Uber Vice President, Marketplace Engineering
UC Irvine MS, Computer Science
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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: Jeff Musk on Wed Jan 29 2020
I'm 35 years out of college. I spent my twenties thinking that I wanted to be in academia. I started a Ph.D. program and my thesis advisor took his research team to NASA Aims, here in the Bay Area, which is how I got to the Bay area. I spent a number of years of my twenties thinking that I wanted to be in academia and I published in papers, you can look me up on Google Scholar and I did machine learning back before it was cool, long time ago when it was much more of an academic discipline and was not something that was in demand in industry and for a variety of reasons, I decided that I wasn't interested in the academic rule and we can come back to that a little bit more, but I decided that I was more interested in applications and then I found it not as satisfying as I expected to as to present a paper in an academic conference, that kind of an abstract thing. As I said, machine learning was a bit abstract and not applied back in the late eighties, it's a long, long time ago. So I decided that I was interested in the industry and I was in my late twenties and knew that I had no experience, and I was actually through somewhat randomness, I found it on a used net, but it was a job board, it was a very stealthy, anonymous request to hire people for a very stealthy company that wouldn't tell who they were online and I jumped in the start-up and it worked out really well for me. I often get asked whether to do start-up or big companies when you're early in your career. For me in particular, that worked out really well because I learned a lot very quickly. I was sort of willing to raise my hand to do anything, and I tried a little bit of everything. I was everything, full-time engineer to I did pre-sales and post-sales work. I worked booths at a trade show. I went on-site and some of our customers and did consulting work at a very small company. That was a really neat bootstrap for me because I really got to see a lot of different things. You don't do that when you go to a large company, I often tell people in their twenties to get a small company experience and get a large company experience and you get very different things out of it. At Google, you get incredible mentorship, you see best practices, you get massive impact. you know what your product does because Google has a billion users for a lot of products and things like that. But you get kind of put in a very particular niche. Whereas if you're at a 10 person startup, you put on as many hats, you put on 20 hats in a week. But I spent my thirties on a series of small companies, first of which was a net startup I founded my own company Web0.0 in 1999 when no one really understood what the Internet was and was not for. We got venture capital funding and again, I learned a lot from that experience, different kinds of things, some of which is you never use again. I learned how to rent office space which you don't use in those companies. But I learned a lot from starting a company from scratch, trying to figure out what the idea was building the first part of Prototype, asking for funding, hiring the first people, etcetera. Did another company and then I joined Google in 2004, just before the IPO and I spent 12 years at Google, doing a variety of roles, all in the ads team. In the last six years, I was in YouTube ads, which was a very rewarding experience. After 12 years, I decided Google was long enough, and I wanted one more intense operational job and so I took a job in uber three years ago and spent the last three years of Uber, which I recently left, leading their pricing and matching teams. So there's a lot of different ways of answering what instance and experiences shaped my career path and we could spend longer on that, that was sort of 35 years in four minutes. I didn't see it like when I was 25, I certainly didn't imagine being a VP at Google when I was 50. I never probably looked for more than two or five years in the future, and I don't know that's the right choice or not, but that is what I did. I think more in terms of good decisions, it's impossible to know if you made all the right decisions. But I made reasonably good decisions that each mean pivot point and some of those pivot points are whenever you're looking for your next job. When I switched from company extra company, which happened maybe five times in my career and I think those are the big decisions, it's when you decide to leave one company and then you decide which one to go to, and all you can do is really just get as many different offers in front of you as possible and make the best decision you can. You can never see the future perfectly. I'd love to say when I joined Google in 2004 that I knew what Google was going to become. Google was already reasonably well known, actually, quite well known. It was the world's largest search engine, but it wasn't an operating system, it wasn't day browser, it wasn't displaying ads, it wasn't Cloud, it wasn't a fallow, and it wasn't even Gmail yet. I think when I had my offer letter, it was a search company. But I had an instinct that it was a good company and I jumped at it. I think things like that it's you got at each main sort of pivot point, make the best decision you can and I think the other big decision I talk a lot about when I'm talking to people earlier in their career is the decision that I made at a certain point, whether to be on the individual contributor track or the management track about 3 years into the startup idea that I mentioned earlier in the nineties, I was in my early thirties, relatively new into my commercial career.I was a good engineer, I was a good programmer, I was able to make a lot happen in a short period of time, but I had the opportunity to try a leadership role, and that was again one of the things that I think was good about being in a start-up is that bad opportunity availed itself because that startup was growing, and I stressed about it immensely. I think I spent several months kind of try and decide whether to do it. But then finally someone said, Just go for it. You know, if it doesn't work, it doesn't work and I did try management and I think that was the right career path for me the last 20 years, I think, it more is suited to me and I don't think everybody should be a manager and I tell to people that all the time. I have a lot of people come to be three years out of college saying I want to try management and my answer was that you are too early in your career, too early in your life to be managing responsibly for other people. There are exceptions to that but I think that's broadly speaking true, and I think it's good to get experience as an engineer before you try to manage engineers. But I also think there are some people who don't want that responsibility and it doesn't match their personality well, I think it did match my personality well. I spent the last 20 years of my career managing other people, and I really enjoyed that experience.

