How Strava uses BestPracticer coaching to unlock the full potential of their employees
Strava is a global community where athletes can connect and inspire one another with their activities and accomplishments. The name means “strive” in Swedish, which embodies who they are and what they do as a company. They are a uniquely passionate and committed team, driven to help athletes reach their personal best.
In the same way that Strava strives to unlock the potential of athletes, the organization is dedicated to unlocking its employees’ potential and creating a workplace where employees can grow and thrive.
In order to unlock their employees’ potential, Strava offers a myriad of unique benefits and perks. One of these generous perks is a $2000 annual professional development stipend.
When Kenny Chiem joined Strava to build out their Learning and Development program, he noticed that the $2000 professional development stipend was underutilized. Strava wasn’t seeing any tangible impact from the stipend they were offering. He realized this missed opportunity was because their team didn’t provide any concrete examples of how employees could use the stipend. He began to research options to share with employees, and he stumbled across the world of professional coaching.
During his research, Kenny learned about BestPracticer coaching from an employee who had sought out coaching on her own. What stood out to him about BestPracticer among the more general coaching options was the domain-specific and skill-building approach. He ultimately chose BestPracticer because he believes that the approach to coaching is uniquely effective, and it is especially targeted to employees in technical roles.
Kenny feels proud and excited to provide a unique opportunity for Strava employees to grow and feel supported. He frequently hears positive feedback from employees about how they are learning, growing, and enjoying their time with their coaches. He regularly encourages Strava employees to get up and running with a coach, especially individuals who are highly motivated to grow faster.
Through BestPracticer’s platform, Kenny is able to view high-level, anonymized insights into coaching engagement and usage. He’s able to understand trends of domain and cross-functional skills Strava employees are covering in sessions and track progress through the number of coaching wins, challenges, and assignments. The BestPracticer team collaborates with Kenny to co-create the functionality and program based on Strava’s needs.
To date, Strava employees across six departments have accomplished 197 wins, tackled 199 challenges, covered 396 skills, 267 assignments, and worked towards 65 unique goals with the support of their coaches.
Team members span engineering, growth, marketing, product management, and data. Commonly tackled cross-domain skills include leadership, influence, time management, burnout, and team-building. Domain-specific skills include product analytics, product prioritization, on-call rotation, software design docs, product strategy, estimation, technical debt, software architecture, engineering mentorship, debugging, and documentation.
Strava Employee Highlight: Senior Software Engineer II, Yudi Fu
Yudi Fu has contributed to Strava for over 7 years as a senior software engineer. She initially sought out coaching because she wanted an external perspective and accountability to meet a specific professional goal. Her goal was to, in three months, delegate and distribute the leadership responsibilities of running her server guild. (A guild is a group of engineers from different teams that depend on the same platform. A guild meets regularly to share knowledge and improve the platform together.)
She kicked off coaching with David Cordeiro, engineering leader at Moonpay, to tackle how to hand off her responsibilities. She met with David every other week and he held her accountable by assigning her “homework,” and keeping her on track with her timeline.
Yudi initially came to David with a specific problem, but he taught her the broader skillset of how to break down problems and take action on smaller steps so they aren’t, as she describes, “nebulous giant balls of yarn.” She’s proud of how, through coaching, she’s strengthened her skills to take action, make important decisions, and influence outside of her comfort zone. Her manager witnessed her growth first-hand, in how she showed up differently in situations that were challenging and uncomfortable, taking strong ownership and producing great results.
“My coach held me accountable because I had to share progress with him every other week. When my manager was discussing my achievements in my reviews, he mentioned this period of growth and how he saw big improvements in problem-solving, decision-making, and influence that I didn’t even recognize myself.” — Yudi Fu
Through David, she learned alternative approaches to problems, that are unconstrained by the existing set of tools and rules in her company. She believes it’s important to her growth to bounce ideas off a coach acting in her best interest.
“Your BestPracticer coach is a sidekick for your job that you can bounce ideas off and help you hone your skills without any judgment. Your coach is entirely on your side, dedicated to helping you perform at work.” — Yudi Fu
Strava Employee Highlight: Senior Product Marketing Manager, Matt Sproson
When Matt Sproson, Senior Product Marketing Manager, began coaching he felt he was at a career plateau and wanted to unlock his next level. His manager prompted him with a tough question in a 1:1: “What’s your three-year plan?”
He kicked off coaching with Aleesha Patel, Product Marketing Lead at brightwheel, to answer that question. She helped him explore his values, what he liked about his role, and understand his career motivations. He explored a potential future in product management with Aleesha, but they both saw a lot of potential within product marketing and in expanding the traditional PMM role at Strava. Throughout this process, it became clear that he wanted to be known three years from now as someone who built something new and exciting at Strava.
