92 episodes

Build is a weekly podcast brought to you by Pivotal Tracker hosted by Poornima Vijayashanker, the founder of Femgineer.

In this show, Poornima hosts innovators in tech and together they debunk myths and misconceptions related to building tech products and companies.

Build Poornima Vijayashanker

    • Technology
    • 4.9 • 36 Ratings

Build is a weekly podcast brought to you by Pivotal Tracker hosted by Poornima Vijayashanker, the founder of Femgineer.

In this show, Poornima hosts innovators in tech and together they debunk myths and misconceptions related to building tech products and companies.

    Episode 92: Resilient Management: Building & Managing Highly Functional Teams

    Episode 92: Resilient Management: Building & Managing Highly Functional Teams

    Just when you thought you had a handle on your job... it’s time to lead a team! Time to be responsible for others. Their career growth, emotional well-being at work, and job satisfaction.
    You’re excited by the new opportunity and want to grow into this role, but it feels like you are starting from scratch. You felt highly competent in your last role. Now it feels like there is a steep learning curve ahead of you, and you may or may not have mentors or role models to help.
    If you’re already in a leadership role, maybe you chose it or were promoted into it based on previous performance. But you may or may not have a lot of experience leading a team through a number of contexts such as tight deadlines, conflict situations, peacetime, and re-orgs!
    As a result, in the first few months of your transition, you might have struggled to feel like you’re making progress. Overrun by meetings and constant context switching has left you feeling unaccomplished at the end of your workday. You wonder if you're using your time wisely.
    You might be left asking yourself, “Am I doing this right?” And, “Should I go back to being an individual contributor?”
    I’m here to tell you that all these doubts are normal.
    It might not seem normal because no one took the time to map out what a day in the life of a leader would look like. Or maybe they did but only shared the glamorous parts ;)
    Well, it’s normal to have doubts, and it does get better!
    In this month’s Build episode, we’re going to tackle the topic of being a first-time leader, and to help us out I’ve invited Lara Hogan, who is a coach and trainer for managers and leaders in tech. She is currently the Co-Founder of Wherewithall a consulting and advising company dedicated to helping tech startups and non-profits grow and execute with ease. She was previously, a VP of Engineering at Kickstarter and a Director of Engineering at Etsy.
    Lara has a new book coming out called Resilient Management, and in the Build episode, she’ll be sharing insights from it.
    Here are the highlights with approximate timestamps:
    @5:00: Why Lara chose to focus on helping new leaders and managers hone two skills: human growth and resiliency @7:30: How every team (old and new) goes through four stages of development: forming, storming, norming, and performing, and what you as a leader can do in each stage to support your teammates @10:00: The six core needs we all need at work, and why even missing one might have caused you to feel emotions like unappreciated, distant or detached, or underwhelmed @14:40: Why Lara no longer suggests using a README to help your teammates get to know you, and what to do instead, especially when it comes to setting expectations @16:30: Know what you are optimizing for—instead of fixating on a management style or philosophy @18:00: How to spot areas of friction and handle them! @20:00: Why many first-time leaders default to mentoring (aka advice giving) and need to switch to coaching (guide teammates to discovering solutions) @24:20: Do highly functional teams even exist? @24:45: How to handle delivering bad news because as leaders that is one of the things we often have to do Want a copy of Lara’s new book Resilient Management? Leave a review for Build on iTunes, then hit reply to this email to let me know you left a review, and I’ll share an e-book copy of Lara’s book with you! (Limited to the first 5 people who respond.)
    Here are some additional resources Lara mentions in the episode for you to check out:
    Core Needs: BICEPS by Paloma Medina Four Stage of Group Development by Bruce Tuckman --
    Build is produced by Femgineer (http://femgineer.com/).

    • 33 min
    Episode 91: Hiring Technical Talent: What To Look Out For When Hiring Your First Employee

    Episode 91: Hiring Technical Talent: What To Look Out For When Hiring Your First Employee

    We’re living in an era where there is more than one path to gaining freedom and flexibility, though often it takes some trial and error to achieve it. Gregg Goldner is an example of someone who was tired of missing out on important life events and wanted more freedom and flexibility in his career. In the last episode of Build, Gregg shared his journey going from being a school teacher to a software developer. He chose to be a freelance software developer because he valued honing his craft. This choice meant he’d had to find work and clients who valued his talents. If you’ve haven’t had a chance to check out the episode yet, you can watch it here or listen to it here.

