Meet Yin Zhu, Verkada Engineering Manager

Management in a rapidly growing environment

4 min readDec 13, 2019
Yin Zhu on the balcony of Verkada’s new office in downtown San Mateo

At a glance

Title: Engineering Manager
Sub-team within engineering: Mobile (Android and iOS)
Date joined Verkada: July 2019
Previous companies: Gfycat, Funny Or Die, Lytro
University: Santa Clara University

What’s different about working at Verkada?

Joohae mulling over approaches for a new iOS app feature

To me, the difference is in Verkada’s rapid growth. I’ve worked at a number of startups in the past decade that were experiencing modest growth, and the feeling in the office was a bit more static and constant. At Verkada, where we’re experiencing explosive growth, it’s a completely different environment to work in — a lot more energetic and optimistic. It’s kind of like the quintessential startup experience that you see in movies and stuff, you know? There’s a lot of team building and encouragement to really get to know each other beyond just “Bob who works two desks away from me.” And this builds trust, which is important because collaboration is built upon trust.

“it’s a completely different environment to work in — a lot more energetic and optimistic”

What’s the hardest problem you recently solved? Who else was involved?

Product Manager Zaafir Kherani and Yin Zhu not doing much while Engineering intern Hyunjin Lee does all the hard work

Being a manager, the most difficult problems I deal with on a day-to-day basis involve people. We’re moving fast, trying to get a lot of work done, and it’s easy for people to get overwhelmed and so a big part of my job is to be mindful about the amount of work people on my team have on their plates and help them balance it — to get them to take a step back, get perspective, and realize that these challenges are also opportunities. In these moments, I’m very much leaning on the rest of my team for help. We have people with 8+ years of experience, we have experienced engineers, and we have new grads — the team’s structured in a way that creates a mix of seniority. And so I’m counting on the senior engineers to lead and guide the more junior engineers. Rather than leading the team unilaterally with a heavy-hand, I’m trying to provide opportunities for senior engineers to take on more mentorship and project-leadership responsibilities while giving them space to discover their own leadership approach.

“I’m trying to provide opportunities for senior engineers to take on more mentorship and project-leadership responsibilities”

Tell me about a big decision you made recently on your own

I recently noticed that Engineering needed formalized quality assurance testing, so I pushed for us to add a QA team. Usually decisions like that are made at a much higher level than mine. But I just proposed a plan to the VP of Engineering, and he told me to run with it. The culture here definitely supports that sort of autonomy, but it also means we have a lot of responsibility. If anything goes wrong I can’t be like, “All right, well, I’m going to go get a coffee now.” I’m held responsible for how things go after my ideas take off.

“The culture here definitely supports that sort of autonomy”

In your leadership role, how do you help team members succeed?

Some members of the Verkada mobile team. From left to right: Aaron Komagome-Towne, Joohae Kim, Paul Chan, Andreas Binnewies , and Yin Zhu

I find myself mentoring a lot. And the type of mentorship I’m giving is different depending on the engineer’s seniority. For my more senior tech lead engineers, I’m giving them advice on leadership — how to delegate tasks, and work with other teams, etc. With the more junior engineers, it’s more about the basics, like how to break really big difficult problems down into small, manageable chunks. I have a mantra when it comes to being a manager, and that’s to always be kind, and to always be helpful.

Interested in joining the Verkada team?

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