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Episode 25: Being a leader first, then a manager with Sarah Abrantes

    Guest Biography

    Sarah Abrantes has experienced a lot of different tech roles over her career. She’s collected knowledge from development, business analysis, process engineering, testing and management, all acquired in a vast range of company and team sizes.
    She has played senior management roles and helped level up engineering leads over the last years in organisations such as GoEuro, N26, GetYourGuide and Tier Mobility, having recently joined Adyen as VP of Engineering. 

    Sarah also presented at LeadingEng Berlin in 2023, so go check out her talk called “Influencing your company’s culture from the driver’s seat

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahpimentel/

    Links and mentions

    Transcript

    Patrick Kua: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Managing Managers podcast. Today we have Sarah Abrantes. Sarah Abrantes has experienced a lot of different tech roles over her career. She’s collected knowledge from development, business analysis, process engineering, testing and management. All acquired in a vast range of company and team sizes. She has played senior management roles and helped level up engineering leads over the last years in organisations such as GoEuro, N26, GetYourGuide and Tier Mobility. And has recently joined Adyen as VP of Engineering. Sarah has also presented at LeadingEng in Berlin in 2023, so go check out her talk called, “Influencing your company’s culture from the driver’s seat.” Welcome to the podcast Sarah.

    Sarah Abrantes: Hi. Thank you. Thank you for having me here.

    Patrick Kua: It’s a pleasure. You’ve got such a good range of experience across also some fairly well-known companies in Europe. I’d love to hear a little bit more about your leadership journey and how you ended up in management?

    Sarah Abrantes: Sure. So I think that it all started when I was an individual contributor. I think that that’s how it all starts. When you start to take some leadership positions. I think that this is important because oftentimes we have to remind people of this difference of leadership and management. You sometimes don’t have the title but you can start by acting as a lead and start gathering your leadership and your influence. And from that, it just naturally grows into management, if this is a path that you want to to grow into. That’s how my story goes. Getting a lot of leadership positions and eventually getting to official management positions as well.

    Patrick Kua: Great. I love that distinction that you make between leadership and management. It’s really about what you do. That act of leadership rather than necessarily having the title. And a good reminder that everyone can demonstrate leadership, regardless of what your current position is. At what point did you start managing other managers and what did that transition look like for you?

    Sarah Abrantes: I started back in, when I was at N26, where we met some years ago. And what happened over there is that the company was going through this massive growth. My teams, from the moment that I started to the moment that I left, grew about 10 times. It was a huge, huge growth and that also calls for other structures as well in place. We started out working with the tech leads and giving a little bit more responsibility and sharing this with them. But then it also grew into a moment where we needed to have other EMs, other Engineering Managers, in the company as well, and I started to build my organisation with them. Going back to what I said before, I think that leadership, again, is something that you can always be showing, even if you don’t have the title. Before I became a Head of Engineering, had managers to manage, I was also building a community of managers. I was giving support to new managers and I was building all of this before I got to a point where we decided to hire managers and then I was managing the managers.

    Patrick Kua: Great. And yeah, I do remember that, a very rare, fast paced growth. It puts a lot of pressure and stress. But it’s also a good learning opportunity for a lot of people. It sounds like you were already starting to do a lot of leadership as a leader of perhaps managers, was there anything that surprised you when you first started managing other managers? I hear there’s often this difference of relationship that people have with managing individual contributors versus managing other managers. Was there anything that changed for you or surprised you when you started doing that?

    Sarah Abrantes: It’s not necessarily a surprise per se but it’s something that it’s very difficult: It’s to let go. Letting go is really hard and I think that whenever you’re transitioning in your career, whether you’re going from an individual contributor to a tech lead, a tech lead to a manager, or a manager of managers, you’re always letting go of your old ways and your old job. And this is really hard because you’re not building replicas of yourself. You don’t want people to do it. You don’t want them to be you. You want them to bring their own ideas. But it’s really hard to see things happening and you’re not acting on them the way that you used to before. On top of that I think that as you grow, you become more accountable for the work and less responsible for the work. I mean you’re not executing it, but you’re more accountable for it and this is very scary.

