The Engineering Leadership Podscast · Episode 15

Operating Under High Pressure

with Vidhya Srinivasan

Jul 02, 2020
Vidhya Srinivasan shares her framework for how she’s navigated her career and operated under high pressure. You’ll learn the practices she uses to deal with and diffuse pressure plus how to coach and create opportunities for engineering leaders to be more comfortable with failure and risk.
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SPEAKER

Vidhya Srinivasan - VP/GM @ Google Ads

Vidhya is the VP/GM at Google Ads responsible for engineering and product for Measurement & Analytics @ Google Ads. Previously, she led engineering, operations & product management for Amazon Redshift and other analytics services at AWS. Before that, she was an engineering leader for 10 years at IBM.

"one question that I often ask myself is... 'Given how I feel right now if I, were to fast forward five years and I look back, would I feel the same level of pressure or anxiety about the situation?' And I've yet to come across a situation where it would still be that relevant five years out"

- Vidhya Srinivasan


Announcement

As you may know, managing senior ICs can be challenging for engineering leaders in many ways... and things don’t necessarily get any easier as you yourself become more senior.

Cristina Scheau, Director of Engineering, Perception @ Cruise will be joining us for a LIVE community event on Wednesday August 5th to talk about Managing Senior ICs.

Cristina will cover both how to be an effective manager supporting senior engineers who have more technical knowledge than you... as well as how to hire high-level individual contributors.

What’s special about live community events like this, is you get to connect with other engineering leaders around the world, hear their challenges and learn how they’re solving their problems.

We also have a few spots for you to join us LIVE... and discuss your challenge directly with Cristina.

We’d love to have you join us!

RSVP HERE


Shownotes

  • How Vidhya has approached and navigated her career (2:16)
  • Vidhya’s framework she uses to deal with high pressure (7:32)
  • How to diffuse pressure (13:07)
  • How Vidhya’s dealt with and diffused pressure personally and professionally (15:56)
  • How Vidhya learned to operate out of hunger vs. fear (20:54)
  • How to coach engineering leaders to be more comfortable with failure and risk (27:47)
  • How to create opportunities for your team to fail and take on more risk (33:26)
  • When you should step in and help your team (36:10)
  • Who is someone who’s most inspired you to be a better leader? (38:25)
  • What’s brought you the greatest joy as an engineering leader? (39:47)

Transcript

Patrick Gallagher: Vidhya welcome to the podcast. We're so excited to have you here.

Vidhya Srinivasan: So, great happy to be here today.

How Vidhya has approached and navigated her career

Patrick Gallagher: You have taken an interesting path with your career starting off as an engineering leader for 10 years at IBM, then you became general manager at Amazon, AWS, and now as VP GM at Google ads, can you tell us more about your role at Google and how you're thinking about this moment of disruption and everything that's going on?

Vidhya Srinivasan: Sure. first of all, thanks for having me here and thanks to all the listeners. So my role at Google, I lead measurement and analytics for Google's advertising products. the organization that I lead is composed of engineers, data scientists, product managers. And, uh, we lead a fairly broad, portfolio you all the way from Google analytics to YouTube ads measurement.

With respect to all the recent developments with COVID-19, it is a time where marketers and advertisers are pretty hard hit. And also the situation is fast evolving. And really this is not something any of us have encountered before. so the stakes are very real. and if anything, I feel the work that we do is even more important given everything that's going on than ever before.

Patrick Gallagher: I think when a lot of people think about recessions or, challenging economic circumstances, most people think about the marketers and the advertisers, but it didn't even occur to me about the platforms that provide , those mediums and the impact of that.

what would you say has been your approach with your career trajectory, into how you got to where you're at now?

