Robhinood's VP of Engineering: Surabhi Gupta


Today’s guest is Surabhi Gupta, Robinhood’s VP of Engineering.   Surabhi grew up in India and pursued an education in computer science.  She participated in an internship with Microsoft, and her research focused on artificial intelligence and natural language processing.  She worked on creating a system for producing scalable summaries of conversations extracted from video content.  Surabhi then took a job with Google as a software engineer and worked on improving the relevance of search results for users. Eventually, Surabhi got introduced to executives at Airbnb, and was exposed to the search problems they were aiming to solve.  She joined as a software engineer on the search team in 2013, and in 4 years became the Director of Engineering, overseeing the entire engineering team.  While she was there, the company had grown from just 60 engineers to 1,500 engineers.  Surabhi spent almost 7 years of her career at Airbnb before leaving to join Robinhood in 2020.   Robinhood's  mission is to democratize finance and investing for everyone, offering commission-free trading.  Never before has any financial services company offered commission-free trading.  This is a completely new approach, and it’s what drew Surabhi in to join their mission and lead their engineering team.  Today, Surabhi leads Robinhood’s engineering team of more than 500 people.

Podcast Transcript

Note:  There may be errors to this transcript (some funny, some confusing - we used an automated transcription software!)

Ash Faraj  00:03

Hey, it's ash here. Now before we get into the show I have an ask. Now this will only take a few seconds but if you haven't already, please leave us a quick rating and review on Apple podcasts because it tremendously helps us with discovery. We spend countless hours researching conducting interviews and producing these podcasts. Now settle back, unwind and enjoy this episode. Today's guest is Surabhi Gupta, Robinhood's VP of engineering. After high school have Surabhi pursued an education in computer science. During her studies she interned for Microsoft then worked at Google after graduating moved on to Airbnb after being at Google for seven years, and joined Robin Hood just last year, you'll want to be sure to stick around to hear all about Surabhi career moves and what advice she has for folks who are eager to find fulfilment in their careers. Surabhi grew up in India where the combination of her father being an engineer, her older brothers influence and a more decisive career decision being required at her high school system as to which career path you would pursue moved Surabhi to pursue an education in computer science at Stony Brook University in New York. I am joined today by Robin Hood's VP of engineering Surabhi Gupta, welcome to the show. Thank you for being here.

Surabhi Gupta  01:33

Hi, Ash, thanks for having me here.

Ash Faraj  01:35

If I'm in a high school classroom with you, who are you in high school...

Surabhi Gupta  01:38

I grew up in, you know, my dad is an engineer, and I have an older brother, who, you know, had picked kind of engineering computer science pretty early on. And when I was in middle school, I said, you know, I'm going to do something different. I'm not going to do engineering, because, because that's what everyone expects me to do. I started to focus on other areas. And I said, No, like, I'm gonna, I'm gonna take this commerce or accounting class or this, this, this other area that, you know, I think I'm actually really good at. And then, you know, when I got into high school, I, in my first year of high school, they had this intro, computer science class, it was just, you know, basic programming, and I really liked it.

Ash Faraj  02:23

You liked it so much that you did after school classes to learn about is that right?

Surabhi Gupta  02:26

Yeah, that's what I did. I don't know. I just thought it was fascinating. And, you know, I think there's also one aspect I did High School up until end of high school in India. And what's what's interesting there is you actually have to be a lot more decisive about what which area you want to go into before you start college? And it was because of that, that I said, Okay, you know, I need to learn all of these things. And then when I go into college, I'm going to study this area.

Ash Faraj  02:54

Do you feel like your brother had an influence on your curiosity in computers? Like, did you guys play video games growing up?

Surabhi Gupta  03:00

Yes. Yeah, I think my first game was probably Prince of Persia, I used to play that a lot.

