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Unlocking Career Insights: Sanjana Badam's Journey at GoDaddy – Passion, Leadership, and Myth-Busting


Unlocking Career Insights: Sanjana Badam's Journey at GoDaddy – Passion, Leadership, and Myth-Busting
Janelle (Host): Welcome to the Own Your Career podcast. I'm Janelle Jordan, a Program Manager on the Talent, Performance, and Engagement team at GoDaddy. I'm thrilled to have you join us. In this series, we'll feature compelling interviews with GoDaddy employees who've achieved career growth through internal promotions and mobility. You'll also gain valuable tips, best practices, and advice to enhance your career journey. Effective career management is crucial for success, and we hope you leave feeling empowered to own your career. Thanks for being with us today. Now, let's dive into the podcast with our special guest. I'm joined by Sanjana Badam, a Software Development Manager with the Front of Site Engineering team at GoDaddy. Hi Sanjana, welcome to the podcast.
Sanjana (Guest): Hi Janelle. Thanks for having me.
Janelle: Let's start by getting to know you. Could you tell us about yourself and what brings you joy outside of work?
Sanjana: I'm Sanjana, and I moved to the US nearly seven years ago. Outside of the office, I find joy in exploring new cuisines and traveling to different destinations. While I'm not particularly outdoorsy, I enjoy learning about various cultures. During times like the Covid lockdown, I spend my time watching shows on Netflix in different languages, even if I don't understand them, simply because I love learning something new. That's essentially me.
Janelle: Wonderful. Do you have a favorite place you've traveled to?
Sanjana: Let's see. I would say my all-time favorite is Seattle in the summer. Growing up in a coastal town with lush greenery, moving to Arizona was a stark contrast. I visited Seattle during a GoDaddy internship in the summer, and it felt so close to home. Seattle will always hold a special place in my heart.
Janelle: I have a deep appreciation for the Seattle area, being a native of Washington state. The other side, with its lush forests, mountains, rivers, and lakes, has its unique charm. However, Seattle holds a special place in my heart due to its cultural richness, coastal ambiance, and delectable seafood. Now, let's delve into your career journey. Would you mind sharing an overview, including your time at GoDaddy, and feel free to touch on your experiences before joining the company if you believe it's relevant?
Sanjana: Absolutely. I relocated from India to the US nearly seven years ago to pursue my master's at Arizona State University. As part of my program, I sought an internship at a major company, leading me to apply for a unique opportunity at GoDaddy. Given my background as a Quality Assurance Engineer with a master's in Computer Science, I was navigating between roles as a Software Engineer or a Software Development Engineer in Test. GoDaddy had the perfect fit – an SDE/SDET intern role in Kirkland.

The interview process was smooth, and I fell in love with the company during my summer internship. Upon completing it, I was fortunate to transition to a full-time position with the Front of Site Engineering team, where I initially started as an Engineer. Over the past five years, I've progressed to become a manager with the same team. My manager played a pivotal role in guiding me and facilitating my career growth. He not only listened to my aspirations but also provided opportunities for leadership development.

For instance, he encouraged my involvement in the GoDaddy for Graduates (now GDNEXT) Employee Resource Group leadership position, offering a taste of leadership beyond my technical role. As I expressed interest in leadership, he urged me to take small steps, such as mentoring interns, gradually preparing me for a managerial role. Even before a formal leadership path was available, he enrolled me in GoDaddy's leadership program, focusing on non-technical and soft skills. He consistently respected my goals and ensured I was prepared for opportunities as they arose.
Janelle: It's evident that your manager took your professional development seriously and acted as both a guide and mentor. Not all managers may serve as mentors, but he seemed invested in your overall growth, not just in excelling at your current role. Mentorship often extends beyond daily tasks, providing a broader perspective and professional growth in various areas. It's a unique and valuable aspect of your journey.
Sanjana: Absolutely. He significantly influenced my leadership skills and managerial approach, even though we didn't formally define our relationship as mentorship. Our one-on-one discussions were always passionate, focusing on my aspirations and plans. He took me seriously from day one, whether it was technical discussions or including me in team conversations to broaden my understanding. His encouragement and acknowledgment of my unique perspective contributed significantly to where I am today.
Janelle: It's remarkable how he valued your fresh eyes and ears, actively involving you in discussions and fostering your voice. His support, coupled with encouraging you to ask for what you wanted, ultimately shaped your journey and brought you to your current position.
Janelle: It seems like you have plans to stay with GoDaddy.

Sanjana: Absolutely, I do.

