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Engineering & Product

Milind Thakur, Engineering Manager at Plexure

From dreams of making it big in badminton to getting swept up in the rapidly evolving technology landscape of the 1990s, Milind Thakur, Engineering Manager at Plexure certainly seems to have found his home working in tech.

We caught up with Milind to learn more about what initially caught his eye about tech as a career, what his day-to-day role actually entails and what he loves about it.

Thanks for sharing your story, Milind.

“Like a football coach, I help the teams perform at their best yet have fun along the way.”

Firstly, how would you explain to a five-year-old what it is you do?

I look after the awesome engineers that build cool tech. Like a football coach, I help the teams perform at their best yet have fun along the way.

And for the adults, what does that translate to in regards to your day-to-day?

On a daily basis, I look after and support a couple of engineering teams working across multiple platform domains that work towards delivering high-value quality software.

My primary aim is to empower the teams by creating supportive and inclusive environments, enabling them to be self-organising and providing them with guidance for future growth. Along with this, I collaborate closely with the product, architecture and support to align the teams with company objectives and commitments.

At the wider engineering level, I help with continuously refining engineering practices through sponsoring initiatives, getting involved in engineering strategy and planning and delivery of business initiatives. And lately, I am getting involved in co-ordinating on-call support that helps attending incidents in an effective manner and in turn build my understanding across the wider services, infrastructure and processes. 

“As a kid I always dreamt of making big in badminton...”

Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid, if not what was?

As a kid, I always dreamt of making big in badminton until in the later years of high school when I was introduced to telecommunications by my dad, who was then working on radio spectrum management within the armed forces.

The 1990s saw the advent of dial-up internet, txt based surfing and Pentium processors which opened up avenues for me to access information. Later my time learning BASIC, 8086 microprocessor made me feel at home and then I was sure that I wanted to take up tech as my career option. 

Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working at Plexure? 

I finished my studies at Canterbury Uni and soon was working for an R&D-based organisation specialising in building L2/L3+ switches and routers. Spent a few years as a software developer (C, Linux kernel and applications) and helped build a library for automated tests on serial communications.

Since then, I always enjoyed developing frameworks for testing and tooling. Then from embedded systems, I moved on to web applications in the cloud. In my last job, I got opportunities to work across multiple business domains like; eCommerce, media and entertainment.

Having led teams in the past couple of years, I wanted to focus my career on leadership and building strategy. I came across a similar opportunity at Plexure and then ultimately landed this role. The role of an Engineering Manager is fairly new at Plexure and continuously evolving, and I am glad that I am adding value to its evolution. The time here has been interesting so far with many learnings and opportunities. 

“...aim to be more valuable and less critical.”

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

While the saying “manage yourself out of the job” seem too oversimplified, I prefer “aim to be more valuable and less critical”. Yes, it is thrilling to be “the person” for a piece of work/project, but it is not sustainable in the long term. It is important to share the knowledge and responsibilities such that you no longer are the blocker.

Instead, spend effort in identifying blind spots for the team, provide tools to solve problems etc; thus being valuable and important but not the point of failure. 

What are the core skills required to be good in your role?

While being technical, looking after skilled engineers requires a lot of empathy, understanding and a keen eye for opportunities to continuously improve. A large focus of this role is to develop people and teams through coaching and mentoring.

To be able to first comprehend the “whys” and then provide appropriate context to the team helps with focus and involvement. Being able to align business objectives with technical Initiatives is key to this role. Driving adoption of development practices, and contributing to engineering strategy and technical vision are some of the technical aspects that keep this role exciting.

“...engineers are encouraged to be proactive and contribute not just within but outside the team as well.”

Lastly, as Plexure continues to grow and evolve, what are the key traits and characteristics of people that will be well placed to work there?

Plexure values people who are inquisitive and curious, have a growth mindset and a can-do attitude towards identifying solutions to different problems. In this remote working world, it is ever so important to have the right collaborative and team spirit.

Our practices are ever evolving which means engineers are encouraged to be proactive and contribute not just within but outside the team as well. A decent learning and training budget provides ample opportunities for those who are keen to explore and upskill.

Plexure has been working in the cloud since the beginning and at a scale that is not seen as much in NZ; so naturally, some understanding of cloud services and application performance is beneficial. Finally, it is not just the serious stuff; we like to keep the working environment fun and enjoyable too.

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