Engineering Spotlight: Marie-Laure Bardonnet | Datadog

Engineering Spotlight: Marie-Laure Bardonnet

Author Austin Lai
Author Marie-Laure Bardonnet

Published: March 26, 2024

In this edition of the Datadog Engineering Spotlight, Austin from the Community team sat down (virtually) with Marie-Laure Bardonnet. She’s a Senior Engineering Manager leading engineering for Datadog’s Log Management team, and was once an intern in the New York office. We talk about her growth as an individual contributor and as a people manager, her passion for mentorship and development, and her engineering-driven approach to problem solving and decision making.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Photo of Marie-Laure Bardonnet.

How has your time been at Datadog since you joined full-time in 2017?

When I joined, I started on the Dashboards team for the web platform in Paris for two years. We launched the Notebooks product, a project I worked on as an intern and continued developing as a college graduate. I also worked on the backend for the launch of our new Dashboard layout, a fully responsive grid that scales for any screen size.

At the time, I was regularly discussing career growth with my manager and my curiosity for the distributed backend systems area became clearer. I expressed a strong interest in working on the Datadog backend, and my manager encouraged me to try it out. He was eventually supportive of my transition to the Logs backend team.

I joined the Logs backend team one year after the Logmatic acquisition, and found this team to be the right kind of environment I was looking for! Really, I felt as if I had stepped into an environment a thousand times larger for me, with new things for me to learn and challenges for me to solve.

At this time, the Logs backend teams were responsible for the real-time ingestion, processing, enrichment, storage, and querying of millions of logs payloads every day. As Datadog was launching more and more products with a set of similar technical needs, it became clearer that some of these capabilities would benefit from being shared across different stacks.

A platform team was created to provide common capabilities at scale to many products, and as a result, Logs engineers worked in close collaboration with Platform engineers to power the Logs product.

After being an individual contributor for one year, I opted to explore the management track, taking on the role of team lead for the Logs backend team. Progressing in my career journey, I advanced to the position of Engineering Manager II, and today, I manage all of the backend and frontend Logs teams.

What is your day-to-day like?

The roles of a Senior Engineering Manager are multiple throughout each quarter and I deeply enjoy the variety of aspects of the job. Being in management and working at a highly technical company is an interesting combination that fuels my passion for leading our team’s strategic planning at the start of every quarter.

We craft objectives and key results (OKRs) together, which we use to establish a product and technical roadmap for the next three months. We work with the Product team to refine our primary objectives and ensure we are delivering according to our company’s focus areas.

Managers work on maintaining a delicate balance between the product team’s roadmap and the team’s technical roadmap—for example, ensuring systems reliability, scalability, as well as addressing technical debt.

As we deliver on our roadmap, I spend time reviewing technical docs like RFCs and incident postmortems as well as product docs to support teams in their decision process. I help identify dependencies between teams and align efforts overall.

I also spend time helping people—in either individual contributor or people management tracks—grow in their role and navigate their career. I work with people to identify what they want to accomplish and propose upcoming projects or opportunities that allow them to expand technical expertise or assume leadership responsibilities.

I am also actively involved in recruiting efforts for the Logs teams and for Datadog in general. Every week, I am part of a hiring committee whose goal is to make the final hiring recommendation for candidates who have interviewed and to ensure homogeneous leveling across the board.

Besides software engineering, what’s been on your mind?

Lately, we’ve been thinking about re-structuring our team to be able to execute the work ahead of us efficiently and effectively. As teams grow, we need to think about reorganizing ourselves in a way that sets both the product and people up for success, which is something that I love to do. There are two main questions I generally use to drive this exercise, which are:

  • In about a year from now, what problems do we see ourselves solving for?
  • How do we allow everyone to grow to their next career step?

We work with the Product Management team on a three-horizons plan to define our organization’s roadmap and to help rationalize future investments, by aligning everyone around common goals that express what our customers care about.

Three Horizons Model for Business Growth
Three Horizons Model for Business Growth.

Regarding crafting opportunities for everyone on the team to grow, we want to ensure that the work, the scope, and the challenges are appropriate for each level and each track, and that everyone will receive the right mentorship.

What do you think career growth looks like at Datadog?

My approach to career pathing starts by decoupling what you currently do in your day-to-day from what you want to do in your day-to-day life. Being introspective is easier said than done—not only should you identify what brings you joy at work, but also you should think about what your legacy is at work.

You can help yourself by continuously reviewing your goals, breaking them down across the three horizons, and sharing them with your leaders. In order to forge a career path for yourself, you need to find a balance between doing work that you love, work that you’re good at, work that will help you learn new things, work that fits your team’s needs and organizational priorities, and calibrating your performance according to peer and manager feedback.

