Role Models: Brook Shelley, Senior Partner Engineer at Slack

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Today’s 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 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 api.slack.com.

What’s the most fun or creative part of your 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 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 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 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.

Role Models: Maria Schreiber, Solutions Engineer at Algolia

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Today’s Role Model is Maria Schreiber. Before entering the tech industry, Maria was a high school biology teacher who sometimes also taught math.  She had dabbled in web development starting in middle school when she made her own websites and took computer science classes in high school.  Inspired by some of her students who curious about coding, she began taking online classes in web dev and data science before attending the Grace Hopper Program, a coding bootcamp for women. Maria is currently a Solutions Engineer at Algolia, a company offering a web search product through a SaaS model.

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

I’ve been a solutions engineer at Algolia for a bit over a year now.

What attracted you to this role?

When I was looking for new job opportunities I was focused on traditional engineering roles.  But when someone from Algolia reached out to me about my current role and shared this blog post, I was intrigued.  I hadn’t actually heard of client-facing engineering positions before, and it seemed like a great use of my old and new skill sets: education and communication as well as coding.  It didn’t hurt that I had used the product before (we’re a hosted search API) at a hackathon and loved it.

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?

As the previous blog posts suggests, this is truly a role where every day is different. Some days I have back-to-back meetings with prospects and clients and others I might be able to spend several hours heads-down in a project — either building out a demo for a client or writing content for broader educational purposes, etc.  Usually it’s some mix of the two. Other than work dealing with prospects or clients, we have weekly meetings with the entire solutions team (we’re spread out in 4 time zones), bi-weekly meetings per region, and monthly meetings with product managers. It’s a very intersectional role. Lunchtime is whenever it works. 🙂

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Being a polyglot, or at least experienced and/or interested in multiple different technologies across the tech stack is necessary.  My role is to help vet out and convince the technical buyers that our product is a good fit for their tech stack and search needs. It’s impossible to do my job without being familiar with both back-end and front-end tech.. I also help customers integrate our technology into their products, which can mean helping with debugging or sometimes writing code snippets for them.

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

I actually really enjoy when a customer comes to me with a difficult problem or something that seems on the edge of our product functionality.  It’s fun to brainstorm and come up with a solution — either with the product as it currently is, or through making a feature request.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Prioritization and time management can be very challenging in this role.  Objectives are not as clear cut as in traditional engineering roles. You can get pulled in many different directions, so it’s a constant challenge to think about how my time will be used most effectively.

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

When working on an account, I always have a business counterpart — that’s Account Executives (sales people) for prospects and Customer Success Managers for customers.  They are the ones to handle the overall relationship while I focus on the technical side of things. In addition to that work, I collaborate with product managers and core engineers to give them insights into the issues our customers are facing to help inform the product roadmap.

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

While I am learning about many different aspects of tech at a broad level, it’s been hard to grow a deep knowledge about any particular tech.  I’ve been trying to set aside more time to do that, and my manager has been supportive, but it’s still hard to prioritize that kind of learning when it there are more pressing matters or quick wins at hand.

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

Being adaptable, self-motivated, and good at communication are key for this role.  Communication is key for any role, but in this one, it is make it or break it. Being able to break down technical concepts and explain them to people of varying degrees of technical expertise is something I do on a daily basis.  Adaptability is important because of the multiple different hats that people in our role wear, and self-motivation and direction is key for anyone working in a startup. I also work in a satellite office, so I’m not in the same place as my manager, which means that I have to be more autonomous.

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

I thought that I was a good time manager before this role, but I’ve definitely improved on that front.  It’s as much a function of the role as it is the stage of the company I work for. We’re a start-up in a hyper-growth phase and there are so many possible things you could be working on, it’s been important to take a step back and prioritize what will have the greatest impact.

In your role, what metrics define success?

At the end of the day, customer empowerment and success means that I have been successful.  Indirectly, my contribution to long term projects such as revisiting the hiring process for solutions engineers is also a demonstration of success.

 

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Role Models: Bushra Mahmood, Principle UX Designer at Unity

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Today’s Role Model is Bushra Mahmood. Bushra got her start in tech nearly a decade ago working in motion graphics and visual effects. She produced punk shows in Canada and worked on documentaries as a teen, which is where she developed her design and motion skills. She started doing motion graphics for advertising agencies and then gradually moved into product design. Bushra led design at a fintech startup that was acquired by Goldman Sachs and then moved to San Francisco to work for Adobe.

At Adobe, Bushra worked on several tools ranging from Dimension, Premiere Rush, After Effects and Project Aero. Bushra recently moved to a new role at Unity Technologies working in the Labs team. In her free time, she likes to hang out with her dog, write, study languages and work on her 3D art.

