I realize as I get older, I take after my mother in many ways. I’m often losing my keys, phone, wallet, leaving the hair straightener on, the list goes on. But one thing I love is her uncanny strength to see the best in people and the belief that many things happen for a reason. Of course as highly Type A person in my career, I’ve always told her that was ridiculous and I was in charge of my destiny and no one could change that. A will always be followed by B, we don’t skip to G.
In retrospect, it’s easy to see how the steps came into place on their own. My story, both my family and professional roles, set me up for my developer relations career. I learned to help others, be empathetic, and make the case for what I needed. As I’m sitting here in Seattle on a quiet evening reflecting on life, I realize there are so many things in my journey that have led me to where I am today. I didn’t take this traditional path of being an engineer right out of school. Hell, I was told it wasn’t an option multiple times. So sometimes when I see these messages like “I’ve always known I was going to be an engineer, so I did just that.” I admit I’m jealous because I didn’t have that privilege. I didn’t have that opportunity. I worked and I found things that would help me pay the bills right now and I worked hard at that until I could level up and prove myself worthy to do the next job.
I also didn’t think that all my work in the restaurant industry, grinding away at analyzing spreadsheet data or helping raise my siblings would lead to anything except… me being me.
I’m the eldest of four, and my parents divorced when I was eleven. Life for my mom was rough to say the least. Before that, we were a working-class family struggling to make ends meet in Colorado with both my parents working crazy hours. As the eldest I helped run the household so my parents could focus on keeping the lights on and putting food on the table. I organized our weekly chore chart, held Saturday family meetings, gave out rewards for jobs done on time, made school lunches and walked my siblings to school. Normal kid stuff, right?
This instilled a lot of lessons in me early on. Give a good balance of work and reward upon completion; evaluate and optimize processes (8 pieces of bread out at a time vs 2 for sandwich making); and give others the respect they deserve and you’ll get it back 10x.
I started working in the restaurant industry at the young age of 12. I quickly learned the lay of the land, saw inefficiencies and offered to fix them. This started with updating the menu with descriptions and pricing, then having daily specials and better scheduling for staff. Pretty simple things. We then expanded the restaurant to include a patio space that brought seating from 18 bar seats to allowing us to seat 47 people at one time. With that, a P.O.S. system was needed to create more efficiency for a minimally staffed restaurant (1 line cook, 1 server, 1 prep cook/dishwasher). As business grew, we needed more staff and I was a part of that growth. I’m thankful that I had a unique situation in high school. I went to a private school during my last two years. I was working full time and going to school for two days a week, 11 hours each day. I also had the fortune of working for a business owner who had complete trust in me, a 15-year-old at the time, to run his entire restaurant.
That kicked off my work in hospitality and I’ve worked every position from front of the house, hostess to back of the house line cook, since then off and on for 15 years. What did that teach me? Empathy. A whole lot of empathy. It also taught me to read people pretty well and interpret what they needed before they asked for it. Customer first, give first, listen — really listen, then execute. These lessons all come into play in my everyday work now.
My first “grown up” job during college was working at a ski resort in Durango, Colorado. I worked as a Group Sales and Conference Services Manager. This was back when we were attending ski shows, sending out direct mail campaigns (yep, postcards!) and partnering with these new third party sites called Expedia and Orbitz to gain traction. While this was mostly a paper and schmooze job, I found myself fascinated by the data of returning and non-returning groups, the patterns we saw year over year. I started digging into this, working with the marketing department and giving suggestions on optimizing our revenue with a balance of rooms over the years. This was a job no one wanted to do at the time, because Excel. But I swear to you, pivot tables are your friend.
Some of these initial analyses led me to specialize in marketing in school and my career when I graduated. It was something I realized, that before I could arbitrarily suggest a solution, I needed the data to back it up. I didn’t feel comfortable doing it any other way, so any time I spoke up in a meeting, I made sure I had spent a lot of time researching ahead of time and having multiple numbers and solutions ready for any questions they may have. This taught me two things. First, data is power. Second, not everyone will dig in to data, so understanding it at a deep level can lead to powerful discoveries.
Now, evaluating my other jobs I’ve carried throughout my career besides what you could call my first three I described above; they all weave into this beautiful meld of what I do now.
Developer Relations is not just dev marketing, or educational engineering or curating a community of developers. It’s so much more than that. It’s having empathy and understanding of the developer, putting their needs before your own. It’s curating a community and giving them the respect they deserve before asking them to show you the same. It’s analyzing the data to see what the best outcome is to reach these audiences so you can all be happier.
My mother raised us to be inclusive of everyone and to be our authentic self. “March to the beat of your own drum” she would always say. With that I always listened to others beats and would see how we could best harmonize. I also found myself really just trying to listen and understand others in hope that they would do the same for me. This ultimately, was my first lesson on inclusivity. If I could truly listen and try to understand what others around me were going through, we could better understand each other and help one another.
Helping raise my family taught me how to lead, motivate and have compassion. There is a certain amount of chaos and dysfunction in a home with multiple kids; especially with four of them all two years apart and “marching to the beat of their own drum” (and yes, sometimes that definitely literally happened around the house). With this chaos, we needed to bring some semblance of order and that was primarily done through a chore chart, sticker rewards, allowances, trips to the park, creating games (both to clean up and ones that required clean up) and of course time outs. As the eldest, this fell naturally to me and I enjoyed that responsibility. I got to help my parents and ultimately, my mom, so we could just spend fun time together. This was my first lesson in management; leading by example and creating motivation to get the jobs done. I think that’s why I was drawn to startups for much of my career; the passion, slight dysfunction and controlled chaos of building something felt like home.
The combination of all these things have led to where I am now, as a person, working in Developer Relations. I get to work on writing, speaking, coding and most importantly, people. I get to work with developers in the community, in my company and on my team to make their experience on the web the best in can be, regardless of if it’s the solution I represent at the time. Developer Relations is about so much more than getting on a plane and speaking (despite the many jokes we all have); it’s about creating a connection, nurturing, listening and ultimately asking “how can I best help you?” In many ways it’s a demanding support role to developers and other departments, which is how burnout happens so quickly, but that’s a blog post for another time.
I’ve accepted a position at MongoDB as their Director of Americas for Developer Relations and I’m super excited about it! From day one speaking with the team there it’s been clear how very passionate they are about their product, their people and the future. We align very well on data-driven strategy. I’m thrilled to be working alongside a team of that caliber. They truly care about their people and helping them grow, which goes in hand with much of what I’ve been building since I was young. I cannot wait to help build their community even more and share the journey as we progress.
Full circle, I am taking my mother’s stance: everything happens for a reason. The path I’ve taken, while not straightforward; has been this amazing curving path where I’ve learned so much and gotten to meet so many people from different parts of the world and backgrounds. The best part is, this new role with MongoDB is my next new experience on this winding path, one where the future is bright. I can’t wait to live it and see where it take me. I love that Developer Relations is where I’ve continued to grow and not only utilize my skillset as a marketer, an engineer, a community leader, but as my mother’s daughter, believing the best in people.