Spotlight on Skype's Mobile Engineering Director
“The 2010 holiday season was quickly approaching and everyone was excited about what they were doing. Getting ready for new product releases and updates was keeping everyone busier than ever. However, people were excited for a different reason as well; just a month earlier, Tony Bates had just been brought in as Skype’s CEO. We were all together in a room for a meeting that Tony called, and someone let it slip that it was my birthday. Tony looked slightly chagrined as he turned to me and said, “Oh, well…I guess this is your birthday present then,” and handed me a piece of paper. Confused, I looked up at Tony, who obviously seeing the question coming, answered in kind. “Where’s our video client for the iPhone?” He immediately started pushing for us to release the client by New Years, which was less than a month away. Obviously, it was great to have Tony recognize how important mobile was, even though it meant that we had to put the pedal to the metal. To be honest, we haven’t slowed down since then. Mobile needs that kind of fast pace and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Continuing our series spotlighting employees at Skype, we had the opportunity to sit down with Gabriella Pozco for a quick talk. She told us about what it’s like to work on the Mobile team here at Skype, the necessity of a good bike, and much more. Read on to find out more!
What did you do before you came to Skype and how did you hear about your current job?
I worked for T-Mobile US, delivering the first few Android handsets back when Android was really infantile. A business colleague of mine, who was at the time working at Skype, reached out to me, and I ended up getting recruited by Skype. I remember that at the time the mobile team was super tiny.
What exactly do you do?
My title is Director of Portfolio Products and Engineering – Mobile. That means I handle anything and everything that’s on a handset for Skype, plus the work we do with carriers. I also work with SkypeWiFi and Skype To Go.
Could you describe a typical day at the office?
I normally start pretty early in the morning, when I’m on calls with my team. We’ve got people across California, Stockholm, Tallinn, and London, so time zones definitely play with us a bit. I’ll normally get to the office by around 6:30 in the morning. Once the day starts, we work as long as Europe is awake. Once they’re asleep we’ll take a break to have lunch and unwind a bit, and then we focus on the California teams.
But I travel a lot so I can’t say that I really have a typical day – it completely depends on what time zone I’m in. I tend to work in “shifts” – one in the morning and then one in the afternoon. I try to get a bike ride in after the second shift to clear my head – I used to think I was an expert at multitasking before I came to Skype, but working here kind of made me get my PhD in multitasking, and the decompression the bike rides give is a lifesaver.
What makes you excited to come to work everyday?
One of the cool things is that everything we do has such an impact on a huge number of people. For example, when Skype for Android launched, it was fantastic to see a five-star rating from thousands of people within the first 24 hours, know that people happy with what we’d done, and on such a huge scale.
The other thing is my job has me travelling all over the world. Wherever I am, when I tell people I work at Skype, they all have a story and the story comes with a smile. There’s a measurable feedback loop that lets you know that what you’re doing is making people happy, and you’re doing what people want.
What makes Skype different from other places you’ve worked at?
The company is definitely much smaller and more intimate. Things happen a lot faster. At my level, that means you’re empowered to make more decisions. You definitely attract a different type of engineer – we get a lot of entrepreneurial types, people who are good with decision-making and have a creative streak.
Can you tell us about a specific project you’ve worked on that you’re proud of?
I’m really proud of the Android team at Skype. We started completely from scratch – when I joined we didn’t have a single Android product, but now our Android project is really successful and it’s doing fantastic. We’re consistently rated really high in the Android marketplace, and we’ve got into a really nice swing of updates and releases. I’m also proud of how we’re taking customer feedback and addressing the issues that are brought up within the Android sphere.
Let’s move a bit into future plans…What are the opportunities and challenges for Skype in the mobile arena?
The lines between desktop and mobile are consistently blurring, and we’re aiming for an always-on, everyday experience on the mobile. At the beginning, the Skype client was designed for working on desktops, but we’re continuously improving what we offer on mobile platforms.
As you may already know, we just launched a Skype beta on Windows phones, and our Android and iPhone apps continue to be a huge part of our portfolio. Our goal is to have a truly cross-platform product, and that is the opportunity here – to be the communication software of choice across many platforms.
The challenges are that our software relies on mobile network availability and speed, and as everyone knows, it can be difficult to have a consistent experience on a mobile network. In addition, there can be challenges around battery life or power consumption with apps that run in the background. But, one day, we hope to overcome that – there certainly is a gap to fill there with a streamlined application that gives consumers a great experience no matter what mobile OS they use.
What would you say to anyone interested in your role?
We really need people who understand mobile and that are passionate about mobile clients. Diversity of experience is good – it’s important for us to get as many good, quality engineers as we can to give us as many different perspectives as possible. The diversity at Skype is incredible – we’ve got people from across the globe that represent various nationalities. The mobile team probably has something like 10-12 different nationalities, and that’s important to us.
For more information about jobs at Skype, go to jobs.skype.com.