Have you ever been having a really bad day? Nothing is going right. The hot water was out when you woke up in the morning, your shoes won’t stay tied and are rubbing against your heel with every step, and you can’t get your code to past your unit tests. And then, as you’re trudging through that day, waiting for it to be over, hoping that the next day will be a little better, someone comes along and says “Hey! I just wanted to say you’ve been doing a great job lately.” Your whole day changes. The clouds may not part, but they get a little thinner, a little less grey, and a bit of sun peeks through. You’re grateful to that person for just seeing you. That’s how I felt after Yancey Strickler and I had a chat at TED.
I was sitting down watching what I thought was a previous years session with Shonda Rhimes (P.S. it wasn’t), when Yancey sat down next to me. It wasn’t a completely random encounter, as we’d communicated via the TED app previously. We chatted about all manner of things, including careers, which gave me an opportunity to share what leadership means to me. In that talk, Yancey showed me that he saw me, saw value in me, and more importantly, he believed in me. At the end of our talk, he asked me to come interview at Kickstarter for a leadership role.
I had my share of doubts about taking the interview. Though I was getting daily recruiter emails, I was ignoring them, because I had no thoughts about leaving Slack. Nobody thinks about getting off a rocketship. Despite those doubts, I was also excited to go to New York and visit with the Kickstarter team. If they were like Yancey, it would be a great time. When it came time to make the decision to go, I recalled the words of one of the wisest people I know: “you always take the interview.”
When I left Google in 2015, I’d been there for 9 years and was still an IC. I felt like my career had stalled. I vowed to myself then that I wouldn’t let that happen again. When I joined Slack, I had the opportunity to both grow myself and create the Build and Release team and infrastructure. I also helped grow and shape Slack’s thinking on Diversity and Inclusion. I was a leader both in the company and outside the company, and wanted my growth path to keep heading in a leadership direction.
Since before I joined, the Slack team has been hyper-focused on keeping up with the unprecedented growth we’ve experienced. Soon after I joined, Slack hired a VP of Engineering, Michael Lopp, to begin shifting some of that focus to a different sort of growth; growing careers. Lopp began to ask some important questions: what does it mean to be an Engineering leader at Slack? Is that the same thing as an Engineering manager? Are Engineering managers technical focused or people focused or some hybrid of both? Those were big, hairy questions that were going to take some time to answer. While I understood the time commitment required and have enjoyed working on answering these questions with him, I also remembered the promise I made to myself; I would always keep growing in my career, no matter what.
I became determined to find a way to grow while those questions were being answered. I took our internal management training class. I tried to take things off my manager’s plate. I bulked up my external mentorship network. I read all manner of management books. I frequently considered what I thought management meant and what my management style would be. I discussed leadership with current and former VPs and CTOs of Your Favorite Tech Companies. The aforementioned VPs and CTOs thought I was ready. The words “duh” and “no-brainer” were used. If the opportunity came at Slack, when leadership said “we need someone to step up” it would be me.
When I flew to New York, I met some really amazing folks on the Kickstarter team. I found them all to be very open, honest, and thoughtful people. I spent two days there, having formal and informal discussions, learning about the team, learning about where they were headed, where they wanted to grow, and how I could help. I came away from the experience even more excited about Kickstarter the product and Kickstarter the organization.
I got my opportunity to step up a few days later when Yancey offered me a position at Kickstarter. I had the opportunity to fulfill my promise to myself: always keep growing.
I’m happy to announce that I’ll be joining Kickstarter as a Director of Engineering. I’m excited to work with the team and help be an integral part of their growth and success. I can’t wait to show the support, mentorship, leadership, and encouragement to the folks on my team to help them always keep growing as well.
I’m so grateful for my time at Slack and proud of the company we’ve built. I’m extremely thankful for the connections I’ve made there, the teams I’ve been a part of, and the lifelong friends I’ve made. I can’t wait to see what Slack does next and I’ll be rooting for them from Brooklyn.
See you soon, Kickstarter! 👋🏾