From Sociology Grad to Head of Platform Engineering: 7 Lessons for Advancing Your Career
Jenny Donnelly, Head of Platform Engineering at Nextdoor, is no novice to the tech world—she came on the scene when most of us were still using dialup. If you were to look at the linear progression on her LinkedIn profile, you might think she'd had her sights set on rising the ranks in Silicon Valley since she was an undergrad.
But as she explains, it was exactly the opposite: "I will admit I fell into tech. I studied sociology in college, to the chagrin of my parents," she jokes. (Not to mention she was looking for something that wouldn't require her to wear a suit.)
After graduating from Northwestern, she interned at a public policy think tank for a year, temping on the side at a tech recruiting firm just to make ends meet. She soon realized that she needed a job that would allow her to live in the Bay Area, so she transitioned into tech full-time at the height of the dot.com boom.
She started working full-time at the tech recruiting firm she'd been temping at and quickly fell in love with coding and solving technical problems. Eventually, she realized she still had a lot to learn, so she left her job as a technologist to work as an engineer at a web-services company.
"I took a big pay cut to do that. I felt like I was starting from scratch, but I decided to go to a place that aligned more with my long-term career goals and where I could learn the skills I needed to learn to advance."
This move set the stage for the rest of her career. "I don't have a CS degree. I always have a lot to learn. And I'm always drawn to teams, companies, and cultures where I feel like I can add value but also learn and be mentored at the same time."
This approach has served her well: in her 20+ year tech career, she's gone from entry-level engineer to the head of platform engineering. She was kind enough to share some advice on how she's advanced her career.
Read on for her tips!
1. Balance Organic and Strategic Career Growth
Although it may not look this way from the outside, Jenny didn't plan every step in her career. Some moves were deliberate, and others...not so much.
Like when she was content working on code at Yahoo, and a management position came her way.
"When my manager was transitioning out of the company, he said 'I would love to groom you [for] this role.' I was really shocked. I did not feel like I wanted to do it or could do it. And reluctantly, I was put in positions where I was clearly owning decisions, with more visibility."
Taking opportunities for growth when they came up, even if they were outside her comfort zone, allowed Jenny's career to develop organically. This gave her more energy to focus on doing her job, rather than obsessively strategizing.
But sometimes, strategy is useful.
Later on in her career at Yahoo, she found herself reporting directly to the Chief Architect with a vacant VP position between them. She wondered if she could be considered eligible for that role...and after consulting with friends and family, she realized that she just needed to ask. "I was very shy and didn't feel like I had the right to ask."
Ultimately, she worked up the courage and asked him, "Why couldn't I do this job? What would it take?"
The result? The Chief Architect explained the areas where she had gaps and helped her get the experience she needed to fill them, which ultimately allowed her to reach the VP level at Nextdoor.
Jenny insists that asking about roles we want doesn't need to be intimidating or negative. It is a conversation about learning and growth. It's either that or not knowing when your next promotion is coming and why.
2. Know that the strongest individual contributor does not always make the best manager.
Initially, Jenny didn't see herself as management material because she was not the strongest engineer on her team. But now, she knows that management has more to do with connecting with others and less to do with coding.
A manager has to be able to help solve technical and non-technical problems.
When asked whether, from a management perspective, putting in hours or turning out results is more important, she says that although results are important to the business, being mindful of team dynamic is crucial to getting those results. "It's not just about what you and your team get done. It becomes more about how everyone feels on that journey of getting stuff done."
3. Perfection is an Illusion.
Jenny is here to report that the "do it all, have it all" narrative is a myth. When she excels at work, there may be slack at home; when things at home are great, she may be dropping the ball at work. She thinks that acknowledging and accepting this is important for our sanity and self worth.
"No one's going to kick butt in a lot of areas at the same time. I think people put a lot of pressure on themselves to do everything perfectly at all times. When they fall short, they feel there's something wrong with them...we should not feel emotional baggage about stuff we're not getting done."
