The Rise of the Strategic Developer

The work of developers is sometimes seen as tactical in nature. In other words, developers are not often asked to produce strategy. Rather, they are expected to execute against strategy, manifesting digital experiences that are defined by the “business.” But that is changing. With the automation of many time-consuming tasks -- from database administration to coding itself -- developers are now able to spend more time on higher value work, like understanding market needs or identifying strategic problems to solve. And just as the value of their work increases, so too does the value of their opinions. As a result, many developers are evolving, from coders with their heads-down in the corporate trenches to highly strategic visionaries of the digital experiences that define brands. “I think the very definition of ‘developer’ is expanding,” says Stephen “Stennie” Steneker, an engineering manager on the Developer Relations team at MongoDB. “It’s not just programmers anymore. It’s anyone who builds something.” Stennie notes that the learning curve needed to build something is flattening. Fast. He points to an emerging category of low code tools like Zapier, which allows people to stitch web apps together without having to write scripts or set up APIs. “People with no formal software engineering experience can build complex automated workflows to solve business problems. That’s a strategic developer.” Many other traditional developer tasks are being automated as well. At MongoDB, for example, we pride ourselves on removing the most time-consuming, low-value work of database administration. And of course, services like GitHub Copilot are automating the act of coding itself. So what does this all mean for developers? A few things: First, move to higher ground. In describing one of the potential outcomes of GitHub Copilot, Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott said, ““It may very well be one of those things that makes programming itself more approachable.” When the barriers to entry for a particular line of work start falling, standing still is not an option. It’s time to up your strategic game by offering insight and suggestions on new digital experiences that advance the objectives of the business. Second, accept more responsibility. A strategic developer is someone who can conceive, articulate, and execute an idea. That also means you are accountable for the success or failure of that idea. And as Stennie reminded me, “There are more ways than ever before to measure the success of a developer’s work.” And third, never stop skilling. Developers with narrow or limited skill sets will never add strategic value, and they will always be vulnerable to replacement. Like software itself, developers need to constantly evolve and improve, expanding both hard and soft skills. How do you see the role of the developer evolving? Any advice for those that aspire to more strategic roles within their organizations? Reach out and let me know what you think at @MarkLovesTech .