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: Vice President, Marketplace Engineering, Uber
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Jan 29 2020
So as I said, I left this job four weeks ago, but we'll use the present tense. One of the things I loved about my role as head of marketplace engineering and uber was that I led a 400 person engineering team that was cross-functional, about 600 including data science and product management and other roles that didn't report to me and one of the things I loved about getting to that level and it's pretty different from a job where you're a first-line manager of an eight-person team, which is a lot closer for people early in their career. But I like the variety. Things were just different 20 times in a single week. There was no one thing I did a lot of, some of it is personnel when you run a 400 person team, there's always something, there's always someone who's unhappy who you're trying to make happy. There's always two people who can't see eye to eye on some personnel or technical issue. There's always one person who you hire that maybe you shouldn't have. There's always someone who has a family reason that they're not able to put their all into work in a given week. I only had maybe eight or nine or ten direct reports, but the more difficult problems bubble up to you, no matter how much you try to delegate things and trust your leadership. There's a lot of personnel things around running a 400 person team. It happens, I just was talking to my successor a couple of days ago, where there's an annual performance review cycle where we decide who gets promoted or not, and who gets what size raises and who gets what size bonuses and that's probably no managers favorite part of the job. It's a painful thing, but at the same time is incredibly important to do those. So there's a lot of just personnel work, and anybody who thinks management is all about power and not responsibility should think twice and or if you experience it, it's quite different. There are always some challenges in that area, but the areas I really liked and probably enjoyed, got the most satisfaction out of were where I was responsible for a very large, functional team that could make an enormous difference for Uber's customers. I lead as I said, it'd probably three or four main areas, the core trip flow of uber, so the system that ran the state machine for both the riders and drivers who were in the process, either driving around his drivers or riding his riders. I led the pricing team trying to decide how much to charge the rider and how much to pay the driver for 20 million rides a day and a matching team, which is assigning riders to drivers. It does a full scan of every city every five seconds roughly and does a big matching problem. In all those places, there are a lot of technical decisions to be made, and leading a 400 person team as a VP, you should be making a few technical decisions as possible. You should be relying on others but having a good enough sense of what's going on in all those areas that you can have a sense of when things were going well, when things were not going well, like if you run 10 teams just for the sake of argument. There's always going to be 6 projects that are going great, three projects that are going OK and one project that's floundering and your job is to understand which project is not going well, understand when you need help, not necessarily dive in and make decisions, but, support the team, unblock things but a place like uber, there's a lot of policy issues. We're constantly dealing with regulatory challenges that a lot of different cities around the world London just change the rules in one way, California change the rules in another way, and sometimes my value-added, just going to a lawyer and saying, You've been thinking about this for three weeks. We need to get past that point because there was a recent situation. I can't go into detail where we have three months before some regulatory rule went into place and the lawyers were taking two months to decide what to do, leaving the engineers like an hour and 1/2 to actually build it on. And I had to sort of help unblock those kinds of things. I would do a lot of project reviews, that a lot of one on ones and my job was to really the first proclamation to know everything that's going on in my organization. So I knew where I could help and also and sometimes help men. Like I said, direct intervention and then sometimes it's coaching people. A lot of my product as a VP is the team, and my product is my five director, six senior staff engineers, and 30 front line managers, and helping them all to be successful because I can't do everything, but it's knowing enough to know how you can help other to be successful. It says that it discusses weekly hours, so first from philosophy perspective, I am a very strong proponent of not counting how long people are at work. Some of the most successful people at both you and whoever I worked with but I think this is different to start up. I think to start up, you're forming a team. There is a very tight timeline. I think everybody being in the office for a lot of hours matters a lot more, but we're in a large company it's distributed, it is like engines are in Bangalore and engines in Seattle and engines in Toronto. There are people doing videoconferences from home. There are people working off-hours, etcetera. I told people very early on I would not put a premium on how often you're in the office. I showed up every day, by all means, but I was probably in the office seven or eight hours a day. And then I did a lot of other time, I would roll out of bed in the morning and check email to see that something had happened after I'd gone to bed or overnight. I would check mail before I went to bed, so I was working often.

