On this week's episode, we're joined by Carol Barrett, an Engineering Leader in Consumer Identity and Access at Netflix. Host Conor Bronsdon interviews Carol to learn about Netflix’s blueprint for success when building engineering teams and how they foster a culture where purpose is at the forefront.

Carol shares her valuable insights on empowering engineers to make their own decisions, ensuring product management and engineering are perfectly synced, and the importance of flexible structures that cater to team dynamics. She also discusses the unique challenges and opportunities Netflix faces, including their approach to innovative projects and navigating uncharted technological territories.

“You have to allow the engineers to decide what's best, and where they want to invest their time. You can't really structure it for them, they have to structure it themselves.”

Episode Highlights: 

  • 4:17: Finding Alignment Between Product, Leadership and Engineering 
  • 11:21 How to Build Trust in Your Partnerships 
  • 16:26 Why Engineers Have to Decide What's Best
  • 22:56 Connecting Your Team’s Purpose to the Company’s Purpose 
  • 28:37 Why Netflix Stopped Hiring Only Senior Engineers 

Episode Transcript:

(Disclaimer: may contain unintentionally confusing, inaccurate and/or amusing transcription errors)

Carol Barrett: 0:00

Nobody will prioritize it for you. So we try to advocate good judgment from the ground up. from the most initial ways in which you do it. How do you apply good judgment? You can ask for context among the various projects and then you can decide where it makes sense for you. that said, you're not doing it in vacuum because you do have the list of what is important for the business and where do I want to invest my time. So under a wide construct, you can ask for that context to help improve your judgment and how you prioritize your work. And I think that has been the singular I would say very powerful way in which engineers feel empowered to how they spend their time, how they spend their day, and eventually how they spend their quarter

Ad Read

What's the impact of AI generated code. How can you measure it? Join linear B and ThoughtWorks global head of AI software delivery. As we explore the metrics that measure the impact gen AI has on the software delivery process in is first of its kind workshop. We'll share new data insights from our gen AI impact report. Case studies into how teams are successfully leveraging gen AI impact measurements, including adoption benefits and risk metrics. Plus a live demo of how you can measure the impact of your gen AI initiative today. Register at linear bead at IO slash events. And join us January 25th, January 30th, or on demand to start measuring the ROI of your gen AI initiative today. 

Conor Bronsdon: 1:24

Hey everyone, welcome back to Dev Interrupted. And I'm your co-host, Connor Broden, but I'm delighted to be joined today by Carol Barrett. Carol is an engineering leader in consumer identity and access at Netflix. A k, the CIA, uh, Carol, what a title. Great to have you with us.

Carol Barrett: 1:42

Thank you, Connor. I'm happy to be here.

Conor Bronsdon: 1:44

And I should clarify not the actual CIA, actually Netflix, but, uh, it's, it's, it's a fun acronym. And I, and I'd love to dig into, this a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your team and what it covers, and then we can dive into the topics.

Carol Barrett: 1:54

Yeah, absolutely, and I have to say, you know, it's, uh, when I was introducing the organization, the CIA, we would just, we would just laugh because it's consumer identity and access. It's meant to be that we keep your secrets. We know your identity, we keep your secrets. And, uh, as the name states, we basically look after all of the concerns of our identities, the consumers that use our, Our services. In terms of their identity, their email and credentials, as well as authentication concerns and authorization concerns. So they have the ability to access both our product and our content. And we basically deal with all of the systems and technology that handles all of that at Netflix.

Conor Bronsdon: 2:36

Kind of important. Maybe crucial in one would say. So let's open up with this. It feels like doing more with less is kind of a common trope, but is it actually true or do you believe it's an increasing problem we're seeing?