Ash Faraj  03:08

So after graduating from Stony Brook University with her bachelor's in computer science, Surabhi, decided to pursue her master's degree at Stanford. Now, at this moment in her career, a lot of Surabhi's friends decided to go work, instead of going back to school, and Surabhi fear of becoming too comfortable after getting a job to go back to school. So she decided to pursue it right after her bachelor's. Now, while she was at Stanford, she participated in an internship with Microsoft for both of her summers there. And her research focused on the combination of artificial intelligence in natural language processing. So she worked on creating a system for producing scalable summaries of conversations extracted from video content. Now remember, this was cutting edge because we're talking about 2006 to 2007. After she graduated, Surabhi took a job with Google as a software engineer and worked on improving the relevance of search results for Google users like you and me. She would spend the next six years of her career at Google before transitioning to join Airbnb in 2013. So, you know, kind of fast forward, you got your BS in computer science from Stony Brook. And then you know, during your senior year, you decided to apply to graduate school. And even though most of your friends and peers were applying to work at Wall Street, and then you mentioned that the reason you did that is because you kind of like feared having like that comfortable job. And you felt like that would like Demotivate you to go back to school. I just found that so interesting, because I feel like most people would do would think the opposite. Like most people are like, I want a great job. What was so curious, we have what you how you were feeling at that time?

Surabhi Gupta  04:44

Yeah, good question. I think maybe again, it was the influence of my brother, like he had done a PhD. And so I said, Okay, you know, I want to study more. And for something that like I knew other people that had started working and then they just got so used to it, that somehow this thought of kind of going Back to school, I just felt that you get used to a certain life. And then it's very hard to kind of go back and do it. And so I kind of felt that, okay, I'm just going to like finish up school now and then start working. And that's it. I also really liked doing research, a lot of people like when they go into school, they actually, you know, focus a lot on on classwork, or coursework. And what's interesting with research is you sort of get really excited about solving a problem that no one else has solved before. And there's, there's such a range of areas in tech and computer science that you can just find a problem you're excited about. So for me, it ended up being natural language processing, and found an awesome professor to work with. And I really liked it. So I actually did that through undergrad. And I think it was also that experience that kind of made me want to go to grad school and continue doing research.

Ash Faraj  05:50

You know, while you're at graduate school, you interned for Microsoft while you were there, correct me if I'm wrong, but you worked on this cool project that was like, obviously now I think there are like lots of services that do this. But like back in 2007, I think it's fair to say it's bleeding edge, but it was like extracted summaries of of like, you know, we're doing this video right now, you would extract the text out of it or something. What is working on bleeding edge technology, like for someone who's wondering, man, I wonder what it's like to work on something that's like, so like new and like bleeding edge, like you were doing?

Surabhi Gupta  06:18

The first thing is really to be excited about the area, like really excited, right? Because there's so much innovation happening across so many different fields, right? So for me, because I'd started actually, in undergrad working on natural language processing, I was always very interested in how to understand what people are, say, not just in the words that they use when they speak, but when they write something. And I think at that point, what was happening already is the amount of information there. information being created, was just very high. And I got this opportunity. I remember when I was interviewing for that summer internship, I started working with, you know, a researcher by the name of Summit Basu, and he, you know, we just kind of spoke about, like, you know, there's so much content, and if we can just summarize it, and we can just create these like snippets. Wouldn't that be amazing. And it was one of those things that it wasn't like, Okay, this explicit project that we should kind of, you know, work on, it was like, just in conversation that like, Oh, it was completely aligned, like the problem that he wanted to solve, and, and that, you know, kind of interested me. So I think a lot of research and a lot of when we say, Hey, this is like bleeding edge or something, it just just happens, because somebody is like, really passionate about an area, and they see an opportunity, right, so what might be cutting edge in some fields, like, I might not actually be suited to work in that, because I just don't understand that or like, don't get into it as deeply to be able to find those opportunities. So that's why I say like, what's great about tech, honestly, is that there's so many areas that you can find your niche, in and that it's just about kind of exploring and finding that area.

Ash Faraj  08:03

If I was wondering from somebody who's been in it, what's the difference of working on something that's bleeding edge? How is that work different from like work? That's not necessarily bleeding edge? I guess if that, if that makes sense.

Surabhi Gupta  08:14

You know, I give you an example of, of Robin Hood, it's not research, but it was the founders had this amazing vision. And for anyone that that came and joined Robin Hood, it was cutting edge work, right? Because no one in the industry had taken this approach of commission free trading. And so I think that innovation and what's cutting edge also varies, right? Sometimes it's a pure, just technical innovation, right? You look at kind of the first paper that came out on blockchain. And you know, it's just that cutting edge. You can, it can also just be that, hey, there's this idea that somebody has on on changing how people do things, and then changing the industry.

