Role Models: Heather Stenson, Technical Writer at Mapbox

Heather Stetson is a technical writer for Mapbox

Today’s Role Model is Heather Stenson. Up until three ago, Heather was a librarian at an art school. Feeling burnt out and looking for her next step, she began to reflect. She enjoyed the more technical aspects of her librarian job and knew basic HTML and CSS, so she enrolled in a coding bootcamp. Upon graduation, she expected to look for a job as a developer, but a friend pointed her towards a technical writing role at Facebook. After researching the position, she realized that it was the perfect marriage of her library background and her newfound tech knowledge. Heather is currently a technical writer at Mapbox, a location data platform.

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

I’m a technical writer at Mapbox, a location data platform, and I’ve been here for about 8 months. Before that I worked as a hybrid tech writer/content strategist at a startup called CodeFights (now CodeSignal), and before that I was a tech writer at Facebook.

What attracted you to this role?

Mapbox is still a pretty small company, but its tool and product offerings are really wide ranging. I don’t like to work on just one thing, so the fact that I’d get to work on documentation for a lot of different products was really appealing. And the documentation team is really small – there are only two of us – so I knew that I’d have the opportunity to have a big impact on the organization. Even though the docs team is very small, there’s a really strong culture of documentation here. Everyone pitches in to make sure that our documentation is useful and thorough. It also helped that everyone I came into contact with at the company was super friendly.

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?

Mapbox has a lot of different offices spread out across the world – San Francisco, Washington DC, Minsk, Helsinki, Shanghai, Beijing, plus a lot of remote workers. Since we’re so distributed, we communicate a lot using Slack. We also use GitHub issues to coordinate a lot of work! So when I start my day, I check in on my Slack and GitHub notifications. I have keyword notifications set up so that I can always know when my coworkers are talking docs! I make a pretty detailed to-do list for each day so that I know what to focus on. Then I grab an almond milk latte and get to it.

I’m usually juggling several different projects, and if they have regular meetings/scrums I’ll join in on those so that I can keep track of what’s moving. If I’m just starting a big project, I try to have a meeting with the stakeholders (usually a combo of project managers and engineers) early on so that I can get a good sense of the project’s parameters.

I try to leave the office at least once a day to remind myself that there’s a whole world outside the office. At Mapbox, there’s a rich tradition of the“cookie walk” – folks taking some time in the afternoon to go grab a sweet treat – but sometimes it’ll be coffee instead.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

At every technical writing job I’ve had, the one constant skill that I’ve needed was being able to write markdown, a formatting syntax that can be converted to HTML. It’s the formatting syntax used in wikis, and it’s also pretty standard in a lot of documentation frameworks. Beyond that, it’s also been helpful that I know HTML/CSS. This allows me to have more control over how the documents I write are formatted.

At Mapbox, we use GitHub for everything, so it’s been critical for me to know how to use git and GitHub, and to feel comfortable doing things in the command line. Knowing how to “read” code is also useful – I can look at a snippet of code and get a sense for what it does, even if I don’t know the language it’s written in.

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

Every new product that I write about means another new toy that I get to learn how to use! Before I can write an effective guide or tutorial, I need to use the tool or product so that I can unearth potential user pain points and guide them to a good outcome.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

One of my biggest challenges is juggling lots of different projects at once. Docs never stop, so I usually have at least five projects that I can work on at any given time! It’s really important for me to be able to weigh something’s potential impact against the time required to complete the work, and prioritize accordingly.

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

The documentation team at Mapbox works with nearly all of the product teams! When a new product is released, or a tool is updated, this means that we’ve got work to do. We typically collaborate with a combination of product managers and engineers when we’re working on documentation – they provide background, technical details, code examples, and just generally help guide the work we do. We also work really closely with the support team. Since they are constantly interacting with Mapbox users, they are able to identify ways in which we can improve our documentation.

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

Right now, we are in the process of moving to a new documentation framework that uses React. While I don’t need to know React in order to use the system, I’ll need to know it in order to build my own components! If I think of a cool new UI component that I’d like to be able to use across various documents, I really want to be able to build it myself.

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

Good technical writers are naturally curious people! They want to take things apart and see how they work, then share what they’ve learned with others. Being detail-oriented and organized are helpful as well.

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

I have a tendency to try to power through problems to find the questions myself. In some ways this is a good thing. But when the subject matter expert for the problem I’m working on is a mere Slack message away, a lot of times it doesn’t make sense for me to spend hours struggling with a question! So I’m getting better at timeboxing problems – if I don’t reach the answer myself in a reasonable amount of time, I reach out to someone who knows the answer.

In your role, what metrics define success?

As a team, we’re still working on defining what “success” for a piece of documentation is, and how we measure that. We’re exploring a lot of different ways to capture user feedback and user actions, and then turn that data into a way of measuring success. Anecdotally, though, we get a lot of feedback from different channels that people love our documentation and find it to be really helpful, so that’s a good way of knowing that we’re on the right track!