Vidhya Srinivasan: so as you pointed out earlier, ' been in a couple of different domains at this point, and I can not look back and say, that is, there was actually some sort of commanality how I thought through these things. As I say, early on when I was just starting my first five, six years, I was just sort of figuring out , what I wanted to do largely. So it's not like I had a plan.

but looking back, I can tell you, there were a couple of things that stand out. I think the first thing is I always have tried to figure it out what I do well and that I can potentially stand out. And by that by that I mean, what are the set of things, skills, capabilities, where I, in which I can naturally do better than say another random thousand people. And I tried to find jobs that I get to do more of that. so that is one.

and the second thing is around, being open to taking risks. That's also been super, super critical and the set of opportunities and the growth that I've enjoyed in my own career. So if was sort of take a step back and look, first transitions in my career was to decide to go from being an IC engineer, where my job was primarily, coding myself, and then helping a couple of other engineers for the same, do being a manager and leading the team in a management function.

and it was a riskt move because I was good at what I did. I was actually good at coding, but. I still felt, I can do more in terms of having an impact in a different capacity and build closer connections to the product and customer base by taking on a management role

With that, one of the risks I took was my first... first management job was of a somewhat broken team and a product that wasn't doing well. And many of the more established managers, essentially didn't want the job. Just as this is it's risky for me. It's also risky for the company to take a bet on somebody and that I had improvement skills.

So I made it an easy decision for the company to give that to me at the time, because honestly there weren't many takers, So that was sort of my break into getting into, the management path, technical management overall. and then I of course had to, learn, develop skills, make mistakes , and do things And figured out what i really liked and whether I wanted to continue on that path.

More recently. I would say I switched from being the general manager in AWS in a career, mostly spanning around analytics and databases and decided to move to google, which is a different company, but also decided to move to Google ads, which is a completely new, domai n . Again, this is around Taking risks, but not in a, in an unconstrained way. So even in the cut in my current job at Google, a good chunk of my, the responsibilities lie around building and managing high performance teams, having clarity and strategic vision around where we want to go. And a lot of that is around, clear analytical thinking and really listening to customers.

Now skills wise these are all things I built up over the course of my career, especially in my prior role as general manager, I could really lean in on that while at the same time, getting adapted to a new company and learning the nuances of this business.

So I really believe in sorting out what is it that you're good at? And then being brave with, taking a few measured risks in spite of potential failure modes that may happen.

Patrick Gallagher: I know we're here to talk about operating under pressure, and I'm really excited to dig in because in thinking about a lot of the things that you shared and some of the challenges that you've mentioned... the methodologies that you're laying out about how you're assessing risk and how you're assessing the different opportunities to apply your skillset, I can imagine the impact that that line of thinking has had in these really high stakes environment.

Vidhya’s framework she uses to deal with high pressure

Jerry Li: yeah, that's a very exciting topic to, to dive into, and, starting from your career transition and you made the brave decision to change domain multiple times. And, I'm sure in some of those transitions, the pressures are pretty high.

what are the methodologies do you use to cope with that?

Vidhya Srinivasan: I think that a couple of different things have come into play, especially. I mean, it comes into play all the time, but even exacerbated when you're under more pressure I like what you're going through right now.

A few things I would say is the first thing is figuring out, What do you want to do? So figuring out the priorities of what is it that is important, given current situations and having clarity around a set of things that you really want to double down on

The second thing, and equally important and even more difficult to do is to figure out what is that you do not want to do. Because a lot of the times it is a super hard to take limited resources and put into efforts that you want to double down on when you've completely committed to so many things that happen for lack of a better term, legacy projects or legacy, investments.

and the third thing is around, doing all of this is the sort of how you'd go about it, right? leading with empathy through situations like this.

So let me maybe drill down a little bit on each of them this. I have a fairly elaborate framework that I have in terms of figuring out priorities and figuring out how do you approach that problem statement?

Part of it is Figuring out what is the set of things that you want to do near term for the business, so having time horizons in mind. So have a clear idea for the business that you're in, what must you deliver in the quarter, in the next year and the next five years. And have an investment strategy for how you want to go about it.

For a startup for example, the next quarter is primarily what they're going to do. For a more mature business. I think the, risk is that you may not look around the corner and five years later, the innovation that needs to happen in the three to four year time horizon may not happen. So you first you have to have a framework for what are the set of things you want to pursue in which time horizon?

And then the second thing around prioritization, is having the ability to clearly communicate these prioritiesies in terms of metrics and clearly stated goals. A lot of times Inspirational vision statements, get misrepresented across the teams and sort of lost. People come up with the interpretation that is most favorable to the set of things that they wanted to do anyway. So I think that is a A set of things that one has to do in terms of metricizing your priorities and making it very clear what is it that we're really going after? so that is the first part, figuring out what to do, having metrics around it, making it a very clear, having the time horizon around the set of metrics as well.

