How Work Friendships Can Make You a Better Engineer—and Person
JW Player Senior Software Development Engineer Neha Khan Talks Company Culture and Collaborative Problem-Solving
When Neha Khan moved to Seattle from India for her first software engineering job in the United States, she didn't know where the grocery store was—or how she'd get there.
Luckily, her work friends helped her out. "They took me for lunch, and somebody even helped me buy groceries because they had a car," she says, smiling.
Neha has moved industries and jobs several times since then, but she's still a huge believer in the importance of having work friends. In fact, it's become part of how she evaluates a company's culture: is it a place she could make a life-changing friendship?
From her first interview at JW Player, Neha knew the video platform was that kind of place.
We sat down with the senior software development engineer to hear about why work friendships matter, how JW Player's culture fosters those kinds of relationships, and how the combination of interpersonal connection and a thoughtful culture creates better outcomes for everyone involved.
Why friendships matter at work
Neha says that her first good work friend in the U.S. taught her about three things: football, eggnog, and Christmas. That vital knowledge was conveyed on a cross-country trip where Neha visited Boston to explore Harvard and spend Christmas with her friend's family.
But a work friendship can bring more than just personal joy and the satisfaction of a well-spiced cup of holiday cheer.
"Human beings want to work with other people, and to have some fun, so that's the first aspect," says Neha of friendships at work. "The second is in terms of learning."
Neha shares the story of a new hire at work who felt too scared and shy to ask her team questions about work. Neha's advice to her was to warm up to her new teammates as friends first, whether to talk about their backgrounds or learn about their hobbies, and start to see them as approachable peers versus people she had to impress. "If you develop a relationship, it's easier to ask questions, which has to happen a lot in technology, because no one knows everything!" says Neha.
How JW Player's culture is set up to encourage connection and collaboration
Although Neha found her way into engineering because it was a reliable, well-paying career path that her parents approved of, she's spent 11 years in the field because she loves solving the complex problems that come across her desk as a software development engineer.
She also loves the chance to learn from experts, no matter the industry she's working in. When she was at Amazon's HR department, she learned a lot about U.S. workforce laws, and when she worked at Bank of America, she went deep on how Wall Street works.
But for her to enjoy the process of solving problems and learning about something new, the people around her have to be empathetic, collaborative, and open, and that's not the case everywhere.
"I have interviewed enough to know how they work," says Neha. "A lot of times the interviewer is not collaborative. They don't solve the problem with you. But that's how technology has to be—eventually you have to do teamwork."
She knew JW Player was the kind of workplace she'd like when her first interviewer there collaborated on a solution with her. This was reaffirmed when the company's CTO treated her like a peer in their interview and really valued her ideas. "The company is very, very engineering driven—an engineer has as much of a say as a sales or a product person," she says.
A bonus was realizing how non-hierarchical the engineering team at JW Player is. "As a software engineer, I can share an idea, it doesn't have to come from a principal engineer," she says. "That's helped me grow a lot, because that pushes me to come up with ideas."
It's also given her the opportunity to learn about the media industry and how JW Player lets companies host their own videos, versus relying on big tech to host and distribute them, and thus have more control over their revenue and viewership through their software.
That focus on inclusion and growth is the "best approach" to a friendship-enabling work culture that she's come across, says Neha. Specifically, she thinks the fact that they don't force-rank employees during their review process and that engineers can work on any project irrespective of their place in the hierarchy (which gives them a chance to showcase their architectural and management skills, especially with cross-functional projects) sets JW Player apart.
Neha also loves that the company hosts events to encourage relationship-building, and is down to try just about all of them—from knitting circles (she'd never knit before but can now!) to a gourmet foods club to a lunch-and-learn with senior members of the company.
"I participated in a volunteer program with a senior account manager. Our jobs don't require us to interact on a daily basis, but that day we discovered that we had so many shared interests. And now we're friends!" says Neha.
Paying it forward
Having friends at work makes learning, asking questions, and collaborating easier and more efficient.
But it's also a way to be not just a better employee, but a better world citizen, says Neha.
"Work is the best place to find diversity," she says. "Any other place you go, it'll be mostly people similar to you, but work is a place where you will find people with different interests, different backgrounds, and different nationalities."
For her, that's meant working with people from all over the world and learning about their cultures (and cuisines, since she really is a big fan of adventurous eating). "It's made me more empathetic towards different groups of people," she says. "Maybe I used to have certain stereotypes in mind, but when I interacted with them, it changed."