    Patrick Kua: It is very scary. Can you help the listeners understand what do you mean by accountability and versus responsibility in this example? Can you give us a concrete example?

    Sarah Abrantes: Yes, of course. In a normal setup, and I hope that this doesn’t happen with anyone otherwise, you’re not going to get the CTO going directly to the developer to say “why something was not delivered”. The person that has to explain this and to justify why something is done a certain way or is taking longer etc is normally the higher management. They are going to, sometimes, I don’t know, be invited, depending on the size of the company, to go on a board meeting to justify stuff and that’s how it should be. You should not expose the developers to this kind of pressure. But you are not the person coding. You are not the person actively delivering this. It doesn’t mean that you would necessarily do a better job, but you’re also not super in touch with how things are going. Yet, you are the one that has to answer for them.

    Patrick Kua: That’s a really great example and what I heard there is that you can’t be involved, or you try not to be involved in the day-to-day with developers. That’s generally the role of that first level manager or tech lead. What are some of your strategies for keeping in touch with what people are doing given that you are accountable?

    Sarah Abrantes: So I try really strongly to not lose touch with everyone. Regardless of my position, at least up until now, and I know that this doesn’t scale forever, but up until now, and I’ve been responsible for organisations of roughly 100, 100+ people, I do talk to everyone. Not every day, but I do talk to everyone.

    Patrick Kua: That would be a lot of people.

    Sarah Abrantes: It is. It is. I don’t spend the whole day in 1-1s, so it takes a while. I do talk to everyone because I want everyone to feel safe to come to me to raise issues. I want them to tell me if they’re being exposed to unreasonable timelines, unreasonable workloads and so on. So that we can do something about it. Because again, you get detached from it and sometimes just don’t know what’s going on. I’ve seen situations where the developers oftentimes assume that everyone knows and they’re just doing a poor job knowingly. But sometimes they (management) just don’t know, so it’s very important that people feel this safety of coming and talking about the issues, so that we can try to fix them so that we can try to unblock them.

    Patrick Kua: Great. And when you’re talking to people one of the interesting things that sometimes happens is, here comes a director, or here comes a head of engineering. My manager’s manager. What are some things that you found that help to perhaps alleviate some of perception of or actual authority difference?

    Sarah Abrantes: So it goes a little bit with time but a few things that I normally do when I introduce myself: I try to introduce a little bit of my life as a person as well, so that they remember that I’m not this mythic figure that doesn’t have a life. But I do. I do have a daughter. I have a husband. Things happen in life as well in general and I like to put this kind of stuff in the conversation as well. My daughter going to school, for example, and other things on the day to day so that they can start relating and understanding that it’s all people. I also try oftentimes to break the ice with a few things.

    Like you join a company and you hear about the culture, for example, I like to ask the question, OK, now that I joined what is really the culture? What is really going on under the rug? I ask clearly to them what are the things that you think that I should be paying attention to? What are the things that you think I should have an eye on? Is there anything that is crossing your mind and I think that we start building the relationship from there.

    Patrick Kua: Great. I love how you bring in that very personal approach. As you say, it’s about, yeah, helping people understand you’re also a human. You also have other things than your title or your role. And yeah, giving people I guess anchors on which they can connect to you. It’s a really powerful approach. I think one thing that sometimes happens and I’m curious as to whether you’ve experienced this is when you are talking to people in teams, sometimes some of their managers might be worried about the conversations because they’re, perhaps, not feeling safe or they’re worried it’s about them. Have you ever had to deal with that with a manager that was maybe defensive or stressed around that and if so how did you navigate that situation?

