When Jessica Rothfuss started her first job out of college, she felt a little lost.
"I had no idea what was going on. I didn't grow up around corporate America and I didn't know the norms," Jessica explains, highlighting her discomfort with office conversation around childhood vacations (which her family couldn't afford) and having to navigate dress codes (when a friend told her khakis probably didn't cut it for client meetings).
With the help of some friends and informal mentors, Jessica expanded her comfort zone and figured out corporate life, developing the soft skills of persuasion and communication that she needed to navigate tough conversations. And now, decades into her career in tech and currently working as a Senior Technical Program Manager at DigitalOcean, the cloud infrastructure provider for developers, she's come full circle, serving as an informal mentor to other women in tech and a formal mentor, as of last week, to a woman at DigitalOcean.
We sat down to talk to Jessica—who was joined on-camera by her adorable senior rescue dog—about her career path, how she's giving back and helping other women navigate the world of corporate tech, and how DigitalOcean's remote-friendly approach to work has changed the way she sees her future.
Navigating a steep learning curve as a first-generation college student in tech
As a first-generation college student, Jessica's opportunity set was different from her peers' from the get-go. She studied chemistry and couldn't afford to take an unpaid internship in a lab—"summers were for making money to pay next semester's tuition," she remembers—so she kept her job doing technical support for AOL. Her early exposure to tech piqued her interest, and she ended up joining a startup after graduation, working her way up to being a project manager. Later, after teaching herself SQL and enjoying it, she tried her hand as a developer. She found the work "too isolating," so she transitioned into being a technical account manager and worked at a variety of firms, from small startups to big multinational corporations, until she found the Goldilocks fit at DigitalOcean.
Along the way, as she was exposed to a wide range of work cultures, people, and problems, she built up answers to the questions she'd had at the beginning, like "Which direction should I take my career?" and "How do I approach my boss?"
Jessica now counts her soft skills, like empathetic communication, as some of the most valuable things she brings to the table. Being an outsider at first—and a fairly invisible one, because as Jessica says, "People who come from a background of lower income might not be willing to out themselves; it's not something you kind of mosey in with and say, 'Hi, y'all, I'm a first generation college student'"—meant that she had to find her way into tech from the outside. Doing so has made her especially understanding of other people.
"Tech is very relationship-based," says Jessica. "I think we could all do a lot more to try and understand where people might be coming from, because we all have different experiences, different backgrounds, and different baggage."
Paying it forward by mentoring others
With help from friends and from managers who have since become friends, Jessica more than made up for any gaps she had in her first few years on the job, and now she's helping others.
It started with women reaching out and asking Jessica to help them navigate the various personalities and politics of work life, she says. "One woman came to me and said, 'I see you getting these folks to do stuff that I would never guess I could actually get them to do—can you help me figure out when and how to communicate with them?'" remembers Jessica. She did that for several more women, and has since been tapped to be a formal mentor through DigitalOcean's mentorship program.
When she's mentoring other women in tech, a lot of her advice focuses on navigating the situation from the other person's perspective. "As women, we've got to toe that line. We don't want to be called too aggressive, and we also can't be too meek," she notes.
"I try very hard to put myself in the shoes of the other person. We're in tech, and there's always conflict on some level, right? Something's always changing. Someone's resisting the change. There's always something going on, and there are a lot of strong personalities," says Jessica.
She coaches her mentees to learn how their coworkers and bosses think, and to try to approach problems from their perspective. "If you can put yourself in their shoes and understand why they might be feeling a little insecure or feeling like their job's in jeopardy or feeling like they're being snubbed or that they're being taken advantage of, you can figure out how to approach them," she says.
Five key pieces of advice for women in tech as they navigate their careers
We asked Jessica to distill some of the wisdom she shares with her mentees in order to share it with our readers. Here's what she had to say:
1. "Pay attention to everyone. If people are reaching out to you, you'll naturally figure out who you should be listening to over time, but it's always good to take in the information."
2. "Remember that you're going to stumble and you're going to misstep and that's okay."
3. "Some relationships can last for a really long time and serve you well beyond the current role you're in—try to be open to them. I grew up very much not trusting of people, and at some point you have to start trusting yourself to make those decisions."
4. "Find the people who are willing to help. They're always there. I have yet to enter a place where they're not, and I've entered some hostile places."
5. "And then when you're at that point, be the helper. Pay it forward and be the one to help the generation coming in after you because they're going to need it, too."
