May 16, 2022

Yaniv Bernstein | On Engineering The Perfect Work Culture

Yaniv Bernstein | On Engineering The Perfect Work Culture

Yaniv Bernstein is the founder and COO of his startup, Circular. He has 10 years of work experience at Google, and recently was VP of Engineering and COO at Airtasker. He is also the co-host of his own podcast, the startup podcast.

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Content
00:00 Yaniv Bernstein
00:16 Intro
01:30 Yaniv as a Uni Student
05:16 Doing a Ph  D in 2022
06:53 Yaniv after his PhD
10:03 Did working overseas provide you with more breadth?
13:53 What does Google do well?
18:06 What things should a young person look for in a company?
22:13 What does Yaniv try and do for his company's culture
28:18 Differences between producing and managing
34:14 Increasing your impact as a junior engineer
38:37 Who does Yaniv look up to
41:30 Yaniv's Advice for Graduates
44:20 Connect with Yaniv
46:25 Outro

Transcript
Yaniv:

So you say, I make my whole team 20% more impactful and more productive. So we go from 500 impact points to 600. Well, that's how I get my 100 impact points as a manager.

James:

Hello, and welcome to graduate theory. My guest today is the founder and COO at his startup circular. He has over 10 years of work experience at Google and recently was VP of engineering and CIO at air Tasker. He's also the co-host of his own podcast. The startup podcast, please welcome any of Bernstein Thanks for having me It's great to have you on today, mate. You've had some really cool experiences through your career and it really, uh, you know, held some great positions and, and interacting with some really interesting people. I'd love to kind of wind back the clock a little bit to start with and talk about. Your early days in your career. And, and particularly like we, we discussed this just before, but some parallels with today and when you started your careers. So at the moment the markets and things are kind of on a downward trend, particularly in the last couple of weeks. And then w you were saying, you know, that's kind of similar to when you finished a university. Uh, back in the day. I mean, I'd love to talk about your experience kind of, um, looking for jobs at that stage and kind of weighing up your own opportunities, kind of what that was like going through that period back when you're Initiating.

Yaniv:

Yeah, for sure. So I did my undergraduate computer science degree and, um, Graduated or I finished studying at the end of 2001. Um, and that period was when the initial.com bubble had had burst around 2000, 2001, uh, what was called the tech wreck or the dot bomb, uh, where the NASDAQ was way off its highs, a whole lot of startups, cratered, or laid people. Uh, and generally the economy in software development, uh, had really taken a turn for the worst. And, you know, one of the things that also happens in those situations is that, uh, grad programs tend to be one of the first things to go. Um, and one thing that was different from today is that there was a lot less information available in terms of, you know, early career groups, podcasts like this and so on. And I think I was, you know, your typical clueless university student, I hadn't really. Thought about how to take my career into my own hands. And so I applied for a few standard grad programs. Um, I don't think I interviewed very well back then either. And so basically, you know, a combination of those factors, I had good grades, but didn't interview that well, and most significantly grad programs were massively tightened up. I actually didn't get any job offers. Um, and so at the same time, I. Was made aware, I guess, you know, I hadn't, I hadn't been that thoughtful about it, but that I could do an honors program. And it's, so it felt that with the lack of, of job opportunities, I may as well do the honors program, um, which I did. And I found myself enjoying that and enjoying research a lot more than I expected to. Um, and of course, honors only takes one year and the job market hadn't massively improved in that year anyway. Um, and so when that ended, I decided to do a PhD. In computer science and, you know, I really enjoyed that. It was actually a nice time in my life. Um, but also what it did was give me the credentials and, uh, allow the market to recover to a point where I was able to go straight from that into a job at Google, uh, which I don't think for a variety of reasons would have been open to me outside of my undergrad. So actually coming. Uh, you know, into the, into the workforce or graduating uni, when the job market was tough has sent my, my career on the course that it's been on. I suspect if I'd gotten into a graduate program at a managed services company, uh, Have had is interesting career. Um, and so, you know, I'm, I'm sort of grateful in a sense for what felt like a bit of a misfortune at the time. And you know, of course it, it's very hard to predict the future, but the markets are incredibly choppy right now. Uh, check company layoffs, uh, in the news for the first time, since 2008. At the earliest at the latest rather. Um, and so it is worth thinking. People might be feeling a little bit nervous and understanding that when you look at things over a longer arc, uh, it's very hard to predict, you know, which, which setbacks and you know, which opportunities actually end up working out.

