14 episodes

Engineering management can be a lonely place. Welcome to Managers Club where you will find interviews with top engineering leaders and managers to help and inspire you. Listen to the real-life stories of successful and ambitious engineering leaders who are focused to lead their teams to bigger and better outcomes.



ManagersClub is a podcast by author and fellow engineering manager Vidal Graupera. For more, go to https://www.managersclub.com

Managers Club Managers Club

    • Management
    • 4.3, 4 Ratings

Engineering management can be a lonely place. Welcome to Managers Club where you will find interviews with top engineering leaders and managers to help and inspire you. Listen to the real-life stories of successful and ambitious engineering leaders who are focused to lead their teams to bigger and better outcomes.



ManagersClub is a podcast by author and fellow engineering manager Vidal Graupera. For more, go to https://www.managersclub.com

    Interview with Jossie Haines, Senior Director, Platform Engineering at Tile

    Interview with Jossie Haines, Senior Director, Platform Engineering at Tile

    In this interview & podcast, with Jossie Haines, Senior Director, Platform Engineering at Tile, we discuss diversity and inclusion, women in tech, going from IC to engineering manager, and time management.

    • 26 min
    Interview with Trish Gray, Head of Business Growth at Pinterest

    Interview with Trish Gray, Head of Business Growth at Pinterest

    Vidal: Today I have with me Trish Gray. Welcome, Trish, to Manager’s Club.















    Trish: Thanks, Vidal. It’s great to be here.







    Vidal: Thanks. It’s great to have you. Trish, maybe we could start out a little bit … maybe you could tell people a little bit about your current role and what you do.







    Trish: Yeah. Currently, I’m the head of business growth at Pinterest. Growth is a discipline that is emerging quite powerfully in the Bay Area regarding being the glue between engineering, product, marketing and business objectives. We’re in the business of creating those prototypes and really testing with an extreme data-driven approach utilizing a lot of user research, a lot of opportunity sizing, and other methods and disciplines in order to make sure that we’re maximizing all of engineering’s time and making sure that we’re creating features that we know have product markets that we know that are great for our users.







    What’s your background and how did you get into management?







    Vidal: All right. Awesome. Yeah, growth is super important. Trish, I was looking through your background on LinkedIn and you’ve had a long career in engineering leadership. You were Director of Software Engineering, VP of Engineering, Head of Business Growth, a bunch… Maybe you could speak a little bit about your background and how did you get into management? How did you transition in?







    Trish: Yes. Yeah. I’ve done a little bit of everything. I started my career in computer science. I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for computer science. And while I was there decided to start a company for online education. At the time, I was just a coder. I’d been coding since I was 12. I loved coding. That was my thing. I had really no interest necessarily in being an entrepreneur, but that’s how it happened because we wanted to create the best learning system on the web in information technology.







    Trish: We built what you could now call an online bootcamp a CodingDojo or a Hackbright Academy online but we were about 10 years ahead of our time. Worked on it for many, many years, made it into a school, had a lot of customer support. I created an online IDE system for learning. Also created a similar system for instruction and for creating instructional materials.







    Trish: So that was my role. I was the coder, the technologist of the entire thing and how I got into management was simply by necessity. We were growing the business and I had to run multiple aspects of the business, and so I couldn’t be the only one coding anymore. Brought in a few folks, we were a very close-knit family so we learned it all together and that just grew from there.







    Trish: So I don’t have a traditional trajectory into management but I will say that once we sold our company to O’Reilly Media, I had a mentor in the form of a director of HR that really taught me a lot about organizational development, performance management, and really just more of how complex management is and how it’s a completely different set of skills.







    Trish: And I found myself really geeking out on it and very much enjoying it and realizing that if you really build management skills and you try to be the most effective manager possible, then not only does your business improve but you end up having this wonderfully healthy organization that is right there with you, mission-driven and excited to be working on the same things.

    Interview with Lavanya Ramani, Software Development Manager at Amazon

    Interview with Lavanya Ramani, Software Development Manager at Amazon

    Vidal: Well, today, I have Lavanya Ramani with me. Lavanya, thank you for joining ManagersClub today.







    Lavanya: Thank you, Vidal, this is a great opportunity. I appreciate this.







    What’s your background and how did you get into management?







    Vidal: Maybe we could start a little bit, tell us about your background, maybe what you do now, how you got into management. Tell us a little bit about yourself?







    Lavanya: Sure. I graduated from India after completing my engineering from computer science in one of the reputed colleges in India. I joined as a software engineer in a services company and, after a quarter, realized that I wanted to work for a product company. So I moved from the services to a networking product company and continued to work there for about three and a half / four years. Later, I moved here and continued with the same company, which was headquartered in the Bay Area, and continued to grow from an individual contributor to a manager.







