Pluralsight Head of Technology Leader Experiences
Brigham Young University Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Instructional Psychology and Technology
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How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
I am the head of technology leader experiences for accompanying Pluralsight. I lead product management, product design and software engineering for one of the PluralSight's core value streams, which are our technology leaders CIOs, VP's of engineering or some other roles. The path that I've had that's taking me to what I do today, I'll start educationally, with some of my early experiences that move professionally to some of the early career experiences that I had that enabled me to be in the role that I am today. My undergraduate degree is in psychology from Brigham Young University. I subsequently spent five years in a doctoral program studying instructional design and instructional psychology. What I became really passionate about is the intersection of technology, business and education which is what ultimately led me to my current role here at PluralSight. As part of my work towards a doctoral degree. I began working full time eventually, beginning with an early-stage product management role of a fairly junior role within the organization and subsequently being able to gain more expertise within product management within the instructional design space broadly. Five or six years ago I pivoted a little bit and took my product management skills and applied them to the enterprise. Software is the solution space or SAS space, enabling me to be able to fully develop my business and technology skills. There I was the first product hire for a company named GoReact. Which is an Ed-Tech company focused on delivering online video feedback as part of classes, anything from public speaking to teaching American sign language. After being at Go React for two years what I really recognized was the opportunity to strengthen my skill set as a product practitioner in being able to leverage human-centered design practices more deeply in my product management work. Ultimately, I transitioned into a career with PluralSight as a product manager. After being with the organization for two years, we went through a fairly critical reorganization that was intended to more tightly align our product teams to key customer value streams. Now I lead the technology leader value stream, as I mentioned with responsibilities for product management, product design and software engineering. As far as experiences that have been most influential in my career. What I would say would be the recognition that ultimately big value creation for customers that drives and solves problems that they care about as well as organizations ultimately is accomplished cross-functionally. So that experience of working directly on a cross-functional team of product managers, product designers and software engineers for many years has really cemented my viewpoint that the best outcomes are going to be created cross-functionally. In the last year with this new design that we've implemented what I've really come to appreciate is the value of cross-functional leadership, not just cross-functional teams.

What are the responsibilities and decisions that you handle at work? Discuss weekly hours you spend in the office, for work travel, and working from home.

Based on experience at: Head of Technology Leader Experiences, Pluralsight
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
On the weekly basis responsibilities and decisions that I make include hiring decisions as we continue to build out teams. It includes budgetary decisions relative to what current headcount budget is relative to where we know we were hoping to be over given checking in milestone points throughout the year, I am ultimately responsible for the product-market fit of our technology leader focused experiences at PluralSight. Which is ultimately going to be the strongest indication of my performance professionally. If we're able to continue evolving our product experiences in a way that continued to delight customer needs, that's going to be a strong driver for our holistic company success, in my role is what I'm ultimately accountable to. Other decisions that I face weekly at work can include a wide variety of tactical decision making regarding how we're going to be supporting various company initiatives as well as all of the traditional people management responsibilities that you would anticipate having a role like mine. At the moment, my team is approximately 40 individuals and so that can consume a lot of time and attention as well from a decision making perspective. As far as weekly hours I spent in the office or for work travel. One of the things that are really critical to me has been to figure out how to support my responsibilities professionally in a way that enables me to be the type of husband and father that I'd like to be in terms of engagement. My wife is currently working on finishing her Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy and she works as a therapist in so blending all of that leads me to work a hybrid work schedule. What I do is I'll typically begin my day somewhere between six and seven in the office and I'll spend my first morning hours before people typically come into the office focused on the types of activities that I need to be strongest at. That can be anything from preparing for critical customer calls. It could be focused on strategic initiatives that I'm responsible for occasionally will be spent just trying to keep up with the slack and email communications that I have to attend then typically spend most days in the office until about 4 p.m. When I come home to be able to support my wife in her job as a therapist or working on her dissertation. Oftentimes it'll happen is most evenings I'll spend some time trying to catch up on communication being slacker. Enabling me to be able to hit the ground, running the next day with a fairly clean inbox so that psychologically I am prepared to be able to tackle my most important initiatives. I do travel periodically for work the bulk of my travel is spent customer-facing supporting ourselves. A team getting out in the field and being able to have strategic conversations with customers right now, given the State of COVID-19 in the United States, I am actually under a mandatory working from home situation. However, typically in my role that's not the case I am typically office-based.

