Unleash Your Leadership

#12: Evolving Organizations and Careers with Amanda Donohue

April 17, 2023 Priyanka Shinde Season 1 Episode 12
#12: Evolving Organizations and Careers with Amanda Donohue
Unleash Your Leadership
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Unleash Your Leadership
#12: Evolving Organizations and Careers with Amanda Donohue
Apr 17, 2023 Season 1 Episode 12
Priyanka Shinde

On this episode, I chat with Amanda Donohue who I met during my time at Meta Facebook. Amanda leads the Stripe enablement organization which is a team of engineers and program managers who build tools and programs that focus on how Stripes do work. Her team owns surfaces that focus on the software development lifecycle and collaboration. Amanda joined Stripe to lead the centralized TPM org.
She's now the TPgM functional leader for the company. Previously, Amanda held TPM leadership roles at Meta Infrastructure Organization.

Amanda has had an interesting journey to becoming the leader today. On this episode, she talks about building confidence to work with engineering without a technical degree, adapting TPM organizational structure to the business needs and the need for broader TPM community.

Learn more about TPM with these resources
TPM Insights
Cracking the TPM Interview Course

TPM Academy presents a brand new live cohort-based course - Advancing Your Career: The Path to Staff+
Supercharge your program management career with the only course designed for experienced TPMs and Program Managers in Tech

  • 🎯 Secure that promotion you have been eyeing and accelerate your career trajectory
  • 🗺️ Break free from your current level, exceed expectations and become promotion ready by building a career success roadmap.

Want to unleash your leadership?
Work with Executive Leadership Coach, Priyanka Shinde
Read my Book - The Art of Strategic Execution
Become a success Technical Program Management Leader with TPM Academy

Priyanka Shinde on LinkedIn
Priyanka Shinde's Facebook Page
Priyanka Shinde's Instagram Feed
Priyanka Shinde's Youtube Channel

TPM Academy on LinkedIn
TPM Academy Facebook Page
TPM Academy Instagram Feed
TPM Academy Youtube Channel

Show Notes Transcript

On this episode, I chat with Amanda Donohue who I met during my time at Meta Facebook. Amanda leads the Stripe enablement organization which is a team of engineers and program managers who build tools and programs that focus on how Stripes do work. Her team owns surfaces that focus on the software development lifecycle and collaboration. Amanda joined Stripe to lead the centralized TPM org.
She's now the TPgM functional leader for the company. Previously, Amanda held TPM leadership roles at Meta Infrastructure Organization.

Amanda has had an interesting journey to becoming the leader today. On this episode, she talks about building confidence to work with engineering without a technical degree, adapting TPM organizational structure to the business needs and the need for broader TPM community.

Learn more about TPM with these resources
TPM Insights
Cracking the TPM Interview Course

TPM Academy presents a brand new live cohort-based course - Advancing Your Career: The Path to Staff+
Supercharge your program management career with the only course designed for experienced TPMs and Program Managers in Tech

  • 🎯 Secure that promotion you have been eyeing and accelerate your career trajectory
  • 🗺️ Break free from your current level, exceed expectations and become promotion ready by building a career success roadmap.

Want to unleash your leadership?
Work with Executive Leadership Coach, Priyanka Shinde
Read my Book - The Art of Strategic Execution
Become a success Technical Program Management Leader with TPM Academy

Priyanka Shinde on LinkedIn
Priyanka Shinde's Facebook Page
Priyanka Shinde's Instagram Feed
Priyanka Shinde's Youtube Channel

TPM Academy on LinkedIn
TPM Academy Facebook Page
TPM Academy Instagram Feed
TPM Academy Youtube Channel

Priyanka: [00:00:00] Today's episode is another special one. As you all know, I have a T P M background of a dozen years, and I have led teams and organizations at Meta and Cruise. Today's guest is someone I met during my time at Meta. Please welcome Amanda Donohue, my first guest from the field of Technical Program management. 

Amanda leads the Stripe enablement organization. Which is a team of engineers and program managers who build tools and programs that focus on how Stripes do work. Her team owns surfaces that focus on the software development lifecycle and collaboration. Amanda joined Stripe to lead the centralized t p m org. 

She's now the T P G M functional leader for the company. Previously, Amanda held T P M leadership roles at Meta Infrastructure Organiz. Hi, Amanda, welcome to the podcast.  

Amanda: Hi, Priyanka. It's good to be here. Thank you for having me.  

Priyanka: Of course. Well, I'm really excited for this conversation today. , I remember the time, , when we [00:01:00] first met, I reached out to you and I was, trying to think about my journey as a T P M and how I would. 

Move forward in my career. And there were some great insights and tips that you had given me. So ever since then, , I've always followed you and I'm great to have you here.  

Amanda: Well, thank you. I, remember that meeting as well because you really struck me as someone who, , you just, you just clearly had that drive. 

And, it's not a surprise to me that you went on to lead teams at Cruise and that you're doing this now. Right. It, was just clear back then. And so you, you have continued on in that carrying that torch.  

Priyanka: Thank you. I mentioned a little bit of introduction about you, but tell us a little bit more about, , what you do for the world. 