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Role Models: Yisselda Rhoc, Software Engineer at Def Method

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Today’s Role Model is Yisselda Rhoc. Yisselda earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science and specialized in artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction. On top of this strong foundation, she translates those theoretical fundamentals into tangible products. Today, Yisselda is a software engineer for Def Method, a New York City-based software consultancy. In her spare time, she also plans events as a committee member for NYC PyLadies.

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

I’ve been a Software Engineer for four years. I’m currently working for Def Method, a small software development consultancy focused on using Agile methodologies.

What attracted you to this role?

I enjoy creating and solving real-life problems with code.

As a consultant, I get to work on a diversity of projects. It’s interesting to experience the many ways people run businesses and how tech fits within them. This past year, I’ve worked with a Fin-tech startup, a Fashion-tech startup, and an insurance company.

My job also gives me the opportunity to try out different stacks/technologies, which I love because it keeps me up to date and satisfies my curiosity.

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?

I adapt to my client’s schedule. Here is what my day has looked like for the last 10 months:

9:00 am~9: 30 am – Grab cereals and tea for breakfast from the office kitchen before sitting at my desk. Start looking up what I was working on the day before.

9:50 am – Get up for the stand-up meeting. The whole team gathers, even the remote engineers. In this meeting, we tell each other what we’re working on, if we’ve encountered a blocker and if we are available for pair programming.

10:00 am – 5:30pm~6pm  – Code, code, code for the whole day.

I’m lucky that I don’t have many meetings. The ones I attend to are:

  • The weekly planning meeting to define our goals and the tasks on which to focus.
  • The bi-weekly retrospective to summarize what went well and what we can improve for the next sprint.
  • The bi-weekly engineers meeting where we get to meet new hires and geek out.
  • The weekly meeting with my consultancy during which we give a lightning talk, a project update and share announcements about the company or tech events we are attending.

Most importantly, I’ll get lunch at around 1 pm.  We have a communal table where I can eat with others, but I like to go alone from time to time to disconnect, listen to podcasts and eat mindfully.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

The multiple programming languages that I’ve worked with in the past make me very adaptable to any technical project.

The ability to focus and listen has helped me work with many teams and clients.

Although I use my laptop to code, I always have some form of paper so I can write thoughts, ideas, and lists.

I also plan my week to ensure I respect my work-life balance. I have used a bullet journal and Trello in the past, but right now I’m just using Google calendar to set time aside.

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

I think that I get most creative when coding because I get to imagine and craft a solution. Everyone has its style, techniques, and tricks.

The most fun I have is when I’m talking and laughing with my colleagues. This role made me realize how important it is to have a good relationship with your teammates.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Learning a technology on the job to quickly produce quality code can be destabilizing and stressful.

As a French woman, just understanding some English accents is a challenge at times.

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

I work daily with my product manager. He knows exactly how the app is supposed to function.

From time to time, I work with the DevOps team, to set up the application’s environment.

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

I think empathy, curiosity, and joie de vivre are essential personality traits to collaborate with teams.

Technology is always changing, which means you have to be eager to learn new concepts.

Being down to earth and able to take a step back to see the full picture is crucial, too, so that you don’t get overwhelmed by work.

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

I’ve improved overall as a backend engineer. For example, I’m more mindful of memory usage when processing big data. I learned about the impact of incorrect database indexes, and I got better at pair programming.

I’ve improved my professional network by taking the habit of organizing coffee meetings.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Our customer’s satisfaction and feedback define success because it means we’ve successfully added value to their business.

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Role Models: Jen McNamee, Senior Manager of Partnerships and Channel Development at Braze

Jen McNamee, Senior Manager of Partnerships

Today’s Role Model is Jen McNamee. Jen began her career analyzing ad revenue, but later realized she had a strong skill set for building relationships. Over time, she moved from tracking campaign data to managing accounts and eventually brokering large corporate partnerships. Jen is currently the Senior Manager of Partnerships and Channel Development at Braze, a mobile messaging customer engagement platform.

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

My title is Sr. Manager, Partnerships & Channel. I’ve been in this specific role since January, but I’ve been with my company for 2.5 years. Prior to this role I was Manager, Partnerships & Channel.

What attracted you to this role?

This role provides the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of internal & external groups creatively figuring out ways to collaborate for mutual fulfillment.

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 typical day begins early. I start reviewing anything that’s occurred overnight on our various Slack channels & email prior to getting into the office. Once I’m in, I try to respond to any time sensitive emails prior to kicking off meetings with a mixture of internal & external groups.

I don’t have a daily routine for meetings, so everyday provides an opportunity for something fresh. Externally, I meet with potential tech partners to investigate if the partnership would be fruitful or with current partners to plan out additional ways we can collaborate across product enhancements and sales growth or to drive market/brand awareness.

Internally, I meet across a number of departments in our organization (Marketing, Sales, Product, Customer Success, etc.) to build out plans for how to work with our partners and figure out areas for improvement.

Meetings fill up most of my day, but in between, I answer emails/Slacks and also set time aside for long-term partnership planning. Additionally, we have lunch delivered daily, which is an amazing perk, as it saves so much time and interjects a breather in the middle of the day.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Evernote, Slack and Google Docs help me with organization, collaboration and time efficiency.

