The journey to management w/ Naz Delam

Written by Naz Delam Feb. 21, 2022

In this episode we are going to talk about the transition to go from a hands-on individual contributor to a manager position.

The journey to management w/ Naz Delam

About the author

Naz Delam

Naz Delam is one of our professional mentors on MentorCruise and works as Software Engineering Manager at Netflix.

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As an engineer, or maybe even in tech, in general, the career path of people is very predefined:

You start at a junior-like position, you go on to become a mid-engineer or a mid-designer. You stay there for a while until you prove yourself that you can take on the responsibility of a senior position, and then you go that way.

But after that, it is much more unclear. You might go the way of becoming a tech lead or you can take the path and become an engineering manager. That jump is not always easy. Sometimes it fails. Sometimes management is just not up to the expectations of the person, but that’s exactly what we want to learn today.

We are talking to Naz Delam, who is an engineering manager at Netflix and has made that jump from the individual contributor. We are going to talk about what change exactly entails and what the big difference between the two positions actually is.

Engineering management is empowering others

Dom: Hey Naz, thank you so much for joining me on the MentorCruise podcast.

Naz: Hi, Dom, thank you! I am glad to be here today.

Dom: Awesome! We are going to jump right into the topic; but first of all, I just want to give you the stage for a second and give you the chance to talk about yourself, what you are doing? what you are up to? Tell us a little bit about who you are?

Naz: Well, hi everyone. I am Naz. I have been on MentorCruise for about a year and today is the first day on my vacation. So, I am pretty excited about having my holiday cup and talking to Dom about all the things we have done on MentorCruise and the experience. I am very excited about this talk. Currently, I am an engineering manager at Neflix and working on building products for building animation content on the platform. Before that, I worked as an IC which is like an individual contributes at Netflix, and also was a software architect and a manager in the company.

Dom: Cool. Yes. So much experience to share. It is awesome. What we are going to talk about today is this, going from this IC role to engineering management which could not have been too easy; but before that, I would really like to bring this up again. You have been mentoring for a year on MentorCruise, and I checked it out the other day and you are actually a top mentor. You are in the top 5 or so of highest-rated mentors ever. So, before we jump into it, what is your secret sauce?

Naz: I do not think it is me. I think it is having great mentees, and thank you for rating me for being in the top 5. I wish that I did a really great job with everyone I talk to. I try to be authentic, and I try to be transparent and bring their authentic self to the picture. I think that is, I do not know if there is a secret sauce, but that is basically the way I work, the way I live, and every interaction I have in my life. So, I think it is all about my mentees that I am there. It is nothing about me. So, thank you!

Dom: Awesome! Is it maybe even similar to engineering management where you are going from being hands-on, let us say, a coder to then empowering others in your team to code? Are you able to pull up parallels from that?

Naz: Absolutely! I think also this mentorship role was a huge factor in me getting to an engineering management role because with me mentoring people, that is proven to myself that I can empower and enable people. Again, again, and again, this happened on this platform, and I was like, yes! maybe this is the right path for me. I should do this on a larger scale. I should do this out on the business also and continue this path. So, absolutely, I think this has been a huge factor in me moving from an IC to a manager.

Deciding to become a manager

Dom: Super cool! I want to kind of jump back to earlier in your career. You build a career for you in San Francisco, in the heart of tech. Do feel like it is very competitive to get? you work at Netflix, which is one of the biggest tech companies in the world. Is it a competitive environment to get in those companies and then also grow into the positions that you have now?

Naz: I do think Silicon Valley is competitive. Not in a negative sense, in a positive sense, because you do have a lot of smart people to learn from here. It is competitive, but also you have a lot of opportunities here to learn and grow. We can have a lot of access to different people who can mentor you, access to conferences, access to different companies, you can go visit places and get motivation. So yes! it is competitive, but also there are lots and lots of opportunities. If you really are a motivated person, this can be a launchpad for you to start your career here.