Amanda: I wouldn't say for the world but yeah, so I. Now been at Stripe for just over three years, and as you might imagine, Stripe has been in, , the crazy startupy growth mode. And the role has evolved and it's been super fun. And that was actually a huge part of the reason why. I ended up going to Stripe [00:02:00] from Meta, though I was having a wonderful time and certainly wasn't done with everything that I was gonna do at Meta. 

It felt like a really good jump to go and just get a totally different set of skills. At the time when I was first talking to Stripe, they had just come to the realization that they wanted to build a centralized TPgM work. And so I had the fortunate opportunity to be able to come in and build that from almost scratch, which was super fun. 

And so when that opportunity came up, I couldn't turn that down. And it's been, it's been a wild ride of going through high growth mode in terms of building the organization, making some interesting decisions along the way about work structures. And also now getting the opportunity to support a small engineering team, a small program management team that is working on building. 

Better systems and processes and tools , for the company itself.  

Priyanka: That's so great. Sometimes you just have to go and take on these opportunities and seems like a wonderful opportunity and , Stripe is growing so much as well. You have seen a lot of growth, and we'll talk [00:03:00] about that in a little bit. 

But tell me more about your journey. I know you had been at Meta for a long time. You had, started out, I, believe not in a technical program management role. And then you moved on, and I also heard about, and I, when we met, we talked about you exploring some other alternate hobbies or maybe careers. 

So tell us a little bit more about your journey and how you came about to. Get into program management and then eventually leading teams.  

Amanda: Yeah. Well it, it's funny because when I look back on it, so I interviewed at Facebook in 2009 and that was, , when people were like, wait, people work at Facebook. 

That's a website that you put your photos on, right? And so it, it was kind of wild to even think about what would I do there? And when I started, it was January 4th, 2010. I started as an IC one, so the lowest, most entry level role that you could, my job was literally resetting people's passwords because at the time, Facebook still had humans in Palo Alto, California doing that. 

And, and truly it was a , you would pull from a [00:04:00] queue of thousands of reports and you would just try to get through as much as possible. And so it's kind of fun to look back and think that that was the job that I , got my foot in the door. And then have it evolved to 10 year career. 

Finishing as a director in infrastructure, right? I would've never predicted that path. And I think the thing that is really the most fun about that is there were some pivotal moments of making some career decisions along the way, of course, but a lot of it just kind of came through. The people that I was working with, the experience that I was starting to get and building on that. 

And so it was somewhat, somewhat unintentional in a way falling into t p m. But the way that happened was I, I knew that operations wasn't the right place for me. I had gotten a little bit of a taste of what it was working with engineering. And I loved it. They put me on mobile at the time because that's, that was the, the group that Facebook had back then. 

It was mobile, was all things, iOS, Android, iPad, the whole gamut. And it was one team [00:05:00] and, and then it was one product operations person because that was the role I had at the time. And I was , what? This is fun building things, shipping it to our users. Learning and and working together as a team to do that. 

Right. And so I got a little bit of a taste of what some level of TPM might look like. Mm-hmm. So honestly, when I first moved into the role, and I think a lot of tpms will identify with this myself and others were like, What does a TPM do? Can do you do this? And I was just like, sure, what, what can I do to help? 

And you're right, I don't have a technical background. And so it was a lot of learning and, and observing and, and trying to figure out , okay, where can I add the most value, but then going deep in an area. And so I ended up spending a number of those 10 years in release engineer. And so one of the things I'm most proud of was working on building the first fixed date release process for Facebook. 

That was a big cultural moment. It was a big technical change. It was a big process change. [00:06:00] And so as the lead TPM working with the engineering director and the release engineering team, we were, , the ground zero for making that happen. And we put a date out there, we said, I believe it was March 31st of that year, we were going to ship an Android update. 

Whether it was just one change on top, just changing the release version, or if it was something big, we didn't care. We were doing it. And that was a big moment and we did it. And so, , I got to really be in the thick of it, in, in the weeds and, and came to deeply understand what it takes in release engineering, both from a tooling perspective and, and kind of the development process through that. 

And so Yeah, we've got to build along the way. And, and just built on top of that, and so sure don't come from a traditional technical background, but the thing I'm, I'm most proud of is to say that I actually am somewhat technical now, just in a different capacity.  

Priyanka: Yeah. I think that's so important for everybody to know is you don't necessarily need to have, as long as you are willing to learn the domain or, or , [00:07:00] just grow yourself and then you understand so much of it that, you said, you can consider yourself technical and that's what we talk about. 

 Not all tpms have to be able to write code in order to understand how to work with engineering. Right. So that's a great story. I'm sure you had to put in a lot of hard work. To, to understand because especially infrastructure I feel is a highly technical domain. Domain, there's so many nuances to it that you really need to be able to understand that area to be able to be successful. 

Amanda: Absolutely. And , I'm not the TPM who's going to go and work with , a core data team on rolling out a whole new database, right? That's, that's not me. But can I be at the intersection of where you need those really deep program management skills, understand how to work with engineering. 

Understand the technical details enough to get through, but really have to leverage that leadership aspect that is so important. That's that m piece, right? That's, that's the shape, right. And that's [00:08:00] why with T P M, and I think this is what makes the role a little bit harder both industry wide as well as individually to kind of wrap your head around, is it's, it's highly ambiguous. 