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

I really enjoy working with our partners to figure out ways we can create market/brand awareness on the back of each other for mutual company success.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

The biggest challenge, yet also one of my favorite things, is working across such a multitude of groups. It can be difficult to connect the dots between different departments and collectively organize to drive one common goal.

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

Within my role I work with our internal Marketing, Sales, Product, Customer Success, Legal, and Engineering teams. Externally, I’ve worked with those same groups at our partner companies, as I have to help connect teams across both organizations.

One such example of this collaboration is when we roll out new Partners. I get to work hand in hand with our internal Product team to select the Partner. Once that’s established, I connect with our forthcoming Partner and their respective Product team to build out the integration. Then I meet with our Customer Success team to address prospective beta users to test the integration. In addition, I also work with our Sales / Marketing team to share our Partner positioning and value proposition for usage across prospective clients, current clients and forthcoming marketing initiatives.

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

One specific area I’m looking to grow is being more outspoken. I need to improve on sharing my opinion in a confident, firm manner.

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

A person within this role needs to be a team player, flexible, collaborative, creative, empathetic, easy mannered and engaging.

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

I have learned an incredible amount about partners in the tech space, as well as product/technical intricacies within our Product offering. Both of these are evergreen areas of knowledge that will only grow with time. I also had to become more situationally aware of the best way and times to address certain partners & departments to work in the most efficient manner. In addition, I had to improve my understanding of the ‘controllables’ of a situation and work to my strengths to make those a success.

In your role, what metrics define success?

The three main areas are successfully building out new partnerships, collaborating internally/ externally in impactful ways for success, and hitting a sales pipeline revenue goal on the back of Partner introductions / referrals to new clients.

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Role Models: Lindsay Hinman, Senior Project Manager at Sabre

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Today’s Role Model is Lindsay Hinman. Earlier in her career, Lindsay coordinated events and managed internal projects at different firms. Once she got a taste of managing a digital project from end-to-end, she was hooked on building products. Today, Lindsay blends her technical acumen with her strong communication skills as a Senior Project Manager at Sabre, a travel technology company.

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

I’m a Senior Project Manager on the Digital Experience team. I started at Sabre in early 2017 as a Project Manager and transitioned into the Senior role about four months ago.


What attracted you to this role?

Ever since I led my first website redesign project in 2014, I was hungry for a role that allowed me to lead digital initiatives year-round. This opportunity promised (and delivered) a fast-paced environment with plenty of potential to learn and grow.


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?

Meetings are pretty frequent. You can typically find me in stand-up meetings, weekly client check-ins, or internal planning sessions.

I also spend a good amount of time helping scope out new projects, evaluating client requests for enhancements, and performing iterative quality assurance testing. Outside of project-specific responsibilities, I focus on internal process improvement. Our team is very receptive to new ideas and ways we can work more efficiently.

Lunch is flexible; while it can sometimes be hard to step away, I usually take a break from screen time and go for a stroll.


What skills/technologies help you succeed?

I rely most on my communication skills in this role. It’s important to adjust communication styles based on the variety of audiences I speak with on the regular. For example, if the development team brings me a technical recommendation, I need to distill it into a more digestible summary for clients, while making sure nothing gets lost in translation.

Tech-wise, the tools can vary based on the type of project, but being well-versed in Jira can be a huge time-saver. Creating custom queries and dashboards can give a quick snapshot of project progress without having to scroll through an endless Kanban board.


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

I get really energized by requirements-gathering sessions and design review meetings. I’m enthusiastic about mapping out detailed pieces of functionality and achieving consensus among technical experts and clients alike. It’s exciting to build a razor-sharp vision of the finished product.

Also — QA! Finding and reporting bugs is a dream for a self-proclaimed pedant like myself.


What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Managing expectations among a variety of stakeholders is a common area for pitfalls; it can be challenging to ensure alignment on every detail of every project, but it’s critical in ensuring the client receives the products they expect. Documentation is clutch.

I think PMs can also struggle with time management, especially when overseeing a lot of initiatives simultaneously. It can be difficult to find blocks of time for focused tasks like QA among the sea of meetings and other tasks. I have a pretty robust priorities document for this reason.


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

Collaborating with designers, front-end developers, back-end developers, and QA engineers is a huge part of my job. I work closely with our design team to bring the project vision to life while staying true to the client’s brand. I rely on our technical experts to assess the level of effort of client requests, confirm the best approach for those requests, and evaluate designs to ensure a seamless UX.

I also collaborate with account managers to gain a broader understanding of client priorities. This helps inform my client communications.


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

I find it rewarding to collaborate with my fellow PMs and help them brainstorm solutions to creative problems, so I’m aiming to level-up my supervisory skills.

Also, there’s always more to learn in terms of code; I use our biweekly demos to soak up some technical knowledge from our scrum teams.


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

The ability to keep calm under pressure. A common mantra among my team is “don’t pass the panic.” If something goes wrong on a client’s site and they are (understandably) anxious to have it resolved, there’s a way to communicate that sense of urgency without compounding everyone’s stress.

Additionally, curiosity is an important trait. Don’t hold back on asking questions. It’s good to get into the minutiae of business requirements and technical requirements to ensure the project runs smoothly.


