Office Hours: I’m a Senior Engineering Leader at Cruise. I’m Sony Mohapatra. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Sony Mohapatra, a Senior Engineering Leader at Cruise, where I lead the platform team that builds and maintains the core infrastructure and services for autonomous vehicles.

Before Cruise, I worked at Informatica, LinkedIn, and Apple. I’m a mentor at Women in Autonomy and Plato and am very passionate about women in tech and drive towards developing women engineers through various forums.

I live in California with my loving husband and son, who is 8 years old. In my free time, I love to paint, hike a scenic route, and dance.

Ask me anything about software development, DEI, sustainable transportation, transitioning from IC to managerial positions, how to be a great manager, becoming a Python and Selenium expert, mentorship, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @sonymohapatra!Elphas – please ask @sonymohapatra your questions before Friday, November 24th. @sonymohapatra may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
^ Hello Elphas - Just a quick update: @sonymohapatra will be answering your questions on Monday, Nov. 27th - so you have a few extra days to get your questions in! 🚀
Hello Sony, Thank you for being here. I’m a career changer at 49. I’ve completed a bootcamp and two internships with no conversion to FT. My internships consisted of a dev role and the other was more of a tpm role. I bring many transferrable skills. At my age, do I have a chance of actually landing a dev or tpm role in tech? I’ve heard from recruiters that I will not be hired due to my age. Do you have advice for landing a role? Thanks again!
Hi @Tamala200 I don’t think age should be a concern as long as you are able to bring the skills to the table. Market yourself with your strengths and the impact you can provide. Anyone looking to hire wants to see passion and self driven folks along with the skills for the job. Focus on that and showcase those to recruiters and hiring managers!
Hi Sony! My question has to do with advancing in your career as an IC vs as a manager. Did you take the IC path to get to your current role, or did you pivot to management early-on? I am currently a senior software engineer, hoping to grow into a leadership / executive position one day, and am wondering if that means taking on a management / people role sooner. Thanks!
Hi @annakiefer I moved to management when I was on the cusp of staff engineer. I had to choose if I was to grow on the technical path or the management path. I would say switch to management if you are sure of the path and the future with it. As long as you feel prepared and ready with the skills of being a manager you should look for opportunities that get you there sooner than later.
As a Python and Selenium expert, what advice do you have for enhancing skills in these areas? What has been most helpful for you to become expert level? Was it a mentor? A specific resource? A habit?
Practicing is the only way to be an expert. Facing different kinds of problems and executing. You should enjoy coding to eat sleep and breathe coding. Hence be on the lookout of what you can solve outside of what’s assigned to you!
What are some best practices or recommendations you have for making the most out of a mentorship – from both the mentor and mentee's perspective?
First have self awareness of what are the areas you need help with. Mentors will help you fill those gaps and give you a different perspective. You have to get into a mentoring session knowing what you want and what questions to ask. Mentorship is the most useful only then..
What are 3 things you wish you knew when you were a junior developer?
1. Know your values and stand your ground - this is really important to form opinions and to know what’s right, what you stand by what come may! 2. Market yourself so you are visible - upward, downward, among your peers 3. Keep learning - there’s always more to it than you see. Push to learn more each day. Be self driven and have the passion to learn!
Thank you so much for being here with us this week, Sony! Really appreciate it.So amazing that you're committed to bringing more women in engineering. In your opinion why are we not seeing more women in engineering even today and more women of colour too? And then do you think even when companies are able to hire women in engineering roles they could improve their retention strategy? And if so what are some strategies you've seen firms doing that positively contributed into growing women into their roles and perhaps even holding more managerial roles (like you for instance :))?
Thank you 🙂. It would be unfair to say that companies are only to be blamed for not having diversity. Yes that’s one aspect where the awareness of diversity in certain companies maybe lacking and this will show in the leaders and hiring managers. But I also believe we are in this situation due to the lack of confidence we women have. We are always underselling ourselves and selling for less that it has become a norm. I think the first step is to root for ourselves. Create your brand that companies want you in the bargain creating more diversity in teams.Retention is for any employee and not necessarily only for women. I think a manager should support all employees. By super I mean actually being there and getting their back. I think this is a huge reassurance for employees to feel their manager is in their side. Appreciation of the work is another aspect this provides validation to the employees and builds confidence. Finally growth mindset, are there interesting challenges to solve and add on to your resume. The companies should look into really what motivates people and how to ensure they are retained.
Hi Sony! What advice do you have for those looking to transition from manager to IC? And what about those who feel pressured to become a manager but want to stick to the IC track?
First one should understand the manger role completely to make up your mind to move to that role. There is a lot of differences and expectations between a manager and an IC and that understanding is really important. Second would be to develop the skills needed to be a manager - providing feedback, strategic thinking, team development etc.You should not give in to pressure. That would only set you up for failure. If you truly believe that IC is the path for you then convince your manager and share your motivations! You will be most successful in the role you like or see yourself in the next few years and that is you driving closer towards your north star!