At Quantcast, we’re building the audience platform to radically simplify advertising on the open internet so brands of all sorts can understand the digital world, make better decisions, and deliver smarter, more relevant products and experiences for consumers.
Our two founders, both engineers, made sure that engineering is an essential part of Quantcast’s DNA. Big data, predictive modeling, interesting data sets, insightful analysis and uniquely powerful tools are at the center of what we do, which makes working on any of the engineering teams a challenging yet cool and exciting experience.
To get a glimpse into life as an engineer at Quantcast, I recently sat down for a conversation with Malvika Mathur, Senior Manager of Engineering. Read below for more about the challenges and skills that guide engineers at our organization.
Irina: Let’s start at the beginning! What drew you to Quantcast?
Malvika: I was working at Microsoft for five years right after I graduated from university. It was one of the best learning experiences one could ask for so early in their career. But due to it being a very big company, the lifecycle of a project that I would work on would be shared amongst different teams. Being a developer gave me a lot of insight into what I was doing, but I wished I was more involved in other parts of the process.
When I ended up moving to the Bay Area for personal reasons, I was looking to work somewhere where I could have more ownership and responsibility as an engineer. When I spoke to the team at Quantcast during my interview, that was exactly the vibe I got. I was very excited to learn that as an engineer in the company, I would not be just responsible for writing the code, but would be involved right from the ideation phase to maintaining it everyday. To this day, this is one of the things I enjoy about being on the engineering team here.
Irina: Each role comes with its own challenges and rewards. What have been some exciting challenges you’ve come across in your role and how have they shaped you?
Malvika: Soon after joining Quantcast, I got a chance to work on a few different projects which allowed me to collaborate with teams from different parts of the stack. All of this was initially very overwhelming, but it helped me quickly ramp up on the new systems I was working on for my team, as well as helped me get an understanding of what other engineering teams do. This has been very foundational in all the work I do. It allows me to think through what the impact of a design decision that I make or influence can have on the overall stack and work through what’s best to do. More importantly, it has also helped me make some great friends.
Irina: You transitioned from an individual contributor to a manager role at Quantcast. What was one of the challenges you faced during this transition and what helped you overcome it?
Malvika: Being an engineering manager requires one to be a strong engineer along with a people manager and a tech lead. One of the biggest challenges I have faced to accomodate my new responsibilities was to learn to let go of my old ones; primarily to reduce (not stop) writing code. It’s easy to lean into the work that you’re comfortable doing and I often caught myself slipping into writing code. I soon realized that as a manager, I was now responsible for the work and growth of my team and not just my own. I realized that I had to invest my time in enabling my team to be successful, which sometimes meant holding myself back from jumping in to flexing my old skills.
The key thing that helped me navigate this challenge was identifying that I do not have to unlearn things I knew as an engineer, but to add to that the skill set of being a manager too. I shifted my focus from finding solutions to a problem to asking questions around why we need a solution and learning more about the bigger picture. Once I get my answers on the why, I have learned to start to lean on my team for technical decisions on the solutions. I spent time understanding the strengths of the individuals on the team and how they work together as a unit, which has led to us having a healthy rapport. This coupled with being transparent about priorities and work timelines, sharing their pain and working with them to find a solution has helped build a team dynamic that allows me to get the time I need to fulfill my managerial responsibilities.
Irina: From a manager’s perspective, what characteristics do people need to have in order to thrive on the engineering team at Quantcast?
Malvika: The Engineering org at Quantcast has a culture of ownership and curiosity. In general, being an engineer here means that one will be involved in conversations around the design of a feature or project, its implementation and all the steps in between to make it live and available to customers. Holistically approaching a problem and ensuring that the best possible coding standards are maintained will help anyone be a successful engineer at Quantcast. Another thing that would help one thrive is ability to continuously learn. All of the engineers at Quantcast work on creating a safe environment where everyone can try new things, learn from each other and work together on the next challenge.
Irina: Engineering teams now work from home due to COVID-19 restrictions. What changes did you make for yourself and your team to adjust to working from home?
Malvika: Shifting to working from home has been a hard transition, and something I have really struggled with, though I don’t miss my everyday commute. My biggest challenge has been understanding when to stop work and get back to my personal life. For this, I’ve tried to structure my day and the team’s day around our stand up in the morning and a team sign off in the evening. These end up being casual chats and provide a nice break from the work day before disconnecting. We also try to mix up these evening sessions with some new and fun online games whenever we get a chance. I also think it’s important to realize that everyone needs flexible work hours, including yourself. It’s a new situation and the best we all can do is adapt to what we need at a given time.
Irina: What are some exciting things you’re looking forward to at Quantcast?
Malvika: Quantcast is currently working on some very exciting challenges. The company is working on addressing well known customer pain in the advertising industry, which is giving the engineering org (amongst others) an opportunity to solve some compelling problems. All of the ongoing work will help solve the next generation of problems in the online advertisement space, and being a part of the larger team working on these solutions is amazing.