4. Practice prioritizing.
Jenny ditched the illusion of perfection after one of her maternity leaves. "I was sleep deprived. I was very stressed out. Something had to give."
The first thing she did was declare bankruptcy on her inbox. "That allowed me to ask, what's most important? What's impactful? And start there. I was doing a lot prior to that that was not that important or impactful."
She knows it takes experience to prioritize, and confidence to draw the line somewhere. If you're neither experienced nor feeling confident, she suggests talking with managers, mentors, or experienced colleagues for advice.
5. It's okay to have a personal life.
One of Jenny's mentors showed her that it's acceptable to openly choose your personal life in the workplace. "She always made it a point to say, 'I'm leaving early to pick up my kids,' with confidence and authority. She was very transparent about that. I took that as a model."
She sees that it's possible to bring our whole selves to work—dentist appointments, school runs and all—instead of suppressing or relegating our personal life, which causes burnout and resentment.
Sometimes our personal lives hit low points, and sometimes it affects our work. But Jenny sees personal challenges as an opportunity for sharing, for two reasons: (1) your employer should know if you need more leeway in times like these, and (2) judicious sharing can lead to relationship building.
As a leader, she finds it helpful when employees let her know what's going on. "If anyone wants to share anything with me, I think that's great. I think these are seeds for connection. You should share as much as you feel comfortable with to get the support you need."
6. Take stock of your life before agreeing to tackle a new project/role.
Before taking on new projects, Jenny asks herself what she'll have to sacrifice. She then puts safety nets in place to make sure that things function while her attention is elsewhere.
"I recently had a project that was incredibly demanding. It was a conscious decision that I knew would require sacrifices from my family. I tried to set those guard rails: I warned my family. I got additional help on the nanny front. I just stockpiled my support at home to allow me to go into this more demanding project."
7. Love your job and know yourself.
Above all, Jenny says that the key to any kind of work-life integration is to love your job. "If that's not there, then everything feels like a sacrifice." She explains that one part of loving your job is being engaged by the content of your work, and another part is feeling that you are not only adding value, but being valued.
In order to love our jobs, we have to know ourselves in order to choose the right one. What gets us up in the morning? Is it money? Making the world a better place? Connecting with others? "Find out what makes you tick and optimize for that," Jenny advises.
Bonus tip: When possible, work with a community of people you like.
Jenny muses, "It's kind of interesting how someone's journey can seem like it's going all the way around, but sometimes comes back full circle." She studied sociology because she was interested in people, and now she works at a company that, although firmly in the tech industry, is approaching work from a very human perspective.
Nextdoor uses technology to help people build strong communities, and "that's exactly what they've done at the company as well." It's a place where she can be herself and model healthy work-life integration (for example, marking dentist appointments, etc., on her public calendar) for her employees the same way her boss once did for her.
If you're interested in learning more about the community at Nextdoor, click here. And if you have more questions for Jenny about how to handle competing priorities, let her know in the comments!
According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.
That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.
As we reflect on recent events and how they fit into a much larger history of discrimination, we're also taking time to celebrate and acknowledge the many achievements of the AAPI community.
We asked several of our partner companies what they're doing to honor AAPI Heritage Month at work, and we were inspired by the range of responses, covering everything from campaigns to #StopAsianHate to educational events on AAPI history.
Here's what they're doing, in their own words:
Empowering authenticity - LogMeIn
"Our theme this year is AIM to Be Real. We are embracing our new company values and celebrating those who bring their authentic selves to work, who help create space to celebrate diversity of thought, and who give back to the API community. Our Asian ERG, Asians in Motion (AIM), is hosting several events: a discussion about bringing your authentic self to work with Jerry Won (Dear Asian Americans podcast); a refugee-led virtual cooking class; ERG Movie Club discussions featuring Bollywood films, and a virtual volunteer event where we will offer career development mentoring for young women across Asia."
