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Ramya – Taking care of people is the most important

[email protected]

About Ramya

My name is Ramya and I work as an Engineering Manager at Backbase  Department Product. I am originally from the South of India. I started my career as a .NET developer in India, lived in Thailand for a couple of years and in 2006,  my husband and I moved to the Netherlands. 15 years and 2 kids later, Amsterdam is home!

 For many years I worked in a parking company as a Backend Developer. The company started to scale and the Software Development Manager role opened up. . I’ve always been passionate about working with people and building a diverse culture, so I applied for the role I was the only non-Dutch employee in that company and even though they were really inclusive I realized that within tech you need to have multicultural thinking. I saw so many challenges that I could solve! I thought I was a superwoman, but I soon realized that it is not that easy. So now I have a lot of empathy for people in Leadership roles. 

From a personal point of view, it was a huge learning process, I became a mom and I realized that I wanted to keep growing in my professional life so learning how to balance family and work was a challenge nonetheless. 

What do you do as an Engineering Manager in our Product Department?

I focus on three things.

People, process and practice. Depends on the value streams and the needs - you focus more on one. But you should always focus more on the people, without them you can't do the other two. 

In general, we do look at a lot in engineering practices, are we aligning with the industry? How can we improve? 

On the process side, we work a lot around delivery, so we have the Product Manager who works on Strategy, the Product Owners who bring that to reality and you have Engineers that create amazing products.  As an Engineering Manager, you need to get the product out with good quality and that is where we are responsible. It is a continuous learning process, there are always things to improve.

And of course, the most important one, taking care of the people, so  I try to not skip 1-1. This 1-1 is essential to help them to grow and to make sure they have what they need, also to let them know that they can count on you whenever they have a problem. This is really important and one of the keys to retaining our employees. You need to be able to see the challenges they are facing in the organization early enough and be proactive to help them. So the faster you realize what challenges they are facing, the likelihood of them staying in the company also increases.

How do you connect with your team?

It's not always easy, since I am working with different cultures and that can be a challenge. So it is important to be aware of the characteristics of each culture; information, support, empowerment. I haven't mastered it at all. But I try to reset myself every time I go to the 1-1 and I try to be what the other person needs.

I would say that first I try to get to know my people, so more personally, I try to connect with them on different levels, I build trust, so they start giving feedback. I think it is really important when they challenge me, I don't want them to do what I say, they are the experts and they are working every day so they know better. It has to be two-way communication.

What do you enjoy the most about your day?

One of the things I love about Backbase is the combination between technology and people. In Backbase you are empowered to do the role the way you want. If I look at other Engineering Managers, we perform the role in completely different ways. Some are more process-oriented, others are more practice-oriented and of course some of them are more people-oriented. In this line, we learn so much from each other. I feel I have a team of Engineering Managers that I can work and collaborate with; I can share the challenges that I face and learn from them.

Which challenges do you think you will face in your role?

I work for our Customer Engagement Value Stream, so right now, we are at the start-up phase, building our MVP and starting to get launching customers. Soon we will begin to scale up and define how to do it and how to do it properly. 

5 years ago, when I first applied for the Software Development Manager  role, the definition of the role was quite gray, so I started to do some research and I read in an article that said that one of the roles of the Software Developer Manager is to make yourself redundant. You scale the organization well enough that everyone in the organization is so independent and autonomous. So that is my main goal, and I am not sure how to do it, but I would think it starts by empowering teams, learning from our failures, and having a growth mindset. 

Why should women join the tech industry?

The tech industry has changed. In the early days, computers were considered a woman's job, over time it evolved and had more men join the industry. Now, I think this trend is changing again and you see more women in the tech space. If we want to build great products for our diverse customers, we should have teams that reflect this diversity.   In India, it is quite common for girls to go to university to study technology.. 

We need to make sure we show future generations what technology can do, now that technology is available for a lot of people...we need to make them curious.

Backbase is a fantastic place to work, it’s diverse and inclusive. In my team, there are 5 women and only 2 men. Do not get scared by the Job Description and don't hold yourself back. Not everyone is ready for a role but we learn on the way. We are able to adapt to different circumstances so just try it out and see what happens. All you need is a “can-do” attitude.

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