Carol Barrett: 2:49

So that's an interesting is it is a common trope, but it's such a misnomer because when you say doing more with less, like what does that mean? Right. And so, what we're seeing is that we are, because we serve all of Netflix and we serve all of our product priorities. We constantly have, we're constantly in the middle of the action. Yeah. In in many ways like the CIA thrilling action as well, . But it's fun because we get to, in, get involved in all of the various product innovations. And at the same time, we also have to invest in keeping our systems healthy because our subscriber base relies on us to be able to get access to their content. And so this is constant juggling of prioritization that we normally have to do. And you know this, the doing more with less. I'm like, you know, you can't, you can't wash your laundry with less detergent. That's not, what about AI and is AI going to automate everything? Maybe eventually, but it's, you know, it's not, I don't believe it's quite there yet for the kind of use cases that we would need. so, so yeah, so it's, it's, uh, it is something that we constantly consider. Um, one of the ways in which we have, we're trying to attempt, I would say, to solve it is through this concept of annual planning. So at Netflix, we only used to do quarterly planning. We just sort of paid attention to what we were doing in the next quarter, at most the next couple of quarters. But now, because we are struggling with really understanding What's coming from product? How do we balance it with the innovation that we need to sustain our technology in engineering? How do we make sure that both product management as well as engineering is really in sync about what we can truly do? And those are strong prioritization exercises that actually happen even at our leadership level. But that's one of the ways in which we're Netflix.

Conor Bronsdon: 4:33

So, I mean, planning is a great thing to talk about. What are some of the actionable insights that you may have gathered that other engineering leaders can put into practice based off of this shift that you've made at Netflix?

Carol Barrett: 4:44

Yeah, one thing is everyone needs to be aligned on what the top most priorities are. I think that's the key, right? Because if you have leadership that is not aligned at the, really at the executive level to what might be important, then you're always going to be struggling with what needs to happen. And I can say that that prioritization, you can see that alignment happening because resources actually. are shifting from one part of the company to another part of the company to be able to sustain this. And including, there are some, there are some, I would say, uh, product opportunities that are more. well funded than others, they're funding the other teams that need to support those product initiatives. So generally, it's, you know, the money is where it is in terms of resources and how you support it. And I think that's a very actionable way of making sure that you really follow what you're talking about. Is you fund the, the priorities that you believe. Are the most important. Now certainly for us, as engineering leaders, we have, you know, there's limited resources and there's limited time that what you can do. So I, and this is what I'm going to talk about tomorrow in my talk, is that I think partners are a great way of also ensuring that they can support you because you may not have the resources, but maybe your partners have some kind of bandwidth that can help support you in your endeavor. We've done things like having, you know, other, other teams sort of. Code on our systems, or we code on other people's systems. Those kinds of ways in which you can explore some of these ways in which you can continue to scale, but not necessarily have a direct set of resources that work with you.

Conor Bronsdon: 6:11

You brought up a couple of really important points there. So one, prioritization at a leadership level, crucial to have that alignment, and crucial to make sure that everyone's kind of rowing in the same direction. But it's also true in smaller team units, right? It's so easy for someone to get distracted by the shiny technology they want to use. decide that, you know, their work is taking priority and not look at the holistic team approach. And I think I see that kernel in what you're doing where it's like This is something that can be applied at leadership level on down and it needs to be aligned or else there's so much risk around resource alignment and lack of resources in key areas. I'm curious how you do resource allocation tracking at Netflix to make sure that you're actually allocating resources in the right priority order.

Carol Barrett: 6:53

Yeah, so that's a lot looser because engineering managers have a lot of flexibility in how we need to and we rely on our engineering leaders as well, both technical and management. To have really strong judgment into what might be, what might need to be and where you need to invest your time. So roadmaps continue to be built by the engineers as largely as possible so that the most important aspects get highlighted. And that way, when we can even tell a product like, hey, I know this is important, and this innovation is important, but we need to take a step back and build this infrastructure, because once we build it, we can go that much faster. And that could be, that's really a conversation about having, you know, that kind of prioritization exercise with management. That said, even within our engineering teams, like we just had a, we just had a two day offsite just this past week where we talked about what are our biggest priorities for 2024. And the way we did it is, what if we only had five people? Where would we invest them? Oh, and you sort of really say, okay, you know, even among your own leaders, even among the leaders of my team, we had that prioritization exercise and we stepped away thinking. We know what we need to do to support each other to meet those highest priorities. And we came to that agreement and we walked away feeling really good because we were aligned with what that is as well.

Conor Bronsdon: 8:08

And that brings up something that you brought up a moment ago, which is that partnership piece of. Building partners within the organization to enable sustained innovation. can you unpack that concept a bit more? I know you're gonna be speaking about it shortly.