Learn more about LogMeIn here.
Educating on current events — Raytheon Technologies
"Raytheon Technologies is honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with an enterprise-wide global town hall event – Real Talk: Building CommUNITY Together. Organized by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) employee resource groups across the company, employees will share their personal experiences and discuss ways to support Asian American Pacific Islander communities. The event will also feature prominent leading advocates from renowned civil rights organizations to provide insight into the national context surrounding recent events. We will also feature AAPI employees internally and on our social media channels."
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies here.
Encouraging awareness, growth, and learning — Moody's
"Moody's is encouraging awareness, growth, and learning during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the following activities, led by our Multicultural Business Resource Group and DE&I team:
- Weekly newsletters featuring AAPI employee profiles and cultural resources
- Video screening and small-group discussions supporting #StopAsianHate
- Cultural panel discussion featuring employee stories
- Professional development activities
- External speakers speaking about Asian leadership"
Supporting professional development — Freddie Mac
"Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Freddie Mac – Together, We Are Stronger
Freddie Mac supports the professional development of Asian and Pacific Islander employees while promoting an increased awareness of the value they bring to the organization and our local communities. Our InspirASIAN Business Resource Group is hosting various activities throughout the month such as:
- Personal development session on empowerment led by a coach from our Employee Assistance Program.
- "Stop Asian Hate" lunch and learn geared toward discussing the hurdles facing the AAPI community.
- Fireside chat about racial injustice with leaders from our InspirASIAN and ARISE (employees of the African diaspora) BRGs."
Fostering inclusion, learning, and belonging – Nestlé USA
"At Nestlé USA, the Pan Asian Network (PAN), one of our many employee resource groups that support our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion initiatives, will host a variety of events to honor and acknowledge Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. These activities will foster greater inclusion, enhanced learning, and belonging for the AAPI community. PAN will highlight women's development in Asian cultures, Asian leadership and what their culture means to them, culinary innovation of Asian cuisine, intersectionality of LGBTQ+ and Pan Asian community, as well as an enhanced learning watch party of the PBS movie 'Asian American.'"
Learn more about Nestlé USA here.
Promoting cultural literacy – Relativity
The Community Resource Group at Relativity
"For Relativity, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportune time to not only celebrate the rich AAPI cultures represented within our company, but to also foster awareness and allyship amidst the current rise of AAPI hate. RelAsians, our internal community resource group, has organized a few activities for May: a book club focused on AAPI heritage—because we feel it's never too early to gain cultural literacy, a weekly spotlight on AAPI Relativians, and a virtual event that takes attendees on a tour through an Asian grocery store, introducing native vegetables and staple ingredients for traditional home-cooked Asian recipes."
- Contribution from Neha Pant, Sr. Performance Engineer & Angie Ocasek, Sr. Specialist, Partner Enablement – Co-Chairs of the RelAsians Community Resource Group at Relativity
Learn more about Relativity here.
Creating transformative experiences – Facebook
"At Facebook, our APIs employee resource group's mission is to create transformative experiences for all APIs at Facebook, Inc through key cultural awareness and engagement highlighting the API community. To kick off APIHM, we will host a series of events and conversations for the community and its allies designed to support the API community around the theme, The SUM of Us, including:
- Letting Others In: a mindful discussion series that privileges intersectional voices, storytelling, feedback, and vulnerability as tools for building empathy and inclusion amongst organizations.
- Racial Healing Learning Session: specific to the API Experience focused on naming of experiences and emotional responses, understanding the body's responses to racial trauma, what the audience can do in the moment for self-care, and long-term strategies to overcome the effect of the traumatic experience.
- Bystander Training/self Defense Workshop"
Learn more about Facebook here.