There are different verticals that you can. Specialize in, you can be a horizontal person that span a lot of kind of areas. You need product sense depending on the space that you're in. You really have to flex a bunch of those different muscles. And so , that can be really challenging, especially when someone is junior and new and you're like, okay, what is this role? 

What am I trying to do? Am I meeting expectations? It, it, it makes it harder. But there's also. Flip side of that, which is, it makes it more fun because there is more of that flexibility to lean in on the things that you enjoy and to learn about the things that you don't know. And so it's a little bit of, , a blessing and a curse in a way about the role  

Priyanka: that that's actually the beauty of it. 

I always say the bad thing about the TPM role is it's fuzzy, but the great thing about the TPM role that it's fuzzy. Exactly. Absolutely. And, and so [00:09:00] looks like you really, I mean, even though you were, like you said Junior, at that point when you first started working as a tpm, you really took charge of , what does this role mean to you? 

How do you want to evolve your role or, or your contributions as part of this role? Even though there probably weren't any set guidelines around the particular role itself at that. Definitely  

Amanda: not. And, and I'll tell you, I've reported to PMs, I've reported to ems to in directors all the way up to VP and now to CTOs. 

And so , I've run the gamut of, of kind of working through that ambiguity, both myself as well as with my manager and of course my stakeholders. And I'll, I'll tell you a funny story. The, the first manager I had as a TPM was pm in a, in a very successful one longtime facebooker. And I, I go to him and I'm. 

So, so what do I do? What, what? ? And, and I was very junior and so it was appropriate for me in the level that I was in to ask my [00:10:00] manager, what, what do I do? And he is like, I don't know. I think you just kind of do more of the same of what you were doing before. And, and so we clearly were working to figure it out together. 

And, and, and again, that, that can be really challenging or it can be really exciting or a little bit of both. And, and so you, you kind of have that conversation every time you have a new manager, every time you have a new set of stakeholders, right? Because there is a lot of that. Defining what this role is going to do with every team that you're working with, every org that you're in, that you kind of need to do regardless of how well the company understands the function, right? 

Because there's always gonna be different interpretations. And one of the things that is somewhat unique about the t p M role is it is fairly different at different companies, right? And so everyone kind of comes with their shared experiences or their, their own lived experiences of. Oh, I've worked with a TPM here. 

They did x. I haven't worked with a TP M before. Can you explain to me what that is? And so you get very [00:11:00] good, very quickly at explaining what a TPM typically does and doesn't do and how you bring, , your skills to the table.  

Priyanka: Yeah. That's actually very important for everyone, especially the tpms that are listening out there. 

One, educating the people around you about the role and what you do or what you can do is a continuous thing. I've never found in my 10, 12 years of being a TPM where. Anybody just understood it very simply. It's always about educating. There will always be some people. And, and so for tpms, you have to be comfortable with talking about your role and what you bring. 

And I think that's what you're me saying over here. It's even if the organization is evolved, there will always be people within the organization that have a different experience of working with the tpm. So that's really, really, really important. And I'm sure I'll touch upon some of the other aspects. 

But you mentioned of course you didn't have a technical background and you came. Interview at Facebook thinking something. What did you want to become [00:12:00] when you were younger? , this has  

Amanda: been the perpetual question that I am so envious of other people who have that clarity of mind early on where , you're a six year old and you write in your little coloring book that you wanna be a doctor one day, and then you work and you get your medical degree and you do all that and you become that. 

That just seems so satisfying to just have that. That's never been me. I've wanted to be everything from like a stockbroker to a fighter pilot to , you name it. It's always kind of changed and I still ask myself what do I wanna be when I grow up? And that question, it, it always kind of changes. 

And I never really have a clear answer. And, and you alluded to this earlier, but there was a long point in my life where I thought I wanted to do something in the food industry. Be a chef, food writer. I don't know what it was, but I felt like I needed to be around food because that's a passion. 

And so I went as far as actually quitting Facebook briefly amid that 10 year stint to go to pastry [00:13:00] school. Cuz I was just , I have to go. I have to go figure this out. And sure enough, I I loved what I learned, but after working in a restaurant, it became very clear to me. This was something that I wanted to protect as a hobby and not turn into a career because I think that there's a real trade off in taking something that you're passionate about and trying to tie that to monetary outcomes. 

And some people are amazing at doing that and more power to them, but, I was so fearful of losing that passion and that side of me in, in, in that pursuit that I didn't wanna do that. And I felt like I got to scratch the itch of getting into a kitchen and understanding what it's like to actually put out Michelin starred desserts to, to people who are waiting for them and, , have all that feedback. 

So that was wonderful. Yeah, I still don't know the answer to this. And it is a, it is a perpetual self exploration that I'm always doing. But the thing I've learned is that I think the bright side of that, in not having that clarity, Has been that I've been more open and more curious [00:14:00] about other, other paths. 

And so things like, oh, do you wanna be a COO one day or do you wanna, do you wanna be a PM or do you wanna get into people stuff? Right? And exploring all of those different paths. And the thing that, the thing that is really interesting that no one really tells you is that if you start to think through that, and then you look for opportunities in the role that you're in, At the company that you're in you can often find them. 