Carol Barrett: 8:21

you know, , uh, I'll tell you one of our, one of our backend engineers, for example, we needed to build some UIs and our backend engineer decided to. Step out and say, I'm gonna build a UI and, and then give a great presentation about why backend engineers should not build UI . So it was great, but it was a lesson for us because we realized that as our systems are getting more complicated and more harder to, you know, they're getting a lot more features, they're getting more complicated. How do you scale those systems? How do you make them such that. Your engineering resources are not going to be the bottleneck, and they're the only ones that know how to use the system. So you need to invest in tooling and developer infrastructure, but there's no resources to do that. So then what do you do? Right? And so what we are, we're looking at some innovative ways, and some of them is of course our backend engineers. It's like, can we basically just have rudimentary screens? We don't have to create anything fancy. But can we do something more rudimentary that we can at least start to go down this path of what we need to do to allow a better developer? The developer experience will not be perfect, but let's start building it and then iterating on it. That's one aspect. Other avenues we're exploring is if we want to consolidate different systems into a single one, that should free up, technically, some bandwidth among those other teams, uh, our partner teams that might be able to help us in a joint project that we can do. Other things that we've done is, you know, created a squad and said let's just put this, let's see what we can do in a quarter with this group of people to sort of see, you know, and then the squad sort of elects a leader and then the squad can decide what is, what can they do within that one quarter to move this initiative forward. So we'll look at just different, just ways in which, we as engineering managers align first that this is important and then really work with the engineers to, and the, or the engineers may align and say, well this is something that we're putting together and we'd like to do that and then we support them in whatever way is possible.

Conor Bronsdon: 10:09

It sounds like you're leveraging this priority exercise to then.

Carol Barrett: 10:19

I think so. In our case, and this is purely because we're backend systems and we're critical systems, as you, as you saw, we actually try and do this. It's not a strict priority. So I just wanted to be sure and clear about that because we do allow our engineers the flexibility of saying today I need to work on the this quarter we want to be able to work on. But across the year, we want to make sure that there's, we've spent enough time to support our product initiatives. We have spent sufficient time to support our technical initiatives, as well as what we call our run the business, which is paved path migrations, you know, you modernize your systems and manage your alerts and your on call operations. Within the year, we anticipate that there's some percentage of fixed time that you would spend across these three, and that's actually been kind of helpful because we're like, okay, I kind of know that if I spent 75% of my time doing product initiatives, I had no time to build engineering, the engineering infrastructure to scale for the next year. Then we can have a conversation and say how do we improve that time?

Conor Bronsdon: 11:17

What strategies or tactics are you leveraging to build trust in these partnerships so that these conversations can go smoothly and people feel heard?

Carol Barrett: 11:28

That's a great question and actually the point of my talk tomorrow which is really the way to sustain innovation is to really think about trust and adaptability across all of these dimensions of technology. And, um, you know, operations and teams. And, my belief is that, you know, partnerships are, it's harder in the remote world, I will say, you have to make a conscious effort to put time. On your partner's calendar and, and follow those opportunities. But some things that we've done is like we have engineering brown bags. We'll invite our partners to come and talk about what they do. And just, you know, we might have an icebreaker that says, What's your favorite ice cream? And it's surprising how people, you know, never really think of connecting outside. We'll suddenly have an opportunity to say, Oh yeah, you know, this is what we talk about. So you have something in common. So just bringing partners in, having much more of that interaction. and then that can happen both at the engineering level, at the team level, at the leadership level, really across all levels. that's one aspect. Other things we do is when we're on site, we try and make time for partner, uh, lunches. And the team is having a lunch anyway and we'll invite our partners and we'll say, Hey, you know, we're having lunch. Do you want to just come and drop by? And that starts a whole bunch of casual conversations. I believe that that mechanism of just getting people to meet and connect. On a non-project, lab work, non non-work level was actually instrumental in healing some of our partnerships that perhaps were a little bit difficult in the, in the past, and we were able to really create some really interesting initiatives, uh, joint initiatives going forward with that as well.

Conor Bronsdon: 12:59

So yeah, it's interesting you bring up the kind of org design piece of remote work where there are huge advantages to remote work and recruitment and some of the focus time abilities and a lot of. Employees say they're happier in those situations or are seeking those, however, you have to be really intentional about how do you actually encourage interaction, set up org design, and encourage partnerships to your point. So I appreciate the intentionality you're bringing to this social circuitry development to say, okay, like, let's facilitate these connections, let's build these up. what are other ways that Netflix is adapting to the current world of remote hybrid?