Extensive and exciting programming — 2U
"At 2U, Inc. we'll be honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with extensive and exciting programming coordinated by our employee-led Asian Pacific Islander Network (APIN). In a year marred by exceptional challenges APIN has centered activities around the ameliorating themes of joy, culture and wellness. Be it delighting in a ukulele mini concert, reading an interview highlighting an API coworker, winding down after too much screen time with a somatic healing session or engaging in a panel discussion with API tattoo artists, we have a packed month ahead with opportunities to support oneself and the API culture! Follow along @Lifeat2U on Instagram for more!"
Learn more about 2U here.
Amplifying voices and educating others – Smartsheet
"During APAHM, the API at Smartsheet community will be hosting several events and activities to educate others, amplify AAPI voices, and celebrate the AAPI community! We plan to kick off the month with a documentary viewing and discussion to learn about AAPI history, and hope to share personal stories from our AAPI employees throughout the month. We'll end with an opportunity for the community to celebrate itself by gathering together for fun and games, while eating food from local Asian-owned restaurants."
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
Rising together in sports and culture – NBA
"For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, APEX is proud to present a multitude of celebratory activities, headlined by an NBA Family Virtual Town Hall and, with the NFL and MLB, an Asians in Sports & Culture Symposium themed "Together We Rise" featuring prominent Asian personalities from the sports world. We are also launching a PSA with an NBA star, honoring Eid-al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan, offering a bystander intervention training led by AAJC, and – because the celebration wouldn't be complete without food – hosting a sushi making class for our members."
Learn more about the NBA here.
Creating courageous conversations – Commvault
"This May, we are celebrating all our Asian/Pacific Islander employees, not just Asian Americans. We will spend the month learning about and celebrating the diverse cultures of Asia through weekly events and activities led by our Multi-Culture ERG. Vaulters and external guests will teach us the history of practices such as yoga, origami, and Asian cuisines. We will also discuss topics like the rise of hate crimes against Asian people and the recent spike in COVID-19 in India. These activities and courageous conversations will engage our workforce and create support for our Asian and Pacific Islander communities around the world."
Learn more about Commvault here.
Honoring history through virtual events – Collins Aerospace
"Collins Aerospace supports our AAPI colleagues not only in May, but all year. Our parent company Raytheon Technologies hosted a virtual Town Hall last month to provide a safe space for open dialogue about recent events targeting Asian Americans in the U.S. In addition to this entity-wide event, our Asia Pacific ERG at Collins is hosting events that educate and honor the importance of Asian Pacific American history such as virtual Lunch & Tours spotlighting South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and India; and Thoughts & Support sessions. Site-specific events include virtual cooking class, and viewing PBS docuseries Asian Americans."
Learn more about Collins Aerospace here.
Highlighting new perspectives – MongoDB
"MongoDB will share daily historical facts, highlights of Asian American pioneers, and perspectives from our AAPI employees in a dedicated Slack channel. We will also be providing access to an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month webinar, organizing a trivia night, and holding Processing Together sessions for our internal AAPI community due to recent hate crimes happening across the globe. These sessions are a safe space for employees to share their stories and sentiments of what it is like as an Asian American in America today. (Read MongoDB employee Monica Lu's story about being an Asian American woman in tech here.)"
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Spotlighting diverse communities – Bumble
"At Bumble, moments like heritage month celebrations are often our anchor to ensure we are spotlighting diverse communities. In alignment with AAPI Heritage Month in May, Bumble is rolling out a series of thoughtful programming to encourage internal education and around how to support the Stop Asian Hate movement and better serve the Asian community globally. The lineup of initiatives include:
- BuzzWord DEI Discussion Series with featured guest speakers: This conversation will focus on the Asian community within the context of larger cultural issues such as dating app experiences, fetishization, masculinity, and representation.
- Bumble will be inviting employees to join a virtual Vietnamese coffee-making class. Created in partnership with Phin Bar, an urban brew-bar that offers Vietnamese-style steeped coffee combined with house-made ingredients, Bumble hopes to facilitate a deeper cultural learning and community bonding experience for the team.
