Team Snapshot: Our CTO’s Advice For Advancing Your Tech Career
By Ellen Clipson - 3 min read
We catch up with our Chief Technology Officer, Sara Brodin, to find out her top tips for anyone looking to take their career in technology to the next level or starting out at the beginning of the journey. Sara tells us about the importance of flexibility, role models, and what makes EyeEm’s tech stack so unique.
Having worked in a broad range of industries, from fintech to education, Sara is driven by equipping her team to feel enabled and encouraged to solve problems.
Having joined our Product and Engineering team during the pandemic, Sara hit the ground running by introducing a number of initiatives and projects that have not only nurtured our technology capacities, but also our team culture and self-development opportunities. Keep reading to hear Sara’s top tips for advancing your own career within the space of creative tech.
We’re hiring! We have a number of roles in our Product and Engineering team open right now. Find out more and reach out to our team via our jobs page.
The Benefits of Tech Leadership In a Creative Space
What does your typical day as EyeEm’s CTO look like?
An important aspect of my job is to make sure that everyone around me understands what we’re working towards as a team, the why behind our work, and have clarity over our priorities.
This boils down to one-on-one meetings, planning sessions, and enabling early idea exploration. With a good structure in place that promotes ownership I can use my remaining time on long-term initiatives to improve our technology stack and future business opportunities. I also try to squeeze in some coding work to spend time with our platform.
The majority of the world has had to adjust to remote working. What are some of your best tips and tricks for anyone in or looking to begin a senior leadership role during this time?
Make your bed! I don’t know why but this simple habit starts off my day with a sense of accomplishment. Beyond that, I believe that teams that feel connected work better together. You might have a lot of other pressing tasks but it’s important to make sure people continue to interact with each other outside of scheduled meetings. Is the team slack channel healthy? When did you have the last online team event or online after work? We are all in this together so don’t be afraid to reach out to your People team for ideas.
Your experience covers an amazing range of companies such as Finleap to Babbel. What drew you to the creative tech space and EyeEm more specifically?
Haha, yes. I guess I’ve worked in quite a few industries during the last years. Although I feel that companies have the same core challenges across all industries, EyeEm is a motivating environment to be in. As someone playing in an orchestra as well as enjoying museums and galleries, it was refreshing to find a company that celebrates both technology and has a love for an art form.
What’s your advice for anyone that is thinking of making a similar creative switch in their tech career?
The creative space can be tricky as there is less money circling around. This can mean less opportunities for building a robust career. Technology, marketing, or operations are great secondary skills which will open doors if you value job security. When you get good at what you do, it will be easier to switch to a company closer to your values. Remember, working life is a journey.
This month was International Women’s History Month! Although we’re slowly beginning to see more women in tech leadership roles there’s still some way to go to address the gender balance. What would you like to see brands doing to encourage more women in tech?
I think that the real change lies in the education system. Whether it be your first internship or your choice of university, it’s all based on what you enjoy and what you think you can be good at. To support choices of young people it would be good to see more role models. If you don’t use digital and social media platforms to do it, you can still be a role model in your local space. For example, at your company, within your family, or among your friends.
What advice would you have for anyone wanting to forge a career in a tech role?
First I would congratulate you on starting an exciting journey. A lot of technology and product work is built around collecting experience. It’s about getting those hours in by yourself or during allocated time from a supportive employer.
When it comes to finding a way to get started, a common route is to start in the field of Quality Assurance. It has a lower entry level and many companies are open to transitioning these to development roles if the person has a strong inner drive. If you are good at languages or at playing music, you might already have the necessary skills for it!
What was it about the EyeEm tech platform that made you want to work with us?
Definitely the content engine. Taking all those images submitted each day from around the world and using technology as well as a few experts to decide on which photos can bring value to different areas of our business is a great challenge. It’s here that EyeEm’s age really shines. We’ve collected so much experience over the last few years that’s helping us do better. It’s also a thrill to know that our work is centred around helping up-and-coming artists to find their direction and get more exposure.
How does the EyeEm tech stack differ from what you’ve worked with in the past?
As a mature startup EyeEm’s tech stack definitely has a different complexity to it. You have to acknowledge that each area of the platform has a different age and might need more or less love. In the end it is about introducing flexibility in the right areas as the business is ever changing.
I have a great team around me that is always up for answering my questions about why certain things can’t be done in a more simple way. Although it might not always be possible it’s important for me to come to the team with that expectation because you can build the same thing in so many different ways.
How do you keep up with the latest tech trends?
Before the pandemic I enjoyed visiting conferences. Talks can be interesting but last year I realized how much energy I got from meeting new people who I share a passion with. Until this is possible again, I try to keep up by following a set of mailing lists and motivate my team to present cool technologies in our internal meetings.
Is there anything you’ve come across recently that you’re excited about?
For the past few years, I have enjoyed Thought Works’ Technology Radar. Every time it’s released I tend to find something smaller to read about or explore. Right now I’m reading more about MLOps as it’s an area we would like to put some love and attention to within our stack at EyeEm.
Can you share an EyeEm photographer you’re loving at the moment?
After hearing more about Constantine AI’s work during our weekly company demos, I decided to follow his EyeEm profile. I really like their geometric and clean style of his work.