Dom: Yeah! I see it the same way. Obviously, you have been an excellent engineer for a long time, software architect, and went into those positions. Can you talk us through the decision of then going into management, which I guess is not that hands-on anymore instead of, let us say, in a tech-leading position or a leading engineer, which is still very hands-on?

Naz: When I reflect back and think about this, I do not think this happened over one for a year. I feel like this has been in me for years, even from the time that I was a junior engineer. I was really curious into learning about the people’s side of things. How decisions are made? What are the challenges we are facing with our users? How project run end to end? And this happened gradually over my career, where I expose myself more and more to the people side. Although I was coding and I was an engineer, but I really enjoyed that collaboration side of working with people and overcoming people’s challenges on projects and things that are complex. Even when I grow, I always asked my managers can I take something on that side? Now, I always wanted to contribute to leading a project end-to-end or having difficult conversations with our users. I remember during my career, people always send me you are a great persuader, you can work with people. So, I keep getting this feedback over time and keep growing also in areas that I feel I have to grow to become better. So I am an engineer at heart. I love engineering. I love coding. I do still code for my personal stuff on the side, and I do not think I would ever stop doing that, but it is just like my job I just love that fact of enabling, empowering, having difficult conversations, resolving conflicts. These are just enjoyments for me. I do not know why? but I think every engineer at some point has to choose a path of which side of the job are more interesting to them and try to grow in that. For me, it was the people’s side and I am so glad that I chose this because I am so happy with my job, right now.

Dom: In the last episode that we did, it was actually a lot about career development and, one thing that stood out to me was that early in your career or if you want to grow in your career, you should build your leadership skills, and one part is what you mentioned, raising your hand and bringing up difficult things and being able to take on responsibilities. Was that something that came naturally to you or was it something that you effectively did and just paid attention to?

Naz: I think that speaking up is always hard. I do not know if people are very natural if they are, that is awesome, but it was not very natural for me. In the beginning, speaking up was a struggle. But, I always tell myself, if I do not raise it, I will never get it. So this wants inside me, this motivation always pushed me to go more and more and face these challenges that I have on the way. I was lucky, I had great managers during my career. Some people do not have those, and they have struggled with their managers, but I did have really awesome managers who were really understanding, and they also were really transparent with me in terms of growth trajectory. Yes! I raised my hand and it was not natural, but that is something I always tell my mentees. If you do not tell people that you want this opportunity or you are interested, they will never know and that is also a key to getting into career development. It is just raising your hand and say, “Hey, I am thinking about this. I am interested in this. Just tell me how to get there. Maybe I am not ready today, but I want to be ready for this and just help me get there.”

Dom: In actionable terms, when did you kind of realize now it is the right time to go into management and how did you start that transition?

Naz: I do not think there was a moment that you say it is the right time. I just opened the door to interviews. The reason I became a mentor is because, during my career, there were not too many people who tell me what to do and when I started actually talking to a couple of people, then my career actually started to change because I got different feedback from different people. So, I started to have these anchor points for myself in my career, people who know me very well and I can always double-check with them, am I ready? I got good feedback from my colleagues. I got good feedback from my manager. And honestly internally, I did not know if I am fully a hundred percent ready. I think you never know if you are a hundred percent ready. Even if you are doing an interview, you will never be a hundred percent ready. You need to do a leap of faith and jump in and try and what the worst thing is going to happen? That is what I told myself, the worse thing is I am going to fail, and they are going to tell me here is a bunch of things that you need to learn more and improve on and I am going to take those on and try again. If you really want something, just go for it, just take a leap of faith and the worse thing is you will learn, which is the best thing and those learnings actually helped me. The first time I interviewed for a manager, I failed; the second time, I failed; the third time, I failed; the fourth time, I failed. I had so many failures. I did not get it on the first interview. I was not ready when I jumped in, but it was really good because then people looked at me with the lens of an engineering manager and gave me constructive feedback in those interviews. And I took those feedback. And I worked on myself. I identify areas of growth. I got coaches, I read books and I took on projects that can grow me into those directions, and then the fifth interview, looks like, I was there and I got it on the fifth interview, but it was not so easy. It was not from the first time.

Dom: Yeah! Perseverance pays off.