James:

Yeah. Like, yeah. I like what you said that it's kind of hard to know in the moment, but it's easy to know, looking backwards and it kind of makes sense. Looking back is, is doing a PhD and things like that. Something that you would, like you said, perhaps it's partially contextual to like the market and the job market, like when you're graduating. But is that something that you would like, you were looking back, I'm really glad that you did and you perhaps do again, if you were a young person.

Yaniv:

Yeah, it depends on your motivation. I would suggest that you shouldn't do a PhD in order to get a leg up in the job market, unless you have very specific career goals that involve either obviously an academic career or maybe. Highly specialized data scientist, AI type person where, uh, having that deeper research credential, uh, can really get you ahead. Um, what I found when I did my PhD is that I enjoyed it. Um, and so, you know, if you really enjoy sinking your teeth into a problem, uh, it's actually a quite nice halfway house or transition between university and work. Uh, you're much more expected to do things on your own. You know, you're sitting in a, in a lab, which, you know, when you were at doing computer science, it's basically just an office. Um, and you know, you meet your supervisor once a week, once every two, three weeks, depending who you've got and the rest is up to you. Uh, and so it's a lot like a job except with less money, but also, uh, you know, less, less pressure. In some ways people put a lot of pressure on themselves in a PhD. Uh, and there's certainly a lot of work to it, but I found it was actually a really. Enjoyable time with my life. And I made good friends, uh, and, and connections there that, you know, and a number of whom I'm still in touch with. Uh, but if, if you want a, a more general career and you don't think that you'll enjoy doing the PhD for its own sake, uh, then you know, I find people who go in without that sense of enjoyment and curiosity just have a really miserable time. And, you know, they don't get the benefit of.

James:

Yeah. No, certainly I totally, I totally see that. I think that's really cool. Uh, let's talk now about, so you finished your PhD and you kind of on the job market, looking for things to do. Was that a consideration there, or did you consider kind of continuing down the academic path?

Yaniv:

I think I knew I was done then, and I was. I think I'd reached certain conclusions. You know, my, my research was broadly in the area of information retrieval or search. Uh, you know, by the time I finished, it was 2006, but then Google was already a pretty large, pretty significant company that IPO in 2004. Um, and what I saw during the course of my research was that. The best research was actually being done in those private companies anyway, and the big challenge that the academic sphere face. And I think this has only gotten worse in a lot of disciplines is. In order to do good research, you needed access to high quality data. And the high quality data had become proprietary. Right? So if you're doing research on search engines and the best algorithms require access to click data and all sorts of stuff, uh, you know, high quality crawls on the web of the web and so on. Well, Google had all that stuff and they weren't sharing it. And so in academia, we were forced to do research. Yeah. Somewhat artificial problems. And I just felt it, it started to become a little bit meaningless and, you know, I guess it was easy in a way doing research and search engines just when Google was becoming this abs. Based, uh, it seemed like an obvious place to go. And so I didn't actually put too much thought into what to do next. It felt like somewhere where I could, in a sense continue the spirit of some of the work I was doing, but do it at a place where you could have meaningful, real world impact. And that's pretty much how it worked out.

James:

Yeah. Cool. And you, when you started at Google, did you, did you start like straightaway because I know you went overseas and worked in Switzerland for awhile. Did you, was that something where you were in Australia and you went straight over there?

Yaniv:

Yep. And it was sort of that fairly typical Aussie thing where we kind of feel like, uh, you know, before you get too many attachments or commit kind of commitments, that might be fun to live overseas for a few years. And, uh, it probably would have been, you know, the obvious thing. And ultimately if I was making the decision purely on a career basis, I probably should've gone to San Francisco and, and worked at the headquarters. Um, you know, living in Switzerland in the center of Europe, it felt like it would be more fun. So I actually applied directly for the job in Zurich, just based on wanting to live in that part of the world. And yeah, I did have the job, like I'd applied for the job while I was finishing up my thesis. Um, but I took three months off and I basically traveled not exactly Overland, but we did a long slow trip from Australia. Switzerland through China and central Asia and south Asia, which was a lot of fun.

James:

Yeah, that's so good. It's yeah. Good, good place to work to be outta yet. I travel around in west, do that classic sort of Australian European experience, but you're there for a bit longer and you get to see you have your stuff. So lots of people have. Like their international experiences when they come back and there, they're able to kind of look at problems in new and unique ways. Has it, was that the case, do you think for yourself as well, do you feel like being overseas and internationally gave you that a bit more breadth when looking at, um, like different problems that you've, that you've faced in your career?

