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Balance Counts
How I Prioritize Professional Growth Without Burning Out, From a Software Engineer
Photo Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America.
Fairygodboss
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Burnout is a constant risk for professionals as passionate and hardworking as Aakanksha Sharma, especially in the high-speed software engineering world. That’s why she feels lucky to have found Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America (MBRDNA). 

Sharma says MBRDNA offers interesting work and demonstrates an interest in her achieving work-life balance. Not only because her colleagues care about her productivity, but because they also care about her as a person.

“The people here care for your growth and well-being beyond just the work you deliver,” she said. “I have a tendency to push myself when I’m working on a project I’m very passionate about. In such situations, having the right company culture and leadership emphasis helps me realign and manage work to ensure I’m not burning out.”

While MBRDNA first stood out to Sharma because of her love for cars, the supportive culture and its associated room for sustainable professional growth are the reasons she’s stuck around. 

Recently, she shared how she found this categorically unique first job, how she discusses growth opportunities with her manager and how she went about finding professional mentors. Then, she shared the most memorable career advice she’s received — and how it helps her avoid burnout. 

How long have you been with MBRDNA? What about it made you first want to join?

I’ve been with MBRDNA for almost three years now. I’m a Software Engineer. I joined when the Seattle Hub was new and all engineers sat in one big room because there were only about 15 of us. 

This job stood out to me because I’ve always been passionate about cars. My graduate thesis project was based on vehicles and the recruiter seemed like they cared about my work. Once I started interviewing, the experience was so warm and welcoming that I couldn’t help but imagine what working here would be like. The cultural values were so clear from the beginning – I especially appreciated the fact that even though I didn’t have any experience in cloud software development, I was given an opportunity to try out something new without any hesitation as long as I was able to prove my skills in the interview.

Tell me about your current role. What about this role most excites you?

Currently I am working for a team that is building a platform for remote applications for Mercedes vehicles. My favorite aspect about this project and team since the beginning is the fact that we get to build everything from scratch in terms of design and technology choices. There’s always so much to work on and learn and optimize — it never gets dull.

A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to advance your career without job hopping?

This is something I had heard a lot and expected to be a norm in the software industry. Things are fast paced and technologies change every day. But I also believe that building a good product takes time, and iterations and optimizations and operations is where the most challenging part for a software engineer lies. That requires time.

The one thing that I’ve always tried to do is be honest with my manager. If I ever feel like work is getting repetitive at all, or I’m not learning as fast as I’d like to, I let him know and he does an amazing job of finding me exciting things to work on. Communication is key here and has worked wonders for me. When you have the knowledge that your team cares for your growth and career advancement, the need to hop jobs to grow becomes unnecessary.

Does your company have a formal program in place for mentorship or sponsorship, or is it more of a casual thing that happens organically? 

MBRDNA has a formal 90-day mentorship program for new hires. Beyond that, employees are also encouraged to find mentors casually within and outside our teams for individual growth.

How has having a mentor or sponsor enriched your work experience?

Personally, casual mentorship works better for me. But I strongly feel that surrounding myself with the right people who are always ready to share their knowledge and experience has been a major factor in my growth so far. Thankfully, I’ve found many such people in the MBRDNA Seattle Hub. The general culture at the hub encourages sharing and mentorship. As this is my first job, I’ve often found myself in situations where I have needed some sort of guidance and I’ve always also found colleagues who’ve guided me through these situations.

Ultimately, what has led you to stay at MBRDNA?

The knowledge that there’s constantly more to learn, the feeling of community, the culture of the Hub as a whole and the reassurance that the people here care for your growth and well-being beyond just the work you deliver.

Let’s talk about your company’s culture. What’s your favorite aspect of it, and how does your employer aid you in achieving balance?

The most striking thing for me from the beginning has been consistent emphasis on work-life balance. I have a tendency to push myself when I’m working on a project I’m very passionate about. In such situations, having the right company culture and emphasis from the leadership helps me realign and manage work to ensure I’m not burning out. Flexible time off and an open feedback culture are two other aspects that I feel help me in achieving that balance. We’re not just provided these benefits but also constantly encouraged to use them.

What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?

Extreme perceptiveness and openness to feedback, and looking out and fighting for their employees.

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?

To make sure I’m managing expectations and building a sustainable balance for myself. It doesn’t take long to burnout, but it takes a while to recover.

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Fairygodboss is proud to partner with Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America. Find a job there today!

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