Ash Faraj  08:56

So after your masters, you went to go work for Google, and you know, he would be there for the next six years of, of your career. I was just wondering, you know, what, why did you go to Google and not go back to Microsoft?

Surabhi Gupta  09:07

Yeah, I, so I was at Microsoft Research and to join as a researcher there, you needed a PhD, I loved my internship. And I think the decision I was trying to make was, Hey, you know, should I study more? Should I go into industry. And what was really interesting with the Google search team was that it actually was run. And I think I got this good mix of, hey, we're building things and go into production, I go and go into kind of the end, the end consumer, and customer sees it. But on the other hand, it also kind of required some of the research mindset to figure out how to improve search. And I felt that it kind of gave me this good mix of what I was looking for. And while it was, you know, searches, a lot of information retrieval, I just felt that kind of, it was a good extension of what I had been working on, which is Hey, somebody enter something In this query box, they enter a couple of words. And you have to build these algorithms that can understand that interpret it figure out like what the most relevant result is to follow up. And when you when you work on improving search, a lot of what you do is Hey, how do we get the most relevant result for what the user has searched for?

Ash Faraj  10:22

What was the first couple weeks? Like, like, do you remember, you know, I mean, you're just graduated your master's is your first couple weeks. And, you know, you're like, new, I guess, full time, how would u remember.

Surabhi Gupta  10:33

There were these Code Labs. And there was a lot of really cool technology that had been built. And now there's a ton of open source technology that people use, but at that point, when I was starting in 2007, it was like, you know, Google has built MapReduce to process large amounts of data, and just a bunch of other things that it was like, and suddenly you're joined Google, and you have access to all this technology and, and learning all about it and papers to read about it. And so I think it was it was this amazing world that you almost suddenly have access to. And I think it was very clear that when I started, like, people would just call that out, like, Oh, you can read about this. And you can read about this. And it just felt really cool. Like, wow, I suddenly like I'm part of this and that's awesome.

Ash Faraj  11:23

So through mutual connections, Surabhi, got introduced to executives at Airbnb, and was exposed to the search problems that they were aiming to solve. She joined as a software engineer on the search team in 2013. And in four years, she became the director of engineering, overseeing the entire engineering team. While she was there, the company had grown from just 60 engineers, to 1500 engineers. Surabhi spent almost seven years of her career at Airbnb, before leaving to join Robin Hood in 2020. Okay, so you, you know, you worked on several different teams and projects at Google before leaving to join Airbnb from an outsider's perspective. Now the contrast is what's it like working at like a huge company like Google versus, you know, like a relatively like, you know, a startup or smaller company like Airbnb, what what are you? What are the differences?

Surabhi Gupta  12:16

Yeah, they're very, very different experiences. And, you know, the, what got me interested in Airbnb was actually kind of wanting to experience that really different environment. And when I started, I think we were 60 engineers, and what what was interesting was, there was so much to do, and they just weren't enough people, right? Like the the search team, for example, was, I want to say, like, four engineers, and I came from Google, where the search team was massive, right? And so and then, I remember in my first week, or something, I forget, even which day, it's like, okay, let's make this ranking change and push it out to production. And it happened really quickly. And it was just this aha moment of like, wait, actually, we can just do things really, really fast. I think that was the first sort of difference that I noticed, which was just how quickly we could get these changes out, you have just this larger playground to get your changes out. And the cycles for getting these changes out are like very, very fast.

Ash Faraj  13:22

Yeah, that makes sense. Because, you know, in a big company, it's like, it needs to go through certain like approval processes. And that takes a lot, it takes more time.

Surabhi Gupta  13:31

not just not just approval processes, I think it's um, when you have a lot of people using your service, you have to think of all the corner cases, and all the ways in which something can can go wrong, or, you know, if something if you, you need to sort of be very rigorous in a lot of the checks that are in place, before something goes out, and, and every company goes through this journey, just as you as you mature, you have better processes set up for all the different aspects of what is important in that product.

Ash Faraj  14:04

That makes sense. By the way, when did you decide that you wanted to like, experience that did you know like, a lot early in your career, like maybe like, even when you were doing your masters? Right, when you join Google that, hey, eventually I want to go experience what it's like to be small at a smaller company, or did you you know, after six years, you said, I, you know, I want to experience, you know, what it's like to work for, like smaller companies slash startup. And then you just kind of decided then and then left to just curious, like, when did you have that in your mind?

