Electric AI VP Engineering
The New School MFA, Creative Writing
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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 Mon Sep 14 2020
So I started as the software engineer, A self dot software engineer. Actually, I taught myself coding at a young age, and I got into software professionally by taking on first, take you a position, okay, testing software and all that good stuff. And then, um, then advancing to being a developer with the same company s. That's sort of how I began. I think what shaped my career First step waas um e was working in the company was maybe my third. My third job is an engineer, and at the manager that believed in me offered me to be a team leader. So my first opportunity Thio lead a team was maybe after four or five years of being an engineer, it was definitely a big miles Andi. As the first few years went by, I realized I really loved that. So I stayed with management for quite some time, actually went back and was an individual contributor for a few more years, especially after moving to the U. S. But then work my way back to management. Andi always aspired to do that at the highest level and to continue to develop as a leader

What responsibilities and decisions does one handle in a job like yours? Tell us about weekly work hours, including the time spent on work travel and working from home.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
so responsibilities in decision. Um, so I mean, when you're leading a software team as a whole, my job is half of it is the lead engineering. The other half, in a sense, is just to be a good teammate for the executive team on DSO. What that means is my responsibilities is translating business strategy into engineering roadmaps. It's me collaborating with the VP of product and understanding what business needs we have, how we can answer those needs with software and then letting our teams are leading our teams to develop road maps that provide those solutions on DSO. What that means for my role is a lot of strategic conversations, a lot of planning and budgeting defining goals, andan setting high level plans on how to reach them, Um, and no coding anymore. And there's at some point in management of engineering where you're not coating anymore the way you're involved. Technologically, it's more of the architectural level on in general solution design. Eso, that's what it is, more or less is sort of keep keep one here with the business here. Our sales work, how marketing works in your company. What are your customers experiencing? What this customer support team tells you, and they just all that translate that to new development projects is essentially it weekly work hours? Um, let's say roughly 45. But then there's a little bit of extra, um, a little bit of extra work sometimes is needed, you know, on weekends. Um, not that anyone would, you know, stand there and wait for me to work more. Not not at all. It's just that because the environment is quite hectic and my particular schedule is full of meetings. When I need a few hours to get something done quietly, it's much easier to do off work hours. But of course, we try to do that in a way that and yeah, before covert, my work travel was 30 minutes. No big deal 30 minutes away. But now it's zero. So yeah, yes,

What are the challenges in a job like yours? What approaches are effective in dealing with these challenges? Discussing examples will help students learn better.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
the general challenge that always repeats in your career, no matter where you are and what you're doing. Engineering is, um, you can do much more than you have time to dio Andi. Everything you're trying to be doing, you never have enough resource is for it. So the challenge is always a challenge of scoping. That's the part that I particularly like about a child development, whether it's scrum or something else is you're trying toe. Always do M v p. Always develop minimum viable product. Why? Because, you know, you know I can spend on a project three years and I'll still not be done. I'll still I will always be able to innovate and do more. But the challenge is use a timeframe that's redefined and a limited amount of resource is and do as much as you can as best as you can with those limitations

What are the job titles of people who someone in your role routinely works with, within and outside of the organization? What approaches are effective in working with them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
There's two things. They're the directors that report to me. Engineering directors. I do most of the work for the engineering team through them, right, I have a team of about 50 engineers. There's some managers, and then the managers report to directors. There's three of them. So that those three I'm able to set the strategy and the general goal of what we need to accomplish, which we do on a quarterly basis, a lot of planning on doing. They're able to go and execute that with their teams. Um, so yeah, everyone that reports to me. Their title is director of engineering outside of the engineering organization. It's mostly the executives, eso, the VPs and and the C level executives that run the several departments. So that will be the VP of sales. The chief customer officer, uh, the CFO VP of product Andi approaches with them is, um, everything rooted in business objectives. We all work towards the same business objectives. We figure out what is the role each executive place in order to get there, and then the rest of it is alignment. Just alignment. Work's gonna saying, Here's what you from me. Here's what I'm going to deliver it. Here's how I'm going to get feedback from you and on and on. Every business problem gets broken down to the different departments. The rest of this thing alignment, Yeah.

