GHC 16: Talk by Anna Patterson — ABIE Technical Leadership Award Winner

Quoting GHC 2016, “The Technical Leadership ABIE Award recognizes women technologists who demonstrate leadership through their contributions to technology and achievements in increasing the impact of women on technology. This year’s winner, Anna Patterson, is currently Vice President of Engineering, Artificial Intelligence for Google.” The award winner is selected by a committee of past ABIE technical award winners.

Anna’s oysters of wisdom, she was hoping they could turn for pearls for some people in the audience :)

  1. Do one thing; do it well, and be able to articulate it well. Figure out your value-add, prepare the elevator pitch.
  2. First implementations matter. Demos often turn into products, so you better start well. Always write code thinking other people will see it.
  3. 10X isnt’s good enough (okay, at-least sometimes). There are lot of steps from an amazing idea, to delivering a product. 10x can quickly dwindle down to 0.1x.
  4. Start fresh; don’t re-implement. You can truly focus on best way to implement the functionality, and let go off baggage, be it personnel, or quality. The old code helped you identify the issues, prove the technology. It has achieved it’s value.
  5. Execution is prediction, build the prediction skill. Nothing gets built in a day.
  6. Headcount: less is more. Old adage, but too many cooks, do spoil the broth.
  7. Success Disasters. When product succeeds, you will have fires, and will continue to have them. Nothing is perfect. You have to continuously make trade-offs. Become a fire-fighter !
  8. Wing it. Company founders deeply believe in their ideas. It is not different in big companies too. Founder mentality is important, you don’t know all the answers, so it’s ok to wing it.
  9. Being a straight shooter and saying “no” is ok. But be prepared to have a constructive discussion.
  10. Be present. Keep family time, and avoid making office work as ambient noise at that time.
  11. Brush up your listening skills. When new to a role, you do not know much about the environment. So listen, and people will tell you.
  12. Career is not linear. There are ups, and downs, and exponents too. Try to enjoy new things, the fear of being average should not keep you picking up new stuff.
  13. Guilt is a “you” thing. Set expectations, be it with your kids, or your co-workers. Then you do not feel that you are letting anyone down. Also, sometimes mishaps happen, but there are always opportunities where you make it up.
  14. With advances in medical science, you might end up living 150 yrs. Question to ask yourself, what would you do if you had 150 yrs. Anna’s take — you would definitely need to reinvent yourself, one or many times in those years. So pick up the skill to constantly learn.