Creating the future she wants at DigitalOcean
Jessica has always taken an active role in planning her career. She accepted a job offer in order to work with a manager she knew she could learn from, even when that meant another cross-country move. She's said no to promotions that would cost her the work-life balance she's worked hard to establish. So when she was considering a job at DigitalOcean, she tried to see where it would fit in with her larger career and life goals.
She'd never worked for a remote-friendly company before, but loved that DigitalOcean's setup—with headquarters in New York and offices in places like Cambridge and San Francisco, and the option to work from home—would allow her to move back home to New Mexico to be closer to her mom, while still getting some face time in with the team during her trips back to California to see friends.
Coming up on her second year of working for DigitalOcean, she says it's one of the best decisions she's ever made. As a technical program manager, she manages cross-functional initiatives with lots of moving pieces, leaning on her strong communication skills to connect stakeholders between departments, document progress, and unstick problems along the way.
DigitalOcean's combination of meaningful work, positive culture, and remote-friendly policies have worked out for Jessica. "I don't know that I ever want to go back into an office, ever!" she says, laughing.
If DigitalOcean's culture and remote-friendly work policies sound intriguing, check out their open roles here.
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Jason Concepcion is a Sr. Talent Acquisition Specialist at CU Direct, a technology leader that delivers lending solutions to financial institutions, auto dealers, retailers, and medical providers nationwide. As a progressive company that looks for the best diverse talent, CU Direct prides themselves on seeking and taking care of their employees.
We sat down with Jason to learn about CU Direct’s hiring process. Keep reading for his top 6 tips to put into practice when interviewing with CU Direct.
Tip # 1 Do Your Research
While it may seem obvious, learning about the company you’re interviewing for is crucial. “Before the interview, do some research on CU Direct, our products and services, and even our subsidiary companies,” says Jason. Doing the research will show the interviewer that you are highly interested and that “you did your due diligence in getting to know the company.” Check out their About page to get to know CU Direct and its various projects.
Tip #2 Ask Questions
It’s important to be transparent from the first point of contact with the company, which means asking questions to clarify and gain more information. Jason suggests, “when talking to the recruiter, ask questions. Go into that interview confident and prepared, making sure you have questions for them to figure out if you can succeed, have fun, and prosper with CU Direct. As a recruiter, we gather information and we want you to gather information, too.”
Tip #3 Take Your Time
Pace yourself in the interview. Jason explains that “it’s okay to pause, regroup, and answer questions. When asked about your experiences, taking your time will allow you to think of the situation, how you solved it, and what was the outcome.”
Tip #4 Ask Yourself, ‘What Do I Want to Do?’
Take inventory of what you have accomplished or learned in your professional trajectory so far. “We’re not just looking for what you’ve done, but we are also looking for what you can do and what you want to do,” says Jason. He believes that “those things are just as important as what you’ve done in the past. Your drive and determination will show us where you want to go and ideally, that will organically align with the positions we have here at our company.”
Tip #5 Understand the Job Description
With your resume in hand, consider what experiences best align with the job description. “Valuable work experience can be found almost anywhere. It can come from your first job or it can come from your most recent job,” Jason explains. Whatever small or short experience you have that matches the job description is worth mentioning and explaining, depending on the job you are applying for. Jason explains, “a good understanding of the job description you’re going for, and related positions within the company will give you a greater insight as to what we’re looking for and what you want to highlight or present in regards to this role.”
Tip #6 Don’t Be Afraid to Get Personal
One way to stand out in the interview process is to show that you’ll be a good values fit, so intentionality throughout, and after, the interview can go a long way. Jason suggests sending a thank you email after the interview. “This will make sure that you stand out in front of thousands of applicants,” he says. “Don’t make it generic, tailor the message including details mentioned in the interview, this will show the person that you were completely engaged throughout the interview.”
CU Direct’s personal and careful recruitment process is a reflection of their fun and innovative atmosphere, their value of team members, and commitment to growth. They offer several benefits to their employees, such as a flexible working environment, paid time off, 401k match, college tuition reimbursement, and an exciting company culture. Because of this, they want to make sure people are treated with the same kindness and positivity from the start. As Jason reiterates: “We want to make sure you are prepared and ready for each step of this process, from interviewing, to asking questions, and to possibly onboard in the future,” says Jason.
Are you interested to find out more about working at CU Direct? Check out their openings here!
We all have our favorite websites– the ones we frequent, bookmark, and recommend to others. You might even enjoy some website features so much that you’ve found yourself wondering why they aren’t more popular. Or maybe you’ve experienced times where you were frustrated with a website and wished you could add features or even design your own!
If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued at the prospect of designing and developing your own websites, then a career as a web developer might be just for you!