Surabhi Gupta  14:32

Yeah, I mean, people would always talk about startups, like, because I did, I came to the west coast, the bay area for my masters, and then I just had friends working at startups. And you know, I would just go visit there. And so I think over the years, I just kind of saw that, hey, you know, there's this whole other environment and it would be great to sort of experience this and that that really was kind of a big part of it. It wasn't that hey, you know, after I left or at the end of kind of my career at Google where I said, Okay, now I want to do something different, like, oh, a startup would be cool to do. I think it was just like, in my mind for a while, I think I could have stayed at Google forever, like this. Lots of interesting problems, interesting people. So it really more was that, hey, there's this other environment and way of doing things that I want to experience. And I just, you know, kind of second hand seen that just visiting friends for lunch or dinner.

Ash Faraj  15:30

did the opportunity come about? Like, did they just kind of reach out to you and say, Hey, do you want to join? or How did that happen?

Surabhi Gupta  15:37

Yeah, um, someone I knew introduced me to, to Airbnb, what got me to Airbnb actually was, you know, a combination of really like a much different type of search problem. So the search problem at Airbnb is, you know, two sided marketplace, and you put your money down, it's not just a click, it's not sort of like, Hey, I'm looking for searching for this information. And I, I'm gonna sort of find this content that is relevant to me, for Airbnb kind of searches about, Hey, I'm going on this trip, you know, I'm actually going to Tahoe next week, because of the kids spring break. And we're staying in an Airbnb and. Yeah, and you the successful search experiences, you know, when you find that amazing listing, and you can go and stay there. And so it was that sort of problem search and data, and, you know, the product experience that that got me excited, I also thought it was a very innovative and disruptive kind of problem that that the founders had, had created. And so I found I found, and I liked the people. So anyway, all of that kind of fit together.

Ash Faraj  16:55

The question I hear often is, like, you know, early in these, you know, the people you're talking to, you know, your guests, I wonder early in their careers, like how career opportunities come about, you know, like, obviously, some of them you just apply or the you know, they're coming to, you know, recruit at your school. It's pretty straightforward. But you know, for this instance, I think it's interesting, because your friend introduced you to somebody Airbnb, you're this friend that introduced you how, what was what's, what was the relationship, like, what like, was a classmate, or just, I'm just so curious to hear, like the story of how that happened?

Surabhi Gupta  17:27

Yeah, um, I mean, he's actually, you know, like a big kind of angel investor now, and he was just very, you know, connected with all of these companies. And so he, he introduced me, to Airbnb to the head of engineering. And that's how I started my conversation.

Ash Faraj  17:44

It was that person, like, like, How long had you known him for?

Surabhi Gupta  17:48

We had gotten introduced through, through through just some common connections. So I think I, you know, I will tell you that what's really great about Silicon Valley is, when you're trying to figure out, you know, some some step in your career, you, you just people are very open to kind of having conversations and just helping people out, like, I get reach outs from people saying, Hey, you know, what this person that I know, is like, really trying to figure out whether they should take on engineering management. I mean, I did that recently. And he can you just talk to them and help them think through that. And then, you know, they'll say, Yeah, like, I'm thinking of this, this opportunity, or this opportunity. So my overall point, I think, here is that people are kind of always very willing to kind of help. So in this case, this actually wasn't someone that I knew for a very long time. But, you know, I got connected in the context of like, Hey, you know, he's kind of would just be a great person to talk to and get some insight.

Ash Faraj  18:50

So something that I thought was, that was interesting that you had mentioned in previous articles or something. But, you know, you mentioned that people should not fall into the trap of like, just doing what their peers are doing. Or like, No, you shouldn't fall into the trap of just doing what your peers are doing. Because as long as you you know, like, have believe in yourself conviction, and you should pursue your dreams, even if it's a different path than others. I thought that was really intriguing. Because, you know, we are social animals. And we are like, you know, we look for social proof to make decisions. Like for somebody that does feel like a lot of pressure, just doing what their peers are doing. What are some things that helped you kind of not do that? Personally...