How would you describe your management style? How has it evolved over the years? Can you tell about experiences or books that influenced your management style?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
I would say my style is to try and reach consensus is before every decisions made get to a point where everyone's already aware of the details has come to terms with a certain solution, whether there's a joint solution everybody agrees on or a compromise when there's disagreement. But I try to never big decision ahead of time. First, have the discussion and make an effort, even if it takes longer and more effort. First, reach consensus and then make the decision and publish it and act on it. I would say that's definitely something that's developed throughout the years because I was a manager much earlier in my career, I probably was a lot more opinionated. I have my own ways to do things and believe very strongly that those were good ways. We try to push them a certain way or be a lot more dictated. Um, e think also earlier in my career, I was a lot more, um, opinionated about technology, thinking this is better than that. This language is better than that. This tool is better than that tool and also a Z. My career, when along some of the lessons is it doesn't really matter. It's good to look into your options with technology and tooling and choose the best tool for the job. But at the same time, it's never about a certain language. It's about what you're going to do with it. You can succeed or film any tool or any technology. So the value of flexibility, um, is to me it's proven more valuable than strong. Particular tendencies are our opinions.

How do you manage conflicts within and across teams? How do you promote trust, openness and a healthy work culture? Sharing stories will greatly help.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
decision making processes a whole way, build a template for it that already has in it a global discussion. If we're making a decision that affect multiple teams, we don't make it. Before we first talked to each team and understand its point of view. By the time we reach something, it already incorporates the first round of feedback from everyone. If then there's still conflicts. Which, of course, there are. Um the way we manage it is we just try to listen as best we can. And if there's no spot that we could sort of convince both sides, we just use kind of like the magic where it is. Let's try. Let's try this way, see how it works. And we are committed to iteration. We're committed to look at it in 30 days or 60 days, and if it doesn't work, we'll shift. Um, of course, once you say that, you you have to show that it's true. You have to show that you really will go back to it months later and change it if it's not right. If you can show that you know that people will trust the process and they won't feel so defensive about one opinion another because they know either it works great or will change. Yeah, yeah,

How can one get better recognition of work from one's boss and higher management? What mistakes should one avoid? Stories or examples will be quite helpful.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
very rarely about your profession. You could do a great job as an engineer writing code, but the rial thing that's going to be recognized and appreciated and would gain you trust with your management is your sense of ownership if you manage your own projects and you care about them, Justus Muchas your boss does, and you show that you really develop a sense of accountability. You are the one to drive conversation to make sure things are well defined, and you know what the deadlines are and you deliver in time. And if you can't, do not notify ahead of time. You communicate well in writing, and you can provide the documentation and follow up on it. It z everything around your profession. I'm sure it's true for others as well. Whether their product people are business people, they're zero profession. Of course, you need to do that really well in my case coding and technology. But it's the things that are around it that makes you trusted and recognized. Its just a sense of ownership. Don't wait for others to ask you go and tell. Don't wait for others to say Hey, are you blocked? You go and say, Hey, I'm blocked. This is what's going on. Uh, just show that you really care about what your manager needs to deliver. Show them that their their goals and their commitments are yours on. Then they'll trust you and you'll get recognized, Yeah.

What indicators are used to track performance in a job like yours? Think of the indicators such as key performance indicators (KPIs), objectives & key results (OKRs), or so on.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
start with, um, company wide. Okay. Are there goals? We then have each department take on some of those. Okay, ours and translate those to their own, like, break them down to internal. Okay, ours that lead us to organizational chaos. And we do that all the way down. So engineering wide. Okay, ours get translated to team level. Okay? Ours and we then even have individual ones of individuals taking on their portion of the team's work towards reaching a certainty. Resolved a swell as well as their own personal objectives. We have each individual right down that very briefly. It doesn't take a lot of time. It's not. It's not that sort of cumbersome, but we do that with each person every three months, every quarter, and then once a year, we define smart goals, just isn't at an annual level, and we share them, which, with HR which are the goals Thio continue and work on personal development and career growth. Um, you know, those are the main main ways