Yaniv:

I think there's two things or maybe two and a half things. So one is the international experience itself, uh, where you just get to see how people live somewhere else. Right. And it helps you triangulate a bit, right? When you've got two data points, this is how we do things in Australia. This is how they do things in Switzerland. It challenges some of your assumptions that is only one way of doing something and that's certainly valuable. Um, the other thing, and this is sort of the Anaheim. Is that in the workplace, you get exposed to a lot of different cultures and different ways of thinking. Now, I only count that as a half, because quite often you get very international workforces in Australia. Uh, but suddenly, you know, I got to spend a lot of time working with various people from European cultures and learning how to interact with folks like that. Certainly, uh, you know, it's, it's another kind of string to your bow. But the other thing, and this was less about working overseas as such and more about working at a company like Google is that there is still a lot of, especially, you know, I'm in technology obviously. Um, there are a lot of best practices, uh, you know, the sort of most progressive ways of, of doing things, you know, building tech software products that are not fully developed in Australia. And so working at a company that. Really does things to that standard, um, was really valuable. And, you know, if I may briefly plug my podcast, the startup podcast, that's really, you know, our kind of byline there is to say, you know, we're about how to build a startup. Silicon valley style, right? Which is how do you work? How do you work in a way that, that places like Google and Facebook and Airbnb and, and whatnot, uh, really did things. And even though I was never actually in Silicon valley, having worked for Google, whether it was in the U S or Switzerland, or even in Australia, I think really gave me a perspective that I wouldn't have gotten if I worked for an Australian based.

James:

Yeah, but that's a really gone, so yeah, I think that's super cool because I think sometimes it's hard, you know, whether you're an organization or even as a young person, or even as any person in your career, sometimes it's hard to know kind of, you know, what is, what is a good version of this look like? And sometimes you can kind of just be, you know, trying stuff out and seeing what works well, but. Uh, like tight Honi leaps forward by bias understanding, okay, this is, this is the kind of bleeding edge way of doing things. Um, and like, yeah, I, I think that's, that's really cool.

Yaniv:

Yeah. I mean, that's right. Like, you know, you talk, they talk about standing on the shoulders of giants, right? If you want to be really good at your craft, uh, it's incredibly valuable to be exposed to people who are. Doing it, you know, the best in the world, trying to bootstrap yourself and figure it all out on your own or, or even just by reading, to be honest, it doesn't give you that same impact and that same pace of learning.

James:

Yeah, definitely. W what are some things that you think like that, but Google does, I mean, Google has been a big comp big company for a while now. And the big for like, obviously for a reason, what are some things that you think that they do well, and things that really, maybe from an organizational perspective that they, you know, they're really like, uh, succeeding and, and, uh, and kind of allow them to continue to like, do good work and make great.

Yaniv:

So I think there, there are two big things that come to mind. Uh, one is a focus on technical excellence and I don't just mean software. I mean, across the board, there's an expectation that. Things that we are bringing in people who are true experts at building large systems and understanding large systems, and that we're not going to meaningfully compromise in terms of the quality of what we're building. Um, you know, and that was something that, you know, as an engineer, especially, uh, the strength of that engineering culture and the quality of the talent that that was brought to. Um, that I could learn from and along was incredible. And then related to that, the second point, which is not, not distinct completely is actually how loosely run Google was, which sounds strange. Right. But what you find with a lot of companies, especially, uh, Older companies that predated techno sort of the technology world is that they try to manage projects quite tightly. Right. So you've got things like, you know, strict roadmaps and a lot of business analysts and, you know, maybe agile frameworks that are mandated, maybe something like safe and so on. And that actually really squeezes a lot of autonomy and agility out of the teams, which is ironic. You know, a lot of these frameworks are call themselves agile frameworks, but they actually constrain teams very much in terms of how they operate. And, you know, at Google. We didn't even really use scrum, but in particular, every team just figure it out for itself the right way it had to operate. Uh, and that was a conversation within the team. And, you know, the team had a high level mandate. They set some okay as objectives and key results that, you know, they had to synchronize with with leadership. But again, the team had a lot of autonomy, autonomy in setting their own OKR relative to their mission and their mandate. And that gave them the. Ability to focus on building really significant software and solving big problems. Um, and you know, I think it is worth noting that Google has been, you know, it was and remains in a luxurious position of having a lot of cash, um, which makes life easier. It causes us problems as well. Um, but you know, I think what it did, especially in the early days is make intelligent use of that cash. By reinvesting it in the business. And I think often companies in Australia are very much focused on the bottom line rather than the top line. Right. Which is like, you know, making a profit, which is great, but that means that they don't invest as heavily in building rent. Great technology. As they could. And I think if you, again, view it over a long enough arc, you wouldn't say that, you know, Google is spending billions of dollars on search technology on ad technology on maps was anything other than a really fantastic use of investors' money. So, uh, yeah, I, I think a lot of these things like they come from the top and I think as I've been in my career for longer, I have appreciated that more and more that. We got to operate as individual engineering teams at Google we're based on how people at the very top of the company were thinking about things that seemed quite distant to me at the time, like capital allocation, uh, and how they think about product and how they think about accountability in the company.