Note that this is a self-driven exercise, and it may take a while before you know what you want. Your answers will likely change over time as well. However, you’re not on this journey alone—the leaders in your organization are equipped to identify opportunities for you to grow, and help craft a “happy path” for you to get to where you want to be.

There are so many team environments at Datadog that I think it’s really hard to get bored at all.

There’s not a right or wrong answer when it comes to career progression—your career journey may not look easy or straightforward, and that’s okay. It’s ultimately up to you to decide how you want your career to progress, and how hard you want to commit to growing in your career. Your lived experiences have shaped you into the person you are today, and your work experiences have demonstrated what you’re capable of accomplishing.

The Datadog platform has grown a lot in the past five years, and we’ve significantly multiplied the number of engineering teams with varying skill sets and expertise. So, much like navigating uncharted waters, your career at Datadog may not look the same as the next new hire that joins your team. The next step may require a leap of faith and overcoming tough challenges, but growth happens when you embrace what you don’t know and put yourself outside of your comfort zone.

You can always rely on feedback from your peers to validate you’re on track with things and that you feel supported in what you’re doing. Whatever trajectory you end up taking for your career, it’s important to remember that you become an ambassador of the Datadog culture and a role model that leads by example by setting the bar for quality and delivery to parts of the organization that are unfamiliar with working with your team, or new hires that just joined your team.

What do you think is exemplary about what Datadog is doing?

I’ve been impressed at how Datadog as a company has been able to scale our culture. When I started eight years ago, we were around 120 people, and today, we have over 5,000 employees. From my perspective, the pillars of our culture remain the same.

What I enjoy about working at Datadog and why I’ve enjoyed working at Datadog have stayed consistent throughout the years. If I had to mention only two things that I believe are exemplary at Datadog from my perspective:

  • The people: I’ve always worked with people who have inspired me at Datadog. As an intern and throughout each step of my career, I’ve had unique opportunities to work with teammates who are both brilliant and humble, for whom I want to go above and beyond every day.

  • The postmortem mindset: I’ve always admired Datadog’s approach to blameless postmortems. If something happens on our end, we are able to acknowledge it, discuss what happened and how and what we can do better next time.

We don’t apply this approach to incidents only, we generally try to extend this philosophy to any kind of unexpected event that can happen within an organization with over 5,000 employees. I truly think that our ability to self-reflect as a group and to listen to and apply feedback is required to remain successful.

How did your upbringing or education influence how you work today?

One of the ways you can get an engineering degree in France is by taking preparatory classes for two years before taking your national exams. The preparatory classes help develop the mindset that we look for in our engineers and instill core values such as a love for learning, being comfortable with autonomy, being concise/precise/organized, and engaging in critical thinking.

I’m also grateful that the engineering school I enrolled in focused on computer science, which was not a topic that interested me prior to university because I never got the opportunity to do anything computer science related before.

I took my first programming class in Java and immediately fell in love with learning computer science. I had a lot of fun learning what you could do with programming and one of my professors mentioned that, as a Software Engineer, I could do this professionally, and get paid to code!

I dedicated the rest of my studies to software engineering, applied to internships in the US, and eventually interned at Datadog in New York. The rest is history!

What other things do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I have a husband and a 10-month old daughter, and before she was born, we enjoyed biking in the outdoors, hiking mountain passes, and camping.

Marie-Laure and her husband biking up the Col de l'Iseran in the Route des Grandes Alpes.
Marie-Laure and her husband biking up the Col de l'Iseran in the Route des Grandes Alpes.

We love being outdoors and we can’t wait to start building new adventures with her now!

Are there any thoughts or words of advice you would give to the version of yourself back in 2017?

Asking questions is one of the most powerful skills you can develop early in your career. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, really. I would also encourage myself to be ambitious and have more confidence from the get go.

I encountered impostor syndrome when I joined Datadog back in 2018, and remember feeling overwhelmed because I was so impressed by my teammates that I never thought I would become a senior engineer. I overcame this feeling over time and proved to myself I could learn and do things and eventually keep growing down the line.

Is there any advice you have for current interns or college students?

There’s a pattern that our CTO, Alexis Lê-Quôc, has observed in the career growth of the engineers at Datadog that he’s mentioned at an All Hands meeting before.

He says, “Everyone comes into work every day to do the job. That’s the start—you show up, do the job, learn as you go, and you repeat things, and you grow.”

Many thanks to Marie-Laure for sitting down to share her experience and insights with us! If working with people like Marie-Laure who are passionate about solving Datadog’s technical challenges, building products, and growing people interests you, check out our Careers page and join the pack!