Peter Stout (Netflix)

StaffEng

Dec 14 2021 • 52 mins

The structures of an organization can often be self-reinforcing, and in a changing environment, this becomes a recipe for future vulnerabilities. That is why senior ICs need to play a slightly discordant role at times by alerting teams to issues conventionally outside of their bubble of concern. Peter Stout is a Technical Director at Netflix where he has a cross-functional role at the juncture of business and technology. He joins us on the show today to share some of the finer details around what inhabiting this position in the above manner looks like. We start by hearing Peter describe himself as a generalist, and share how this played out in the broad focus of his college degree as well as in his career pivot from Chemistry into Software Engineering. We discuss the rapid growth of the engineering team at Netflix, how this has led to less tightly-defined roles for junior and senior engineers, and how this factors into the way Peter approaches his place in the organization. Peter talks about the shift he made from technician to technical director and how much of the skills he learned from the former position he brings into the latter. He talks about his tendency to seek out the blank spots in the organization and how he tries to focus on a long-term vision, using that to guide him as he connects the dots between teams and influences decision making. Here Peter considers his role as a disruptor and how he gauges how much pressure to apply while still staying largely in sync. We also have a great conversation about Peter’s approach to mentorship and his philosophy around how he grew into the leadership position he occupies. Tune in today!

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