And so you can start to get tastes of what those roles might look like without actually having to go and apply and change everything. But you can start to learn by doing. And and so that's the thing that , I try, I try to, whenever I have this conversation with someone else, is like, is there a way that you can spend 10, 20% of your time building some of the experience that you might need to get to that outcome? 

As a way to explore it and see. Because you don't wanna be the person who goes to law school to find out you didn't wanna be a lawyer. Right. And, and so how can you get, kinda get a taste of it along the way?  

Priyanka: Right? So it looks like it's very important for you to, [00:15:00] sometimes if you're thinking about something, go try it out. 

If you can, if you have the option to do it. , that's the path you want to pursue or there's something different. And just being open to opportunities that come by. And, and there's something important , that you didn't necessarily say, but that I feel, and tell me if this is right, is, , your passion can be something different than your main day job. 

Yeah. You can, you can keep them separate. And sometimes we have this notion of , can we work out a job that is our passion? Yeah. And sometimes the answer is no. If you can do it, great, but looks like, , it doesn't have to be always.  

Amanda: Exactly, and, and this might be a spicy take, but I, I feel like that framework. 

Is, kind of damaging in a way, right? So for a number of years I felt this pressure because so many people in the valley are able to go and take the things that they're so passionate about and make a career out of it. And so I felt like, well, shoot, I'm clearly doing something wrong cause I'm not doing this [00:16:00] or , Obviously I need to go and make a massive change in order to enable that, because that's the path to happiness because that's, that's really how it's branded. 

Right? And you, I don't know. I, I've come to personally realize at least that I don't need that. And what I, what I was missing was the fact that what is really important to me again, is that the job I do on a day-to-day basis where I spend a lot of my time needs to align with my strengths and ideally the things I enjoy spending my time on from a work capacity, and then leave me time to go and do the. 

The side projects, the go and work on an elaborate wedding cake for a friend coming up. Right. Like that sort of stuff. And so I, I've, I've come to believe that it's actually somewhat damaging because it forces you into this thinking and it, it's not necessarily true.  

Priyanka: That's a great point. 

, , do the things you enjoy and then there will be other things that you enjoy more. And all of these things can live in harmony.  

Amanda: Ideally, if [00:17:00] you can find a balance, of course, and this is all right, , work life blend is, the way I like to, to talk about it is it's not necessarily a balance between the two. 

It might spike into work stuff for a while. It might spike into life stuff, but working to try to find a, as much of that blending of the worlds as you can, I think is, is, is a, is a way that for some people can, can lead to more happiness and lead to more just satisfaction in what we do as well.  

Priyanka: I'm sure a lot of people need to hear that.  

Amanda: It was, it was a hard realization for me. I mean, it, it truly was having to go to pastry school and do, , 12 plus hour days on the line in a kitchen and see the entire kitchen culture and realize, oh, okay, actually, , the thing I was doing at Facebook isn't exactly what I dreamed of doing as a. 

But I actually do enjoy a lot of it. And I, and I really enjoy being able to have some time on the side to, to do my kids' cakes or, , whatever. It's .  

Priyanka: So , the thing you're telling us here is , you are the person who's going to [00:18:00] lead your life in a way that aligns with your strengths, what you enjoy, your values, what is important to you, and that can be leadership as well in my, in my opinion. What does leadership mean to you now that you have , , evolved, have had multiple traditional leadership roles that we think about. 


Amanda: That's a great question. It's leadership to me is about building the best set of the best teams around you, whether you're directly supporting them or not. That actually doesn't matter, but building and creating the set of teams that are going to be better together and be better together. 

You've found the magic combination of them being able to, to , be complimentary in all of those things. And so it's not about just managing N number of people in an, , particular org size but it's about doing that and [00:19:00] influencing and driving better outcomes because of it. And so, and , there's so many pieces that go into what good leadership. 

But to me that is what leadership at the end of the day is, is you're helping to set that vision, you are getting the components together to deliver on that vision and you are influencing it. And so that was, that was a bit of a shift too, because, , for so long it was , okay, I am managing this team and it's about these individuals and helping them get promoted and helping them get to the next level, which is certainly a, a big part of it. 

But that is , that, that it, it's not about getting to , oh, , I support an org of a hundred people and now I've made it as an org leader. Right. It's about those other things, , are you delivering more than you could because you have the, the sum of the parts.  

Priyanka: That is really important. 

, it's not always about managing people. Leadership is about. Bringing forth the teams, and that is really important. Yeah. When did you become aware of your own leadership qualities or, [00:20:00] or aspirations or skills that you have?  

Amanda: Hmm. That's a scary question because I feel I'm still discovering it, to be honest. 

I, I think there was, there, there were a few times at Facebook where. , I, I was, I was leading, I was leading a team and, and that team was morphing and changing for, for the latter years. But I was also working in a in what Facebook called a business lead capacity with the VP of developer Infrastructure. 

And I think it was in doing some of that work when I realized that leadership is much more than just management. And what do I mean by that? Well, for example he and I would partner together on designing. , quarterly offsites with his leads and I got to design the agenda and what we covered. 

