Noga Mann | Figma
Aged 9 she organised and rolled out her own birthday party, project managing her own parents. Aged 10 she built an Olsen twins, fan website. As a student in Israel, she co-founded ‘QueenB’ – an organisation that teaches middle school girls how to code…Noga Mann is a force to be reckoned with and an absolute inspiration! Women Rock ambassador Naomi Douglass spoke to Noga about her incredible journey into the tech world and how she has been able to combine her artistic and scientific interests to carve out a career that she adores!
HEY NOGA! SO GREAT TO MEET YOU AND THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR STORY WITH US. COULD YOU PLEASE GIVE US AN INTRODUCTION TO YOURSELF?
My name is Noga, and I’m an engineering manager at Figma as well as a social entrepreneur.
Growing up, I often had to choose between my artistic and scientific interests, but I was fortunate enough to be able to study both Computer Science and Design at university, as part of a combined program. I believe design is a powerful tool that can put people at ease with technology, and technology can enrich and expand the boundaries of design to new and exciting places. This is why I am so excited to work at Figma, where technology is used to empower teams and enable them to build better products.
As a university student back in Israel, I co-founded QueenB, an organization that teaches middle school girls how to code. Since we started, we’ve been able to get thousands of girls interested in technology and consider it as a career. By connecting young women with tech companies, the organization also helps them land their first industry jobs.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE A CAREER IN TECH?
When I was about 10, I built a fan website for the Olsen twins. This was my first coding experience, and what inspired me to try it out was the ability to create something that wasn’t there before and share it with the world. As I learned more about this discipline, I realized how creative and fulfilling it could be.
YOU ARE A MANAGER AT FIGMA, COULD YOU TELL ME HOW YOU BECOME A LEADER AND YOUR MOTIVATIONS BEHIND THIS?
From a young age, management was a natural interest of mine. At age nine, I organized my own birthday party – I loved putting together the schedule, thinking about the activities, making to-do lists, and assigning tasks to my parents. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I seated them down for a retro session after it was all over.
I feel most impactful when creating processes – I enjoy solving problems not only ad hoc, but thinking about how we can learn from every issue, and find solutions that improve efficiency. It is one of the things I enjoy most about being a manager. As part of my role, I also assist my team in setting their own growth goals and building plans to achieve them. Seeing their accomplishments is very rewarding.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE HOW IMPORTANT IS DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE?
Companies that manage to create inclusive spaces where everyone feels welcome, are more successful in building great products. Moreover, they are more likely to attract and retain top talent.
Figma is a great example of this. The way we work is highly collaborative, not competitive, and as managers, we strive to foster psychological safety in our teams and build trust so people can be themselves.
We also have our Engineering gender minorities group, which is an employee group that’s dedicated to building a welcoming and inclusive community for engineers at Figma who identify as gender minorities. This group serves as a safe space for engineers at all career stages to solicit advice, find mentorship, and celebrate each others’ wins.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?
“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room.”
There is a false assumption that a team’s manager should be its smartest member. In reality, different individuals have different strengths and skills that make them better suited to fill different roles in a team, and the manager is no different.
Not only is being the smartest in the room not a requirement for being a good manager, but it might also mean that you’re not hiring the right people. Talented individuals on your team make your team stronger, as well as giving you more opportunities for personal growth as a manager.
Leading a team of people who are smarter or more experienced than you might be daunting at first. However, by developing the ability to admit you might not know the answer to every question, I believe you actually become a better leader.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT?
Having founded QueenB and being able to introduce many young girls to coding, and helping women land their first engineering job. The fact that I am part of a much larger community that drives gender equality in the tech industry is something that I am extremely proud of.
With my friend Daria Ackerman, I recently started recording a podcast in Hebrew called “The Impostors”, which provides advice for people early in their engineering careers.
WHAT IS A BOOK THAT INFLUENCED YOU AS A MANAGER?
“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. Through a five-part model of dysfunction, the book describes how teams fail to work cohesively together. The dysfunctions are: Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Lack of Accountability, and Inattention to Results. The model resonated with both successful and unsuccessful teams I witnessed. In my view, a manager’s role is to create an environment in which a high-performing team can thrive. Finding the root dysfunction of the team and addressing it is a great tool for that.
Even the most minor change in team structure, such as someone joining or leaving, can shake things up, so even high-performing teams have work to do to maintain their performance.
Thanks Noga! you totally rock 🤘