What qualities do you look for when hiring? How do you interview candidates?

Based on experience at: Vice President, Marketplace Engineering, Uber
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Jan 29 2020
So I interviewed leadership roles more than I did individual contributors because of the sort of role I had. But I think that the answer is similar. And I did interview, quite a few senior individual contributor candidates in my time at both Google and uber. Attitude matters at a tremendous amount, it comes across in Google especially, we got the best crop of candidates anywhere in the world. But we would notice a lot of people who came in with an attitude, people who came in arrogant. If in a 45-minute interview, you already give indications that you're not somebody I want to work with, and that's when you're supposedly on your best behavior versus when under a very difficult situation at work, Google would try, it would generally spit those people out in the interview process, and that wasn't my intent. The rule that Google was if you didn't want this person next to you in your cubicle on your team, you couldn't recommend and you can't say, 'Well, that's a great asset for Google. I don't want to work with him or her. But, boy, I'd really love him working somewhere else.' and I saw a lot of really talented people getting rejected that way and google is not perfect, any interview process is imperfect, it's human but attitude really comes across, I think, humility, a mindset, meaning just evidence that you still think you should learn. I think that our industry is so accelerated nowadays that everyone thinks they are senior software engineers four years out of college and their staffs offer engineers five years out of college and if they're not a CTO before they're 30 they are a failure. There's a little bit of that feel in the sort of bay area hypergrowth mode that we've been in because we've been in a boom for 10 years straight. Anybody under 30 has never seen anything but a boom.I know I sound like a little bit of an old guy talking about millennials, but I think that it comes across sometimes that there are people five years out of school who think they've already learned everything there is to learn and they have it. I often tell people that I'm still trying to learn now and I was trying to learn six months ago when I was in my final job. There's lots of things I wish I was better at that comes across a lot and I often counsel people too early in their career and by that, I mean sort of 1st 5-15 years. You should be optimizing for experience and learning and not for money. I told a story recently and was speaking to some high school students, I was trying to close a candidate to join uber, I think a year ago and he was trying to side between us and lift, and whatever decision gets made is fine, but I'll make up a number. But like, roughly speaking, it felt to me like he was basically if we offered him $50,000 a year and Lift offered him 50,000 and $1 per year. He would go to lift. I mean, he was completely stacked ranking on compensation and money doesn't matter. But early in your career, so much more and I really almost wanted to withdraw that candidate. It was so clear that his focus 1,2,3 and 4 with compensation. He didn't ask you what manager he was going to be. He didn't ask if the work was going to be impactful. He didn't ask what the software stack would be, he didn't ask what kind of organization I was trying to run. He didn't ask about uber's future. It was like, Tell me my calm and like making more And I just was so turned off by that candidate. In fact, that candidate did go off the lift, as it turned out because they offered him $500 a year more which I mean, it's not anything, but in the great scheme of thing is nothing for somebody four years out of college. What matters a lot more is you building your career for the future so, I look a lot for those kinds of things of someone who wants to contribute meaningfully, wants to learn. I see a lot in the market nowadays of people's hopping jobs every 18 months. And the fact is, you can get awarded by that usually going to get raise when you switch jobs. But if you're 26 you've already been a four companies, it really feels to me like you've never had long enough to really become an expert in anything. And you might have made your compensation more about your resume looks a lot worse. I know exactly what the right sweet spot is and everybody once goes to a company that's a mistake and leaves after six or 12 months, and that's okay. But if like, I interviewed, a guy wants you literally spent, like two years at Pinterest and then two years at slack and then two years at Airbnb and now is applying an uber and I'm just like, you know, I don't want to hire you here to be here for two years and a day. In terms of hard skills, again, I'm less the person who's asking you to code on the board, but a lot of how we look and in an interview is an artificial process, and you get a lot of people to argue about how an interview should and shouldn't be done. But, the software's a team sport and if someone can express their thinking process, when given a problem, ask clarifying questions, think in front of a whiteboard, explain the assumptions they made and said, 'I could do this, but I think you know, I got it right here, I do that,' that sort of thing matters almost that much is whether you can write in tactically perfect c++ or job or whatever that stuff like ideas, convicts like everybody makes angle bracket, failures here and there. Somebody's going to forget the order of arguments on STRLEN under the pressure of an interview, those things matter a little less to me, especially in a world where so much is available online. It's your thinking process and your evidence that you can communicate because you'll find in most real job situations, the percentage of its work that you do that is interacting with other primates as opposed to interacting with a keyboard is, I think, more than a lot of people understand from their academic experience.

