Employee Spotlight: MongoDB Product Manager Talks About His Role And The Company’s Push For Inclusivity
Editor's note: This was originally published on AfroTech's Website . Having a game plan for your career can help you reach monumental milestones and attain goals that not only benefit yourself, but the greater good of the company that you work for. Just ask product manager (PM) at MongoDB, Garaudy Etienne, who has succeeded at the company by using his expertise of processing data to help fuel product growth. Thanks to his engineering and business background, Etienne helps elevate MongoDB products to a higher level of success in the industry’s competitive landscape. The product manager knows the in-and-outs of tech and advocates for inclusivity in the workplace too. Etienne spoke with AfroTech to share an inside look into his unique experience working at MongoDB as a product manager and how he’s using his impact to dismantle offensive database terminology through the master/slave removal project. AfroTech: Tell us about your background and your role as a PM with MongoDB? Etienne: I’ve been a product manager for three years and was previously an aerospace engineer. I grew up in Haiti, Belgium and New Jersey. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Princeton University and my MBA from the University of Chicago. I’m a product manager for the sharding team at MongoDB. Sharding is the process of splitting up a customer’s data over several smaller computers instead of one giant computer. At a certain scale, it is a cost-effective way of storing and processing more data for most companies. Our team is responsible for making sure the data is split in a way that lets websites or apps stay fast as they continue to grow. This means if an app grows to millions of users, they can still read or write information to their database without any issues. AfroTech: What experience(s) prepared you the most for this role? Etienne: My engineering background combined with my MBA have most prepared me for this role. Knowing that I wanted to be a product manager before attending business school helped me focus my learnings and efforts with that singular goal. AfroTech: How were you recruited/promoted/hired into this role? Etienne: Believe it or not, I just went to MongoDB’s website and applied for a “Product Manager, Distributed Systems” posting the company had. I received an email shortly after, asking to set up a phone interview with the recruiter. I’d like to point out that this is not a recommended approach. It’s best to connect with an employee and get some more information about the company and a referral, if possible. AfroTech: What exactly does being a Product Manager mean? Etienne: First, let’s define what a product is: a product is anything you create for other people to use. Being a PM is all about helping the company build a better product. It’s about discovering what to build (and not build) for our customers and when to build it. This means setting a strategy and vision for the product so the engineers see a maximum impact for their efforts. I do this mainly by asking lots of questions, talking to customers, and talking to other teams close to customers, such as customer success managers, technical services engineers, and solutions architects. AfroTech: What inspired you to become a Product Manager? Etienne: I knew that I was interested in business in college. When I finally decided that aerospace was no longer for me, I knew I wanted to still be involved in technology but in a business capacity. I did some research to see what career paths were at the intersection of business and technology. I also spoke to a coworker who was applying to business school at the time to get his thoughts. The more I researched, the more I believed that product management was the right path for me. Photo Credit: Garaudy Etienne, Product Manager, Server at MongoDB kicks off MongoDB's 2019 Black History Month event hosted by TUPOC/Mongodb AfroTech: What’s important to know/do once in the role, and what are the career advancement opportunities for a Product Manager at MongoDB? Etienne: Once in the role, it is important to focus and learn to say no. Requests come from all over the place. It can be customers, sales, marketing, engineers. Not only can you not please everyone, but not every request will lead to a better product. As far as PM career advancement opportunities at MongoDB, there is always plenty when a company is growing, and growing fast. For me, this means soon becoming a Senior PM, then leading a team as a Lead PM. We’ve just hired two Directors of Product on my team, which is the next step after Lead PM. If you don’t want to manage people, there’s always the opportunity to manage much bigger or more important products. AfroTech: How does your role as a Product Manager at MongoDB differ from others? Etienne: One huge difference between being a PM at MongoDB and other places I’ve worked is that I don’t have to spend time managing project timelines. At my previous role, I spent 60 percent of my time managing project timelines. The majority of my time is now focused on