Carol Barrett: 13:33

Some of the things that we're doing is, uh, introducing the idea of weeks of work. Weeks of a quarter where the entire engineering team comes on campus for what we call high bandwidth programming. And, uh, we, we experimented with one week a quarter, everyone comes in. Uh, we experimented with a lot of structure, with no structure, with limited structure, but we found that the best things that we can do is in that week is make those opportunities for our engineers to connect, for engineers to connect with leaders. So we have what is called an IC day. And IC's program that IC has an inform, uh, individual contributors. We have informed captains at Netflix too, so. So our engineers basically program the day to the way that they want it. One time they picked a hackathon and just multiple groups got together and did a hackathon. Another time they picked, you know, hey, let's do these group exercises. this most recent time they had war stories and they created a panel where senior engineers came together and shared war stories about how Netflix grew and the kind of challenges they had. Uh, another thing that they did is, you know, we were three large groups coming together in this over a hundred person organization. And the engineer said, we don't know where, what our systems are and where they are, so they put together a series of whiteboards and every team came together and drew a system architecture on the whiteboard. This is, that's so creative because every, every one of these weeks across the course is different. And it's, it's, so it's very interesting and how that's programmed. And then we, we ended up having like a lot of fun with, you know, casino tables and all this kind of other stuff as well. So we found that doing hybrid well. Is about, first of all, ensuring that there's a time when people really have enough time to just connect one-on-one. There are some, there is some structure, but enough of inflexibility, enough of, uh, flexibility in the schedule to allow for that, but also in the downtime. So we actually have a document that talks about how to. How to do well in meetings, being inclusive, the kinds of things that you know, turn your video on, you know, let people see you. And we do it actually quite intentionally. And it's really helped to continue to keep that connection, even outside of not being physically there in the workplace.

Conor Bronsdon: 15:48

It's always interesting for me to hear about how Netflix is adapting to changing circumstances within your engineering team. Honestly, I think a lot of folks in the industry look up to how Netflix approaches engineering, and so this experimentation approach, this adaptability as you brought up, uh, I think is really crucial. Can you dig into some more examples, maybe a specific one around how you've enabled adaptability within your teams?

Carol Barrett: 16:10

one of the things like I mentioned is we don't have a lot of structure in our, uh, planning process. And part of it is because we do, we have, at Netflix we call ourselves Stunning Colleagues, and Stunning Colleagues support Stunning Colleagues. To do that, you have to allow the engineers to decide what's best, You can't really structure it for them, they have to structure it themselves. So all the way from our least tenured engineers, we encourage them to say, if you don't know what to work on, then ask your colleagues for what might be important, but you make the decision about what you believe is most important. Nobody will prioritize it for you. So we try to advocate good judgment from the ground up. from the most initial ways in which you do it. How do you apply good judgment? You can ask for context among the various projects and then you can decide where it makes sense for you. that said, you're not doing it in vacuum because you do have the list of what is important for the business and where do I want to invest my time. So under a wide construct, you can ask for that context to help improve your judgment and how you prioritize your work. And I think that has been the singular I would say very powerful way in which engineers feel empowered to how they spend their time, how they spend their day, and eventually how they spend their quarter. Maybe one engineer might pick, hey, I really want to invest in spending, doing product work this year, this quarter, but I will spend a lot of time doing technical, you know, migrations and some of the paved path work in the next quarter. And we just sort of, at an engineering leadership level, those are some of the things we might be able to point out and say, you know, do you want to balance your time slightly differently?

Conor Bronsdon: 17:47

That's really interesting, and I think it brings up this concept of the constantly shifting demands of what the product needs and resources, and it sounds like what you're doing is maintaining a balance kind of organically based on the prioritization that you're providing to engineers and then their own judgment and knowledge between, you know, introducing new features, supporting existing systems and other needs, would that be how you would frame it or would you think about it a little differently?

Carol Barrett: 18:16

No, I think that's a, that's a reasonably accurate, framing of, of what we do, which is it, it's meant to be organic. We don't have a tool that says, put in what percentage of time you spend on what. We don't have that kind of structure. And honestly, I hope we never have it. Yeah. Because all we have is a dock at the beginning of the quarter. It used to be the beginning, and I think it'll continue to be so. Engineers commit to what they're going to achieve in that quarter. We have a midpoint review, and then some, some teams actually like sprints, and they do sprint planning every two to three weeks. But that flexibility is left to the team to do in the way that makes sense for most of them. So, even in my teams, we have three different ways of doing roadmaps, and we were just talking about maybe we should have a little bit more structure that talks about what we're committed to and what we're stretching, but beyond that, we also want the engineers to feel that power, that, that freedom and that empowerment to say, I'm going to commit to this, and this is my commit, this is my stretch, and then we can hold them accountable for what they were able to do and learn from that and do better next time.