    Sarah Abrantes: So I try to be very, very upfront. This is something that I adjusted, I think. In my culture, I’m originally from Brazil, we have a very talkative culture and are very around the bushes and stuff. But here in Europe, I think that I grew into a very direct culture and I put this together with transparency. So first of all, if I’m going to talk to the team, I do let the manager know. “I’m going to approach your team. I’m approaching everyone’s teams and I’m talking to them about xyz”. If there’s a problem with the manager, first of all, I’m not going to just talk to the team first. The very first person that needs to know that there’s a problem is the manager. I will go to him, I will give direct feedback, and when I need to approach the team, I’m telling him: “I will ask your team about what’s going on”. Do they like it? Probably not. But they know what’s to come. I think that this is important. I think that it’s not about how people like or not your decisions and what you’re doing but more like how behind that they can be. This can only happen if they understand and if you’re transparent with your intentions.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah, and what you said there is, yeah, not everyone’s always going to be happy with some of the decisions you make. I know, having talked to many other people managing other managers, one interesting challenge is sometimes you have to ask managers or teams to do things they probably don’t want to do, but you know it’s right for the organisation. Can you think of an example of where you’ve had to, maybe make a hard decision like that, and how did you go about delivering that?

    Sarah Abrantes: There are quite a few. Unfortunately I think that, from recent perspectives, there have been some layoffs in the industry and organising some of it is always a very hard position. It’s hard for everyone. No one wants to be in there. When you go sync with some of your managers to understand what’s next, it’s a very, very tough situation and you have to help them navigate this as a more experienced manager. But it’s just not easy for anyone.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah, great. Yeah, you’re right, is that it’s not easy for anyone to let anyone go. What are some perhaps concrete ways that you help your managers, in this example, with perhaps letting people go? What are ways that you perhaps support them?

    Sarah Abrantes: I think that reflecting on why we are taking some decisions. So first of all I think that we need to understand where this is coming from. We need to be able to reason about that. And afterwards when we get to a conclusion, we need to be able to defend it. We need to be able to.. if you were to talk about this with another manager, can you defend your choices? Can you defend what you’re doing? That is to remove some biases. That is to remove… Yeah. It’s really hard. I don’t think that I could ever come up with a formula to do that because it sounds very, very cold and again it’s a very hard process and emotional process as well. But I think that reasoning about this is very important. So what I do, I go through with them on the reasonings. We practise sometimes as well. I think there was even in one of your issues of the Levelup, where you said that when we’re going to have hard conversations, we don’t just YOLO (You Only Live Once) it, which is true. And a manager of managers also practises those because it’s just always hard. It doesn’t get that easy.

    Patrick Kua: Yep. No. Definitely not and they’re always tense regardless of how many things that you’ve done in the past for sure. I mean one concrete technique that I heard you say was really providing that context or that story about why. I think sometimes managers often think, well, what have I done? And sometimes those decisions are less about that person or that team and other things that are going on than the business that they may not actually know about and particularly I think in the current condition, that’s often a surprise for a lot of people who aren’t really connected into the cash flow or the operational side of the business as well.

    Patrick Kua: Let’s change trajectory a little bit. I know that you’ve just joined Adyen. So you’re still onboarding, gaining context. I’d like to talk a little bit about your past role because you were at Tier Mobility for a long time. So firstly, maybe you can help the listeners understand, who is Tier and what do they do?

    Sarah Abrantes: Yes, of course. So Tier is a shared micro mobility company that has light vehicles. So bikes, e-bikes, scooters in the city to promote transport in a greener way within the cities.

    Patrick Kua: Great. Excellent elevator pitch. I understand that you joined Tier as the director of engineering for platform and edge. So can you help us understand what you were responsible for and what was the rough shape of your organisation and I’m guessing it probably changed over time? But feel free to give us a snapshot anytime that you feel is most relevant.

    Sarah Abrantes: Sure. So as soon as I joined I was responsible for edge computing, which was a fairly new team that was being created around the time that I joined. And IoT integration as well and geodata that is responsible for mapping the cities, allowing to create zones and this kind of things and payments as well.

    Patrick Kua: Great. Then in terms of organisational shape, I heard you say it was relatively new so how many people were in there and what team structures did you have?

    Sarah Abrantes: So those teams would sum up to about roughly 40 people. Because during COVID Tier started to hire in other places as well, it was a fairly distributed team. So we had people in Berlin, but we also had (people) in other cities in Germany as well and other countries as well. This is roughly the shape of it. They had tech leads as well. There were very small teams as well that didn’t have a tech lead. They were also very, very small and with very senior engineers as well. So yeah, these sorts of teams. Very small teams. A little bit bigger teams. Some with tech leads. Some not. Then after that, shortly after that, I also grew into the VP position over there and with that I actually accumulated a little bit more scope that went with infrastructure, SRE, security, and later data engineering as well.