discovering/solving customer issues and figuring out how our team’s product fits into the overall company vision and the competitive landscape. In addition, I have been empowered to set the entire strategy for sharding. I recently had a meeting with our Chief Product Officer, where I laid out our plan for the next three to five years. I have never had that kind of autonomy before. It is pretty standard for all other product managers at the company, no matter the level. AfroTech: How do you think your company is making the working environment more inclusive? Etienne: The company has taken several steps to make working there more inclusive. Some of them predate my arrival, such as the parity pledge. The parity pledge promises to interview at least one female candidate for every job opening of director and above. The company is currently undertaking an effort to remove offensive database terminology such as “master/slave” and “whitelist/blacklist” from our code base. Senior leadership has reached out to Black employees to continually get their input and feedback. MongoDB also recently made Juneteenth a company holiday. I personally felt like I mattered a little more when our CEO spoke about the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd before it became just another PR ploy for tech companies. AfroTech: Tell us about your role as an advisor on the master/slave removal project? Etienne: The master/slave removal project started back in January. I have been involved in the discussion from the beginning. I was a staunch advocate for making the changes to older versions of MongoDB when we were debating whether or not to just do it for our latest version onwards. These changes will take close to a year of engineering effort, and it was a good opportunity to challenge the company’s commitment to Black people because this affects our bottom line. I have been in every meeting, from defining the scope of the project, to the design and implementation, and I’ve had to be involved both as a product manager and as a Black employee. AfroTech: Is there anything else you would like to add? Etienne: I wish MongoDB was a more well known company by the layperson. I think a lot of great Black employees in tech are missing out on an awesome company because we’re in the database space and our main users are developers. I’m hoping to do my part to democratize access to information about both MongoDB and product management for Black people in tech. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us! Join MongoDB in supporting organizations fighting for racial justice and equal opportunity. Donate to our fund by December 31, 2020 and MongoDB will match the donation up to a maximum aggregate amount of $250,000. Learn more here .
From Exec. Assistant To Cybersecurity Specialist: Dawn Charles
Editor's note: This was originally published on AfroTech’s website. It’s never too late to reinvent your career or make a pivot into the technology field. Just ask Dawn Charles, Business Support Specialist at MongoDB. Charles worked as a personal trainer for 12 years before she took an executive assistant position that eventually led to a career in cybersecurity. MongoDB is a database platform that provides the back-end infrastructure used by many popular apps, including the online game Fortnite. It’s an attractive option for tech professionals all over the world, including Black tech professionals who are looking to elevate their career. Charles spoke with AfroTech to share her experience working for MongoDB as a Black tech professional, gave advice on individuals looking to make a career switch and provided tips on how to keep your personal cybersecurity measures up-to-date. How Dawn Charles Made a Career Pivot Charles started working for MongoDB five years ago and has been a crucial part of the success of many departments at the company. When she first joined the company, she was a recent cancer survivor and knew she wanted a job that could provide financial security. MongoDB fulfilled both requirements, and although it was her first time joining a larger company compared to previous employers, she was able to become involved with many teams, including the developer relations, solutions architecture, sales, and product marketing functions. As a Business Support Specialist, she now works in the global security department and supports the Chief Information Security Officer. Charles aides with special assignments, manages the security brand and works as a liaison for global teams to guarantee their “personal security is aligned and secure.” “Initially, I started at MongoDB as an EA [executive assistant] to two sales leaders,” says Charles. “Everything revolved around making quotas and performance of the sales teams. I would volunteer to get involved with other team projects, one being our sales bootcamp, which was a very small program then.” “I offered to help in things that interested me, not necessarily looking for a change, but just to explore new things and make my day to day more interesting” Charles adds. “It adds to your workload, but gives you insight to what other roles might entail, and