Role Models: Una Kravets, Direct of Product Design at Bustle Digital Group

Una Kravets, Director of Product Design at Bustle

Today’s Role Model is Una Kravets. Una is an international public speaker, technical writer, and the Director of Product Design at Bustle Digital Group, where she oversees UI/UX of Bustle, Elite Daily, Romper, and The Zoe Report. Una has written for various online publications such as A List Apart, 24 Ways, Smashing Magazine, and SitePoint, and started both the DC and Austin Sass Meetup groups. She also co-hosts the Toolsday developer podcast and has a Youtube video series which features videos about about life, fashion and tech.

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

I’m the Director of Product Design at Bustle Digital Group, and I’ve been here for 9 months (having started January 2018)

What attracted you to this role?

I was really interested in taking a more involved and overarching approach to product design in my next role (which led me here). I also loved that I get to work on the Engineering team and get to use my multidisciplinary background (in both design and web engineering) every day.

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 mostly designing via writing code during the day. I work on both large and small projects. Larger projects include redesigns, the visual aspects of product migrations, or ideating and building new products that will be used by designers and editors across properties. So when I’m doing this kind of work, I’m checking in with product management and stakeholders intermittently.

Some days though, I’m just fixing UI bugs, resolving support tickets, and making sure everything is in place. I don’t have a lot of meetings, but the meetings I do have, I try to keep short, concise, and end with an action item. Lunch is usually in the office, with the engineers getting together to chat and work in the same space for a little while.

What skills/technologies help you succeed?

Having a background in computer science and graphic design (I went to college for both) certainly helps. Continuing to learn web development as its evolved over the last couple of years has been important in keeping up with technologies and trends. Learning new interaction patterns and design trends is critical, as well as having a foundation of web accessibility and the render tree.

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

I feel like my role is generally very creative. Designing new features is just as creative as coming up with resolutions for bugs.

What are the biggest challenges you face in this role?

Some of the projects I work on can involve complex visual systems. For example, a part of what I do is make sure every type of component works in every type of containing element, on every type of page, without breaking anywhere. With growing codebases, this becomes increasingly challenging.

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

I’m always working on improving my technical skills to make me a more effective developer across the stack. I think in today’s world, having the ability to code gives a designer a lot of power.

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

The ability to creatively solve problems and be organized is important. I use to-do lists to keep my life in order.

In your role, what metrics define success?

That really depends on the goal of the project! And the metrics that determine meeting the project goals are probably the most important. Time management and shipping on time play a key role as 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: 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: Maimouna Siby, Marketing Strategist at Squarespace

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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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