Janelle: And continue contributing to GoDaddy, building and developing the Front of Site Engineering team, and giving back in your own way as a leader.

Sanjana: Yes, and my current manager plays a significant role in that.

Janelle: Not the same person?

Sanjana: No, they switched a few years ago. I absolutely love my current manager as well. Somehow, I've been fortunate with great managers. My current manager is amazing too. There's an atmosphere where I can have a voice at the table without being overly assertive.

Janelle: That's important. You knew you wanted to be a manager, and you've had the support and done the work to reach that position. Are you still setting professional goals? Is there a specific position you have your eyes on and are working towards?

Sanjana: No one has asked me this question before.

Janelle: I always ask the good ones.

Sanjana: No, I haven't thought about it just yet. I'm still settling in and working on being a good manager. It's been less than a year since I transitioned to the new role, so there's an adjustment period. I've spent more time as an individual contributor, an Engineer, than as a manager. There are aspects I still need to change and mold to become the leader I aspire to be. That's my immediate goal for now. Beyond that, I haven't honestly thought about it yet. We'll see where life takes me.

Janelle: I think that's wonderful. Management isn't just about reaching the next position; it's an ongoing journey of evolving and growing your leadership skills. It's about becoming the best people leader, manager, and mentor you can be while staying informed about the industry. Your goal to settle into your current role and enhance your leadership skills is admirable.
Sanjana: Absolutely. My focus is on becoming the best version of myself in my current position, and that's a fulfilling goal.
Janelle: It's remarkable to hear that perspective because not everyone is always striving for the next step. You can grow and "glow" in your current role by investing in yourself, honing your skills, and bringing valuable insights to your work. It's about personal and professional development in various dimensions. Your approach aligns with the essence of career growth, whether it involves advancement or mastery in your current role.
Sanjana: Thank you for understanding that. It's crucial to recognize the value of growth within one's current role and continuously improving.
Janelle: Shifting gears a bit, what advice do you have for someone new to your industry?
Sanjana: Getting into software engineering and the IT industry was always a passion for me, tracing back to my fascination with Microsoft Paint as a child. The key advice I'd offer is for newcomers to identify what they love about the industry. Software Development Engineer covers a broad spectrum, and roles can vary significantly between companies and departments.

Reflect on what aspect of software development engineering interests you—whether it's databases, front end, back end, services, or infrastructure. While preferences may evolve over time, genuine interest in the chosen area is crucial. Invest time in understanding and learning the fundamentals and basics of computer science, as everything in the field builds upon these foundations.

Mastery of fundamentals provides a solid base to pick up new skills, engage in the industry, and excel in any team or role. After establishing a strong foundation, seek guidance from experienced professionals, read relevant articles, and pursue courses to develop expertise in specific tech stacks. The ability to comprehend details and excel lies in a solid grasp of computer science fundamentals. Once these are mastered, entering the industry, learning new skills, and excelling become more achievable.

Janelle: If you know you want to be an SDE but are uncertain about whether it's front end, back end, or testing, does GoDaddy provide the opportunity and resources to explore those options?
Sanjana: Absolutely. I can share a personal example. My internship at GoDaddy was an SDE/SDET intern role. Upon completing the twelve-week internship, I had the chance to choose the path I preferred based on my experiences. At that time, I leaned towards being a Software Development Engineer. However, within the last five years, I also contemplated becoming a Program Manager. I spoke to various PMs at GoDaddy to understand the role better.

When I discussed this with my manager, he suggested an 80/20 arrangement, allowing me to focus 80% on my primary role and 20% on exploring the new role. The extent of such opportunities might vary across teams, but it ultimately comes down to having a conversation with your manager. They can guide you, provide resources, and facilitate conversations with different people to help you explore your interests.
Janelle: You emphasized the importance of knowing what you like, what you're interested in, and being passionate about specific aspects of the industry. Fundamentally, understanding computer science basics lays a strong foundation, making it easier to learn new skills in various areas. This advice is invaluable for newcomers entering the field.
Sanjana: Absolutely. You summarized it perfectly. Thank you.
Janelle: Transitioning to our next topic on leadership, something I sense you're passionate about. Can you share your biggest joy and challenge as a leader?
Sanjana: Let me start with the challenge and end on a positive note. The constant struggle for me is reminding myself that I'm a manager, not an individual contributor (IC). While I've been an Engineer for a significant time, being a manager poses a new challenge. As a manager, it's crucial to step back to allow the team to grow and voice their opinions. However, the instinct to revert to my Engineer role is challenging, especially when working with peers who were once my colleagues. I must consciously prioritize giving the team space to share their thoughts, designs, and feedback before offering my perspective. It's an ongoing effort to ensure everyone has equal time and space to contribute without my presence overshadowing the conversation.
Janelle: I appreciate your honesty about the challenge. It's a significant shift from being the one with answers to creating space for your team to share their insights. How about the joy of being a leader?
Sanjana: The joy comes from seeing the team grow and excel. Witnessing individuals voice their opinions, contribute to discussions, and provide valuable feedback is incredibly rewarding. Knowing that I played a part in fostering an environment where everyone feels heard and valued brings immense satisfaction. While the challenge persists, these moments of growth and collaboration make the leadership journey fulfilling.

