Plato Elevate Winter Summit has been announced (Dec 7th-8th)


Back to resources

Leading With Curiosity


30 December, 2020

Wadah Sayyed
Wadah Sayyed

Director of engineering at HPE

Wadah Sayyed, Director of Engineering at HPE, talks of his distinct leadership approach and shares how curiosity was his secret ingredient for excelling both as a tech leader and people manager.


Most leaders tend to develop their own unique approach over time for dealing with technical matters and the people they lead. Their approach usually reflects the values and practices that were driving them toward excellence. For me, curiosity was a principle that served me well for personal growth as well as building resilient teams capable of delivering for the business.

Actions taken

As an engineer, curiosity comes as a natural state of mind. One of its most evident manifestations is in my approach to testing. Whenever I start a new project, though I don’t have the bandwidth to go into all the details, I make sure to go deep into test strategy and approach. Defining the right attributes for the strategy (e.g., workloads, scale, resiliency, network topology, etc.) is a great way to validate architectural decisions and requirements. I ask many questions around that just to encourage people working on the project to think more about the actual scenarios our product will face. I usually do my own research to gain a deeper understanding of the test scenarios and their attributes to start to channel the voice of the customer in different conversations beyond just test strategy. For example, supportability and observability requirements can be finetuned through this deeper understanding of user scenarios.

Being curious and asking questions brings people together and includes them in the intensive thought exchange that also creates an alignment between different teams. For example, different teams would test differently for scale depending on the different components they are trying to deliver. I would try to bring people from different development teams to participate in the system test planning activities, and vice versa; I would include system test engineers to review test plans for development teams and provide feedback. I like to give people a lot of attention.

Lessons learned

  • Curiosity empowers people to proliferate ideas and creates an atmosphere where ideas can flow more freely. Innovation wouldn’t be possible if we, as humans, wouldn’t have that inherent curiosity to learn and be excited about new things.
  • Curiosity is strongly connected with having teams that practice self-initiative and autonomy, and I tried to build a culture around that. When I start working with a new team that is used to working with a manager who would be approving every decision, they are perplexed why I am asking and not giving orders. Moreover, I believe delegating technical decision-making to the team that’ll be implementing it creates a culture of ownership and accountability that inspires growth.
  • It takes time for people to get used to my leadership approach. I lead and execute by discovering and enabling other leaders. Curiosity is my way of instigating inspiration and excite and engage my team.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader

Related stories

Improving Team Execution in a Remote Environment

29 November

Vadim Antonov, Engineering Manager at Meta, details his process of implementing an organized execution system for his cross-functional team.

Vadim Antonov

Vadim Antonov

Engineering Manager at Facebook

Firing Somebody for the First Time

23 November

William Bajzek, Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital, remembers the first time that he needed to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the well-being of his team.

Team Reaction
William Bajzek

William Bajzek

Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital

What it takes to become a great product manager

19 November

James Engelbert, Head of Product at BT, shares his deep understanding of the traits of a successful product manager and how to get aligned with the organization’s path to success.

Product Team
Personal Growth
James Engelbert

James Engelbert

Head of Product at BT

Building a Long-Lasting Career Infrastructure Using Ikigai Principles

16 November

Albert Lie, former Founding Engineer and Tech Lead at Xendit, shares his annual performance review process implementing principles from the Ikigai framework into regular check-ins.

Scaling Team
Personal Growth
Albert Lie

Albert Lie

Former Tech Lead at Xendit

How to Work With People Who Are Different Than You

11 November

Rajesh Agarwal, VP & Head of Engineering at Syncro, shares how effectively he collaborated with a newly-joined team as a diverse candidate.

Acquisition / Integration
Cultural Differences
Rajesh Agarwal

Rajesh Agarwal

VP and Head of Engineering at Syncro

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato ( is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.