- Bumble will also be activating channels across social media and our product to educate our community about bystander intervention and raise awareness around the importance of supporting the Stop Asian Hate movement."
Engaging in daring conversations – Procore
"In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, Procore recently organized an internal event to recognize and support the AAPI community. The event was hosted as part of our ongoing internal speaker series, 'Daring Conversations & Allyship,' to create space for an open dialogue around diversity, inclusion, and belonging. All employees were invited to tune in as employees from our AAPI communities shared their unique experiences, addressed anti-Asian hate, and discussed actionable ways to support our AAPI community."
Learn more about Procore here.
Taking action to foster change – SeatGeek
"This month the POC ERG will be meeting and hosting different activities to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This includes creating a safe space to discuss current events, and what actions our communities can take to foster change, sending out a newsletter which will highlight the Asian community in every aspect, and lastly, we will be hosting a guest speaker.
We hope with these planned activities and meetings, we can highlight, and uplift the Asian/Pacific American community, as well as bring awareness to the horrible ongoing attacks they are facing."
Learn more about SeatGeek here.
Uplifting and inspiring the community – Okta
"Okta's People of Color (POC@Okta) ERG is planning to commemorate AAPI Month with a series of fireside chats and iconographical facts posted internally in the #poc and #all diversity Slack channels! These chats will feature Dion Lim of ABC7 News and Comedian/Actor, Ronny Chieng. We will conclude the series with a partnership with Pride@Okta featuring supermodel, TED speaker, and transgender advocate Geena Rocero. The goal of this series is to educate, uplift, support, and inspire! The Okta leadership supports its AAPI employees, customers, and community."
Learn more about Okta here.
Empowering cultural diversity and leadership – Quip
"Salesforce will be celebrating through multiple virtual events, such as a leadership panel on the power of cultural diversity, a tea tasting, a tai chi class, a haka workshop, and more! Members of the Quip team have also compiled an extensive list of resources to support AAPI communities, including ways to donate, take action, and learn more."
Learn more about Quip here.
Focusing on lived experiences – Mindbody
"The Mindbody United ERG focuses on a different heritage or history each month, with May devoted to Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This ERG seeks to provide a platform to both celebrate and learn together. This will manifest in two ways: As a newsletter and a Zoom meeting. The newsletter will feature contributions directly from team members, while the meeting will feature Assembly member Evan Low as our speaker. It is our goal to focus on the lived experiences of the AAPI community, address discrimination, and how to chase after the part of the world we can make better."
Learn more about Mindbody here.
Promoting harmony and unity – T. Rowe Price
"T. Rowe Price is aware and appalled at the recent spike in hate crimes against the Asian community. In response, the firm will center Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month efforts around harmony and unity, in alignment with the Hawaiian value, Lōkahi – Forward as One. To share best practices, successes and areas of opportunities, T. Rowe Price will co-host a Leadership Panel on Asian Leadership Challenges with Baltimore Asian Connect, a consortium of Asian business resource group leaders at local corporations. The firm will also host a book club and restorative listening circles for Asian American associates and their allies."
Learn more about T. Rowe Price here.
Celebrating Asians globally
"May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. Although traditionally a US celebration, at Autodesk we are celebrating Asians globally. The Autodesk Asian Network is hosting Innovative Leaders, including Lori Mukoyama and Jonathan Zee. Lori Mukoyama is redefining experience-driven design globally at Gensler. Jonathan Zee has an extensive portfolio of buildings that are helping to shape cities around the world at Goettsch Partners. Lori and her husband Jonathan combine design, architecture and engineering in their work while simultaneously manage a family together during this pandemic. This event is hosted by AAN, as part of a monthlong series of APA Heritage Month events."
Learn more about AutoDesk here.
In this video, you'll hear super valuable insider tips from Manisha Bavabhai, Meli Comparini, and Catie Ross, recruiters at
MURAL—a digital workspace for visual collaboration that enables innovative teams to solve important problems.