Janelle: Absolutely. And it's a part of your daily routine, something you engage in consistently. So, plenty of opportunities present themselves.
Sanjana: Yes, moving on to the question, another significant challenge for me is time management. It was somewhat unexpected, or maybe not exactly expected, but it did come as a surprise when I assumed the role. As an individual contributor (IC), you enjoy a certain degree of freedom as an Engineer to shape your day according to your preferences. There were days when I felt motivated at 6:00 a.m. and completed tasks promptly, while other times, I decided to tackle coding challenges at 8:00 p.m. However, as a manager, you are confined to the traditional 9:00 to 5:00 work structure.

Most managerial tasks involve communication, addressing blockers, providing guidance, and listening to team members. Consequently, the hours available to get everything done are limited, and managing time efficiently within these constraints became a surprising challenge. These challenges persist, but with continuous effort, we make improvements each day.
Janelle: You're growing into what that looks like for you because it's different for each leader and their respective teams. Suddenly, you find yourself constantly on the phone, available on Slack, and occasionally hopping on calls that require more time. Balancing your time is crucial, and you can't overextend yourself. Putting your people first means prioritizing their needs, and what's left is managing other tasks. The goal isn't to work 60 hours a week, and finding that balance is tough. I'm interested to know if there's something you're doing differently to address this challenge.
Sanjana: Absolutely. I've incorporated a practice shared by a former VP, now a president within GoDaddy. He emphasized reviewing the next day's meetings the night before and preparing for them. This allows him to understand what the following day entails and be better prepared. I adopted this practice, taking a few minutes at the end of my day to review my schedule for the next day. It helps me mentally map out my day and manage my time more effectively. This is something I only started doing after becoming a manager; I hadn't done it as an engineer before.
Janelle: That's excellent advice, and I appreciate you sharing it. It not only helps you prepare for the next day but also instills confidence in your ability to handle your responsibilities. Both aspects contribute to making the day smoother and more manageable.
Sanjana: Yes, another benefit is that it prepares you for the meetings themselves. For instance, when meeting with a partner team, I can review the provided information and formulate thoughts about the topics we'll discuss. This makes even a 30-minute meeting more effective because I'm ready and not spending time during the meeting trying to grasp the purpose and context.
Janelle: It aligns with the idea of being proactive and ensuring you're ready for engagements, making them more efficient. It's an excellent practice for effective time management. And reflecting on your week, understanding where you spent the most time and energy, and identifying areas for improvement is a valuable habit for both leaders and individual contributors.
Sanjana: Yeah, I agree on that point. Reflections are indeed a valuable way to enhance both personal development and team efficiency. In the agile framework, we conduct retrospectives after every sprint, and I actively encourage my team to share their thoughts during these sessions. It's a productive use of our time as we come together, discuss areas for improvement, and collectively determine how we can enhance our processes. I would recommend retrospectives to anyone, whether you're a Software Developer or a manager. It's a highly beneficial practice when the entire team actively participates.
Janelle: Excellent advice, and it's applicable across various roles and teams. Retrospectives contribute to inclusivity and team growth. While challenges exist, such as the transition from an individual contributor to a leader and managing time, let's discuss the greatest joy you've experienced in your leadership role.
Sanjana: The greatest joy for me is witnessing the successful delivery of a project or feature by the team. It brings a genuine smile to my face. Additionally, the collaborative problem-solving discussions, where we tackle tricky issues and eventually arrive at a solution, also bring immense satisfaction. Whether it takes an hour or several days, finding a viable solution is truly beautiful. My joy as a leader stems from being part of this journey and facilitating the team's success. It's not about personally crafting the solution or taking it to completion but supporting and enabling the team to achieve their goals. This aspect brings me more happiness as a manager compared to when I was an individual contributor crafting solutions myself.
Janelle: Observing your team thrive, succeed, and deliver exceptional work in their roles, both professionally and personally, is truly rewarding. I appreciate your insights.
Sanjana: It's amazing. The joy outweighs the challenges. Of course, there are days when the challenges seem daunting, and other days are filled with overwhelming happiness when we accomplish something significant. It's a delicate balance—some days are 50/50, while others might be 20/80 or 80/20. Ensuring that challenges don't constantly outweigh the joys is crucial. If they do, it's essential to collaborate with your manager and explore alternative approaches.
Janelle: I'm grateful you brought that up. If the balance feels off or if challenges persist, having a conversation is crucial. Regardless of your role, talking to your manager and finding solutions together is key.
Sanjana: Absolutely. I would add that you shouldn't let it reach a point where it becomes a major issue. Your manager is a valuable resource, and even if something is slightly bothersome, initiate a conversation. Addressing concerns early on prevents them from escalating to a level that significantly affects your work, mental well-being, or personal life. Regular communication with your manager can provide insights, alternative perspectives, or actions to ease the situation. It's always beneficial to voice concerns early to maintain a healthy balance.

