Meet Karim Fanous, Senior Vice President of Engineering at StrongDM:

Karim Fanous is a tech leader with a diverse background spanning Microsoft and various startups. With over a decade at Microsoft in software development and product management, Karim transitioned to startups, where he led engineering teams through significant growth. Presently, as the Senior Vice President of Engineering at StrongDM, he navigates the challenges of scaling a globally remote workforce, shaping the future of remote work and global hiring practices.

Listen Up: Karim Fanous, Senior Vice President of Engineering at StrongDM — Full Podcast Episode on Spotify

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Quick Read: Karim Fanous, Senior Vice President of Engineering at StrongDM, Interview Highlight

Karim Fanous’ Journey and Experiences

In this episode of Default Global, I had the privilege of discussing with Karim Fanous, SVP of Engineering at StrongDM. With a career journey starting with Microsoft and moving into startups in the series A stage, Karim gave a detailed account of his experiences in scaling engineering organizations in these firms.

He explained:

“I’ve joined at the series A stage, a fairly small engineering org, probably on the order of 10-ish software developers. And I stayed through as the engineering team grew from 10 to 60, 70, 80. A big jump in size,”

Principles for Effective Engineering Teams

Our conversation then moved to the key principles that have guided his tactics in not only growing engineering teams but also maintaining their efficiency and effectiveness. Karim stresses on the importance of setting expectations for the team and the organisation as a whole.

He highlighted:

“If we want to grow 2x or 3x, it comes at a cost,”

His approach also focuses on the importance of bringing in new hires that complement the existing team structure and roles.

The Challenges of Taking Teams Global 

Karim also touched on his experience with global hiring and the challenges that come with it.

He noted:

“It’s hard as it is getting alignment and cohesion and maintaining culture when we’re all physically co-located or at least within reasonable time zones. Once you cross the ocean and the time zones are half a day apart, it becomes very, very challenging.”

His advice? Ensure that offshore teams can work independently and maintain a sense of unity and culture despite the distance.

The Impact of Remote Work on Inclusivity

We delved into how remote work can significantly improve inclusivity in the workplace, especially for people with disabilities. Karim noted that remote work brings comfort and familiarity, which can lead to increased productivity. Despite this, he acknowledged that some companies may still prefer a physical office due to the investments made in infrastructure and the belief that in-person interactions are more efficient.

AI in the Interview Processes

One interesting topic we touched upon was the role of AI in interview processes. While some tech leaders view it as just a tool, others are against it. Karim stands in the camp that views it as just a tool, but wants to see candidates approach problems from first principles during interviews.

He stated:

“I just want to see how the candidate is going to tackle those problems without relying on co-pilot in real time,”

Leadership Lessons and Prioritizing Continuous Development

In his leadership journey, Karim shared that it’s essential to build a system where problems are organically prioritized and solved, rather than personally getting involved in every issue. He also cautioned against implementing changes too quickly when moving into a new role. Instead, he encourages observation and understanding of the new environment before proposing any changes.

The Road to Becoming a VP of Engineering

Finally, Karim offered advice to those aspiring to be a VP of Engineering, emphasizing the importance of taking on the role for experiential learning.

He concluded:

“The best advice I can give someone who wants to do that is do it. You’re going to understand what this role is; you’re going to learn a whole lot more,”

A big thank you to Karim for joining us on this enlightening episode. We look forward to witnessing the further success of StrongDM under his leadership.