A graduate of University of Detroit Mercy and University of Michigan Dearborn, Erica Attenberger is a Senior Engineering Program Manager at Criteo Ann Arbor with over eleven years of experience leading software development teams. She joined Criteo in 2017 via the HookLogic acquisition and has been project managing some of Criteo’s toughest strategic platform application projects. This week we chat with Erica about her career path, problem solving, and why engineering project management at Criteo is far from typical.
Let’s start from the beginning, where are you from?
I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Detroit Mercy in Digital Media, and my masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Michigan Dearborn. I have always had interests in technology, design, and problem solving, especially around user experience and interaction.
Can you tell us a little about your career path?
I started as an intern at one of the big three automotive OEMs. I ran a sophisticated software scheduling tool that optimized vehicle production line schedules given an input of constraints like parts availability, vehicle trim variations, etc. I then moved into a project management role at a manufacturing ERP (enterprise resource planning) software company where I learned about the end-to-end manufacturing process and spent time working with users both on factory floors and in back offices. I then later moved to data management and product management roles in the healthcare claims data space. From there, I moved to a project management role at HookLogic, which was acquired by Criteo in late 2016, and now continue to learn about ad tech and support software development projects on the platform application side.
How has your role changed since you started?
At the start, I held a more traditional project management role, with a greater emphasis on acting as a scrum master that is typical of Agile/Scrum development teams. As HookLogic, we were growing quickly and moving fast pace in order to react to changes in the marketplace and requests from our customers. We needed to be sure we were shipping a minimal viable product quickly in order to be first to market, to win a deal, or to get the valuable feedback early from our brands and retailers so we could iterate.
The role has evolved into having a more strategic and technical focus within Criteo. Engineering program managers are often asked to help our teams’ define their quarterly roadmaps and find the critical balance between market-driven projects and engineering-drive projects while navigating many engineering teams across three different time zones. Balancing the different needs of stakeholders is one of the greatest challenges of this role.
What’s the goal of your position at Criteo now?
The engineering program management role at Criteo is a multi-faceted position. We oversee project execution, quarterly OKR (Objectives and Key Results) team planning cycles, and input in new strategic projects either driven by engineering or by product management. One of the hardest things in this role is keeping a pulse on the different major technical changes being made in the broader R&D eco-system and staying in sync with those dependent teams so that we are always aligned and properly serving our internal customers, just as we would our external customers.
What makes the Ann Arbor office different? How does the Ann Arbor team have fun?
The Ann Arbor office is very family-like for me. It is still small enough that it is possible to know everyone’s name and many of us have worked together for several years on a variety of projects. The Ann Arbor team has a variety of events both during the day and on nights and weekends to make sure the team is having fun and developing positive relationships with each other.
Office wide events, as simple as catered lunch or more elaborate like weekend U of Mich tailgates, are combined with quarterly team and cross-team events help to strengthen our relationships with each other. The Ann Arbor team also likes to keep each other laughing with pranks and other seemingly silly activities that help the atmosphere light despite the challenges of developing and supporting a global platform that integrates with key retailers ecommerce sites.
What sets Criteo apart as an employer?
Criteo makes it a priority to ensure that employees have an equal voice in helping to come to a decision on a topic, whether it be a project, a process, or something else entirely, and they listen to that feedback. They make a strong effort to ensure that the employee is invested in the long term success of the company and that they are incentivized to help achieve that success so it is beneficial for all.
What projects are you most proud of?
It is hard to pinpoint one achievement, but given the complexity of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), I would say helping to project manage the Criteo Audience Activation Platform move to be SOX compliant was one of the more challenging projects given the amount of technical changes required in the platform’s critical path, engineering teams impacted, and external and internal stakeholders involved.
Hobbies outside of work?
I enjoy spending time with my family, especially my one year old daughter and watching her learn and grow. When I have extra time, I enjoy sewing and crafting.
Advice for engineers? What is Criteo’s R&D Team looking for?
I think an important skillset for the engineering program management role is to have a healthy curiosity about how things work and a desire to be a servant-leader, someone who guides the team to be successful. They step in and represent the team as needed. They help to block the team from incoming distractions, and they help the team find ways to improve their processes.