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

My technical knowledge has grown exponentially since starting at Sabre; I’ve expanded my expertise particularly in content management systems (including a custom CMS) and in QA metrics like WCAG. I’ve also further honed my skills in project management tools; I consult a variety of platforms to craft and maintain my iterative plans across the roadmap.  

In terms of soft skills, I’ve gained substantial experience in client services overall, including handling difficult conversations with tact. I’m also much more comfortable with managing conflicting viewpoints and finding common ground among stakeholders with seemingly disparate priorities.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Put simply: Meeting deadlines. This requires a thorough understanding of the project’s scope and dependencies in order to map out an efficient and realistic project plan. Consulting with technical leads early and often is key. While I don’t need to know how to write code, I do need to “speak the language” enough to ask the right questions.

A more subjective measure is client satisfaction. It’s critical to know the client’s brand inside and out, especially when it comes to making pivotal decisions during the course of the project.

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Role Models: Aurelia Moser, Program Manager at Mozilla Foundation

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Today’s Role Model is Aurelia Moser. As a library science and art history student, Aurelia fell in love with open source projects that made information more accessible. She built her technical skills and helped developed interactive maps, metadata schemas, and training tools for users. For the past two years, Aurelia has served as the Program Manager for the Mozilla Foundation’s Open Science team. In her spare time, Aurelia leads the NYC chapter of Girl Develop It and teaches at NYU and SVA.

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

I’ve been a Program Manager at the Mozilla Foundation for about a year and a half; we fluctuate often between titles like Community/Developer Relations Manager, Project and Program Manager. I think the skill sets required for competence in all of these roles blend a bit. At least in the non-profit and open source fields, you often wear many hats and transition between projects and positions as your workload evolves.

What attracted you to this role?

I’ve always loved learning and started my “career” as a techie librarian and educator, so anything involving open source and intellectual social work interested me. The opportunity to engage with creative and clever folks who build technology because they love it and want to grow community on the web will always be attractive, and persistently engaging.

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?

I work remotely in New York, so my typical day starts early and involves yoga and coffee. Many of my collaborators are on different timezones (from CET to PST) so there’s always something to work on, prep, or respond to no matter when I start. My meetings usually begin around 10:30 and so I try to book some time for autonomous productivity early in the day before my Pacific Coast colleagues logon. If I have particularly pressing deadlines I’ll block my calendar and “in-flow” status-change my Slack to avoid disruptions and notifications. I sometimes skip lunch and sometimes eat while working, usually chasing it with a coffee. I think my eating hours shift around my meeting times, and since many meetings block mid-day for me, I have light meals before and after to compensate.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

I’ve done a fair amount of focused work on defining what makes me productive and what subscriptions and services are valuable for me to be maximally productive.

Between working at Mozilla, teaching at SVA and ITP, volunteering at Girl Develop It, and trying to keep up with a yoga practice, I find that there’s a lot of absolute decisions and accommodations I’ve needed to adopt to ensure that none of my required obligations is slighted and my peers in whatever venue feel valued and heard. Technologies and platforms are mutable and deprecated quickly so I would say, for posterity, the most valuable technologies and skills for success are the following:

  • Try (where possible) to be direct and say “no”; be honest with yourself and the people you collaborate with. Good things come to those who set clear boundaries.
  • Find a podcast or music source that can punctuate your day with bursts of brilliance and creativity.
  • Quit social media; it’s hard, but I quit Facebook a few years ago and it really maximized my productivity.

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

People are curious creatures, and the more you work with and listen to them, the more creative your work becomes. I’m inspired by my friends and collaborators daily, and I think making sure that you crowdsource your ideas, plans, approaches, and program designs with other people will ensure you always keep things popping and fun.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

People are also challenging creatures. Program/Project management roles sound like they’re about managing things, but they’re really more about managing people’s skills, constraints, questions, concerns, insecurities, and lives outside of work.  

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

At Mozilla, we’re fiercely collaborative, sometimes to a productivity fault, but we really value consensus and consistent input from peers across the community and organization. Everything from a document, to a GitHub issue, to a meeting agenda, to a group email is often the collaborative work of several folks conducted in the embarrassingly transparent venues of open source. It can be intimidating but definitely helps you vet, iterate, argue openly, and ultimately, grow.

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

I’ve been trying to grow toward more strategic and management roles, but I believe this is often the beaten trajectory of folks in industry. Personally, I value learning and am a voraciously productive person, so I think I’ll always be closer to implementation than broader strategic roles allow. To each her own.

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

Empathy is key. It’s a soft but necessary skill to collaborate passionately and openly in the tech industry, and its absence is the root of a lot of strife.

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

I’m a better (and briefer) communicator, and quicker to adapt and learn new technologies through experience and practice.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Thoughtful communications, generous/realistic timeline estimations, defense of collaborators’ interests, a thorough understanding of stakeholders’ positions and willingness to define a path forward with them and not for them.

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Role Models: Marnie Hogue, Data Analyst at Plated

Marnie Hogue, Data Analyst

Today’s Role Model is Marnie Hogue. In college, Marnie majored in math and began her career analyzing data for both academic and non-profit institutions. She worked her way up to a Director of Research position but wanted to make a change. By building her programming skills, she navigated the transition and landed a data role in the tech world. Marnie is currently a data analyst for Plated, an ingredient and recipe meal kit service.