Janelle: That was well articulated because it's undeniably true, especially in a company like GoDaddy where prioritizing people is fundamental. Now, for the final question: Can you shed light on a common misconception about your role, department, or field of expertise?
Sanjana: Certainly. A prevalent myth about my role as a manager is the perception that we mainly attend meetings. While meetings are a part of our responsibilities, there's an extensive amount of groundwork that precedes them. Whether it's reviewing employee performance during the appraisal season or initiating a new project proposed by the team, a manager's role involves numerous behind-the-scenes tasks. Crafting meaningful paragraphs for employee reviews, transforming project proposals into actionable plans, collaborating with different teams, addressing hiring paperwork – these are only a few examples of the multifaceted work we handle. The complexity involved in each task is often underestimated. The myth that managers only spend time in meetings oversimplifies the breadth of our responsibilities.
Janelle: Your insights into the unseen work of managers are valuable. It's a perspective that may not be apparent to everyone, and it's crucial for fostering a better understanding. People may wonder how managers allocate their time, and your explanation helps dispel misconceptions. In fact, someone recently asked me about a leader's time management, highlighting the curiosity around this topic.
Sanjana: Absolutely, and I appreciate you acknowledging that. It's challenging for individual contributors to grasp the depth of managerial responsibilities until they step into that role. There's a considerable amount of work happening before we reach the point of sharing outcomes with the team. Even I didn't fully comprehend it until I transitioned from an individual contributor to a manager. And yes, we all wish for fewer meetings. Trust me, as a manager, I wish for that even more than when I was an individual contributor.
Janelle: We're all on the journey of improving how we manage our time and energy. Thank you for sharing your perspective—it's been an insightful conversation. Before we conclude, is there anything else you'd like to convey to our listeners?
Sanjana: Thank you for providing this platform for our listeners. I know the term "passion" is commonly used, but I genuinely believe in its essence. Find something that genuinely interests and excites you, whether it's in the realm of Software Engineering or any other field. My husband once told me the importance of being passionate about something in life—something that sparks joy, curiosity, and happiness. For me, it happens to be my work. It might be different for each person, but having that passion is crucial. It serves as a source of happiness during challenging workdays, providing a mental break and making it easier to collaborate with your manager. So, find and nurture that passion—it makes a significant difference.

Janelle: Excellent! Discovering your passion is like finding your source of energy. Thank you, Sanjana, for sharing your personal career journey with our audience today. If listeners wish to connect with you for professional guidance, questions about your team, networking, or anything else, what's the best way for them to reach out?
Sanjana: Absolutely, they can reach me on LinkedIn. You can search for my name, Sanjana Badam. Feel free to send a connect request along with a brief note about yourself, and I'll be delighted to connect.
Janelle: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Sanjana. It's been a delightful conversation. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in to the Own Your Career podcast. Our goal is to inspire, motivate, and empower our employees to reach and surpass their professional aspirations. If you're interested in being featured on a future episode, visit the Career Spotlight page on the MyCareer Portal and fill out the interest form. While you're there, explore the abundance of resources and articles. As always, share your feedback, questions, and ideas with us. We love hearing from you. Thanks again, everyone. Make it a fantastic day.
Sanjana: Thank you, Janelle. It's been a pleasure. If you're enjoying this series and want to learn more about life at GoDaddy, check out our GoDaddy Life social pages. Follow us to meet our team, explore our culture, including teams, ERGs, and locations, dive into career opportunities, and much more. Because at GoDaddy, you're more than your job, so join us in propelling your career forward.