Engineer Profile: Disha Al Baqui, Senior Engineering Manager at Hulu
Disha is a Senior Engineering Manager at Hulu. Her interests lie in leading passionate engineering teams to operational efficiency and autonomy. Prior to Hulu, she has built up her experience in the consumer industry, with positions at Samsung Electronics and Patch.com.
In this blog profile, she shares the positivity she has received along her personal journey into the tech industry.
What is your typical workday like?
I am an engineering manager in the Metadata Platform organization at Hulu. I lead engineers in multiple teams who are responsible for the services that ingest content that comes into Hulu. A large part of my job entails collaborating and building consensus with teams in and out of Metadata Platform. Aside from technically leading my teams’ endeavors, I’m responsible for the architecture and the future vision of my services and the role we play in the larger platform. Last but not least, I coach and mentor my team to be better technologists and hulugans.
What is important for you in a company culture?
When I started looking at new opportunities, Hulu was the one that checked all the boxes. It was a collaborative environment, the technology was interesting, it was in a space that I was always passionate about, and the company was growing rapidly and promoted growth from within. In addition, I found opportunities to affect change and make an impact on the business. What clinched my decision was when I found that Hulu’s leaders and culture aligned with my personal philosophy on leadership. I strongly believe that the relationship you have with your manager is the most pivotal one: career conversations should be a two-way street and highly collaborative.
How did you get started in tech? What was the most important decision on why you decided to get into tech?
I studied computer science in college, but there was a touch and go moment in my first year in school where I almost quit. I had never taken any computer science classes in high school and came to the US from Saudi Arabia for college. There was a project that had overwhelmed me and I went up to my professor, Dr. Todd Neller, and told him I was done. I doubted my ability to deliver or have any impact and was at the point where I didn’t see the point in pursuing this line of education. He pulled me aside and said, “Don’t you dare. You are by far one of the best students in class and you’re just getting overwhelmed because you are a perfectionist. Yes, this can be complex, but you need to give yourself time to get acclimated to everything.” Todd’s support was critical in keeping me engaged and on this track. When I graduated four years later, I was the only woman in my class in computer science and the inaugural recipient of the Outstanding Computer Science Student award (they created the award for me and have continued it since!).
What advice would you give to your younger self, when you were just studying to become an engineer?
Persevere & be patient - don’t rush to get to the finish line, the journey to becoming an engineer is way more fun.
Work on projects that excite you - there’s so many that are out there.
Remember the theories learned in school - they will be applicable later.
How do you balance people management and technical work?
As a manager, I work and collaborate with a lot of teams on building consensus and balancing resources. I have learned to be flexible and versatile to understand where my team needs support and where I can trust them to venture on their own. However, when I identify an area where there’s a need, I step in and do what I can to fill in the gaps - no job is too small.
I strongly believe that the relationship you have with your manager is the most pivotal one: career conversations should be a two-way street and highly collaborative.
How do you make sure you’re always in the know for the latest technologies?
Attending conferences and industry events
Going to local meetups and talking to a lot of my colleagues who are facing similar challenges as me and collaborating towards innovative solutions
Subscribing to technical blogs on medium and keeping an eye towards the future of media & entertainment
What technical projects are you and your team currently working on?
We have a unique opportunity in the Metadata Platform team to breathe life into our ingestion platform that has been the backbone of Hulu’s content processing system for the last 11 years. We have been working on modernizing every aspect of that monolith and introducing the latest and greatest technologies into the stack while doing some much needed house cleaning. Along with this massive undertaking, my team is constantly working to provide cool new data points to enhance our viewer’s experiences from live sports scores to rich kids content.
What is one of your favorite resources for technical development?
Is there ever just one? Udemy, Pluralsight and Stack Overflow
What is the best career/personal advice you’ve ever received?
Do not give up.
What’s your favorite book/food/podcast?
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow - there’s a lot of similarities in leadership irrespective of team size or time period.
My culinary tastes are eclectic but I tend to lean towards the classic margherita pizza or a delicate slice of tuna sashimi.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What do you wake up looking forward to?
I still see myself solving problems. I still see myself working in technology. However, I see myself solving problems in technology with people and processes. I am most fulfilled when I can encourage and enable engineers to their fullest potential and when I can lead teams toward a common objective.
Disha will be sharing more about her experience at ModelExpand’s upcoming #WomeninTech Breakfast: The Path to Technical Leadership. The #WomeninTech Breakfast Series provides a space for women to connect, inspire and uplift one another. Check out our upcoming events here or learn more about our sponsorship opportunities.
ModelExpand: ModelExpand is a diversity and inclusion advisory firm that helps companies attract and retain diverse talent through strategic consulting, workshops and events.