What does the career path and day in the life look like for the Director of Engineering at SessionM?
We interviewed Prashanth Gali to find out!
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to college and what did you study?
My background is primarily engineering-based. I grew up half of my life in India and went to the University of Madras, which is in one of the southern metropolitan cities in India. I graduated with a bachelor’s in engineering specializing in computer science and engineering. After graduating, I moved to America where I went to the University of Rhode Island for my master’s in computer science, and I learned advanced techniques in software engineering.
What were some of your first jobs out of college? How did these positions lay down the foundation to what you are doing now?
My first job out of college was after receiving my master’s from URI. I took a Technical Support Engineer position with American Power Conversion, which is a large technology infrastructure company that provides power, cooling, security, and network solutions for data centers. My first job wasn't even related to software engineering, but it turned out to be an incredible experience. I spent the first six months working the phones and dealing with customers ranging from home users trying to get their UPS (uninterrupted power supply) connected to their computer to providing support for configuring a data center for enterprise customers.
The company was hiring a lot of students from URI for entry-level positions and there weren’t any programming or software engineering positions open at the time so I took whatever was available and made the most of it. I learned a lot of things -- first being understanding humility and patience in order to help people solve their problems, which was incredibly rewarding. For example, imagine educating a non-technical person how to configure a UPS and testing with the customer to ensure their computer wouldn’t die when they lose power. This position really motivated me to be humble and always put users first before my own interests. Although it wasn’t the sexiest job it did give me the ability to look at problems from the customer’s perspective.
What are the details of your current role at SessionM as Director of Engineering?
At SessionM we are very fast-paced, so we’re typically working on more than one project at any point in time. As Director of Engineering, I am responsible for ensuring the quality of our platform across the board, as well as for delivering integrated solutions with third-party platforms like Adobe Marketing Cloud and Salesforce. From a quality perspective, we currently have a team of 12 engineers that are actively using automation and manual testing to ensure quality. To be able to turn things around faster we try to constantly innovate, and my role is to keep the team sharp, motivated and help them deliver by giving them the freedom to execute on initiatives where they can excel and be the best at what they do. From an integration perspective, my job is to work closely with our product teams, solutions architects, engineering teams and partners to deliver an integrated experience between SessionM and third-party platforms.
What advice can you give to others who are looking to follow a similar career path as Director of Engineering at a tech company?
One of the first things I’d have to say is to be humble -- there’s always room for improvement. Every day you have to come in and be ready to learn and contribute what you’ve already learned and show empathy to people. The first thing you want to look at from a career path is to be technically solid. I believe it’s important to go through a technical path where you’ve developed, tested, validated software and worked with customers. Once you get that experience you can then start thinking about management roles where you can bring all the technical experience and skill sets you gained and apply them towards a new position.
To sum it all up, do your job to the best of your abilities and career opportunities can truly open up.
Day in the Life
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
I don’t drink coffee or tea (is it too early to say beer?), but I usually do have a protein shake in the morning.
What time do you get into the office?
This often varies as SessionM is very flexible from a work hours perspective. I try to get in Tuesday and Thursday around 8:30 AM and leave whenever I can in the evening once my work is done. On Wednesday I get in a little later and stay later as well.
Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?
- Morning: Mornings are when I catch up with the team. Usually meetings with teams and partners.
- Afternoon: Afternoons are when I sit down and really start grinding on deliverables.
- Evening: That’s when the fun starts!
What time do you head out of the office?
Usually depends, but I’m out by 6. Sometimes there are days where I have to work longer hours and leave late. As I get older and older I’m trying to make sure I have a good work-life balance. SessionM is a great place for work-life balance since there is a great mix of people that have different priorities outside of work. I’ll usually try to head out of the office anywhere from 4:30 - 6.
Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?
I typically log back in before I head to bed. This gives me the opportunity to catch up on emails and plan the next day.
Any productivity hacks?
Usually, I try to write down the tasks that I want to get accomplished. As soon as I write them down it becomes much easier for me to focus. Then I’ll scratch them off, and as I scratch them off I feel better as I know things have gotten done. Other than that I just try to tackle the most important problem and stay focused on it, but we do multi-task so there’s always more than one ball in the air and we just have to drive through it.
What are the three apps that you can’t live without?
The Outlook app - All emails in one place!
Wall Street Journal - It helps me check the news.
TuneIn - I love to listen to trance music as I’m coding.
What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?
At the previous company I worked for called Retail Decisions, I was a Chief Architect. I architected along with a bunch of team members to build a real-time fraud prevention solution that was used by some of the major brands in the world. We also helped build a real-time fraud detection solution for the debit card industry, and one of the largest debit card networks began using the solution. Being able to see how it impacts people in everyday life was my proudest accomplishment.
Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?
I have a couple people who I look up to for advice. One is a good friend who’s an Executive VP at a bank who I look up to as a father figure to guide me through life’s troubles. On the technical side, I have a great friend who used to be my mentor, but now we’re almost peers. He has a tremendous amount of experience and is a very highly accomplished person in the tech world, so I often reach out to him for technical advice or guidance.
Image courtesy of SessionM.