What are the job titles of people you routinely work with inside and outside of your organization? What approaches do you find to be effective in working with them?

Based on experience at: Head of Technology Leader Experiences, Pluralsight
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
Inside of my organization the nature of my role is highly cross-functional. I work with software engineers, product managers, product designers. I collaborate very closely internally to PluralSight with our product marketing the marketing team's, customer's success and sales support. The only portion of the business that I'm not very closely working with on a continuous basis would probably be our finance team. I do have touchpoints with the financial planning and accounting individual that supports my organization. That's probably the only portion of the company that I'm not very directly and consistently working with. Sales, marketing, customer success, and then obviously within our product organizations. Outside of our product organizations, I interface very consistently with very senior technology leaders ranging from titles such as CEO or CTO down to senior vice presidents or directors of engineering. Also our customer base does have a number of individuals that are part of HR or learning and development organizations. As far as approaches that I find to be most effective and working with them the lesson I continue to learn is the best opportunity for me to communicate comes from my willingness to speak very clearly and plainly to the problems or challenges that I'm trying to solve. Whether that's working with customers directly or with other individuals being able to focus more clearly on the way in which I see specific problems. In the way that I'm trying to solve those problems has a tendency to be able to be more clear and effective than anything else I've been able to discover at this point.

What major challenges do you face in your job and how do you handle them? Can you discuss a few accomplishments?

Based on experience at: Head of Technology Leader Experiences, Pluralsight
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
Some of the challenges that I faced in my job primarily from working within a growing technology company. As a growing tech company the rate of which we're hiring and expand our business is very strong. So oftentimes one of the biggest challenges I face is just being able to keep up with the speed at which we are growing our business. How I handle them is trying to stay focused and centered on the vision strategy that directly impacts my teams and my authorization. Ensuring that it's aligned with our company vision and strategy. Being able to stay focused on that vision strategy has enabled me to prioritize which activities are going to be most essential to the growth of our company versus which activities I would love to engage in. As far as accomplishments, I directly hired 22 individuals in 2019 over the space of about four months as part of a big growth area. What's been really exciting for me from an accomplishment perspective has been able to see how in less than a year these individuals have become fully ramped. They've made massive contributions to the outcomes that we're trying to create for our customers. I was able to lead my organization in a way to drive a strong headcount growth that also directly supported the way in which we were growing our business. And being able to generate those outcomes that were directly associated with. So it's been really fun to be part of a very fast growing organization, very directly responsible for that growth from a company perspective both in terms of hiring and leading new team members as well is driving strong. 

How do you inspire and motivate your team members? How do you foster creative thinking? How are ideas shared and implemented?

Based on experience at: Head of Technology Leader Experiences, Pluralsight
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
For me inspiring and motivating team members is directly related to my ability to create clear visions of what we see the world becoming as a result of our efforts. What I found is that in the types of job roles that I lead typically product management, product design and software engineering those types of job roles are often filled with people who are incredibly passionate about solving problems. The best way for me to motivate them is to actually provide them with clarity around what we're trying to create. And the purposes behind that and enable them to go tackle that from an autonomous perspective in a way that ultimately is held accountable to the customer outcomes that they generate. What I found is that it provides not only a ton of motivation but it creates great space for creativity. Recognizing the eyes of leaders will not ultimately have the ability to have answers for all questions that my team has. That means they're going to be able to go answer those questions independently in a way that will consistently deliver a great experience for our customers.

How do you set targets for your team members? How do you measure their progress? How do you incentivize them to meet their targets?

Based on experience at: Head of Technology Leader Experiences, Pluralsight
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
What I hear in this question is broadly how do I as a leader support performance with my teams. How I think about that is the strongest way that I'm going to be able to drive performance with my teams will be to create a clear understanding of what that performance looks like with my team members. Within my company we have a concept of a performance agreement. Which is a co-created artifact that defines what success looks like and what we know varying levels of success will look like. And so how that works out from a prospect of with my teams, I will have them draft semi-annual performance agreements and then we collaborate back and forth until we mutually agree that what we have described represents the way in which they're going to contribute to their team's success and the way in which we will both know whether or not that performance has been fully realized. I view that as a very critical element where the process is entirely collaborative because then I have less time and energy that I need to spend thinking about how do I incentivize or motivate them to achieve their targets because these individuals feel a huge sense of accountability, given they were the ones that ultimately were the foundation of the definition around that performance.

