“2017 was a tough year for Uber, especially for female engineers.” What may seem like an understatement to some, was a clarion call to those truly dedicated to Uber’s mission and impact. For engineering manager Shimul Sachdeva, Uber’s months-long stretch in the spotlight was a humbling experience that made way for her company’s new chapter and culture.
“What has kept me motivated is seeing employees across the company come together to be part of the solution,” says Sachdeva.
Having been with Uber for four years after a turn at Microsoft, Sachdeva began her time with the rideshare company as a backend engineer. Now, she leads a team dedicated to ensuring the safety of riders through the app. “At Uber, we have an Apprentice Manager Training Program designed to coach first-time managers,” she said. I took the training and soon after moved into a formal Engineering Manager role. Being an EM has challenged me to grow both as a leader and a technologist, which I find very rewarding.”
Glassdoor caught up with Sachdeva to understand the state of engineering at Uber, her career journey and learn what she looks for in job applicants.
Glassdoor: How would you describe your job at Uber?
Shimul Sachdeva: As an Engineering Manager on the Personal Safety team at Uber, I focus on using technology to help make the Uber platform incident-free. My role is to build a strong technical team of backend, mobile and web engineers to execute and deliver on our mission to improve safety before, during and after every trip. A typical day for me can include product reviews, strategy brainstorms, technical architecture meetings, 1:1’s or chatting with potential candidates.
Glassdoor: You have a focus right now on improving the safety of Uber’s service. How are you and your team tackling that challenge?
Shimul Sachdeva: The Personal Safety team’s mission is twofold: Safe Actors and Safe Controls. With Safe Actors, we are constantly assessing identity and behavior of our riders to improve safety (here’s an example). With Safe Controls, we are empowering riders with the right set of tools (examples: Rider 911 Assistance, Driver Share Trip). We also continue to learn from our customers and teams on the ground as Uber expands into more countries and other product verticals like Uber Eats.
Glassdoor: What’s your ultimate goal in the work you’re doing?
Shimul Sachdeva: Uber interacts in the real world and touches lives in a way that few other companies have a chance to do. We have an opportunity to define what safety looks like in the ridesharing economy and be an industry leader in the space. My goal is to achieve that by working alongside a group of smart, talented engineers while continuing to grow and learn as an engineering leader myself.
Glassdoor: Personally, when do you feel successful in your work?
Shimul Sachdeva: A happy engineer – when someone’s eyes light up with curiosity or excitement, it grounds me in why we do what we do. Among the piles of deadlines, emails and to-do lists, seeing people motivated/excited to come to work energizes me and gets me to roll up my sleeves.
Glassdoor: Take me back a bit, how did you come to Uber and what has your career journey been like?
Shimul Sachdeva: I spent the first half of my career at Microsoft in Seattle, where I worked in multiple teams. I first joined as an intern, and then a full time software developer. This is where I first got exposure to the world of distributed backend systems and fell in love. After a few years, it was time to move on to a new challenge, which ultimately brought me to Uber. I joined Uber as a backend engineer in 2014 when the company had less than 300 engineers. As our team and charter grew, I moved into an informal tech lead role overseeing a group of projects, including Realtime ID Check and Phone Anonymization. Getting exposed to the tech leadership role was a key reason I decided to try out engineering management. I went through Uber’s Apprentice Manager Program designed to coach first time managers and soon after moved into a formal Engineering Manager (EM) role. Being an EM has challenged me to grow both as a leader and a technologist, which I find very rewarding.
Glassdoor: Uber has weathered some tough times in the past couple of years, especially for women engineers. What has kept you dedicated to the company and mission?
Shimul Sachdeva: 2017 was a tough year for Uber, especially for women engineers. It’s been humbling to watch the reactions, acceptance and transformation over the past few months. What has kept me motivated is seeing employees across the company come together to be part of the solution. There has been a combination of grassroots efforts (dinners with leadership, career workshops) as well as top-down initiatives (such as partnership with Girls Who Code, pay equality, transparency report, multiple ERG initiatives), showing our commitment to emerging stronger together. Uber’s inclusive environment and dedicated leadership helps me feel well supported and valued.
Glassdoor: Why is now a great time for engineers to apply to or join Uber?
Shimul Sachdeva: Outside of our core Rides and Eats verticals, we have an ambitious set of bets and technical challenges in front of us – Freight, multi-modal transport platform, Elevate, driverless. These bets come with a wide range of technical challenges – realtime data processing at scale, highly available distributed systems, image recognition, telematics, deep learning and domains such as security, fraud, maps, search, safety, marketplace and so on. To meet the growing needs of our business, our tech stack – cloud strategy, containerization story, networking protocols or language convergence – is rapidly evolving as well. Having a front row seat to an engineering organization that is rebuilding for scale and reimagining how we move makes for a rare opportunity in one’s career. If you like working on unsolved problems in a rapidly evolving industry, this is the place for you.
Glassdoor: When you’re interviewing candidates for roles on your team or in the engineering org as a whole, what sorts of questions do you ask? What traits are skills are you looking for?
Shimul Sachdeva: In a fast-paced environment like Uber, we’re looking to bring engineers who are hungry for knowledge, can learn fast and make an impact. I typically look for communication, curiosity and creative problem solving in engineering candidates. To look for these skills, I dig into their previous work, understanding the constraints of the system and how they made tradeoffs. I also like to ask candidates to design systems for open ended problems to see how they break the problem down, think of solutions and communicate the technical details. For senior roles, I also look for niche expertise, leadership and a strong ability to collaborate.
Glassdoor: What makes someone a great culture fit for the new Uber?
Shimul Sachdeva: We’re looking for driven, creative problem solvers who believe in ideas over hierarchy and in doing the right thing. Uber has over 18,000 employees distributed across 65 countries today. We’re looking for people who can work effectively with this diverse set of people and across multiple disciplines to ship global products.
Glassdoor: Lastly, what is your advice for women engineers navigating their way through Silicon Valley and looking to solve some of the biggest tech challenges? Any career advice?
Shimul Sachdeva: I was inspired by a quote from Sri Shivananda’s (CTO, PayPal) recent visit to Uber on his brilliant recipe for success: Curiosity → Knowledge → Relevance → Credibility → Respect aka Success. For women engineers who tend to shy away from participating, my advice would be to channel your curiosity into speaking up and speaking often. Question assumptions, ask the tough questions, invest in self learning and participate in decision making. The rest will follow.
To learn more about Shimul, the Safety & Insurance Engineering team, upcoming events and open roles, click here.