Listen in for insight into the hiring process and actionable tips that will help you ace your interviews. Manisha, Meli, and Catie share what each interview step entails and the best ways to prepare, whether it's a product engineer interview, product designer interview, or sales interview.
Have you heard of the STAR Method? It's a great way to answer behavioral questions during your interview. And since MURAL's interview process is remote, don't miss these dos and don'ts for remote interviews!
Are you interested in joining MURAL? They have open roles! To learn more about them, click here.
As we celebrate Pride this month, we should also take time to reflect about the practices— or lack thereof— at our companies that help to support and empower members of the LGBTQIA+ community all year round. (LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual. There are other variants of this acronym such as LGBT, LGBTQ, and LGBTQQIP2SAA, which all refer to the same community.)
From the Stonewall Uprising to the United States' Equality Act, we've come a long way, but the staggering statistics around the LGBTQIA+ community in the workplace tell us that there is still work to be done.
As employers and leaders in our organizations, it is our duty to create an inclusive work environment where all employees feel safe and included.
To help you make your workplace more inclusive for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we've rounded up some key statistics and highlighted best practices — covering everything from inclusive language to benefits — in the infographic below.
Click this link for an interactive PDF version of the infographic:
Looking for more ways to promote LGBTQIA+ inclusion at work? Check out the links below to learn more.
See what other companies are doing to celebrate Pride month:
Infographic statistic sources:
- One-fifth (20%) of LGBTQIA+ Americans have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs
- Almost half (46%) of LGBTQIA+ workers in the United States are closeted in the workplace.
- 1 in 5 LGBTQIA+ workers report having been told or had coworkers imply that they should dress in a more feminine or masculine manner
- One-third of LGBTQIA+ Americans reported that discrimination affected their ability to be hired
- 1 in 10 employees have heard their own supervisor make negative comments about LGBTQIA+ people
Clarus Commerce's Nupur Daruka on Finding Your Next Growth Opportunity
Nupur Daruka is someone who loves learning new things. That's true when it comes to remodeling her house—she's just finished her kitchen, having mastered tiling backsplashes, and is moving on to her basement, where she's focused on flooring—and to how she approaches her work.
As an Engineering Manager at loyalty and subscription software company Clarus Commerce, Nupur is responsible for helping other people lean into opportunities to learn new things, too.
From helping engineers find the right growth projects to coaching people who aren't sure where they'd like to end up, Nupur enjoys guiding others to create the paths that are right for them and their own goals.
We sat down with her to hear how her growth-focused approach landed her at Clarus and what advice she has for engineers wondering where to go next.
Identifying strengths: how Nupur's own journey taught her how to help others
Nupur got into software engineering because she enjoyed logical thinking and math. She stayed because technology, by nature of its constant evolution, provides plenty of opportunities for continual learning.
"That's what excites me," explains Nupur. "Whether it's a new technology or working on a problem in a new way, you're constantly working to understand the business side of things, figuring out how to implement solutions, and problem solving. That's what gets me out of bed every day."
But she knew that purely putting her head down and cranking out code wasn't where she wanted her career to go, so she pursued an opportunity to become a manager at her then-employer.
"I'm a people person," she says. "I like to engage with people, talk to them, get to know them. That's why I wanted to continue onto a leadership role—I knew I could help people. When I look at a leader, I think of a teacher, a mentor, a coach, and sometimes a friend as well. I don't see myself as a person who is on top."
As she grew into a great line manager, Nupur realized that she didn't want to stop there, either. "I have a natural knack for understanding business requirements and higher-level things and helping to implement them through development," she says. That led to her looking for opportunities to grow into more strategic leadership, which led to her becoming a director, first at SSI and then at Dynata.