Now, Neha approaches new colleagues with a deep sense of empathy. "It's important that you develop a more human relationship with people so they can communicate their problems," she says. "Most people would rather work with someone who is easy to work with than someone who is brilliant but has a bad attitude."
Want to find your people at JW Player? Check out their open roles.
💎Want to know what engineering teams are like at Workiva? Watch the video to the end to find out!
📼 Engineering teams at Workiva are constantly hiring. Marie Yue, Senior Engineering Manager at the company, tells you what they look for in a candidate and what the dynamics of teamwork are like.
📼 The typical path in the engineering teams at Workiva is that you grow into a senior, and then you move into a lead role. From there, there are a few different tracks that you can take depending on your interest. You can become a staff engineer, an architect, or even an engineering manager. What are you waiting for to apply?
📼In the engineering teams at Workiva every member should feel empowered to do their job effectively. For this, each has to understand how the work they do day to day solves customers’ problems. Managers will always seek to be aware of members’ career path aspirations so that they can look for opportunities and projects to help each person reach the next step in their career.
Engineering Teams At Workiva: A Safe Space
Marie Yue’s team is a safe space for people to make mistakes and ask for help, and each member feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. She wants to make sure that everyone is individually empowered to lead and make decisions. For this, the team has regular meetings where they do fun things like play virtual games or eat lunch together, and they also like to re-review and add to their team working agreement once a quarter.
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Workiva? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Marie Yue
If you are interested in a career at Workiva, you can connect with Marie Yue on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Workiva
Workiva was founded to transform the way people manage and report business data with various collaborators, data sources, documents, and spreadsheets. Today, people all over the world use their platform to seamlessly orchestrate data among their systems and applications for transparent and trusted connected reporting and compliance. At Workiva, they are innovative in everything they do—from how they build their software, to how they serve their customers, to how they treat their employees.
We all have our favorite websites– the ones we frequent, bookmark, and recommend to others. You might even enjoy some website features so much that you’ve found yourself wondering why they aren’t more popular. Or maybe you’ve experienced times where you were frustrated with a website and wished you could add features or even design your own!
If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued at the prospect of designing and developing your own websites, then a career as a web developer might be just for you!
As a web developer you would be responsible for coding, designing, optimizing, and maintaining websites. Today, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world and, in turn, the demand for web developers is on the rise. In order to figure out what kind of web development work best suits you let’s start with an introduction to the three main roles in web development that you can choose from.
The Three Types of Web Development Jobs
Front-End Web Development: The Creative Side
In addition to programming skills, front-end developers need to be detail oriented, creative, willing to keep up with the latest trends in web development, cyber security conscious, and geared toward user-friendly designs. The median salary for a front-end developer can reach well into the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
Back-End Web Development: The Logical Counterpart
While a house can be beautifully decorated, it’s incomplete without a solid foundation and efficient infrastructure. Similarly, a well-designed website depends on logical and functional code to power the features of that website. Back-end web development is code-heavy and focused on the specifics of how a website works. If you enjoy the analytical challenge of creating the behind-the-scenes code that powers a website, then back-end development is for you.
Full-Stack Web Development: A Little Bit of Everything
A full-stack developer is essentially the Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades in web development. Full-stack developers need to be knowledgeable about both front-end and back-end roles. This does not necessarily imply that you would need to be an expert in both roles, but you should fully understand the different applications and synergies they each imply. In order to work in this position, you will need to know the programming languages used by front-end and back-end developers. In addition to these languages, full-stack developers also specialize in databases, storage, HTTP, REST, and web architecture.
Full-stack developers are often required to act as liaisons between front-end and back-end developers. Full-stack developers need to be both problem solvers and great communicators. The end goal for a full-stack developer is to ensure that the user’s experience is seamless, both on the front-end and on the back-end. In return, you can expect to earn a median salary of $100,000 – $115,000 a year for this role.
Taking the Next Step
Web development is both in-demand and lucrative! All three roles described above contribute to specific aspects of web development and the scope of each one can be customized to the industries and positions you feel best suit you. Regardless of which role you choose, all of them need a foundation in programming.
To gain the programming skills needed in each role, you can enroll in courses or learn independently. Coding bootcamps are a great way to boost your skillset quickly and efficiently.
Click here for some of our highly rated programming bootcamp options! Make sure to check out the discounts available to PowerToFly members.
After two years of remote programming, we’re excited to welcome the 2022 NIKE, Inc. Internship Program back to our U.S. offices this week!
This year’s class of 318 represent the top 1% of 34,000+ applicants from 113 universities – including 10 Hispanic Serving Institutions and five historically Black colleges and universities. And that’s not all! Many of this year’s interns are Division 1 student-athletes, representing Track and Field, Rowing, Soccer, and Volleyball, to name a few.
