At Duolingo, we pride ourselves on hiring individuals who are passionate about our mission and want to use their expertise to change the world for the better. To help give you a peek into what it’s like working for Duolingo, we’ve asked our team members to share more about their experience at the company and in Pittsburgh! Today, meet Neha: a Senior Technical Program Manager on the Duolingo English Test, based in Pittsburgh. Neha joined Duolingo in June 2021.
Why did you choose Duolingo?
I was an avid user of Duolingo—I had a 700 day streak even before joining the company! I loved the app and enjoyed the gamified learning experience.
Duolingo's mission resonates with my passion for making education accessible. I always wanted to start an educational initiative aimed at improving English speaking and writing skills among technical professionals and teens in rural India. To help me achieve this goal, I moved to the US for higher education in Management at Carnegie Mellon University. Fast forward a few years, I landed this opportunity at Duolingo. At the time, I had multiple offers but I knew that Duolingo’s mission and commitment for the learners across the world will keep me content and challenged at the same time.
I have experience at large corporations and smaller startups, and feel that Duolingo strikes the right balance between the two. On the one hand, it encourages innovation and is less bureaucratic in decision-making, but it isn’t impulsive and haywire on a day-to-day basis.
What are three words that describe Duolingo’s culture?
Learners-first, innovative, and fun!
What do you like most about Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh is my home away from home. I did my masters at CMU, so it holds a special place in my heart. Though the winters here are a bit extreme, the people in this peaceful city are warm and welcoming. Hence, I’m still a Pittsburgher!
Describe a typical day in the life as a Technical Program Manager (TPM) at Duolingo?
I am a TPM on the Duolingo English Test and my teams consist of assessment scientists, psychometricians, ML engineers and software engineers. My stakeholders are institutional engagement, business, and marketing teams. My typical day includes managing business-critical programs that span multiple teams. This requires continuous collaboration, prioritization and technical decision making. I lead/participate in team meetings, resolve dependencies, and remove impediments almost every day to ensure that my teams can run without blockers and we deliver the best to our test-takers.
What are some challenges you face as a Technical Program Manager?
The two biggest challenges are:
- Prioritization through conflict resolution: Teams are driven and hardworking, but as in any other case, resources are always limited. It is hard to establish priorities for a high-stakes assessment due to the involvement of multiple stakeholders with varying objectives. My job is to enable ruthless prioritization while negotiating effectively on resource utilization.
- Fast-paced context switching: Deep involvement in multiple projects requires a longer attention span and the ability to switch context at lightspeed. I have to be ready for technical conversations, impromptu status calls, and business updates for any project at any time. This becomes especially challenging with the ever increasing number of projects as we are growing exponentially. And that’s the thrill!
What is unique about working at Duolingo?
The most unique thing about working at Duolingo is the mission-driven team. We know we have a direct positive impact on the lives of our learners or test-takers. Once an international student myself, I care deeply about making education accessible in a fair and unbiased way to the international student community. Working on DET enables me to do that, which is pretty rewarding!
What is your favorite feature on Duolingo?
Stories! They not only teach general aspects of language learning but also organically introduce the knowledge of culture, accents, and contextual usage of words. Also, if you haven’t tried them yet, they are pretty inclusive and fun :)
Stay tuned for more Q&As with our employees, and remember to check out our careers page for current opportunities!