eBay Director, Software Development
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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: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
Well, thanks again for allowing me to be part of your team and talk about a little bit of my career and such. I hope what we do talk about is informative and interesting to the folks who listen. So I started my career about 40 years ago. I graduated from Santa Clara University in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had a degree in finance, the technology that wasn't really a big deal at that time and I was going to be a banker. So I thought I will be writing mortgages for people's new houses but at the last minute, I had a chance to join a company called Arthur Andersen at the time. Arthur Andersen has evolved into Accenture, what is Accenture today and Arthur Andersen was a tax and accounting firm at that time, but they were starting a consulting wing where they wanted to help businesses solve their problems through procedure, improvements or technology changes. So I joined that team at Arthur Andersen and spent 10 years there and over 10 years had a chance to see a lot of different companies, a lot of different industries, big companies, small companies but they all had problems to solve, and most were solvable through a technology improvement. So after that, I helped launch two start-up companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Both were so much successful, but I learned a lot and when you work at a start-up, you wear a lot of different hats. So I probably learned more in five years of that type of mode than most people do in a lifetime. I was really fortunate to work there. I had a chance to work for a larger ag company in California, as well as to high tech companies, Iomega and eBay. I've spent the last 17 years now with eBay. It's been a colorful journey and been very fortunate and blessed to work with a lot of wonderful people who are smarter than me.

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: Director, Software Development, eBay
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
I think the responsibilities and travel and an hour's work change with the project and the phase of the project that you're in. So when we kick off the project, for example, at eBay, I have a team in San Jose, a team in Salt Lake City, Utah and a team in Germany. So typically upfront on a project we meet in Germany, let's say, I bring along my development managers that tech leads and we meet and make sure everyone's in alignment with what has to be done, what should be done and the timelines that are dictated by the business. So we get everybody on the same page, and that's where we travel the most usually. The hours flow, based on the phase of the project and whether we've got to catch up or we're ahead of schedule. But in every project, I should step back and say, it's my responsibility to make sure that our team is aligned with the company goals and objectives and also that the technology that we're using is alignment with the technology platform standards that the company is using. So it doesn't do our company or our team any good for us to be working on projects that are not critical to moving the company forward or using technology that cannot be integrated with the overall company platform. So that's the foundation of what I do is make sure everyone's in alignment, in agreement and we are moving forward together.

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: Director, Software Development, eBay
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
That changes also with the type of project and the phase of projects. So, in the anti-fraud mode that we're in at eBay, I sometimes work with my peers in other companies. So, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, even Amazon our competitors, I think everyone's in alignment that fraud and bad people on the Internet is not a good thing for anybody. So, we do work, we align our strategies because it does me no good to drive all our fraud to Amazon or Amazon to drive all their fraud to eBay, that would be not beneficial. So we work together on and we work with the government agencies to help us especially internationally. So the job titles there really change. I work with cybersecurity experts, so people in the bowels of the code and people at higher levels who would like to assess where we are so I work with all folks at all levels. I would say that it seems to me, and just this is just my opinion maybe, but job titles were more important to maybe 40 years ago when I started, they're less important today because as technology changes, we changed the way we work, the way our companies behave and people wear like I said different hats every day. The smaller the company, the more pronounced that is. I think job titles are nice, but they really don't hold a lot of meaning and at least in my opinion like they used to. I think in business and in life, if you're transparent and honest and truthful, you avoid a lot of problems down the road. The foundation of any relationship is trust and if you hide the information, if you're bending the truth, people find out and they tend to distance themselves from you instead of wanting to partner with you. So, when I have a team and an individual is behind schedule or running into a problem, for example, I really want that person to be truthful with me saying, "Hey, I need help. I'm behind schedule." Don't tell me everything's fine, you're on schedule, you are on a budget, you, no issues, that's not the way it works usually, and I want to know about problems earlier than later because the earlier you find out about a problem, the easier it is to solve you. So transparency, honesty, I think it's a good recipe in life, not just at work.

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: Director, Software Development, eBay
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
I think every manager in any discipline, whether it be marketing, finance, engineering, technology the constant challenge is retaining and recruiting top talent. As soon as I have a team at eBay here, there were a dozen companies trying to steal those people on my team. So I think, you have to really, first of all, identify and recruit good talent and then create an environment where they're motivated and they want to be there so. The challenge for any manager is to steer the team as a whole but also treat everybody on the team as an individual because people are motivated by different things. Some people in the technology industry are motivated by learning and the use of new technology. Some people are motivated by work-life, balance, some others by compensation. So you have to understand what drives people that will help you retain them and pretty a meaningful experience for them so that they understand how their work fits into the overall picture, that they feel that they're appreciated and their work is recognized and that they're making a difference, helping the company or a group move forward. I think that's where you really make a meaningful work environment for people. Well, right on our doorstep is the Coronavirus situation and this kind of ties back to another big challenge for every manager is changing visit priorities and technology paradigm shift. So, right now we were talking about this before we kicked off our interview that no one saw this coronavirus coming a year ago, but when it did arrive on our shores, we had to act fast. So all of our business priorities changed and we had to take everybody who was working on something else and focus them on this business continuity initiative and there are multiple initiatives in every company but you have to be very flexible and very nimble. So I think you know a challenge for any manager and people, in general, is to adapt to change and to welcome it and to address it head-on.

