Conversations #101: Rosie Bu, Senior IT Director, Digital Technology Delivery at Walgreens

Conversations #101: Rosie Bu, Senior IT Director, Digital Technology Delivery at Walgreens

Written by Women Who Code


This article has been adapted from the recording of WWCode Conversations #101. 

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Vui Nguyen, Women Who Code Leadership Fellow for the WWCode Mobile Technical Track Community, sits with Rosie Bu, Sr. IT Director, Digital Technology Delivery at Walgreens. They discuss Rosie’s career journey, challenges, Walgreens work, and company culture.

Rosie Bu is a digital engineer with over 25 years of experience at Walgreens. She is currently the Senior Director of Digital Technology Delivery. Rosie brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the digital space. Her journey began as a developer and has played a pivotal role in Walgreens’ e-commerce and store mobile applications.  Currently, she oversees and supports photo technology and store mobility platforms.

Can you tell us how you started your career journey, specifically how you got started in tech?

Getting into tech for me was an unexpected detour. My initial major was finance. Despite initial language challenges, technology’s great potential attracted me, so I switched to computer science. I remember my first computer science course, which was called Hardware. My first assignment was to use a print statement to write the classical Hello World. I didn’t know where to start, leaving me with fears and tears. So, that emotional moment marked the kickoff of my tech journey.

What are some of the ways that Walgreens has helped you grow in your career?

My journey with Walgreens has been incredibly rewarding. Being part of the initial digital track since the beginning of our dot-com has provided me with numerous opportunities to learn and grow. One of the critical factors that has had a significant influence on my career is the presence of some strong technical leaders. They have been instrumental in inspiring and guiding me. They actively engage in high-level discussions and address engineering challenges.

Their hands-on approach taught me that coding is part of engineering excellence. It also includes continuous integration, continuous delivery, automation, architecture, design, infrastructure, and operations. Those leaders have shaped my understanding of becoming a well-rounded full-stack engineer. They have demonstrated what a high-performance engineering team should look like.

Walgreens’ open culture is another catalyst for innovation. The company encourages people to view problems as opportunities for learning and growth. The digital mindset has allowed us to explore new technologies and opened possibilities for creative solutions.

A continuous learning culture is essential in our digital world. The company provides training for all of our major platform upgrades. We also routinely have large sharing meetings. Community activities keep the team updated on best practices and help us stay competent and grow. Additionally, the company arranges soft skill training for managers.

What are the core values of Walgreens’ company culture?

Walgreens’ four core principles were set when it was founded over a century ago. They are committed to integrity, fairness, goodwill, and mutual benefit. Over the past 26 years, I have witnessed and actively participated in the various transformations Walgreens has gone through. The company’s core values have not changed. That’s why I could continue to learn, grow, and lead.

They also really value people. While I support the Q&Y mobile transformation, I spend a lot of time in stores working with many passionate and diligent field leaders. Watching how they work with the customers and how they handle their daily work helps me better understand the meaning of my work. I want to make their lives easier and make our mobile experience more user-friendly and robust so they can spend more time with customers. For me, Walgreens is more than just a job. I see the direct impact of my team’s contributions. I have found a deep sense of belonging at Walgreens.

Can you tell us about your day-to-day work and role as the Senior Director of Digital Technology Delivery?

My role is dynamic. I have regular meetings with teams as a part of my routine. We discuss architecture, review technical implementations, discuss production issues, and brainstorm solutions to challenges. This ensures everybody’s on the same page and aligned with overarching goals.

In addition to routine roadmap, budgeting, and related work, I also dedicate time to improving the delivery process. While speed is very important, it could introduce pitfalls like technical deaths. So, we need to identify process gaps, prioritize addressing technical hygiene, and establish measurements of engineering excellence.

Building a strong team is one of the most important goals for me. Our team-building activities include helping new employees speed up learning, helping teams learn new technologies, creating opportunities for teams to share ideas, providing feedback, and addressing concerns. Fostering a transparent, sharing, and helping culture is extremely important.

How do you measure engagement with your team?

With remote and hybrid working models, making the team feel connected is very important, especially for new remote employees. Getting to know people and finding resources is even harder for them.

One of the main activities we are doing this year is to create a team-building roadmap. We plan an activity each month and encourage new employees to lead those activities. This allows them to showcase their skills and get to know people better. It has been great so far. We collect feedback through quarterly surveys, which help us understand the progress of our efforts and make improvements.

You’ve been a successful leader for many years. Can you tell us what characteristics make you a successful leader? What strengths did you leverage when transitioning from an individual contributor to your leadership role?

When I look at accomplished leaders around me, they all share common characteristics. They are open-minded and inspirational, have team understanding, are transparent, continuously learn, are hard-working, are effective at problem-solving, are good at decision-making, care for people, and have a customer focus. Those are the qualities I actively strive to embody.

In the transition from individual contributor to leadership, one particular strength I have leveraged is my ability to bridge the gap between business and technology. This helps our technology decisions align with the broader business goals and solve real customer pain points. It also accelerates our project’s execution. We can work more efficiently toward common goals.

Can you tell us about a particular challenge you overcame in your career and what you learned from that experience?

I struggled with my communication skills for many years. My straightforward communication style creates a divide among our colleagues. Some appreciate my directness, while others feel uncomfortable, especially when I have to deliver negative messages. This sometimes creates tension and makes me unhappy.

I initially tried to change my communication style by holding back my thoughts to avoid conflict. However, that approach didn’t make me happy or feel authentic. The turning point came from one of my mentors, who is a strong leader. He told me that I didn’t have to change myself. Instead, he suggested being open and transparent about my communication style. He said that would help others understand my intentions better and foster a culture of honesty and trust. 

In what ways have mentoring and learning helped you in your career?

Mentorship and continuous learning have been playing a significant role in shaping my professional journey. One of the primary benefits of mentorship is getting a chance to learn the different working styles from experienced leaders. Working with them has allowed me to observe firsthand how they approach challenges, make decisions, and lead teams.

Mentors have provided me with personalized guidelines and helped me navigate complex problems. I treat a few of them as my role models. Their leadership styles, commitment to excellence, and practical problem-solving approaches have significantly influenced my leadership philosophy. Learning from them has been a source of inspiration and a guide in my career.

What are you passionate about outside of work?

Two of my favorite hobbies are scrapbooking and video editing. They have been wonderful ways to tell stories and capture memories. I have done a lot of them for company activities and my puppies. I also practice karaoke at home sometimes. It’s a fun activity with friends.

What pro tip do you have for women in tech?

As female engineers, we wear different hats in our life. Our hardworking, persistent, multitasking working style and unique family perspective make us a reliable source for the company. I want to share several key pro tips. Number one is never stop learning. Try attending online courses and community meetings to stay updated with the latest trends and technologies.

The second is to master the foundation of computer science and programming. So, no matter how technology evolves, the foundation of computer science is still the same. The third one is to find your passion. Find an area you enjoy working in and are good at. It will keep you engaged and motivated. As women in tech, we are valuable assets. Our journeys may go up or down, but as long as we keep learning and love what we do, we can achieve our goals in tech.