As a web developer you would be responsible for coding, designing, optimizing, and maintaining websites. Today, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world and, in turn, the demand for web developers is on the rise. In order to figure out what kind of web development work best suits you let’s start with an introduction to the three main roles in web development that you can choose from.
The Three Types of Web Development Jobs
Front-End Web Development: The Creative Side
In addition to programming skills, front-end developers need to be detail oriented, creative, willing to keep up with the latest trends in web development, cyber security conscious, and geared toward user-friendly designs. The median salary for a front-end developer can reach well into the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
Back-End Web Development: The Logical Counterpart
While a house can be beautifully decorated, it’s incomplete without a solid foundation and efficient infrastructure. Similarly, a well-designed website depends on logical and functional code to power the features of that website. Back-end web development is code-heavy and focused on the specifics of how a website works. If you enjoy the analytical challenge of creating the behind-the-scenes code that powers a website, then back-end development is for you.
Full-Stack Web Development: A Little Bit of Everything
A full-stack developer is essentially the Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades in web development. Full-stack developers need to be knowledgeable about both front-end and back-end roles. This does not necessarily imply that you would need to be an expert in both roles, but you should fully understand the different applications and synergies they each imply. In order to work in this position, you will need to know the programming languages used by front-end and back-end developers. In addition to these languages, full-stack developers also specialize in databases, storage, HTTP, REST, and web architecture.
Full-stack developers are often required to act as liaisons between front-end and back-end developers. Full-stack developers need to be both problem solvers and great communicators. The end goal for a full-stack developer is to ensure that the user’s experience is seamless, both on the front-end and on the back-end. In return, you can expect to earn a median salary of $100,000 – $115,000 a year for this role.
Taking the Next Step
Web development is both in-demand and lucrative! All three roles described above contribute to specific aspects of web development and the scope of each one can be customized to the industries and positions you feel best suit you. Regardless of which role you choose, all of them need a foundation in programming.
To gain the programming skills needed in each role, you can enroll in courses or learn independently. Coding bootcamps are a great way to boost your skillset quickly and efficiently.
Click here for some of our highly rated programming bootcamp options! Make sure to check out the discounts available to PowerToFly members.
Yun Freund considers her background to form the “typical immigrant story” — but sitting down with the SVP of Platform and Product at Equinix, it’s clear she’s made it her own.
“I came to the United States about 30 years ago with $80 in my pocket. I earned a CS degree from a Beijing university when computer science was new. I was good at math, so that’s what I studied,” explains Yun.
Fast forward a few decades, and Yun is now running one of the largest organizations at Equinix, a Fortune 500 digital infrastructure company focused on providing an interconnected platform to its global 10k customers. While focusing on external growth — the business has grown nearly 40% since her arrival — Yun has also invested in internal progress, especially when it comes to Equinix’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) goals.
“I know first-hand how hard it is, as an Asian and a woman, to be able to survive and excel at a workplace, and I’m proud of how Equinix has grown to be an amazing workplace where employees feel that they are safe, belong, and matter,” says Yun.
That’s not just her opinion. Glassdoor confirms this, having given the company a “best place to work” distinction in 2021, and a special award for best places to work for LGBTQ+ equality list by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
We were excited to learn more about Yun’s strategies for empowering her team — including her belief that making room for failure is just as important as celebrating success.
The Intersection of Technological Innovation and People Management
Yun first heard about Equinix through a recruiter. Decades into her career in tech leadership, she was looking for a role where she could drive innovation in both technology and people management.
“After many rounds of discussion with our executives, I realized Equinix is a company that’s full of potential. It was doing a lot of innovation on interconnected SaaS products and networking products, and I thought I could really help drive, from a culture and process perspective, the company's digital transformation journey,” reflects Yun.
Her first order of business? Building a strategy for scaling product development. Yun had long worked at the intersection of engineering and people management, and she embraced the challenge to scale a talent strategy as well as changing the culture.
That resulted in clear growth — not just for Yun’s career, as in promotions and new responsibilities, but also in what the company was able to do.
“Helping to cultivate a DevOps culture, move products to the Cloud for high reliability and availability, and build operational excellence for our customers is contributing to us fulfilling our purpose, which is to be the platform where the world comes together, enabling the innovations that enrich our work, life and planet,” says Yun.
Diverse Ways of Measuring Impact
Yun doesn’t manage her team by the balance sheet alone.
“Improving the bottom line, or operating more efficiently, is just as important as improving the top line, or driving more revenue and more customer adoption,” she says. “Sometimes it’s not about how we get new products and services out the door, but how we run things more efficiently.”