Conor Bronsdon: 19:13

And I think this speaks to Netflix's broader strategy as well as the specific tactics you're talking about. So. The strategy of hiring high performers and enabling them to do their best work, and as you mentioned, building up trust among them, and this feels like a crucial way to do that, where people are enabled to really make an impact, and they know that what they are doing, the decisions they're making, are impactful on You know, whether it's a new product, uh, feature or supporting existing systems. Yeah. And I mean, there's so much research now that shows that high performing teams want that enablement and that it really, that enablement and the understanding that they're making impact the trust that they get out of it. Yeah. Is what drives high performance,

Carol Barrett: 19:49

is really what drives that performance. And as engineering leaders, it doesn't mean that we are not technical or we step away from the day-to-Day. In fact, we are very involved with the details, but it's really in much more of a supporting role than it is with the. I am going to tell you what to do role.. in fact, even escalations. We have a way of talking about, you know, If you and I have conflicting priorities, how do we resolve that? And one of the ways is you go talk to the leaders. But you don't talk to the leaders as saying escalating, Oh, I need you, I need your resources. It's more in terms of get more context and make the decision. But you are really responsible for making the right decision for what you need to do.

Conor Bronsdon: 20:25

And I think this context piece too that you're mentioning is incredibly important because you need a high degree of context to enable this kind of trust. Because without it, maybe decisions will happen that are, are not ideal and That's right. Yeah. Then you have to jump in and say, oh, well we have to, we have to adjust. But if you can give your teams the context and the understanding of the priorities, they can then go make the decisions. And self-organizing teams can be so powerful, particularly in engineering like this.

Carol Barrett: 20:49

That's absolutely right.

Conor Bronsdon: 20:51

So. Where are problems or challenges that you see?

Carol Barrett: 20:54

I wouldn't say this is a pain point, but I would say that some of the things that we're adapting to is that Netflix has recently hired our less tenured colleagues. And our senior engineers, who were only focused on building product or building initiatives, now suddenly have to, also learn how to mentor, how to scale, how to scale their knowledge. It used to be that, especially for back end systems, you know, one system was owned by one engineer, and then they traded that over time. But now suddenly you have a team of these junior engineers who are available to help you with that. So how do you scale your knowledge? How do you scale your context? How do you mentor? So that's like another, I would say, paradigm shift for Netflix and in how we do our, how we onboard these engineers and make them productive in the best way possible.

Conor Bronsdon: 21:37

it sounds like you're taking the same approach of saying, look, again, we're hiring high performers. We trust them to figure out what's the right thing for them. And we know they're going to deliver because that's the Netflix culture.

Carol Barrett: 21:47

Yes, yeah, yeah, absolutely. And at the same time, Our engineers even, and we're seeing this, right, they have interned at companies that may not have the same culture. Um, one, one engineer that recently joined, uh, had joined another company where the work was so much more structured. They were told what to do and how to do it and all of that stuff. And then they come to Netflix and they're like. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do here and we're like, so we, we, there is this transition where it's, although you may be a high performer, you really don't under, you really need some time to understand the culture, understand. And so we actually talk with them with the culture document. Like we have, for example, I have breakfast meetings with all my new hires once a month. And the first thing I Netflix's mission, which is transform and entertain the world. And I said, How does your work tie to Netflix's mission? Hmm. And that was an interesting question. I could see the gears rolling and, you know, turning in the, in the minds of these engineers. But that's really the idea is like, can you see, how do you build highly trusting and adapting teams is to build inspired teams. And I'm giving away my talk for tomorrow.