Naz: Absolutely!

Dom: Awesome! You did that transition, if I understand correctly, within Netflix, right?

Naz: Yes.

Dom: You were there as an individual contributor and were able to test the waters and then also do that transition within the company. Do you feel like that was a good playground also to kind of try that first step instead of going outside into the cold water as an engineering manager?

Naz: It really depends on the company. I can say the reason I stayed at Netflix is just, I love the company. I love the culture. I love how leadership works. I felt my leadership style really matches the company and how it works. I did an interview outside. I have had offers from other companies outside, but I did not go. I wanted to stay at Netflix. I love this company. This culture just speaks to me.

I did not see myself leaving. I wanted to try harder before I have to leave. I knew I want to be a manager. So I knew that was important more than staying at Netflix, but I did want it to give it time to see if I can get this at Netflix and that would be a dream come true.

Dom: When did the whole mentoring part factored in? Was that already after the transition? Or was this something you picked up before and maybe also gave you some benefit as you made that transition?

Naz: I have been mentoring for a couple of years now. Even before MentorCruise, I did a lot of volunteer mentoring and girls who code, women who code, woman tech makers. There are a lot of platforms that you can also mentor. Even before all of these platforms, I used to mentor people at the company and my friends even. But I have never done it in an official way. And what MentorCruise enabled is just a platform that you are officially a mentor and they support you so well through it. I had it really great time with my mentees. I feel like people who come in are well vetted in some way, and they really are committed. With MentorCruise, that is really standing out to me because when I did outside this platform before I had mentored people, but they are not committed - Here are the things you have to take on, or here is a study plan, but they never do it. They do not show up. So, I always felt like I am a person who is a hundred percent committing, but the other party is not. With MentorCruise, it was a both-sided commitment, which both my mentees that are coming in a hundred percent and they want to grow. They were motivated. You have done a great job. I do not know how you all did it, but you have done a great job by bringing people who are motivated truly and they want to grow. It is always mentors learning from mentees too and I have learned a ton from every person I talked to. I learned about myself and I asked their feedback, what can I do better? Is there anything I can grow in? They always gave me really great feedback and those feedbacks were really awesome, points of reference for me when I was moving to management. Because as a manager, one of the jobs you have is coaching and mentoring. You have so many other jobs. You have to do project management. You have to do some leadership work, but one of the jobs is coaching and mentoring and I think that is one of the most important part of being a manager is empowering and enabling people. If I can do a good job out of the office as a person to empower and enable, I told myself that I can do a good job of that even doing that in the business.

Not a promotion, but a career change

Dom: Also, what you mentioned the transition from being a coder or being an individual contributor to engineering management, there is so much more that is going to be on your back basically. Did you struggle with that transition initially or what were the challenges that you were facing during that time?

Naz: It is totally a different role. When you are in an IC, I think one of the main differences is you are the problem solver. You get a problem. You want to jump in and solve it. You are also a problem finder. You go find all of these issues. You come up with proposals and you solve them at the end or you get a team together to solve the problem. But when you are a manager, you are none of those. You are not a problem finder. You are not a problem solver. You are enabling your team to find problems and solve problems. It was so hard for me to hold myself at the beginning because we do have this natural tendency as engineers to keep solving problems, but we should give people space to go, solve it, and also to make mistakes and also to fail and it is hard. Maybe one of the aspects of mentorship is that you do not want to give your mentees all the answers. Otherwise, they will never learn. How do you give that a space? You are not jumping in with an answer, “Hey, here is the way you will solve this. Here is the answer.” But you give them space and time, even if they take them a week to solve a problem, but you wait until they do it. Not when you do it. So, this was a big transition and shift between the mindset of problem solver and an enabler, and also, being a lot more busy as a manager. You are more responsible for different things. You going more into meetings than you are coding. I do not code at all at work. Managers at Netflix are people managers and we do not believe in coding and managing people because both of them are full-time jobs and no one can do two full-time jobs together. But it was quite a bit of transition. Management is not a promotion. I think a lot of people look at going to an IC to a manager as a promotion, and they think they got a promotion. We are growing in the career, but it is not like that. You are transitioning horizontally in these roles, not vertically. For me, it is just a brand new role when I entered management. It is a brand new world. From being an individual contributor, now, I am a junior manager and you should be comfortable with becoming junior again, after many, many years of experience in your career, going back to level zero should be comfortable for you. So, it is totally a different role, lots of challenges, lots of different ways of thinking. It was challenging at the beginning. Definitely, there are moments. I had lots of moments of even self-doubt. Can I do this? You know, wow! this is getting real. I have a very supportive manager and supportive people at Netflix who have always advocated for me and been there for me. I always check together as a reference point, people who also become new managers, I always rely on them to talk to them and see how other people are feeling in this role. Then, I realized I am not the first one, who is getting very challenged and I am not the first one who is doubting myself. There is everyone in this role and this is a phase that we all going to go through and be overcome at the end.