    Patrick Kua: Wow. It sounds like a very large scope and also a lot of teams. Maybe you can help us understand how did you perhaps organise your calendar given that you had so much scope? So many teams. I can imagine it’d be easy to just end up moving from meeting to meeting with lots of different topics and themes? What was your approach to perhaps managing all of that?

    Sarah Abrantes: True. I think that one thing that gets super important as I said is to let go and start trusting some people on the way. I don’t need to have meetings necessarily with all the PMs to understand what’s going on. I can talk to the manager of those PMs and have this overview. The same with my directors. One for each area. I would be very clear about what do I want to know from you in the 1-1s. So that they would bring me in this context and I don’t have to necessarily spread out and have multiple other meetings with other people. The general context on the technical and delivery side of those they would bring this to me and then if I have any further question oftentimes I would actually ask them to clarify this better because that means the next time when we talk about similar subjects then they bring the full information next time.

    Patrick Kua: Great. Excellent. Then in terms of maybe let’s focus on the last role of VP Engineering, who were the people that were reporting into you how many people were there and did you have both managers and individual contributors? What was the shape of that?

    Sarah Abrantes: So as a VP I had basically the directors reporting to me. I had one director of infrastructure that also took care of SRE. There was one director for security as well. One that took my previous job in the platform services and there was one in data engineering as well. So they would actually bring these reports to me. I think that one thing that’s interesting, besides payments which gets to be a little bit more soft, I think than the other teams that I mentioned, they were all very very technical. Very tech heavy. And I think that this limits a little bit more the interactions that I had. If you think about someone that’s a VP of an area with experience or with growth, for example, they tend to have way more stakeholders. I think that helped a little bit. Towards time this also started to happen at Tier. I accumulated a few more scope because apparently there’s always space for a little bit more.

    Patrick Kua: Always.

    Sarah Abrantes: Also got to be responsible for rider experience towards the end then you can see the huge difference on stakeholder and stakeholder management.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah. That’s an interesting topic and I’d like to come back to the stakeholder management. But you talked about scope and it’s quite interesting because it’s probably difficult for anybody to have all of that background in all of those different types of technologies. I heard everything from edge computing, embedded IoT type devices, a platform or other payments kind of thing. So I don’t think anyone is going to have like 10 years of experience in each of those different disciplines, so what were some of your strategies for particularly managing areas where you didn’t have that background? How do you feel comfortable perhaps learning about that or asking the right questions?

    Sarah Abrantes: I think, first of all,it is not being afraid to be humble. We say “be humble”, but this is also scary being humble, going in and assuming that you’re not the expert on the thing. But be humble. Be transparent with your team on where your limitations are because then they can also help you. They cannot help you if they don’t know where your limitations are. So with that, as I was always curious about a lot of these topics, particularly infrastructure and security, I had always a very good relationship with the teams that had these functions in my previous companies. Those were topics that I was very curious about. So when I started to manage those teams I was also very frank and decided, look I haven’t managed this type of teams yet, but I’m very interested in getting to know a little bit more. So they guided me a little bit more on the challenges. Whenever I didn’t know much I would ask them. Oftentimes if I’m reading something within the domain and I go through certain words that I have never seen, I take notes. I google. I go ask someone. If a word is particularly popping up a lot then it really means that I should Google it. Then you go about that, getting as in depth as you need because it’s very easy to go into a rabbit hole and never get back. So also making sure that you only go as deep as you need.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah, great. I guess that going as deep as you need is a bit of a judgement call from that side. Do you have any heuristics about how deep do you need to go?

    Sarah Abrantes: I think that a couple times I lost myself and that was a very good way to to realise that I was in the wrong the direction. When I say that I lost myself, it’s like I got very interested in a certain topic and I go looking for it, looking for it, but when I look to the side, there’s something else that needs my attention that’s not getting that much attention. Then I realise, “Okay, I went too deep. I forgot the wider scope that I’m responsible for. I need to get back to another level so that I can help everyone and not just one certain team.”

