“From Technical Lead to Engineering Manager at Axon”
Raven Hoang - Engineering Manager at Axon (Part 1)
I landed the position of Engineering Manager at Axon quite by chance, coming from the role of Technical Lead at another company. I had been with my previous employer for five years, but in the last year (2021) the company underwent significant layoffs, which led to me taking on various different roles, handling everything from project management and design to coding, front-end and back-end work - basically, everything from start to finish. It was through this experience that I gained a bit of knowledge in every role, learned about the end-to-end process of product development and understood what each person’s role entailed and what they were best suited for, since I was a developer myself.
Then, a friend on LinkedIn messaged me about applying to Axon since they were hiring. I thought, what have I got to lose? Fortunately, the skills I had acquired matched the requirements for the Manager position, so I landed the job.
I chose to work at Axon not only because of their excellent benefits and facilities, or their open work environment, but also because of their humanitarian mission. Axon is a company that specializes in public safety and has contracts with many governments to promote police platforms. Their goal is to reduce the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers by using stun guns instead of real ones, so that people are only temporarily incapacitated instead of being at risk of losing their lives. This is a very civilized approach, and it’s something that all governments - not just the US government, but also those in Europe and the Americas - strive for. In addition, Axon has other platforms that support law enforcement, such as camera systems that capture evidence, end-to-end devices designed specifically for police use, and both hardware and software solutions.
At Axon, the hiring process follows US standards and requires the latest technical skills. Therefore, developers need to constantly update their technical knowledge to keep up with the industry trends. Axon is also very selective when it comes to hiring. Even though I am the Engineering Manager, I can’t decide on my own who to hire for my team. The first criterion for candidates to join Axon is to pass Axon’s tests and get approval from all members of the hiring panel. After that, I will talk to the candidate to see if their goals and expectations align with ours. That’s why it takes a lot of time to recruit someone for a team at Axon. In 2021, I started forming a team from scratch, and I interviewed over 40 candidates (after they passed all the tests) before selecting the seven members of my current team.
I have a “secret” to valuing myself in the tech industry - I update my resume and go for interviews at various companies every year. I’m not necessarily looking for a new job or a new environment, but rather to test where I stand in the market, whether my skills are still relevant and up-to-date, and to see if I can match the technical requirements of the industry. This is a way for me to challenge myself, even though it takes a lot of effort and time. Through this process, I gained a lot of experience and confidence, which helped me during my interview at Axon and ultimately helped me pass it.
To survive in this industry, besides valuing oneself, I believe it’s essential to continuously learn and improve. As a father of three, I understand that time is limited, but it can also be a driving force for me to optimize my learning in this field. I often observe what other teams are doing, what my boss is doing, what they talk about and what they work on, and then try to learn from them. Even though I am now a Manager, I still learn from my team members. They often organize technical sharing sessions, and I always participate to learn more about what they are working on, what technologies they like, and what they enjoy doing.
In conclusion, my journey from Technical Lead to Engineering Manager at Axon has been full of challenges and learning opportunities. Axon’s humanitarian mission and high technical standards make it an exciting and fulfilling place to work. As for personal growth, valuing oneself, continuously learning, and being open to learning from others are essential factors to survive and thrive in the tech industry.