also proves that you are up for the task before even making a change.” Over the last five years, Charles’ exposure to new areas of the company contributed to her versatility, and she still has large goals she’d like to see come to fruition. Charles suggests that those who are looking to switch roles should shadow someone in the role they’re pursuing, and get as much insight as possible. “In all of my career I have always been very social, building great relationships with people I have worked alongside on different projects.” Charles adds. “Having this has enabled me to have access to amazing people who are always willing to provide advice and support.” Which has led to having many champions on her side who believe in her. When it comes to working for MongoDB as Black woman in particular, Charles describes it as being “great and interesting.” As a UK native, she says it’s been amazing because she has the opportunity to work with a diverse group of people, not just from the U.S, but from all over the world. Her experience helps her realize that she is her own biggest advocate, which means she learns to not only speak up for herself, but to also speak up if she comes across something that is not “fair or just.” The Importance of Online Safety Since MongoDB is a database company, cybersecurity plays a huge role in guaranteeing that their customers and the company are protected. Charles believes that online safety is just as important as everyday security measures, such as locking your doors and cars, which is standard. “Our whole lives and all of our personal information are online, but security is an afterthought for many,” says Charles. Below are a few key steps Charles believes are necessary to keep yourself safe online. Secure your home's WiFi connection Make sure your phone and computer OS are up-to-date along with specific apps. Enable an auto update feature so that you don't have to remember. Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) and password managers. Use MFA to mitigate risk of password loss. Create passphrases instead of passwords e.g. DawnLikesSmoothies9492! Make sure nothing personal that people can search about you like your animal name or the year you were born. Use a password manager Avoid password reuse since hackers use breached credentials (e.g, credential stuffing). Sign up for 1Password for your one stop site to store all of your passwords. Email is the most important asset to secure Email provides access to all your accounts via password resets. Protect your email! Once again use MFA and a secure pin on your phone. Use biometrics if available. Considering her effort and dedication to ensure safety for all based on these tips, Charles said that she is “proud and incredibly lucky to work at MongoDB.” “Our work environment and culture is amazing and we are encouraged to actually have fun in what we do,” Charles says. “I truly enjoy the people I work with and have made some amazing connections that will last a lifetime. MongoDB continues to grow, and we are always welcoming new people to the team.” One of the MongoDB core values is to “Think Big, Go Far.” If this is a motto you can see yourself working by, explore current job opportunities on their career page . Join MongoDB in supporting organizations fighting for racial justice and equal opportunity. Donate to our fund by December 31, 2020 and MongoDB will match the donation up to a maximum aggregate amount of $250,000. Learn more here .
How Growth and Leadership Foster Change In The Tech Space
Editor's note: This was originally published on AfroTech’s website . Are you on the hunt for your next role in the tech space? We know firsthand just how difficult it can be to find a company that is truly committed to investing in Black talent, so we’re highlighting a few of our top picks that are currently hiring. First up is MongoDB — with over 2,200 employees, this New York-based tech company provides database software that powers companies like Epic Games (best known for its popular game Fortnite), Shine Text, Coinbase, 7-Eleven, and more. MongoDB prides itself in cultivating an environment for employees to share their ideas about diversity and inclusion in the workplace without judgment. The general purpose database platform focuses on elevating productivity and scalability for both its clients and employees, which sets up a space for everyone to shine. The company offers opportunities for Black tech professionals to thrive as it values different thoughts and perspectives and those who approach tech solutions in a unique way. No matter their gender, race, age or sexual orientation, employees are valued and respected by MongoDB’s leadership. Its open environment encourages employees to perform at their best and elevates the success of the company. Let’s explore one employee’s experience and his unique role at the company. Tosin Ajayi leads MongoDB’s global corporate Solutions Architect team. He is a prime example of how a Black tech leader creates and influences an inclusive company culture for all employees. Ajayi uses his position to promote growth, leadership and foster change. For