Surabhi Gupta  19:34

I guess maybe I almost think of your question is, how do you get influenced one way or the other? Or how do you hold on to like, you know, when somebody when everybody else is doing something else, like how do you stay true to the course that you want?

Ash Faraj  19:47

Yes, yes, that's that's a better way to put it.

Surabhi Gupta  19:52

You know, I feel like maybe somebody will kind of look at my career and say, Oh, you know, I just made all the right decisions. And, and I don't, I really don't I think that people don't have context into all of the ups and downs, like everyone's career is a series of ups and downs. And I think even in conversations like this, it's sort of easy to say, Oh, yeah, they're all these ups and all these, like, great decision points. And clearly I like pick, pick the right path. And one, one thing is that like that, I don't think there is a straight line to a path to a certain spot. And in fact, I think early in my career, I felt, I didn't feel this way. Like, I felt that you know, what, I had to study computer science in undergrad and, or or any area, and then I have to, like, grow and build on that, and build on that and build on that. And I just felt that, again, that was like a very linear path. And it turns out that actually, people's paths, and I actually, that's one great thing about education here in the US, which is that people take all different sorts of paths to get to where they are. So I think one thing is that that, you know, you can still end up at the same point, but through a more meandering path, and actually sometimes think that that makes it more interesting. Like I love it, when I, you know, go to these sessions, where people talk about their career, and they say, you know what, I did this like, thing that was totally different than then I hit on this area. And then that's how I became an engineer. Like, I think that's awesome, right? So I would just say that, if you in your mind, if you feel strongly that, hey, I really like in that case, I want to go to grad school, like find other people that also want to do that. And at least that gives you like some sense of kind of support, or you feel like, okay, there are other people that also want to do what I want to do, right? Or maybe sometimes it's people or maybe somebody it's in a friend or somebody in your family, like there are there are many different kinds of people that can that can kind of help you with that. I think in my case, it was just, you know, my brother played a big part in it, I was doing research. So I had people in the lab, I had this internship at Microsoft Research, like, I had all of those kind of aspects that kind of gave me confidence that like, Okay, this is actually a path that I do want to pursue that is very different from what I see all my friends doing,

Ash Faraj  22:12

that makes sense to kind of look around you Yeah, I can see that you also talk about the importance of like, like having a good relationship with your manager, because, you know, early in your career, right, having a good relationship with your manager, because you know, they're gonna advocate for you, and doors will open for your future. What are some things that you specifically did to nurture relationships with your managers early in your career?

Surabhi Gupta  22:36

you know, this, this whole conversation around who's a mentor who's a sponsor, right, and I think early in your career, while you're still building your core skills, your manager is the one that is most invested in giving you those opportunities, right. Like, I think sponsors come in a little bit later, where you've built something and, you know, people talk about it during performance reviews, or calibration or, or they see you present the work. And then it's people say, Oh, my God, you know, like this person, they've done like this great project, and then this great project and all of that. And then you know, your sponsors can kind of pull you up and give you even bigger opportunities. So I do think that sort of, you know, working closely with with kind of your manager and even just asking them, like, what are the core skills I should build? And I think of that, if I, if I think that for engineering, there's, there's a specific project, but also like understanding the end to end stack, right. And maybe it's sort of, Hey, you know, like I've done I've had a project focusing on this part of the stack, I actually want to get experience on this other part of it. And just having that open dialogue with your manager is very helpful, right, and being open with kind of how you want to learn and how you can have the most impact.

Ash Faraj  24:01

In 2020 Surabhi joined Robin Hood, if you're listening to this right now, you have probably heard of Robin Hood. Their mission is to democratize finance investing for everyone offering commission free trading. Never before has any financial services company offered commission free trading. This is a completely new approach. And it's what drew Surabhi to join their mission and lead their engineering team. That today, Surabhi leads Robin Hood's engineering team of more than 500 people newer at Airbnb for almost seven years. And like you mentioned, you saw the engineering team grow from 60 to I think 1500 was before you left is like that's crazy, the growth and then in May of 2020, you joined Robin Hood, how did the opportunity start? You probably notice listing theme here. How did the opportunity come about at Robin Hood and then what made you decide to leave Airbnb after being almost seven years there? Was it kind of for the same reason that you wanted to join kind of a smaller environment?