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

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
that well rounded individual that cares about their profession and can show personal interest for me in technology is someone that personally can interest themselves and what's going on and stay in touch with new trends and new ideas and new architecture. Er just showing that passion and knowledge beyond their experience. If someone makes me think, Wow, they really know more than they should. This is a principle I'm looking for. Oh, this person is only two years into their career, and they already know all these things that impresses me on and then on the more personal conduct is what I said. The well rounded nous is around caring about the product and the business and understanding the market caring toe. Ask me about it. What is it that your company do? Who do you sell to? What's your strategy? Who are the competitors like really showing this interest in the business around their particular profession? I love asking people about stuff they did what they didn't dio or don't know. I don't really care. Um, I don't mind so much if you're not experienced with a sense subject, but I do care about stuff you've done and so I would ask someone about the position or the project that they say that they enjoyed the most and just see how deeply they understand what they did and why they did it. If they work in a team environment, I would ask them what their teammates did to see just help interested. They were in the, um in the work of a larger scale. And last thing I could say is a question that I ask is What are you looking for? What would be a great next role for you, Andi, that gives me also a sense of how thoughtful they are about their career. About the next stage. Doesn't mean they have to have, like, a five year plan. Some people say, Hey, I really don't know, but I think this would be amazing for me. Here's something I'm looking for Here is a team I would like to be part of also just just shows me level of thoughtfulness and self awareness. Yeah, Okay,

Can you discuss career accomplishment(s) that you feel good about? Please discuss the problem context, your solution, and the impact you made.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
I've been around for a little while, so there's, um, yeah, sort of going through my career. I'll mention a couple. Uh, this is probably my first. My first job is an engineering manager. E wanted to rewrite the software, which is something typically, you don't get to dio way work with legacy code base and have to deal with it. But in one particular case, I got to run a pretty large scale rewrite project to take a software that was at the time, about 10 years old. Kind of create a new generation of it. I'm and you know, I was pretty an experience at the time, and I thought my team to do the whole thing in six months. Andi took it here. It took double. So in that sense, you could say it was a failure. We didn't We didn't quite succeed at the same time. After 12 months, we ended up with just a beautiful, beautiful software on it. Became a huge success. Really changed. Changed the company for for the decade after it became a world leading company within their industry. Yeah, and it was, uh it was just a lot of fun. Just working with him to find something from scratch. You don't get to do that a lot. It's not a good thing for people toe fire because you're not gonna do that. Nobody's gonna let you most of the time. Uh, on then, maybe another thing. Waas, um, with my previous position at work market, I got Thio joined with a very particular mission in mind. There was a lot around quality engineering and automation, But then very quickly, my role was expended to take over a certain portion of engineering. E got I had a set amount of people reporting to me. Maybe about 20 but but I got to do a lot for the larger team of about 100 e think if it wasn't for that, I would have never been ready for the position that I am in now with electric, uh, so kind of learning, learning under somebody else with the safety of somebody else running the show, how to do things that they're level. It's an amazing experience on. Then work market got acquired by ADP, and so I kind of got to have that journey of a successful exit and and see how that so? Yeah or difference. Okay,

What responsibilities and decisions did you handle at work? What were the challenges? What strategies were effective in dealing with these challenges?