And you could look at that as very tactical, but it was, it was actually really empowering and it was, it was really exciting to think about, okay, what do this set of people need to do together in order to make sure that we are [00:21:00] now better delivering on the goals for the wider organization? And that had a. 

Influencing behind the scenes, it had a lot of figuring out, okay, where might there be some personality dynamics that we need to work through? Where might we be off on some of our goals that we're not talking about yet? And, and , I actually had to work through. Figuring out how to get this group of people to open up and share more of how they felt about each other. 

Mm-hmm. And, and that to me is leadership. Right. It's about I don't, I'm a peer of theirs, if that. And so being able to influence them and them trusting me enough to do that, that's me was when I kind of realized that there was a little bit more than just management here. And , I loved it. And that's the. 

Leadership that I like to gravitate towards is being able to influence behind the scenes and understand where some of the dynamics might . Need to be adjusting where we're not working as well as we could be.  

Priyanka: Is there a formula to figuring out [00:22:00] what leadership is or getting to this role? How did you have the confidence then to go about putting forth your leadership values , or how you can show up as a leader to the rest of the team? or organization.  

Amanda: I'll answer  

that in a probably slightly unexpected way. I don't think I did. So for a long time, and, and I mean, even still, I think there's aspects of it. 

, I really struggled with confidence. , we talked at the top about not being a technical TPM in the traditional sense. That was a chip on my shoulder for a very long time. And truly what helped me work through a lot of this to build a lot of that confidence was the people around me. And so I I credit the majority of my career growth to, to that leader of developer infrastructure, David Mortenson and to those leads in that group, they bet. 

And I am so fortunate for that [00:23:00] because they saw something that they, , they, they thought was worth their time and I had a lot of their time. And that is why I was able to even have that moment as an opportunity to discover what leadership kind of meant to me. And so , I all of, not all of the credit goes to them, but certainly so much. 

And, and I think that that is one of the things that I feel. So fortunate to have and hope that everyone can have is someone that gives them the time and the opportunity to really grow and stretch. And so, , confidence is something that I think we, a number of us often have to work on and grow in. 

And that for me will always be something that I need to do. But I think just really kind of finding those people with whom you feel safe. Where you can stretch yourself and put the risk out there of failing. Mm-hmm. And, and failing being a strong word, but , , misstepping making mistakes and it's safe to do that so that you [00:24:00] learn is the best place to be. 

Right. Because you are going to make mistakes. Yeah. That's human nature. That is part of it. And in fact, the thing that I tell new managers is that most of the time you're going to be learning through the mistakes that you. And that is really hard because management is all about building the experience. 

You can read all of these, all of these books, but until you get the experience of sitting down and having to go through some performance management or growing someone, you, you're not really going to deeply internalize it. Right? And so finding the people around you that you feel comfortable, being transparent, being yourself, also working towards that self-awareness and leveraging them to help you build. 

I think it's just the most powerful thing that someone can do to help build their leadership skills and develop just your skills in general, right? In a, in a place that is also going to build your confidence.  

Right. Yeah, no, that's, that's a great point. I really encourage everybody [00:25:00] to look for those people around you that can support you. 

And we talk about having sponsors, but not necessarily going in with that label, but just doing the things and they will. See something new. Once you establish the trust, you establish credibility with them. So yeah. That's  

so great. It it, it wasn't like I ever went to them and said, will you be my mentor? 

Right. Yeah. There was never a conversation along those lines. It was David and I had worked together but pretty apart through the release engineering work, so he had seen some of my. Just through extension of his org. Mm-hmm. And so we were able to kind of start to build that rapport and his understanding of what I was strong at. 

And then he was able to build on that. Right. And so it just kind of grew from there. He is someone that I would say is hands down, one of my biggest mentors. And coaches and sponsors. Right. But we never had that. , will you be these things? Check, check. And I think the most powerful relationships come because there is that kind of reason to be working together and a clear goal that you're working on together as [00:26:00] well. 

Priyanka: That's a great story. I love that. I'm sure, as you went on, , once you started establishing yourself and, , , through all of these mechanisms you tried. Probably made some mistakes. You learned from them. You went along what surprised you, especially as you started leading teams, because now everybody's looking up to you. 

Because you're the manager or , an org leader? Yeah. Tell me, because I remember also in our conversation that we had, you told me , , here's what are the fun parts of being a manager, and here's what, , sometimes cannot be the fun parts, which nobody tells you about when you're thinking about making the leap. 


Amanda: What, what is the part that scare me? I'm trying for me Certainly in, in joining Stripe and building, building the team I think the thing that was a big aha, surprise moment, but ended up being really great was. , coming from a place like Facebook where they had tpms for well over a decade by that point, everything was established, right? 

There was a job ladder, [00:27:00] there were clear expectations, there were levels, there was , directors of T P M and, and eventually a VP of T P M. Right? And so it was, it was much more mature and so coming. At Stripe, I'm , okay, well certainly there's gonna be some stuff to build on. There was, there was, there was very little. 

And what I realized was it, it comes down to me and that was really scary because I had, I had, , built my experience in career on leveraging prior arts and other people and having all of that. And so that was a very big, just scary moment of , how do I know I'm making the right decisions? 

