Office Hours: I have led technical teams at Google and Microsoft for 12+ years. I am Roku's director of program management.Featured
Hi Everyone! I’m Candice Quadros, Director of Program Management at Roku Inc. I work on Roku’s Enterprise Engineering team and our goal is to help scale business processes & productivity through a data-driven engineering approach. I have previously worked at Google and Microsoft on core engineering teams and have 12+ years of experience in technical program management. I have a Bachelors in Computer Engineering from the University of Mumbai and a Masters in Computer Science from the State University of New York. Ask me about program management, leading technical teams, navigating mentorship in large tech companies, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us, @candicequadros. Elphas: please reply in the comments with your questions for @candicequadros before this Friday. She may not have time to answer every single question, so please emoji upvote the ones that interest you most.
Thank you for having me on here Jessica! There were so many great questions that I enjoyed answering! Folks can DM me if they would like to further discuss. Cheers!
Hi @candicequadros! I am curious how you went from software engineer to program manager in your early career, and what the work of a program manager (and now director of program management) is like. Thank you so much!
Hello Soph! My journey from software engineer to Program Manager unfortunately wasn't easy or straightforward. The things that helped me make the switch are:1. Taking on additional work that would typically be done by TPMs on the team to beef up your resume. An example of this is, I pulled together a core team to coordinate security testing efforts for all of Xbox.com across 8 scrum teams.2. Get manager support. This one may be tricky and you will need to gauge if a transition to TPM will be supported by your manager. If yes, great - they can help line up TPM type of work for you while doing your current job as a Software Engineer. If not, you will probably need to look for a sponsor ideally on the TPM side of the house. 3. Do tons of interviews. Interviewing well is an art in itself. I probably went through 50 interview loops before I was able to crack an interview and land my dream job. As a Program Manager, I view myself as the E2E owner for my initiatives. I look at all the resources assigned to the project, essentially as my team that I need to maximize and unblock to keep my project forward. In the Program Management world, typically as one grows through the ranks, the initiatives get much more complex and ambiguous with a lot of stakeholder and leadership visibility. As a Director of Program Management I now own key company-wide initiatives working with business & engineering teams to deliver programs on time with high quality.
Hi Candice! I'm starting a new grad PM role at Microsoft Teams this Fall and in the long(ish) term I want to lead a product team because I enjoy mentoring/coaching others. Do you have any advice for a junior PM in this situation? Should I just focus on learning how to be a skilled PM for now or are there things I can start now to help me become a manager later on?
Hi Katherine!Congratulations! Your new gig sounds really exciting, good luck! Microsoft is an amazing place to start your career.Here is what I would do if I were in your shoes: 1. Exceed expectations for what you were hired for. Understand what the bar is and then go above and beyond with your execution, delivery and results2. Network, network, network. Identify the leaders on the PM team and book time on their calendars for coffee chats or lunch. Understand how they got to where they are & build those relationships.3. Become the go-to subject matter expert for your features. Become the PM that the engineers & leads want for their features. Don't be afraid to dive deep and work closely with your engineering teams to understand risks, issues, bugs. In my experience, becoming a manager has two aspects:1. What you can control: You need to be ready & primed i.e. become the SME, become the trusted goto person. Lay down the ground work on your side. Raise your hand when you see a new feature come up. Raise your hand to do the grunt-work that no one else wants to do and then knock it out of the park. 2. What you cannot control: When the opportunity comes knocking you should be ready to take it on. Timing on manager roles is something you cannot control. It is also harder to snag those roles so make sure you take of #1 and be ready for the opportunity when it comes your way
Hi Myajuliet!I spent most of my early career as an Individual Contributor. Even though I didn't directly manage people I had to work with my team & different stakeholders to gain alignment, drive consensus, resolve conflicts, influence without authority and manage expectations in a technical setting. These experiences helped shape my understanding of how to manage people. One of the key attributes to be a successful Program Manager is having and cultivating a high EQ, being the voice of your customers/partners with high empathy will take you far.
What do you enjoy most about your current role? What do you miss the most from the software engineering times? Thanks!
Hi Viktorija,My current role is very fast-paced and challenging which is an environment that I thrive in. At the end of the day I have a high degree of job satisfaction.What I miss the most from my junior software engineering days is the ability to work on a program without being bothered by stakeholders.
