At Thumbtack, one of our core values is to Make Each Other Better. We do this by giving and receiving feedback, mentoring new engineers, and finding ways to mindfully educate and empower one another. There is something in our culture that brings out the best in people. However, much like other rapidly growing companies, it’s important that we continually look for ways to improve.
The women on our team wanted a way to seek mentorship without having to invest their time finding and attending local female-focused events, with varied success and relevance. So, in an effort to live our values, we have built a program ourselves where we invite leaders from Silicon Valley to come talk with us.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
We told our leadership team about our new Women in Engineering program, which we’ve named WE. Some of our first, most passionate supporters were our CEO and our VP of Engineering. They quickly introduced us to technical female leaders throughout the Bay Area.
We now hold monthly lunches where we invite women into our office to chat about their experience as a female leader in tech. It’s been rewarding, eye-opening, and has brought a sense of community amongst the women on our team. Now, there’s even a Slack channel where we share ideas, feedback, and interesting articles.
Last month we hosted Jocelyn Goldfein. Currently, she is an independent angel investor and advisor to startups. Having previously held senior engineering leadership roles spanning from high-growth companies like Facebook and VMware, to small startups, Jocelyn’s a widely recognized industry spokesperson on scaling engineering operations, mobile engineering, and diversity in tech.
She’s been an active public speaker at numerous venues including Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leader seminar, The Lean Startup Conference, First Round’s CTO Conference, and Grace Hopper. Needless to say, we felt lucky to have her in our very own office for an afternoon.
Our team was eager to ask questions, and Jocelyn was gracious in answering them with openness and honesty. She discussed her career and how to overcome gender-bias, including what we can do as a team and how we can become better advocates for ourselves.
When you were at Facebook, you were the highest-ranking female engineer. How did you deal with all your managers being men?
It doesn’t matter if your manager is male or female, work for someone who believes in your potential and sponsors you to do great work. They all gave me challenging work and continued to push me. When I plateaued and stagnated, I would ask to switch teams, projects, and if possible, switch managers.
How has gender bias affected your career in tech?
Gender bias happens outside of tech. It happens on the radio. Saying that men are promoted based on potential and women are promoted based on performance happens everywhere you work. I’m trying to break that in the VC world now. It’s hard. Human beings are the most complex distributed system. Men are more aggressive about asking for something they’re not sure they can do. Have a boss who feels comfortable taking risks on your career.
“Human beings are the most complex distributed system.”
How have you encouraged teams to develop new skill sets?
You have to hone in on what you want to improve. You can focus on an array of areas—architecting new systems, debugging, etc., but you won’t be effective if you don’t focus. Iteration and feedback loops are the best ways to improve. Do stuff and learn from it. You have to make decisions you’re not always comfortable with. Be comfortable with that.
What’s your advice for taking on parenthood and a career?
Being a mother is hard work. If you’re going to go down the path of motherhood, be sure you’re at a place where you want to give up spending time with your kids to be at work. Make sure you love your work, otherwise, you will constantly be wondering why you left your kids at home to be in a job you don’t like.
Meeting with Jocelyn ignited important conversations amongst our team. What do we want to do with the information she gave us? How do we continue to make each other better, while also improving our own skills? We’ve started discussing ways we can bridge gaps, advocate for ourselves, and continue to be transparent within the community.
If you’re interested in joining a company that values a strong, diverse engineering team, let’s talk. And if you have an idea for a great future speaker, topic, or are interested in attending a lunch, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d love for you to join.