Tell us about your background: What do you do now, where did you get your start?
Currently, I help to shape the strategy and vision of online media publishing products via Arc Publishing at the Washington Post. But tech wasn’t always where I thought I would be! As an undergrad studying Feminist Studies, I wanted to do work that explicitly improved the lives of women, girls, transgender, and gender non-conforming people. I ended up joining a consulting firm that focused on increasing women’s participation in STEM jobs. I wrote the company’s mission statement and helped the company to incorporate, and in the meantime also needed billable hours to pay my salary, so I started project managing software projects for government agencies. I learned a lot about project management on that job, learned a lot about working as a young women in rooms full of men, and worked at each step of the software development lifecycle. When I wanted to start a Masters program in International Affairs, I also started a job at an international NGO. I spent seven years at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) working on some of the most interesting, exciting, and difficult projects I’ve ever worked on, including mobile data collection for education monitoring and emergency programs, using SMS for gathering community feedback, and web/mobile supported mapping for cross border programs. It was at the IRC where I started to help define and shape the kinds of technology that would better fit unique humanitarian contexts, and that was how I moved into Product Management.
How do you believe you use your strengths in the context of your work?
I very much enjoy working with diverse communities of people and enjoy the process of bringing a thought or concept into fruition. I like to facilitate environments that allow people to share freely their struggles, pain points and challenges, and to turn those into actions that people can get excited about. This comes in handy when I’m doing user research and requirements gathering. I also enjoy being an advocate for others and that comes in handy when I’m translating user requirements to development teams or vice versa when I’m communicating technical information to non-technical communities. I also like switching from strategic to tactical work as I believe both perspectives help to strengthen and improve each other.
Detail a day in your life — from wake to sleep.
I used to have very early starts when I worked for the IRC, because many of my client meetings were in different timezones. At WaPo/Arc, I typically wake up on the later side, 8:30am, and get into the office around 9:30 or 10am. I’m lucky to have a 30 min or less commute from my home to the Washington Post offices in downtown DC. My days generally start with stand-ups across my product teams, and I tend to have a variety of meetings/tasks throughout the day: reviewing designs for current work, requirements gathering with clients for future work, performing market research, preparing release notes, doing demos for clients, performing QA before a release, writing user stories with acceptance criteria, meeting with other product managers to align on strategies, prioritizing requests, running backlog grooming and sprint planning sessions, updating roadmaps across my products, etc. I tend to leave the office around 6pm (sometimes 7pm) and may head to grab drinks with a friend or co-worker and then head home for dinner. My partner generally works from home so I have the privilege of having a lot of home-cooked meals for dinner. They work in technology for a government agency so there tends to be a lot of “shop talk” around the dinner table. We often talk about how we navigate predominantly white, cis-male spaces in tech as queer and gender non-conforming people of color. Then we generally watch tv (lots of scifi and random youtube videos) a bit before we head to bed.
Why did you join/start your current company?
I was freelancing in 2017 after taking a short sabbatical from work. I focused a lot on networking among tech communities in DC and attended a DC Tech meet-up hosted by The Washington Post – they mentioned they were hiring in their Engineering department and I remember I had read that the Post had one of the most innovative Engineering departments in the area. I was super curious about it and sought out a really friendly person in their HR department and asked if they had open Product Manager positions. They did and I applied and a month later I joined the team.
What has been an unexpected challenge along the way?
The fast-paced growth we’re currently experiencing at the Post – so many new staff are joining and it’s an exciting and interesting challenge to evolve the organization and internal processes as we grow very quickly.
Who or what motivates you?
I get really excited about communities coming together to create change. I also deeply believe that underrepresented communities should be at the helm of building the services, technologies, and cultures that will make the most positive social impact.
Was there a moment in your life where you decided to change paths/pivot? If so, what was it?
Yes, this was when I decided to take a sabbatical after spending almost 9 years exclusively working on technology for humanitarian/development services. I wanted to take some time off to think about areas where I thought I could add value and thrive at the same time. Part of that process was taking some time to myself to rest and plan next steps.
What is one word that describes your leadership style
Nominate a woman in tech