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

I’m a Data Analyst at Plated and I’ve been in this role for 1.5 years.

What attracted you to this role?

I appreciate the ability to work with people/across teams to solve interesting business problems and help them make decisions smarter, faster and with more confidence. Also I like the challenge of refining data into a usable format that is interpretable- sometimes it can be a design challenge and the result can be beautiful!

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?

A huge part of my job is working with the culinary team and so I join a lot of their planning meetings and help them interpret customer feedback. I have weekly 1-1s with different product managers and work with them to define and measure KPIs that are important from a business lens. Lunch is usually around 1:30, and often it involves recipes from the test kitchen!

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

I rely heavily on my ability to communicate complex ideas in a simplified way, to lean on a team for support when facing ambiguous problems, and to make a recommendation based on data. In terms of technologies, I use Tableau for data visualizations, SQL for pulling data, and Python for manipulating data.

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

I love testing different hypotheses about our customers culinary preferences! The results and findings are not always obvious, so this work is interesting.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

I find it difficult to push back on work that is not important to our business and only working on those projects that really matter. A lot of time, well-intentioned colleagues ask for data they don’t need or will not use to make a decision. There are only so many hours in the day, so our team needs to leverage our resources accordingly.

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

I work most closely with Plated’s culinary team and our product teams, I work every day with these teams to help them figure out what makes a good recipe/ menu.

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

I’m building confidence in my recommendations- my ability to form an opinion on what my produce manager should do and then let them react to it.

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

Data analysts on our team need to feel comfortable problem solving in a collaborative setting, managing independent projects that are longer-term, and remaining curious about why things are the way they are. Generating key questions and hypotheses helps support the other teams.

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

I’ve learned to manage up and set appropriate expectations. I also greatly improve my technical skills, especially my knowledge of Python.

In your role, what metrics define success?

For my role, it’s necessary to have a strong understanding of SQL/Python, the skills to write code, and the ability automate processes. I also need to make data “products” that influence the business, hopefully from a measurable financial standpoint!

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Role Models: Oran Bambrick, SVP of Digital Technologies at Enterprise Ireland

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Today’s Role Model is Oran Bambrick. In college, Oran studied social policy and film production. He spent a few years working on short films before moving into sales and marketing for an advertising agency. As he worked his way through the ranks, he fell in love with operations: the processes that help grow and scale a business. Today, Oran helps Irish companies move into new markets as SVP of Digital Technologies at Enterprise Ireland.

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

My official title is SVP of Digital Technologies at Enterprise Ireland (the VC arm of the Irish Government) and I have been in this role a little over a year.

What attracted you to this role?

Five years ago, I was working for an Irish start up and moved to NYC to open an office. I experienced all the ups and downs that comes with starting afresh in a new city and market. Now I act as a consultant for Irish companies/entrepreneurs we have invested in who are going through a similar process that I experienced. I think there is something weirdly cathartic about helping someone navigate a situation that you’ve been through and helping them avoid some of the mistakes you may have made!

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?

The only constant is coffee! Everyday is different but we need to have a diverse network and seek out varying opportunities to be helpful to our companies. We need to put ourselves around the city, network and get used to being functionally over-caffeinated from many, many meetings in cafes. Everyday I’ll meet with 3-4 different US companies, be it in the media, consumer brands, or tech space, and hear what their pain points are. Because we have invested in so many companies (we’re the 3rd largest VC in the world by deal flow), we can act as a good conduit of tech for them, so they come to us looking for solutions.

Then the other side is meeting or calls with our Irish start ups who are based or visiting here. We help review their market entry strategy, their product, their collateral or see how we can help them grow. Finally, we host a lot of panels and events that help us give back value to the NYC tech community; that usually happens in the evening.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Empathy is a trait that I’d like to think, or at least hope I posses a bit of (thanks to having insanely lovely parents). I know it sounds a bit odd, but I think empathy is an undervalued and effective skillset in any business. If you consider what brings value to each person you meet and how you can help them, that is amazing. Work hard, make yourself relative and bring value to every meeting and you’ll find obstacles start to move.

In terms of tech, I am pretty low touch in my role. I definitely use LinkedIn everyday, their Sales Navigator tool is great, and Salesforce IQ helps with my contacts. We use chat channels like Teams (unfortunately not Slack, as we are an all Microsoft org) but in my role, its mostly meeting in person. Of course, I need to stay on top of tech trends and news, so I listen to plenty of podcasts and read a lot. Yet for someone with digital technology in their title, I am surprisingly low tech in the office.

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

Most fun part is definitely meeting new people and great Irish talent – I know this sounds incredibly cheesy but it is true! It makes me very patriotic and proud seeing some of the amazing people and companies coming from our country, we punch way above our weight.

Creativity wise, it is an open role where you get to put your own stamp on it. I like to put my personality and get creative with the panels and events I host. We held a ‘Data & Donuts’ event last month with panels and thought leaders in the data and security space, and followed it up with a ‘Comms & Cocktails’, so you can definitely see my propensity to eat and drink in those events!