    Patrick Kua: Fascinating. Excellent. So one of the roles of manager of managers is also to assess performance. So I hear in your role as VP engineering, you had a number of Directors. What does a good director job look like? Or what did it look like in Tier? How do you know that a director is doing a good job?

    Sarah Abrantes: There are some aspects to it. It starts… It depends, as the engineering manager is different in every company, director is also, VP is also. But there were a few things. Some are more practical than others. When we are talking about budget, for example, it’s kind of simple. Is it Green? Is it red? Where are you with your budget? How are you spending it? That’s a very clear one I’d say.

    Sarah Abrantes: But there is feedback from stakeholders as well. Like how are the other areas of the company interacting with yours? Do they get what they need? Not necessarily what they want but what they need. It’s slightly different as well.

    Patrick Kua: That’s a good difference.

    Sarah Abrantes: Are they getting what they need? Am I getting from the director all the visibility that I need as well to do my job, because they’re also there to support me? This is really important: How healthy is your team? Healthy from the emotional perspective but the delivery perspective as well? Are they delivering on time with quality? Etc. So all of these were things that we used to look at. We did use for a while DORA metrics, for example, to take a look at the health of the teams. But this wasn’t used as a performance judgement but more as a conversation starter. Like what is going on if this metric is trending upwards or downwards? Should it be in the other direction? And this would trigger the conversations but I’m not a fan of using these kinds of metrics as performance points.

    Patrick Kua: Yep, easy to game right? So it’s nice that you use them as conversation starters. I heard you say something about visibility from directors. So what are some examples of things that you expect directors to make visible? What are some of the channels or the information and can you give us some concrete examples?

    Sarah Abrantes: Yeah. I think that it’s honestly a fail when I have to know about a problem in an area of one of my directors from someone else. They should be surfacing this. They should come to me and say, even if they don’t agree with the problem itself, they can also come to me and say, “I’m having some conflict with the stakeholders because they think that I should be doing this thing but I don’t think this is the situation.” Because then, when the person comes to talk to me, I know what to say. I know what the situation is. Whenever I’m caught off guard I’m always going to have the back of my directors. We are going to be a united front. But I have to go back and say why didn’t I know about that before?

    Patrick Kua: Yep, yeah. It’s a really good example of the principle of no surprises. Or least surprises and giving that information. Did you have any standard reporting that you expected directors to be sending you other than here are problems that I have?

    Sarah Abrantes: Yeah, so oftentimes it’s part of our 1-1 template, let’s say. Go through the SLOs. Are SLOs green? If they’re not, what’s going on? What’s the plan? What to expect out of that and conversations from that point. Also from a team perspective I want to know particularly with new joiners, how are they settling in? Did they get feedback? This is also something that I often ask. You have a new joiner for three months. Did you give them feedback already? How is it going? So from the team, more the resource point of view, right? Hiring and so on. Then from the technical perspective, the SLOs and how’s the roadmap? How are the current initiatives? Are they green? Red? Yellow? What are we doing? What do you need from me and so on. So this is the basic template. Projects, technical quality and people management.

    Patrick Kua: Great, excellent, very concrete and great examples. Thank you for sharing. Let’s go over to the topic of, I think it was the rider team, that I heard before with lots of stakeholders. So I heard you say there was quite a lot of stakeholder management. And so what does that mean for you? What was the impact on perhaps your calendar or your activities when you inherited that scope?

    Sarah Abrantes: Again: trying to keep it short on the calendar. Because otherwise you just cannot be there all the time for everyone. I think it’s super important to understand, first of all, who are your stakeholders so that you can organise them. And I know that it sounds basic but sometimes it feels like stakeholders pop up out of nowhere. It’s like who’s this person? Why did they want to talk to me?

    Patrick Kua: Every organisation.

