Our engineers are building an inspired and inclusive platform for Pinterest users worldwide. In the Pinterest Engineering series, you’ll meet the people behind the product, learn about their work and why they chose to grow their career with the Pinterest team.
Pinterest Engineering: Meet Sreshta Vijayaraghavan
From Pintern to Engineering Manager, Sreshta Vijayaraghavan’s Pinterest journey has been nothing short of incredible…and her team is growing. We sat down with Sreshta to deep dive into her career journey, understand her leadership style and what advice she has for engineering candidates. Interested in joining Sreshta’s team? Read her full story and apply to open opportunities at Pinterest below.
Thanks for joining us today, Sreshta! Let’s start with an introduction.
Hi everyone, I’m Sreshta Vijayaraghavan. I’m located in the San Francisco Bay Area. I started at Pinterest over six years ago as a Pintern (Pinterest intern). Then, I accepted an offer to return as a University Grad Engineer in the Ads Indexing Infrastructure team within Monetization. Over the past few years, I continued to grow into a Senior Engineer / Tech Lead followed by Staff Engineer. As a technical lead, I started thinking about the two different tracks I could take, either continuing as an individual contributor or transitioning into a manager role. I chose the management track as I wanted to expand on my leadership skills by leveraging my strength in cross-functional communication to increase the impact I could bring to Pinterest. I transitioned to an Engineering Manager for the Ads Delivery Content Infrastructure team, which includes the Merchant Infrastructure, Ads Indexing Infrastructure and Ads Database pods.
You shared that your journey started as a Pintern. Can you share more about growing your career at Pinterest?
To be very honest, when I started my career, I was pretty nervous and new to how things worked in a professional atmosphere. I didn't know how to work on distributed systems with high traffic volume or how to work on areas that would influence a company’s revenue. As a new grad engineer, it was a challenging space to come into.
There were two things that shaped me, driving my continuous growth and pushing my comfortability. The first was my personal urge to continuously challenge myself early on in my career to grow my technical depth and leadership. I proactively took on opportunities both within and outside my domain to constantly push my boundaries and make a positive impact. Secondly, I was mindful of my personal brand and how I represented myself in meetings and cross-functional discussions. My manager, who has been and continues to be my mentor and role model for the past six plus years, was instrumental in progressing my growth at an expedited rate, especially through seeing how he acted in meetings and presented his ideas. There were many Senior / Staff Engineers that I looked up to when I started. I thought, “I want to be like them in five years,” so I set that as my goal which helped me achieve it in the long run.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I have about 16 engineers on my team. There is no one philosophy or management style that works the same for everyone. I have a customized management strategy for each person on my team that’s dependent on where they are in their career, where they want to be and what the team wants from them. I try to understand their needs and provide them as much support as I can. For more junior engineers, I’m able to provide technical support and leadership guidance. For more senior engineers, I’m getting them the opportunities to experiment. Initially they may not be successful, but they’ll find learnings along the way that will contribute to their next experiment.
Overall, in infrastructure teams, the management style tends to be more technical. As an engineering manager, I feel that we should know the systems that our team owns. If there is a need, we should be able to jump in and code. For me, I want to be close to the technical workings of the team because that empowers me to be a more effective manager who can help set a good vision for the team.
What’s one thing you wish you knew before becoming an engineering manager?
There was one thing in particular that I struggled with. As an individual contributor, your success is determined by your contributions. When you become a manager, your success is determined by your team. The feedback loop for this is much longer. I didn’t always know if my engineers were progressing in the right direction, so I felt like I wasn’t adding any value. I wasn’t able to immediately witness if my team was taking the feedback in the right way or taking my advice in the right direction. I used to reflect and think, “I’m just in meetings and didn't achieve anything personally.” That’s a switch that I had to learn as a manager. As a leader, I’m able to experience the success and wins of my team and each engineer’s personal growth, craft a clear vision and help them tackle and remove roadblocks.
What’s a common saying or piece of advice you give your team?
For junior engineers starting their career right out of school, my advice is to learn as much as you can from the vertical depth and the horizontal depth, so that you can fit in anywhere. You may not have depth of knowledge just yet, but there’s value that you can add. Growing your knowledge base far and wide while being flexible means you can take on any challenge that’s thrown your way.
For senior engineers, my advice is to grow your specialization and depth. You’ll become a subject matter expert in your field of choice, bringing in new ideas and opportunities for the team. It’s important to know the system end-to-end which will help you identify roadblocks, loopholes and areas of opportunity.
This method will provide you with the maximum growth for yourself and your contributions to the team.
As a hiring manager, what do you want candidates to know about applying and interviewing for a role at Pinterest?
When I’m an interviewer, the folks that I’ve witnessed perform the best and do well treat the interview as a learning opportunity. They don’t focus solely on the result, and they take the learnings from the coding interview and system design. Remember to be honest and transparent. If you don’t know the answer, let the interviewer know. They will be more than happy to help and provide some hints.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but when you’re preparing for an interview, don’t focus too much on being a code master by practicing a million LeetCode questions. A solid engineer is someone who can creatively solve problems with genuine and genius solutions. You will be seen as a valuable candidate if you can think innovatively showcasing your problem-solving skills.
What are you currently Pinning?
Most of my Pinterest inspiration comes from my travel experiences. A few months ago, I was Pinning things for my trip to Seoul, South Korea, and I’m still in withdrawal from my vacation plans. Next, I’ll be Pinning for my upcoming Japan trip, fingers crossed!
Explore open opportunities on the Pinterest Engineering team here.