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Time management. And some of my colleagues would probably say the same, you want to do a million things to help these companies but time is always against you. You always need to evaluate how effectively you are spending your time.

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

Our organisation invests in such diverse sectors, so I lead the Tech portfolio, another colleague leads the Construction portfolio, another Retail, etc. At first glance, you would not think there is much crossover. But we communicate well in the office, and there are opportunities for collaboration and learning from how different sectors operate and how colleagues approach this role. We are also all shoulders to the wheel when anyone needs a dig out. At a tech event, you will see our Construction lead helping out making sure everyone has name badges, or our Finance lead setting up chairs. There is a great amount of togetherness and collaboration, as we are only 11 in our NYC office.

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

Because I look after a sector which is broadly and poorly segmented as “digital technologies,” I am an inch deep and a mile wide – it is impossible to be an expert across such a wide berth. I look after companies from cyber security to consumer apps, to computer vision and analytics tools. So I need to grow my technical knowledge across a broad range of cohorts, which is hard for someone with not a huge technical background.

In your role, what metrics define success?

The final metric that we stand over end of the year as an organisation is creating more jobs in Ireland. That’s our ultimate success and it’s a pretty great metric to get behind. But there are a few lever metrics that create that impact. We have targets for brokering deals, for assisting companies gain their first commercial deal in a new market, for making introductions. Assisting follow on funding from bigger VCs is important, too, so the companies have adequate resources to scale.

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

My technical knowledge across sectors has grown. My background is tech, but initially on the business dev side. When I had to cover so many different verticals within tech, I was self-conscious and nervous that I would be exposed as not technical enough! But that comes with digging into your sectors, lots of reading and a fill of nerdy podcasts.

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

Of course you have to be personable, but also you have to really care – again I know that sounds cheesy and cliché. But technically we are public sector, and we could be tools down at 5pm everyday if we wanted. But my colleagues are amazing workers and really care. Every night there is someone in the office til very late and every weekend there will be people in the office asking the same questions: “What are you doing here?” You have to care about the companies you are helping, and my colleagues and I most definitely do.

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Role Models: Alyssa Edelman, Customer Success Team Manager at Greenhouse

Alyssa Edelman

Today’s Role Model is Alyssa Edelman. Throughout her career, Alyssa’s thrived in roles that let her help others and build relationships. Alyssa draws on her psychology background and her years of experience in customer service. Today, she’s a Customer Success Team Manager at Greenhouse, a SAAS that helps companies manage recruiting.

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

I’m a Customer Success Team Manager, and I oversee two great teams within our larger Customer Success department. I’ve been at Greenhouse for three years, and I’ve been in a leadership position for a little over a year and a half.

What attracted you to this role?

As Greenhouse continued to sign more customers, having different workflows for companies of different sizes became important to help us scale our operations. Focusing on small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) meant that I’d help build a team to execute on our first one-to-many account management strategy. I was eager to take on this challenge, as I knew SMB was only going to get bigger over time, and I’d get to lay the foundation for that growth.

Since then, Greenhouse has added more products to our offering, and I’ve been fortunate enough to become responsible for our Greenhouse Onboarding (GHO) customer success team, too. I was excited to apply everything I’d learned by helping build our SMB team to help make our GHO processes more mature.

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?

Every day looks a little different, but it’s generally a mix of coaching, working on projects, connecting with customers, and iterating on processes. I find myself away from my desk more often than I’m at it, but I do my best to make myself as available as possible to those around me.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

I know this is a gimme, but Greenhouse! Building a high-performing team starts with a great recruiting process, and I feel lucky that we’ve been able to use our own software to hire such a passionate, motivated group of people to work with our SMB and GHO customers.

Having a single source of truth for customer data is critical to our success. We use Totango to keep track of interactions, stay ahead of red flags, send campaigns, and monitor product usage.

Lastly, part of my team is in San Francisco, so Slack and Zoom have helped us bridge the location gap and helped us feel present without being physically present.

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

I love seeing a big project or initiative come together. As an example, we recently hired a second Customer Success Manager to support our SMB customers, and tasked her with creating a process for proactive outreach to fast-growing companies. Our thought was that their needs today are probably different from when they started using our software, but they might not know how to get the most value possible out of the system. The new CSM and I collaborated to define the segment, create templates, write a playbook, and execute on the vision. It’s now an important part of our overall processes, and we’re continuing to build on it as time goes on.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Time management is a huge one. There’s a delicate balance between working on projects and process, and being an available and supportive people manager. I’m sure I don’t get it right 100% of the time, but I do my best to course-correct when I see myself leaning too far in one direction.

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

Most often, the cross-functional teams I collaborate with are Customer Support, Sales Operations, the SMB Sales team, and our Data team.

The most recent thing I worked on was with our Sales Ops team. We operationalized a system for round-robining new customers to an Implementation Strategist (who customers will work with to get their Greenhouse account up and running). Before we had this in place, I was making assignments manually. While this worked for us for a while, it was clear that we needed a more scalable alternative; in extreme cases, it was a few hours before I could make time to assign an account. To make this process more effective, I envisioned an auto-assignment system, and our Sales Ops team was able to quickly bring that vision come to life. So far, we’ve gotten a positive reception from both my team and our Sales team, so I’d say it was a success!