What qualities do you look for while hiring? What kind of questions do you typically ask from candidates?

Based on experience at: Head of Technology Leader Experiences, Pluralsight
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
When I think about hiring individuals a lot of it's going to come down to the specific job roles that I'm hiring for. I hire for a wide variety of job roles. The types of questions will vary as as a result of that as well. For me speaking more directly to the first question qualities. What I look for is an ability to commit within candidates to our company values. We have five company values that we view as strong drivers of sustainable growth and performance for teams. So what I'm looking for is the evidence that potential hires are able to successfully commit to those values in a way that will drive strong performance. We're not looking for culture or culture fit in that. What we're looking for is the recognition that people from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures and interests have a strong capability of driving performance in a way that aligns with our values. Ultimately I'm just looking through a number of questions around those values in particular. We have a fairly concrete and robust hiring process that we leverage from a technical perspective. To be able to validate and verify the baseline skills and proficiency is what we need in the roles. For me it's kind of a 50-50 blend between the job capabilities and the ability to commit to our values of the company.

What is a typical hiring process for a job like yours? What are the titles of people who interview? What questions usually get asked and how to handle them?

Based on experience at: Head of Technology Leader Experiences, Pluralsight
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
The typical hiring processes for all of the roles that I lead. We have Evergreen Job Requisition that are open, which means that we're constantly interviewing and sourcing applicants for product managers, product designers and software engineers. And what happens is after people apply to a job we have a team of what we call practices leaders. That are very skilled practitioners in product design, product management and software engineering that do our first round of interview screenings. So they'll review applications and resumes make decisions based on those applications of resumes as to which candidates might be a good potential fit and do a first screening interview with them. From there that team of practice leaders is able to evaluate the potential fit between candidates and the jobs on specific teams that we're hiring for. Then working with leaders like myself to be able to say here's a small subset of candidates based on the profile of the team that you're hiring for, might be a particularly strong fit. From there we move into questions around how they've demonstrated our values previously. As well as more disciplined, specific questions that give us the ability to understand how they approach specific types of problems. 

What are different entry-level jobs and subsequent job pathways that can lead students to a position such as yours?

Based on experience at: Head of Technology Leader Experiences, Pluralsight
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
My career has largely been in product management, despite the fact that my current role is as a leader of product design and engineering. The specific job role that I am in would in fact be able to be supported by people coming from any three of those disciplines. So entry-level roles that could ultimately culminate in a role like mine would be entry-level product management, product designer or software engineering roles. What would be critical in any of those roles would be the ability to leverage those disciplines to drive customer outcomes in business success. Which could in fact be successfully accomplished across any three of those job roles. The product management entry-level job is probably the most tricky of those three disciplines. For software engineering there are lots of internship and entry-level positions available often that is the case with product designers too. The challenge with product managers is it's typically only large organizations that would have some kind of product management internship or an entry-level job role. What's challenging there is oftentimes product management in those large companies is very different than what you would experience in smaller startups or high growth tech companies. As a result the First product management job can be a big challenge to get. Ultimately success is going to be driven by a willingness to recognize that the best path if it's not with one of the largest companies, can come from companies that are a little bit smaller and are more flexible in the type of candidates that they're looking for.

What were the responsibilities and decisions that you handled at work? What major challenges did you face in your job?

Based on experience at: Product Manager, GoReact
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
The responsibilities and decisions I handled as a product manager at GoReact were primarily focused on product decisions around the specific features and experiences that we would be developing. My responsibility was to ensure that I understood customer needs and was able to translate that via designs and work with our engineering team to have those experiences built invalidate with customers, ensuring that we were able to drive the success that we were looking for. Some of the challenges that I faced were I was the first hire at the company I believe I was employee number 13. Shortly after I was there I ultimately raised a series of financing rounds. So the challenge that I faced was again largely rooted in having a company that was experiencing a lot of growth. Having a company that was experiencing a lot of changes in how the leadership team was approaching the business, not changes in the leaders themselves. Ultimately, as the business continued to grow in scale those existing leaders needed to shift the way in which they were managing the business and create more sustainable systems that would enable their individual tributaries to continue owning more and more autonomy in accountability.

