Interviews, North America

Leemay Nassery – Senior Engineering Manager at Comcast NBCUniversal

I’ve never really felt comfortable talking about being a woman in this industry. However, I realize that is not realistic because if we really want to change the fact that women are underrepresented, we do have to talk about our experiences so we can help make change happen.

Leemay Nassery is a senior engineering manager at Comcast NBCUniversal. She has a background in AI and machine learning and led the teams that built the On Demand and personalization features for the X1 Video platform. More recently, she has shifted focus towards the digital home organization, focusing on building self-service wifi experience.

In a nutshell, tell us a bit about your job, and what role technology plays in it?

I’m a senior engineering manager for the team that helps manage the WIFI experience for Comcast internet subscribers. Technology plays a huge role in my day to day as the majority of our work is building software to assist customers in managing and updating their home WIFI.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

For the past 9 years working at Comcast, my roles have ranged from software developer to lead engineer to engineering management. For the majority of that time, my focus has been on building various web services and components to support the content discovery aspect of our video product. For example, things like On-Demand, personalization, A/B testing, etc. And as of more recently, I transitioned from video to the internet; specifically, helping make the WIFI experience more self-service for our customers.

To get to where I am today, I think it took being comfortable with taking risks and also not being scared of change. Taking on different roles or changing teams, is a risk. Writing code and deploying code, is another type of risk. But both are necessary to continue to grow and evolve whether you’re an engineer or an engineering leader.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

I think the greatest transformation technology-wise would be the concept of infrastructure in the public cloud; especially from a machine learning or big data perspective.  Years ago, I worked on a big data platform that was on physical infrastructure. This physical infrastructure was certainly lacking in both compute and storage; ironically, we were expected to store years’ worth of data on a mere 900TB Hadoop cluster. I recall writing a job that “archived” data and one of the “hacks” I implemented was to turn off replication in favor of making space for the following months data. Turning replication off on historical data felt like we were grasping for straws.

Fast forward to today, we would easily be leveraging AWS which would naturally reduce our concern of having a finite set of storage and compute power utilizing AWS’s managed services such as S3, EMR, etc.

Said otherwise, having public cloud platforms such as AWS, GCP and Azure has removed the concern of allocating proper infrastructure (and managing said infrastructure) to build out platforms that facilitate complex machine learning pipelines, scale platforms to support millions of requests per day, etc.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

Well, I don’t think of those words together in the same sentence usually, mostly because I’ve never really felt comfortable talking about being a woman in this industry. However, I realize that is not realistic because if we really want to change the fact that women are underrepresented, we do have to talk about our experiences so we can help make change happen. Having said all of that, usually the first thing that comes to mind when I meet women that have been in this industry for 15 years or more, is that they must have had to persevere and continued to be resilient to stay and succeed.  

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that? Using your own words, why do we need women-focused groups in the tech community?

One that comes to mind and I think would make the biggest impact would be as simple as being kinder one another and more open to each other’s differences.

There is an understated luxury we have by having the skill set of building products and platforms with code. I have had the pleasure of working on engineering platforms that were scaled for millions of customers; just thinking of the number of people we impact with our code, is amazing. If we could focus more on building these great products with code together and accepting each other’s differences, I really think that would go a long way in regard to women and other minority groups not being as underrepresented within tech as we currently are today.

What skills do you need for a career in tech (aside from the acutal tech skills)?

Not necessarily a skill but rather a trait that I think is good to have to succeed in tech is the want or desire to be curious. I’ve found the most I’ve learned or developed in my career is when I’ve been curious as to how things work from either an engineering platform or product perspective. You learn by asking questions and by digging deeper into what you’re working on or what your peers are working on, which all lends itself to having that initial desire for curiosity.  

You learn by asking questions and by digging deeper into what you’re working on or what your peers are working on, which all lends itself to having that initial desire for curiosity.

What and who were the influencers of who you are today?

From a career perspective, I have been lucky enough to work with some fantastic engineering and product leaders in my 9 years at Comcast that have influenced how I am as an engineering manager today. They’ve taught me that it is OK to be different; our differences make us who we are, and we can leverage those differences to improve our engineering teams, products, etc. They’re also taught me how to take risks whether it’s from a engineering / code or career perspective.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

Sometimes things work out in ways that are unexpected, but they always workout.

This might sound cliché, but I’d tell my younger self to just relax and enjoy the ride. Sometimes things work out in ways that are unexpected, but they always workout.

Leemay Nassery is a senior engineering manager at Comcast NBCUniversal. She has a background in AI and machine learning and led the teams that built the On Demand and personalization features for the X1 Video platform. More recently, she has shifted focus towards the digital home organization, focusing on building self-service wifi experience. 

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