I joined C3.ai almost 7 years ago as the first female engineer in a team of 35 employees. I joined C3.ai because of the company's mission, its people, and the many interesting and stimulating problems C3.ai was tackling. I knew joining C3.ai would challenge me in ways I could not imagine and take me on the adventure of a lifetime.
On my first day, I expected to be hand held through how things work on a high level. But in reality, I was asked to join a meeting with two senior engineers that lasted more than three hours and came out with an assignment and a deadline. The adventure began: the tone of how I needed to work was set on day one. Everyone is here to solve problems and contribute in every way they can.
One year later, we assembled a team to build our first two AI applications: C3 Fraud Detection and C3 Sensor Health for the energy industry. Along the way, we encountered many challenging problems. It was hard, but we pulled through, and came out stronger and more ambitious than ever. In the years following, we built C3 Predictive Maintenance, C3 CRM, C3 Inventory Optimization, and moved into a diverse array of additional industries: manufacturing, banking, health care, oil & gas, aerospace, and many more. With every project we completed, I felt like I was gaining more street cred as an engineer so I could tackle increasingly challenging technical problems.
Around three years ago, I transitioned from an individual contributor to a manager. This is when my adventure became even more interesting. I was no longer just following along on the adventure, I was here to help lead the adventure. But what does it take to lead an adventure?
Set an ambitious goal
Going on an adventure requires having an end goal in mind, and the more ambitious the end goal, the more fun the adventure. Our CEO Tom Siebel has set the ambitious goal of digitally transforming whole industries, fundamentally changing how we process information and take actions based on AI algorithms. When the overarching goal is broken down into the more engineering-focused goals, our goals become clear. We must create the highest-quality AI applications and tools that allow our customers to design, develop, deploy, and maintain their AI applications. As the adventure leader, I help break down the bigger goal into smaller goals, and guide my team through planning, 1:1s, design sessions, code reviews, and retrospectives.
Not only must everyone play their part individually, there must also be synergy on the team. This is probably the most difficult part of leading an adventure: figuring out how individuals from different cultures and backgrounds with different interests come together as a team. I bring people together by listening to everyone's interests, observing individual's strength in different situations, and aligning everyone's strength with their interests. In addition, I am always trying to highlight things we share together, whether it's our goals or our favorite restaurants.
Don't be afraid of change
One thing I learned is that once you think you've got everything figured out, everything will change. During my time as adventure leader, I have learned to embrace change and work with the change rather than trying to fight the change. I am an avid yoga practitioner and I meditate regularly. What I learned from yoga and meditation that I apply daily to my job is being in tune with my thoughts, my words, and my actions and being mindful about what is happening around me. Change is inevitable; anticipating the change will allow you to focus on the problems to solve.
Work hard - and persevere
When everything else is lined up, the final and most important step is to work really hard, and to never give up. I am firm believer that everything will all work out for the best in the end. As the adventure leader, I push my team just a little more than what they think they can achieve. I am their biggest cheerleader for everything they accomplish, and I am also their biggest critic on what they can do better. If we work hard to achieve our end goal, even if we end up in a slightly different spot than expected, I'm sure the journey was no less exciting, and the results are just what we need, better than what we could've ever imagined.
Maggie Wang at Girl Geek X
January 17, 2019
Watch Maggie share her experiences and leadership lessons learned as a C3.ai engineering team lead at Girl Geek X.