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: Vice President, Marketplace Engineering, Uber
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Wed Jan 29 2020
I'm a big believer. Actually, all my jobs in the last 15 years have been very much in a business context, like fairly close to the customer not like leading the storage and infrastructure or networking team, which are incredibly important roles. But there the customers are a lot more internal, and the metrics feel quite different. Running teams like an ads team or a matching team. I had front end engineers who were building part of the uber Rider and driver app or part of the YouTube watch player and services that were really pretty close to that. And I was a big believer in giving people as much business context as possible. I got finance mad at me all the time on YouTube because I would put up slides with all the numbers of how YouTube was doing. I finally would like to hide the Y-axis, but at least be able to show people like what's doing well and what's not doing well and I think especially near the top of the stack, the more engineers understand the context of what's doing well and what isn't and that doesn't just mean revenue that means user satisfaction things, measures of driver happiness to the degree that we could say at the end of 2017, there was a lot of work to do but then our drivers were X percent more content with their job driving uber, which is clearly tied to turn and people dropping out of the network. I think engineers want to write good, elegant code. They want good unit test coverage. They want to know that they're proud of what they did. But I think that the thing that motivates a lot of engineers and the sort of people are successful in a job like YouTube ads or Uber market place or the people who are really motivated by the difference we can make with the business and with the experience of riders, drivers, YouTube creators, YouTube viewers, etcetera. So I put a lot of work, I used to do in both of my last two jobs. I called them brown bag lunches, which is the dated term, but like very informal lunch is where I just sit in a room with 20,40, 60 people, depending on the role and talk about what was going on, talk about as a VP, I'm in meetings with CEO or other high title people and I would be able to say, OK, this is what's on our CEO's mind. This is what's she's worried about right now like we've been doing this but we don't really know how to solve that and try to engage my team, not just please implement this stuff that we've passed down on high in stone tablets. But I want your ideas on what we should be doing now. Not all the ideas are good, but we do have a management process with the privatisation process, goal setting process, all these kinds of things, but trying to get everyone on the team engaged in solving the problems of business and so a lot of what I care about was transparency and not hiding when things were going badly, because there's always something going badly, and in fact, I think that's what actually motivates a lot of engineers of like these eight things were going well, but we're having a real problem with this and I want the smartest people on my team thinking about that problem and coming to me with, "Hey Kevin, We should be working on this as opposed to something else" and it ties the creative thinking, there is a role, and wherever you go, there'll be some sort of process of a product manager, program managers called different things at different companies passing a requirements document to you, and that's a valuable role. I'm not trying to take anything away from product managers. Your product manager spends a lot of time with lawyers, with policy people, with public relations people that engineers don't and customers, I'm sorry, actually, especially with customers, and I like getting engineers in front of customers directly. I think it's super motivating to have a human being in front of you who is a driver and saying this is the problem I've got, I wish you could solve this for me, but sometimes it's, I want more money, and that alone isn't sort of super insightful, but you've got a lot of other nuance of predictability of earnings versus people want their earnings to be this is opposed to that when they're feeding their families strangely enough, and knowing that intellectually is one thing but having a human being in front of you or watching a recording of a human being because he might be around the world. I'm telling you, that matters a lot. But, to the degree engineers have the context of, like where these requirements are coming from, know the priorities etcetera. I think that leads to a lot of out of the box thinking. You might have heard of your Facebook has what they call Agathon. Google tended to call them innovation weeks where you and I would tend to do them like just before the holidays because you can't launch any software the week before Christmas anyway. You shouldn't always say we Google and uber work on your kind of, breathing space. Generally, you don't have any December 20th deadline every year. We would have a week where we would structure it that we kind of had a round desk where anybody on a team, one of my 50 percent teams that uber did one of these very successfully every year. You know, anybody could submit an idea. We want to spend a week trying to build this. We think we could build this that would help our drivers be happier or riders be happier from and then we'd have a process where teams will kind of vote and you can work on anything that was sort of your week. But your goal was to kind of win the hackathon, and so teams will coalesce. And rather than having 40 random ideas, that would be a kind of process of coalescing around five or seven ideas that seemed really promising to a bit of voting/crowdsourcing kind