Intern Series: From MongoDB User to Return Intern - Meet Andy Mina

Andy Mina is a rising senior at the City University of New York. Last summer, Andy interned with us during the COVID-19 pandemic and impressed us enough to receive a return intern offer. He is currently working on the Node.js Driver Team, where he’s partnering with a fellow intern to revamp the program’s error system. Despite working remotely, Andy has made the most of his experience at MongoDB by engaging in meaningful work and forging lasting connections with his teammates. In this interview, you will hear about everything Andy has taken away from his two summers at MongoDB. Natalie Cwalk: Hey, Andy! I know you've been programming for a long time. Is that how you first learned about MongoDB? Andy Mina: I started programming in high school. I would make websites for school programs, local businesses, and every idea that popped into my head. The size of my projects began to grow, and the need for a database became very clear. MongoDB Atlas was unveiled around that time, and I gave it a shot. Since then, MongoDB has become my best friend for any programming adventure I embark on. While searching for summer internships my sophomore year of college, I wondered if MongoDB had any open positions — and, to my delight, it did. I was excited to give back to the community and product that had helped me so much already. NC: That's awesome! Why did you decide to intern with us? AM: As a programmer who has used MongoDB in my personal projects, I was stoked at the opportunity to contribute to the community. I enjoyed using MongoDB for projects, and I knew I’d enjoy working at MongoDB too. When I interviewed on-site for the final round, the future was clear: I wanted to intern here. I fell in love with the consistently welcoming people, the impact interns can make with their projects, and the company values because they mirrored my own. The office atmosphere and MongoDB’s work-life balance were also really appealing. I interned at MongoDB last summer and fell even more in love with the company, so I knew I had to return this summer. What's your favorite thing you've done at MongoDB? AM: I’m currently working on revamping the error system in the Node.js Driver. Previously, the driver threw only one general-purpose error with a message detailing where things went wrong. Warren, a fellow intern on the team, and I were tasked with coming up with a better error system for the entire driver. I really appreciate the independence the project has given us because the decisions we’re making contribute to the future of the driver. We’ve introduced new errors and we’re still refining everything so developers who use the driver can quickly identify and resolve issues in their code. NC: Wow! I'm so glad to hear you've felt empowered to do such meaningful work. Can you tell me a bit more about your team? AM: I’m interning on the Node.js Driver team, and I love it. The Node.js Driver is the official interface for JavaScript developers to take advantage of MongoDB. I used the Node.js Driver pretty regularly before joining MongoDB, so it’s a full-circle experience to come work on the product I’ve used. My current mentor, Neal, is amazing. He’s the best thing since sliced bread, and he’s one of the best mentors I’ve ever had. Plus, the team is super friendly and extremely passionate about the work they do, so it's a win-win. NC: What is the culture like at MongoDB? AM: In three words: exciting, inspiring, and, most importantly, really fun. It's so good to hear you've had a positive experience here. To close, what is your favorite part about interning at MongoDB? AM: MongoDB really cares about its interns. I’ve never felt like I was doing “intern work” or like I was a fly on the wall during team meetings. One of MongoDB’s core values is, “Make it matter,” and that definitely shines throughout the intern program. My favorite part about working at MongoDB is that interns are just as valued as full-time employees. I’ve been given impactful work that can make change. MongoDB’s summer intern events are also the best! I’ve made some good friends through intern events such as a virtual escape room, arts and crafts, and even a chocolate-making class. Besides the events, the speaker series MongoDB holds throughout the summer is super insightful. Everyone who has spoken so far has shared great career and even life advice. It’s also especially cool to hear that many full-time employees were previously interns! P.S. We are excited to announce we’ll be hosting two virtual summits for students this summer: our inaugural Make It Matter Summit (Wednesday, August 25 — RSVP here ) and our fourth annual Women in Computer Science “WiCS” Summit (Wednesday, September 1 — RSVP here ). Each event will include technical presentations, professional development, and networking opportunities for first- and second-year undergraduates. Hope to see you there!