During the nine-week internship – built around the theme of Never Done Shining – interns will work across Nike, Jordan and Converse taking on meaningful projects for the business areas they’re supporting. We can’t wait to watch this talented, diverse group kick off their Nike journey and shine!
Want to learn more about the program? https://jobs.nike.com/internships
Joseph Arquillo doesn’t work in Human Resources — he works in People Operations. And the distinction matters.
“It was named ‘human resources’ because it saw humans as resources, utilized for certain tasks or behaviors. But that’s not really what it’s about,” says Joseph, who is a Senior Manager of People Ops at Clyde.
“Calling it ‘people ops’ adds back what you lose with ‘HR.’ My philosophy is that I am there to support you. I am there to work with you, empower you, and enable you so you can be your best self.”
For Joseph, a key element of helping employees become their best selves is making sure that the workplace, whether in-person or virtual, is an inclusive space for all. That doesn’t happen by accident — it requires a dedicated DEIB strategy and leaders who are committed to asking hard questions of themselves and others.
We sat down with Joseph to hear more about his professional journey, and the practices of leaders who create environments where everyone feels included.
More Than Just a Number
As a college freshman, Joseph planned on sticking with liberal arts when it came to choosing a major. But then he took a class in Boston College’s School of Education, and loved its holistic approach to applied psychology.
This inspired him to switch his major to psychology and human development, and select minors in political science, and management and leadership, where he enjoyed learning about organizational psychology.
After graduation, he explored the consulting space to put theory into practice, but found out during an internship at a multinational consulting firm that finance or accounting weren’t the places he wanted to build his career.
“Since Big Four companies have 250,000 employees, you become just a number,” he says of the experience. “It wasn’t my cup of tea. Too corporatized.”
That kicked off Joseph’s interest in startups.
“It’s always fun to get in the weeds! One thing that’s very interesting to me is a challenge,” he says. “When you’re helping a company like Clyde grow and scale, joining when they’re at a Series B and helping them get to the next level, you really get to focus on the interaction between people, process, and product,” explains Joseph. “You need to hire the right people to work towards increasing efficiencies in all areas, but also make sure that we’re enabling them to create a strong product.”
6 Keys To Building Inclusive Spaces as a Leader
Across the different industries and companies that Joseph has worked in, he’s identified the behaviors that create truly inclusive environments — as well as those that discourage them.
Here’s what he’s seen:
- First, recognize your own privilege. “If you’re a man, you have privilege, even if you’re a gay male. If you are a white woman, you have racial privilege. It’s really important that you’re cognizant while you interact with somebody how they might interpret the interaction based on your identity.”
- Leaders should always speak last. This is important always, but especially in in-person spaces, where it might seem even more nerve-wracking to speak up in a crowd, says Joseph. “You want to make sure you’re creating that space for employees who aren’t as senior to feel comfortable voicing their thoughts.”
- And, leaders should use check-ins liberally. “You need to ask yourself how you’re supporting your employees. Are you checking in on them as people before you ask about certain tasks? You want to foster a workplace where employees from all walks of life can feel supported,” he says.
- DEIB isn’t just about adding new initiatives — sometimes it’s about removing barriers. “You need to remove unnecessary bias,” explains Joseph. “That can mean making sure you have appropriate policies and practices that don’t hinder people depending on who they are or where they live.”
- Maximizing participation requires planning with a diversity lens. Joseph has helped the Clyde team gather together and bond as a group. Along the way, he’s been careful to consider physical and psychological safety for everyone involved. “For instance, if you’re doing an event, do you have someone who’s not drinking? Have you set up the environment for people who might have a physical disability, or carefully planned the flow of activities for people who might be neurodivergent?”
- Saying you want to be better isn’t enough — articulate actions you will take. “Pride is a great example,” explains Joseph. “Yes, June is a time to celebrate. But it’s also a time to march. And beyond that, how do you show up and celebrate with the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the year?”
Embracing the Unknown
If you visit Joseph’s LinkedIn profile, you’ll see his personal motto: “Without challenge, change, and a bunch of unknowns, it’s no fun.”
That belief has led him to study what he’s passionate about, to take on new and exciting roles at growing startups, and now, at Clyde, to help formalize what world-class people operations looks like at a fast-growing company.
“I view myself as a connector that really empowers people, challenges teams, and helps drive us towards what I consider to be an improved future,” he says. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to be the chief advocate for each of our employees, and remove any barriers in the way of their growth.”