By nature of the startup — a notoriously all-hands-on-deck-at-all-times experience — it’s not often that employees get to stop and smell the roses.
The founders at Center City-based Guru had experienced startup culture enough to know that they didn’t want to recreate that kind of environment. When building Guru, which makes an AI-driven knowledge sharing tool designed to activate a company’s collective intelligence, they decided to create a culture where values and decisions were made intentionally.
That emphasis on being intentional has embedded itself into Guru’s internal culture, and even into employees’ individual habits. Take Engineering Manager Mansi Pathak.
“I like to work out in the morning before work, to clear my head and wash away any residual stuff from the day before. Start fresh,” said Pathak. “I live in Fishtown and I walk to work slowly, intentionally, to be in the moment before I get to the office.”
Pathak also leaned into Guru’s deliberate nature when planning her career path.
“I came in as a front-end engineer,” she said. “I was comfortable technically, but recognized early on that I wanted to grow into new aspects of the job. I wanted more impact on the product roadmap, and to be involved with people management, helping others grow their careers. I voiced that to my manager, and he gave me clear checkpoints for how to get there.”
Pathak recently sat down with us to share what it’s like to walk in her shoes for a day as an engineering manager at Guru.
Tell us about your role as an engineering manager.
This role is actually brand new. It’s only been open for the past couple of months, which really speaks to how we’re scaling.
My responsibilities can be broken down into three big parts.
First is managing projects. I help break down projects that are assigned to my team so that the engineers can execute on them confidently.
Second is managing people. I hold regular one-on-ones with the members of my team, but in general, I’m always checking in with each one, making sure they feel good about the projects they are working on, that they are progressing and feeling fulfilled. I try to alleviate any blockages getting in the way of them completing their work. It’s a mix of project health and individual health.
Lastly, I focus on hiring. Our team is growing heavily right now. In fact, we’re looking to double our engineering team as soon as possible. So I conduct phone and in-person interviews, looking for the right fit for our team and the overall Guru culture.
What is a day in your life like?
Well, an ideal day — which I hit somewhere between three to five times a week — is to wake up at 6 a.m. Then I snooze ‘til 6:15.
Once I’m up, I head to the gym. Then I go home, get ready, eat and I leave for work by 8:30 a.m. It’s a newer habit that I’m trying to make work.
I like to be at my desk a half hour to an hour before my first meeting. I prepare for running through project huddles, getting a pulse check from my team about projects and what I need to do to prepare them for the day ahead.
Most days early in the week start with a marathon of meetings:
- Project pulse checks
- Roadmapping for upcoming quarters, working with product managers and designers. My main role here is to dig into the details of what we’re trying to accomplish and what tools/resources can we leverage.
- Communicating with the CX team. It’s my job to let them know what projects will be released to customers soon so that they can then communicate the updates to customers.
Outside of meetings I will do things like research the integration of a new product feature, gain an initial understanding of how new technology will fit in with our product, or come up with ways to enhance the way we work for customers.
How would you describe the internal culture at Guru?
It’s all about teamwork and collaboration. There’s never been a moment where I’ve reached out and haven’t been able to get support or have a conversation. We’re all in this together. We all want the product to do well, and to put our customers first.
There’s no ego here. It’s very clear that we all share the attitude of “I want the product to succeed” vs. “I want to succeed.”
What do you look for in job candidates?
We look for a lot of different things, but it generally boils down to technical skills and cultural fit.
But I’m proud we only use that as a portion of our decision-making process.
In our interviews related to culture, we’re looking to hear your story. Where are you at in your career, what skills have you acquired, and what are you looking to do next and why?
We also have opportunities for people who didn’t go the traditional route of getting a computer science degree and or who don’t have three to five years’ experience:
- We ask questions to see how adaptive candidates are to learning React, and other new skills. We assess for coding skills as well as whether or not you can learn skills on the job. A lot of times you may not know a skill, but you are able to learn it or do the research to figure it out.
- We offer internships in summer.
- We have apprenticeships for people with nontraditional backgrounds who haven’t been able to get in the door at a tech house. We actively recruit for this at The Urban League, Coded by Kids, and host a program where we mentor students in high school or college to make sure they have tech fundamentals.
You’re from Atlanta. What’s your take on living in Philly?
We’ve been in Philly for four years now. My husband and I have spent a lot of time exploring all of the different ‘hoods around the city. We love to go to all of the different restaurants. Summertime here is the best.
Philly’s home now.
If you’d like to get in touch with Mansi, tweet her @MansiPSays.-30-