Dom: First-of-all, super impressive doing that transition and then doing it so well, it must have been not easy at all. Who do you think this transition is really for? As you say, a lot of people think it is a natural next step from being a senior engineer to go into engineering management and then maybe people get disappointed to some degree that they cannot code anymore. That it is more about people. What are the qualities of a good manager?

Naz: Great questions! A lot of different things. I do not know if I know them all because people are different and being good is so relative. I will tell the things that I think I am doing to be a good manager. Definitely, being a transparent person and honest, be authentic. Especially when you are a new manager, you do not want to replicate someone else’s style. A lot of people who moved from IC to being a manager, they start to manage people like their past managers or manage people like they are someone that they admire, but be your true self and really find that for yourself - What is your style? Because good is very relative for different people. But as a manager, you want to listen, and also as a mentor, you want to listen a lot then you talk and I am talking on this podcast so much, but usually when I am doing mentorship sessions, I mostly listen and as a manager, you do not also want to listen to words. You also want to listen to interactions and that is another level of listening and you are want to observe. You want to become a better observer. That is a skill that a person has to grow when they move to leadership to identify people’s strengths and before they realize it and go to them and tell them, “Hey, here are the things I am seeing in. You are strong at this” early enough in their career for them to be able to get successful at their career. There is this aspect of micro-managing, which is something I always do not like. I mean as an IC, and I do not want to be as a manager ever. That is called back to listening and observing. How do you observe work without asking about work? I think that is something that the manager has to grow on because you do not want to go to your engineer every day and say, “Hey, what’s about this project? How much more? What’s left?” But you also want to have an eye and observe it from the back. How do you sit in the back of the room, but be in the front of the room at the same time? And, a lot more goes to dealing with people, interacting with people, understanding people, personalizing. People are very different. One way cannot work for everyone on your team, same as mentoring. One way is not going to work for every mentor that you work with. You need to understand the best way that people learn, and the best way that motivates people and everyone is different. Then you find those, you need to tailor your communication, your collaboration, even the way that you empower people to their way and always ask the questions first before making assumptions. And, the last thing I always tell myself, even as a person, as a mentor, as an engineer, is around prioritizing, understanding, and delaying judgment. And this comes to even daily life, right? Do not make judgments so fast, especially as a leader, that is so important to be able to get the context, learn and then make a decision or make a judgment about someone. I heard a story from someone who even walked on the street and keep judging people without knowing their story, that is like a very normal day-to-day life example, but this comes to very complicated things at work and it helped me tremendously to delay this judgment and understand people and confront with trust.

Dom: It really sounds like the transition is a full-on career change. The same way that maybe someone would switch out their hard skills of coding to hard skills of designing. It is really about becoming a good manager. How did you prepare for that transition? Were you able to pick up the theory behind it as well or was it the first day in the cold water and figuring out how things work?