    Lavanya: So it was a great journey, the road to management, because I started understanding that I appreciate it when there’s a team around, and I’m able to bring out my best and think that I’m able to perform at my optimal best only when I’m around my team. That kind of made me think about whether I should move into management. But it was one such opportunity, which I wanted to pick up, where I could start with a small team. When I started working with a small team of about four engineers and delivered a particular feature for a particular product, we understood that it’s a great feeling to be within the team and it’s very rewarding when you see what a team can accomplish, by you being able to course-correct actions, tell what’s working, what’s not working well, and how you’re dedicating your time in a day to help people grow and the finding people, their blind spots in the team.







    Lavanya: So those are the things which made me think, let me move to management, and I ended up in management, right. Today, I’m an engineering manager at Amazon, and that’s been a great journey so far. So, that’s where I stand.







    Vidal: Nice. Could you say a little bit more, maybe like how you transitioned into management? So you applied to be a manager, or you were selected or asked by your boss, or how did that happen?







    Lavanya: Certainly, so at one point in my career, I had an opportunity. It was about four years ago. I had an opportunity to either go into technical leadership as an individual contributor or try to take management. And my director came and said to me that Lavanya, “can do well in both, but I personally feel that as a person who likes to work with a team, it would be awesome if you want to try the management part”.







    Lavanya: And I said, “certainly, that’s what is running in my mind as well. Why don’t I try management?”. So he said, “yes, certainly. But you won’t be starting with a big team, try to manage four people who are not going to be reporting to you to start with, but you deliver a project with them, thinking that you are their manager”. And these four people had varied experience levels. One of the engineers had over 25 years of experience in the industry. Another was a new hire from college, and I had mid experience in the industry with two more people. It was four people with varied experience, with varied knowledge, age. It was amazing learning how to lead a team, being that mentor, being the guide, being that leader,

    Interview with Rukmini Reddy, VP of Engineering at Abstract

    Interview with Rukmini Reddy, VP of Engineering at Abstract

    Vidal: So, today I have with me, Rukmini Reddy. Hi Rukmini, welcome to Manager’s Club.







    RUKMINI: Thank you, Vidal. Thank you so much for having me.







    Vidal: My pleasure. Rukmini could you start out, maybe tell us a little about your current role, what you do.







    RUKMINI: Absolutely. So, I’m currently the VP of Engineering at a hyper-growth startup in the Bay area. I lead a team of about 45 engineers and we are a remote-first company.







    Vidal: That’s great. Rukmini I was looking through your background. Could you tell us a little bit about your background and I know you’ve been VP of engineering at many places. How did you get into management?







    RUKMINI: So, this is an interesting story. I think…I’m not going to say how long though because it’s going to make me look like a dinosaur. So, this is a very long, long time ago, I was…I joined a company to be a software architect/principal engineer. I was an individual contributor who was coding and about four months into my new role, my then CTO and VP of engineering came to me and said they saw I had a unique knack for people and building relationships and wondered if I would consider transitioning into engineering management.







    RUKMINI: Like most IC’s, I was very skeptical about that move because I was afraid I would lose my technical skills and it would become stale, but I asked them if I tried it, would I be able to go back to it if I hated it in six months. And, they gave me that security and they said I could. So, I tried it and I’ve never looked back. I worked my way to engineering manager, to VP of engineering. I have now been a VP of engineering for over four years in three different organizations.







    What are the biggest challenges you face?







    Vidal: That’s fantastic. Could you say, what are some of the biggest challenges you face as an engineering leader?







    RUKMINI: I think it’s just the state of hyper-growth startups these days. You face tremendous challenges and I think this is very common in Silicon Valley, especially in very dynamic marketplaces, of keeping your team motivated, engaged, driving through with the same success factors. Marching to the same North star, that’s a challenge most of us leaders face.







    Vidal: Is there anything, in particular, you do to try to keep your team motivated and marching towards that North star?







    RUKMINI: Absolutely. I think clarity is really critical for teams to do their best. So, it’s my job to set up as much processes I can to make some of these… I’ll give you an example. So, if there are several initiatives that are active at the same time in an organization and you’re in a hyper-growth startup, it becomes really difficult to keep up. So, one of the things I use is a RACI framework. So, most initiatives have a RACI framework attached and I leave assigned… I assigned DRIs, directly responsible individuals, to lead this initiative, so that it makes it very clear to everyone what their roles are, how they’re contributing to an initiative and who the primary responsible individual is. So, when I need information, I need to provide support, I know who to go to and this is especially important in a remote company.







    Vidal: Got it. Yeah, the RACI framework is popular. I’ve heard of it, so I’ll put a link to that. Since you mentioned a couple of times it’s a remote company.

    Interview with Vishal Saxena, VP Global SaaS Operations at Aktana

    Interview with Vishal Saxena, VP Global SaaS Operations at Aktana

    Vidal: Today I have Vishal Saxena here with me on the show. Welcome to Managers Club, Vishal.







    VISHAL: Thank you for inviting me. I’m looking forward to our discussion. It’s great to be here.







    What’s your background?







    Vidal: Awesome. Maybe you could start out a little bit. Tell us a little about your current role, what you do, I guess a little bit of background on yourself.







    VISHAL: Sure. I’m Vice President of Global SaaS Operations at Aktana. Aktana is an AI-based platform that enables customers to make data-driven decisions. Prior to joining Aktana, I was at Opentext for two years managing the SaaS team and before that, I was at Oracle for over 10 years.