of process. And then four-person teams we coalesce because one person in a week on a big software stack, Uber usually can't do a ton. But if you get five people really focused for a week on, maybe it's throw Waco. But just like I'm gonna build a prototype of this and then, you know, we have a presentation at the end of the week on a Friday where some leaders would and I would sometimes be a part of this process. We would see five different demos, a different user experience, a different matching process. We've run it through a simulator. It solves this problem, causes this to metric to get better this metric, get worse, and then, our commitment as leaders is that it wasn't just a one week vacation that we would really make an effort to get some of those ideas be part of our road map moving forward. And some of you might have heard of 20% time a google. It's a similar idea of giving engineers sometimes that's their own. That's not passed down from above to do creative things, and then you've got as a leadership team and Google much more so 10 years ago. But you know, Google Scholar, Google Gmail on some other products came from one person building a compelling prototype on, And so I think to give that kind of support to engineers ideas matters a lot

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: Vice President, Marketplace Engineering, Uber
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Jan 29 2020
So at my level, I don't incentivize, I don't set targets for individuals, I set targets for team. My team was broken. Let's just say maybe 15 sub-teams from 10 to 60 people and I could digest at my level each of those people's top goals. Uber tended to be doing semiannual planning, quarterly planning and there are different levels, there's a big annual planning process which tends to take October and November, both Google and Uber works somewhat similarly in this way where the CFO is trying to decide what the budget is for the next year because the CFO, the CEO are trying to say,' Okay, we're going to grow engineering X percent next year.' and then there's a process where all the components of engineering are frankly, it's a zero-sum game at some level, you're only going to hire 100 engineers, and if you put 80 on one team, there's only 20 left for another team and that's true at any size of company and that's a big process, and that's fairly heavyweight, and I was just doing that at uber in my last couple of months, letting all the way up to the CEO, here are the things we want to prioritize and all the way to the top, they'll be strategic input on. We want to put more work into this in 2020 and I know what 2020 priorities are. I can't really describe them out loud, but we're going to focus on this year and therefore this team's going to get a lot more headcount because it's really important that they pick out meeting slots to fill engineers. On a sort of micro-level at my level, I'm meeting with each of my 15 teams and you probably either have heard over or can look up on both Google and uber worked on okay hours, and I think originated at Intel in the seventies or eighties, but basically, it's a way of structuring your goals, and I would review the top-level goal and my accountability mechanism was at that level like I would meet with a team and I would say that this team is really knocking out of the part, they are trying to improve this metric by 3% this year, and they made 7%. And I would be more inclined if I don't know which of the 60 people on the matching team were part of that success but I know the matching team large was very successful and their leader will be rewarded appropriately for his or her team success and then within that team, it's up to him to kind of have a good idea like who within his teams were really the rock stars that helped to overachieve their goals. There are different kinds of teams, like the matching team, which I've talked about a couple of times, which is again measuring matches, riders, and drivers, that team happened to have really clear metrics that we all agreed on, What considered a success. If we were keeping our driver's busy or 52 minutes every hour instead of 48 minutes every hour at our scale, that saves the company's $100 million. Those kinds of teams are really easy to measure. Their job is to make our drivers more efficient, and our riders have lower ETA. There's still nuance within that, If you improve one by a little bit and lose another one little bit, how do you make those trade-offs? But it was pretty easy to measure success. A lot of other teams are a lot harder to measure, but generally speaking, we would do semiannual planning, we would set a set of goals that had to be very objectively measurable to the degree that is possible. So, failure is if you set a goal on January 1st and on July 1st, you're arguing about whether the team achieved that goal or not. You wanted to be pretty clear. You were supposed to do 5% and you did 4 and 1/2. It doesn't mean you get fired, but it means you're less successful than you could have been. And if you did 7% then you're doing great. Incentivizing people to meet their targets obviously there are financial rewards, there are promotions, there are larger bonuses, there are more equity awards in a company like uber, but a lot of it was just making it clear to them, and this goes back to the business context that I talked about a couple of questions before is I want them to understand that why if they improve this metric by 5%, it matters. And if they know that improving that metric 5% makes drivers lives better and makes them take home more money for their children, I don't really need to do much. So my job is to have them understand why the goals are the right ones. I don't always succeed in that, some teams have clear goals than others, but that's an ideal world for me.