Surabhi Gupta  24:57

You know, because I'd been at Airbnb for many years and I loved it there I, I sort of my bench had been built out like the team I've been building over many years. And so I just felt, you know, it was sort of the team was in a good spot. And Robin Hood again like actually a couple of people I knew sort of had told me that you know, Robin Hood's doing really interesting things like you should talk to them. And that's really how how the status so I guess you can see a theme that a lot of it for me has been through people that I know that sort of had really good things to say. And I've never worked in FinTech. You know, as I started having conversations, I just really, I like the people I really connected with the way you know why they were there. And it definitely came across very strongly that everybody believed in the mission and kind of furthering that, so So really, that's what got me very excited to all of my conversations.

Ash Faraj  26:00

You know, I think it was in February of this year, there's obviously there's been a lot of talk about, you know, what's what's Robin Hood has been in the news and think fortune released an article saying, you know, like 56% of Robin Hood, users are likely to leave the app, or like, the Robin Hood brand is like severely damaged, and like all this negative press, and I'm just trying to put myself like in your shoes, like, you know, your leader there, do you? How do you deal with all that it just feels like it's just so much like to deal with? You know, I don't know.

Surabhi Gupta  26:27

we have a lot of customers, we have 13 million customers, in fact, and we, you know, what I will say is that every company goes through ups and downs, every company I've been at, has, you know, has had those moments. And, you know, what I will say is that for us, we keep focusing on what, how can we improve the experience and build a better experience for our customers better features, better products. And ultimately, that's what we're all focused on. And you know, there will be there will be good press, and there will be press that, you know, can be can be different. And I think we just always want to focus on creating the best experience possible.

Ash Faraj  27:04

I guess, I didn't mean to bring it up to be negative Nancy or anything, but I was just I was just saying, like, I wonder how she's dealing with a person like this, she like Oprah stress about it or like, because if it were me in your shoes, I'd be like, Oh, my God, just like, I don't know, I feel like it's hard for me to deal with that pressure. So I'm just curious how you personally handle that, you know, I don't know.

Surabhi Gupta  27:22

Yeah, like, as you take on these more senior roles, I think you have to figure out how to navigate all of this, and focus on what is most important. And in moments like this, I actually think that one people come together. And two, as you, you can really help kind of set the vision for how for, for what is important, and making sure that people are focused on that. Because honestly, we are here because of our customers, and we are going to continue building great, great products for them. And so I think that just sort of as a leader staying true to that, and making sure that everybody else also sees that it's actually very powerful. So I think that that I find that empowering that, you know, I can have that responsibility. And that influence over over so many other people in the company,

Ash Faraj  28:23

it's like, it's like a whole package, right? It's like, whether it's press or like people, you know, like you have to deal with people that like are maybe like misbehaving that are like you manage, or it's like all the same types of pressure that you have to deal with, or, you know, like meeting a certain, like, deadline, or that makes sense.

Surabhi Gupta  28:41

You know, I think that also people process things differently. And so as a leader, what's very important is that you can help people navigate that. So I've just to kind of, that's something that I definitely think about a lot and probably is something that has come with kind of experience where you know, just because me or a couple of other people can kind of see some changes happening and say, Oh, yeah, you know, this is fine. Like, we just Okay, we have a plan, we're gonna move forward. Some people actually process it very differently. And so I just want to make sure that, you know, as I think about how we navigate these things, that we, you know, we can support people that that process things in different ways.

Ash Faraj  29:30

What do you look for when hiring candidates? What do you personally look for? Maybe that others you have a pool of candidates 10 to 20 on your engineering team?

Surabhi Gupta  29:38

Yeah. If we talk about internal talent, I think, you know, when people have the capacity to take on more, that's always you know, a good a good kind of a good way to figure out kind of, yeah, you know, this person clearly, like they've got the entire team set up like we should give them more opportunities. If it's someone externally, I will say that, you know, the qualities that You know, are important for me are kind of humility, integrity, having having a vision, being able to sort of influence other leaders, because ultimately, I think that's very important to drive your strategy forward. So those are some of the aspects that I tried to focus on. When I when I talked to leaders.

Ash Faraj  30:25

That's interesting, because it seems like you kind of look for, I don't want to say sales skills, but like, when you say influence I just came to mind was like, kind of like selling but like you look for like somebody like sells themself, even though it's like a technical role.