The second part is what not to do. And honestly, this is the hardest thing, as a manager, because it involves people and it, and it's a very emotional thing. These are projects that people have been working on for a long time. Things that they are personally very passionate about, and they've put in a lot of their own life into. And For that to be, to be successful with sort of attacking that area of the one strategy it's true go and explain why, what the overall vision is and why we are defunding an effort that is most likely quite useful. There are people, there are customers who use it. It's just that it didn't make the top five or the top six. And it's the number 20th on the list. And it's this process of explaining why investing in, the 15-100 items in your priority list is really going to take away from the top, 5 that you need to absolutely get right. Nevertheless, it's an emotional process, but I think that's, That's part of the responsibility off leading people.

And the third aspect is leading with empathy and that is... I would say more introspective than the first two. In that we all have our own biases. We all have assumptions that we've believed in whether or not we are conscious. In fact, in most cases it's not something that we're even aware of very much .

And there is a tendency to expect other people to react to situations the same way we do. And very often that is not the case. Everyone's experience is vastly different in how they experience and react to it is just vastly different. And on that front... if you want the first two to actually happen and land well, you have to be open to Constantly questioning your own system of beliefs and assumptions and being very open to being wrong.

And again, there are many mechanisms one can enjoy for that. In my own case, for example, I do listening tours, where I just get together 20-25 people. Then talk to them about how they're feeling about different things. I have an anonymous feedback forum. my counterparts help do pulse surveys on how people are feeling.

You have a lot of input points at the end of the day. It's about being open to them and really questioning yourself, and your belief systems around what you expect. And then taking one of these inputs and coming up with a plan that reflective of, what does optimal for the group as a whole.

So quite a long convoluted answer, but this is a tough question. So it has... it's a fairly multi-dimensional thing to solve.

Jerry Li: that's very helpful to lay out the framework you have. It's lot easier that way for people to absorb what it is. And also, they can sort of relate in those scenarios and apply one of those principles.

How to diffuse pressure

when the pressure is high, what do you do to diffuse the pressure to feel like you can still focus and get things done?

Vidhya Srinivasan: So, on a personal level and in terms of how I coach people, when they come to me and saying, "Hey, I just feel a lot of pressure about this thing and it's just really getting me..."

I think that are two ways to frame that situation that has helped me personally and for others.

One is to really put things in perspective. by far, most of us, the jobs that we have. Even if we fail pretty badly there are really no catastrophic consequences. It's not like anyone's going to die or something really bad is going to happen. Right.

I'm not saying it wouldn't have zero consequences on your career, but through the larger scheme of things, it always helps to sort of take a step back and put it in the, context of your life and the span of your career. And then say, okay, is that really worth fretting over to the degree that I'm really fretting over.

And one question that I often ask myself is... "Given how I feel right now if I, if I were to fast forward five years and I look back, would I feel the same level of pressure or anxiety about the situation?"

And I've yet to come across a situation where it would still be that relevant five years out. And similarly, looking back, there's been no situation. And I've had plenty of very stressed out days... where there has been nothing that I look back and say, well, I genuinely should have been stressed out. That was something that had been, if I did everything that I did later on and I couldn't have recovered from that.

So I think sort of stepping back and having the perspective, helps just to put things in where it's supposed to be.

Jerry Li: Yeah. And it's so easy for us to forget that. Sometimes we're just so bogged down to actual situation we're in and forgot the larger scheme of things and the approach you are taking is really helpful.

looking back some of the, worst days are probably even laughable today when looking back.

Vidhya Srinivasan: Exactly . It's one that you can recite, do a friends and say, can you believe I actually did that or actually reacted this way?

So I think I remember that. And the other thing is also remember , how you emerge from those situations. I mean we've all been in various personal... in fact more on the person side then on the work side there have been, Hardships and adversities that you face , all around life, in different spheres of life. People think that have affected you personally, or your friends.