For Equinix, says Yun, that includes committing to becoming carbon-neutral by 2030.
“We’re a company that really touches life every day, from online shopping, to sending emails and streaming movies, to smart cars,” says Yun. “We want to be doing that sustainably. For example, by using AI and machine learning to lower our power consumption and using green sources of energy.”
Yun knows that to drive the most impact, Equinix needs a diverse team. She has partnered with other senior leaders and employee connection groups and started driving a more coherent DIB strategy across the company. She is excited to see the progress and wants to continue the effort in building a diverse and safe workplace for everyone — including by leading through her own example.
3 Key Ways to Empower Your Team
When Yun says that it’s important to empower your team, she doesn’t mean that you simply transfer the responsibility to your team and call it done. Here’s what she does mean:
- Embrace failure. “It’s easy to say, ‘Ah, empowerment. Here’s the purpose, go drive impact.’ But sometimes it’s not all rosy,” she says. “The road to empowerment can sometimes be a failure. How do you support your employees along the way? When they fail, you should not blame them. You should be there, on their side, to help them do a retrospective and learn from it.”
- Show trust via delegation. “Giving your team the opportunity to make their own decisions helps give them a purpose. It shows them they can make a difference. Accountability and ownership will help drive your team to have deeper engagement and commitments, and ultimately deliver results.”
- Tie individual responsibilities to company OKRs (Objectives, Key Results). “I always communicate to my team that every engineer and individual contributor’s work will have an impact on the business, no matter how small that is,” says Yun. For example, if an engineer is working on a new digital experience component for the customers, their work will contribute to some kind of business outcome such as, hours saved from many customer support calls or customer satisfaction score improvement, and that in turn drives operational efficiency and customer experience improvement for the whole business. “When employees realize their impact on the business, it elevates their motivation as well as their state of mind.”
💎For a successful job search you need to be very strategic, focused, and intentional about your career. Watch the video to the end to get advice on how to achieve it!
📼Be successful in your job search by identifying the career goals you’d like to achieve over the next 12 to 18 months. LaMont Price, Senior Recruiter, and Meg Fronckowiak, Senior Talent Acquisition Recruiter at Tenable, share with you the benefits of having a short-term career development plan and understanding your unique value proposition.
📼A successful job search requires you to take a deep dive into the job description. Look at your resume and try to match the skills and the qualifications and highlight that on your resume, so it stands out. Secondly, do your research. You want to make sure that you've taken a look at the company website. You've looked at the leadership of the company, the size of the company, and the culture of the company. And to go one step further, look at the interviewer. Look them up on LinkedIn, and take a look at their background. Recruiters always look for people who have great insightful questions that show the level of research the person did.
📼You’ll be successful in a job search if you know how to face the interview process. Every interview includes some don’ts. Don't be late. There's nothing worse than showing up late for an interview. Dress Professionally. Try to be in a quiet place so that you're not distracted. Get through the interview process, show that you're engaged, and have good body language. At the end of the interview, you always want to ask if there's any question that maybe you weren't able to answer. And always ask about the interview process to get a good understanding of the timeline.
A Successful Job Search Requires Research - Learn About A Company’s Values!
Recruiters need to know if you are aligned with the company’s culture. If you want to apply to Tenable, you should know that its core values are diversity, equity, and inclusion. They work together and they win together, and this is an idea that resonates throughout the entire organization. Tenable celebrates all of its employees. This allows them to focus on the equal representation of women and minorities in technical roles, sales roles, and leadership roles. The company provides training for all of its employees in diversity, equity, and inclusion. This helps employees to understand how their behaviors can impact others. Make sure to show that you are aligned with these values during your interview!
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Tenable? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know LaMont Price and Meg Fronckowiak
Over the last 25+ years, LaMont Price has researched, analyzed, and optimized services and products by exploiting the latest tools and tactics aligned with the strategic goal via Attention, Differentiation, Trust, and Memorability. Meg Fronckowiak has been working in the recruiting and talent attraction since 2003 and she spent the majority of her career working across all disciplines including, Building out GTM Teams, Accounting & Finance, Marketing, Operations, and Sales Leadership. If interested in a career at Tenable, you can connect with LaMont and Meg on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Tenable
Tenable empowers all organizations to understand and reduce their cybersecurity risk. Over 30,000 organizations, more than 50% being fortune 500 companies worldwide, rely on Tenable to help them understand and reduce cybersecurity risk. The company has some of the greatest minds. That’s because they bring people who come from diverse backgrounds and give them the resources and support to partner together to bring new ideas to life.