Naz: I think that transition was through years, and it was not something that I knew overnight. It has started when my library changed. I love books and you can see a lot of it. I have multiple libraries and when I started as an engineer and my library was full of technical books. Then when I get more and more interested in management, then my library has started to shift and more management, leadership, project management, psychology, philosophy and I am like, “Oh, what happens to me? Am I diverging from my path? Should I restart the more technical” Would I reach a point that I read like two technical books and five other non-technical books? I was still an engineer, but I was studying more and more non-technical things and I was studying more and more about collaboration, communication, building trust, running projects, strategic thinking, and also, it grow me as an engineer. You do not need to be a manager to be a leader. You can be an engineer and be a leader and that made me a great engineer. I was able to lead complicated projects and I still, I could stay as an engineering leader. I did not need to become a manager. But that transition started with my library. When I look back that things shift. Now, if you look back at this library, you probably going to find two or three technical books. But the rest of the things that you are seeing here is all non-technical, self-development, people development, different various topics, team building, and maybe that helped me build the foundation over time, understand this role more and really be sure of when I am making the transition, I was 100% in it, and that is what I tell people you need to believe this is a 100% for you. You will not go to be a 100%ready, but you need to know 100%, you want this. Because a lot of companies for me, I felt like if I go to this role, I do not want to come back out of it again. I wanted to go to store, ready, and just continue improving. I did not want to do back and forth. So, I took time to reach that point that this is 100% for me. Absolutely these mentorships were huge indicators in that decision that this is 100% for me.

Dom: What are your favorite books in your library that you picked up?

Naz: I have a lot of favorites. But, let us look at it here because every library has different things. I recently learned a book called “Turn The Ship Around!” which talks about team-building and it is an amazing book which we can maybe link down the podcast or somewhere later on.

Dom: For sure.

Naz: It is an amazing book, talks about How do you lead a team of leaders, not a team of followers and this is basically so much to my style of working with people. And, I believe everyone on my team are the leaders and I am the servant and the coordinator and person who are enabling and empowering them. I am not the leader of the team and a lot of people who become managers, they think they are they. They have all the power and they are going to get even more power by becoming a manager, but that is not true. When you are shifting to a manager, your power reduces. You are now a coordinator. You are serving people and you need to understand and know how to work and build a team of leaders, not a team that just follows you as a leader and that is a strong team. This shifted my mindset so much into team building. Another book that I always recommend for women, because I had a lot of self-doubts during my career. It was not easy. It is not easy to grow. It is always hard, challenges hard, and we face it and we grow out of it, but facing it is hardness. There is this book called “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.” Which I was one of those nice girls. When I started my career. I was nice. I did not want it to ask for things. I did not want to speak up. I just wanted to be a nice girl. I wanted everyone on the team to like me. I mean, that is good, but not by sacrificing myself. This book really enabled me to see my shortcomings and to change myself into a person who be a spokesperson, who can go and stand on a stage in a conference and give a talk. I was not that person, I was not that confident. I wish I had a mentor when I was early in my career and that is one of the reason I actually joined MentorCruise was that. That wish that I all the time had that I wish I had a mentor who told me about this book like two years before or who told me about all of these things when I needed it. It was hard to seek and find things and some people do not. So that is the reason I am here.

Honing soft skills

Dom: That is so powerful. A lot of engineers, I feel like they are building out their hard skills very aggressively to be able to go through the ranks to that senior position, but soft skills matter in engineering itself, and then it matters even more once you go to an engineering management position. Can people build soft skills in a similar way that you do hard skills or is it a kind of different domain that people should look at?

Naz: I think learning is different for people. I learned different way than others. For me, I learned my technical skills by doing, by coding, building projects, reading documents. These are the things that makes me learn my technical skill, but softer skills are different. You need to put it into practice, but not with the machine, but with people and the hardness comes about the mistakes.