And you know that we are a resilient, species and we always emerge with optimism in most cases. So I think it's also good to remember all the cases, where yes, you were there and you felt incompetent or you felt like this was an unsurmountable problem. But it did pass and you did come up, come out and they've had many successes to draw from.

Keeping that context in mind is probably the most important thing.

Jerry Li: Great. And that's very actionable insights. I can imagine myself doing that, right after.

How Vidhya’s dealt with and diffused pressure personally and professionally

do you have a story when you were under immense pressure and, applied what you learned, that approach you, you mentioned and, and what does success look like when you do apply those skills?

Vidhya Srinivasan: I mean, there are many, many stories because as much as I say these things, it's actually hard to practice so I do end up, going into this,cycles. Maybe I think one that is early in my career and you know, it really now falls in the laughable category, but I can tell you at the time it was a very big deal to me.

I took my first management job ever. And it is always a hard thing when you do the first transition from an IC to a manager because it feels like you're not doing anything. Before you could point to a piece of code and say, "this is what I did!" And there's a sense of accomplishment. And there's a sense of, no, it's something that people can take away from you to accomplish something that is provable in a way.

And then as a manager you're mostly, in an advisory capacity influencing, moving people around, helping, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly what you did. And so it's, it's a difficult situation, I think that you get comfortable with that.

And, I made, all the usual mistakes, but, and I just felt this pressure that night to really prove myself and prove that I can do this well. And not just to prove to the company or anything just to prove to myself, because it was also an exploration for me.

And I remember, making many, many mistakes. There was this desire to control and desire to know all the answers, but you cannot, when you have a much broader scope. As an engineer you know a lot about one area. As a manager, you need to know a little about a lot and just be able to dive in as needed. And to make that transition was hard. I'm sure that I upset several of the engineers who used to work with me at the time .

I think for me a turning pointed around then was one of my peers who was an experienced manager pulled me aside and said, "Hey, you are just trying too hard. You, you need to, you need to chill. You used to be good at being an IC and a team lead type engineer. What happened? Like So much of that can be carried over and you suddenly want to drop everything that you were good at and suddenly master something that you think is management. the process you basically let go of the type ofthings you do well. And trying to only work on the stuff you have to develop..."

and so even though it's intuitive and it sounds like "Well, why wouldn't you know that?" But it still made a difference that somebody recognized it. And, and sort of gave it to me straight.

And just that change in perspective about my job as you know, "maybe I should just approach this. I'm going to have fun. I'm going to not think about boundaries about what should a manager do? What does an IC do? I'm just going to do the set of things that I can do well, and I want to have fun while I'm at it. And then I'm going to learn as I go." I stumbled through all of that, trying to figure all that out.

Setting goals and defining that clearly to the team helped a lot. there is a theory of the set of things and sort of introspective personal transformation that has to happen. But then there are many actual actionable tools and mechanisms that one can use to aid. So don't lose sight of that. So setting those clear goals because that helps communicate with the team and also help communicate with my manager, because I was also trying to make sure that I was aligned in moving that forward.

And I think looking back, this is certainly one thing where I was like "how silly of me to feel the way I did..."

because what was the worst thing that could happen? Almost nothing really bad would have happened. Worst case I went back to being an IC. I try to be a manager later on. but you learn, you live and learn.

Jerry Li: and now looking back, you must see, well, this is a small team the risk is so much smaller compared to where we are right now. I certainly went through moments like that before, as a first time manager.

How Vidhya learned to operate out of hunger vs. fear

last time when we talked, I'm really fascinated by the notion of you mentioned the transition from operating out of fear, into operating out of hunger because that's just totally a paradigm shift. Can you share a little more on that, and what triggered that transition and how it feels differently afterwards?

Vidhya Srinivasan: I think now I can look back and say this. I think I was blessed early on in my career to be in roles that I felt fairly incompetent. And I could basically be very safe and still do really well. I could operate well within the confines of my abilities and have a fairly high probability of success and into the comfortable place to be.

And then I got some opportunities... I got a job that the default was going to just be failure. I mean, it was a, high risk, high reward project,the risk was super high. And I was trying all my usual techniques to ensure success. I tried to put in metrics. I tried to think about all the ways we can reduce the risk... and, essentially going down that path, it was very clear that I would not be respecting the opportunity.