James:

Yeah. Yeah. I think that was really interesting. And then what are some things, you know, like, like those heaps of things there that Google does really well, what are some things, if you, uh, Perhaps a young person looking for a job now, like what are some kind of, what are some of those things that you would look for in an organization that you kind of want to see and say, whether it's like talented, uh, talented employees or, you know, a good structure, like, like we just spoke about, is there anything that you would kind of really highlight is things that you'd really look for?

Yaniv:

I mean, I think talented employees is kind of a gimme, like, yes, I think good people like working with good people. Uh, so that is definitely a big one. Uh, but in terms of the actual company structure and sort of company culture, I would say there are two things to look out for depending on the type of company. Um, so if it's an older company, a, you know, a company say, you're, you're looking to join a, an insurance company or something like that. Someone that's been around for awhile that sort of pre. Tech for want of a better term, then what you want to look at. And, you know, there might be undergoing a digital transformation or, you know, whatever they call it internally. What you want to look for is the degree to which the company is genuinely committed to that, uh, because it's a profound change that needs to come from the top. And so you can't really, in my view, kind of incrementally undergo a digital transformation because it it's actually. It's not a technology transformation, right? It's actually a cultural transformation that is embodied in technology. Right. You need to start doing everything differently. And so you want to say is the company really, does it have the, the appetite and the courage to go through that? So that's on the one side of things. That's, if you're working for an older, larger established. If you're looking to join, say, I, I knew a company, a scale-up let's say, you know, a company that maybe was founded 7, 8, 9 years ago, and now has a few hundred employees. You're nearly looking for the opposite problem, which is. Have they done what it takes to mature. Right. Um, a lot of companies and, and, you know, this was actually one of the downsides I feel at Google. Uh, you know, we talked about the upsides is you have what I call the sort of the Peter pan syndrome where they, they don't want to grow up. Right. And they're like, it was really fun when we were a startup and it was a bunch of people in a room eating pizza and drinking beer, and it was great and suddenly 200 people, and you're still trying to run the company and the same. Uh, and what happens if you, if you're not careful as you get a lot of the worst things about being at a larger organization, uh, without the benefits, right? So what you want to do is, and you know, if you hear a bigger company saying, oh, we're still, we're still like a startup. Um, to me, that's a yellow flag. You wanna, you wanna dig in a little bit deeper because that's sort of like, you know, a 40 year old saying I'm still like a teenager. It's like, well, you know, are you not just embarrassing yourselves at that point? And. You know, you want to understand, like how's, the company kept that spirit of innovation and agility of a startup, but actually lay it in the structures that allows them to effectively execute that scale. Because otherwise what it becomes is I think it's technically called a shit show and it, it might, it might seem great that there's sort of no, no guidance and no accountability, but what it means is you end up with a lot of destructive interference where everyone's going off in a different direction. And what that feels like is one no career progression and two, you don't feel like you're making progress, right? There's a lot of activity, but not a lot of progress. Uh, and so those are the things I think I'd look out for is, you know, in a sense it's sort of coming at it from opposite directions is, does that organization have that blend of maturity and agility that allows it to be a place where you can really grow in your career, uh, and have an impact on the way.

James:

Hmm. Yeah, that's really cool. Does it useful tips? I think for people hunting for a job at the moment, um, what are some things that like, cause you have your own company at the moment and you kind of try to put it in some of these best practices, like in the early days. Are there any things that you really like now as you appeared in the company, you know, those sort of cornerstone things, are there any, are there any of those that you're really trying to focus on? Um, in terms of. Creating that good culture and, um, and trying to, you know, get, have that foundation, um, you know, to build the company in the right way.