    Sarah Abrantes: What? I wasn’t tracking you. So identify the best you can your stakeholders and understand what they need from you. If you can proactively address this, this is going to be really nice. Because they feel like they don’t have the information from tech because they have to chase you. And, of course, it’s not that you don’t want to give the information, it’s that you’re just super busy with a bunch of other stuff. But if you put this in an organised way to give some updates, then it flows a little bit better, they feel like they don’t have to nag you all the time, they have the information. It’s a little bit easier to manage. It doesn’t get easy though. But it’s easier to manage.

    Patrick Kua: So I guess what I’m hearing is identifying these people. Write them down so you don’t forget about them and then make sure that some regular reporting channels out to them to keep them informed even if they may not like what they’re being informed about. But at least they’re informed and I guess yeah, keeping those relationships alive is also what I’m hearing.

    Sarah Abrantes: Yeah. I think in management in general there’s a lot of psychology applied. You have to think, OK, why does this person need this information? If you’re going to give an information that someone’s not going to like, why are they not going to like it so that you can already shed a little bit more light and already get them to a state where they understand better what’s going on. It does take some time and some mental energy but in the end it’s actually better than being interrupted later down and to have to go back to reports and so on. So if you’re organised enough to think about why this stakeholder needs this information and try to provide the full information upfront then it also helps.

    Patrick Kua: Great, excellent and then if you were to compare perhaps at the start of that journey of being a director at Tier Mobility and then ending as VP of engineering at Tier mobility how would you classify if there were any differences of time? So if you think about how you split time as a director versus as you are as a VP of engineering, were there any significant differences and if so how, or what were those differences?

    Sarah Abrantes: My journey from director to VP at Tier was actually quite quick because I got the job four months after I joined so it’s a little bit hard. It’s a little bit hard to judge but I can certainly say that the scope increased a lot. So managing the whole scope was one of the challenges. How to properly divide the time so that I can give time to all the directors and all the scopes in the same way. I think that, as we talked before, about the structure of the 1-1s and these kinds of things, I think that for me, it’s super important to set these expectations from the beginning with the managers. Which is, “what do I want from you? What do I need from you?” Because then, if we get a week or two weeks from now when we have a catch up in a 1-1, I can go to you and I say, “hey, this was on the agenda. I told you that I need this. I need this so that we have a flow because if I have to keep on going back, then I’m wasting time.” They’re wasting time and so setting the expectations is super important to keep the flow.

    Patrick Kua: Great. Excellent. So we talked a little bit about managing your team. The directors. Managing stakeholders, of which I understand there are a lot of, who were some of perhaps your peers and how often did you interact and how did you interact with them?

    Sarah Abrantes: So there were some VPs of other areas as well. There was… In the beginning, I was the VP of platform. There was a VP of Data. There was a VP of Rider Experience before and there was a VP of Operations. We would get together on a regular basis to sync on projects. Oftentimes there’d be something tha infrastructure is affecting everyone. So definitely that was also always something for me to talk about. We would meet together regularly. I think every two weeks if I’m not mistaken. We would get together to talk about the projects that we had going on. Any blockers. Anything coming up that we need cooperation from the other areas. Then we would also engage in 1-1s. I think that this is important because if you can build good relationships with your peers, they are also a supporting network. They have also the same type of pressure on them. They have likely the same problems with their teams. They have likely the same problems with someone that you’re reporting to or to other stakeholders and it helps a lot to to find this network that you can talk to. Get some ideas from. So we used to talk a lot. I do miss them.

    Patrick Kua: Ah, that’s great. It sounds like you built some really strong relationships with them. And, yeah, I guess, going through tough times together, having the open 1-1 communication channels and I guess that trust that builds up through working on topics together. That’s really fantastic. So you’ve also seen, probably, over your career a lot of people who made that transition from managing individual contributors to managing managers. If you were to help people move into that role what would be 3 pieces of advice you would provide them?

    Sarah Abrantes: I think that a self check on trying to not get a replica of yourself is really important. Whenever you think that things are not the way that you think they should be. You think that they shouldn’t be this way because you wouldn’t do it this way or because it’s really not the right way? Try to give them space so that they can grow. You grew once. It’s their time to grow as well. I think it’s very important and I keep on going to that. As you can see I do the self check a lot.