And. A lot of the time with stuff like that, you don't until six months or a year later. And that was really scary to me. And, and as you grow in your career, I think that's just naturally part of becoming a leader and becoming, , more senior and taking on more responsibilities. Particularly with people, stuff you don't, you don't see a lot of the results for a long time. 

Hiring, , hiring a new leader. That's a long process. [00:28:00] That's a long process. Getting them spun. And it takes them a long time to be effective kind of regardless of what company you're at, right. That's, there's just a learning curve that comes there. And so you don't know for sure if you've hired a great leader for well into a year usually, right? 

 You get early signals of course, but , it just takes a lot longer. It's not as fast as shipping an update. Yeah. And getting user feedback right  


Priyanka: Mm-hmm. Yeah, it's, it's not instantaneous. It's not just having a project that gets launched and , a set deadline. And I think that is, Very important thing that everybody, especially , if people are looking to make that jump from an IC to a people management , or a people leader role, is that not everything is now going to be the same as managing project outcomes and not everything. 

I mean, less and less things are actually in your control. Yes,  

Amanda: yes, exactly. Far fewer things, right? And so yes, we can write a job ladder that can very much be in our control. We can figure out. , what our levels and the [00:29:00] distinctions are there. But, , hiring a set of leaders who are then going to help build this vision and they're gonna bring all of the things that they , have from their past experiences and figuring out how that all works together. 

That has been some of the hardest challenge, but also some of the most fulfilling, right? Because when you nail. It is just , all right, we're moving so much faster. We're working together through these hard problems. And that's just really exhilarating. .  

Priyanka: I would love to know, because you had mentioned earlier about you came in for the centralized TPgM, you had to establish all of these things, the job ladder, the function, and all that. 

. And now you are a technical program management, T P G M, functional leader. Tell us the evolution of that and. A centralized T p m team versus a decentralized T p M team look like?  

Amanda: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'll, I'll start with there's no one perfect org structure and the thing I learned over, over the course of a few years is that the way. 

A lot of people tend to look at it is between [00:30:00] centralized and decentralized. There's a bit of a pendulum, and I, I started referring to it as that where the pendulum swings kind of back and forth on because of a lot of different things, which I'll, I'll go through. And, and it is something that I viewed as really important was to. 

Kind of every six months be looking at, okay, where's that pendulum now? Are we getting a lot of value in the org structure that we have or are there a lot of downsides? And, and for a function like tpm, and I think there's, there's other ones out there, data science product operations design even where a PM even, right? 

Could be, you could be fully centralized. You could be fully decentralized. And so we started at. With a fully centralized organization, anyone who wanted or needed to hire A T P G M and by T P G M we, we've kind of combined the T P M and the PGM function into one, one name to, to recognize that there is a lot of work that needs to happen in a program management capacity and engineering [00:31:00] that isn't necessarily that deep T, right? 

 Probably if I were hired again today, I would probably be the p g. Honestly , so we, we tried to be more inclusive of that. So in the beginning we, we had it that way as the centralized and for, for a good number of years, that made a lot of sense. But in fact, when I came in to, to parts of the team, I told them, I said, there's gonna be a time where we probably no longer make sense as this structure, and we should be honest with ourselves on that. 

And, and I think that's really important. And so, Late last year, we made the decision that moving to a more decentralized model, though we're not fully decentralized. No, I, I'll tell you about that is is really important for us where we are today. And so, okay. What are some of the criteria that you think about in decentralized versus decentralized model? 

Well one, what are the needs of the business? First and foremost, of course, how do we help to ensure that we're delivering as much as we can to our users? And that might actually dictate one structure versus the other. What are some of the ways that you would be gaining efficiencies? 

[00:32:00] Through a centralized team, where would you be gaining efficiencies as a decentralized team? And so we pulled together my, my leadership team and we went through an exercise of what are literally the pros and cons of our structure today. And, and the reason we did that is because we wanted to make sure we were actually getting the benefits and the things that we we felt obviously there's, there's a ton of streamlining that you get, you get consistency and you're hiring. 

You, you are. Same interviewers who are well calibrated, you have a candidate review process. So that all felt very good. You have consistency in the job function. If you have the same leaders who are thinking about it the same way you're going to put people on programs that are actually T P M shaped. 

Right. We talked a little bit about that ambiguity at the top, and it helps to minimize some of that cause it can be hard for people. Mm-hmm. And certainly in a centralized model. You can, in an ideal world, hire people who are org agnostic. And I think that's where really powerful TPM function can come in, right? 

If you have someone who can span [00:33:00] across infrastructure and product in order to deliver something that needs both components and no one else is able to look at it from across both points of view, that's super powerful. And we weren't doing that enough, but we, we certainly were doing some of it. And, and then on the side, From a, a funding perspective and from what the business needs perspective, that's where we were starting to see that it, it was maybe harder than it needed to be. 

So it, , at both Facebook and, and Stripe a lot of the way that TPM grew was via predominantly engineering teams, larger ones saying, Hey, we really need a tpm. I'll give you this headcount. Will you go hire them for me and build a team here? And so we were doing that. And that was great for a while, but we ended up not having as much say on when and where we put tpms and, and how to leverage them. 

