Karen Cohen

Karen Cohen

Engineering Manager and Product Architect at Wix.com

September 10, 2018

#architecture #devops #product #public-speaking

Hello! What's your background and what do you do?

I'm an experienced developer, product architect, manager and mentor. I believe in and practice leadership without authority, I help people understand both the business context and the underlying architectural landscape.

I manage a server infrastructure/platform team at Wix.com. Our team’s main challenges include reconciling developer experience and operations, as well as the end users goal and experience.

I strive to share my experiences and learn from others. I organize and speak at tech conferences, write and read blog posts, and take an active part in Wix’s R&D events and branding.

How was your transition from software development to management like?

I was curious about management long before I made the transition, my manager delegated many of her tasks to me so I could experiment. By the time I made the decision to switch, my colleagues were already familiar with me in that light so things went smoothly. However, doing the first couple of one-on-one meetings still felt very awkward.

What does your day-to-day work look like, and what motivates you to do it every day?

I care deeply about the team, the people in it, our systems and users. I spend my days making sure we collaborate well and communicate our goals clearly in the short- and long-term, inside the team and out.

Most days start out with checking emails and Slack, then helping my team remove blockers. I have regular 1-on-1 meetings with my team and with others across the organization. This helps me create lasting working relationships, as well as to spot opportunities for collaboration and growth for my team. I often take part in design and architectural discussions with my team and our stakeholders, as well as help break down large tasks and prioritize work.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced so far? What did you do to overcome them?

We’ve had two big challenges. The first was setting an architectural roadmap to slowly fix some of our core legacy systems, I got to give a talk about our process at DevOpsDays Amsterdam 2018 about how we approached that problem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiSF7RjybH0.

The second biggest challenge we’ve been dealing with is increasing the Bus Factor within our team (meaning that we used to be extremely dependant on just one person). It takes a lot of trust to make any cultural change, and I’ve been fortunate to have my team collaborate with me on it. I’ll be giving a talk about our process at DevOpsDays Riga 2018.

What has been the biggest surprise so far? Something you didn't expect?

I didn’t expect there to be so much work around branding: of the team as a whole and of the people in it.

What's the best advice you've received about being a manager?

  1. Invest your time in setting the strategy (+ my addition: with your team), then let the team own the tactical day-to-day decision making.
  2. Progress and change take time, you have to learn to be patient and look at it from a birds-eye view.

What do you tell developers who are considering making the switch or new to the role?

Be ready to relinquish some control, give others room to grow and make their own mistakes.

Final call to action! Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can follow me on Twitter @Karen_Meep, or check out my website and blog: https://karenmeep.github.io.