    Another approach to gaining more freedom and flexibility is to be your own boss and start your own company. In the beginning, you may choose to do most of the work yourself, but there will come a point in time when you will need to hire someone because you’ve hit the limits of your expertise, or how much work you can realistically do.

    While hiring help may seem like a panacea it comes with its own set of challenges. Add in limited time and budget to find a quality hire, and the challenges grow.

    I’ll admit that it’s taken me more than a decade to find people I enjoy working with, can rely on, and learn from. I won’t claim that I know how to hire the perfect people every time—frankly, they don’t exist. What I've learned over the years is how to come up with the key criteria needed to source talented individuals, suss them out, and help them grow over time. I've tested and tweaked the strategies when hiring people in startups and growth stage companies.

    In today's Build, I'll be sharing these strategies with you. The episode is taken from a live online group coaching call I hosted last year with first-time founders who were hiring technical talent, but the strategies also apply to hiring managers who are looking to fill non-technical roles. Even if you aren’t the person making a hiring decision, it’s a valuable episode to learn how you may be evaluated in the future!

    As you watch the episode today, you’ll learn the following:
    The pre-work you need to do before you start recruiting
    How to source candidates through your network as well as online and offline channels
    How to evaluate a candidate's work history, projects, and references
    How to vet people who are reliable, can communicate clearly, and will produce high- quality work
    The difference between vetting a freelancer and a firm—as well as how to avoid the ‘gotcha’ moments!

    Want more help recruiting, onboarding, and retaining talent?

    Check out our previous episodes on what to expect from new software engineering hires, how to onboard new software engineers quickly, and how to keep newly hired software engineers motivated. If you're looking to hire product managers, you'll find the following episodes on hiring product managers, interviewing them, and training and retaining them helpful. Finally, if you’re looking for UX designers, tune in to our episode on sourcing, vetting, hiring and working with UX designers.
    Build is produced by Femgineer (http://femgineer.com/).

    • 58 min
    Episode 90: How To Get Started As A Freelance Software Developer

    Episode 90: How To Get Started As A Freelance Software Developer

    When I was in my early 20s and someone told me to prioritize freedom and flexibility, I’d cringe and think, “Yes but how?”
    Over the past fifteen years, I’ve asked this question to people I’ve met. Through trial and error, I’ve learned to incorporate or tweak parts of their how to fit my needs. As a result, I’ve learned there is more than one how, and to be wary of those who claim there is only one!
    One approach we explored earlier this year was building a Company of One. Paul Jarvis and I explored how he went from being a freelancer and providing a service to scaling his business to create products. In the Build episode, we shared some of the common themes. If you missed the episode, you can check it out here.
    This month, I want to rewind and explore the first part, becoming a freelancer.
    Becoming a freelancer is one approach to gaining more freedom and flexibility. And while it’s easy to glamorize being your own boss, it can take time (many years) to get a business off the ground.
    You have to figure out how to market yourself, manage clients, price your service, and still have enough hours left in the day to do the work!
    All of these tasks can leave you feeling overwhelmed. To help you think about the transition, gain some perspective, and most importantly, work through the overwhelm, I’ve invited Gregg Goldner, who is a freelance developer and President of Two Sun Traders, LLC to share his experience.
    Whether you are a freelancer, want to be one, or are just curious, I’d highly recommend tuning into this week’s episode to learn the following from Gregg:
    Why Gregg wanted more flexibility in his life and chose to transition from being a music teacher to a software developer How he made the transition to becoming a software developer The skills he learned from having been a school teacher and how they applied to software The experience that led Gregg to choose to be freelancer instead of a startup founder How he initially priced himself, then changed his pricing over time The importance of honing your craft How he interviews clients and picks projects  
    I loved this quote from Gregg because it showcases how you need to focus as a freelancer:
    “Putting on every single hat and then realizing I don’t like half those hats. Wouldn’t it be great if I didn’t have to do those things? What are my strengths and weaknesses, and how can I find people who have different strengths and weaknesses?” — Gregg Goldner, President of Two Sun Traders, LLC
    In the episode, Gregg mentions a number of resources, here are links to them:
    The Mythical Man-Month, Anniversary Edition: Essays On Software Engineering by Frederick P. Brooks Jr. Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code by Martin Fowler Code Complete by Steve McConnell iOS Development Tutorials by Ray Wenderlich A weekly video series on Swift programming A hands-on guide to learning Swift Subscription learning platforms Packt and Lynda.com  
    If you’ve been following Build for a while, you may recall I did an episode with Jessica Hische who is a letter, illustrator, and type designer a few years ago on a similar topic: How To Prepare To Strike Out On Your Own And Pursue Your Creative Calling. Listen to the episode here. I always find it helpful to revisit a topic and compare notes, plus some people’s voice resonates more than others, so I’d highly recommend you check out that episode too!
    Build is produced by Femgineer. 