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

Right now, I’m trying to learn from leaders around me to think more big-picture about my teams’ processes. What works for us now may work for the next 6 months, but what about the next year? Or the next five years? How can we set ourselves up for success now by building the best foundation possible?

In your role, what metrics define success?

I bucket metrics in three categories: company goals, people goals, and personal goals. Some examples of those in my role are:

  • Company – SMB and GHO customer renewals, expansion revenue, and NPS scores
  • People – a happy team with high engagement rates (our People team administers a twice-yearly engagement survey to measure this)
  • Personal – building upon existing skills, and working toward new ones

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

This was my first management position for a large team, so I’ve definitely learned a lot in that realm as we’ve continued to scale.

One that surprised me, actually, was my writing skill. As part of our SMB services, we send pre-written emails about best practices to customers about once a month. We recently revamped our content for about 2 years’ worth of emails, which was an exercise in clarity and brevity. Writing a thorough, detailed email to a specific customer about a specific scenario is a very different beast than writing an attention-grabbing campaign that’s being sent to thousands of people.

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

There are three work-related philosophies that have always resonated with me: work hard and be kind, work smarter not harder, and help other people do great work. I’ve used those as a guiding light when working toward my and my teams’ goals, and I think they’ve helped me be as effective as I can in my role.

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Role Models: Maimouna Siby, Marketing Strategist at Squarespace

Maimouna (1)

Today’s Role Model is Maimouna Siby. From her college days, Maimouna understood media’s potential as a communication and empowerment tool. She worked as a data analyst for the Wesleyan Media Project, helped build engaged online communities at several tech startups, and even launched Girl to the World, a line of multicultural children’s books. Maimouna recently got promoted to her Marketing Strategist role at Squarespace, a company that makes software for website hosting.

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

My official title is as Marketing Strategist and I’ve been at Squarespace for 1 year.

What attracted you to this role?

The opportunity to combine my fascination for technology, business, and storytelling by sponsoring podcasts and supporting creatives that use our platform.

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?

On a typical day I get in before 10am, grab breakfast (usually Honey Nut Cheerios and cold brew), and then start working through my emails and determining my major to-do’s for the day. I don’t love staying at my desk for too long, so once I’ve organized my to do’s and calendar I move to the bar area. This area has more daylight or work on the roof to further awaken my soul.

My job is multi-pronged as I work across three legs of marketing: Podcasts, Editorial, and Paid Social. In a typical day I work on researching new podcasts to sponsor, editing a custom editorial post, and managing our Paid Social Twitter campaigns.

My meetings differ by marketing channel, but I am either on a call to learn about a new podcast or publication sponsorship opportunity or I am in strategy brainstorms with the general manager of each of those channels. Lunch is always around 12pm, but we head over around 11:50 to beat the office lunch hour.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

I rely on my communication and time management skills the most in this role. As my position requires different levels of attention to multiple marketing channels, I rely heavily on my calendar and build in reminders and blocked times to work on bigger projects. The Google suite is also super helpful in my day to day; I don’t know where I’d be without Sheets, Docs, or Slides. Dropbox is another lifesaver; it helps me to organize and stay on top of the many documents involved in locking in sponsorship deals.

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

The most creative part of my role is actually also really analytical. After analyzing the performance of each channel, I use those insights to drive my decisions around finding new podcast creators to sponsor or new editorial partners. It’s fun to spot areas of opportunity that are easy to overlook when you’re not digging into the data. Working on our content strategy and workshopping sponsored editorial pieces also allows me to get creative.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

The biggest challenge in working across multiple channels is consistently diversifying the way I approach and seek solutions. It can also be difficult to work with  multiple channel managers but that is where I’ve also been able to become a clearer communicator. I learned the important questions to ask and figured out when it’s crucial to manage up.

How much access to management do you have in your role?

I have a lot of access. My manager and I check-in weekly. We also have several statuses regarding each channel so if I have any additional questions or concerns, I get answers there.

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

I’ve worked with the Product, Customers, and Organic Social teams the most thus far. A lot of our sponsored editorial pieces highlight our Squarespace customers and the product so whenever we embark on a new piece, we get together to brainstorm who we’d like to feature and how we’d like to position the product.

What’s currently missing from the team?

I think our team is built out really well, actually!

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

As a Strategist, my job can be filled with a lot of projects where I assist, but I want to grow into owning more projects. I’d also love to become more comfortable and confident in presenting my ideas and findings.

What, in your opinion, is the career trajectory for your role?

The career trajectory for my role at Squarespace is becoming a channel strategist and then growing into more of a managerial role, helping to manage each of the marketing channels.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Our team pays attention to website subscriptions, trials, and growth in brands awareness. To progress in our roles, it’s important to showcase our ability to effectively manage our marketing channels, offer up new strategic/creative ways to approach the market, and independently conducting research and presenting new opportunities to the team.

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

My analytical skills, business strategy, communication, and organization have all improved and are continuing to improve as a result of this role.