Matt shared this plan with his manager. She was on board and provided him with the opportunity to build an ambitious startup within Strava.
Aleesha supports Matt in navigating the challenges of getting the project off the ground and accelerating this work. He’s already seen the early success and impact of the project, and he has hired two interns to further support his work.
“Someone who really gets what you’re doing and has been through something similar to what you’ve been through throughout your career is invaluable to have on your side.“ — Matt Sproson
Throughout Matt’s sessions, Aleesha consistently challenges him and provides an outside perspective as not just a coach, but also as an expert in product marketing. Matt’s biggest takeaway from his time with her is to not be afraid to try to create something big and bold within his company.
Strava Employee Highlight: Director of Engineering, Adam Steffes
Adam Steffes, Director of Engineering, initially sought out professional coaching because he felt like he had reached a point in his career where he would benefit from an outside perspective on how he approaches his role. Since starting coaching with Rod Begbie, Senior Engineering Manager at Discord, he feels he’s grown from that outside perspective. Adam brings challenges to sessions that feel like abstract problems or situations that he isn’t sure exactly how to navigate. Rod provides him with both thought processes and practical tools to resolve these situations and make important decisions.
When Adam began the coaching relationship, he asked Rod to spot growth areas for him. He sees this as the main advantage of receiving coaching from someone more senior in his field. Since Rod has dealt with similar kinds of situations and learned from them, he’s able to proactively point out growth opportunities for Adam.
Coaching provides him with new ways of thinking about situations that he may have never considered without the presence of someone who’s willing to listen and ask questions that help him find the answers within himself. He appreciates the clean slate and confidential space where he can bring his toughest challenges to the focus of each session.
“Working with an outside coach means that you can have someone who can help you navigate different challenges or questions that you’re having. I’ve really valued the independent perspective and the ability to help me think through situations or a decision. I keep asking myself, why didn’t I seek out a professional coach a long time ago?” — Adam Steffes
Adam sees the impact of coaching first-hand through his reports who have coaches. He could tell that one of his reports started working with a coach because he saw her show up differently in situations that were challenging and uncomfortable. He noticed her growth, especially how she was taking really strong ownership and producing great results. He also appreciates how coaches can augment a manager’s support when managers have a lot on their plate.
“I’ve seen coaching be very transformative to individuals at Strava in how they show up and how they have really flourished as leaders. After working with a coach, I could tell that their confidence was increasing in situations that were challenging or ambiguous. Working with a coach removes some of the roadblocks so they are able to make progress in the areas where they were stuck quickly and produce better results.” — Adam Steffes
Strava Employee Highlight: Group Product Manager, Scott Yim
When Scott Yim, Group Product Manager, was evaluating the most effective way to use his professional development stipend, he considered courses, conferences, and a variety of self-serve learning options. Coaching stood out as the most valuable option, not only for his day-to-day but also as an investment in his career. He felt excited to build a long-term relationship with a coach while developing his skillset.
Scott feels challenged by his coach Shirley Sun, a seasoned product leader and advisor, because she broadens his perspective to think and approach situations differently. She consistently provides him with learnings and tools that he can apply in his day-to-day and keep with him throughout his career.
”My coach has really challenged my thinking in a way that helps me serve my team and our business more strategically. As we work through situations together, she also does a great job of providing me with tools that I know I’ll be able to apply throughout my career.” — Scott Yim
Shirley widens the lens through which he considers situations and provides him with stronger confidence in his abilities and decision-making. He finds it especially helpful when she abstracts him out of a situation to approach it more objectively and challenges him on his thought processes.
“The structured and methodical frameworks and tools that Shirley has taught me have helped me create tighter alignment with colleagues, as well as make decisions much faster.” — Scott Yim
Scott describes how impactful, thought-provoking, and rewarding coaching is with Shirley. He appreciates most how she provides an outside opinion that validates and challenges him while building his confidence.
His biggest takeaways from Shirley have been to trust his instincts, to make decisions that serve the business, and to maintain a lens of his values. She’s helped him clarify his values as a leader, what shaped them, and how they came to be. She provides a ‘constant heartbeat’ of his values, which helps him stay authentic to the type of leader he wants to be.
“BestPracticer coaching feels like a mix of mentorship, career counseling, role-playing, therapy, and even personal training to a degree — career personal training. It’s been a way for me to get quick feedback on my day-to-day, but also helps me maintain a reflective lens on my work so I am intentional in thinking about how my efforts align with longer-term career goals.” — Scott Yim
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