Conor Bronsdon: 22:52

No, thank you for the preview. I'm really

Carol Barrett: 22:54

excited. Yeah., uh, which is, you know, building inspire teams and inspire teams have a strong sense of purpose. Yeah. And so, um, this is about, really is about connecting their purpose. to the organization's purpose, which ties to the company's purpose, and then really having leadership that is inspiring around them. And that, of course, can manifest itself in different ways. But, uh, but I think that you cannot treat all engineering tenures, I know that you cannot, in my experience. And if you really want to invest, and if we really want to invest, in the culture of any company, whatever that might be, whether it's Netflix's culture, you have to start in my, you can't just go into a conference room with 300 engineers and say, this is the Netflix culture. You have to do it through these regular reinforcements. Both through how you perform as stunning colleagues and you set an example, but also I believe through these mechanisms where I meet for monthly breakfast meetings and we might do it for six months a year, you know, not forever. and give people the opportunity to say, This is what I struggled with, this is the challenge that I had. Can I talk to you about it? And remove that barrier that says, Oh, you're leadership and you're far away. No, we, we want you to talk because we want you to speak because we believe that the best legacy we as senior engineers as well as leaders can do is to leave the company better than we, we made it.

Conor Bronsdon: 24:17

Yeah, this deeply resonates with me because we say all the time here at Dev Interrupted that engineering is a team sport and You know, we look sometimes at other training programs that come into this where engineers get treated as solely individuals. But once you're at a company like Netflix, once you're kind of growing in your career, the context of what you're doing matters a lot. How you interact with others matters, partnerships that you build, matter. Uh, mentorship matters and I definitely wanna get to that in a minute, but you are being so intentional about treating it as a team sport is and saying, let us teach the culture, let us build this social circuitry. what are other ways that you are building up? Those social interactions and in, and kind of getting people to buy into Netflix's team approach.

Carol Barrett: 24:59

so it starts at onboarding, I will say, and this is, the onboarding has now changed because we now have special onboarding for our new college grads. And, and for those that have a slightly more tenure, like maybe our, you know, more junior employees and our senior employees. And, uh, in onboarding we talk about culture. It's a big part of our conversation. We talk about what all of these, what does freedom and responsibility mean, because. How do you decide if 200 for a dinner is the same as 30 for a meal, right? It's like, you have the freedom to do that, but what does responsibility mean? And so, it's those kinds of questions that actually interestingly came up, and in the times of When we were lush, as this industry was for many years, it was not something we had to be concerned about. But now as we think about being more judicious about the way in which we use our operating income, we have to be, uh, we have to sort of have these conversations and these questions. And so sometimes, you know, and to leave the space open for these conversations, it's better that we talk about it. Rather than, you know, you, and you have some kind of structure around it, but you make the decision, because we still trust that you have the right context to have made that decision.

Conor Bronsdon: 26:08

It seems like the self organizing principles that you're applying, uh, and the trust that you're building with this deep context really enables sustained innovation that you would see maybe more at startups, which have this, like, very tight knit, close culture, and Netflix has done such a great job of it. Sustaining that innovation at Enterprise Scale. And so it's, it's really interesting to hear how you break it down and it brings to mind something that you brought up, which is, I would love to turn this question around on you. How does your work aligned in Netflix's mission?

Carol Barrett: 26:39

anytime you access Netflix, you have to log in. You have your credentials, you are a subscriber. you get authenticated first and then you get authorized to access the kind of content. All of that infrastructure which supports that product experience, including things like, uh, I want to manage my devices and, and my, manage the devices on my account, my manage account, uh, and devices page. I want to sign out of these devices. I have, I have a device we just launched. Cloud games, which I'm so excited about, and, uh, you know, the second screen controller, you can use your phone to be able to play cloud games on your TV, for example. All of those are enabled by the systems that our organization touches. And so, that's the experience, and so we, our job really is to ensure that we continue to innovate on all of these different dimensions whenever the product requires it. But also to make sure that your experience is frictionless, which is what we talk about. We want you to have a seamless experience so that you're not worried about. Your security as a consumer, that's something we worry about. Yeah. Your job is to just make sure you enjoy the content and enjoy the experience of being entertained.

Conor Bronsdon: 27:46

I love that. I, I think it's the idea of like, we're gonna set up not only our, our team members, but our customers where they have this seamless experience is, it's such a wonderful approach because it really does enable, you know, customers to focus on what they wanna do out about it, and the engineers to say, okay, let's go make an impact. And you alluded to personal growth and scaling senior engineers is like a crucial thing you're working on to help support that. And you know, mentorship is obviously intertwined with professional challenges. How has the changes that Netflix has made around hiring and these kind of. New grads that have come on board. Interacted with the emphasis on trust and scalability that you have and influenced, uh, the personal development tracks that you are applying within your teams.