example, he’s currently building an Associate Solutions Architects team . The team is suited for junior or early-career professionals and provides them a great start to a highly coveted technical presales career. “The presales role is unique as it combines the technical prowess of an engineer, the vision of a product manager, the sales acumen of a sales rep and the design and troubleshooting skills of a consultant,” Ajayi said. “In essence, it bridges several functions within an organization to bring solutions to our customers and revenue to MongoDB,” all while furthering MongoDB’s goal of inclusion as a top priority. While Ajayi believes that practicing inclusion is everyone’s responsibility, he asserts that MongoDB’s tone about inclusiveness is set at the executive level, which helps such a culture thrive. Here are concrete initiatives that MongoDB has implemented to support diversity in the workplace: The company holds all-hands meetings where the executive team takes open questions. For a company this size, it’s quite impressive considering the diversity of thoughts and opinions in a large employee base. And yes, the questions often reflect that diversity in thoughts and opinions. MongoDB signed the ParityPledge to ensure that at least one qualified woman candidate is interviewed for all VP and higher positions. There is a company-wide Decoding Inclusion series that addresses a variety of topics like race, the LGBTQ+ community, and mental health. MongoDB is really big on feedback. Surveys are consistently run in order to seek to understand employees’ visceral feelings towards their work, their team, team makeup, leaders, workplace, and work conditions. MongoDB has a dedicated D&I team. In fact, this interview is happening as a result of the great work Cindy Class and Danielle James are doing. Companies across the country are tackling current events such as the disproportionate rate of COVID-19 affecting Black people and the violence at the hands of police. These events require open dialogue for employees to express their thoughts and feelings and MongoDB has done just that. Ajayi agrees that it’s important to have these conversations in order to “disambiguate the stance on human decency issues and promote inclusiveness”. “Employees aren’t a monolith,” Ajayi said. “Yes, we’re a collection of driven and talented professionals — but well above that, we’re human beings. Employees want to feel heard, they want to know that their feelings and opinions matter, they want a company whose philosophy they can align with. Talking about current events is a display of awareness, it shows a sense of connectedness to the outside events that can and often affect employees. More importantly, it shows empathy and support for employees.” These candid conversations help Ajayi as a leader, allowing him to “address the historically taboo topic of race and racial injustice.” When topics such as these are addressed it impacts the success of the company positively and creates a “psychologically safe environment” at work. “Another point here is that employees are only as good as they feel,” Ajayi said. “I find that people give more of themselves when they’re in a space where they feel psychologically safe.” MongoDB continues to promote their mission of inclusivity and diversity through various initiatives like scholarships to their MongoDB World conference, an Intern Mentorship program, affinity groups like The Underrepresented People of Color Network (TUPOC), Queeries, MDBWomen, Underrepresented Genders in Tech, Veterans, and the Green Team, and the company’s Decoding Inclusion series that was launched last year by the Diversity and Inclusion team. “The [Decoding Inclusion Series] is an opportunity to educate and sometimes challenge preconceived ideas about D&I,” Ajayi said. “[These sessions] are sponsored by MongoDB executives. We feature employees and bring guest speakers to talk about a variety of topics including race, gender, mental health issues, and other topics that pertain to D&I.” Ajayi revealed that he found sessions like the most recent Decoding Inclusion conversation on race very informative, resulting in his own self-evaluation about his understanding of community and societal differences. He is proud to see these types of programs not only deconstruct the taboo topic of racism in the workplace, but make changes as a result of it. “I encourage all organizations to embrace the humanity of their employees, not just the workers in them, and promote an environment where people can talk, like my company has done for us,” Ajayi added. MongoDB is dedicated to creating opportunities to impact change, not only at the company but throughout the community. Are you a tech-minded dreamer, who is passionate about innovation? Grow your career at MongoDB, view open roles here and make sure to indicate that you learned about the role through AfroTech when applying. Join MongoDB in supporting organizations fighting for racial justice and equal opportunity. Donate to our fund by December 31, 2020 and MongoDB will match the donation up to a maximum aggregate amount of $250,000. Learn more here.