LiveRamp Engineering is all about connections.
This is part two of a series of interviews of engineering leaders to share their unique perspectives in order to shed light on LiveRamp Engineering.
Julien, how did you get interested in engineering?
It all started with coding before there were so many out-of-the-box apps. If you wanted an interesting tool, you had to build it yourself. I found coding something myself was really cool. I started by building a tool that would draw maps to get from point a to point b. No software existed like that at the time.
Tell me about your career journey
I graduated from ParisSaclay University’s Engineering School in France and had many internship opportunities with bigger companies. It gave me an easy way to start, but I can’t say that I really liked it because the intern projects were small. I didn’t feel like they would directly contribute to the bottom line. I wanted to tangibly add value.
Back then, I sought out smaller companies with engineering opportunities and found Criteo, a small start-up, and loved it! I immediately had projects that really mattered to the company. I traveled to the U.S. to start their Bay Area engineering office and got the opportunity to work on key products and recommender systems. I had the freedom to work on different products over the years and influence the bottom line. After nine great years, it was time to explore other places, so I moved to New York City.
I was working at Criteo in Mohsin Hussain’s organization. Criteo didn’t have remote opportunities, so that’s when I found LiveRamp. During the interview process, I met cool, smart people who are actually very nice. It is so important to work with people you actually want to spend time with. LiveRamp has great products but, ultimately, the people won me over.
I kept learning and my scope kept growing into the technology area of identity.
Was it your aspiration to get into management or did that happen organically?
It absolutely happened organically. I remember a discussion with my manager at the time explaining that we needed people to manage amid fast company growth. He asked if I was interested in the managerial path but I said, “No thanks.” Then the work and various opportunities kept evolving. I was mentoring peers and sharing my experience, which brought me great satisfaction. Once I became a first-level manager, the same organic evolution started happening until my direct team grew so much that I needed managers in my organization to help coordinate our various teams. It’s interesting to reflect back and realize that, although it was no longer coding, I got just as much satisfaction from helping people grow and succeed. It has been very fulfilling.
Your team is called the Identity Team. Please describe what that means to those who are not familiar with that term.
In short, identity is about enabling customers to have a full view of the consumer and their journey, including preferences and interests while being privacy conscious.
Please describe one of the interesting problems your team is solving now.
One of the interesting challenges now is that our customers want to have data that is related to the information they already own. The big challenge is that they rely on unique views of identity tailored to each and every customer for mapping preferences. It’s actually a fascinating problem that is tied to the trend of minimizing data movement via secure cloud infrastructures. Our customers can use our products without their data leaving their control. We help them accomplish their goals while maintaining privacy with extreme care.
Your team does some interesting work. Speaking of work, how do you ensure you have a healthy work/life balance?
Well, keep in mind, some of that is a necessity. My wife and I are very busy during the week. We have a young child and her needs are non-negotiable. Day to day activities need to happen and help ensure a morning and afternoon break. I may need to wrap up items after her bedtime, but being a parent keeps me in check.
That sounds healthy, which seems to be much more common in the European culture where you’re from. It’s good to see that you preserved that mindset. How do you encourage your team to do the same?
That’s challenging. I try to keep them excited and motivated and am always pushing for more. That being said, I practice, “taking no for an answer,” as well. I empower them to push back when I ask for too much. There’s only so much time in the day. If I ask for too much, I know they will ask me what really matters most. I encourage my team to ask me about relative priorities and we discuss it.
You also have quite a dispersed team. How do you help everyone feel connected?
I’ll admit that it’s really not easy to keep global teams connected. There are, however, things that help, including ensuring a shared sense of success.
I hold a quarterly town hall meeting where we realign on our mission, share key updates, and re-energize the team.
We also consistently celebrate success. When we deliver a project, we share visibility and give sincere recognition. I’m constantly trying to find additional ways to get that connection. Other ways to connect are quarterly face-to-face off-sites for the teams. It helps provide a sense of team by working and having fun together.
In your LinkedIn profile, you mention that you are working on the next generation of LiveRamp products. What can you share about that?
At a high level, our next generation is about expanding into multi-cloud offerings that enable identity resolution within the customer’s cloud environment. This makes our offerings far more connected in a market in which we are already leading. It also enables integration with new partners that have been announced lately. It’s very cool.
What are you most proud of in your career accomplishments?
When I manage to impact someone’s life in my team, it’s very rewarding. It’s amazing to help someone via coaching or simply finding the right opportunity to unlock one’s potential.
What advice would you give early career engineers?
Never stop learning. There’s so much out there and it’s easy to focus on the immediate task at hand, which is natural. But it’s critical to go deeper than what’s expected of you. In the end, I encourage engineers to learn about the details of the technologies you’re using while also learning about how things work in the broader organization.
What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
As I grew into more senior positions, I reminded myself not to forget what it was like starting out. Find a healthy balance of delegating and assisting employees in getting the results needed from them. Simply assigning someone a task and expecting they’ll deliver is not enough. Knowing when to help them to get the expected result is a fine balance. Keep an open mind and have it be collaborative.
How would you describe the culture in LiveRamp Engineering?
Technical excellence is at our core. We make sure that we build things the right way. We have built great systems and we push the technology envelope. Innovation and new ideas constantly arise around the most complex workflows and programs for our customers. LiveRamp Engineering embodies the continuous improvement mindset and we’re never satisfied. The push for excellence is in our blood and we know it’s a long-term effort to stay at the top of this technology.
We all share the idea that collaboration and doing the best thing for the team, the organization, and the customer is the right approach. Empowerment is a LiveRamp value. It’s not easy to maintain a contextual dialogue without telling people what to do, but we all do our best.
Speaking of collaboration, are there any teams that come to mind as key players in your team’s success?
Powering into our future, the Infrastructure team is our constant partner. There is no LiveRamp without the strong infrastructure they provide while dedicating themselves to collaboration.