Office Hours: I'm senior director of software engineering at Fandango. I've led engineering teams for the past 10+ years.Featured
Hi everyone! I’m Rema Morgan-Aluko, Senior Director of Software Engineering at Fandango, where I have been leading engineering teams since 2010. I currently lead engineering teams for Fandango’s home entertainment platforms, FandangoNOW and VUDU, both are on-demand transactional (no subscription needed) streaming services offering over 100,000 movies & tv shows across over 100 million devices to customers in the United States. In 2020, I was named to the 40 under 40 Rising Stars in Home Entertainment by Media Play News. Over the years, I’ve previously been responsible for commerce systems, streaming delivery, ticketing & point of sale integrations and entertainment metadata.One of my passions is to improve diversity and inclusion in technical fields for women and people of color. I co-founded the TECHWomen chapter within Fandango and currently serve as a Global Advisor for TECHWomen across NBCUniversal. I’m currently focused on bringing more exposure to aspiring female leaders and helping to inspire young women to pursue careers in technology. I often speak at conferences and panels about the power of mentorship as well as helping to organize STEM focused events with young girls. I earned my undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Computer Engineering at the University of Southern California where I served as President of the National Society of Black Engineers and became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. If i’m not building things, you will find me riding my bike on the beach, running outdoors or binging on my favorites TV shows.Ask me anything about technical leadership, engineering, public speaking and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @RemaMorganAluko!Elphas – please ask @RemaMorganAluko your questions before Friday, May 7th. @RemaMorganAluko may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi @RemaMorganAluko! My question is how to effectively lead teams that are building things with technology you are unfamiliar with. I've recently taken on a new role, and I have many engineers on my team who are much more fluent in parts of the tech stack we are using than I am. I know that I cannot be an expert in everything, but I'm trying to find the right balance between learning so I can lead more effectively while still acknowledging that my role isn't to write code anymore, and trusting my team. Any recommendations here? Thank you so much for sharing your time and knowledge with us.
Hi @miriamfriedel! Thanks so much for your question.I think you said a key word here: trust. I remember when I first started managing folks in different discipline than me and I was nervous because I thought I would be good at managing because my expertise was different but the key to doing this well is trust. Leave the fear behind. You were trusted because of the other skills sets you have to lead this team. You are capable and you can learn quickly.Don't be afraid to ask the team to explain when you don't understand. They will respect you more if you don't make assumptions or fake your understanding. They already know you're not an SME, you're not trying to become that but you are trying to learn from them over time. Ask them to explain what the options are when issues come up and what the pros and cons are. Provide them with the business goals and the "why" the task is important and together you and your team can make great decisions. Trust your team's recommendations, this holds true even if you did have the exact expertise. If you choose to go in a different direction than what was recommended, make sure they understand why. As a manager one of your jobs is to amplify what they are doing well and protect them from being overloaded & remove obstacles. It's not necessarily to make all the decisions on your own. In terms of knowing whether or not good decisions are being made, look at the results. Did it meet the business objectives? How was the quality for the consumer or stakeholder? How quickly was the feature delivered? How's the moral of team after. These are all great ways to determine if your team is executing well.As you grow in leadership, there will be more people or teams that have expertise in something different than yours so this is a great opportunity to sharpen these skills.Good luck!
Thank you so much for this response @RemaMorganAluko. Threading through this I see a few things I've already been doing (yay!) and additional things I can do to improve my approach and leadership style (also yay!). I will definitely bookmark and comeback to this.
Hi @RemaMorganAluko! How have you built a strong team culture while working remotely? How have you reinforced team values and strengthened team dynamics when everyone is virtual?
Hi @RemaMorganAluko! Hope you’re doing well!My question is around the relationship between Engineering Teams and Production Support Teams. In my experience, I’ve observed a pattern of there being a constant opportunity for Production Support Teams to be more engaged (more product knowledge, more technical skills, improved communication to customers/stakeholders) and often times this lack of engagement negatively impacts the Engineering Team and their Product Management Partners (engineers are pulled away to PROD issues when they could be developing new features, poor customer experience, time spent re-teaching or re-training on the product/product support processes). My question is 2 parts: 1) How do you (from an Engineering Leadership perspective) approach growing engagement from Production Support Teams so that they feel more invested in the product and in turn will hopefully be more incentivized to provide a better Production Support experience? 2) Do you have any recommendations for how Product Management Partners (not directly on the Engineering Team and does not have a direct relationship with Production Support Team) can help their Engineering Leadership Partners grow that engagement?Appreciate your time and any insights you have! Thank you!
