WWCode Podcast #14 — Monica Blaylock, Engineering Manager at DoorDash
Written by WWCode HQ
In this edition of the Women Who Code Podcast Alaina Percival, CEO of WWCode, interviews Monica Blaylock, Engineering Manager at DoorDash. They discuss her professional journey, her experiences in the industry, and what it takes to be a good leader.
So you have a pretty exciting background. Can you just tell us a little bit about your professional journey?
I have been in the industry for over 20 years. I started as an engineer. I really love doing front-end work. Maybe seven or eight years ago, I decided to take the leap and go into management. Now I’m at DoorDash as an engineering manager.
I grew up in Portugal. After finishing college I felt like I needed to know more. The Portuguese Government had a program that would guarantee work in your area of study. You didn’t know where in the world you would end up. I was lucky enough to end up in San Francisco for a one-year internship at Wired Digital. If you know Wired Magazine, it was their search engine, HotBot. It was an amazing experience. I was offered a position there. I lived in the Netherlands while I was waiting for my visa. I settled down in San Francisco with my now husband and three kids. Now I am making the move to Berlin. So very, very exciting.
As a leader, I’d love for you to reflect, especially from that time when you were an individual contributor, on how you ended up where you are. What were your thought processes in carving out that path for yourself?
For the longest time, I have to be very honest with you, I resisted the move from IC into management. I was very concerned about not being close enough to the code and losing my technical skills. My first opportunity as a manager was at One Kings Lane. I managed a small group of three, almost like a tech lead role where I was still an IC. I really enjoy the collaboration, understanding what people wanted to do with their careers and how I could enable that. I then went to Square as an individual contributor and had the opportunity to lead a team. I do think it really helped to have a very, very supportive company. Square had quite a few programs that could really help women in engineering.
Square and DoorDash have been true examples of companies that invest in under-represented talent. They have programs that empower you and role models. I’m a rock climber, and people sometimes say in order for you to see if you can do the move, you just have to visualize it. I think it’s the same thing in your career. If you see women in management, that empowers you. DoorDash also has a lot of programs. I took advantage of one of them with the Wolf program. It is a six-month program for people that have, I believe, five-plus years of experience that want to understand management, how to manage their career, networking, and presentations.
I’d love for you to speak to some of the things that you do to support your team in this time of very serious global challenge with the Coronavirus and many other things happening.
I’m very fortunate with the team that I have. Some of us had worked together for quite a bit of time. We built a good culture that was very welcoming to new people. I have to be honest with you, I cannot imagine what it’s like starting a job where you don’t know anybody and you’ve never seen the office.
A few things that I feel like brought the team together is that during stand-up, we have what is called the question of the day. It’s such a fun way to get to know your co-workers and bond. Once a month we play a game. It’s important to know what the team is into and this team really liked board games, so we found a way of having some more relaxed time. One thing that I’ve really loved that DoorDash does is a dashversary. Every time you have a one-year anniversary, you celebrate and send an email. During Covid, it was even more important because it was a nice way for you to get to know some of your co-workers. It’s really like taking a moment to learn about and celebrate others.
Can you speak to diversity, equity and inclusion, and really what that means to you?
As a person that has been in different countries in the world, I really believe that you can give a lot and receive a lot just from working and interacting with people from different backgrounds and different ways of living. I’ve done mostly product engineering all my career. I’m not building a product for one type of people, our audience is very diverse too. Having different perspectives is fundamental. Not only as a person, but, even as a business, it makes total sense.
I would love for you to speak about being a powerful and successful career mom, how that’s helped you, how that’s challenged you, anything you would like to share.
My kids are all teenagers now, so I’m in a very different phase from other people that I work with. I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it was hard. What I’ve learned, in partnership with my husband, was finding the jobs that supported me in the different phases of being a mother. You have to have the right setting to succeed as a mother and as an engineer. It’s very important to be aligned so that you are happy in both roles, both are very important. We spend a lot of time at work so we wanna feel accomplished but it’s also important to come home and feel happy and be a happy parent too.
What do you think are some of the most important ways companies can be supporting moms?
Flexibility, in terms of schedule, was fundamental when my kids were small. At 5 PM, I had to pick them up from daycare, there was just no option. That was critical for me. As a new mom, it’s a big transition coming back to the office. There are all sorts of feelings, you wanna be close to your child but you wanna continue your career, so have places where you can breastfeed. Basic things. Those are super important. I see companies investing now and it really, really makes me happy because I was not as fortunate.
What are some suggestions that you have for people who are in their technical careers right now, to be thinking about the next steps and how to activate that, how to tell companies that they want to rise?
Own your career. Really find your superpowers. Actually, this is something that Tony, our CEO once said, and I never thought about. I was so focused on what I wasn’t doing well that I had to improve. No. Find your superpowers and double down on that. Optimize for success.
We talk about superpowers at Women Who Code as well. Would you be willing to share some of your superpowers?
I’ll go back to the DoorDash values. The one that resonates the most with me is being optimistic and having a plan. I am an optimistic person at work and I have good energy. Also, I’m always ready with a back-up plan just in case things are not working out.
If you could share just a quick pro-tip with 300,000 diverse women in technology that could help them in their careers, what would it be?
The power of delegation. Especially when you come from an IC role, you are a doer. To become a really good manager, you have to learn to delegate and empower your team. It’s scary in the beginning but it’s super powerful once you do it. You get rewarded when you see your team succeeding.
I’m a DoorDash user, so I’m very familiar with it, but maybe not everyone is. Could you just quickly introduce DoorDash and tell us a little bit about the culture?
DoorDash is a last-mile logistics company. In the US, we’re mostly known for being a food delivery service. We’re much more than that. Our mission is to empower local economies. We think about small and mid-sized businesses and how to empower them and have them able to deliver their goods anywhere within that city. That’s our goal. We work closely with merchants, we are laser-focused on consumers, and we use our logistics platform to enable that.
Working for DoorDash is high-energy. We have a lot of goals. If you’re looking for technical, big scale, challenging problems, a high-paced company, an ability to have an impact, even though we are already a pretty big company, it’s incredible how much impact each group can have. If you’re looking for that, definitely DoorDash is the way.
As a woman in engineering, there’s support for taking your career to the next level. There are mentorship programs where you can have access to more seasoned engineers. If you’re in the midst of your career and you want to try management, there are programs to enable you. There are some for access to leadership. There’s also a program where you can have meetings with the M Team. The company is really trying to diversify at that level.
If someone was excited to be on your team specifically, can you tell us what team they should be inquiring about?
Well, right now, if they’re willing to move to Berlin, I’m more than happy to take them. I’m hiring android, web, and backend engineers. We are hoping to launch in Germany and in Europe in the near future. DoorDash is making a huge investment, not only in Europe but Australia and Japan, to build local teams, understand the consumers and needs, and build a product that is not just applied all over the world, but it really connects to each user. If people are excited and Europe seems like a good place, send me your resume. My profile is on LinkedIn. If you don’t want to move to Berlin, there are great opportunities in the US, Canada, Japan, and Australia.
We really appreciate you taking the time to connect with us but also just being willing to step forward and be a role model for The Women Who Code community.
Thank you and thank The Women Who Code. I’ve been a member for a long time and it’s really inspiring. Together can make a difference.