Yaniv:

Yeah, I do. And you know, I think it is about. Values and alignment. So having shared values and you know, this is one of those things, it's easy to be cynical about it. You know, so many companies have a set of company values and they make a nice poster and they stick it on a wall and everyone walks past and ignores the poster. But if you have. Values and what we call a circular virtues as well, which are concrete behaviors that are aligned to our values that we say, this is how we behave is, uh, at this company. And, you know, that means like one of our virtues is ask why a lot. Right? So w we're actually encouraging people to question stuff, right. And if we are explicit about that, and then we talk about it and we lead by example and. Uh, encourage and reward those behaviors. Then you creating a strong culture from the beginning. And one of the things about culture is it's wise culture. Why does culture get spoken about so much? And it's because it's this force that is highly scalable. Uh, and also that it, uh, w when I say Tyler scalable, what I mean is, as an organization grows it's culture. Travels along with that growth, right? Because culture is imposed or. Transferred rather peer to peer. So if you have a strong culture, it's not a few people in management or leadership, trying to get people to do things a certain way. You join a company, you absorb the culture from the people around you. And so if you have a good culture as you grow, it's one of the most scalable ways of making sure. Organizations still functioning well. Um, and then the other thing, which is very much a double-edged soul is that a culture has an immune system. I call it right, which is whatever culture you have is really hard to change. It resists change. So if you have a good culture, it will resist change. If you have a bad culture, it will also resist change. So trying to change a culture that has already deeply established itself, uh, in an organization is extremely different. It's possible. Uh, but only in a very painful and expensive way. And so setting the culture correctly from the beginning is extremely high level. Uh, so that's something that I try to do. And then alongside that, I mentioned alignment. Um, and again, that's something, uh, that, that I was talking about, you know, about these companies that don't grow up. Um, it's really important early on when you can get everyone in a room or, you know, in a, in a zoom call easily, and everyone knows each other, well, you can just, you know, have stand-ups or sinks and you stay aligned that way. Uh, but you know, when you start hiring a lot of people and then you might have a few layers. Management. It can be very easy, surprisingly easy for, not for different parts of the company to have different ideas of what's important to do or the right way of doing things or, you know, what the priorities are for the organization. And that's when, like I said, you start pulling in different directions. Um, and so again, perhaps earlier than a lot of other companies that circular we've made an effort to build this. Sort of scaled rituals for sharing alignment and context. Like even when there were just 10 of us, we had a weekly, all hands meeting where we'd go through all the company numbers and go through, you know, what our top priorities were as a company and taking questions and so on, uh, with 10 people, is it overkill to do that weekly maybe? Uh, but now we're 20 people and that's scaled effortlessly. And if we get to a hundred people, it will still be. Abel, we will still be able to share context and alignment that way. So those are the sorts of things that I think about. And, you know, ultimately it is why I ended up co-founding a startup is because I see that so many of these things, really, these are, these are foundational things that need to be laid down at the beginning. Uh, coming in later there's much, you have much less ability to influence change. I think that that's true as, as a leader, but also as an employee. So, you know, I think if you look at my career, I've kind of gone backwards from very big companies like Google through to scale ups, like Airtasker, and now to my own startup and, you know, there are a lot of different ways to construct a career. Absolutely. Um, I'm actually. And, you know, I didn't plan it this way, but I'm quite happy with how that sequencing has worked out, uh, because it does give you that context to see how things are done well at a larger scale. And then you go backwards into an earliest stage and you kind of know a little bit of. What comes next and what those things are that you can bring, uh, to an earlier stage company. Whereas if you go straight into a startup, a lot of people, I admire do that and can do an incredible job, but in a way it's harder because you don't have anything to measure things pie, right. You're just thrown into the chaos and need to figure it out.

James:

Yeah, not cool. I think it's really cool. I've done that as well. I think we've had some really like that variety of experiences, like you said, and knowing kind of the best, uh, great ways to do. Um, you know, helps a lot when you're going into a place like a startup, because if you, yeah, if you, if you're just trying to work things out, um, from the ground up, like we've spoken about when you're in that startup situation, then, uh, things can, can get tricky. I think, um, I'd love to talk about, yeah, like you mentioned that you're experienced at air Tasker, so you started off there as, as the VP of engineering going from. Uh, I see him just like perhaps a team lead or a senior engineer. Um, what was kind of the biggest differences there between being an engineer, but to sort of the, the vice president at that way, you are kind of detached a little bit more from the actual engineering and any kind of having to manage people more so than the specific technology kind of what we at, what was the, what are the key things there?