Insight into the World of a Top-Level Executive

The MDBWomen’s Group recently hosted a company-wide event with guest speaker, Maya Leibman , Executive Vice President and CIO of American Airlines . Maya covered a wide-range of topics, including her 27-year career at American Airlines, her successes and learnings along the way, and what it means to be the “air traffic controller” of American Airlines’ technological transformation. Maya Leibman, Executive Vice President and CIO of American Airlines Here are just a few of the highlights from the insightful event with Maya: Question: Being at the technology helm of the world’s largest airline is quite an awe inspiring position. What does your role entail? Answer: I have been with American Airlines for 27 years and have done a lot of different roles both inside and outside technology. I have done this job for the last eight or nine years and I have responsibility for all things technology. Everything from development to infrastructure, cyber, data and next generation tools and practices. Q: You have been described as the air traffic controller of American’s technological transformation. What do you think they meant? A: An air traffic controller is responsible for ensuring that everything goes smoothly at the airport which is a really complex place. My team and I have responsibility for ensuring that as we modernize the way we deliver technology that we do it in a safe and secure way and a way that recognizes the risks and seeks to minimize them. We are taking something really complex and making it as smooth as possible. Q: How has COVID impacted your approach to technology innovation? A: It has been impactful in so many different ways. The biggest is in the ways that we are working. Who knew that in the space of a couple of days we would all have to go home and find ways to connect, work and be productive? We would never have thought that it would be as easily done as it was. At American, we say that everyone has a responsibility for innovation. Q: How do you empower different teams and measure how innovative they are? A: What is hard with a big company is that people like consistency, standards, and predictability so processes get built around things and it’s like a fence that prevents innovation. We can’t hire people and put them in a tiny pen because they’ll never achieve what we hired them for. As leaders, we need to have the judgement to understand that while we need standards and consistency, we can’t have it at the expense of people thinking their best thoughts, spreading their wings, and producing new, innovative approaches not just to what we are doing but how we are doing it. (Top left to bottom right: Alexandra Hills , Lacy Ceder , Stephanie Samuels , Maya Leibman ) Q: How has your leadership style evolved over time? A: Every positive attribute you can think of can be used to describe leadership. Personally, for me, it plays on both what your strengths and weaknesses are. One of my strengths is communication. I believe that part of my success as a leader has been the ability to communicate, stand up in front of a group, make compelling arguments and be somebody who can speak confidently with authority and knowledge. One of my weaknesses is listening. I’m not good at it; I interrupt people and am impatient. Honing my leadership skills means trying to get better at the things I’m not good at. Q: You have talked about the JetStream Program quite openly. Why is that and what did you learn from it? A: Jetstream was a disaster. It was a project that my group worked on for two years to develop this system that would re-write our reservation system. During that time, not one line of code was written and that’s how bad it was. We’ve all had experiences in our careers that we are not proud of and I think we should be open about them because it makes us more real and relatable. That’s life. Q: How do you lead your team through those moments of disaster? A: A lot of that has to do with developing an experimental mindset. Technology transformation is all about being willing to experiment and to learn and if it doesn't work, to pivot and do something different. That’s what Agile delivery transformation is all about. When you’re building technology you are doing something that nobody has ever done before so why do you think you are going to get it perfect the first time? Q: You didn’t start at CIO. How did your other roles at American shape you? A: I had ten or 15 jobs in the 27 years and each one has taught me different things. You just extract whatever you can from whatever role you are doing. The one thing I learned is that nothing is linear. We all got to where we are through twists and turns so you have to take your hands off the wheel a little bit and recognize that things are going to come along that you might not have expected. Don’t get too stressed about how your career is going. Everything really works out in the end. Q: Do you have any advice on how women can overcome difficult conversations and negotiations on things like salaries? A: Certain things are endemic to gender and I think it’s important to remember that the men you work with are not hesitating to go to their boss and say they want a review or more money. A lot of women think their work will speak for itself and that they don’t have to put themselves out there but you do have to have those difficult conversations and you do have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable about them. Find a friend and rehearse them before time or have somebody role play with you. We, as women, need to get to a place where we feel confident having those discussions. Q: What has been the biggest challenge in your career and how did you overcome it? A: The merger between American and US Airways was really hard. Hard from a work perspective and also from a people perspective. We were trying to bring two cultures together and two different philosophies around technology. It was a difficult time in a lot of ways. One of the things I insisted on was that we assume positive intention. You have to go into this assuming that everyone is doing the best possible thing. It’s so easy to vilify other people. Q: How do you envision the transition back after COVID? A: People are diametrically opposed on how they think about risk. It’s important when we return to the office to be empathetic with everyone’s re-entry into this process. For me, it’s not about whether we’re going to work from home, it’s about when we are going to work from home. Thank you, Maya for a phenomenal event and for sharing your expertise with the MongoDB community. You are an amazing role model in technology and we appreciate you sharing your insights with us!