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: Vice President, Marketplace Engineering, Uber
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Jan 29 2020
Uber went through a challenging year in 2017 which is pretty broadly known. We changed out CEOs, got a lot of publicity that was less attractive than it might have been. Google went through that various times in my 12-year career, where it was either broadly beloved or slightly less beloved, based on whatever the press cycle was at the week, Facebook's been through up and down cycles. Some of my goals and the negative press cycle at uber went through and started literally in my first week. It was perfect timing. My job was really holding the team together and keeping them motivated and keeping them focused on the task, focused on what they could solve and not the things that they couldn't solve and some of what I was able to do that was exactly, I just said and was telling some stories about Facebook's up and down because I knew a lot of people from there, some of Google's ups and downs, Youtube's ups and downs. YouTube is owned by Google, it gives them a long view, parts of just being steady, your boss is leaving, he lost his focus, your boss is focusing on the task and I was very proud that in that year we had attrition, everybody always does. The best company in the world, x percent of people leave Google the year after IPO back in 2004. But I was able to keep the team pretty stable, I didn't lose a lot of people that I really wanted to keep. In 2017, we actually achieved quite a bit. It's never as much as you'd like, but I felt really good about that. So a lot of my job there was really teaming with keeping people then there was, frankly, a time in 2017 where the reputational challenges were such that recruiting was not easy. I was able to hire some people, but as things came out and I was able to tell teams to be patient. The press gets bored of beating up on one company and it was uber in 2017 and we work in 2019, I do not know who is it going to be in 2020 yet and a very good friend of mine was a senior leader at we work, and we would commiserate over cocktails about just how much fun it is being that company for a period of time. Then in 2018, we were out of that press cycle and uber became appealing again and it became probably known, we were working on up to IPO and a lot of my focus was on team building, just really bringing an excellent talent. A lot of your product, as I said earlier before a person team is your team and I put an enormous amount of work into recruiting. I was doing, I don't know five or eight interviews a week for an entire year or something like that. I did the most interviews of any uber employee in California. I was told in 2018 and being relentless like I'm calling somebody and they said, I'm not interested. I say, 'Let's just get here for lunch on a Saturday, even if you're not interested, let's just chat and one of those people ended up being one of my best hires. I literally one of my best hires because he was another parent at my daughter's back to school night. I was recruiting at my daughter's back to school night one year and so it's just relentless recruiting, the talents were in the Bay Area and I think the tech industry at large, getting the best people, just requires an incredible amount of work, I think that a lot and then the other accomplishment I think I talk a lot about is just alignment. I think that when I got there, we were not nearly as good about measuring success, and I think we got to the point and by no means, I can get all the credit for this, and I had a lot of partnership from people like from data science, where everybody agreed on what success was and I think of the time when we left and the last meetings that I went to where I was sort of no longer in the job of watching my successors, the quality of conversation around we all agree we achieved 3% in this metric in the second half of the year, we've done well from the business and all focus then is just a lot on,' How do we get there?' and that was super gratifying to me.

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: Vice President, Marketplace Engineering, Uber
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Jan 29 2020
It's the same between Google and Uber, and I'll talk about something that's different. In most roles Ah, one of which was as an engineering leader and I am really individual contributor as well. One of the most important role is with your product manager. Most of the companies that I know of, product management is a parallel ladder. So there are a bunch of product managers who report up in one direction, bunch of engineers reports up in another direction. They need to work together and it is not always an easy relationship, there are always tricky questions of whose decision this is, Is this a technical decision or is it's a product decision because almost nothing is purely a technical decision or purely a product decision. For those who are not familiar with this because they're in their early in college. The product manager is typical, What do you do and the engineers get, How do you do it? But of course, there's tons of overlap in that because there are engineering decisions that might be, this is a beautiful solution, but it's going to take two years and there are product requirements that might require horrible hacks and ruining of the architecture. And so there are very few decisions that don't cut across those boundaries. In every level, whether you're a leader, a manager, an individual contributor, a director of E P. You're going to have a PM partner and they're sort of parallel universes. I think building that relationship and having it be as much of a trust relationship where you are trying to not just say no, I mean the sort of failure mode like an engineer saying, Well, we own the code, go away and I've seen that level of dysfunction, even at Google. But if you can come back and say that you can have this but here are the downsides. These five things were going to break. We're going to need 5000 more servers, which you might not be thinking about, our database scheme is gonna go to hell. Two-way communication of the implications of product decisions, I think is incredibly important and I was out for dinner a couple of nights ago with some of my best friends from YouTube ads, and they're almost all product managers. I think I really worked hard on that being a productive relationship because I think when product and engineering are working really well together, I think that's when teams really saying. My Youtube ad teams and sort of my first few years there was one of the best experiences of my career so I think those sideways relationships really matter a lot. The product one is probably one of the most important ones, and similarly, it varies from company to company. But the customer relationship and your customers could be different in different places. I've talked a lot about getting right in front. You can't Hoover has four million drivers, you can not talk to all of them. YouTube has 1,000,000 users but figuring out how to have good relationships with representatives of those organizations. It was salespeople at Google, it was an operations team at YouTube and really having engineering be as collaborative as possible so that there are not just the people hidden in a corner who is hacking out code that no one understands, but they're a part of the business. I just had breakfast this morning with someone who is a lawyer from uber. Large companies are really complicated, and all those rules are important. And I think there's one of the most passionate advocates of engineering having a seat at the table at every company because they're the people who are building the software product, but without every role and that's everything from lawyers to policy, to product managers to marketing people saying, you could build that, but I can't position it. It's going to look bad, it is going to blow up so we really need a different product. I think the degree you can get all those different voices because they're all important, working together and I'm not saying I'm always perfect or it's always been perfect. in all the teams I've been in, but that's what you should be aspiring too.

