As part of CodePath’s Emerging Engineers Summit (EES) — taking place October 2-6, 2023 — we are excited to feature keynote speakers at the forefront of the tech industry. Speakers will share their inspirational stories and advice, demonstrating through their own experiences the importance of finding the right talent when scaling a company. In advance of EES, we’ll be sharing a series of short Q&As with each speaker to highlight their backgrounds, inspirations and advice.
Meet Tia White, General Manager of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Amazon Web Services!
Could you tell us about a pivotal moment or experience in your career that shaped your journey as a tech leader?
As I look back on my career to date, there were several pivotal moments. Most of my career, I took jobs that people told me I’d be great at which moved me into a “generalist” of all things technology. I looked around and my brand was: “she knows how to get stuff done.”
Especially as a Black woman in tech, I wanted to be known for my expertise as well. I decided to take a leap and join Capital One to lead a team of engineers migrating call center technology to AWS. For the financial services industry, it was trendsetting. Some would say it was a demotion, and I was okay with that — because through this move, I was able to do several things:
- Go deeper into a specific domain and become an expert leader
- Transform my brand
- Meet brilliant people that would become pivotal in my career progression
- Learn cutting edge technology and ultimately pivot to machine learning
This single decision has transformed my entire career.
Throughout your career, what are some valuable lessons you've learned while navigating the constantly changing tech industry?
Early in my career, I was exposed to the P.I.E model as it relates to career management and growth — I truly embraced this early on in my career. What is the P.I.E. model?
- P - Performance
- I - Image
- E - Exposure
If you neglect any of these, most often your career is stalled. For example, if my performance was high-impact and others around didn’t know, how would that transcend beyond my current manager? Ensuring people are aware of your work is important.
Second, I’ve learned that EQ is just as important if not more than IQ. The intangible things people often gloss over in tech (i.e. communication, influence, etc.) will become the deal breaker and single thing that makes or breaks growth opportunities.
Third, I’ve learned especially as a working mom that I have to give myself grace. I’m not going to get everything right all the time. And when I don’t, I ask myself: how do I own it and allow it to make me better?
How do you stay up-to-date with the latest advancements and trends in the field?
Everyone’s learning style is different. At this stage in my career I read a lot — and I mean a lot — and listen to podcasts. I also play around with technology, as well. For example, with the explosion of Generative AI, I started using ChatGPT the day it was announced and signed-up (and paid) for various versions as soon as they were available.
In your experience, what makes for a really effective leader in tech?
I think an effective leader in tech consists of having high EQ, a deep desire to always learn, a visionary mindset and a deep understanding of the business they're building for.
What’s your best advice for succeeding in tech today?
I have three main pieces of advice:
- Take time away from the code and understand what’s happening around you.
- Build a network of people that are like-minded and can help you grow your career (e.g., mentors, sponsors, allies).
- Become an expert in something.
These three items will allow you to know where the industry is headed; have a vast network, including a mentor, to help you navigate your career; and the expertise on which to build your brand and ability to deliver.