The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 136

Career adaptation & meeting the evolving needs of your company

with Barbara Nelson

Jun 27, 2023
Barbara Nelson, VP of Engineering @ InfluxData, joins us to share her eng leadership philosophies on career adaptation and helping teams adapt to meet both business needs & individual interests / strengths. We cover how her leadership journey has shaped her perspective on adapting to new career opportunities, implementing boundaries within eng teams to foster creativity, approaching problem sets with eng teams, and building a healthy relationship between product & eng orgs. Additionally, Barbara shares strategies for adapting a team based on personality dynamics, meeting developers where they are, and why she’s built her career on building products with purpose.
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Barbara leads the engineering team at InfluxData. She has extensive experience leading globally distributed teams in designing, developing, deploying, and supporting products and services that are delivered on a cloud-based service platform and on a range of client platforms. Prior to InfluxData, Barbara had a variety of engineering and technical leadership roles, including VP of Engineering at iPass, CTO at Cirrent, and Principal Architect at eBay. Barbara has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from University College Dublin, Ireland.

"There was an assumption that we had more shared context than we really had. So the engineers kind of thought, 'Well, it'll be obvious to the operations folks that this thing is deployed correctly or incorrectly.' There was no reason for it to be obvious to the operation folks. What would've made it obvious to the operations folks?”

- Barbara Nelson   

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  • Barbara’s favorite leadership dilemma – job efficiency vs. enjoyment (1:57)
  • How Barbara has adapted to various roles throughout her leadership journey (3:42)
  • Lessons learned from diving into the role of Interim VP of Operations (6:19)
  • Formal & informal frameworks for making / communicating adjustments (9:03)
  • Barbara’s perspective on pursuing new opportunities & the “career ladder” (11:33)
  • Advice for those who feel stuck on that ladder (13:25)
  • How Barbara’s experience at General Magic impacted her leadership philosophy (15:07)
  • Why boundaries help foster creativity (17:30)
  • Barbara’s approach to introducing problem sets to eng teams (19:14)
  • Strategies for aligning eng teams to reach an intended output (21:55)
  • Driving a healthy relationship between product & eng teams (23:58)
  • Recommendations for bridging the gap between product & engineering (26:02)
  • Adapt a team based on personality dynamics & what gets them excited (28:49)
  • The power of building a product with purpose (36:31)
  • How AI trends will impact eng team adaptation & alignment (38:12)
  • Rapid fire questions (39:45)


  • Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making - Written for anyone who wants to grow at work—from young grads navigating their first jobs to CEOs deciding whether to sell their company—Tony Fadell’s Build is full of personal stories, practical advice, and fascinating insights into some of the most impactful products and people of the 20th century.

This episode wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our incredible production team:

Patrick Gallagher - Producer & Co-Host

Jerry Li - Co-Host

Noah Olberding - Associate Producer, Audio & Video Editor

Dan Overheim - Audio Engineer, Dan’s also an avid 3D printer -

Ellie Coggins Angus - Copywriter, Check out her other work at

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