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: Director, Software Development, eBay
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
I think the key is to hire good people and not demotivate them. So if you get a really good person on your team and a group of really good people the challenge is to keep that person as a top-notch player and to not demotivate them, create a learning environment, invest in them. I think there are some companies that do really well and others that don't where they set time aside each month, each year for individuals to attend training courses, a training that is applicable and interesting to each individual. I think that shows a genuine interest in the company in the individual and that improves the team overall going forward. We all have to invest in ourselves, but having an environment where the company invests and puts money aside and time, it's not just work, work, work, that investment is important. Also, I think it's important to create an open environment for your teammates. When I started out, we all had cubicles and we all had walls between ourselves and we didn't see each other and to see we bounced out around cubicle partition. Today's offices are designed much differently, which inspires and encourages people to gather around a coffee table and a couch and talk about the challenges they're having and that's good to encourage the idea sharing on a daily basis with your teammates. It's harder to do when you have a distributed team. So the information sharing between, say, Berlin and Salt Lake City, is a little bit challenging, time zones get in the way, and it's not as personal if you aren't face to face. But technologies like Zoom are a wonderful godsend right now because you're almost there and check everyone's working from their houses right now anyway, so zoom is a very popular platform.

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: Director, Software Development, eBay
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
I think I may have mentioned that sometimes targets are really dictated by the company, business conditions. We have notified yet just yesterday that we're going to be merging with another group outside of eBay so that was a curveball if you will. We didn't see that on the to-do list or the work plan, so we now have a target of a certain day to merge the companies together. So often times business conditions and business objectives really drive the target dates and that filters down to projects and projects within projects. So projects are usually you can break those down to manageable components and everybody is either part of a team or working on a component or an individual working on a part. And the manager's role is to make sure everyone's work is aligned and we understand dependencies as well as what can be done in parallel sequentially, as we have done sequentially as such. So that's kind of hard. Targets are done generally to motivate people to meet their targets. I think the group is a great motivator if you hire the right people those people don't want to let the other team down. You have a lot of personal pride when you look at your work as a reflection of your best personal effort and you don't want the technical lead on your project to look down and you say, "Well, you could have done something differently or better or quicker" You want to strive to be the best that you can be and to not let the team down, I think that's the best motivator. Putting money out on the finish line for someone to finish a project that works sometimes but that's kind of a shallow way to motivate people. No, I'm not saying money is not important, compensation is important, but I think intrinsically it's more long-lasting to get people who want to be a part of the team, a successful team and want to be seen as a successful individual as well in a successful team.

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

Based on experience at: Director, Software Development, eBay
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
I look for people who are good problem solvers who have a can-do approach to taking a problem and then solving it. Nobody wants to go into a meeting with a problem and have people say it can't be solved. With technology today, most problems can be solved with enough time or money, I know that's a general statement, but it is somewhat true. If you get a good group of people with good thought processes together, I think people can solve most issues, outside technology it doesn't matter. So I look for people who are positive people who want to be problem solvers, who want to be a part of a successful team and I look for people who take ownership and are honest and open. In the interview process, that's what you kind of talk about is, what problems have you solved? How did you address this and overcome this hurdle? Give people a chance to talk about real-life experiences as opposed to something that's theoretical. I want people to think outside the box and be amenable to change because change is constant as we talked about.

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: Director, Software Development, eBay
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
A person in my role would be interviewing with a vice president, probably a senior vice president responsible for a business unit. I would want to be able to meet and interview with the people that I would be working with in the different business units outside of the technology teams. I would want to understand their expectations of me and, how they like to communicate, how they like to structure their projects and such. I would also want to have a chance to meet the people that I would be managing as a part of the team to understand what their expectations of me would be as well as me understanding their skill sets and how they like to be managed. Now, I will say, some people like to say, I want to manage my own job and work and there's a difference between empowering people to do that and being a passive manager. Being a passive manager doesn't work. It might work for a very short time, but being a passive manager is not a good thing in my opinion. Empowering people to do their work and have take ownership is very important I believe and is a very strong motivator. But for me, there's a big difference between passive and empowerment, and some managers don't understand that and I think that's a big point to understand. So I hope I answered a question that I really would like a 360-degree view of the job that I would be interviewing for understanding who I will be supporting, who I will be managing, who I will be working for, their management styles as well as how they communicate. Some people communicate best through emails, some through face to face. I think you've hit the nail on the head right there as making sure when you set out on your career that you align yourself with the companies or groups that mirror your values and the way you believe life should be lived or whatever it might be, but you also want to surround yourself with people that are going to motivate you and push you and be positive influences rather than anchors or drags on your career.