    • 57 min
    Episode 89: Why Everyone Working On A Product Needs To Be Aware Of The Voice Of The Customer

    Episode 89: Why Everyone Working On A Product Needs To Be Aware Of The Voice Of The Customer

    I am the self-appointed family travel agent. Though if you ask my partner and the rest of my family members they’d agree that I am the best person for the job.
    Because over the years I have become adept at making sure I don’t overlook the details when planning a vacation—you know where the devil hides! And who wants the devil to turn up on their vacation?!
    Unless of course, it’s a blue devil ;) #marchmadness #goduke
    I take the time to read through ALL the descriptions and fine print, talk to customer support agents to find out if there are any additional fees, and make sure that family members who have accessibility needs like my 10-month-old baby and 82-year-old grandma will be taken care of.
    Once I’ve done all this planning, I know I have truly earned my vacation ;)
    Despite all my effort, there have been times when things didn’t turn out as planned. Like the time I booked a home in India only to find out that the address was incorrect. The host mixed the street name with the city name. We would have had to drive 3 hours after 24+ hours of travel, but I called customer support and they resolved the issue for us quickly.
    It was a positive customer support experience: responsive, seamless, and efficient. As a result, I continued using that service to book my travel, knowing that if something screwy happened I could count on them next time.
    But there are other companies whose customer support agents place me on hold—for more than a few minutes. When the agent returns, they tell me that I’ve reached the wrong department. Then they transfer me to the “correct” department. Once the transfer is complete, I have to repeat what I told the first support person to the second support person, all the while hoping that they can help me resolve the issue. They can’t. When I look at how much time I’ve spent, and the exorbitant fee or unreconcilable charge, I am frustrated and vow to never do business with them again!
    I know I’m not alone.
    No one likes being at the receiving end of a bad customer support experience. It’s easy to place blame on customer support, but it’s not their fault because the problem originated somewhere else—when the product or service’s feature was being created.
    Someone designed the experience in a way that wasn’t particularly customer friendly, and then it became a challenge to change the experience because of the silos that formed in the company between teams: sales, marketing, product, engineering, and customer support.
    At the start of a company, teams are usually flat and highly collaborative, but over time, silos start to form, slowing things down, making it hard to innovate, and distancing teams from their customers.
    Is it even possible to slow or stop them from forming? And to enable everyone across teams a chance to interact with customers?
    Well in today’s episode of Build we’re going to answer these questions and more, We’ll show how silos form of overtime, some best practices for keeping silos at bay, and what to do once they have formed to break them down.
    To help us out I’ve invited Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré who is a B2B SaaS Consultant with 20+ years of experience in online marketing, and a champion for customer success.
    As you tune into today’s episode you’ll learn the following from Nichole Elizabeth:
    Why everyone on a team including software developers and engineers should have a chance to interact with customers, not just people who are on the customer support, sales, and marketing teams How to empower teams to break down silos, and a framework for evaluating experiments and features that factor in constraints When to automate and when to interact with customers How silos form over time, how to avoid them, and what to do once they’ve formed Why when building B2B products it’s important to focus on making your customers successful not happy Why you need to re

