here before me. And I would like to thank all the speakers, as well, for being here and sharing your precious thoughts. Thank you all.

Thanks to the Equinix team for hosting a Girl Geek Dinner at your beautiful Sunnyvale headquarters!  Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X

Thanks to the Equinix team for hosting a Girl Geek Dinner at your beautiful Sunnyvale headquarters!  Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X

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

6 Ways You Can Be A Stronger Leader and Make Better Hires

Nupur Srivastava, VP of Product at Grand Rounds

Long before she ever started obsessing over product features and worrying about design deadlines, Grand Rounds Senior Vice President of Product Nupur Srivastava spent her days — and evenings, weekends and holidays — obsessing over her jump shot and running drills in her hometown of Qurain. Her hard work and dedication to the sport took her all the way to the Kuwait National Basketball team, where she played from 1999-2002 and learned the value of teamwork and how fun it is to win!

After earning her Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Michigan, Nupur began her tech career as a Wireless Hardware Design Engineer at Cisco. She then pursued an MBA from Stanford and transitioned into product management, finding her passion in the health tech space. Over the past eight years, she has managed teams ranging in size from 5 to as many as 50 people. Driven by her upbringing and desire to help people, she also co-launched Impactreview (acquired by MaterNova), a community for reviews of maternal and child health products for the developing world.

Today, Nupur is the VP Product at Grand Rounds in San Francisco, where she leads the company’s product management and design teams. As Nupur explains, “the company is on a mission to raise the standard of healthcare for everyone, everywhere. The Grand Rounds team goes above and beyond to connect and guide people to the highest quality healthcare available for themselves and their loved ones. By leveraging the power of data and technology, Grand Rounds creates products and services that make it easy for everyone to get the best possible healthcare experience.

When the Girl Geek X team sat down with Nupur during our Elevate 2019 virtual event on International Women’s Day, we wanted to pick her brain and hear her biggest mistakes and learnings as a health tech product leader and people manager. She shared some great advice:

1. Hire slow and fire fast.

Nupur confessed that she made a lot of classic hiring mistakes with her first hire. She was at a small startup, strapped for resources (we’ve all been there!), and there was a lot of work to be done. Feeling stressed for help, she hired very quickly without thinking through the long-term impact.

“Basically, I hired the first person who I thought could do the job from a technical standpoint,” she shared, “…but one thing that I didn’t focus on was whether there was strong alignment with the company’s values and where we were  growing. Unfortunately, a year later, I had to let this person go because it was a mismatch. I really wish I had spent time understanding upfront whether they were a good fit for what the company needed at the time.”

The classic saying that you need to “hire slowly and fire quickly” rings true here.

2. Ask the right questions.

“A lot comes down to the types of questions you ask in the interview process as well as what you get from the references.” Finding the right fit is less about technical proficiency, and more about who they are as a person, why they have made the decisions they have in the past, and what they are optimizing for in their upcoming role.

You want to ask questions about how they’ve made decisions in their career to date, what drives them, what motivates them. What wakes them up in the morning? When they’re put in a difficult situation, what value system is driving their decision-making?

Nupur stresses that what you’re looking for in a team member will be different for different stages of the company, and for each company’s unique values and mission.

It’s important to tailor your approach to your individual situation, because the perfect hire on paper might actually be a perfect hire for a different environment, but a poor hire once your own values and needs are considered.

3. Hire for impact: seek out people who are hungry, humble and smart.

Many of Nupur’s favorite hiring and interviewing strategies came from a book that Grand Rounds CTO (Wade Chambers) recommended, called Ideal Team Player. “It focuses on this notion of hiring people that are hungry, humble, and smart, and that concept has really resonated with me.”

“At Grand Rounds, we want to raise the standard of care for everyone everywhere, so we need to make sure that people are hungry for that impact,” she explained.

“The humble component is self-explanatory. People that are low ego and prioritize the company above self are great to have on the team. In addition, if you’re hiring someone to work in healthcare, you need to be sure they appreciate that the patients we serve are suffering through things that we may not totally understand. They need humility to empathize with that struggle and build the right products for those patients.”

“And then smart is not actually what you think it may be. It’s not IQ smart, but rather people smart. There’s a base level assumption that you’ll be able to do the job, but it’s incredibly important that you do it in a way that brings people along — that makes you a teammate that people actually want to work for and with.”

One of the things Nupur has been using in her recent interviews is simply asking everyone, “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” Their response typically gives you a sense of their work ethic and insight into what they consider difficult. Sometimes they’ll even answer with a personal response, and it offers a good window into who the person is, and whether they’re someone you want on your team.

4. Accept that your top performers will always eventually leave.

“As painful as it is, top performers will leave you at some point. With all members of my team, I try to develop trust, care deeply about their career, and truly understand where they want to go long-term. This way, when they eventually decide to pursue another opportunity, I’m not surprised because there’s openness and transparency in the relationships.”

