Listening a little longer with Rebecca
Current Role: Rebecca Zavin, Senior Vice President, Software
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Years at Sonos: <1
What got you interested in this field?
Rebecca: My high school physics teacher told me I had as much of an engineering mind as he’d ever seen, and from what I’m sure was a pretty offhand comment from him, I set out on a path to study engineering in college (Thanks Mr. Kovalcin!)
A couple of months into college, I saw a poster looking for help setting up a new computer lab, something I’d helped my dad with the previous summer and I knew I could do. Pretty soon I was hanging around the computer science department and settled on studying computer engineering.
Fast-forward to a job at Google where I spent a couple of years building software for data centers before I joined the Android team. Launching the first Android products taught me how incredibly satisfying it was to build consumer products. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the unmistakable sound of an Android notification outside of Google (on vacation in a restaurant) – it was an absolute thrill to realize I’d put something out in the world for real users!
What attracted you to Sonos?
R: I feel really fortunate because to me the opportunity at Sonos is really an intersection of all the elements I look for in a role and as a software engineer. For starters, I've always been passionate about working at the interface of the hardware and the software. And so I've done work in OS at the kernel level, embedded systems, some work in robotics, and that's really my technical passion.
Additionally, over the course of my career, I've also found that working in a smaller company is really my sweet spot. I spent a little over 10 years at Google before leaving for a startup, where I was changed forever upon experiencing the kind of impact and ownership one can have in a smaller company.
On top of that, the extra bonus is that I love being in the consumer electronics space, creating products that literally bring joy into people’s lives. As I said about hearing the Android notification for this first time, there really is nothing quite like building something and having it be out in the wild where millions of people can enjoy it. At Sonos, that thrill is heightened because the work is realized in a physical object — it's something you can wrap your hands around and whatever your role within the company, you likely played a role in its creation.
How does Sonos differ from other companies you’ve worked for in the past?
R: It’s totally unique to work at a small company like Sonos that has such a huge, beloved brand. It’s incredibly fun to be part of a small, but mighty, team working on products that users love. I feel so fortunate to be a part of that!
Is there anything you’d like to share relating to your experience with/philosophy around mentorship and developing female engineers?
R: One of the things that I recognize in my own career is how mentorship can be really helpful, but sponsorship is critical. It’s the people who took a bet on me that really made the difference. As a leader, I want to mentor developing engineers, but I also am always looking for right-size ways to give someone a chance to stretch what they are capable of.
What have you learned about the software organization that surprised you?
R: You probably think of our products as speakers, but they are really mini-computers in your home. There are so many amazing experiences we can build from that jumping off point, I really think we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible.
At Sonos we have many creative passions beyond our day job: musicians, audiophiles, tinkerers, creators, chefs, artists,... What do you love to do when you are not working?
R: My two kids (10 and 7) keep me pretty busy! We try to get out as a family every weekend for a hike to enjoy our beautiful Northern California scenery.
What are you listening to these days?
R: I love listening to Sonos Radio while I’m working (in between Zoom calls). For workouts in my garage, it’s Lizzo. The best thing about a pandemic workout from home is it’s headphones optional; I can bring a Sonos out there and play it loud! We love Jazz around the house, but lately my kids have displaced it for the Encanto soundtrack. I’m also a huge fan of a good podcast when I’m busy at home.