    How did you get into management?







    Vidal: That’s awesome. Yes, I was looking at your background. Maybe tell us a little bit more, how did you get into management? How did you break into management? What was your motivation for getting into management and leadership?







    VISHAL: It may sound like a cliche. I became a manager by accident. I started as a shipping and receiving for a local system integrator and from there moved into the help desk and a couple of years later I joined a small company Brio Software again as an individual contributor, and after two years Brio was acquired by Hyperion.







    VISHAL: During that integration, I was promoted to a senior manager managing a small team including the manager. A couple of years later Hyperion was acquired by Oracle and the economies of scales changed. From managing the team of 10 I was managing each team over 50 people when I joined Oracle. And that number change to over 110 by the time I left.







    Vidal: How many was it by the time you left? You said it was 50 and then I went to how many?







    VISHAL: About 110.







    Vidal: 110, okay thank you. Sorry, go ahead.







    VISHAL: No problem. It was a very global, diverse team and it was fun to be part of the team. It did bring its own challenges, but it’s the dirt that comes with the rain. I enjoy managing the team, mentoring them and learn from them.







    What are the biggest challenges you face?







    Vidal: Okay, that’s great. Well, since you mentioned the challenges, maybe you could talk to us. What are some of the biggest challenges you face as an engineering leader?







    VISHAL: One of the biggest challenges is that many still struggle to accept change. See, change is inevitable. It’s going to happen and sometimes you need to take a step back and understand why the change occurred and try to be in the shoes of other people. But at times it’s hard to accept and I’ve been in those shoes where it was very hard for me to accept that change. But what helps is to take a step back and see from other’s perspective, I then tried to motivate myself. Once you’re able to do that, you’re able to motivate others within your team. If you don’t agree with the change don’t stick around, it’s not good for them, it’s not good for you.







    Vidal: Do you have an example that comes to mind?







    VISHAL: For example, since I was part of Oracle, organization changes were very often, right? And you’re moving from one org to another role or while you are being moved into the roles and at times you don’t like to be in that role, but you are moved into that role. And for example, let’s say you are managing a data center team. All of a sudden now you are moved into managing lab rather than managing the whole data center.

    Interview with Pei-Chin Wang, Senior Director of Product at Redfin

    Interview with Pei-Chin Wang, Senior Director of Product at Redfin

    Vidal: Good afternoon, Pei-Chin. Thank you. Well, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining me today.







    PEI-CHIN: Thank you.







    Vidal: Could you maybe introduce yourself, say a little bit about where you’re located and what your current role is?







    PEI-CHIN: Yeah, so I work at Redfin and we help people buy and sell homes. Currently, I’m a senior director of product at Redfin, leading our consumer facing products, so this includes acquiring new customers, thinking about how we evolve our search experience and converting more site users into customers that use Reston to buy or sell homes.







    What’s your background and how did you get into management?







    Vidal: That’s great. I mean, that’s a big market, real estate. Could you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into management?







    PEI-CHIN: Yeah, so I am an engineer turned product manager. I started out my career as an engineer working at Google, worked on Google search infrastructure. And then after a few years I wanted to tap into my, I guess, inner superpower, which I think is connecting different ideas and really strong empathy to human beings. And I thought I’d try out product management. And it’s been, I think I’ve been the product manager for probably close to 10 years now. And I started managing, I think, five years ago. I was in a startup after I left Google. And as the company grew, I had the opportunity to manage, starting with one person, and that was a really great experience, and now at Redfin I manage a much bigger team.







    Vidal: Okay. I think that’s great how you said you were an engineer turned product manager. Can maybe talk a little bit, I haven’t had too many product managers on the show. Maybe, is there anything that engineers, engineering managers maybe don’t understand about product managers, or might be helpful for them in working better with product managers?







    PEI-CHIN: I think maybe one thing is to understand, at least this is my personal point of view, that it is by design to have healthy tension between engineering and product and design. And engineering often thinks about what is the best way to build something in a scalable way or what might, because engineers, like code, are touched by many different people. And I actually think, I really admire that engineering partners tend to think about how to make components more reusable, scalable over a long term period of time. And a product manager, oftentimes they want to bring the product to the market sooner. They want to test the hypothesis as fast as possible. And so there’s a healthy tension between getting to the market sooner or slower.







    PEI-CHIN: And then, product manager also plays a role of like being the voice of the customer, who’s the only person that’s not in the room, but the most important person for us all to serve. And so I think that healthy tension is helpful, and I actually really enjoy a lot of engineering partners that work with so we can have that healthy debate and tension. It really brings out the best of all of us.







    What are the biggest challenges you face?







    Vidal: I think that’s well said. Yes, you have to balance it. Could you describe, maybe what are some of your biggest challenges as a manager?







    PEI-CHIN: Yeah, it actually evolved as my team got bigger. I think at the beginning when I was managing a few people, the biggest challenge is to think about how do I help them grow and consis...

    • 22 min

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