What was the hiring process like for your job? What were the roles of people who interviewed you? What questions were asked and how did you answer them?

Based on experience at: Vice President, Marketplace Engineering, Uber
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Jan 29 2020
Both Google and Uber, I mean, a lot of tech companies work pretty similarly, work in a way that you'll have a panel of four or five people and there will be rules about who those people are. It can't be all managers, it can't be all individual contributors ideally, it reflects a diverse slate to the degree possible. You put five white guys in front of a candidate and it says something about the company, which is not what you want to say and also the diversity of talents. Typically there are modules so there will be one soft skills interview, one on architecture, one on coding. So that way you're trying to ensure that you don't have five people asking the same question. If you don't really organize your interview process, you have five people ask the same question or basically, the same skills and you don't really get the full signal, and you want as much possible to have. There are different candidates who are excellent at different things. They might be great architects to their codes or vice versa, might be people whose ability to communicate is astonishing, but they can't write code at all and really to a degree possible, you want to get a full picture of the candidate that you've got in front of you. At both Google and Uber, there will be modules, and then there would be approved questions for those modules and you have to rotate through them because somebody can post on media that, I just interviewed at Google yesterday and here are the three questions that I got and people search for that. That was for individual contributor roles and the modules were different for leadership roles because there it is a lot more on leadership, how you operationally run an organization and things like that. Those five people will write feedback and get in a room and if there are five thumbs up from five different people, five different questions then it's a pretty short meeting. If there are five thumbs down then it's a pretty short meeting, when it's 3 to 2, which is actually what happens most of the time then it's a long meeting. Like, Okay, this candidate really seems the rock star at this, but really serious gaps in that and what do we do. And that's what you're trying to figure out. For an individual contributor, always coding was designed at the board and both of my last two employers would look for a lot is the ability to think out loud. By all means, like you sit and think for 15 seconds after somebody presents a problem for you. But I think you know, interacting and giving the person an opportunity, like, clarify something in two minutes and communication is a lot of this. Perfectly syntactic code from someone who looks like they'll never open their mouth for three years if you hire them, may or may not be exactly what you're looking for. As I said, Software's a team sport.

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

Based on experience at: MS, Computer Science, UC Irvine
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Jan 29 2020
It's interesting, I get asked forms of this and it's been long enough that I'm not sure if my answers are perfect anymore. I think that it prepared me well for the early parts of my career, and that's what I said is the growth mindset, the field changes a lot. No one was talking about cloud computing when I started, no one was talking about big data, people weren't using Apache Spark when I started. I'm a big believer in the building blocks and I thought I got pretty good building blocks, atomic matters, hardware matters, networking matter, data structures matters, algorithms matter and I happen to be a specialist in machine learning when I was working on my masters in my early Ph.D. So I got those basics, and I think those things matter and then you're going to have to like the sound of the programming language is going to change super fast in the next 10 years. But if you're all 20 now, the world's going to look really different when you are 28 and a lot of what I think you're looking for is enough building blocks to get your foot in the door for that first job or two and then it's going to be on you to keep learning because things are going to change fast. There's a new framework, UI frameworks change every year and I can tell, I can't keep up with what is the flavor of the month. Looking back as I'm mentoring some Stanford graduate students right now, the degree of information you all have because the world has changed with Linked in with Googling, with stack exchange, all those kinds of things is nothing short of astonishing. My network exposure, when I came out of school, was like 1% of what any of you have. I certainly didn't get videos from VP's of top tier companies to look at. When I was 20, I feel like I was so much more in the dark. I had no idea how to find Top Gear companies and how to learn about companies. It was incredibly more difficult in a world, pre-Google pre-linked in pre-Facebook. I applaud this program here that is giving exposure to people who are early in their career through folks who have been doing it for a long time. I think these things matter a lot.