Meet MongoDB's Global Talent Sourcing Team

As MongoDB’s India-based team grows, we’re looking to add new members to our Global Sourcing team in the Gurugram office. Hear from Gagan Singh , Senior Manager of Talent Sourcing, along with some Sourcing team members to learn more about the day-to-day of a Talent Sourcer and how MongoDB provides access to leadership, fosters inclusion, and enables career growth. About the Sourcing Team Our team of Global Talent Sourcers partner with our recruiters to identify and hire top talent for MongoDB. We are divided into specialized sourcing teams by business units (Sales, Engineering, Customer Engineering, Corporate, and Marketing), and our team works to support the hiring needs in Australia/New Zealand, Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America. The Recruiting team partners with the Sourcing team to pipeline for open positions, as well as organizing ad hoc projects such as talent pool insights to understand availability of talent, location analysis to understand favourable locations to hire, and org chart creation of target companies for our open positions. As Talent Sourcers, our job is to help find the best talent within a competitive market. Our day begins with doing extensive secondary research for talent on sites like Linkedin, Google, Github, Seekout, and in our internal database. We then identify which candidates qualify for a role based on the skills required for the open position. Quality candidate profiles are uploaded to our CRM (candidate relationship management tool) and ATS (applicant tracking system) for further review and outreach. Along with sourcing talent, our group of Talent Sourcers who support open positions in APAC engage with candidates over the phone, email, and InMail to prequalify them for recruiters. The team also contributes by examining the market and target company trends and developing useful insights based on their research for different locations. This helps us be strategic talent advisors to our recruiters and hiring managers. The success measures for a Talent Sourcer are divided into leading and lagging indicators. Number of prospects, candidates sourced, and candidate quality are the leading indicators. Number of candidates sourced by the Talent Sourcer who received an offer or were hired is a lagging indicator. Hear from some of our team members Ruchi Puri, Global Corporate & Marketing Sourcer “Being a global Sourcer is pretty exciting. Although we each support our given business unit and region, we still get to work and strategize with other recruiters and sourcers. There is an open culture which allows us to reach out to our stakeholders and leaders for absolutely anything. Being part of the Global Corporate & Marketing Sourcing team gives me the ability to work with recruiters from various countries and cultures. The best thing is that our recruiters and leaders have trust and confidence in us and are always available to provide any kind of support we need." Vivek Negi, Global Customer Engineering Sourcer “Working at MongoDB has been a joy so far, and I have gained tremendous knowledge about the database market and software industry. I also had the opportunity to visit our New York City headquarters for a People Team offsite, and it gave me the opportunity to meet our senior leadership team and have one-on-one conversations with my stakeholders. I am privileged to work with really smart people.” Tanu Saxena, Tech Sourcer - NA “I’ve been working at MongoDB for three years, and what a journey it has been. I can’t be more thankful to work with such a talented and amazing bunch of people willing to help each other do great work with a positive mindset. I have worked in a similar structure at my previous companies but the people here at MongoDB are truly amazing. I have never felt like one team with global stakeholders in my previous jobs but here it is an entirely different level with amazing partnership.” Kuldeep Pandey, Sourcer- APAC “I joined MongoDB in August 2018 from an agency background where I was responsible for managing a team. Being a part of MongoDB has been a great journey. I have worked under different lines of business including North America Sales, Global Customer Engineering, and now India/APAC Sourcing. I was promoted in August 2020 from Talent Sourcer to Senior Talent Sourcer and can certainly see a clear path of growth and learning for myself in the coming years.” Yumna Alvi, Sr. Sales Sourcer- EMEA “I am very proud to work at a company that embraces diversity and accepts people from all cultures. I remember when I started wearing my headscarf (hijab), a lot of my friends and relatives warned me that it could affect my long-term career goals. After receiving my MBA, I began interviewing to start my career, and many companies questioned me about my attire. These questions were very demotivating and my response was always, ‘I cover my head, not my brain.’ MongoDB never questioned me about anything. Instead, they always supported and appreciated me by simply letting me be myself. In the last two years, MongoDB has provided me with the best opportunities of my life: international exposure, managing stakeholders, mentoring new hires, and interviewing candidates. MongoDB practices its core values every day, especially Embrace the Power of Differences.” Tanya Agarwal, Sr. Sales Sourcer- NA “MongoDB has been a life-changing journey for me. I received two promotions within two years of me joining the company and each level has helped me build on my knowledge. I feel special when I get to know how I am contributing to the growth of MongoDB. Over the past couple of years, I have benefited from the international exposure I have had while partnering with my recruiting counterparts in North America. I have the liberty to make mistakes and I always have the support of my leaders to focus on improvements.” How to succeed on the team We look for individuals with strong research skills, knowledge of LinkedIn Recruiter, and a drive to go above and beyond to find great candidates, especially for niche roles and geographies. If you are applying to be a tech sourcer, you need strong conceptual technical knowledge of topics such as MongoDB fundamentals, products, and competitors; databases; software development lifecycle (SDLC); web services and microservices; DevOps, DataOps, and TechOps; and distributed systems. Experience in sourcing from unconventional tools such as Github is highly desirable. Our interview process involves a live sourcing test followed by interviews with the hiring manager, department head, and stakeholders. For sourcing tests, we ask candidates to read a job description, prepare a boolean based on their understanding of the job requirements, and then run a search. Candidates are assessed on their approach and engagement with the interviewer throughout the conversation, more than the number and quality of search results. The rest of the interview rounds focus on culture fit, relationship building skills, communication, and articulation. Overall, if you have attention to detail, great communication skills (sharing your observations and asking right questions), are research-oriented, and can be creative with boolean strings, we would love to network with you. Interested in pursuing a career on the Talent Sourcing team at MongoDB? We have several open roles and would love for you to transform your career with us!