Engineer Profile: Tasneem Minadakis, Engineering Director at Google

On getting into leadership: “My manager took a bet on me. I became the manager for the Developer Platform team on Surface. I was not sure I was ready for it, but I trusted my manager and his instincts, and I was willing to bet on myself.” Grace Hopper 2018

On getting into leadership: “My manager took a bet on me. I became the manager for the Developer Platform team on Surface. I was not sure I was ready for it, but I trusted my manager and his instincts, and I was willing to bet on myself.” Grace Hopper 2018

Tasneem Minadakis is an Engineering Director at Google. Prior to Google, she held various Engineering leader positions at Uber, Yelp and Microsoft.

In this profile, she talks about everything from what drew her to tech to how to build strong team cultures.

What is your favorite part about working in tech?

For me, the best part of working in tech has been the opportunity to work on problems that help simplify everyday life. Early in my career, I worked on touch interfaces in products like Surface and Windows. This opened up possibilities for building intuitive interfaces and making computers easier to use for kids, as well as folks like my mom who are not very computer savvy. Later in my career, I got a chance to work on products like Yelp and Uber. I cannot imagine going to a restaurant or a hair salon without looking for reviews on Yelp, and I wouldn’t know how to get there without an Uber!

Apart from solving interesting problems, I have enjoyed working with amazing people, coaching many folks who are early or mid-career and learning something new every day from people I meet in this industry.

What is your normal work day like?

I split my time between 3 categories -- product, people and process. The amount of time spent in each category usually depends on the time of the year.

Product - I do deep-dives into product and engineering.  Sometimes my focus is low-level design and sometimes it’s about guiding the team.  

People - I spend a lot of my time building relationships with members of my staff, the rest of my org, peers, stakeholders and partners.  Sometimes it’s just catching up, rather than having a specific agenda. A lot of work in large companies happens via relationships.

Process - I constantly look to optimize execution, unblock the team and make them productive. It’s about finding a balance between too much and too little process.

How did you get into technical leadership?

Uber Tech Conference, 2017.

Uber Tech Conference, 2017.

In 2008, my manager at the time took a bet on me.  I became the manager for the Developer Platform team on Surface. I was not sure I was ready for it, but I trusted my manager and his instincts, and I was willing to bet on myself. I made some mistakes in my first year, learnt a ton through the challenges, and I realized how much I enjoyed the job. I have been fortunate enough to have had some amazing mentors in my career.  They helped me think through the professional challenges I faced and provided me the perspective of someone who had conquered them.

What do you think is a key ingredient to being a successful engineering leader?

A successful leader is one that is able to make themselves dispensable because they’ve built high performing and capable teams. Successful leaders share the following attributes -

  • Open and honest  communication

  • Treating others with respect, humility and empathy

  • Willing to challenge the status quo

  • Always open to learning something new

What do you look for in a company culture?

A healthy culture has:

  • A clear vision that every member of the organization can understand and is excited about

  • Trust in the decisions of the organization’s leadership

  • Appetite for taking risks and a willingness to challenge the status quo

A successful leader is one that is able to make themselves dispensable because they’ve built high performing and capable teams.

What is one of your favorite resources for technical development?

Google! All my research starts from there.

Tasneem at the Calibrate Conference in 2016.

Tasneem at the Calibrate Conference in 2016.

What has been your favorite project that you worked on?

Every project I have worked on, I’ve enjoyed because it has been a journey with a lot of learning, failures and success stories. Each project has made me a slightly better leader and has taught me to proactively anticipate and manage risks.

How do you make sure you’re always in the know for the latest technologies?

I keep myself up to date with online news resources, blog posts, conferences and local meetups. I primarily listen to my team as they are the technical experts. My goal is to ask intelligent questions and ensure the team has considered all of the best practices when architecting our products.  

What is the best career/personal advice you’ve ever received?

Think about work and life balance in terms of weeks and months rather than over a day. You may not achieve balance every day, but try to achieve it over a given week or month instead.

What’s your favorite book/food?

My favorite food is Greek salad. I can eat it almost every day.


Tasneem will be sharing more about her experience at ModelExpand’s upcoming #WomeninTech Breakfast: The Path to Engineering 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.