Tech Role Models: Brook Shelley, Senior Partner Engineer at Slack

Today's Role Model is Brook Shelley. Brook is a Senior Partner Engineer at Slack.

Today’s Tech Role Model is Brook Shelley. Brook lives in Emeryville, CA, with her cat, Snorri, and works for Slack. Her writing has appeared in Queer Quarrels, The Toast, Lean Out, Transfigure, and the Oregon Journal of the Humanities. She speaks at conferences on queer and trans issues, and is chair of the board of Basic Rights Oregon. She loves reading, traveling, and eating bacon. Currently, she works as a Senior Partner Engineer for Slack, a cloud-based set of proprietary team collaboration tools and services.

What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?

Senior Partner Engineer since October—Senior Developer Relations Engineer before that.

What attracted you to this senior partner engineer role?

I love helping other engineers and developers build cool stuff, answer hard questions, and make a platform better.

Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?

My day usually starts at around 8 am, when I make breakfast and catch the bus across the bay to work. I try to have my first meetings at 9:30 am so I have some time to settle, and spend the bus ride catching up on email or reading a book. Between meetings about projects, or talking to partners, and working on documentation or answering partner messages my mornings go by quickly. Lunch is around noon, and I often eat with coworkers or teammates but try to talk about non-work stuff. I usually have a few big projects in flight at once, so status meetings and coordination with our business and engineering groups is a big part of my week.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Project management and time management are huge in my role, and every role I’ve had. Overall priorities get set by leadership, but it’s my responsibility to determine how I accomplish them. Knowing how to collaborate, and also when to enter Do Not Disturb and write or work on a project is important. Technology-wise, I use Slack a lot for work, as well as Javascript, Markdown, Atom (my IDE), and

What’s the most fun or creative part of your senior partner engineer role?

When I’m solving a challenge for a partner, or testing a new API feature, I often get to make a silly bot. I recently made one that responds as my cat to various queries to test some our Conversation and Events API.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Getting to the heart of the question. Often when partners ask about Slack API features, or integrations, it’s vital to get to the layers of questions, and help steer them towards their goals. Knowing best practices, and having a quick-recall of various capabilities is a must.

What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?

My team works with our business development group, engineering, and many other teams. Since we help partners integrate with and build on Slack’s Platform, we talk to most of the company at some point.

What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your senior partner engineer role?

I started recently at Slack, so my next few months is still settling-in, and learning how best to fit in to an incredible, growing company. In the future, I’d love to move further into leadership, or mentor more engineers.

Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?

Partner Engineering rewards folks who can think on their feet, communicate clearly, organize themselves, and work with many groups at once. Someone who enjoys a shifting role, and shaping the future of partner applications and of a platform would be a great fit. I think DevRel and Partner Engineering are also great fits for tinkerers and puzzle-solvers. Personally I find it helpful to know memes, and have favorite emoji.

What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this senior partner engineer role?

My communication skills have gotten even better due to this work, and so has my bravery at speaking up when I know something. Folks depending on me for answers means I need to be confident, but also know when to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out,” and “I was wrong”. I’m much better at building bots now than when I started off, and I’ve gotten even better talking in front of a crowd as well.

In your senior partner engineer role, what metrics define success?

More than 155,000 weekly active developers build for Slack Platform, more than 8.8 million apps have been installed and 90 percent of paid teams use apps. Success for me is seeing those numbers grow, and ensuring the apps our partners build are helpful, fun, and amazing.

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