And the engineering teams, particularly the engineering leaders. Are really good at knowing where they need to leverage tpms, and they have TPM leaders who they're partnered [00:34:00] very closely with. And so we wanted to get out of the way. And so we've landed in a decentralized model now where we have the TPM leaders who are mapped to our senior most engineering leaders, and they've got their TPM team. 

So we don't have TPMS reporting one Z two Z to anyone in the org. They're all still centralized within their smaller orgs. We just no longer have everyone reporting in through. TPM leader, so they're closer to the business. They're able to actually drive more of , what is the meaty thing that we can deliver on for our users without getting in the way of any , Top down other priorities that might come from a centralized org. 

And this is still new for us and we will always ask ourselves the question every six months. Obviously you wanna minimize changing this. You can't change it every six months. But at least assessing, , where are those pros and cons. Is this. Is this working really well? Again, ultimately for the business, but certainly for the function as well. 

Right. One of the things we wanted to make sure we stuck with in the [00:35:00] decentralized model was mentorship and community. And in fact, this is one thing I don't think I did very well in the centralized model is, I assumed we kind of got a lot of that for free. Well, we're all reporting to the same person myself. 

So obviously we have a community. We didn't and I think now that we're decentralized, we are working more explicitly towards that. And it's hard work. We're, we, we're not great at this today, but I think it's much more top of mind now as it's something that we need to work towards. Mm-hmm. As opposed to just an , assumptive thing that we, we get for. 

Priyanka: . Yeah, it's important., like you said, you had reported to different functions and then you were part of the centralized t p M team. You led centralized, and then you went somewhat decentralized. So I think , , even there are teams reporting into your engineering functions, so it's not one or two people. 

And I think , that's, I feel like a good balance of how you're thinking of the pendulum itself. Right. And, and yeah, you can have different experiences. I'm sure the tpms on the team or even the TPM [00:36:00] leaders on the team were a little bit apprehensive about what might this decentralization feel like. 

And you mentioned about the business and the efficiency, and I also hear some other companies also doing this with all of the changes that are happening in terms of. Restructuring of organizations and reprioritization of projects and products . And I do feel, I hear this apprehension even from those view, , oh, we might have a structure change. 

TPMS might just report into Eng. How did you help your T p M team handle that apprehension?  

Amanda: Yeah we certainly had it. I'm happy to report that so far it seems gone and, and mostly very positive change. We, so I was never shy about admitting that we were talking about this, and, and we certainly had been, I mentioned, talking about this for, for a number of months, well before much of what is going on in the tech industry had been happening. 

And so I think that helped [00:37:00] because , I don't think many people or anyone really associated it with that. It was just clearly. Cost benefit analysis of what the right structure is. And for me, again, the most important thing I'm not precious about for, , for my own self pursuits, having a large org size or having to have this right. 

And so I think that helped to free me to be more independent in terms of like, what is the right thing again for, for the business and for the function. Mm-hmm. And once it was clear that this was actually gonna benefit both, For example, well, one thing I didn't touch on that I think is really important to. 

TPM, as we know often struggles with having a seat at the table, and some of that can be attributed to due to org structure. I, at Facebook always well, at least for the, the latter years I was reporting in through engineering, I was never part of the centralized t p m team, so it was never a question if I would be in the staff offsite, in the staff meetings, in the, , in the room [00:38:00] where discussions and decisions were. 

And so I hate to say it, but reporting structure actually does matter in that sometimes , you've got a, a leader who is very busy and trying to do all of the things, but they might forget, and it's an oversight and it's an easier oversight when they're not reporting to you. And so that was also one of the motivators was just from a role clarity and a satisfaction point of view. 

Of making sure that our tpms had the seat at the table with our engineering teams report, embedding them right within the organization into the business helps them feel a sense of ownership and it has the engineering leader. Have more accountability for their success as well. And so that was also a big factor here. 

And so we were able to communicate a lot of these reasons mm-hmm. To the org. And, and, and my goal really in doing this was have it be neutral to positive change. And I, I was really diligent about , okay, how are we feeling? What are we thinking? Are we thinking there, there were some things here or there that we needed to work through, but by and large, the team really understood that. 

And there were a lot of places [00:39:00] where folks were genuinely excited about that.  

Priyanka: This is a great lesson for even the T p M leaders out there. You have to continuously evaluate your org structure if it's serving you today or not. And IC T P M, think about, how do I adapt to that change? 

 T P M leaders also need to communicate this well, not just to their team, but also to the org stakeholders, especially when you're going through some change, so that the impact or the negative impacts will not happen of any such changes. 

, I've been through both structures . When I used to be an ic, centralized, is the best way because I get to, have more clarity on where I can go, what my leveling is, how my career will grow, which if you're just reporting to an Eng person or a product, you may not always get the answers you're looking for, especially when you're a junior. 

But as I evolved in my own people leadership role and experience different types of structures or different organizational [00:40:00] scale, I also shifted my view of , this makes sense here and then we need to change it in this other setting. So great to hear that, , you were able to do that. 

