In this Netlify team interview series, we’ll be giving you a sneak peek of a day in the life of some of our teammates. Next up: meet Perry, Netlify’s Senior Community Program Manager.
What was your path to Netlify and what were your first impressions of the company?
I’ve had a variety of different positions, both inside and outside of tech prior to starting with Netlify. I got my start working in tech as a Frontend engineer in 1999. Interestingly enough, I’m a second-generation technologist, since my mom was actually a computer programmer who got started in 1969. It’s so funny, she didn’t even know what a computer was at the time that she took a job as a computer operator! Anyway, so I started building websites when I was a teenager and ended up taking an internship at an agency when I started working and became a self-taught frontend developer. I did that for a few years and got a little bit burnt out because there weren’t a lot of the advances that we’ve seen with teams being more inclusive and welcoming. There weren’t many roles for folks who like to operate in a kind of cross-functional way in the late ‘90s – it was almost like you had to be a developer or a designer, but there really wasn’t a lot in between. I’ve always kind of liked operating in more of a niche capacity so I actually dropped out of tech for awhile.
I was a student for a long time and went on an academic track where I was headed into an academic career as an anthropologist. Then I ended up deciding that I didn’t want to pursue that and left the field to become an educator at a technical bootcamp, which was the best of both worlds! I was really missed working in technology and tech was really taking off here in Portland, so I found a code school called Epicodus. I didn’t have very much money at the time and they had a scholarship for underrepresented technologists to attend so I applied and I got accepted and I started going to a code school to refresh my skills. Afterward, they offered me a job, and six weeks later I ended up running the school and managed a team of five teachers by the end of it. I worked with the Dean of Students and decided on the curriculum. I was there for a while and started feeling a bit burnt out and was looking to move on and saw a job post that Netlify was looking for a Community Manager.
I had used Netlify in the past to relaunch my portfolio and thought it was an amazing platform – really easy to use and totally met my needs. The job posting was very personable and very thoughtfully put together so I applied. During that same time, I attended a conference on the West Coast called Write/Speak/Code, where I happened to meet Jessica and Divya from the Netlify team. I let them know that I had applied for the role and we ended up talking a lot, which solidified my desire to come work at Netlify because of that personal connection that I had made. At that point, I received an email from one of the team members inviting me to interview and after several rounds of interviews I got the job and I’ve been here ever since!
Tell me more about your role & your team
My role as the Community Manager is to run our support community and forums. My main goal is to make a really amazing forum experience for our users. I want to build a really inclusive and welcoming community forum, especially for folks from underrepresented backgrounds. I care a lot about helping new technologists (for example, people who are self-taught). I don’t want anyone to be afraid to ask a single question!
My other goal is to bring actionable feedback from our community base of customers back to the company itself, so I act as a kind of two-way communications place. Basically it’s a role where I can go get the information and the solutions out to the people who use the platform. It’s nice to give them permission to self serve their own needs and if they have a specific use case that doesn’t work well then I’ll take that information back to the team. My job shakes hands with lots of different parts of the company so I talk on a regular basis to probably more departments than anybody else. That includes our support team since their work is very similar to mine. I also talk to docs every week because we always need to make sure we’re connected really well. I also connect with marketing, developer experience, sales, product, engineering, recruiting, etc., so I sit at the intersection of all of those things.
I’m part of the support team, even though I am also the lead of my own little Community team. We have a meeting that happens a couple of times a week where we talk amongst ourselves in our support team about things that have come up throughout the week. I also have standing meetings that are once a week with various different teams where we have an organized pairing and sharing responsibility between things.
What does your day to day look like?
It sort of depends on the day because every day is a little bit different. Some days can involve hands on moderating of the forum, like answering different questions, encouraging people to share contributions, thanking them for their participation, and engaging them one on one. I recruit people who are providing great support into the community pilots program, which is our sort of a high-level user that helps other users.
In addition to that, I make sure to generally keep an eye on things and answer questions, which can sometimes mean having difficult conversations with customers, like if they have an expectation that we can fulfill or not. It can be tough if they feel like something is very urgent but we have a different priority for it in terms of our roadmap or if they expect something to work a certain way that I may not be working. Sometimes I have to deliver difficult news to our customers. At the same time, sometimes I also get to report back some really exciting news like when someone points out a bug and we can fix it, which happens quite a lot actually. We’re pretty immediate with fixing bugs, much more so than other companies I’ve noticed. It’s nice to close the loop and get to say, “Hey Susan, thanks for reporting that bug where you found this obscure user case. We actually fixed it!” and I get to bring that back to them. I have a lot of hands-on communication with customers all the time and I need to make sure that I don’t promise anything that I can’t necessarily fulfill while keeping a positive tone and making sure that I have positive interactions with customers.
On other days, I spend most of my time in meetings talking strategy and metrics behind what questions we’ve solved, what our goals are, and how we can gain more insight from the data.