Based on experience at: Senior Director of Engineering, WorkMarket
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
Engineering, and I had two teams both focused on quality. One was more, a little more traditional Q A engineering team, and the other was more platform level automation. But the challenge was, the company, in that sense wasn't doing great. Releases were breaking production all the time. Every week. There was no no good gate keeping, not operation and not technology. So to keep the product stable and the customers safe so that they don't have to work with broken software all the time. Eso That's how it started. And I sort of had to set an operation that changed the way every engineering team worked, sometimes in ways they didn't like, because nobody wants to be slowed down testing and reporting and stuff like that. Um, or two. I think it was a lot a work, um, of consensus of going team by team and explaining to them what I am trying to accomplish and getting feedback and building something that works for everyone on. Then my responsibilities grew. I took over a couple of engineering teams and I had both a certain portion of the business domain that I was in charge of the software development for on also some larger operational things like agile development is something I took on on did for all teams. We had 10 engineering teams, so pretty large scale, agile operation that I had to build. Budgeting was another big one. Kind of got the responsibility and the chance to learn how you handle department budgeting for for engineers, including tooling and events and fun time and learning and development and everything else. Um, I think the strategy to the latter part of the question the strategy with all of these things is just being organized. Just stay really on top of everything that needs to happen. Have everything in writing, have documents you can always share with people, including roadmaps, including where you are with your spend or with your performance or everything else just haven't really well organized and communicated. I think that's the way things that scale Yeah, yeah,

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

Based on experience at: MFA, Creative Writing, The New School
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
e started my career as an engineer before the college and I went to college only after a few years, and I did that for fun. And I studied whatever I liked. That had very little to do with my career. Aziz. Creative writing in my my my undergrad was also, uh, English and art. But the one really meaningful thing I think it did give me is just a sense of creativity, Onda also, just because I was in humanities throughout my academics, you get that aspect of the social aspect philosophical aspect. Um, that really actually helps with management just understanding how to inspire how to think outside box, how to innovate. A lot of this comes from creativity. Eso Yeah, in that sense, it was really helpful. But for exposure, networking, I had to use other ways to really invest myself meeting people and always taking on any call any intro, uh, developing and maintaining good relationships throughout the years that that was more of my way. Thio getting what the questions asking about than college waas

What three life lessons have you learned over your career? Please discuss the stories behind these lessons, if possible. Stories could be yours or observed.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
great late thing you're going on right now. It za time ticking bomb, right? Like in three years, it will be called in seven years will be obsolete. So always think about how you're going to replace it when it's time to replace it. How do you build it in a way that's flexible enough so things can be changed and replace continuously? That's a big one. Other than thinking, Go here, I'm building this great thing and then I'm done because you're never done stuff. So is changing. So build that into your work. Another thing is, that's more, I guess I'm communication as, um, whatever argument you're taking on something, maybe you're rejecting something you don't agree with. Give it a couple of years and you'll argue the opposite. You learn you'll be in that position. So if you can see that ahead of time and instead of thinking, Hey, I'm right about this and the other person's wrong, This is good. That's bad. Instead, you could think I see the value of this. I don't yet see the value of that. Later on, I probably will. Andi, I think that keeps you a lot more curious and open minded. It sure helps with communication and decision making on it proves to be true. Something doesn't make sense to you ascend moment in time. It probably will some other time. Otherwise, people wouldn't be arguing for it. You just can't see it yet, so yeah, I remember.

What starting job (after internship) would you recommend to students who hope to grow professionally like you? What other parting advice, dos, and don'ts would you give?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Mon Sep 14 2020
um, it's, you know, you have to be flexible. Of course you can. As entry level, you kind of take what you can. Find the try. Try toe. Try to learn really well about yourself. What you're interested in If if you take that on, you'll just enjoy a lot more, then, um, think about the professional conduct, even from day one. Yeah, that's what gets you promoted. That's what gets you more opportunities. Just the way you approach things, how organized you are, how much you have a sense of accountability and ownership. We'll set the tone for your career. So pick something you like. Invest in it. Show show people around that you're thoughtful and invested. Uh, yeah. Parting boozer dance. Um, I'll say 11 do with interviews is come prepared. Do you know who you're talking to? Who the person is, what the company is. Have some have some good questions to ask. Show interest. Um and yeah, I guess if I'm in the subject of interviewing, I'll say that don't on The same thing would be Don't take over the conversation. It has toe balance. If you wanna be asking questions and listen. You wanna be answering something. Notice how long you're talking? It's been a long time and the other person hasn't said a thing. Take a take. A pause. Um, it's a lot of what we're testing in an interview is communication, skill and being succinct, but also being interested? Um, yeah. Don't Don't try to do too much. Yeah, that's about it.