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Nivia Henry is currently based in New York, and a director of engineering at Spotify. I met her online, through talking about the article From Software Engineer to Senior Director of Engineering: Louie Bacaj. I was drawn to how much of a non-traditional path Nivia took into the industry. Even though her first few full-time positions were not software engineering jobs, she found a way into engineering, and now holds an important and influential role.

The most common route to a Director of Engineering position that I’ve observed, is this:

  • CS university degree 

  • → new grad software engineer 

  • → senior software engineer 

  • → engineering manager 

  • → senior engineering manager

  • → director of engineering

However, Nivia’s career path does not resemble this at all. Her path, as described on her LinkedIn has been: 

  • Marketing and Information Systems degrees

  • → some web development contracts

  • → sales & marketing manager

  • → client services executive

  • → project manager & technical lead

  • → technical delivery manager 

  • → technical product manager

  • → product manager

  • → delivery lead

  • → Agile coach manager

  • → engineering manager

  • → senior engineering manager

  • → director of engineering

I had lots of questions for Nivia, both about her career progression and her learnings, as someone coming from a not-so-typical background.

I’m very glad Nivia took the time to talk about her career path. Through our conversation, I learned how she came from poverty and saw tech as a way out, how she was forced to pivot into marketing because of the Dotcom Bust, and how she worked her way back onto the track she’d always wanted to be on. Nivia was a burst of energy and cheerfulness as we talked, her life philosophy being “I will find a way.” 

In this issue, we cover:

  1. A plan to break out from a working-class environment 

  2. The journey into software engineering

  3. Moving into product management

  4. Getting into Spotify and becoming an EM

  5. On growing as an EM

  6. From EM to senior EM

  7. From senior EM to Director of Engineering

  8. Career learnings

Now, over to Nivia as she talks about her career and learnings:

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