Episode 007 – Nishita Agarwal

Nishita Agarwal, software engineer on Facebook Video in London, shares her insights about happiness, being one of only three women in her IIT class, acting in a Shakespeare play, working at Facebook, and starting her own company one day.

Nishita Agarwal

(photo credit: Girish Patangay)

Episode 006 – You’re Fired!

Several listeners have asked me to talk about career mistakes I’ve made, so I’m starting with the biggest:  the time I was fired, along with two more times when I was nearly fired. Perhaps just as car crashes can be cautionary tales, I hope that the schadenfreude of hearing about my termination and near terminations will be of some use, or at least of minor amusement.

I worked at a Subway, making sandwiches for less than minimum wage, paid in cash nightly.  This was my first job, and the job from which I was fired.  Then there were two more times, both at Microsoft, when I know definitively that there was talk of firing me.  Details in the podcast.

Donald Trump famously firing folks

Episode 005 – Management Control Systems

Dr. Kenneth Merchant, professor of accounting at USC Marshall School of Business and author of the most popular textbook on Management Control Systems, explains the basics of how managers can best control for outcomes in this episode.  He covers “action control,” where behavior is explicitly prescribed;  “results control,” where the desirable outcome is specified and measured;  and “personnel control,” where managers exercise the right to hire, fire, and to put individuals into particular roles.

Managers would benefit from understanding when to apply which of these controls in order to get the best outcomes.  The concepts contained in this episode revolutionized the way that I thought about effective team management early in my career.

[I’ve edited this episode from its original version based on input from Alec Ramsay around structuring the episode in a way that introduces the topic more fully.]


Episode 004 – MBTI Smackdown

What if everything in our inaugural episode on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is wrong? Bestselling author Adam Grant, Wharton professor of organizational psychology, explains his objections to the MBTI this episode by showing how scientific research about personality evolved in the decades since the MBTI’s creation.  He offers a modern alternative, the Big Five personality traits, as a repeatable, comprehensive, and useful way of describing personality.


This episode also mentions:

Episode 003 – Mentoring and the Hovding Helmet

We continue the discussion around mentoring started in Episode 001, this time from the mentor’s perspective.  Being a mentor is, perhaps surprisingly, a great way to grow yourself, as the distillation of past experiences into current advice affords the opportunity of reflection leading to growth.  I give tips on how to make the most of being a mentor, and how to avoid the dreaded Zombie Mentorship.


The second half captures an amazing moment in the Facebook London office recently, where Sławek Biel demonstrated the amazing Hövding, an auto-inflating bicycle helmet that deploys only when needed, much like an airbag.  You really need to see the video to believe it!

You can stream the podcast itself using the player below, or subscribe on iTunes!

Episode 002 – Lovestruck

75% of American adults have tried online dating; 17% of marriages started with online dates. This episode features Laurence Holloway, CTO and cofounder of Lovestruck, an award-winning online dating site focused on London, Hong Kong, and Singapore.  We talk through the challenges of running a lean startup in the face of well-funded competition, creating a product that users trust, bootstrapping businesses that have network effects, and working several years as the only software engineer on a highly-visible product.

This is the first of a two-parter on dating.  An upcoming episode will feature an online dating startup in an entirely different market, complete with its unique dynamics.

A huge thanks to all of you who have given me feedback on how to improve, and also the encouragement that several of you have sent in.  Please keep it coming!

A real Lovestruck couple

Episode 001 – Be a Great Mentee

Being mentored is one of the fastest ways to grow — but doing it right is its own skill. I offer some tips on how to get the most out of being a mentee.  This episode also debuts God Save the Queen, a segment on how living in the UK is different from living in the US;  I cover the prevalence of “dog fouling” on the streets of London.

A special thanks to Neil Brench, Jackson Gabbard, and Chaitanya Mishra for their feedback on this podcart.  Please continue sending me your ideas, suggestions, and feedback!

Episode 000 – Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

In this inaugural episode, I interview Jackson Gabbard, a software engineer at Facebook, about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychometric assessment that measures how people perceive the world and make decisions.  The understanding of MBTI has many applications, including helping you understand yourself and others better, leading to smoother interactions in your professional and personal lives.  Jackson explains the MBTI with simple language, and gives real-world examples of how people with differing types interact.

Please let me know what you like and don’t about this episode, and also leave suggestions for future topics!

Welcome to Philip’s Polymathic Podcart

I’m Philip Su, site director of the Facebook engineering office in London.  I’ve worked as a professional software engineer for fifteen years, both as a coder and as a manager of many software teams.

My goal is for this podcast to earn its “polymathic” title by covering a broad range of topics relevant to software engineers, with a focus on design and careers, as well as a healthy helping of life stories as told by engineers I know.

“Podcart” is an homage to Bryan Cranston, the lead actor in Breaking Bad, who coined the term in jest during an interview on Adam Carolla’s podcast.  I use it as a way to keep things in this podcast grounded and lighthearted.