If you get this conservative, you'll just not have a shot at the opportunity that's available. And I didn't have any choice, but to really... either leave, leave the job, go find something else to do... Or, just overcome that fear of failing. And just say, "Hey, this is an incredible challenge. I'm very lucky to be in a position of having a shot at attempting this challenge. And that's why I'm going to look at this as a game where I'm trying to win and then trying to try everything I can possibly achieve that objective."

And so, for me I almost have to go to the, sort of the bottom where there was no other option, but to change my perspective. And then once that happened, it is no going back. I mean, once you sort of taste that and you're okay with f ilure, "I know what it wasn't going to happen. And I'm okay with that." And all the rest sort of starts to fade.

I would hope other people can get there without having to get to that bottom that I had to. But nevertheless, I feel fortunate to have had that experience and that has helped me in every aspect of life, not just at work, but within my personal life as well.

Jerry Li: can you expand that a little bit? like the personal life part of it?

Vidhya Srinivasan: So I have a fairly, active, life at work, but I also have a very busy life at home with four children. So I have, ' two teenagers and twins who are toddlers. And so f irly widespread in ages, needs. And just the set of things one has to do too, keep up. And, there's a big age gap between the first two, and the next two.

So I think for me, I don't know that I would have, had my twins if I didn't feel I could take on risks.. And that's a muscle really that I developed through all my work experiences. But I felt, you know, something bad could happen, but you know, I'm okay with that.

I remember going, to work and letting my manager know that, "Hey, I'm likely thinking about expanding my family and you think it's really going to affect my career? "

And my manager at the time basically said, "of course, it's going to affect your career. It would be, very silly for your to do it right now, given the path you're on."

And I mean, he was just being super honest and being upfront with me about potential things that could happen. Not that there was any less support or anything like that. It's extremely supportive environment... but it wasn't very real possibility.

but at the end of the day, I wanted to do what I want to do with my life first and then work follows. And I just went ahead and found out I had twins,

But that kind of mentality, which I feel free to pursue the set of things I want... whether it's at work, or at home, without worrying about all the possible consequences, and fermenting on the bad consequences really helps.

And I'm not saying it gives you permission to be reckless. I think you have to evaluate a lot of things and make choices that are reasonable, but holding yourself back ... could prevent you from achieving, the potential of what's possible for yourself. I would actually argue that, beyond it turning fine. my life would not have had so many aspects and I would not have the, personal life or the career I have unless I took all those risks. So I think it's, it's beyond just being fine. I think it's really opens doors to having a richer set of experiences.

Jerry Li: Do you think that that's a virtue that, are essential to, an engineer and leader?

Vidhya Srinivasan: I think it's critical in any function honestly. Certainly it's super applicable for Engineering leaders because you know, in a lot of cases, people come together. We have some of the top engineers in the Bay area and in many of the companies that we have here and these are all people who are used to being successful through their school life, and earlier jobs. And they're just used to success and used to being able to do really welll in a sort of guaranteed way.

And one of the things you have to do is sort of break out of that mold to test yourself in uncomfortable situations where it is possible that this next set of things you're taking on will not, be as successful as the things that you've done in the past. And to be okay with that and to embrace that because .. . True innovation happens when you question all the assumptions. When you sort of the disrupt all the existing things that people have taken for granted and sort of look past so that you can leapfrog into a different way of thinking.

And by definition, almost all of those ideas and thoughts. They end up having a very high failure rate . And unless you're able to break through to being fine with that, we will not be able to try these things out. So I think it's super critical, to continue, the innovation that we are seeing and to honestly just, just have fun

How to coach engineering leaders to be more comfortable with failure and risk

Jerry Li: How do you coach other engineering your leaders, in your organization to be more comfortable with that?

Vidhya Srinivasan: So I think there are a set of things you can do in terms of, coaching one-on-one or doing sort of, you know, podcasts like these, where you can talk about these things and how it can be useful. Again, this falls in the theory category of why this might be something one should try to adopt.

But there are also things that one can do to foster an environment and culture that makes it easier to adopt some of these things. I'll talk about maybe two things that I do... there are many many things that one could possibly do.