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

Based on experience at: Director, Software Development, eBay
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
I started out 40 years ago as a programmer. I was a COBOL programmer and I was probably the second-worst programmer in the country and I could've been the worst but I'm holding out hope that I was not the worst. I really think it's important to if you look at technology, for example, there are really multiple paths but there's a technology path that I was probably not well suited for and I learned that early on, I have a steered into a management path. But the important thing for me was that I have a technical grounding of basic understanding of what it takes to put a program together. what a developer's life is because I did live that life even though it was years ago and technology that's long since passed, for the most part, the understanding of what it takes to think in terms of how to solve a problem associated with the technology solution and kind of go from there, that's kind of common standard. So I think it's important to have a technical understanding whether you want to take a technology path or a management. I gave a talk to a bunch of college students long time ago and my question was, how many of you want to be a lawyer? And some people raise their hands. So who wants to be a doctor or into medicine? Some people raised hands. How many want to be a teacher? Okay, How many want to go into technology and one person raised their hand. I said, okay, here's the reality, in your future, everyone's going to have to understand technology because a marketing person does not just sit out there and create advertises for a television. What they have to do is understand demographics and the specifics and they have to really understand how to slice and dice numbers to target their marketing programs so everybody in today's world is really a technician. People on the assembly lines are technicians, they're working with robots that wasn't around 40 years ago. So I think it is good for everybody to have good math, science, stem understanding. I think that's a good foundation for any discipline, including medicine. Doctors in my neighborhood are constantly talking about technology and how it affects their industry. So anyway, I don't know if I got a base path there, but I think that hopefully answers the question. Well, we certainly have different levels of developers let's say, we start people off as interns and that can go more of into a junior developer, a senior developer and as you go along if you want to take a technology path, there are different technologies. You can use that technology base to go into cybersecurity or information security or pure development, platform development, e-commerce development here at eBay is obviously a key platform. I think everybody really has to start somewhere, you can't start at the top and probably don't want to because having a base that you build on each year and each step in your career I think it's important in that you build on your experiences and you learn and each step along the way is a different challenge. So starting as a junior developer, I think is the perfect way to start at an Amazon or eBay or Google.

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: BSC, Finance, Santa Clara University
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
I attended college as I mentioned before the internet, before PCs, before social media and emails. So it's interesting to think about how did we get along without all those things. But back then, I think I had a more traditional education in high school and college where they taught us how to work in groups, how to be problem solvers and how to be adaptable to change. Anybody who plays sports in any sport morphs as well technology, the way you play cricket today probably is a lot more advanced than when you played cricket 40 years ago. The technology changes, the equipment changes, baseball, basketball, football over here in the States, it's not the same game as it was twenty years ago even five years ago, though, so you kind of learned that in terms of how in life, how to adapt to change, accept it and address it and you can't always see change coming and that's a constant in our lives. So I think my education taught me how to think, how to solve a problem, how to address and adapt to change as well as how to be a good listener and articulate my ideas verbally and written.

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: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
One thing I'm really passionate about is microfinance. I don't know if everyone's familiar with what microfinance is, but it's really taking a person who wants to be an entrepreneur at a high level and helping that person to succeed. So a company like Kiva is a global company that takes investors, money from people like you and me and finds people around the world that need investment in their business to help it grow and therefore, become financially independent and hopefully employ other people. So one of the people I'm involved with right now through Kiva is a person in Peru who wanted to start a bike rental shop. So we got the funding together to buy five bicycles for him or he bought five bicycles and he's grown that business from 5 bicycles to 50 and he rents these bicycles to tourists, and he just got a good, viable business right now. He employs 3 to 4 other people now, so he has taken a situation where he was not employed, he had an idea and we helped him build that idea into a business that's viable as well and now he's taking that money that we gave him, and he's given it back to us so we can give it to the next person. So that's the best kind of an international way of looking at microfinance, domestically here in the States the models a little bit different but goal is the same to find an entrepreneur who needs investment in their business and helps them build something meaningful and ongoing and viable and keep people out of the cycle of poverty that a lot of people are in.

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: Director, Software Development, eBay
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Wed Apr 01 2020
I think the list goes beyond three on each side. I think overall is trying to maintain a positive attitude through life. Be a can-do person like we talked about. Be a person that other people want to engage with him and work with. Be honest, be truthful and all that. But as soon as you lose your love of learning in any discipline with the marketing or technology wherever might be that's a good sign that it's time to move on to a different step, different role. If you are a technologist and you lost your love of learning to learn about technology and how it's evolving and such, I think it's a good sign to move on something else. Also, I think I'll just close with this thought is that we are all the CEOs of our individual careers and we have to take charge on a daily basis, making sure that we continue learning, continue growing, and we don't stagnate and that if we want to attain a certain goal personally professionally whatever it might be that you're in charge. Now the people can help you and that's it's great to have people wanting to be on your side and be on your team and help you along the way. But the reality is, nobody's going to take an interest in your career the way you will so put that CEO hat on every day in terms of your career, and I think that's a good way to approach it. For don'ts, think it's the opposite. So, don't hide the truth, don't be a naysayer and don't be passive in terms of living life. Life's too short and you know this and we all do, but live fully each day and be positive and make the world a better place through technology or other ways.