Building products. Building People. Phil, Software Development Manager
I started slinging code back in high school and found I had a knack for it, which allowed me to finish my assignments early. Instead of playing browser-based games (RIP Flash), I used my extra time to walk around the room and help others with their own work. That experience - seeing the light in someone's eyes when they finally grasp a particular coding concept or design pattern, or figure out a tricky bug - was deeply rewarding. I continued to mentor and tutor future engineers in college, and I emerged eager to build software, both directly and by guiding others.
What attracted you to Qualtrics in the first place?
I was in a mythical quest for the Goldilocks mid-sized company: not too large/political, and not too small/chaotic. After four years at Microsoft and four years at a startup, I was looking for a company that would have the relative strengths of both, with little of their weaknesses. I wasn't looking for a place where I would be re-orged twice a year or a place whose business model was under existential threat (one which engineering can't code their way out of). The fact that Qualtrics was based in the same building as my then-employer made the decision to pop upstairs and interview an easy one, as well. After observing Qualtrics’s continued business growth, our investments in attracting and retaining excellent engineering talent, and our collegial culture that emphasizes learning rather than punishment, two years later I feel like I made the right choice.
What does your day look like?
I have many strengths, but waking up early is not one of them. Barring early-morning meetings with folks on the East Coast or Krakow/India, I usually start my day by leisurely reviewing email and Slack, the latter of which usually consists of thought-provoking questions around our product's capabilities or something from my dev team. As a manager, I have a meeting-rich lifestyle, with anywhere from two to seven 1:1s a day, in addition to a potpourri of project syncs, planning meetings, customer escalations, and so on.
A lot of my contributions are less obvious than when I was an engineer: helping someone prepare for an upcoming promotion, ensuring that a project is de-scoped and achievable in a realistic timeframe, keeping the team's operational posture strong and our services available and scalable....all of these (typically) require me to meet with folks to get the information I need and to socialize my ideas with the team. I do try to make time for me to do the odd code review, investigate a customer-reported bug, or even (rarely) write some code, but those are aggressively deprioritized in favor of my team's immediate needs.
What is your favorite part of your role?
I absolutely love mentoring and coaching interns and college grads: seeing the world from a fresh perspective always helps me re-capture some of that excitement I first felt ~10 years ago. Building that trust and relationship over those first few months is immensely rewarding, and I enjoy being able to (still) answer technical questions, too. I especially enjoy when new hires question why something is the way it is, as often it forces me to rethink a particular process or architecture, or at the very least think more deeply about the status quo.
What's a favorite moment/memory of your time at Qualtrics so far? Or an impactful moment?
Barely a month after I joined I was whisked away to a dev manager all-hands in Provo. I hardly knew anyone in my immediate org, let alone folks from Utah, and initially, I was a bit overwhelmed. After the first day, though, I began to develop an understanding of the breadth of engineering at Qualtrics, with teams supporting a wide range of products ranging from ML-based analytics to highly customizable reporting platforms. The structure of each day - consisting of self-organizing groups of people interested in a specific topic - reflected the best aspect of Qualtrics decentralized culture: individual empowerment.
|Phil is an alumnus of the University of Florida and started his career at Microsoft. When he’s not backpacking, he’s brewing hard cider and making soap (though he has never made soap from cider).|
September 1, 2021