Career stories: A cross-country, family move
November 9, 2021
After years of hopping between coasts, Charles found a home for his family and his ambitions in Silicon Valley. LinkedIn made the transition seamless, setting him up for success from day one, even through the challenges of the pandemic.
Moving around has always been a way of life for me. Originally from Montreal, Canada, I moved to the U.S. in 2006, first to Boston, then Atlanta, Hawaii, and back to Atlanta. Once my wife and I had kids, I thought my years of changing cities were behind me. Yet, there was still one destination my wife and I always dreamed about: the San Francisco Bay Area, the global heart of engineering and tech. So when LinkedIn offered me an interview, I jumped at the chance.
Making the move easy
It wasn’t a decision my wife and I lightly made. I pride myself on being hyper-organized, but the logistics involved in a cross-coast move are intense: housing, schools, and even getting a handle on the local lingo. Some of our friends said we were crazy to relocate to such an expensive area. But we are ambitious; if others were making it out here, I knew we could too. When I got the offer, it was like the stars aligning and LinkedIn made the experience memorable.
Even before deciding to accept the role, I felt supported. I distinctly remember the team’s engineering manager, who would later become my own manager, inviting me to lunch even before receiving an offer. He wanted to get to know me, and hear more about my personal and professional goals. I felt like I was talking to someone I’ve known for years. It set my interview experience at LinkedIn distinctly apart from my interviews at other Big Tech organizations.
Every conversation during the interview and offer stages reassured me that I would be surrounded by people that are invested in my development. This is how I treat my team, too. Even beyond that, LinkedIn made sure the transition was as smooth as possible, providing a moving specialist that helped our family from the day I accepted the offer.
I admittedly had a lot of preconceived notions about the Bay Area being insular. Having been raised in a diverse city like Montreal, I felt like I might not fit in, in Silicon Valley. However, I can earnestly say that after being at LinkedIn for two years, LinkedIn really “walks the walk” by investing in its people, and crafting a collaborative culture where diverse perspectives are welcomed. Not once did I feel I was making the move alone. I felt like I belonged.
Note: Team photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hitting the ground running
This spirit of mutual support and excellence continued once I got to work. I started leading a team building a new feature from scratch—as part of LinkedIn’s fast-growing, business-to-business (B2B) Marketing Solutions team. Initially, this meant bringing notification features that LinkedIn users (or members as we like to say here) enjoy from our flagship-consumer product, over to the advertiser side of the platform, alerting campaign managers to relevant events in the same way that you might receive an alert for a work anniversary.
Before launching our feature, advertisers would have to laboriously manage ad campaigns manually: tracking sometimes hundreds of member comments made to ads on the LinkedIn feed, under-performing campaigns, ad-budget spending, leads, campaign statuses, etc. For a small business or startup that may not even have a full-time marketer, let alone an advertising specialist, this could be incredibly overwhelming.
As an engineer, having the autonomy to build this functionality from the get-go and to see it get “shipped” was incredibly rewarding. Having worked previously in industries, like insurance, where your impact as an engineer isn’t often tangible and immediate, seeing and hearing how my work is helping a small business survive or a startup scale, especially amidst the pandemic, feels so special. It’s this kind of meaningful work that brought me to LinkedIn.
Now, we’re expanding to email notifications and thinking through other ways to improve the user experience (UX) at every step of the customer journey, from onboarding to retention. This open-ended flexibility means we work with a breadth of technologies, open-sourced and built at LinkedIn—from Brooklin to Apache Kafka and Apache Samza—and also cross-functionally with product management, frontend (UI) engineering, data science, product design, and UX research colleagues, among others. So even though we are just getting started on this journey, already our charter has expanded.
Moving forward through the pandemic, together
Of course, there have been obstacles and the pandemic has been difficult for everyone. My wife and I experienced challenges, such as balancing working from home while also having our two kids attending school virtually. However, knowing I had the full support of LinkedIn, my team and my manager made all the difference. I encouraged my team to speak openly during conversations on these difficult topics because I knew that we could only get through the pandemic if we did it together.
Fortunately, LinkedIn made the shift to remote work trouble-free. The company looked after everything, from making sure we had workstations at home to offering special training for managers on how to support our teams.
New company-wide policies—like no meetings Fridays, a supplementary RestUp week this past April to recharge, our two annual shutdown weeks, and a series of half-day Fridays this past Summer—allowed me to disconnect and take care of my family, without worrying I would come back to an overwhelming inbox.
Bringing your best self to work
Anyone who asks me for advice on taking a new role in a different city, I tell them to look at the opportunity from every angle. Ask yourself, does this job align with your values and career aspirations? Status, location, and perks are great, of course, but what matters most is that you’re developing in your profession and contributing to the success of those around you.
One of the values I appreciate most at LinkedIn is transformation. I want all of my team members to transform into better engineers and professionals than before they started. This happens not only by matching the right people and projects but also by ensuring that everyone feels engaged and valued. I tell them, be you—if you’re goofy, be goofy!
And since we all hail from different places—including Burma, China, Canada, Colombia, Haiti, India, Israel, and the U.S. on my team alone—it’s important to find ways to bridge and celebrate our varied cultural identities, and truly get to know each other.
I strive to create an environment where everyone can be open and honest, no matter where they’re from, or what they’re dealing with. That’s how we get our best work done and grow as individuals, and I’m proud to be a part of a company that encourages its employees to be their authentic selves.
Based in Silicon Valley, Charles is an applications (apps) engineering manager at LinkedIn, focused on our B2B Marketing Solutions product. Before LinkedIn, he was an engineering leader at Payspan in Atlanta, a healthcare-payments startup. Charles has also worked as an apps engineer and engineering leader in several insurance and tech companies in Atlanta, Boston, Honolulu, and Montreal. He has a bachelor’s in computer and information systems and an MBA in information systems from Hawaii Pacific University. A previous event promoter, Charles still mixes house music when he’s not cheering at his kids’ soccer matches.
Editor’s note: Considering an engineering career at LinkedIn? In this Career Stories series, you’ll hear first-hand from our engineers about real life at LinkedIn—including our meaningful work, collaborative culture, and transformational growth. For more on engineering careers at LinkedIn, visit: lnkd.in/EngCareers.