Meet the Engineering Managers of Choco

Engineering Management differs in every tech organization. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look into the role at Choco.
Life at Choco Apr 20, 2022
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To really understand what it’s like to work in the tech organization at Choco, we went directly to the source. We asked five of our Engineering Managers a series of questions to uncover what it’s really like to be leaders of our fast-growing tech teams. This article features Engineering Managers Csaba Okrona, Bruno Show, Geethanga Amarasinghe, Sabine Kaiser, Dávid Siklósi, Vinicius Pereira Souza, Cristiano Madeira, and Rim Masmoudi.

Here’s what they had to say.

What is an Engineering Manager?

A: Geethanga: Engineering Managers work to enable the team. When the team needs help in making a decision or coming to an agreement, our role is to facilitate the discussion to arrive at solutions. We ensure the team is treading down the correct technical path while also hitting their targets. Lastly, it's our responsibility to pinpoint and highlight both technical debt and platform-level improvements that should be addressed by the team.

What path did you take to get to your current role?

A: Csaba: I studied electrical engineering but never finished the university. I started programming early (late elementary school). I became a software engineer, then a team lead, and eventually the CTO of a small company. After that, I went back into software engineering before becoming an engineering manager.

A: Sabine: I have an academic background in environmental planning and picked up coding during my bachelor thesis. I was bored writing my thesis and came across the computer science section in the library. Back then, I focused on geodata analysis, data management, and–in the very beginning–web development and web maps. I started at a mobility startup as an intern before becoming a software developer shortly after. After a few years, I moved into managing a team of software engineers.

A: Geethanga: I did my Bachelors in Information Technology, but I’ve been tinkering with computer programming for as long as I can remember. I was lucky to work with many programming languages and two of the mainstream cloud offerings which allowed me to have an unbiased view of technology. I’ve been managing teams for close to 6 years while I was actively programming.

A: Rim: I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and started immediately working as a backend engineer. It was amazing to see how things evolve and change in software engineering. I became a tech lead and here I am now as an Engineering Manager at Choco.

Why did you choose to join Choco?

A: Csaba: Short answer: the mission and the culture.

A: Sabine: Everyone I talked to during the interview process was motivated and approachable, as well as professional and focused. The impression I got of management and team culture was very positive, and along with Choco’s mission and vision that made me choose Choco.

A: Geethanga: I was looking for an opportunity to work in a global tech company. Choco was recommended to me by a friend in Berlin. I did some research and went through the interview process. My interviewers painted a really nice picture of Choco and I was impressed with the process and people. In the end, it was an easy decision. Further, I loved Choco’s mission. I’m personally very connected with food. In fact, I even had a home-cooked food business going on for about 2 years.

A: David: I did a bit of research about Choco’s problem space before my interview and prepared some questions about the strategy that I thought was going to be tough for my interviewers. They weren’t. I got very clear and straight answers which showed me Chocorians really know their challenges and most importantly they are using data very extensively which for me as a data person was very important. Also, the energy and the motivation were striking throughout all of my interviews.

A: Rim: To associate my day-to-day work with solving a global problem and ultimately help leave the world a better place was really something I looked for constantly as a woman in IT. Choco has really good ambassadors who were genuinely promoting the company’s mission during the interviewing process. I was instantly excited by the Chocorian energy of my interviewers. I did my research about the company’s culture and checked their blog posts and YouTube channel. The business area was really appealing to me as well as the culture of the whole organization.

How has your career developed since being at Choco?

A: Bruno: I started at Choco in May of 2019. My first position was iOS Engineer. Back then, the iOS team only had one other team member, and the entire engineering team–all domains included–was only six people. Choco started expanding and with that, we could see also new growth opportunities. Shortly after I joined, I helped the team start to scale and became the iOS Chapter Lead. As we continued to grow, new opportunities kept arising. I then became Tech Lead and later on became an Engineering Manager. To date, we’re still growing and it’s great to see a lot of peers growing together with the company.

What’s your favorite technology or tool used at Choco?

A: Geethanga: I like the amount of automation that we use in most of the things we do. For example, the automated release pipelines make it seamless to release new features. Our releases are generally ritual free which saves a lot of time. I used to work for companies that had extremely complicated release processes, some even required us to plan releases way ahead of time. Dogfooding and issue tracking have been nicely integrated so it gives good visibility to the issues.