Yaniv:

Yeah. So when I left Google, I was already managing. Teams, but the, the real difference going from Google to Airtasker was going from, um, I guess, being a culture recipient to being a culture maker. Right. Which is to say, you know, I talked about Google, obviously, a very strong engineering culture and also a massive company. And I was a very small cog in that. Amazing machine. And so, you know, really, as, as a leader, there is your job to understand how things are done and apply them to your team specific context to the people, to the, to the teams, to the mission of those teams. Um, which was really interesting. But I think after a time I, um, I started to get my own ideas, which is always dangerous, right. About how things should be done. And so that, that became a bit of an itch for me that I needed to scratch. And so, you know, I, I think when I came to air Tasker, right, again, it was a scale up company that needed to mature its engineering culture to, to make it's practices and ways of doing things match the stage it was at as a company. Um, and what that meant is it was my job. Take some of the things I've learned at Google and not recreate them at air Tasker because every company is different. Every scale is different, but to take what they've learned at Google and apply those lessons to. Think about the best way for air task is engineering to mature. And, you know, I, I found that both difficult and rewarding. Um, but you know, if you get the right team around you, that's, that's really exciting. But I actually think you were maybe asking a slightly different question, which is about the transition from being, I guess, handsome. With the tools as, you know, like as a senior engineer or whatnot, um, to more of a management and leadership position. Um, and you know, that really comes down to, um, changing the way you have impact. And, you know, one of the models that I've, I've heard of thinking about this, that, that I like is that you, you change from. Um, a model of being additive to one of being multiplicative, right? So if you're an individual contributor, you can say, well, I, you know, the way I achieve a, you know, a set level of impact say, you know, 100 impact points is by doing a hundred impact points worth of work myself. Right. Um, and that can be, you know, you can build a whole career as an individual contributor and actually, um, It, now that you know that we're going there, you asked me about what made Google special. Um, it was one of the first companies that built a proper individual contributor career track so that you could get, you know, extremely, uh, senior without having to move into management, which was, you know, really important. So you could just keep getting that like, points that you add. You can just keep growing that and growing that and not be, not hit a glass ceiling in your career. And so, for example, I think, you know, terms like principal and principal engineer and distinguished engineer, uh, if Google didn't actually come up with them, I think, uh, one of the first companies to implement that as a core part of it's a career pathway. Anyway, so that's an. Um, but whether I was going to say is when you move into management, uh, you suddenly become a multiplier factor, right? You're managing a team of five people let's say, uh, and you don't get to do a whole lot of adding, right? What you do is instead say, okay, if we have five people and they're each producing 100 impact points, and I, as a manager can make the right moves, which means in terms of, you know, leading coaching, Removing obstacles, whatever it is that I can have a multiplier effect across those 500 impact points. Right? So you say, I make my whole team 20% more impactful and more productive. So we go from 500 impact points to 600. Well, that's how I get my 100 impact points as a manager. Um, which, which makes it sort of clear why in a lot of cases, management is the greatest. in terms of your career pathway, the way to have the greatest impact, because as you grow in your career there, you can apply your multiplier over a larger, in the larger number of people. Right? So suddenly, you know, if you're. Responsible for a group of 100 people and you make them all 10% better, then that's a huge amount of leverage, which is why. Yeah. You know, senior leaders do tend to be sought after and well rewarded, but, uh, it is quite a mindset shift, right? It's harder to feel productive when, what you are doing. One level removed when you are working to make other people more productive and kind of, you know, getting a share of the credit for that, uh, rather than being productive yourself.

James:

that's a fantastic analogy, I think. Thanks for sharing that with us. I think, yeah, that, that makes a lot of sense. Um, and I, yeah, I think it's interesting to see now at the sort of individual contributor path, like you mentioned, kind of start to get into, into places and start to become a real viable, viable path. Certainly I think there's, um, a lot of value in, in specializing, in being someone that's true. You know, uh, proper expert. Um, and what you do. I want to ask more about someone that's like a junior engineer or someone that's a junior, someone that's just starting, starting working. And perhaps in the engineering context, you know, we, you spoke about those a hundred impact points. And I wonder like, as a, as a junior kind of, what things would you recommend to someone that kind of wants to. W like how many impact points as I can. Um, you know, H like, is there any ways you think about that and perhaps things that principals that they should follow to kind of.

