Office Hours: I’m the VP of Engineering at Render and have 15+ years of experience building and managing teams focused on cloud computing technologies. I’m Uma Chingunde. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Uma Chingunde and I’m the VP of Engineering at Render where we’re helping build an innovative public cloud alternative for developers.

I have more than 15 years of experience building and managing teams focused on cloud computing technologies. Most recently, I built and led Stripe’s Compute group that supported the internal compute platform so that all of Stripe engineering could deploy and operate their services with security, reliability, and scale during the company’s growth phase.

Prior to Stripe, I was an engineering leader at Delphix and also at VMware. I moved to the US from India to attend graduate school at the Johns Hopkins University. I graduated with a Masters Degree with a concentration in Distributed which I’ve found to be fascinatingly applicable for large parts of my career.

During my downtime, I like spending time with my sassy 8-year-old and answering her endless whys, travel (though it was on pause during the pandemic), and watching questionable TV shows.

Ask me anything about technology - particularly infrastructure, transitioning to being an engineering manager from an IC, coaching and mentoring engineers, building and nurturing diverse and inclusive teams, leadership, being a parent in tech or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @uma!Elphas – please ask @uma your questions before Friday, November 18th. @uma may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hello, Uma! I am a recent CS grad on the job hunt for an entry-level SWE role, and I have a question related to professional development and career planning. Thank you so much for your time.I am interested in distributed systems. I discovered this interest rather late; my curiosity was piqued in a course I took in my last semester. I'd love to learn of any ideas you might have in terms of additional courses or first steps one might take in a career path given this interest. Thank you for your time!
This will be a bit similar to a previous answer I gave but I'd start with poking around with reading some papers that are related to the particular area of distributed systems that you are interested in. I look for an follow people that share interesting content in different forums e.g. on Twitter, Cindy often shares papers I used to follow and read this but haven't kept up I would also pair the theory with some course work or side projects that have a more practical application for distributed system. Based on where you live I'd look at universities that offer courses that are open to others or look at Udemy or similar for online courses.
Hi Uma! I would love to talk more about technology and connect with you.
I would like to transition from micro social work to working in tech or social impact in project management positions.
I don't have much experience with this particular path, so my advice will be a little generic. I'd look for opportunities where advertised roles that are both what you are looking for and are slightly overlapping with what you are eventually looking for. From what I have observed, when people have pulled off these transitions successfully, they usually take entry-level roles in a tech company that has good internal mobility (something you can ask about at interview time) and then move internally within roles. Apologies if this is not very helpful.
Hi @uma and thank you! I am looking for a female CTO and it is a challenge. I signed up for YC co-founder matching and out of 65 suggested profiles only 6 are women - mostly not tech people. I would appreciate any advice/tips.
This one is tricky. I think looking on linkedin and actively sourcing for people who fit the profile of the kind of person you are looking for might be a strategy. Other options are seeking communities for the particular tech area you are a founder in and looking for women in those communities. I've had moderate success with using Twitter for hiring as well. Maybe try as well? The organizer is great and organizes meetups for founders.
As a manager, How do you build culture for your team that promotes safety, learning, and growth and be aligned with company’s business goals?
This is a great question, but it's really hard to summarize a short answer for this one, so I'll try my best. Having a very clear idea of what is important to the company culture and also having a very clear sense of what the business goals are at all times is a great start, and I find many companies will surprisingly not have an alignment on those. I've found having clear rubrics, or company values can help be a good starting point. And then ensuring that all the rest of the day-to-day actions of the company actually reflect those values and stay aligned with the business goals over time.
Hi Uma! Thanks for taking time out of your day to share your wisdom with us. 💜1. I work with engineers who work with complex technical architectures and infrastructure. What are the best resources you've come across or have recommended to your direct reports to develop and build on their foundational knowledge about these topics? 2. About creating and nurturing diverse and inclusive teams, where in the end-to-end recruiting and employee professional development journey have you found has had the most impact on moving the needle on DEI? To name a few examples - at recruiting and hiring; support system on the job; onboarding and ongoing training, upskilling, and education; exploring and developing one's career path. What makes you think so? 3. If I want to become a parent in the future, I'm worried about this impacting my career trajectory. How much of this fear is justified from your own journey? What has helped you keep the momentum going while also still spending necessary quality time with your daughter, especially immediately following her birth?
1. For this one, the number of resources is so broad that I hesitate to offer a single resource. Instead, I would recommend looking at places like ACM papers and papers published by organizations such as Google, Microsoft, and AWS. It is also specific to the area of interest, e.g., mobile development would be different from Kubernetes.2. For creating and nurturing diverse and inclusive teams, I think that attention needs to be paid at all stages for it to have a demonstrable and durable impact. e.g., if you spend a lot of time on recruiting, but the organizations aren't inclusive, people won't stay, etc. It has to happen across the organization, and it needs investment from the organization's leadership team.3. My daughter is now 8, so it has been quite a few years, but I found that some of the most impactful work I did was after she was born. Everyone has a different experience, but in my personal experience, having a supportive family and work system and in cases where I didn't have them seeking out and prioritizing them helped me. In the very short term e.g. right after she was born and for up to a year, I did spend a lot more time with her. But I find that over a longer term, demands of parenthood ebb and flow e.g. some days, and months are easier and others I'm more tired. I've learned to ask for more help along the way, which has been quite an important skill for me. I find it useful to constantly check in with myself on how I'm feeling about my energy and where I'm spending my time and rebalancing when things feel off and making small adjustments along the way.
Thanks for your time. I'm wondering what the job market looks like right now for mid to senior level engineers and how you think the economy is impacting the salaries engineers can command right now.
It's still too early to say because there is much going on. But so far, while larger companies have had layoffs, I do see a lot of hiring activity across the board. Smaller and mid-size companies are still hiring. It usually also takes a while for the salaries to catch up with the economy so I don't foresee an immediate change, but I do expect that in the short term larger organizations will wait for things to shake out before offering large raises. There is a bit of seasonality to hiring, and a lot of organizations start slowing with hiring velocity entering into the holiday period as the year-end approaches. So that will likely be the more immediate impact.
What's your golden tip on self-efficacy?
I think this is very, very dependent on each person and where they are in their journey. For me personally, it was probably going to therapy.
What do you look for in ICs who are interested in transitioning into EM roles?
I try to understand their motivations for why they are looking to transition to the EM role e.g. do they see themselves being blocked from advancement in the IC ladder or are more interested in impact via the EM path. Broadly I think that the skillset that makes ICs successful is not that different from what makes EMs successful with a core motivation being important. But communication and people skills become more important when you manage people (or are a senior IC). I wrote about it a bit more here