A: David: I wouldn’t pinpoint any specific technology, I would rather say, I really like the discussions we have around technology. Obviously in the beginning there were some gut feeling choices, but we’re getting more and more mature in doing POCs, comparisons, discussions, and making sure we pick the right piece of technology for the long term.

What challenges have you faced in your career?

A: Csaba: Not Choco-specific, but engineering management-related: Feedback loops get really long and I needed to learn again to recognize being successful because it’s very different from how it felt when I was an engineer.

A: Bruno: The transition from a technical role at the company to a managerial position needs to also come with a mindset shift. Working on delegation became the number one priority during the adaptation period.

What type of leader are you and how are you building your team?

A: Csaba: I’m a people-first servant leader with a mix of situational leadership. When it comes to building teams, I believe (and have experienced over and over) that culture matters more than short-term speed. Nurturing the right kind of culture (autonomous, cross-functional, safe, open, and team-first), interactions, and rituals are a longer-term investment but it pays off.

A: Geethanga: I generally like to delegate things to people and I work to empower my team to reach out to me whenever they feel they need my input. And I don’t like to get in their way with everything they do. As a leader, I like to give enough room for the team to experiment with different things while also setting relevant boundaries to ensure we operate within the business context.

What do you think makes Choco a great place to work in tech?

A: Geethanga: I’ve never worked in a startup, it is fast-paced. We’re focused on cutting-edge tech and delivering value to the end-users with every single thing we do. And the company is extremely transparent.

A: Cristiano: Choco, for me, is a combination of opportunities, people, and exciting challenges. There are many opportunities to create your initiatives and drive your impact. We have a strong culture where people support you from day one and each step of your career. Finally, we have very mature processes in place, a modern and attractive tech stack, and exciting challenges that aim to make the world a better place.

A: Csaba: It’s a place full of clever, kind, and mission-driven people who have created an open and inclusive environment. I felt welcomed and empowered from day one when I joined. It’s easy to have an impact here.

A: Vinicius: Choco stands out compared to other companies I’ve worked for because we’re driven to promote impact across the whole supply chain, and we’re not afraid to encourage novelty by using tech. Every day at Choco is a new adventure. Every challenge is an opportunity to grow and stretch my abilities. Every colleague is driven and talented in their own way - courage, respect, and safety. Our ethos is pristine and full of passion for transforming the whole landscape of the industry.

A: Bruno: Choco is very diverse and welcoming of new ideas, leveraging also a fast pace environment, we’re always open for experimentation and POCs. This welcoming mindset allows us to move quickly from the assessment to the full adoption phase during our technical journey. Autonomy and trust have also been key. I’m confident to say that Choco is a great place to work, with tech teams that are welcoming and open to new ideas.

What makes Choco’s tech team unique compared to other companies you have worked for?

A: Csaba: Everyone here is mission-driven and Choco seems to have the right kind of culture. I’ve seen both before but never together and at the same time. A huge kudos to the clear and driven senior tech leadership (sorely missing from many other places). Focusing on quality and paying back technical debt is finally not a struggle vs. product, these two principles are openly working together.

A: David: I’m quite an introverted person and usually it takes me some time to open up. At Choco this time was much shorter, I felt safer in expressing my thoughts and there is always someone who can support me with real help whenever needed.

A: Rim: Choco’s mind-blowing success driver is the team-first spirit, with an inclusive diverse environment that helps promote ideas, curiosity, creativity, and accomplishments. At choco, it’s safe to fail, learn, build, and rebuild as well as to celebrate milestones loudly. I’m reminded every day of how exciting the journey is that we’re taking on. Our mission itself is the burning motivation that makes me excited to start work each day.

What advice do you have for someone considering a role as Engineering Manager at Choco?

A: Csaba: Do it! You’ll grow, be supported, and you’ll have amazing autonomy to have as big of an impact as you want. The company is at the perfect stage to both support and challenge engineering managers in a healthy way.

A: Geethanga: Go for it, the onboarding process is amazing. You’ll be surprised by the amount of freedom and autonomy you have.

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If you’re looking for an opportunity to combine your tech and leadership skills and direct them towards a cause that actually makes a difference, we want to hear from you. We’re hiring all types of engineers! Check out our open roles here.

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