The first thing is to ... whether or not the particular project is a success or failure is, is again perception. I mean, what, how do you define success? Is it only if you meet certain revenue goals or is a project where you try super hard, you failed, you made some technology artifact that may benefit you in some other domain for the company as a whole, but they really went full force and explore potential. And at least I came up with an answer that that road could not be taken. That could also be viewed as a success. If you want behaviors where you want people to take risks, you have to make it okay for people taking risks to have a soft landing when they fail. And that goes back to how we do performance management, how you message these things to the team. How are the people in this project when they failed... how are they viewed? How are they evaluated? What was the next thing that they did?

Jerry Li: So in other words, there is a good failure and a bad failure.

Vidhya Srinivasan: That's right. And so, again, there, lots of judgment comes into play there because some projects fail due to negligence and you have to differentiate between that and one that you tried. And it was a ambiguous project, was something where that failure probability was super high. So again, lots of judgment comes into play and it puts a greater burden on the leadership team to get aligned and I have a sense for what really happened. And to appropriately react to the situation. So I think that is one thing.

The other thing I would say is. I tried to allocate a certain budget and terms of number of resources on my team to work on projects that much higher ambiguity and have a 3-5 year time horizon, then A next quarter next year. Now, if you did a one, two engineer organization, these projects that would get funded because it's very hard to justify them when, when you're combating it with something that revenue generating for end of this year.

So the only way that has worked for me is to have sort of a personnel allocation in a discipline way. Saying "for the state that the businesses in, this is what makes sense from an investment point of view." And it's going to be different for different companies.

And then foster that through that fashion. And again, even though it's a, multi-year journey, you would have to figure it out how do you, reward those employees? How do you make sure that they stay motivated? And how are you going to evaluate them?

So all of that has to go hand in hand. But those are some of the things that you can do to help, offset natural biases against it.

Jerry Li: how do you allocate people to those projects?

Vidhya Srinivasan: I've used different models. I've used the model where we come up with that moon shot project. And then, we do some level of, championing or socialization, and then see who are the people who are naturally gravitating to wanting to work on something like that. And figure out a way to carve them out of where they are and make space for this.

I've also done the model, where there is a separate team that is cordoned off four or five year time frame where that is really what they are going to be doing. Like full time. And either can work depending on how the rest of the team the views what is happening. I mean, the things to watch out for is... it shouldn't feel like the people who said select into this or who get selected into this are somehow the "A" players and the rest are the "B" players. I mean, running the business is no joke. So we should be careful to not create that sort of a dynamic.

Similarly, if it's a separate team, you have to really watch out for people who are not on the team to feel like... if it is successful, you will have to then change all the other things that you're doing, because a lot of these big items end up permeating me through the rest of the stack, if they are successful. In terms of engineering changes, code changes that will have to be done.

But if it's viewed as some outside effort that nobody ever cared about. And felt no ownership to... then it's hard to integrate everything if it is successful.

So you just have to keep in mind the dynamics of how you will take that "whatever is getting developed" all the way to productizing it. And how you manage people's expectations. Then how you manage, the organization and the view they have of such projects.

How to create opportunities for your team to fail and take on more risk

Jerry Li: What's your suggestion to someone like they think, this is a good idea, and they don't currently have any project like that on their roadmap. But they want to create a pool of project so that people can take on more risks if I'm want to have a conversation with my manager to get alignment... how do you sell that idea typically?

Vidhya Srinivasan: it is super hard to do it, if you're in the 20, 15-20 team size because, first of all, it's hard to do big things with one or two people. You will have to have at least in the order of eight people together to actually make progress. Just if you say you need potentially a PM, a set of eng folks, maybe one person to do all the automation. You end up with like a minimum team size.

So I would say it's hard to do with people with, super small teams because you can't afford it. And you can be impactful. So it does require someone with a larger scope of control. Who want to champion it and to fund it and to believe in the, in the promise that it brings for the organization as a whole.

I think the best way to do it it's just a lot of make the business case for it. Talk of the upside that is likely to come, just like we would in many of the other things that we do for a shorter time horizon,

So there's similar techniques need to use this to talk about end of year revenue, et cetera. the argument that usually gets us to fund these projects is the same. "Is it better for us to disrupt ourselves or is it better for somebody else to come and do it?"