Yaniv:

The biggest one that I can think of is to really. Try to understand the business and the product that you were working on. Uh, and again, coming in as an engineer, I think it can be, and, you know, I fell into this trap completely. Um, it can be very easy to see your job as being to write code and ship features. Uh, But it's not right. Your job is, you know, I use the term impact points deliberately. Cause I, I really don't care how much work you do. It's how much impact you have that matters. Right? And so if you want to have those impact points, you need to understand what's. your customers or users or stakeholders, and ultimately to the company, and then ultimately to the business, if you're working at a business, which, you know, I guess most people are, if you're working in government or a nonprofit, you know, understand what the ultimate goals of that organization, uh, uh, and, you know, become a student of that because no matter what role you're in. will be able to make better decisions. You'll be able to prioritize your time better. You'll be able to ask more intelligent questions. If you're able to see the big picture and understand why your employer is asking you to do the things that you're doing rather than simply doing what you're told. So, you know, and I feel like they're going to engineering because it's a technical role and as so much to learn about. Building software that there's often this big missed opportunity to say that, you know, as, as a manager, I can tell you the most valuable engineers are in a vast majority of cases, the ones who have these so-called soft skills around communication, product, understanding commercial understanding, and are able to combine that with strong technical skills to have the maximum impact on the product.

James:

Yeah, that's cool. And understanding why something that, you know, it, it's not super hard to do, but I guess you can, it has a large, large impact on what you're doing. Just giving you, even yourself, that context of, you know, where, where does your role fit in with any organization and things like

Yaniv:

Yeah.

James:

think is.

Yaniv:

You know, this may not be possible in every organization, depending, you know, hopefully if you've got a good manager, it is possible. Like, I, I nearly set a principle for myself and, you know, talking about the values and virtues that I'm putting in, in circular. I'm, I'm trying to create this for everyone is you shouldn't stop. Doing a piece of work until you understand why that piece of work is worth doing right. Which is to say, you know, the model of you are just a pair of hands and you are renting out your time. Uh, I think that's outdated in most organizations, right? You are. It's not like you're trading your time for money. You're trading. Ability to deliver value for money, right? And so, in a sense, you need to take responsibility for making sure that your time is being used effectively and that you're not wasting it. Um, and I think understanding the motivations of your manager or your leadership as to why you're being asked to do a certain piece of work often gives you an opportunity to be more effective. Uh, but at the same time, it doubles as a great way of learning. Right. You start to see how you're fitting into a bigger picture. Um, and so it's just a good principle, uh, understand the why of what you're doing before you actually start doing it and be as insistent as is politically viable at your organization to have that understanding.

James:

Yeah, I don't think, I think that's really cool. Um, who are some people that. I'm curious like, yeah. Who are some people that inspire you and, or who are some people that, um, you know, that you look to and think that they're setting a really good example for, um, for yourself, perhaps people that you aspire to to be more like, is there anyone, is there anyone like that?

Yaniv:

I mean from an it sort of company leadership point of view. I really love. Reed Hastings from Netflix. Uh, you know, he wrote a book last year, I think called no rules rules. Uh, his head of people wrote a similar book, um, cold, powerful a couple of years before that. And both of those were based in a sense on Netflix as famous culture deck, uh, which, you know, it's something that they've been kind of building on for years. Um, and you know, I think Netflix is the best and bottom embodiment of this model of really. Uh, you know, they call it leading with context and not control. So hiring great people, uh, being somewhat ruthless in terms of your expectations of them, right? This is a pro sports team, not a family. Again, that's something that I really believe in, in the workplace, uh, families, a great, but it's just a different kettle of fish, right? Families don't have a mission, they just are. Um, and so it's not the right model. And then the third thing is. Leading with context and not control, which means you it's really comes down to what I've just been saying. You don't tell people what to do so much, as you tell people what needs to be achieved and you expect them to figure out the best way to achieve those things, because you've given them enough of that business and product context that they know everything you do as a senior leader, and they can apply it to the specific. Problem that they and their team have been charged with solving. Um, and so it's, yeah, it's a very kind of, you know, interesting combination. Yeah. Uh, in that I call it freedom and responsibility. So they've got nice slogans for all of these things, right? Which is you give people a huge amount of freedom and the, the context to exercise that freedom wisely. But you're also giving them a very heavy responsibility to deliver massive value with that freedom and that context that you've given them. Uh, and you know, I think. If executed well, that is really the type of company that, um, and the organization that I'd like to work for and, you know, be a part of building.