If you make a mistake in the code and it is so easy, right? You just console luck, here it is. Let us change it. No hard, no fell. But then you make a mistake with people in communication and collaboration. Then, it is the trust that is hindered and that is harder to build up. It is no longer a computer or a machine that can just wipe it out and rewrite it from the beginning. So it is more diligence and knowing then and how to bring up something and knowing what areas that you have to improve. It is so crucial. Because it also has a way more impact than a technical skill. I have seen people who are technically awesome, but they cannot run a project end-to-end. As you see in Silicon Valley, it is changing. We do not just want people who are technically great, we want people who can run projects, who can make decisions, who can communicate and collaborate. We want people who can work with other people and that is a two-part even nowadays, when you look at hiring across Silicon valley, you do see a lot of interviewers who look into your softest skills in addition to your technical skill. So learning, it might be for you a different way. For me was learning books, learning about ideas, looking at myself, a lot of self-awareness, at what areas I have to incorporate, what are the things I can incorporate in my work to get better, and just keep asking for that feedback over and over again, to reach a point that I know and I still have a ton to grow, a ton. I have a wide road in front of me. I do not know if that road ever ends for everyone, especially in softer skills. The technical excuse you can say, “Okay, I know everything in react. I know everything in JavaScript. I am a great backend engineer.” You will reach your cap, but I do not think you ever reach your cap in softer skills. It is always vast, and it is always an area to be better.

Dom: For people that learn best by doing, what are the kind of actionable things that they could do, maybe before going for a transition as an engineer to support their team or kind of practice their people empowering skills?

Naz: I always say, become a mentor and that is an awesome way of putting your skills into practice outside work and really getting feedback from different people. One thing about mentorship, you get a chance to work with a variety of people. If you do it like at work, you would work with people who are a good fit for your company and with mentorship, you worked with a variety of people and with different personalities with different needs, and you are really putting yourself into the practice of can I serve a variety of people with different needs and different personalities and can my softer skills shine here or is there areas that I am lacking? I can only be great with these types of people, but I do not know how to handle these types of people. I have to work more on this area. One example that I had in that term was, I was always really good with people who communicate very well. So, I always could work well with them because that was my happy path. But, when it come to people who cannot really express and communicate, I could not shine and that was an area I have to grow myself into. How do you communicate with someone who does not want to communicate back to you? And, that was so hard, and learning about those. So, working with these various type of people and really exposing yourself and then see, what are the gaps there? And, you really look back and reflect and reflection is a big part of my career. I do it every week, reflect back on myself, see how did I do this week? How did I do with my mentorship? What can I do better? And it is funny because now I reached a point where I know my shortcomings before people realize it. So when they tell me, I am like, hmm, good. I target on a point you are right. I know it. I am working on it. So, really putting yourself out there as a mentor can be a good practice of softer skills. Communication and collaboration, conference talks are good. You can see if you can convey a point to an audience. Are they taking that point clearly? and really thinking about your audience, because we cannot just go off there and give conference talks and you will be really done, but it is all about - What are the audiences taking out of this talk? And I am like clear enough in my points? So, checking with your audience after your talk and see if they actually took the points that you wanted, they take from your talk, because sometimes they do not. Actually, the first two, three conference talks, I gave were a disaster. I do not think anyone understood anything. And, then when I checked with the audience, they are like, “oh! they get a different picture.” I was like, “what is wrong with my talk?” I am not speaking clearly. There are too many points on this talk. They do not even remember. I should reduce it. Clarity both in communication, written and speaking communication is a really good soft skill to build up in the career, conference talks and the mentorships are the two things that helped me and I hope it helps other people too.

Dom: That is amazing, especially the part about trying to get honest feedback. Having these big talks and maybe getting feedback from a crowd is a very good way of getting the feedback at scale as well, obviously.

Naz: Yeah, totally.

Dom: I feel like maybe one worry that people have before they do the transition is that there are so many places to go when you were an engineer, right? You can continue on that path of being technical or you can maybe change your focus, change your programming language. When you are in management what are the places that you can go from there?