Owning a comprehensive set of business and people goals was a big job, but Nupur embraced the challenge. "Some people get burned out, but for me it was fun, because I was learning, trying out new things, being creative, and figuring out ideas," she says. There was one extra-helpful guiding principle she learned to apply, and still applies today: "I never think of what I don't have that is crippling me. I always think of what I do have and how I can make the best use of the tools to solve the problem. That's always kept me going."
But sometimes growth peters out, and that's what Nupur realized several years into being a director. She knew the business inside and out and felt comfortable—too comfortable.
"That's when I knew I had to come out of my comfort position and make myself uncomfortable, to learn and challenge myself. Because that's when you stop growing, and I wanted to continue on my path to learn and grow," she says.
So she started looking for a new opportunity and found Clarus.
"I wanted to be around people who are open to ideas, communication, and feedback," she says. "And when I mentioned to recruiters that I knew that I was talking to Clarus, they all said, 'Oh, they're a great company, with great people.' And that made me feel comfortable."
An extra bonus? The high number of women employed at Clarus (they make up 59% of the company's employees!). "That really makes us stand out," adds Nupur.
4 principles for finding your path as an engineer
Now, as an Engineering Manager at Clarus, one of the biggest parts of Nupur's job is helping engineers to find their own paths to professional fulfillment. The company's open and communicative culture (and growth!) helps make that possible, as does Nupur's own experience. Above all, she recognizes that not everyone will have the same growth path that she does. Here's how she breaks it down:
- Understand yourself. "What excites you the most? What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you going?" asks Nupur. "Identifying that will get you a better idea of what the next move will look like." She gives examples:
- Do you like working with people, and are you a good listener? Maybe it's time to pursue a management path.
- Do you enjoy solving complicated problems above all? Consider taking on a role as a solutions architect.
- Do you want to stay involved in technical problems but also get reps mentoring others? Consider a project or team lead role.
- "And just being a software developer is also okay!" says Nupur. "If you love to code, if you really enjoy being a nerd at that, then just be that! There's nothing wrong with that."
- Find an opportunity to test out your understanding. If you've identified a path you'd like to pursue, it's a good idea to explore it while you're still in your current role. Nupur suggests talking to your manager to find the right kind of stretch opportunity, whether it's mentoring new hires, leading an internal project, or taking a more active role in hiring and performance reviews.
- Learn something everyday. Even as you're finding yourself successfully transitioning into newer, more demanding roles that line up with your interests, learning is a continuous process, so stay open-minded to it, says Nupur. She herself prioritizes learning by making time each day to listen to podcasts. Even if she's busy—as a single mom and self-proclaimed workaholic, she doesn't have a lot of extra time—she'll listen to one while she prepares dinner or cleans up. Her personal favorites include The Official AWS Podcast, The Clark Howard Podcast, and Motley Fool Money, among others. "A lot of them are about tech or personal finance, but they also talk about other things. For example, I've learned about how to build high-performing teams, which is something that I can apply on a daily basis," says Nupur. "Podcasts are key."
- Be open-minded to different cultures along the way. If you're going to grow in your career, says Nupur, you'll need to be able to work with lots of different people. That's true for a director and for a senior software developer. She credits her own experience managing offshore teams with teaching her this lesson: "Learning about different cultures brings a different perspective and understanding. It's important to have empathy for them because it builds trust and loyalty," she says.
In this video, you'll hear insight from Karli Henriquez, Senior Manager of Artist Relations at SoundCloud, into what it's like to work at SoundCloud as a Latinx professional.
How does SoundCloud, the world's largest music and audio platform that connects creators and their fans across the globe, support cultural diversity? One incredible initiative is Clouds Of Color: employee resource groups for Latinx team members and allies to get together, learn, and celebrate their community.
Latinx voices and culture deserve more representation in the workplace, so, as Karli advises, "make sure to walk into every room or Zoom as your true, authentic self!".
Are you interested in joining SoundCloud? They have open roles! To learn more about them, click here.