And So once you put this as not so much a cherry on top type project, but really one that could become existential if we don't look around the corner... that really get's people to think about the importance of taking on such projects in a very different light. Because the reality is there's a ton of innovation going around us, happening all the time. And you as a business owner, or an engineering leader don't think about your business in a critical way. Well , you know, the next twenty persons start up... can they take this area and do it better than you? Can then make it easier? Can they reduce the friction? Can they do something that is going to attract customers to use that over this tenured product that you have. That overtime, you've added a bunch of bells and whistles, but super complex views at this point.

So I think questioning yourself, and believing in it as something that is required for longterm resilience of the business is a better way to sell these ideas. Not necessarily exactly. That's actually why you want to do it.

It's a better way to position this and approach it. Than to make this sound like a "nice to have" project, but let's just go do some blue sky thinking. Put the business context in, and then usually, usually that works.

When you should step in and help your team

Jerry Li: now we have, a project like this allocated on the road map. When do decide, you need to step in, to help out?

Vidhya Srinivasan: So again, there's a personal aspect to it, which is building a relationship with that person, and in general with your team, where the environment feels supportive and blameless and people feel comfortable having those open communications where bad news travels fast... is important. And that's a culture thing. And that is the responsibility of leaders who make sure that people don't feel like they're going to get penalized for telling you something, ah, that's either going wrong or personally asking for help. So that's one aspect of this equation.

The second aspect of this equation is... so when do you know you need to interfere or step in, help? Well I'm a huge believer in metrics. That is the, the only way to really scale. And that's also a way of providing the people on your team the freedom to do what they need to do without feeling like they're getting micromanaged. Because you can create metrics at the appropriate level. Wh ere it just gets reported every weekly, biweekly, whatever cadence makes sense. And you have a pulse on what's going on without having to be on their case all the time.

And depending on if you've set up good metrics. You will have the indicators that say something is going off track. You would have early indicators, in fact, that says something smells fishy, then something is going wrong. And "Oh, you really need help..."

So you can see the transition and you will over time be able to predict when these things are about to happen. And be able to do step in to support, help, earlier in the cycle. But iterating and figuring out, which are the right set of metrics is super critical.

Who is someone who’s most inspired you to be a better leader?

Patrick Gallagher: We wanted to transition the topic a little bit because we're, getting close to the end of our time.

Could you share about a leader who's inspired or helped you to be a better leader?

Vidhya Srinivasan: Ah, now, that's tough question. in terms of people who have actually made me better. It comes from not one person, but multiple leaders. Not as leaders... Multiple people in my life.

Very often. I've actually learned as much from my team as I've learned from any mentor I've ever had. So I try to look for behaviors that I'm trying to improve on. And look at people who are particularly good at that. It could be things like public speaking, it could be things like how they, approach sensitive issues. It could be how insightful they are doing a code review. It could be any of these things.

and that person doesn't have to, I mean, this could be somebody very junior on the team as well.

I just look for capabilities. people who are really, really good at something ...and I try to see "what is it that I can learn from them?" To be a little bit better myself. I'll never be as good, but I can be a little bit better.

So in a more practical sense I get my inspiration from everyone around me. By people, the way they carry themselves, the value systems and how they view their own growth and career.

Patrick Gallagher: That's wonderful

What’s brought you the greatest joy as an engineering leader?

What's brought you the greatest amount of joy as an engineering leader in everything that you're doing?

Vidhya Srinivasan: I would say there are two things that are almost equally important for me.

I think one is, providing something of significant value to end customers. And, talking to them and seeing the impact that , it is actually had on people and what they can do with their businesses. And it has helped them innovate for their customers or their end users. That's a big part of what drives me to do what I do.

the second thing, and it's equally as fulfilling... is to see how, I have helped somebody, some engineer, anybody on the team, to do something that they themselves did not think what's possible. So to help them go beyond what they thought was possible and within their skill set.

And sometimes just expecting more than they expect of themselves is all you need for that to happen. And that's also extremely satisfying.

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