Naz: Great question! If you are a manager, you can always come back and be an engineer and that is not the end of the road. Although I see the harder in the industry and I think that is something that we have to work on as an industry to enable people, to navigate back and forth between being a leader and an engineer because there should not be a distinct path - If you cross this line and became a manager and now you are applying to engineering, no, no, no, no, you have been not coding for a while, but I was like an IC just a couple of years ago but I feel like the industry needs to improve on this. I had even a hard time when I applied externally when I was an engineer and I wanted to become a manager. I got a lot of rejections. The first thing on my resume - engineer? Nope! We are not getting you as a manager, but how do we enable that mobility in the industry for people, so they do not think this is the end, and there is always a way to come back. I know like Facebook does a great job at this, that you can go become a manager for a couple of years, come back to become an engineer. We are enabling even more mobility at Netflix for people to transition within teams and they can grow themselves in different directions because we are not one-dimensional people. We are multi-dimensional people. And sometimes we get rules to grow in certain dimensions, but it does not mean all dimensions can grow together. So if you want to grow as a manager for a while and grow in your leadership and softer skills, and then come back and being an engineer and grow your technical dimensions, that is also fine. At Neflix, we enable mobility. So, I can get back to being an engineer or I can continue grow in as a leader, as a manager, I think like you are a manager one day, you are a director, you are a VP, people who naturally continue the path of leadership. But again, it is up to you to become a director because that is also a totally different role. The thing is these are not promotions, especially when it comes to the dimension of leader. These are different roles with different skill sets. So you really understand that and see if that is a role I want to be in and that is a dimension I want to grow back. Before Netflix, I was a software architect and also managing the team and I moved to Netflix being an engineer again. And if it was a career ladder for me, I would probably go, jump into management after that because I used to report to a CTO in my company and I did not see it like that. A career is not a ladder. The notion of a career ladder is very false. I feel like the career for me is like a sign wave or a wave overall. So, at times, I have a title which is high and another day it is a senior engineer. I came from an architect to a senior engineer was a down path in a title, but not in my dimensions. And that is what the impact was for me because I have grown so much going to Netflix. I have worked in the software at a scale in different languages globally, and I have learned a ton in my communication and collaboration skills. For me, it was a ladder, but people do not see that in the title. So, really you think about your dimension and your growth as a professional, that is more important than what they give you as a title?

Dom: Yeah, that is beautiful really. People stress out so much about getting to the right level or being on to the next step of the ladder that they sometimes forget about growing as a person in the dimension, in size, not just in the step of the ladder.

Naz: Totally! Because I think if you do that, naturally the ladder comes with it. So, if you grow yourself as a person, you eventually be in a position and role that fits you, and going the opposite way is always harder. If you follow a ladder, you have to run behind it and you will never reach.

Dom: I think that is a nice place to end. I thought it was very impressive to hear about your journey into engineering management. You have experienced so much that it was just very insightful to hear from you and to learn a little bit more about the position of an engineering manager. Definitely, everyone that is listening to the podcast should check out your profile on MentorCruise and everywhere around the internet, we are going to link them in the description and also what I wanted to point out, you have a blog post on your profile, which I thought was very insightful about negotiating as an engineer which again is a soft skill which maybe some people kind of overlook and to some degree shoot in their own leg.

Naz: Yeah, totally. There are so many softer skills in life and even in the profession that are important and you learn them with examples. For me, I learned them by my failures or successes. I do not know at different moments that I did something and I was like, “wow! this works. I should do this more often.” And there have been moments that I did not do it and I regret it. I did not do so many negotiations when I started my career, especially as a woman I was always shy, I always want to be a nice person. I accept the first thing they tell you and do not question things and that really hindered my career growth for while. I hope that was useful for people, but there is a lot of inspiration of that blog post was from a course, I took from Chris Wallace, who was the FBI negotiator, and he does have this awesome course on a masterclass, talks about negotiation. It helps me also negotiating with my house agents and even with people I go outside and deal with. If you want to buy a car, these was awesome tips. So, it helps me grow even wide.

Dom: An FBI negotiator is a great person to learn from about negotiating. But equally, you will be a great person to learn from for all your mentees that are looking to get into engineering management or find their footing in tech. So, thank you so much for joining me today. I thought that was very exciting, very, very insightful and it was great talking to you.

Naz: Thank you Dom, for having me here, and thank you for creating this awesome platform.

Dom: I am glad that you like your time here.


About the author

Naz Delam

Naz Delam is one of our professional mentors on MentorCruise and works as Software Engineering Manager at Netflix.

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