Rija Javed is the Engineering Leader at Facebook and has extensive experience as a CTO and technology lead. Prior to working at Facebook, she was an Advisory Board Member at Circl, and before that, she was CTO at MarketFinance and has also held senior engineering positions at Wealthfront Inc. and Zynga.
At our CTO Craft Conference, Rija is the day 2 opening keynote speaker focusing on, ‘Following your guiding compass – aligning with organisational values to find purpose.’
Hi Rija, welcome to the CTO Craft Spotlight Q & A. You’re a day 2 speaker at the CTO Craft Con and Engineering Leader at Facebook. Can you give us a teaser about what you might share with our audience at the conference?
Thank you for having me, Sarah. I’ll be sharing my perspective on cultural values and their significant impact on productivity and team and individual growth, ultimately helping set the business up for success.
The conference theme is Culture and the CTO: Unleashing the Power of People. What methods do you use to ensure your team’s strategy aligns with your company’s mission and values?
Simple: by ensuring you use those same values as a criterion for performance reviews and team success evaluation. Additionally, ensuring that’s something you’re also looking out for when hiring.
With regards to hiring, I wouldn’t make it as strict as you would for the other two. As the candidate at that point isn’t part of the company. Assessing their potential and flexibility is more important if they have been working under a different system.
However, once an individual is part of the team, then you make sure your onboarding process includes a mentor who can be a good teacher of those same values.
The values also don’t just come in at these specific assessment points but rather how you do your day-to-day work and interactions. It’s also in terms of how you prioritize across the company, and people come together.
And that’s an example that’s set from the top. If communication is a value, then how open were the business leaders when some challenge hit the company? If urgency is important, then how quickly did the leaders act on some external change in terms of putting a plan of action and executing it? If diversity is important, is that true for the leadership team but also how voices are heard and listened to across the company?
What tips do you have for building values in the team and organisational culture?
By trying my best to exhibit those values in how I communicate and work, but also by working with my direct reports to ensure it’s true for them and their subsequent teams. Openly recognising those values when an individual behaves accordingly, particularly in a challenging situation.
Not only do we all need some form of positive affirmation, but we also need examples to know what’s good.
As a leader, what approaches do you use to review values and ensure they evolve with the organisation?
This is important!
Just like you assess and plan for changes in terms of organisational units/business areas, staffing and roadmap, aka technical work, you have to do the same for your core cultural values. More than any other moment, you have to do this as your company/team scales.
Ideally, as your team scaled, you brought in a different set of individuals, so the internal environment has changed, and thus the same values may not work effectively now.
More importantly, they might not even be as diverse and inclusive as they ought to be given the new environment.
Outside of groups/companies scaling, sometimes external factors to the company can cause an evolvement of these values as well. As I said above, you use these values as the criterion for individual and team success. If the team or individual is failing, and you’ve investigated and can’t figure out why the failure is happening, then is it because the values you were functioning under were incorrect?
In the ongoing war for talent in tech, how can values give your team or organisation a competitive edge?
The values are your brand. It’s what defines you and shows others how that company truly is more than any business numbers.
As individuals in our personal lives, we function and live according to some core personal values. That’s true in our day-to-day small decisions as to how we prioritise, plan and execute for our future. Thus, why wouldn’t we want to know and try to align those values with some prospective company where they’ll be spending more time and energy than their personal lives?
How do you communicate values so that everyone knows and understands them?
Apart from documenting and making them easily available to everyone, it’s something that I try to acknowledge in my interactions. That’s both for good or bad instances. At the same time, I listen to others and their perspective on what these values mean to them and how they might be adhering to them.
Changing the subject completely, please tell us an interesting fact we don’t know about you.
Oh, I’m sure there’s lots! When I was in high school, I was very much against engineering and thought it was more hands-on, hard hats type of work with primarily men! Obviously, the former was wrong; sadly, I was right about the latter.
Apart from that personally, I’ve lived in 6 different cities/metropolitan areas, 4 countries and 3 continents. Although, given how accessible the world has become, maybe that’s not that particularly interesting.
In your opinion, why should someone come to CTO Craft Con?
To share, learn and vent! Being a leader can be lonely, and having others who can relate to your experiences can be a big emotional help. And, of course, then being able to share advice and learn from other people’s experiences.
Lastly, network! Even if that group can’t help solve your problem themselves, they’ll know others who can. That’s also great when you’re looking for new opportunities. 🙂
What talk are you most interested in hearing?
There are lots of great talks and speakers scheduled. I’m particularly interested in: “Are you creating an ‘unconscious culture’?”
Finally, can you recommend a book or a podcast that every technology leader should read or listen to either in the space of strategy, development or leadership in general?
I learn more from experiences and discussions with folks rather than reading or listening. However, one blog post that I recommend is, ‘The real reason women quit tech (and how to address it)’. While the title is specific to women and tech, it’s relevant for any underprivileged group in the corporate world.
We’re thrilled to announce that some of the most exciting tech leaders will be joining us at the CTO Craft Con on 7-8 November 2023 at the Tobacco Dock in London.
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