Today we are talking to RVP, the VP of engineering at Thumbtack. And we discus advice to CTOs experiencing hyper growth, tips on delivering critical feedback and the importance of setting goals and having a vision for the future.
All of this, right here, right now, on the Modern CTO Podcast!
Raghavendra Prabhu (RVP) is VP of Engineering at Thumbtack. He oversees the technical teams including engineering, IT, business applications and data science. Prior to this, he was Head of Infrastructure at Pinterest where he oversaw development of backend systems and infrastructure through a period of over 5X growth in users and engineering team.
Prior to that, he held senior engineering roles at Twitter and Google. RVP earned his MS degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He and his family live in Sunnyvale, California. His favorite Thumbtack project was to hire a cake maker and decorator for his daughter’s first birthday.
- Usually gets to work around 8:45 – commutes from about 1 hour away
- How did you fall in love with technology – always wanted to do something with computers since elementary school – Father was an electrical engineer
- Grew up in Bangalore India
- What was your path to VP of Engineering at Thumbtack?
- Started at Microsoft – worked on early bing.
- Then moved to google and worked on the crawler there
- Starts to think what’s my impact on the company? And moved to twitter. Felt like a small startup because he came from large companies. Had about 80 engineers
- Twitter saw massive growth and had to work on scaling the site and moved to infrastructure.
- Got into management and leading teams at Pinterest
- Moved to Thumbtack and got in to Leading product for consumers from engineering
- About Thumbtack and what they do
- As a homeowner you have a never ending to do list. Thumbtack started with that premise. Gives you a search interactive experience.
- Design seems like magic to RVP as an engineer. Joel loves very good design
- What are some of the lessons and take aways from your transition into leadership
- First thing is Leadership is there’s different forms of leaderships. Some people have a view of leadership being management. You can lead by being very good at your craft
- A large part of management is thinking about people. How do you want to development?
- Think about where you want to be in 5 years? (Envision the future)
- Went to google because Microsoft’s path for growth was in management
- Took on a tech lead position at Twitter. Can have higher impact guiding engineers than coding yourself
- Be open to possibilities and have a plan. Be open to taking on that stretch challenge. Take on the thing that you think you cannot do. The best way to grow is to take on something that seems just out of reach.
- How do you engage with your team? Lots of time in 1 on 1 conversation. Has a 2 or 3 hour block each week where he meets with broader engineering team.
- Can sense that someone is really good at their craft, add a change of pace. Encourage movement
- Started off in diversity and inclusion initiative – sponsor women’s and underrepresented people to get them in to leadership. Identify people who are on the edge and have someone who is leadership be a sponsor for them
- Really good in IT but here are some ways that you can have influence and more impact on the company
- There’s no one size fits all. A lot of people learn from
- RVP has had many mentors over time
- How do you give constructive feedback
- It holds you back if you don’t have soft skills and people don’t like you
- Famous quote Bill Coughran. Sequoia “technology is easy people are hard.”
- Tips on critical feedback. When to give it. 1 on 1 type of setting. Time. Feedback Sandwich. Can dilute the feedback. Be inauthentic. Be very direct. Praise and recognition is very important as well. Be very specific about what you’ve observed and how it will correct it. Don’t come across as judgement about the person. Leave conversation with specific action to correct. Think of it as a conversation to partnering with them to come at is as helping them to correct. Build a relationship of trust.
- Feedback should be continuous all the time. Don’t wait for performance review. Get feedback from peers and leaders.
- Most of engineering team is local in San Francisco. In same building as twitter on market street.
- Thing that frustrates joel about talks at conferences is the stories are great but he wants the tactical advice
- Craft your own path but here are some attributes that stand out
- Are you concerned about survivorship bias?
- Advice to CTOs experience massive growth. As you’re growing, things have to change. How do I keep the best aspects of the culture?
- Have a very collaborative culture. How do we make each other better? Growth is fun but you have to keep on top of it all the time and think ahead. Like Distributive systems.
- Make each other better. You growing and helping other people grow is fundamental to how a company gets through growth