Career stories: Taking LinkedIn to Bellevue, and mentorship global
May 31, 2022
From starting our LinkedIn Bellevue office and launching a successful e-newsletter to driving our efforts on equity and making mentorship more accessible, Bef represents LinkedIn’s aspiration of transformational growth through and through. This dad and engineering leader shares with us how LinkedIn has helped him foster his personal and professional passions:
My journey at LinkedIn started as a backend (apps) engineer on the Consumer/Flagship Profile team. Over time, I grew into a tech lead and eventually transitioned into engineering management, just as LinkedIn was entering an exciting new era heralded by the launch of the new Flagship mobile app.
Engineering success through leadership and writing
As I started to settle into my role as a people leader, my then manager nudged me to merge my passion for technology management and writing, by publishing content on leadership and career development for engineers. After sharing my first article on LinkedIn, I was hooked.
Much of my writing stemmed from conversations around how engineers can be successful and make others around them successful as well. What originally started as a small step outside my comfort zone, slowly morphed into a monthly online newsletter, “Stuff Engineers Say…,“ that today stands at 50+ articles and nearly 37,000 followers on LinkedIn.
I’ve explored many different dimensions of engineering and leadership in my work and e-newsletter, and one recurring theme in my writings remains the importance of finding the intersection between the company’s business objectives and the individual’s goals and dreams.
Making mentorship more accessible
In my early days as an engineering manager, I was also fortunate enough to find some amazing mentors that helped me understand how to grow as a leader and make a greater impact in my role. This marked a turning point in my career, and I started paying it forward by mentoring others and providing them with the same guidance and support my mentors were providing for me.
Eventually, I channeled this passion into helping launch LinkedIn’s first ever self-service mentorship program, serving our 8000+ engineers. What was initially an idea from an internal hackathon day, is now a global, internal mentorship platform, where mentees can easily find relevant LinkedIn engineering mentors by department, location, engineering specialty (e.g., backend/apps, data science, frontend/UI, mobile, site-reliability [SRE], etc.) skills, or rank.
With the pandemic, there was an even bigger need for this platform, because the vast majority of our engineering community had shifted to hybrid or remote work, and we could no longer form those relationships in the traditional office. Seeing mentorship made accessible at scale for our entire engineering team has been a deeply rewarding experience for someone whose own journey started as a one-time mentee.
Aspiring to find your 30%
I once had a mentor tell me that I should always be looking for the 30% that helps me stumble forward and experientially grow. I am a big believer in this growth mindset and always tell my team to get comfortable with getting uncomfortable, especially in setting goals for themselves. To put it simply, if you are not stretching, you are not growing.
And as the “stumbling” would suggest, stretching can sometimes lead to failure, and I’ve always embraced failure as an instrument of learning that is critical to our growth. As a leader, I try to encourage my teams to push for their 30% by creating a culture where failure is not just tolerated but embraced as an acceptable outcome for intelligent risks.
Building meaningful, equitable products
I’ve always been keen to find ways to further improve the engineering culture at LinkedIn, so I was excited when I came across an opportunity to lead a project focused on ensuring that our platform is inclusive and absent bias. Through Project Equity, (see video here) we were able to make improvements that sought to drive equitable economic opportunity for all LinkedIn members on our platform.
As the Equity engineering lead, I co-led a cross-functional team that created tools and strategies to address bias within our artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms and product experiences. This project will remain one of the most meaningful projects I’ve ever worked on, and it has been rewarding to see it grow even more under the leadership of our Head of Equity Strategy, Imani Dunbar.
Launching our LinkedIn Bellevue office
In mid-2021, my wife and I made a personal decision to relocate our family from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Seattle area, and with it came a unique opportunity to launch a new LinkedIn Research & Development site in Bellevue, Washington.
In the short time it has been open, our Bellevue office has already welcomed dozens of new engineers and is home to a number of teams including Identity (Consumer), Azure Graph (LIquid systems & infrastructure), Developer Productivity & Happiness, Site Reliability Engineering (SRE), Data Privacy, and other Core Engineering teams (e.g. Sales Tech Engineering, Streams [Kafka] Infrastructure, Media Infrastructure, etc.).
The Bellevue area is a world-renowned hub for diverse engineering talent, and I’m incredibly excited to bring LinkedIn’s distinctive collaborative and inclusive culture to this great city, and to see our site grow into a thriving center of technology and product innovation.
Based in Bellevue, Washington, Bef has 20+ years of experience in backend engineering and leadership; and currently serves as the LinkedIn Bellevue site lead, and an engineering director leading our Consumer Search, Profile & Messenger products. Before joining LinkedIn, Bef served in various backend engineering roles at Oracle, and a marketing automation company, Naheas.
He also co-founded ArifSoft, and ArifZefen—an app featuring music from his home country of Ethiopia—and serves as a startup advisor/investor. Bef holds a bachelor’s in mathematics, electrical engineering, and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as a master’s in computer science from MIT. Bef is a proud dad of two girls and a boy.
Editor’s note: Considering an engineering/tech career at LinkedIn? In this Career Stories series, you’ll hear first-hand from our engineers and technologists about real life at LinkedIn—including our meaningful work, collaborative culture, and transformational growth. For more on engineering/tech careers at LinkedIn, visit: lnkd.in/EngCareers.