Role Models: Julia Steele, Sr. Strategist, Brand Events and Relationships at SYPartners

IMG_4039

Today’s Role Model is Julia Steele. Julia is unflinchingly passionate about empowering others to tell their stories to the world. She began her career doing brand strategy and experience design at game-changing internet brands Gawker Media and Tumblr. Later on, she launched her own brand—Ratter—which set out to revive local news for the internet. Currently, Julia oversees brand reputation at SYPartners, an organization which consults with business leaders on diversity and organizational transformation.

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

Sr. Strategist, Brand Events and Relationships (yes, this is the second wordiest title at SYPartners). 3 years in March.

What attracted you to this role?

I love envisioning a future that doesn’t yet exist, then thinking through and taking the steps it will take to get there. It requires a lot of creativity—a trait I’ve never identified as having, given I’m not a ‘capital d’ Designer.

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’m an early riser. I try to meditate, go to the gym, and write in my journal every morning. (I usually eke out two of the three.) I mention this ritual because it’s key to my success in my role.

I’m in the office by 9, where I strongly prefer to have heads down time for the first couple hours to catch up on any writing or bigger thinking I have to do for the day. We have a room in the office called “the Hideout” which is like the Amtrak Quiet Car. It is my favorite.

11-4 is all about meetings. My role is very project based—at a given time the team is working on 5-8 projects which bring ideas from around the firm to life. These projects result in various media, e.g. our new podcast series, Leading into the Unknown or a new tool like the identity icebreaker we just put up on our online store. I also reserve time each day for relationship building, via coffee catchups or just email. I’m constantly scanning the landscape for interesting business podcasts, newsletters, posts, etc. and writing people (most of the time blindly), with praise. I’m obsessed with Ellen McGirt’s Fortune Race Ahead newsletter, e.g. (Please subscribe if you don’t already.)

For lunch, I usually pop out to Good Stock or Brodo for pick up somewhere in that window. (I am a huge evangelizer of both of these places.) I eat at my desk while answering emails, but it’s far from a Sad Desk Lunch since the new Kobra mural is right out the window.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Everything Google. (I love how Google Docs used to be clunky and now the user experience [for my purposes] exceeds Excel. The new feature that allows you to create new docs with a Chrome shortcuts is sent from heaven. [Type “doc.new” into your Chrome address bar, et voila.])

And all of the Slackbots. (Newest obsession: brb.life Slackbot. It allows you to see all your team members wfh/vacation time. It’s like an auto responder for Slack.)

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

Getting to talk with SYP’s myriad brilliant leaders about their consulting work: What ideas or trends are they witnessing in their client work? And how could those ideas benefit a wider group? Then I get to go out externally and socialize these ideas with our online audiences, journalists, or potential partners, building the reputation of the leader, the firm—and creating a lot of good vibes in the process.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Not having time to do all the things I want to do as well as I want to do them. The fact that time is finite. Et cetera!

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 frequently with our design team who are normally confined to working on whatever client-facing project they are on. It’s fun bringing them into the work of the Brand Team, where we don’t have client deliverables, per se, and can play a little bit more.

A few months ago we produced our first podcast, Designing for Humanity, where our Managing Creative Director, Rie, interviews design leaders about how to create a better, more inclusive world.

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

I want to be the best manager on the planet. Not that it’s a competition 🙂 But seriously, I have two new hires starting this month. Nothing gives me more joy than removing roadblocks for my people and generally facilitating their growth and career evolution.

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

Tenacity: sometimes with shifting priorities in the firm’s client load, it’s hard to prioritize brand-building and story telling (the “drum beat” work).

Equity: We try really hard to feature the voices and ideas of leaders at all levels of SYP, not just our leadership team.

Intelligence: Companies pay us the big bucks for our smart ideas, so the people who work here are very smart. It helps to be as smart as them!

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

My ability to frame a narrative in a way that builds belief in others. Massive improvement in my public presentation of self/public speaking abilities. Despite being a major extrovert in small groups, I have had to learn to overcome extreme anxiety around public speaking. I started by presenting ideas to SYP’s leadership team and now regularly find myself presenting and facilitating large groups of people during conference and workshops.

In your role, what metrics define success?

At the end of the day, my team’s remit is to increase SYP’s reputation and valuable relationship capital. There are a bunch of tangible metrics we measure (email newsletter open-rate, social followers, conference attendee numbers), but more fun are the “anecdotal” metrics. In the past two years, have candidates we’re recruiting heard of our work? How many degrees of separation is SYP from a leader we want to work with?

Want more of these interviews delivered directly to your inbox? Sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Role Models: Yisselda Rhoc, Software Engineer at Def Method

IMG_0351

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.

Want more of these interviews delivered directly to your inbox? Sign up for my monthly newsletter.