For me mostly that means that coming into work in the morning to start my day by looking through the most important Slack channels so I can make sure I’m not missing anything important. The next thing I’ll do is check in on the forum and see if there’s anything that I missed, such as seeing if anything has been posted the violates our code of conduct or something like that, and will look through posts to see if I can spot any patterns of things that might go off the rails. Then I have meetings scattered throughout the day. Typically I have days of the week that are more geared towards meetings and strategy thinking and then I have days that are more designated towards actual community moderation. We also occasionally have a morning meeting with the team that sets the day out nicely because can get together and talk about what’s going on and decide the priorities for the day.
What has your experience been like working remotely?
So prior to Covid-19 I had a really lovely situation of working remotely but a lot of our team members and my manager happen to be based in Portland. So it was kind of like the best of both worlds where we had the flexibility of being able to connect remotely and having a strong remote culture but there’s also quite a lot of folks who live in Portland so (before Covid-19) we could get together in person and have meetings. Nowadays we do everything remotely via Slack and Zoom calls.
It has been a really great remote experience, but prior to working at Netlify I’ve also seen not-so great remote teams where communication wasn’t happening in a streamlined way, which can be really difficult, lonely and siloed. But I think we do a really great job of making things remote-first and have lots of pairing documents and a good set-up for meetings where expectations are pretty clarified as to what we’re going to cover in the meeting so we use our time productively and wisely.
What advice do you have for working remotely? Do you have any advice for someone looking to join Netlify?
I don’t know if it’s necessarily advice, but I would acknowledge during the pandemic that even for a remote person in a very capable remote friendly company, it’s still difficult to work exclusively remotely during Covid-19. I think that if people are struggling with that, that’s totally normal. Even for us experienced remote workers it can be tough nowadays. Normally I would travel to San Francisco fairly regularly to meet with our folks in the HQ but haven’t been able to do that since the pandemic hit. I just think acknowledging that it is challenging is a good start.
I think that if people are struggling with that, that’s totally normal. Even for us experienced remote workers it can be tough nowadays.
Being remote, I personally find being able to move to different locations is helpful. I enjoy being able to work from home for some days and then spending some days at coworking spaces or coffee shops. I just think it’s all about understanding yourself and understanding what you need to be productive. It’s important to know yourself and your limitations. Having a designated space is also helpful if you can swing it. I used to live in a loft where I didn’t have a designated space which was really tough. I also think it’s helpful to make time for focus time and taking the time upfront planning out your day, as opposed to just jumping in.
Remote tips can be different for everyone though, it just depends on how you like to work best. Ultimately, you might be a person who can concentrate best with a certain amount of background activity around you, so if that’s how you thrive then find ways to recreate that is going to be helpful, whereas if you’re a person who needs to be in dead quiet then you can recreate that type of environment. That’s what you need to know about yourself and there’s no shame in customizing your workspace in order to match the things you need.
What’s the most rewarding projects that you’ve worked so far?
I think my most rewarding project product isn’t necessarily a concretely defined one but it’s really rewarding to me anytime somebody posts in the forums that they were treated really well, or if they give great feedback around the help that they’ve received or if they felt really included. Those things are always great to hear and I see them as another sign things are going really well. So anytime I hear things like that it makes me feel great! My approach here is to help encourage people who might feel nervous to post otherwise. I love making sure people are feeling encouraged to contribute and share and it’s always a major success for me when I see that they are flourishing. I think that we’ve been able to craft a really hard-working, healthy, productive, and thoughtful team. All of the credit for that goes to my manager, who did just such a great job of building the team out. We all love working with each other and really appreciate one another so it’s a wonderful feeling.
Is there a particular memory or moment from your time here that stands out?
One memory that stands out has been when we’ve had our Support Summits. This is where all of the support staff get together in a house for a few days. It was nice to brainstorm and get vision work done around the team, but we also had a lot of fun and got to have social downtime. That was really, really pleasant and I think it says a lot that we all still like each other afterward! The same goes for our All Hands event with everyone – being able to spend the week together and afterwards still wanting to come back to work and be able to be surrounded by such great folks is such an amazing feeling! I just love all of the memories where we are able to connect both on a really effective working level but also at a great interpersonal human level – what more can you ask for with a team!
I just love all of the memories where we are able to connect both on a really effective working level but also at a great interpersonal human level – what more can you ask for with a team!
Do you have advice for someone looking to join Netlify?
I think it’s a really good idea to understand what makes Netlify unique, both as a workplace and also as a platform. I think it’s really important to understand what makes our platform different. To people that are applying for jobs, they may just think that it’s just another engineering role, but I really do feel it’s important to understand what we actually do and what sets us apart from other ways of hosting, building, and deploying websites. We take culture add very seriously and we’re a pretty diverse company in a lot of different ways.
What are your passions outside of work?
I’ve recently purchased an older home in June that was built in 1923 so I’m doing a lot of the rehab work on it myself at the moment, which has involved lots of refinishing floors (although there are also many flaws). I spent a lot of time doing my DIY things which is a really nice counterbalance to just spending a lot of time in front of a screen. I like to have a lot of balance in my life and working physically is a great way to kind of balance out. Especially during the pandemic at a time when you can’t really spend a lot of time with people it has been really helpful to have a balance. I also like to go camping like a typical Oregonian and love riding my bike and being outdoors.