I would say successfully, , like we talked about, because the team is still excited , and overall maybe there is a positive change and you're still able to focus on some of the important aspects of community and mentorship, which I know is very, very important, especially to the TPM community because we always , are, are a little bit removed from our engineering and, and, and their teams. 

And I've always , thrived on having a TPM community .  

Amanda: There's so much opportunity still in the industry to have more of the community of tpms. , you have your women in product conference that meta, I think started and you've got certainly a ton on engineering. 

I haven't seen as much of that on tpm. So for anyone listening who wants an opportunity, I feel there's a huge opportunity in doing more of that there. And so that was certainly a huge part of what we were thinking about in designing this. But really it was trying to [00:41:00] capture ki kind of the best of both worlds. 

So , we're in the middle where. We're not all reporting through the same person anymore, but we come together on a regular basis. We have our teams, the teams, the teams of folks, particularly ics, get the benefit of being together. They have peers, they have folks, they even have mobility still, right? 

Because we're still looking at large slots of the organization. And so, , it's still early days. I'm not ready to call it a success yet, but it, it does seem it is. It is a good. Compromise of , really doing what's best for the business and doing what's best for the.  

Priyanka: You touched upon this thing, which is the TP M community and how we can have something at the scale of women and product and something I have thought about ever since I was at Meta in 2017. It's , oh, can we have this T P M conference for all. 

It was to start with like all Facebookers and then it was , okay, how do we get a whole cross pollination of the TM community? Because I think big organizations do TPM community well within their organizations like Meta and Google and [00:42:00] those size of companies. . I know we have tried talking about this, how do we have a universal definition of what T looks like in T P M? 

Is there a universal guideline on the leveling and thing like that? And I think we're opening up a Pandora's box here because I feel the cross pollinated TPM communities could take another whole episode on how we would want to do that. But I think we have to take effort and, and I know all of us are really busy in our lives,  

 I started a women in TPM group on LinkedIn. So I encourage everybody to have a  

cross-company, women in and TPM group, and then , we start. Working on seeing how that might evolve into something that is at the scale of women and product that we have today. 

Amanda: Yeah. And that's fantastic. And we do have a very active discord , for the TPM community, much more active than the Slack channel. And so , there are places that you can tap into and, and certainly, , folks like you who are doing the work every day to try to build more of that knowledge share in that community. 

I do think that , there is still more that we can do. And to your [00:43:00] point, , can we influence the broader organization to get clarity on what this role is and isn't can we, , help to create more of those , women in T P m or , other subset groups as well. So  

there's more there that folks who are interested and want to spend their time on could definitely go after.  

Priyanka: If you're listening out there and you're passionate about building a T P M community, , come reach out to me and , we can do something. 

This has been really great. What is a piece of advice that you would like to give rising TPM leaders? 

Amanda: I think the thing that is probably, hopefully helpful to folks particularly as a rising TPM leader is. A a couple of quick things. One, figure out your niche. , t p m, you could be a big t, you could be a little t you could be big on program management, leadership. What is that thing for you? 

What is the skillset that you really bring to the table? And also the unrelated, but [00:44:00] biggest one I learned was how do you keep your skills? Because particularly at companies that are smaller than the Facebooks and the Googles of the world you're probably gonna need to be hands-on. And so how do you balance being hands-on with also building and leading a team? 

And one of the things that, , when I first got to strip, I was like, I don't know how I'm gonna be the leader here because I don't know how to actually run a program here. I've never done it. And I, that made me really uncomfortable. And then I finally ran a program and I was like, all right, good. 

I can do this. I understand. I built that, that deep understanding and that empathy of what it's like, and that made me a better leader for the team. In my belief. The team can call me on that and tell me, no, no, no, Amanda, you don't. But I think that that's really important. And particularly again at the smaller companies, that's gonna be the expectation. 

And so getting, getting kind of that awareness of window to flex in, when to flex out, and really just having that ownership mentality of, of , all right, well [00:45:00] we're gonna figure this out and I'm gonna help lead through that and I'm gonna roll up my sleeves. And just because it looks like something that isn't necessarily TPM doesn't mean I'm not gonna do it. 

Right. I think those are the biggest ones. Those are probably. Those are answers to a more specific question, a little bit around what was the biggest difference between Facebook and Stripe and jumping in there. But I think it's applicable kind of across the board as people are growing in this space. 

Priyanka: Well thank you for that. I'm sure , there are many people out there thinking about how they continue to grow not just from IC to people management, but even if it's an IC career, right? There is leadership requirements there too. So this has been a wonderful conversation. I feel like I could go on and on and , I feel like there's so many other questions brewing in my head. 

But I know that we have to end the conversation here. Maybe we can do another one in the future. Who knows? But I really appreciate the time you have given and all the wonderful tips and advice and insights that you have shared about your [00:46:00] journey, how leadership. Came along for you, how that might evolve and what do real hands-on T P M functions look like? 

 Once again, I really appreciate, thank you so much, Amanda, for being  

Amanda: here. Well thank you Priyanka, and thank you for everything that you are doing for the community. I do think it is really important that we, we get more of this and, and you are literally leading the charge and so thank you and thank you for thinking of me and having me on. 

I really appreciate it. ,  

Priyanka: thank you everyone for listening in and I will see you next time.