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

I am a principal designer in the advanced UX team at Unity Technologies. I have been at Unity since July of this year.

What attracted you to this role?

During my time at Adobe, I became obsessed over the idea of making tools for real-time content authoring. In my research, I had found that Unity was the go-to software for nearly every engineer and researcher working in emerging tech. When the opportunity arose, I couldn’t resist the chance to be a part of the company that is already starting to shape the future.

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 usually one of the first people into the office, getting in at around 6 am. I find that I do most of my best work in the morning without any distractions. During a product cycle, I have presentations that I give to stakeholders at the end of each week, and this lets me evenly distribute my workload into three stages.

I spend the first stage researching and sketching. Once I have a good idea or concept, I then go into prototyping and try to produce several variations. I spend the second stage doing check-ins to make sure there is alignment amongst the team. I work with some brilliant minds, so I always make time to collect feedback and iterate. This stage is also usually the longest and the most unpredictable.

The third stage is the final presentation in which I always have a deliverable that can be shared and documented.

I also always make time for lunch at noon, having an early day would be impossible without a mid-day recharge.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

My motion and 3D skills have been monumental in my career trajectory. They gave me the confidence to explore and discover non-traditional design paradigms. My entry into augmented reality was a lot less daunting because I understood how to composite video. My tools of choice have always been Keynote, After Effects and Cinema 4D. I feel empowered to do anything with these three tools under my belt. All of these tools deal with motion and interactivity in some capacity; this then allows me to communicate much more effectively.

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

My current role involves predicting what the future might hold for creatives. I find myself continually navigating uncharted territories and dealing with a lot of ambiguity. My purpose, in a nutshell, is to understand and minimize complexities wherever I can. I love taking vague or difficult ideas and breaking them down into something more digestible for a broader audience. I aspire to make mediums like motion and 3D less daunting for any user.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

The biggest challenge that I face in my role is not having enough concrete data on which to base assumptions. In our research, we often find that the user is not even aware that they may have a problem that needs solving.  

The speed at which technology evolves can also feel daunting. Trying to stay focused but also pursuing innovation is a balancing act that can get tricky fast.

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 alongside several other groups within the company. We work on early research and help with product definition, as well as prototyping and experimenting with emerging UX and UI patterns for new mediums.

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

Although I have been enjoying the role of an individual contributor, I’ve started to become more interested in leadership roles. I feel lucky that Unity offers training to anyone who wishes to learn and pursue a leadership role and I plan to take full advantage of that opportunity.

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

Gaming can be a grueling medium that requires a lot of love for the craft. In turn, the field attracts people who genuinely care about the medium. I get the opportunity to work with industry veterans who are still as excited about what they do now as they were on their first days.

The leadership in my team puts a lot of trust in us and champions a healthy work environment which has in turn made me much more patient. Being more patient has dramatically improved the quality of my work and overall productivity.

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

The ability to write, present and communicate are often more valuable than the technical skills themselves. These skills help create understanding and alignment across groups which in turn extend the life of your ideas.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Success is a difficult metric to define when building for the future. There are always things out of our hands that can change the trajectory of a product overnight. The most valuable takeaway from an experimental project is what can be learned and then applied in a practical situation. Proper documentation and case studies become valuable for teams that may otherwise not have the time to experiment.

 

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Role Models: Jon Gabriel, Digital Producer at REQ

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Today’s Role Model is Jon Gabriel. Jon attended the University of Delaware and studied computer science. While he didn’t want to code for a living, he wanted to stay in the tech space. Immediately out of school, he traveled across the U.S. as a freelance photographer covering action sports. He spent some time in photo studios learning about portrait lighting, and later moved down to Maryland to work as a Traffic Coordinator at Sabre Hospitality Solutions. One year later, he transitioned into a hybrid Product Manager role. Currently, Jon is a digital producer at REQ, a brand management agency.

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

I am a digital producer at REQ and I have been in the role for one month!

What attracted you to this role?

I have a background in producer roles. Someone in a producer position is well-connected with the development and design teams and has a high-level view of the landscape of resourcing and project health. My background in computer science and design combined with my overall extroverted nature made me a particularly good traffic coordinator at Sabre. I wanted to return to this position in a different industry to see if I could learn more.