    Sarah Abrantes: The other thing is that you need to be constantly comfortable with the level of visibility that you have about what’s going on. And set up whatever works for you to have the right level of detail that you need on your day-to-day to answer to people. So self checks and good visibility. And the other thing is don’t forget that you are coaching them. You’re still a mentor. You’re teaching them. Be the example and be there for them. They haven’t gone through everything that you have. Probably. Likely. Help them out. It’s also not easy.

    Patrick Kua: Those are some fantastic points of advice there. And if you were to provide a book or if you were to gift a book to a new newly minted director what book would that be?

    Sarah Abrantes: I don’t think there’s like a very specific book. But I think I would likely go with something from Brene Brown. I think that having this connection with people is very important. I’m always concerned that we get so deep into the day-to-day work and the strategy and the tactical and the numbers that we forget that everything is actually run by people. That needs connection. That needs attention and that’s how you actually can move the whole thing.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah, it’s such a great reminder. I think it contrasts with some things I hear from some people sometimes that the higher you go into management the easier it is to see people as a number in a spreadsheet. I love that counter balance that you provide by bringing a reminder they are people. And it’s really important to bring that human perspective back into your role. In terms of support network, what does your current support network look like for you? I know that you’ve just started a new role. But for you, as a senior leader, it can feel very lonely. What are some elements of your support network?

    Sarah Abrantes: My bike. Speaking of very lonely. Regardless of people to talk to, which is very important. I’m going to get there. Take care of yourself anyway. Your body. Your mind. It’s a little bit more of the same that everyone says but eating well. Sleeping well. Doing some exercise, etc. It’s so easy for us to forget this kind of stuff. Like we get into the pressure of the day-to-day and then we just stop taking good care of ourselves. You’re taking care of a whole organisation. You can only do well for them if you’re doing well for yourself as well. But getting a little bit more practical on other things. One thing that I found, or actually they found me, and I’m very thankful for that, it’s a group called Women CTO Dinner that started in Berlin with Karla (Schönicke). She’s amazing. She had this dream that she wanted to see women in leadership. It was hard to find. It still is. It’s a little bit easier now. But it was harder before. And she was “I’m pretty sure there are women CTOs out there. I need to find them.” So she started collecting them. And she built this amazing network that we have with directors, VPs CTOs, all over Europe. It started to also create some branches in other countries as well. It’s very powerful, this network.

    Sarah Abrantes: Through that I joined a group called 7CTOs, which is a forum and coaching space as well that I’ve been attending for more than a year now. I’ve met quite a few different people with different backgrounds. We get together once a month. We talk about our challenges. We share some advice. It’s really nice. And on top of that, I also started to actually give some coaching myself. I think that this is also very powerful because whenever you teach, you learn. However, whenever you’re preparing for this like you’re also hearing many different stories and things that people go through. This is also a way that you can reflect and learn a little bit as well. So yeah, on the very connected technical side of it I would say that. On a personal level, I will remind you again, take care of yourself.

    Patrick Kua: Yeah, thank you. It’s a great reminder that self-care is really important. Particularly the lonelier you feel or the more scope, or accountability that you feel on your shoulders. So that’s a really great reminder. It’s also fantastic to hear that you’ve had a good set of different types of support structures and it sounds like that has grown over time and continues to grow which is fantastic. My final question for you is if people were to reach out to you or would like to contact you what would be the best ways?

    Sarah Abrantes: LinkedIn I think it’s actually a good way to connect. Send me a message. Though, I always find it interesting to know why people want to connect instead of getting random requests that I don’t know anything about the person or why they want to connect. Add a little message. But reach out on LinkedIn. We can connect. I’m living in the Netherlands, close to Amsterdam. If you ever want to go for a coffee, reach out as well. Also happy to do some meetings in person.

    Patrick Kua: Fantastic. I want to thank you very much Sarah for spending the last hour with us, sharing your experiences. Sharing it with the listeners and thank you very much.

    Sarah Abrantes: Thank you. Thank you for the invite.

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