Hi @MistyY Thanks so much for the question!If I'm understanding you right, you'd like Production Support to do a little more of the heavy lifting once features/systems are delivered? This is definitely a tough problem. Engineering & Product teams are focused on the new thing and the Production Support teams are dealing with the large collection of the delivered things and it can be a lot to track.Is there documentation available from the training sessions that occur? Is it readily available? Is it created for all features consistently? Does it contain references to all the core product features? Can we see sample log messages and diagrams highlighting potentially impacted systems or downstream features? Is it clear what the respective response level should be when things go awry? Does Production Support have examples of the communication to stakeholders should be? If any of that is missing, it might be good to add that. If your teams already do that, awesome! Using that documentation, perhaps Engineering Leadership can give Production Support a small role in the delivery of a product feature or system. When there's a feeling of shared ownership, there's generally more engagement. Ask the Production Support teams to do a demo of the product feature before launch or immediately after with relevant systems monitoring graphs, charts and alerts to ensure that they understood the documentation of the feature. I hope that with this we can make sure that the first time the operators are seeing this isn't in the middle of an incident. As a partner to Engineering Leadership, Product Management, can also shift the definition of "DONE" to include full demonstrated understanding of the operations of your new feature from Production Support, not just when the product is delivered to consumers.When issues to arise, Product Managers should be made aware and help with the communication. If there's no communication path with Production Support and Product, maybe try to change that a bit. When we're all aligned on what the feature is, how it works behind the scenes, what systems were introduced, impacted, expected load etc, how critical is the feature to the business, Production Support teams can very successful.
Hi @RemaMorganAluko, thank you for your time!!I recently became an engineering manager and I had a few questions as I transition into this role: 1. What tips or advice do you have for managing up and effectively communicating feedback upward?2. What advice do you have to help improve DEI at one’s company? (I know this is complex but would love some insight)3. Do you have any recommendations for resources (books, conferences, certs, etc) for learning and growing effective management skills?Thank you!
Hi @amydusek! Thanks so much for the question and congratulations on your promotion.I think for me, I needed to learn that "managing up" really understanding what my own manager needed to be successful and trying to help with that. Ask your manager directly what their goals are this year and how you and your team can help with that.In terms of communication, some great things to do are- Current status on the priorities and if there's is anything that needs attention from outside of the team- If there were issues, how did you solve them? If you didn't solve them, bring potential options and ask for feedback- Health of the team, are team members working efficiently or are there challenges? Is there anything your manager can do to help you with that?- Are there things that you notice that should be done, improved or fixed that isn't? Bringing new ideas is always a great help to a manager.- What specifically can your manager do to help you? Seems strange but it's amazing to get direction on what to do and that goes both ways.In terms of books, I think some great ones that helped me wereThe Manager's Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change by Camille Fournier97 Things Every Engineering Manager Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the ExpertsThere are so many great tips in those, it's like leadership bootcamp from an engineering perspective.And lastly, on advice on DEI strategies, it might be hard for me to comment without having more understanding but the amazing thing about this time is that there are so many resources available that experts have written on how to get started. I think it would great to start thinking about how as a new manager, what can you do that's within your control to be an inclusive leader. There are tons of resources just on that topic alone. I will say though that your desire to understand and do more in this area is admirable and you're on your way to becoming a great leader.I wish you all the best in your leadership journey and I hope this was somewhat helpful.
Hi @janinedavis! Good to see you here, looking forward to our next WTPT meeting next week! This group has so valuable in connecting and supporting other women in technology, thank you for all that you do!
Thank you for sharing your expertise, @RemaMorganAluko! We are in a high growth stage and need several engineers/ product talent. What is your rec. to create a strong recruiting strategy?
Hi @jenniferhenderson, That sounds exciting, sounds like your leaders focus will need to be heavily shifted to recruiting.How involved are your current leaders in the recruiting process? How much of their time is spent reviewing resumes, interacting with or interviewing candidates? Whatever it is, if it's less than 20% that percentage should probably be bumped up. Hiring managers and recruiters should constantly discussing to get feedback on candidates and that takes time.Competition is high for talent right now. Engineers today are looking for a company that shares their values and has great people. It should be very clear what impact they can make and how they can grow at your company. If you have opportunities to showcase the current team members in some way, do that. People want to know who they'd be working with and on what. In terms of strategies, these questions helped me a lot when we overhauled the recruiting process.Do they hiring managers have rigid requirements in the candidates they are looking for? Have they been coached on how to look for potential when the candidate doesn't exactly hit all the points on the job description? Is there upfront agreement on the willingness to train? (NOTE: everyone needs some training, even seniors) When sourcing, are we looking for diverse candidates and where? When resumes are reviewed, are the names removed to prevent bias? Sometimes when this isn't planned or discussed, quality candidates can be missed or excluded because of antiquated views on hiring practices. Also acronyms are terrible in job descriptions, they only make sense internally, not to those potentially looking at roles. Years of experience on JDs can be seen as barriers to entry, the skills are more important than the time spent. Are all those items on the JD actually necessary or can someone learn or have a skill that similar? Tech changes way too fast to be fixed on the exact type of technology. Engineers can learn new things.What is the structure for the interview? How many people and from what roles will the candidate get to meet on interview day? It think it's great to have a culture fit component and technical component that's weighed equally. In the culture fit interview, does the team have agreement on the qualities future employees should have and have they been coached on how to ask questions to get that information? Is everyone asked similar questions? How much are the interviewers actually sharing about what they do and why they enjoy working at the company? It's not enough to have the candidates impress the hiring managers and interviewers. The interviews must also impress the candidates. Interviews are a two-way street. Is there a rubric that people can use to score candidates Or is it just a "gut" feeling? Interviews need to have language to discuss to how the candidate did and what their potential is in a way for the recruiter to go back and refine the sourcing strategy. It's a constant feedback loop and patience is key.AnHopefully that helps with getting started! Good luck hunting.
@RemaMorganAluko this is incredible!! There are several immediate actions we can take internally based on your advice. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer this so thoughtfully- truly amazing!