Pursuit of her family’s traditional trade propelled Hulu VP Julie Madhusoodanan into media’s future

Julie Madhusoodanan, Hulu’s Seattle-based vice president of Software Development for Quality, is eager to apply skills from her nearly two decades at Microsoft to the media company’s efforts to scale. (Hulu Photo)

Julie Madhusoodanan credits family tradition for giving her the nudge to leave a comfortable gig and almost two decades at Microsoft for a role at Seattle’s Hulu office.

For generations, her father’s side of the family has been involved in Indian media, including ownership of a newspaper and TV channel. When Madhusoodanan left the country and the sector years ago, it made her something of a black sheep in the family.

The job at Hulu as vice president of Software Development for Quality was a chance to “bring my passion and my family’s trade together into one role, and use my experience to help shape the future of media using technology,” she said. Hulu is one of more than 130 out-of-town tech companies to establish an outpost in the Seattle region.

Julie Madhusoodanan. (Hulu Photo)

After Madhusoodanan took the role in April she traveled to Washington, D.C., with her son. On a visit to the White House, she was interested to see people outside dressed in the distinctive garb worn by women on Hulu’s TV adaptation of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The book is about a dystopian, totalitarian society that turns women into reproductive slaves.

“It was empowering for them,” she said, to adopt the costumes and use them to voice their concerns and tell their own stories. It demonstrated for her the power of the media.

During her time at Microsoft, Madhusoodanan worked on Office, Windows, Windows Services and Azure, with her most recent role as principal software engineer architect in the cloud and AI division.

“Throughout my time in tech, I’ve seen an evolution in software development,” she said, “but have also encountered women leaving mid-career due to family obligations.”

Madhusoodanan said that she hadn’t initially planned on motherhood for herself, but again, her family exerted a pull: her father’s dying wish, she said, was that he have a grandchild.

In addition to the joys of raising her son, Madhusoodanan said the experience has taught her greater empathy, patience and humility.

“It has made me a better leader,” she said. “Those skills transfer into the workplace.”

But the change in roles has been tricky, too. Like many — perhaps even most working moms — Madhusoodanan initially felt guilty about time spent on the job and away from her child. She considered the situation and came to understand that career and motherhood could enhance each other.

“What I came to realize really quickly is I can only give my best to my son if I’m my best self,” Madhusoodanan said. Her family is a priority, but “I need to make sure that I’m healthy and I’m pursuing my dreams.”

In addition to her role at Hulu, she’s also outreach committee lead for the Pacific Northwest branch of the nonprofit Embracing the World.

We caught up with Madhusoodanan for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.

Current location: Seattle

Computer types: My ASUS laptop running Windows 10 or an iPad

Mobile devices: Samsung Galaxy S10

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Hulu, Amazon Shopping, Visual Studio

Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? I love the fact that my office has an open space model as it helps with ad-hoc conversations. Entertainment channels are running all the time, which makes the space lively. Being in the center of downtown Seattle makes it easy to find a variety of cuisines for lunch and the office comes with a great view of the city. Hulu’s Seattle office also has massage chairs, yoga/meditation rooms, drinks and snacks as added bonuses.

Julie Madhusoodanan presents for her Hulu colleagues, or “Nulugans.” (Hulu Photo)

Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Weave everything in. Prioritize what needs to happen on a day-to-day basis and try not to get to hung up on a specific plan of what things need to get done. Flexibility is key, especially when you have family commitments or travel for work.

Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? I like LinkedIn quite a bit because it stays professional for the most part. I use it for networking, recruiting and keeping up-to-date with happenings in the world of tech.

Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? I do a good job with setting up inbox rules, but if I look at my “other” inbox there are probably over a thousand unreads.

Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? On a daily basis, I at least have eight meetings. It ranges between 40-to-50 a week.

How do you run meetings? I try to keep it short and focused with a clear agenda and have meetings only when required.

Everyday work uniform? My go-to is a t-shirt and jeans. And, of course, a jacket because it’s Seattle.

Julie Madhusoodanan and her son having a good time on vacation. (Photo courtesy of Julie Madhusoodanan)

How do you make time for family? This goes back to my mantra of weaving it in. I’m a huge proponent of giving yourself permission to put yourself first without feeling guilty, and so for me, putting myself first means being with my son. So my weekends are dedicated to spending that time with him and engaging in creative activities together. And if there’s an event at his school, I will put that into my calendar and be there, no exceptions.

Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? Working out. Something intense such as running, elliptical, etc.

What are you listening to? I love all kinds of music, but my favorites are rock and country music.

Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? TechCrunch, Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, The Cloudflare Blog

Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

Night owl or early riser? Early riser because I love to meditate and work out in the morning before I get my son ready for school. It sets a strong foundation to build on to get the most out of the day ahead. I try to go to sleep by 10 p.m., and I’m up at 4 a.m.

Where do you get your best ideas? While cooking or strolling on the beach.

Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? Indira Gandhi, the first female prime minister of India. She faced some of the biggest challenges that any leader of a nation could face with calm and decisive leadership. And she did all of it while raising her two sons, one of whom later became prime minister of India, and in a country and era steeped with patriarchy where few women participated in politics. I aspire to emulate the strength of her character, and the dedication to her role as a leader and mother.

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