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 get in early to assess the day’s client work deadlines. I run through all the creative and development responsibilities and make sure that the design and tech teams are in a place where they can be successful. As new projects come through the pipeline, I pop in and out of meetings discussing what resources may be best for the client’s requests. I run cost/analysis operations with the different teams. Analyzing their time time tracking shows us how we’re doing compared to how much we’re generating and producing.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Being organized and having a caring personality are the most important skills for success in this role. I believe that a company’s success is generated by happy people, so I try and keep that in mind when I request work from individuals. We ask a lot of design and dev teams, so I strive to maintain a caring mindset towards those team members. I rely on my organization skills to keep track of specific tasks and forecasting timelines for the future.

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

A digital producer position is a bit of a Swiss Army knife of a role. For the most part, the bulk of the work revolves around efficient resourcing of design and dev. But just like a lot of other positions at a smaller / medium sized company, you will wear a lot of hats. There is a lot of project management in this role which can be fun. Depending on what work is coming in, there can also be a bit of business development. I enjoy the variety of what’s asked of me and I dive into whatever I can get my hands on. I love learning about the business as a whole.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Since the digital producer role sits between client services and the design / dev teams, I need to interact with a range of personalities. Not everyone’s working style / personalities may be effective at efficient project and resource management, but you have to work through those challenges. For the most part, everyone means well and is trying their best, so having an understanding and caring mindset is important.

Another challenge is keeping design or dev teams to a timeline. When someone has something due and you need it from them, the relationship can quickly turn to a ‘means to an end’ interaction. Balancing an ask with humor and understanding is critical.

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 frequently work with all teams within my organization – business development, client services (account management), design, development. Recently, we received an ask from a client to develop an email template and then build it out. This project involved first working with the account manager to understand what was being asked. Then, I brought the idea to design to create a standard email template that matched their brand. Once we had a design, the project moves to our copywriting team to write engaging content for the emails. Finally, I brought the completed designs to development to work through creating the actual HTML that would be sent out.

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

Forecasting the future is incredibly valuable for project management and efficient resourcing. I would say planning against multiple project deadlines and limited resourcing timelines is something I’m still trying to refine as I grow in this role. Mastering this skill helps organize and turn around good work at the same time giving a better work life for co-workers I care about.

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

A strong EQ is necessary, since you’ll need to interact with a lot of people in this role. Critical thinking and organization is important as well, because timelines shift daily. Having an opinion about design can help, too. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to chime in on what you think about work. 

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

I am a lot more organized than I have been in the past. I have also tried to be conscious of how I come across to others more. In this role, it’s important to stay level-headed and kind regardless of how you feel, since colleagues across the other teams will feel your sentiments reverberate.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Project progress versus client timelines determines my success. As long as we’re making good progress and hit our deadlines as a design and development team, I’m doing pretty well.

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Role Models: Cassidy Williams, Senior Software Engineer at Codepen

Cassidy is currently a Senior Software Engineer at Codepen.

Today’s Role Model is Cassidy Williams. Cassidy studied computer science in college and began her career at Vimeo. In addition to building out the product, she also served as a developer evangelist, organized hackathons, and spoke at events and conferences. In her subsequent roles, Cassidy continued to serve as a mentor and advocate for her fellow developers. Cassidy is currently a Senior Software Engineer at Codepen, online community for testing and showcasing user-created front-end code snippets.

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

Senior Software Engineer at CodePen, and I’ve been there for six weeks this week!

What attracted you to this role?

I’ve used and loved CodePen for several years, and I’ve known that I wanted to work for them for a while. It was so thrilling to be able to finally do so!

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?

CodePen is a fully remote company! We’re a team of 7 people based all over, from Virginia to Australia. So far, I work from home or at a cafe nearby; I’m thinking about joining a co-working space at some point. We don’t have a lot of meetings as a company. We have an all-hands every week, weekly 1:1s with a different member of the team (everyone rotates), and then we have impromptu meetings whenever something needs to be discussed. It’s a great, friendly, very efficient team.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Communication is absolutely key. Especially on a remote team! If you can’t communicate, then people don’t know you’re working. 

As for technologies, I’m armed with JavaScript and React! We’re converting a large chunk of the codebase to React right now, and we’re also working on new features and bugs. I normally use Vim as my editor, but I’ve been dabbling in VSCode here and there lately.

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

Because we’re such a small team, everyone’s voice is very significant. If someone has an idea or opinion, their thoughts directly impact what the company builds! I love having that freedom.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

A small team means you’ve got to be efficient. We don’t move super fast; rather, we move more deliberately. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can be a challenging thing.

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 with everyone on the team! One of the things we do at CodePen is a “support rotation.” On Fridays, a different person rotates to handle customer support. We have a dedicated customer support/community manager/etc person, and on Fridays she works on her other projects. Doing that sort of cross-functional work is great for having perspective on what users want. I’ve also pair programmed with almost everyone on the team, which has been helpful for learning the codebase and seeing how other people think.