Carol Barrett: 28:33

So I'll tell you, we are novices there. Uh, as you, as you pointed out, we've historically hired, uh, senior software engineers and it didn't matter whether you had 20 years of industry experience or whether you had five years of Indus industry experience. That was the level. It was just senior software engineers. And you pick the work that made sense to your capacity, to your abilities, and then you continue to iterate on that. But it didn't matter if you had build massive systems or massive architectures, you were still a senior software engineer. That changed with our ability to scale last year, and we introduced various levels. So now we have everything from a new college grad who comes in as an E3. Uh, all the way to an E seven who's effectively a principal engineer at the companies. We're still figuring out what that means honestly. so I will say that paths of growth is something that we continue to talk about. Like what are some mechanisms in which, how do we distinguish, how do we distinguish better between these different, leadership levels, like we still consider our e sixes and our E seven to be technical leaders. What are their responsibilities of technical leaders that they can perform without adding the kinds of. I will say process y things that we've seen in other companies, like you can't check in your design or you can't do a design unless a technical lead approves it. That's never going to scale. Yeah. Uh, we want, we want all of our engineers to have that ability. So what does it mean from a Netflix way is something that I think is still evolving and something we have to understand and adapt to. Well, we're still very young, I would say, in this process. So it'll continue to, it'll continue to be something we will develop. some things I was gonna say, we, we, we are, uh, sort of thinking about is, how do we involve our senior leaders in more of the conversations we think about in terms of annual planning and. Uh, and even in terms of prioritization, how do we involve them to, to sort of help us think more futuristically rather than traditionally what we've done is one or two quarters ahead. So those are some of the things we're experimenting with. But you know, it's a learning organization, which I love, and so we can try and, and fail , which is good.

Conor Bronsdon: 30:32

I mean, to your point about the learning organization, it sounds like you really view this transition in how Netflix is. Approaching hiring and leveling as an opportunity for you to learn too and kind of grow your skills at the new parts of the organization?

Carol Barrett: 30:43

Yeah, absolutely. As a leader, I'll tell you, you know, uh, I've had my own style of managing, which I've learned from other organizations, and I also, of, I always said this in my first year of Netflix was that I had to de ossify all those habits. Yeah. Because net Netflix did things very differently. But what I love is that. How Netflix does things is very much aligned with my DNA of how I would do things as a leader. Which is, we're humans, we're going to try, we're engineers, we're going to build, we're going to fail. But that's the whole point, is like, let's do this, let's iterate and let's build it. I've seen tremendous growth. Like if you told me this year I'd be sitting and talking to a 200 person audience, I'd be like, no way. But here I am and that's what I'll be doing tomorrow, which is just insane., Conor Bronsdon: We're just giving you a practice rep right here. No audience. Carol, this has, this has been really great. I'd love to close on maybe an uplifting note here of. What are you excited about for the future of software development, whether at Netflix or Broadly? Oh, so software development, I'll talk about, I, I love products. So I'll talk about, like, what I see as product, right? one of them is, I love that the authentication or credential space is exploding. Like, just, just today I got this notification from Gmail that said, Use the fingerprint reader on your Mac to log into Gmail. How cool is that? I no longer have to remember my password. So I'm really excited about the passwordless world that is, I think upon us, and that we're going to build, hopefully in large scale, uh, in 2024. Uh, another thing that I hope will happen is Netflix games takes off. Yeah. Um, so I was never a big time gamer. I, I, in fact, I was never a gamer. I have two boys and, and both of them love playing games, so. Mostly watching them play. Uh, but now I play mobile games, you know, I love playing mobile games and I'm waiting for, uh, the cloud launch, the cloud games, uh, that we'll launch in the us. I think the first rollout happened yesterday. Oh, wow. So it's coming. Yeah. So it's definitely coming and I'm, I'm most excited about those two initiatives. I would say, uh, especially in. As you, as you pointed out, is we're trying something that other industries have decided that they don't want to invest in. Like Google shutdown Stadia, Amazon Luna also was like, yeah, what is it gonna do? We're trying out something new. Yeah. And so I'm really excited about how we're going to achieve this.

Conor Bronsdon: 32:58

That's gonna be really fun. I, I'm excited to try it out. Carol, thank you so much for joining me here and Dev interrupted. It's been a pleasure having you. I'm sure you're gonna crush your talk tomorrow. And if you want more insights from leaders like Carol, consider checking out our Substack at devinterrupted. substack. com. Carol, thanks for coming on the show.