Do you have any parting advice for students and professionals starting out in your field? What three mistakes they should avoid? What three things would help them the most?

Based on experience at: Vice President, Marketplace Engineering, Uber
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Jan 29 2020
A lot of it is optimized for growth and learning, you may think you know everything at 20 or 22 but you don't and that's just the way the world is. Being in the industry, there's just a tremendous amount to learn. What matters the most in your 1st 5 or 10 years is like the experience you get and the people you meet. I was told once, I'm horrified to say that I was 39 and I was offered a job at Google. It didn't have a huge pay cut because it was pretty IPO and I took a big title cut because Google was against title inflation. So everybody had, like, a title lower. I almost didn't go to Google, when I was 39 which would have been a painful, painful mistake to make and a very wise mentor of mine who I'm still in touch with, said, 'Go to the right company, don't go to the right job' and if it was the right company the opportunities will come but that doesn't always work. Sometimes you go to what you think is the right company, and it's not but I had a good career before I was at Google. Google was a career-changing job for me, and that's because I swallowed my pride and ego and bet on myself and said, I'm going to go prove myself and I did. I proved myself. I busted my butt for my first few years and was able to make my career and just learn a tremendous amount. I think, try a small company and a big company early in your career again, not every year, but do three years of each because some people love what big companies are about, you have 1000 personnel hands and you're part of a big thing and great things happen out of your company. And some people hate because you're one tiny part of a huge beast of a company. Google's got 100,000 engineers now or something just insane like it's hard to make an impact, especially early in your career and some people love all the excitement of a startup where everybody knows everybody's name and you are all rowing on this, you're on the same team and your first customer is a big deal and all that could be awesome. And some people hate it because it's chaos. Almost always. It's just nothing that has found it yet. You don't have job letters, you don't have a job description, no one knows what they're doing, you're trying to figure out what's going on. Some people find that extremely uncomfortable, some people thrive on it, and I think trying both is really a good thing. I already touched on Don'ts, overly focused on compensation, money matters, but what matters more is the career you're building early on. I spoke to a bunch of high school students. I think two weeks ago, I think back more and more on my career and what both made my career successful and I've seen some other careers go sideways is the degree to which you are viewed as a good co-worker, it's astonishing to me how much it matters, and that's going in my own experience. I had a job from 2000-2003 at a not very successful company that was really struggling to survive. But I had one guy on my team who really thought highly of me, and he referred me into this place called Google because he thought highly of me and he had credibility there, and if he hadn't referred me in, they were really reluctant to hire experienced managers from outside the company at that time, I would never gotten that job, so the degree this may sound stressful to the people, but I really say often you're auditioning for your career forever. Tech is a massive field, but especially as you get further and further, no matter whether you settle in Salt Lake City or San Diego or Silicon Valley, the degree to which your reputation follows you is unbelievable, and it still blows me away. How often, I mean, it happens at my level, but it happens at every level. People from good companies know who the other good people are from their last company, and that's who they recruit in. So you're almost certainly wherever you go at age 21 you're not going to be there for more than three or five years unless you're extremely lucky and you'll be looking for your next job and the last 20 people who you worked with are going to be the people who help you to get your next job, so don't be constantly networking and sucking up. But people who are lazy people, who are jerks, people who cut corners, people who are certainly unethical. I had a case recently where someone lied about his resume. And I'm going to go out of my way to make sure I've been asked a couple of times Why didn't you hire that guy like because he lied? I don't like to punish people but I also think that should matter. I caught him red-handed lying about his previous experience and it's sort of like the things you learn in kindergarten. But it's very real of the way Silicon Valley works is that the best people are constantly looking for the best colleagues and the best company and just everyone is always watching you and your peers. You may think like my manager thinks I'm great, it doesn't matter to my co-workers think of me, that there's nothing could be further from the truth. Your co-workers are going to be your network, your roll index and, frankly, your references whether you want them to be or not. When you're applying for your second job at 24 you're going to have three references who say you walk on water because we can always find three references who say we're great. One of them might be my roommate and another one's my brother, but, the good people, good recruiters, the good hiring manager will go, 'Oh, you know, Kevin's coming from Company X. I know somebody company X. I'm going to just reach out' and they'll text somebody and go, 'What was Kevin really like? And somebody will go like,' Kevin was lazy, sucked up to his boss' and that's that follows you. So it really matters to do your job, right and I know that sounds obnoxious, but I have seen it happen so much as I look back on 30 years of watching this industry.