Behind the Scenes with Disha Al Baqui, Senior Software Engineering Lead (Content Library Team)
The Behind the Scenes series is a collection of posts and videos designed to give you a peek at the inner workings of the Hulu tech team and introduce you to the people who build the systems that bring TV to life.
Name: Disha Al Baqui
Title: Senior Software Engineering Lead (Content Library Team)
Joined Hulu: Sept 2017
College / University: Gettysburg // Bachelors in Computer Science, University of British Columbia // Masters in Computer Science
Tell us about your journey. How did you get your start in technology?
I studied computer science in college, but there was a touch and go moment in my first year in school where I almost quit. I had never taken any computer science classes in high school and came to the US from Saudi Arabia for college. There was a project that had overwhelmed me and I went up to my professor, Dr. Todd Neller, and told him I was done. He pulled me aside and said, “Don’t you dare. You are by far one of the best students in class and you’re just getting overwhelmed because you are a perfectionist. Yes, this can be complex, but you need to give yourself time to get acclimated to everything.” From that point forward he became my mentor and the man I look up to. Todd’s support was critical in keeping me engaged and on this track: I was the only woman in my graduating class that year in computer science and I was the inaugural recipient of the Outstanding Computer Science Student award (they created the award for me and have continued it since!) I still keep in touch with him and respect his opinion: if he hadn’t supported me and mentored me, I would be in a completely different place and a completely different person.
How did you end up at Hulu?
Before Hulu, I had been working at another company doing a very similar role, but I was more of an individual contributor than a manager. I love the entertainment space and while I was doing a job that was interesting to me, I had less opportunity to effect change and make an impact on the business.
When I started looking at new opportunities, Hulu was the one that checked all the boxes. It was a collaborative environment, the technology was interesting, it was in a space that I was always passionate about, and the company was growing rapidly and promoted growth from within.
What clinched my decision was when I found that Hulu’s leaders and culture aligned with my personal philosophy on leadership. I strongly believe that the relationship you have with your manager is the most pivotal one: career conversations should be a two-way street and highly collaborative.
What do you do at Hulu?
I am the engineering manager on the Content Library team, which is part of the Content Platform team. We ingest descriptive content metadata from our partners and normalize this data to power experiences like browse, recommendation, playback, and many others at Hulu. Descriptive metadata includes information such as titles, descriptions, and images about a show, movie, or sports game that other services at Hulu leverage to build the experience. Being on a team that manages Master Data, accuracy is a critical requirement of the services I manage to ensure our viewers have the best experience. Lastly, a large part of my job entails collaborating and building consensus with teams in and out of Content Platform.
In what ways has Hulu challenged you and enabled you to grow?
Hulu has helped me learn to better manage up as this is an area where I’ve struggled with in the past. Hulu has processes to go about getting my voice heard; and I feel there are ways for me to provide feedback and set expectations to leadership.
Share three tips for someone looking to land a job like yours.
- Your technical muscles are important, but your EQ is important as well. As a manager, you’ll be working and collaborating with a lot of teams and building consensus.
- Be flexible and versatile to understand where your team needs support. When you identify an area where there’s a need, do what you can to fill in the gaps. No job is too small.
- Do your due diligence to understand the tech landscape. Read blogs, go to conferences, and have conversations with people about the problems they’ve solved. Our industry changes so quickly, it takes work to keep up. This is critical to help you take ownership of your own career. No one else is going to care about your career as much as you.
What do you love most about Hulu’s tech culture?
The names — we’re allowed to have really fun names for our services. We’re currently building a set of ETL services and the names are inspired by metallurgy. Several are inspired by pop culture and many of the names start as inside jokes. Service names are even celebrated as meeting rooms across our offices.
What’s your favorite TV show? What are you currently streaming on Hulu?
I watch a lot of drama and science fiction. Outlander is great and so is The Good Place. I always watch Grey’s Anatomy (it’s my guilty pleasure).
Tell us about your Hulu wall photo.
I love strategy board games and puzzle board games. I am also part of Hulu’s dungeons and dragons team; we get together to play for a couple of hours every week. If you come over to my desk you’ll see some of the board games I brought from home.
If you’re interested in working with people like Disha and powering play at Hulu, see our current job openings here.