Career stories: Spotlighting Technical Program Management
March 2, 2023
Based in Silicon Valley, Priya serves on LinkedIn Engineering’s Technical Program Management (TPM) team, supporting our large-scale, AI and Knowledge Graph programs. A mom of two and co-founder of a dance nonprofit, she spotlights for us the TPM specialty at LinkedIn, her transition from product manager to TPM, the transition from contractor to full-time, and the power of soft skills.
My journey to LinkedIn started when I was working as a product manager in data analytics at a large corporation. A friend at LinkedIn reached out to me and told me about this exciting opportunity to join LinkedIn Engineering’s Data team as a technical program management (TPM), contractor — where I would be supporting Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Knowledge Graph work. The LinkedIn Knowledge Graph allows us to connect a member's profile, activities, and interests to present the right opportunities and content on the member’s LinkedIn feed. Getting to work on this project was rewarding and I felt like I was making a difference.
Making the switch to TPM
My formal education in computer and electronic science, and my professional experience as a data analyst, program manager, and product manager helped me build on the skill sets needed to excel in my new TPM position.
This role combines everything I love about engineering, including the right mix of technical expertise, soft skills, and program management skills. And I knew that at LinkedIn, the product would directly reflect my work, meaning the outcome of my work could be realized throughout the platform, which was missing in my previous role.
Diving into rewarding migrations
As soon as I joined, I was able to dive into my first big project, supporting a LinkedIn Horizontal Initiative (HI) migration. This work entailed rolling out a new industry taxonomy to all LinkedIn members (i.e., users) and customers. It was a massive undertaking since as a team we had to solve backend engineering challenges, like migrating code while changing the user interface behind LinkedIn’s platform and some of our biggest products, including LinkedIn Campaign Manager and LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
It was so rewarding to see the impact I was making by helping our members access a detailed list of industries that could potentially help them with future job opportunities. During my contracting period, I jumped at the chance to understand the work better, and show my partners and managers what I could accomplish.
The initial 9+ months in the role further cemented my excitement for the team. I formally applied for a permanent, full-time position with LinkedIn, and was thrilled to receive an offer to join LinkedIn as a senior technical program manager.
Breaking down TPM at LinkedIn
Typically, product managers are all about defining new features, timelines, milestones, and scope. But as technical program managers at LinkedIn, our role is focused on defining a roadmap based on strategy discussions and driving the scope and milestones for cross-functional teams.
On my Knowledge Graph team specifically, my scope is centered on identifying and building foundational data and capabilities for other products within LinkedIn. Our team creates this foundational data and that can be customized by any specific LinkedIn products.
One of the positive aspects of my role is that I am a leader serving our product and engineering departments, and I can bring clarity of scope between different cross-functional teams. For projects like the industry meta migration initiative, I help to bring together our software engineering, data science, product-marketing management (PMM), product management (PM), and product design teams among others to drive an end-to-end feature or a roadmap, and make it go live.
Laying the foundation for success through soft skills
I’ve found that in my role, soft skills are just as important as technical skills. Listening is a highly underrated skill. As a TPM — or in any position for that matter — you need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Whether the issue is technical or non-technical, listening helps you better understand your co-partners and guide them through whatever situation they might be facing with our projects.
Soft skills that I gained outside of work helped me succeed at LinkedIn as well. For example, my experience as a co-founder and director of a nonprofit dance organization taught me how to motivate teams, become a better leader, and manage a project from planning to execution.
Organizing a dance show as an artistic director has a lot of parallels to leadership and management: How can we manage roadblocks and risks? Who are the right people to involve? How do we market ourselves and develop our organization? I’m always looking for new ways to answer these questions, both inside and outside of my role at LinkedIn.
Giving back to the community both inside and outside of work
LinkedIn is such a great company to work for because the culture here encourages you to always bring your whole self to work. The personal gratification I’ve received by volunteering my time and energy for my nonprofit encouraged me to take on new volunteer opportunities directly within LinkedIn, where I lead the Culture and Community track for the LinkedIn Data team’s Women in Tech (WiT) group.
The main goal of WiT is to create an environment where female engineers can meet each other, either in real life or in a hybrid setting, and connect about their lives inside and outside of work. Our roadmap is about bringing women in technology closer and building an environment for them to speak openly with each other. We aim to connect them with other women they may not work directly with and help them make connections they will cherish for a lifetime. One of our latest events for Diwali brought about 150 people together to celebrate the Festival of Lights.
For those considering a career in TPM, I’ll share that the best candidates are those that know how to pivot and bring their teams along with them when the strategy changes. Strong TPMs are agile when it comes to work and their mindset. My advice to anyone looking for a career at LinkedIn is to focus on doing what you’re great at. Go deep into the skills that you already have and devote your time to developing them. This advice from my mentor has kept me grounded and helped me carry on down my career path here at LinkedIn.
Based in Silicon Valley, Priya is a senior technical program manager on LinkedIn Engineering’s Data team — supporting our AI, Knowledge Graph, and data standardization work. Before joining LinkedIn, she worked in various roles for Cisco and Visa, including as a product manager, program manager, technical consultant, and data analyst.
Priya holds a bachelor’s in electronics science from the University of Madras in Chennai, India, and a bachelor’s in computer engineering from San Jose State University. Outside work, Priya leads her dance organization, Sanhiti, which creates South Indian dance productions to fundraise for nonprofits in the Bay Area.
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 tech careers at LinkedIn, visit: lnkd.in/EngCareers.