Take us back to the beginning. What was your first job?
I was a teaching assistant for a summer program for high school juniors called Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES). Two years before working there, I participated in the program myself as a naïve 11th grader who believed my educational and professional opportunities were limited to the 100×35 square miles defining my home island of Puerto Rico. I was wrong. I met driven kids from different backgrounds, and not only did I end up attending M.I.T for college, but I also now work with three of my fellow MITES 2006 grads: My twin brother Pablo, my best friend Aaron Rucker, and data expert Rachael Holmes. We all work in different areas of the product development team, but it’s pretty neat.
How did your career evolve after graduation?
After a few years as an applications engineer at a big tech company, I joined a startup called, an online job matching tool, where I became the principal engineer for our premium product. My career hit a turning point when LinkedIn acquired . We had around 10 engineers at the time, and it was thanks to our founder, Eduardo Vivas, that I was able to grow as much as I did in less than a year. Eduardo has a tendency to have great ideas that seem impossible to attain. That pressure was key to my growth.
Tell us about your role today as a software engineering manager and what you’re focused on at LinkedIn.
The majority of my time is spent strategizing with my product manager, Matt, on new features or enhancements we can make to the product our team supports, which is called Easy Apply. Easy Apply enables LinkedIn members to apply directly to jobs on external applicant tracking systems without having to leave. I also work very closely with the engineers on my team, particularly on the architecture phase of code development.
What do you value most about working at LinkedIn?
I love our mission. We’re working to connect talent to opportunity at a massive scale, to have insights into what makes every company, university, or organization special, and to provide the tools for our members to acquire new knowledge. I have been able to work on projects at the heart of our mission, from bringing job opportunities to our members, to making it easy to apply for roles. This translates into thousands of people finding their dream jobs every month. Knowing that our work can so directly impact our members is incredibly motivating. I also value the emphasis on creating opportunities to share employees’ knowledge, whether it is in the form of a TechTalk or through extracurricular activities like cooking classes with coworkers.
The best part about LinkedIn’s approach is that we want diversity and inclusion for the right reasons. One of our senior vice presidents, Mike Gamson, says it well: “We don’t care about diversity because it’s in vogue. We care about it because we like winning.”
Being aware that you’re among “the only” from a particular background in an organization can feel like an invisible chip on your shoulder. It can be hard to relate to others. I think the best approach to take is to make a difference and use all of these challenges as motivation. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by a great group of coworkers that accept me and my energy. I use my background to bring some flavor and fun to the team. Although there is still a long way to go, we’re very aware and committed to making the workplace comfortable for all. I try to stay involved in conversations related to attracting and keeping engineers from underrepresented backgrounds at LinkedIn, and we are constantly thinking of new ways to recruit, or activities to attract, any and all talented engineers, regardless of their backgrounds.
What is the most innovative activity you’ve taken part in to recruit top talent?
We recently had an open mic event in our San Francisco office. It was employee-led but open to the public. Some colleagues sang and danced, and others spoke about their experiences. I had the chance to give a “lightening talk” about what my team works on and to share a bit about myself and how I got to this point. It was one of those “wow” moments that you never expect, with around 200 engineers from all over the world listening to a guy from the tiny island of Puerto Rico. It was great to have the support of my coworkers and to speak with so many people from diverse backgrounds about their interests in technology and what we do at LinkedIn. We were supposed to be there to inspire the group of people attending the event, but the guests’ enthusiasm and drive ended up inspiring all of us as well.
How do you stay productive personally and go about managing your team?
I start my days early to check email and carve out time to code. It’s imperative to meet with my team at least once a week to see how they feel and what concerns they might have. On Fridays, I try not to have any meetings in order to do the bulk of coding or design work I need to complete. I also always make sure to get my team together for lunch and ice cream. As a manager, I think that it’s important that my team works efficiently and that our team environment is inclusive and fun.
What are some of the things candidates can do to impress you during an interview?
The candidates who stand out are the ones who see an interview as an opportunity to solve a problem together. I like candidates who bounce ideas around and think before they speak. I try to keep interviews as objective as possible and centered on the person’s ability to write, explain, and design complex systems.
What do you like to read about?
I’ve recently been reading about machine learning algorithms that can predict data and give computers the ability to receive information without being programmed. I love learning. Acquiring new information will only make you a more valuable asset.
What’s your advice to other ambitious professionals navigating their careers?
Work at a place where you feel challenged. Stay level-headed and hungry. I’m always looking forward to the next challenge. Otherwise, things get boring.
Do you have a favorite motto?
“Good, better, best. Never let it rest ‘til your good is better and your better best.” – St. Jerome
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