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

Because I’m still fairly new to the role, learning the codebase and how the team works is still top of mind. That being said, I’m hoping to establish a long-term work/life balance where I can do fun side projects and not be stressed about work. I want to be a better developer and manager, but being better personally is something I constantly have to work on.

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

We’ll have to see as time goes on. 😉

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

Being a solid coder and being willing to pick up and learn new technologies is good, but communication is #1.

In your role, what metrics define success?

Code quality and solid communication.

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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: 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: Nicole Locklair, Talent Acquisition Lead at LearnVest

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Today’s Role Model is Nicole Locklair. Nicole began her career as a project manager who coordinated teams of creatives. Through her own first-hand experience, she came to understand the skills and traits that made a great designer. This knowledge helped her pivot into recruiting and work her way up to manager roles. Today, Nicole is the Talent Acquisition Lead, Design, at LearnVesta fintech startup that was acquired by the Fortune 100 financial firm Northwestern Mutual.

How long have you been in this role?

I’ve been in this role at my current company for about 4 months, but I’ve worked in creative recruiting for about 7 years now.

What attracted you to this role?

I’ve always loved working with designers and creatives, and spent my career in advertising and agency life. While I would definitely recommend trying the agency thing if you’re interested, it was starting to feel like Groundhog Day to me: Pitch, win, hire a bunch of people, lose a client, lay people off, repeat. In an agency, you’re selling someone else’s product. You can market the car or the phone or the service, but you didn’t create it. I was looking to go in-house at a place where I could feel more invested in the long-term growth and strategy of the company.

In my current role, I’m the first design recruiter in a company of over 15,000 people, so there’s a wealth of opportunity to build the design team and also advocate and educate on the importance of designers as decision makers in executive roles.

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 typical day involves recruiting! That includes phone screens, outreach to passive candidates who might be interested in my roles, hosting interviews, creating offers, writing job descriptions, and talking to hiring managers and candidates. Since I hire mostly designers and creatives, I get to be in on all the design meetings as well as ones that are HR oriented. Since this is a large company, I’ll be on calls a few times a week with 20-30 participants; sometimes the topic has little to do with my day-to-day.

My favorite meetings are design reviews. In reviews, I get to see some of the work we’re creating, which helps me when I’m talking to candidates about what we do. Lunch really depends on what else is going on that day, and I’ve definitely had my share of sad desk lunches!

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

I use more people skills rather than technical skills in my role. You need to understand what kind of technical skills candidates need for certain roles, but not necessarily how to do it yourself.

In terms of technology, there are a variety of different ATS (applicant tracking systems), but LinkedIn is a go-to, along with design sites like Working Not Working, Dribbble, and a variety of design and tech blogs.

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

I have the most fun in my role when I am looking at portfolios and talking to the creatives behind the work. I love hearing the story of why someone made a design decision or how they inspired a team to come up with a particular solution.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

The biggest challenges so far revolve around the fact that the company isn’t inherently creative or design-oriented. Coming from the design industry, where the creative team is at least half the office, it’s eye-opening to talk to people who have no idea what the difference between UX and visual design is.

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 role is all about collaboration. I never make a decision in a bubble. I’m constantly working with hiring managers and multiple HR people, including immigration lawyers, relocation specialists, the comp department, coordinators, the onboarding team, business partners, and learning and development.

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

I took this job to learn about a new industry and how the client business works. I’d like to move towards a role where I can influence overall hiring strategy informed by my experience in design.

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

I think the best skill anyone can have regardless of industry or position is empathy. In my particular role, that means empathy for hiring managers and all the demands on their time, and empathy for candidates who genuinely want the job.

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

Most people think recruiters are outgoing and can easily strike up a conversation with anyone, but not me! I dread networking events, and I’m really more of a “stay at home with a good book” type person. So my career path has forced me to figure out how to navigate all types and sizes of meet ups, conferences, and job fairs. I try to keep in mind that since everyone presumably signed up to be there, I have at least one thing in common with everyone. It also helps to have at least one colleague to be your wing woman, and a drink never hurts!

In your role, what metrics define success?

“Time to fill” is a metric recruiters are often measured against, but I think that’s a bit misguided. In general, I think metrics that pertain to people need to be considered carefully. Of course, everyone wants to fill a role as quickly as possible, but I’d rather find the right person for a role than a person right now. With unemployment at a record low, companies need to start focusing on employee retention, and I hope that recruiter metrics start to include things like how long a hire stays at a company and their impact on the business.

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