Hi Akshaya! Product Management & Program Management roles differ from one organization to another so there isn't a standard 'one size fits all' answer to this. The simplest way that I like to articulate this distinction is: the Product Manager defines the "Why?" (Why are we building the platform? Why are we prioritizing a feature? Why are we targeting a usecase? etc.) and the Program Manager defines the "How? & When?" (When do we need to ship it? How will we resource & capacity plan? When can we align on the deliver & release plan? etc.)
Thanks so much for doing office hours, Candice! Can you talk about the differences between program management, product management, project manager and chief of staff roles? Also, any favorite learning resources for aspiring program/product managers?
Hi KateLowry!There isn't a one-size-fits-all standard answer for this as many of these roles overlap at different organizations. Here is how I would define the differences:1. Program Managers supervise groups of projects and focus on long-term business objectives thinking through how do the groups of projects get us to achieve the strategic vision. 2. Project Managers oversee individual projects which are typically tactical in nature. 3. Product Managers define the vision of the product and articulate the roadmap, feature-set and priorities for the team.4. Chief of Staff is akin to a Program Manager, the key difference being what you are accountable for. With a Program Manager your focus is on moving programs forward for your team/business. As a Chief of Staff your primary responsibility is towards your executive partner. In terms of learning resources, I have found many interesting courses on LinkedIn many of which are free. However, life is the greatest teacher and for me the best ways of learning have been on the job. To make the transition to Program/Product Management I would start with picking up whatever experience you can in your current role. Volunteer to do the grunge work on the PM side of the house that no one else wants to do. Volunteer to help with cross-team coordination, running meetings, taking notes etc. Use these activities to beef up your resume and build your portfolio. Be ready to go through the grind of interviewing. Each interview, even a failed one, is a learning experience. Use the feedback to finetune yourself and match the expectations of the role and the hiring manager.
Hi Candice - what are the most common problems you find, or solutions you provide to businesses? It would be interesting to know what processes can be improved with your approach. Thanks so much!
Hi Laurenmac!I currently lead company-wide initiatives that span engineering & business organizations. This starts from building out & documenting a plan of record, working with the executive sponsor to determine the budget and resource needs, pulling together a core team to plan and execute on program delivery and setting measurable outcomes to define success. One of the example is rolling out a new company-wide platform to manage track and allocate the organization workforce.
Hi Reginaa!A lot of the things that hiring managers look for are role & team specific. However if I had to pick the top skills that I look for while hiring Program Managers are these three: 1. Ownership: As a Program Manager you are the owner period. You have to think long term & strategic, which means you don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. As the owner you are acting on behalf of the entire company, beyond just your own team. As a Program Manager you should never say “that’s not my job.“ When I run my programs at Roku, I have program teams ranging from 5 to 50 people teams and as an owner I consider each of them my resource to use them to achieve the program goals.2. Effective Communication: A successful Program Manager has to know how to communicate effectively. Every person perceives information differently. Some people like numbers, others – prefer to see the human side of a particular issue. The Program Manager has to understand these aspects and adjust her communication style accordingly.3. Bias for action: Program Managers need to have bias for action because Speed matters in business. Understand the difference between reversible and irreversible actions . In reality, There are Many decisions and actions which are essentially reversible and these do not need extensive study or research. What matters is calculated risk taking.
In the future, what skills do you believe will be most critical for Program Managers to possess? And what characteristics, skills, or credentials do you typically look for in people that you hire to your team/organization?
Hi MelissaHui!A lot of the things that hiring managers look for are role & team specific. However if I had to pick the top skills that I look for while hiring Program Managers they are these three:1. Ownership: As a Program Manager you are the owner period. You have to think long term & strategic, which means you don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. As the owner you are acting on behalf of the entire company, beyond just your own team. As a Program Manager you should never say “that’s not my job.“ When I run my programs at Roku, I have program teams ranging from 5 to 50 people teams and as an owner I consider each of them my resource to use them to achieve the program goals.2. Effective Communication: A successful Program Manager has to know how to communicate effectively. Every person perceives information differently. Some people like numbers, others – prefer to see the human side of a particular issue. The Program Manager has to understand these aspects and adjust her communication style accordingly.3. Bias for action: Program Managers need to have bias for action because Speed matters in business. Understand the difference between reversible and irreversible actions . In reality, There are Many decisions and actions which are essentially reversible and these do not need extensive study or research. What matters is calculated risk taking.
Hi Candice. Any advice for a non-tech Founder of a deep tech concept in finding technical Co-Founder or resources (and managing them w/o technical experience)? I'm based in Houston so not networked in Austin or San Fran and have investor interest (I'm experienced) subject to finding a technical Co-Founder. Thx so much!