How did the school prepare you for your career? Think about faculty, resources, alumni, exposure & networking. What were the best parts?

Based on experience at: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Instructional Psychology and Technology, Brigham Young University
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
The best way that that education prepared me for my current role was being able to have a deeper ability to reflect on how you try to measure the success of human-based experiences. One of the things I went very deep on was how do you think about successfully measuring education? How do you think about measuring whether or not somebody has a specific skill? and that work has propelled me to be able to more closely reflect the realities of our customers in a way that can be visible in key performance measures that will enable us to manage the work that we're doing. That broad humanistic career enabled me to be a more successful, human-centered design practitioner. The faculty and resources that were provided and enabled in my program really influenced my thinking around human-centered design. And had a leverage qualitative data alongside quantitative data to be able to arrive in a more holistic and complete picture. Unfortunately, the direct networking and exposure within my field wasn't terribly well aligned with where I took my career. However the broad foundation of the education I experienced was able to drive success for me.

How did the school prepare you for your career? Think about faculty, resources, alumni, exposure & networking. What were the best parts?

Based on experience at: BS, Psychology, Brigham Young University
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
The work that I did as an undergraduate really honed my baseline ability to think about consuming research. A way that would enable me to be able to recognize that not all data, not all researches are as equally valuable and being able to really distinguish when a given observation or piece of data or theory or research report had a lot of impacts and would be able to be a successful foundation for subsequent thought. That was really critical as I moved into product management roles in my career to be able to recognize and how to really wait and blend different data together in a way that was able to support a broader theory of value for my customers.  

Would you like to share something that is not on your resume? This may include your passions, facing setbacks or adversities, a unique experience, or an unexpected help.

Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
The thing that I’d like to share for students that's not on my resume would be the value of fully integrating your professional and personal lives. What I mean by that is personally, I have a wife who is working towards completing her Ph.D. I have two small children one of which has a rare genetic mutation that's resulted in a rare form of epilepsy and autism. What I found is that stresses me and my personal life, my relationships, my marriage and my family is that the relationships I have and those stressors impact how I show up at work. And on the flip side the way in which I show up. The stressors I'm experiencing at work shape how I show up at home. Rather than trying to compartmentalize those two portions of my life, I've been working towards fully integrating them in a way that acknowledges the fact that I can't separate them. And what that's created for me professionally is a much deeper ability to empathize with humans and team members. A much deeper recognition of the value of a broad and diverse set of backgrounds and perspectives I believe has been the foundation of what I've been able to create as a leader

Do you have any parting advice for students hoping to get to a position such as yours? What 3 dos and 3 don'ts would you suggest?

Based on experience at: Head of Technology Leader Experiences, Pluralsight
Summarized By: arushi chaudhary on Mon Mar 16 2020
The top three things that I would suggest would be number one to recognize that charting your career is very suddenly a perfectly straight line. That recognition will enable you to take advantage of opportunities that seem closely related to what you're trying to create versus opportunities that may not be aligned to what you're trying to create. The second do for mewould be related to the first one constantly evaluate opportunities on the basis of does this pretty cool opportunity brings me closer to where I'm trying to go? Where does it take me in the future? and If I invest in the opportunities that do. The final do for me would be to invest in yourself as a human who is very capable of sitting in ambiguity and sitting in the messiness of thehuman condition in a way that will enable you to become a more powerful leader of people. People are complicated, their lives are messy and challenging and hard and the deeper build that you have to empathize with people and those around you will be a very strong reflection of your ability to drive towards successful outcomes as a leader. My top three don'ts would be to narrowly focused on frames of what your career needs to look like to give yourself really space and patience around how your career's going to involve. That would be the number one Don't, being too focused on trying to achieve a certain milestone by a certain date. The second don't that I would really suggest would be don't minimize the impact of close collaboration and being able to very clearly ensure that you are focused on building collaborative outcomes with others. For the final don't, it would be don't ever lose sight of the value of having a sustainable learner's mindset where you're constantly focused on pushing your boundaries and your intellectual comfort with new ideas and approaches. Failing to do that will be a very big detriment to your career as a student.