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Alumni Connections

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Tyler Kieft 2009

Location: New York, NY
Major: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Company: Facebook - Instagram
Title: Engineering Manager

What are your daily tasks and how do you support your organization?

My job is to empower engineers to solve technical problems, rather than solve them myself. A team's most important resource is its people, so I participate in the Facebook hiring process, recruiting engineers to join the team and mentoring them to grow their technical and leadership skills. I help the team create a roadmap and set goals, coordinating with other teams at the company to solve overlaps and fill gaps. It's essential that our team be able to explain how we're directly contributing to Instagram's mission.

What do you consider the most essential skills for this career?

The most important skill for any manager is empathy. If you demonstrate care toward the people you manage, they will be much happier and more likely to produce great results. Communication skills are so important–I spend most of my days writing and speaking. I think it's quite helpful, although not essential, to have a strong technical background and be fluent in the company's problem domain.

What advice do you have for students preparing for careers in your field?

Work on a programming project outside of class to improve your skills. It doesn't matter what it does, nor what language you use, nor if you did it on your own time or were paid to do it. It demonstrates passion for the field, creativity, and an ability to complete larger projects than you otherwise might do in labs or classes. Unlike many other fields, it costs basically nothing to gain experience in software engineering, such that most top-tier tech firms expect to see it. It gives you something exciting and unique to talk about during an interview.

What do you wish you had known during your time at Rochester that you know now?

Don't optimize for your happiness/career a hypothetical ten years down the road; optimize for now. You have no idea who you'll be or what you'll want to be doing in ten years, and you're probably wrong about it if you think you do. Realizing this near the very end of my college career gave me the freedom to take a risk and pursue a startup company after college with no idea where my career was headed. The best way to start down that path of success is to do something that you're excited and passionate about right now.