The week before we sat down with Nupur, someone she’d worked with for four years left Grand Rounds. She was an extremely high performer, and she let Nupur know of her intentions to leave four months in advance because they were actively talking about where she wanted to go and what drives her. The team member had joined when Grand Rounds was a 50-person company. They’re now over 500, and she was ready for something different.

“I think the most important thing is to have that level of trust with your team members, such that you understand what their career goals are and you’re together making the decision about when is the right time for them to leave. If you adopt this approach, you can prepare for their departure in a way that is not disruptive.”

“It can feel like a painful punch in the gut when someone tells you they’re leaving,” she lamented, “but I think the least we can do is just not be surprised by the decision. At some point, maybe for their own career growth or evolution, or other things that they are optimizing for in their lives, you want them to leave. And as long as you are open and honest with each other and there is trust and transparency, it’s not the end of the world.”

Nupur’s general philosophy is one we could all benefit from adopting: “Everyone has different goals in life. The most we can do is be an advocate and great manager for our direct reports when they work for us, and help influence what they do next, so that you and the business are prepared for employee departures.”

5. Create an environment that welcomes diversity of thought and personality types.

“One of my biggest learnings as a leader over the years has been … beyond diversity based on race and gender, there’s tons of diversity in personality types and the way people like to do work.”

At Grand Rounds, the Head of Data Science asked various team members to take a StrengthsFinder questionnaire, then put everyone into groups of people that are alike so they could discuss things they wanted to teach other groups who were different from them.

The entire product team has also used the DiSC assessment to better understand their behavioral differences. “This exercise gives you empathy for how different people want to show up, and how they want to debate ideas.” 

“Not everybody is comfortable being presented a problem and immediately jumping in and giving their thoughts. Some people want to think about a problem, spend a day organizing their ideas, and come back with their thoughts prepared.” 

“For me,” Nupur admitted, “the first step in improving my communication and collaboration with others is simply awareness. Where do people fall either in the DiSC profile or with StrengthsFinder? What do I need to be aware of as their leader so that I’m creating a comfortable environment for them to speak up?”

“I can remember the first realization I had when I recognized, ‘Oh, everybody doesn’t like coming into a room and talking loudly about their ideas? That’s interesting. I thought everyone was exactly like me!’ and that’s obviously not the case.”

“Using some of these frameworks has been incredibly important because it not only helps you understand others, but it also helps you realize how your type may be showing up for that person and what things you may need to temper, especially as a leader, because you’re setting the tone for the team.”

Nupur has a team member opposite her on the DiSC profile, and she’s started running ideas by him to make sure that he can offer feedback and criticism before she takes it to the team, because as she says, “I’m just hyper-excited and trying to tell everybody everything as soon as the thought occurs.” And that freaks some people out. It is important to understand where others in your team sit in the DiSC profile so that you can personalize your leadership style with them.

6. Let people know where you want to go!

One of the questions we hear asked at Girl Geek X events time and time again is about how to get ahead or move into a management role when you don’t have previous managerial experience.

Nupur’s advice is to make your manager aware that you want to be a manager, and make your goals explicit. “If someone wants to be a manager, you need to make sure that there’s an opportunity and a business need, and an opening in the company for a manager. Have open conversations, and make sure that you have the skills, training, and support of your manager.”

“The biggest thing is raising your hand and making it clear that that’s the path you want to go. Then hopefully if you have a good manager, and you are ready, they’ll make that opportunity for you.”

If you’re having open conversations about your goals regularly — say once per quarter — and you find yourself in a situation where the promotion doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to happen, or you start to feel like you’d be better off somewhere else, you’ll be in a better position to move on gracefully and with a reference you can count on time and time again.

Want to work with Nupur?

If Nupur sounds like someone you’d love to work with, you might be in luck: she’s looking for a passionate Sr. Product Designer to join her team, and Grand Rounds is hiring for dozens of other roles across a wide range of functional areas!

For more hiring and people-management advice from Nupur Srivastava and other Girl Geeks, check out the full video & transcript from her panel on “Building High Performance Teams” at Elevate 2019, and subscribe to the Girl Geek X YouTube channel!

About the Author

Amy Weicker - Head of Marketing at Girl Geek X

Amy Weicker is the Head of Marketing at Girl Geek X, and she has been helping launch & grow tech companies as a marketing leader and demand generation consultant for nearly 20 years. Amy previously ran marketing at SaaStr, where she helped scale the world’s largest community & conference for B2B SaaS Founders, Execs and VCs from $0 to $10M and over 200,000 global community members. She was also the first head of marketing at Sales Hacker, Inc. (acquired by Outreach) which helps connect B2B sales professionals with the tools, technology and education they need to excel in their careers.