New Hires at Warner Bros. Discovery Drive Impact From the Start
When Daniel Xiong joined Warner Bros. Discovery’s first cohort of newly graduated software engineers in July 2021, he wasn’t expecting to make an immediate impact on the organization.
He was wrong. During his first few months at WBD, Xiong took on various influential projects, such as migrating all of the company’s legacy European users onto the Discovery+ platform.
This initial assignment is just one element of the wide-ranging transformation taking place at WBD. When Discovery Inc. merged with WarnerMedia last year, the newly formed media conglomerate began crafting plans to develop a streaming platform that combines content from across the organization’s portfolio of brands and networks.
Xiong gets to play a crucial role in this creation phase. Since his promotion to software development engineer II, he has helped design and implement new data pipelines required to launch the organization’s enhanced streaming product, among other high-impact assignments.
For Xiong, being a member of the WBD team offers more than exciting technical challenges; it has enabled him to build countless skills in a relatively short amount of time — thanks to his supportive peers.
“I wouldn’t have grown as quickly as an engineer without the mentorship and guidance from people on my team,” Xiong said. “They are some of the most intelligent people I know.”
Aside from professional development, Xiong has experienced growth of another kind. Given the organization’s hybrid working model, he has had the chance to forge friendships with his teammates in person.
In fact, as proud as Xiong is of the work he’s accomplished at WBD, he’s equally fulfilled by having — finally — beat his coworker Chris at foosball.
Below, Xiong shares more about his career journey, the projects he’s been working on, his admiration for his teammates and his excitement for the future of WBD.
I graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and joined Discovery before the merger was finalized.
Around 10 months after joining the company, I was promoted to software development engineer II. In my current role, I’ve worked on some fun and impactful projects. These include helping design the data platform’s pipeline architecture for the enhanced streaming platform and planning the work needed to implement our design.
How has WBD helped you make progress toward your career goals?
One of my career goals is to become a technical lead, and I believe that my team and the WBD streaming org as a whole has empowered me to one day achieve that aim. WBD empowers and rewards people who take ownership. Even as an entry-level software engineer, I worked on — and owned — high-impact projects.
Besides that project, I’ve taken part in many other efforts, such as the introduction and adoption of a new tech stack for the entire data platform. I also helped design and implement a plethora of new data pipelines required to launch our enhanced streaming product.
All of this goes to show that people at this company will place their trust in you, regardless of what your title or level is, as long as you demonstrate your ability to maintain ownership.
People at this company will place their trust in you, regardless of what your title or level is, as long as you demonstrate your ability to maintain ownership.”
What makes WBD a unique place to work from a professional development perspective?
The WBD streaming org is pretty unique in that it feels like a startup with the financial backing of a multibillion-dollar company. I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities as an entry-level engineer at the average big tech company. Additionally, as a member of the data platform team, I’m uniquely positioned to interact and work with many teams from across the company, such as the personalization and recommendations, marketing, analytics, adtech and payments processing teams.
ROOM FOR REFINING SKILLS
Xiong has refined both his technical and soft skills during his time at WBD. Not only has he become proficient with various technologies, such as Spark, Kafka and AWS Cloud Service, but he has also developed stronger communication skills. “The ability to manage risk is a core tenet of engineering, and communication plays a huge role in reducing risk,” Xiong said.
What professional development tools and resources — either informal or formal — have you utilized?
An informal tool that I’ve found most useful is keeping a “brag document,” which allows me to track the things I’ve done throughout my career so far. Considering how fast-paced our work can be, it can be easy for me to forget projects that I worked on several months ago.
Every few months, I try to take time to write down the impactful projects I’ve worked on, describing each one using the STAR method. This method, which is generally used for interviewing, can also be really useful for a brag document, as it gives you a concise way to describe your achievements while keeping enough detail and context for you to recollect the exact things you did in the past. I also use this time to reflect on any mistakes, and the steps I took — or will take — to improve.
How has your manager supported your growth?
I have frequent one-on-one meetings with my manager, during which time we ensure we’re aligned on priorities and team direction. We also use these meetings to discuss my performance and career goals. My managers have empowered me to work on projects that have helped me grow as an engineer and have always looked out for signs of burnout, encouraging me to take time to recharge.
My managers have empowered me to work on projects that have helped me grow as an engineer and have always looked out for signs of burnout, encouraging me to take time to recharge.”
How has WBD positively impacted you — both professionally and personally?
When I joined the team in 2021, the company was adopting a hybrid working model. I went to the office very frequently, which had the biggest impact on both my professional and personal journey. At the office, I was able to have face-to-face conversations with team members and really grow my professional and personal relationships. I’ve learned a lot just from sitting next to them and having us bounce ideas off of each other.
Two engineers on my team whom I work very closely with, Tam and Chris, have given me invaluable mentorship, both from a professional and personal perspective. Some of my favorite memories of working at WBD involve being with my coworkers in person, from finally beating Chris at foosball to working late with Tam in a “war room” to migrate millions of our European users to the Discovery+ platform.
What excites you the most about the future?
I’m an avid user of the current HBO Max, and I can’t wait to launch Max. It hasn’t even been a year since the merger, and the entire organization has been working extremely hard to deliver a world-class product that millions of people will use everyday. I’m excited to see the culmination of everyone’s hard work.