James:

Yeah, cool. Well, I hope that circular can grow and, and have those kinds of values and really support, um, people and create that environment so that people can have that, that freedom to. To have a great impact as well. Um, I've got one last question for you. And then that's a question I ask all the guests on the show and it's, it's the question is this, if you had to rewind the clock back to when you were first starting work, uh, knowing what you know now, is there anything at any advice you'd give yourself or anything that you'd do differently in that.

Yaniv:

Yeah, I think I backed myself more and be more entrepreneurial. And, you know, I, I suspect there's a generational element to this. Uh, where you go from, you know, a couple of generations back where it was kind of a, you know, lifetime employment sort of thing. Uh, maybe two. To my generation where there's a lot more mobility in people's careers, but it's still tended to follow a, you know, part of full-time jobs, you know, from one to another, uh, to, I think now when, you know, I'm seeing a lot of the sorts of communities, like the one that you are you're serving, right. Where people are really trying to be. Architects of their own careers. So when I say entrepreneurial-ism sure some of, some of the time that means starting your own business, um, or at my main starting a side hustle or, or podcast or anything like that, um, and building a personal brand, uh, but it also means taking a more active control of your career and not being as passive and say, well, you know, I've got my job now. I need to work towards my next promotion or whatnot. It's, it's really a question of being. You know, the architect of your own career and understanding of course, that, uh, you know, the future is, is very difficult to predict, but to have a set of goals and principles that you proactively set and then try to design your career around that. I think I'm seeing a lot more of that with, you know, the current generation of graduates and, uh, early career folks. And, um, I'm really kind of in all of that and a bit envious of that. And I sort of think, you know, if. Been more intentional in, in designing my career, you know, where, where could I have gotten to, I could, I've gotten to where I have earlier. Uh, you know, so that's something that I feel that that's, the advice I would have to myself is, you know, be intentional in planning a career that the tools that are available these days are. Right. Um, just from, from things like this podcast to communities like, like early work, uh, through to just the vast amount of resources online, the ability to start side hustles fairly easily, um, the availability of capital for early stage startups, that there is a lot of stuff around now that didn't use to exist. Uh, you know, if I were around now, I would hope, uh, that I'd be able to make more use of that stuff and really be intentional and mindful and designing my career.

James:

Yeah, no, that's really cool. And certainly there's so many resources available tonight for people. And it's great to hear your thoughts there about being more intentional, because I think that's something that, yeah, like you said, with the things that are available, it's something that we can all we can all strive to do more. Um, thanks so much for coming on the show today. Uh, you know, I have, uh, you know, I guess to finish off the show, where should people go to find out more about yourself and more about.

Yaniv:

So I'm active on LinkedIn, so you can find me there. I'm also increasingly active on Twitter. So my handle there is at Y Bernstein, uh, slightly different. I, I post different sort of stuff, a bit more suitable for the, for the relevant platform. Um, I also have a newsletter called people engineering. So that's newsletter dot people, enj.com, where I share my thoughts on how to build a scalable high-performing organization, which is part of what we talked about. Now. Uh, more recently, I also have a podcast called the startup podcast available in all the favorite podcast apps. Uh, collaboration with Chris sod. Who's a well-known operator here in Australia. And, um, there we talk about, it's nearly like a, a mini MBA talking about what you need to know about as someone working at a startup or as a founder at a startup. Uh, and finally, but by no means, least is my own startups circular. We alive in Singapore and Australia, we're hiring actively in Australia for a variety of roles. So check us out on now, circular.com/careers. Have a look at what's going on. Um, and you know, we're, we're going to go into general availability in Australia shortly. So if you feel like checking out the product, please.

James:

Yes. Cool. I've I've actually had a look at Cirque. Yeah. Yeah. I think it's super cool. What you guys are building and I'll be hopefully on there. And when I need my next new device.

Yaniv:

You do that.

James:

you so much for your time today and yeah. Have a great week.

Yaniv:

Thank it was a pleasure.

James:

Thanks for listening to this episode I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you want to get my takeaways, the things that I learned from this episode, please go to graduate theory.com/subscribe, where you can get my takeaways and all the information about each episode, straight to your inbox. Thanks so much for listening again today, and we're looking forward to seeing you next week.