Employee Spotlight: Erik Barbara, Engineering Manager

DataGrail December 22, 2020

This week’s spotlight features Erik Barbara, who recently joined the DataGrail Engineering Team. Erik previously directed teams at Duo Security and Strata Oncology and worked as a software engineer prior. Erik graduated from The University of Michigan where he studied Computer Science along with Spanish, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Strategic Management and Executive Leadership at Penn State.

What excites you about joining the DataGrail team?

The people! You can work on important problems but if you’re not enjoying the team and don’t feel that you can learn from those around you, then it’s not worth it for me. I came to DataGrail to work alongside this team and the people here in building a great product, great teams, and a great company.

Of the problems DataGrail’s software solves, which are you most excited to help work on?

Privacy can seem overwhelming to organizations. I’ve had to implement these controls myself in the past, so I understand the hand wringing involved in worrying about whether we were getting it right, doing enough, or missing something. Working on software that allows our customers to focus on the parts of their job they came to their organizations to do while DataGrail sweats the details for them is what motivates me.

What has been your favorite project or challenge you’ve worked on in your career?

One of my favorites was building a product that allowed organizations to send phishing emails to their own employees in less than 5 minutes. As you can imagine, there are a mountain of safeguards in place to prevent phishing emails. It was a bit stressful building it at the time and not knowing how we were going to get it to work. But it was so satisfying to launch and see victims employees click on emails and enter in their credentials!

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I’ve had a lot of hobbies over the years which is evidence that if I’m interested in something I’ll typically pursue it. Surfing, drone racing, and 3D printing would be high on my list though.

How would you describe your leadership style? Has it changed throughout your career?

I believe in two contrasting ideas about software development.

First, it’s a team sport. The lone programmer in a dark room working by themselves and coming back with the exact solution a customer needs on the first shot is a myth. Software development requires collaboration, with other engineers, with product managers, with customer success, etc.

Second, software development also requires long uninterrupted periods of focus. You can’t give an engineer 30 minutes here and there and expect them to make progress on their work.

Leading a team with these two principles requires a constant, healthy tension.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

My wife, Christina, and I are (attempting) to raise two young children under 4. It’s both crazy making and a blast.

Enjoy this piece? Check out our previous spotlight, featuring Josh Hanewinkel, VP of Customer Success!