    • 33 min
    Episode 88: What To Do When An Opportunity Won't Present Itself

    Episode 88: What To Do When An Opportunity Won't Present Itself

    We began this month exploring the theme of career transitions. In the first Build episode for this month, we talked about why even if we want to transition in our careers, we don’t and get stuck in a role. If you missed the last episode of Build you can check it out here.
    If you were wondering how to get unstuck, then today’s episode is for you! We’re continuing our conversation with Amy Sun who is a partner at Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm. Amy began her career as a product manager, transitioned to a product manager and most recently became a venture capitalist. Having gone through a number of transitions herself, she’s learned to navigate them in a number of contexts.
    Even if you aren’t going through a transition yourself, it’s a valuable episode to tune into, because as a teammate, hiring manager, or leader you may find yourself working with someone who is going through it, and you’ll be equipped to help them out!
    As you tune into today’s episode you’ll learn:
    How to avoid being typecast into a role and be your own advocate
    How to figure out what companies are looking for within a role
    How long it can really take to go through a transition and how to keep your motivation up
    Why short trial periods can be helpful, and how to set expectations and criteria for grading performance
    How to get feedback and build awareness to improve
    How to transition between companies versus across roles within a company
    How to fill in skills gaps, build trust with peers, and present to leaders
    “The opportunity won’t just present itself one today. Believe that you want it. And then tell people you want it. Sometimes you’ll get push back. Even if you do, you have to continue to fight for it, if you believe that’s the path that you want to go down.” — Amy Sun, Partner at Sequoia Capital
    Build is produced by Femgineer (http://femgineer.com/).

    • 29 min
    Episode 87: Career Transitions: How To Stop Holding Ourselves Back And Explore An Opportunity To Change Careers

    Episode 87: Career Transitions: How To Stop Holding Ourselves Back And Explore An Opportunity To Change Careers

    Career transitions are tough for all of us. Leveling-up or transitioning into a new role or field is challenging because we have to prove that we can do the job, especially when our resume doesn’t reflect relevant or exact experience recruiters or hiring managers are looking for.
    The countless rejections may cause us to want to stay in our current role and hope that someone will acknowledge our skills, talents, and efforts.
    However, we cannot build a career on hope alone!
    In today’s episode of Build, we’re going to share what holds people back from advocating for themselves successfully, and in the next episode, we’ll dig into ways you can make the transition happen.
    To help us out, I’ve invited Amy Sun who is a partner at Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm. In case you’re curious, Amy’s firm Sequoia Capital has been investing in companies since 1972. They have invested in 250+ companies, and some notable ones are Apple, Google, Oracle, PayPal, Stripe, YouTube, Instagram, Yahoo! and WhatsApp.
    Last year at Grace Hopper, Sequoia Capital was the sponsor for a workshop I was co-teaching with Karen Catlin, which gave me the opportunity to meet Amy. After the workshop, Amy and I had the chance to chat, and I learned about her exciting background and thought it would be wonderful to share it with you.
    What surprised me was that Amy didn’t start her career with the intention of becoming a venture capitalist; her first real job was as a snowboarding instructor!
    After graduating from college, she began her career in tech as a product marketer, then eventually became a growth marketer and product manager.
    As you tune into today’s episode, here’s what you’ll learn from Amy:
    How to deal with the inner critic inside each of us who worries about: “What people are going to think” and get your foot in the door in spite of it How to suss out if you are missing experience How to handle roles that are and aren’t clearly defined or vary between companies The value of shadowing people and doing your homework How happenstance and luck play into transitions  
    “If you think about your career as the sum of all the knowledge you have—it’s not like you’re throwing away all the experience you’ve had in the past to start from scratch. Having a diverse set makes you more uniquely qualified for certain roles. So rather than holding yourself back by thinking: ‘Oh I don’t want to start from the ground (zero), and all my experience before is useless,’ think about it as compounding upon each other.” — Amy Sun, Partner at Sequoia Capital
    Build is produced by Femgineer (http://femgineer.com/).

    • 30 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
36 Ratings

36 Ratings

N. Paulsen ,

Awesome show, highly recommend!

Poornima and her guests do a phenomenal job of simplifying complex ideas surrounding technology and software in a structured, entertaining way.

Highly recommend listening and subscribing to Build if you want the knowledge AND mindset to level up and better understand future applications of this evolving field!

Shivani S. ,

Eng management

Poornima's podcasts have a wide range of topics but each episode is specific and the advice actionable. She has experts on the show that share their experience and tips that I've found to be a useful resource. For example, as a manager, I've recommended the podcast on mentorship to engineers on my team when mentoring an intern for the first time. I highly recommend this podcast!

jamiehand ,

Approachable, informative, and diverse

The first thing that attracted me to Build was the approachability of its content. Not only do Poornima and her guests give advice that help me build my career, but they do it in a way that is accessible to a wide range of listeners (e.g. defining tech jargon as they go). That said, this is not just a podcast for beginning techies. This is useful advice for those advanced in their tech career, and even good career/entrepreneurship advice for those who are not in tech at all.

Another thing I love about Build is the variety of folks Poornima interviews. It's clear she's intentional about highlighting a wide range of perspectives and experiences in tech, and that makes the episodes richer, providing a more well-rounded view of what it means to be in tech today.

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