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How an Engineering Manager Fosters Growth by Investing in Others

Before Tali M., an engineering manager, started her career in technology, she wasn’t planning on getting an advanced degree—much less finding a job and entering the workforce. As a devout Orthodox Jew, her main goal was getting married and raising children like other Jewish women in her community. But when she met her husband, who wanted to dedicate his life as a rabbi, Tali decided to take an active role in providing for her family to allow her husband to focus on his studies and serving his community.
“I didn’t even know which career to choose,” Tali says. “My rabbi suggested computer programming because he thought I would love it, which would then make me an exceptional employee.” Tali says this advice was life-changing for two reasons. “First, I was being given permission, even encouraged, to enjoy my work outside of the home and to pursue a successful career."
Second, I learned the secret to achieving that professional success is to love what you do.”
At the time, Tali’s attitude was rare among women in her community. She admits to getting criticism early on from some who questioned her motivation. But she was confident she made the right choice for her and her family, so she remained focused on her goals. Tali’s drive also inspired other women in her community. “Now, I see so many more smart and capable Orthodox Jewish women who choose to balance having a fulfilling career and raising their families.”
Tali studied computer science, and as her rabbi predicted, she both loved and excelled at programming. But finding a job in tech wasn’t easy. “I had just immigrated to Israel, so I didn’t have a network of people who could help me,” she remembers. “In fact, I didn’t even have internet yet, so I would sit at a park bench, connect to a public wifi network and apply to jobs.”
After months of applying, Tali landed at a startup where she eventually managed multiple teams and led major projects. She then went on to work at larger tech companies before joining Facebook Tel Aviv. “I was drawn to Facebook because there are very few companies where you can work on a product that affects so many people around the world,” she says.
Tali works on the Facebook Lite app where she and her team help millions of people in emerging markets connect with others on devices with low specifications and in areas with low connectivity. She manages the Infrastructure branch, which includes three teams. “Knowing our reach and writing code that so many people get to see is a rare opportunity,” Tali notes. “We’re building the infrastructure for our applications to work properly. I’m proud of and inspired by the work that I get to do, and that’s not something I expected when I first joined Facebook. We solve hard problems that truly make a difference in people’s lives.”
Tali thrives in her role as an engineering manager, where she often dedicates entire days to one-on-one meetings with her teammates to understand what they need and how she can help them on their career path. “My team is full of talented people who all come from different backgrounds and experiences. We’re like a family, we’re invested in each other’s success,” she explains.
“What I really like about being a manager at Facebook is the mentorship we each have. I’ve been fortunate to have mentors and people who invested in my growth throughout my career, and now I love working at Facebook because it gives me the ability to return that favor. I appreciate that Facebook’s culture dictates that the role of an engineering manager is not just to build teams that know how to execute, but to help build her reports’ careers and invest in growing them as engineers.”
Tali’s personal experiences have also inspired her to focus on inclusivity and creating an environment where people can feel comfortable to openly bring their authentic self to work. For her, mentorship also helps ensure that everyone on her team feels included.
“I used to avoid talking about my religion or who I am, because I wanted others to see me primarily as a strong engineer so I tried not to share much about my personal life and beliefs,” Tali admits. “It became exhausting to have two different identities. The culture at Facebook allowed me to open up and realize that being my authentic self is a superpower. Now, I often talk about who I am, where I come from and how it impacts the decisions I make. I’ve found that doing this allows other people to do the same thing, which benefits everyone, including our work. Teams with diverse opinions create better products.”
As part of her overall effort to champion her colleagues, Tali started a Lean In circle for women to provide a safe and open space to talk about topics like building confidence and growing from feedback. She also uses the circle to give them encouragement and support to explore bigger opportunities. “I invest a lot of time in making sure that the diverse population has all of the tools they need to succeed,” she says. “People often assume that working at Facebook means you don’t have the chance to make a difference, because it’s a big, corporate company. But that’s a huge misconception. Not only do I get to do work that I love, but it’s with a company that gives everyone a voice and empowers us to choose how we want to make an impact. It’s what drives us to do great work every day.”

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ARTICLE PUBLISHED ON Jan 14, 2020

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