Surabhi Gupta  30:37

Yeah, I would say that actually, um, if you think of, even as a junior engineer, right? You're talking to someone about Hey, like, you know, maybe we can do this to improve search. Right? Some, you you find some opportunity, how do you convince the other person that you work on this, or you're trying to figure out how to design a system, these things aren't black or white. And as you get more senior, you kind of are looking at larger and larger systems, right? Whether that's from a system architecture perspective, that's from, hey, we can do this product feature, there's many different ways of building something. So how do you get how do you convince other people? Or How do you make sure to hear their opinions and be convinced, you know, if there's a different direction, that makes better sense. So I think of this as, you know, as a as a, as, especially as a new leader coming in, right, you can call out like, Hey, I actually think that this can be improved. But if you can't convince people of why that's important, you're not going to be able to drive change.

Ash Faraj  31:42

That's a very good, that's a, that's a perspective, I think we've heard of before, and it's different from a technical person, we know from a person in the engineering space, so appreciate you sharing that. Something I look for when I decide to partner with someone or hire someone is...

Surabhi Gupta  32:04

I think that we really can be partners, and that, you know, if it was a different setting that and I had to report to them that, you know, that would be totally okay.

Ash Faraj  32:13

The most important quality in a leader is...

Surabhi Gupta  32:15

that you put the company above yourself, that you kind of focus on Hey, not not what's good for me, but but really, that this is the best outcome for the company. And it doesn't matter whether it's driven by me or somebody else,

Ash Faraj  32:29

something I've struggled with, as a leader has been...

Surabhi Gupta  32:32

I tend to I've worked a lot with data over the years. So I think that when I participate in conversations, you know, I say something that I feel is kind of I can back it by facts and data. And sometimes, you know, there are people that that don't just, you know, share an opinion and, and they don't have all the context. And so I think I'm just learning to kind of better navigate that.

Ash Faraj  32:55

If I were to go back and talk to my younger self in my mid 20s, I would tell myself...

Surabhi Gupta  33:00

you have more time than you think, to do different things, hobbies, or travel, I love traveling. So now I look back and I'm like, ah, we could have taken like, all these longer trips, like, why would they just like be super short trips, you don't have the money that's different. But you know, you sort of you have the time. And so I think just finding ways to kind of experience have new experiences, definitely recommend that. I would also say like build core skills. From a work perspective. You know, sometimes people think, Okay, I need to do this, take this level, and then go up this career ladder. And I would just say, like, focus on building your core skills, like everything else kind of builds on top of that.

Ash Faraj  33:40

One setback or failure in my early 20s, I will never forget is...,.

Surabhi Gupta  33:46

you know, I had this. I moved from Stony Brook to Stanford. And I remember my first quarter, I felt that I was taking these classes that just felt much harder. Like it felt like a big, big jump from what I had done before. And you know, when I first came to the US for undergrad, I could place out of all the math classes and all of that, because I think I just I had already studied a lot of it. So that was my prior experience. And so coming into Stanford, I felt Okay, like, I need to work harder, or I need to, like take this other class, kind of that's a bridge. And so I think that at the moment, it felt like a setback. Like why does this field you know, so hard and, but, you know, again, like then very quickly, it changed.

Ash Faraj  34:28

The sweetest moment I felt in my entire career was when...

Surabhi Gupta  34:32

when I sort of was pregnant and went out on automatically. You know, when I came back my Mike Curtis, who used to run engineering, you know, he offered me a role which was, you know, much bigger than what I had and, you know, he bet on me and I'd set up my team and I was ready to take on more but you know, it was it was really it felt like really great to go out on leave and come back and then have You know, and a really interesting and exciting role waiting for me.

Ash Faraj  35:03

I have a long career ahead of me. But looking forward, if I could be remembered for just one thing it would be...

Surabhi Gupta  35:09

a being fair.

Ash Faraj  35:10

Wow, that's never heard that one before being fair. And then the last question is if I were stranded on an island and I had access to just one meal, it would be...

Surabhi Gupta  35:22

our current favorite these days is Burmese food.

Ash Faraj  35:26

Thank you so, so much for listening. Now, if you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a quick rating and review on Apple podcasts. It means the world to us he listened and it would mean so much to us if he just left us a quick way. Thanks, and we'll see you in the next episode. Take care

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