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

It is really important to know how to simultaneously self-manage and ask questions you may think aren’t smart or feel elementary without fear. It is also important to be your best self-advocate, understand how crucial you are to the team.

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Role Models: Kate Maxwell, Business Lead at Strava

Kate Maxwell

Today’s Role Model is Kate Maxwell. Kate studied marketing and built a solid AdOps career in New York City. After several years in the industry, she felt like something was missing but wasn’t immediately sure of her next step. Through deep introspection, the power of networks, and her own persistence, she made a big move. Three years ago, she relocated to San Francisco and landed a role at Strava, a mobile app and website connecting millions of runners and cyclists through the sports they love. Today, she’s the Lead of the company’s business division. When she’s not working, she’s hosting dinners for friends, running all of Northern California’s trails, and exploring international destinations.

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

Lead, Strava Business – 2 and a half years!

What attracted you to this role?

In my previous life, I was running Ad Ops teams for media publishers & platforms (Gawker Media and Tumblr, respectively) for years and was craving a new learning experience. I was lucky to work at companies who prioritized the user experience over revenue at the expense of a great website — so many publishers in the early 2010s got caught up in the opportunity to “monetize every impression” and that’s when you started to see programmatic banner ads all over every site. I think that mentality is largely being won over by the opportunity to generate revenue in other ways now – subscription models, events, meaningful and useful partnerships, content that actually helps your life.

Anyway— after my tenure at tumblr, I took some time off, traveled the world, came back to New York and decided to move across the country to California. That’s when I got connected to Strava, who was just starting to think about ways to deepen the business development and revenue side of the business and I showed up at their door with that experience- the rest is history.

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?

I have a long but enjoyable commute (ferry boat across the SF Bay and walk/biking), about an hour, so I usually get my emails read and to do list organized for the day during this time. Then my day really can vary quite a lot, but here’s an example of the meetings I attend and things I work on :

  • meeting with a brand partner to go over a potential partnership deal
  • weekly 1:1 with one of the people I manage to make sure their job and days are going smoothly. In these meetings, we plan and prioritize the future
  • discovery deep dive with our product team to figure out more details and needs for a future business product offering that’s being developed
  • working on a pitch proposal for a new client to work with us
  • work session with the other leads on my team to outline our resource needs, headcount, and roadmap for next year

Lunch is somewhere in the middle of all these fun sessions- because my commute is long, a couple times a week I use lunchtime to get a workout in, whether that’s going for a run or going to a yoga class or a swim. At Strava, being active is encouraged and the saying is “there’s always time for your favorite activity type.” This is a relief in comparison with other places I’ve worked— at Strava, we support fitting workouts in because it makes you a happier and more productive contributor. I always feel refreshed and ready to get back to work after a good sweat-it-out session.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

We use a CRM tool called Boostr to help us track business leads and prospect deals (and therefore forecast revenue into the future), lots of Google Docs, sheets, and slides, and Strava has built a robust internal system to execute the products we run with partners. We use Trello to track projects and Jira for technical ticketing. In the past used to run instances of ad servers like Google DFP. My role is less technical these days and more strategic, but since Strava is still a relatively small startup, I remain involved with that side.

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

I love that I get to wear so many hats! No two days are ever the same. I love that I have the autonomy to think out of the box with my team and come up with stuff that’s never been built or offered before. It feels good to be able to flex those muscles and end up bringing an idea to fruition. We have a great test and learn mentality here, too; if something doesn’t work the way we hypothesize, it’s okay— learn from it and then create something even better knowing what you discovered.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Probably the age-old opportunity of short-term results vs. long-term vision. How do we execute for today’s goals while building for the future? I don’t think there’s a magical answer, but it’s very top of mind for us and something we make sure to keep iterating on.

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

We work with the marketing team to get communication out about a new feature or offering. We collaborate closely with our engineering team to build and execute our roadmap. We check in with our amazing support team to make sure our athletes are always having a great experience. And we coordinate with the infrastructure team to make sure all the t’s are crossed on the back end. There’s not one team at Strava that I don’t work with!

A great example of a stellar collaboration happened a couple years ago.We knew adding post functionality it would be an important addition to our Clubs feature. This functionality helps groups and brands to really connect with their community and capitalize on Strava’s strong social graph. It was a complex project, and when I was leading it from the business side, we needed to coordinate across two different engineering  teams to get it built and released. All went off on deadline without a hitch, and I’m so grateful for all the people who helped work on it with such finesse.

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

I’m always looking to improve my leadership skills- I was a part of a special leadership program in college and it was my minor- but this is something I’ll always be studying and trying to improve. I love mentoring employees and helping with their career path, helping to set the future vision for the department and/or company.

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

Negotiation skills! Ability to think creatively and quickly to solve problems, and ability to build great business relationships. Patience and persistence, because building relationships takes time. Really believing in and understanding your business. And finally, investing in people and building a great team. Hire people who can work proactively and autonomously, and who think differently than you do! Your team will be better for it.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Athlete motivation, and revenue! Ultimately, if we can build and offer great ways for businesses to connect to athletes and reach their own goals. When these opportunities help athletes get better and learn more about themselves, we are doing a good job.

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