How This Product Manager Prototypes Her Own Career: Insight from Teachers Pay Teachers’ Brooke Henderer
Prototypes are to product managers what decks are to consultants.
They're a way to showcase one vision of the future—to give people an opportunity to experience it and to decide whether to pursue it.
As a senior product manager at education marketplace Teachers Pay Teachers, Brooke Henderer is quite familiar with the practice. She's made dozens of prototypes for different work projects over the years.
Recently, she's started to think about her own life as a series of prototypes, of different future options that she's explored and that have taught her what it is she really wants to pursue.
We sat down with Brooke to hear about how she got into product management, how she's applied her PM skillset to understanding what it is she wants to do with her life, and what advice she has for people who are looking to do some self-discovery and self-prototyping of their own.
A three-part framework
Brooke tried a lot of things in college. "I was definitely one of those people who did not know what they wanted to do," she says. "I had such broad interests that it was really hard for me to narrow them down."
She took classes that interested her, from chemistry to economics, and applied the same approach to her extracurricular activities, exploring everything from jobs in retail and customer service to internships in sales. "I really enjoyed getting to work with customers and helping people in some capacity," she says. She was particularly interested in tech—"It felt very future-proof," she notes—but realized that tech sales wasn't for her. "I didn't love the repetitive nature of being on the phone all day," she says. Becoming super-specialized wasn't appealing, either.
"I didn't want to be a craft developer because I don't know how to code. I'm not going to be a designer because I don't know how to design," she says. "I got really lucky stumbling upon product management, because it has the aspects of the customer-facing side of things I enjoy, and sales, but is also a mix of more creative and strategic work on different levels, and gets me exposure to a lot of different kinds of work throughout the day."
After getting her first PM job with Intuit from a career fair, Brooke stayed with that company for a while before looking for something new. When she set out to look for her next challenge, she had a clear framework in mind. Brooke was looking for:
- A mission she could connect to. "During my time at Intuit, I discovered that what ultimately motivates me and drives me is creating something for someone else and ideally creating a positive change for them. It was really important for me to know that whatever I was building or doing, it was something good for someone else," says Brooke.
- A smaller company. Brooke knew she wanted to work somewhere that wasn't so big that she wouldn't be able to be in the mix with different tasks each day. "There's something about doing something different every day and not having a lot of repetition that I really enjoy," she says. "And I'm comfortable with the rapid change and quick adaptation of smaller companies, because we're always building new products and we stay flexible to changes."
- A product roadmap that interested her. "I just knew that if it wasn't exciting on the surface, it probably wasn't gonna keep me there for long," says Brooke.
Teachers Pay Teachers met all of her criteria, and Brooke realized it was the place for her from her very first interview. "It really stuck out to me how clear the mission and strategy was, and how much love every single employee and leader had for educators," she says. "It was genuine."
She felt particularly drawn to TPT's mission. "Our strategy has to do with unlocking funds for educators so they don't have to reach into their own pockets to get the resources and tools they need. It's a really unique opportunity to work somewhere where the business goals align with doing something really good for customers," says Brooke.
Stepping back from a job to consider a life
After Brooke got her first product management role, she expected her questions about her career to abate. They didn't.
"Getting that first job was this big thing. Then you realize, 'Oh, this can grow, this can change, this doesn't have to be the single thing I do for the rest of my life.' So how do I make sure I'm still in a career I like, and that I'm figuring out how to hone in on my interests over time?" she reflects.
She started applying her product manager skill set to her own life.
A book called Designing Your Life helped, she says, by teaching her how to ask herself what she wanted out of life beyond her job. It led to her realizing that she really enjoyed building tangible things, so she decided to explore content creation.
After taking a film class and producing a short documentary, Brooke realized she wanted to stay in product, and credits her exploration with her renewed sense of commitment to and peace with her career decision.
"Going through that process, taking the film class, doing those things really proved to myself, 'Oh, there's actually not a whole lot of other things that really fit what I want,'" says Brooke.
"Because I was able to prototype those things and try them out, it helped me feel better about doubling down on staying in product. It made me feel more secure in the path I was choosing," says Brooke. "I learned other things I might like, but that might be better as hobbies for me."
6 tips for self-discovery at work and beyond
If you've wondered if you should blow up your life and start all over—and if you should, how exactly you're to begin that process—Brooke has some perspective for you. Spoiler alert: it's a gradual approach.
- First, recognize that there's no single right path for you. "There are many possible futures you can have, and they're all great," says Brooke. "The best thing you can do is just not to be afraid. Don't feel like you're stuck and can't try anything new."
- Try a "good time" journal. Keep an activity log of all of the things you do in a given day and note how much energy you get from them. "You could do it for a week or for a day," says Brooke. "I think you'll be surprised at what you learn about what fills you up. What type of things were you doing? What types of people were there? What role were you in? What sorts of things were there—computers, sticky notes, whiteboards?"
- Be more conscious of your schedule. Once you know what kinds of things drain you, Brooke suggests adjusting your schedule to better absorb them. For example, if she has a long day of draining meetings, she'll schedule some time to talk to a customer right afterwards, since those chats always give her energy. "Not everything in work is going to be perfect," says Brooke. "But as much as you can fill your bucket up with those things that give you energy, you can use that as a guide to help you figure out where you want to go."
- Carve out enough time for deep work. Even if meetings do bring you energy, too many of them will make you feel like you're unable to make progress on any longer-term goals or even to think about what your personal goals are. Make sure you're getting at least a few hours a week for heads-down work, notes Brooke.
- Set boundaries, including around breaks. To avoid the constant interruptions of Slack messages and emails, Brooke responds to them at certain times of day. She also has scheduled small breaks that she sticks to. "It's about actually standing up and stepping away from your computer," she says.
- Ask if you can shift enough within where you are to meet your needs, or if a bigger shift is needed. Sometimes it's enough to adjust smaller parts of your life, whether that's what your schedule looks like or even the company you work for, in order to feel more aligned with the things and activities that bring you energy. But sometimes it's not. "Long term, you need to think about changes you want to make," says Brooke. In that case, the same advice applies, just starting with a bigger scale. "Everything might not be clear just yet, but you'll figure it out as you go."
According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.
That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.
As we reflect on recent events and how they fit into a much larger history of discrimination, we're also taking time to celebrate and acknowledge the many achievements of the AAPI community.
We asked several of our partner companies what they're doing to honor AAPI Heritage Month at work, and we were inspired by the range of responses, covering everything from campaigns to #StopAsianHate to educational events on AAPI history.
Here's what they're doing, in their own words:
Empowering authenticity - LogMeIn
"Our theme this year is AIM to Be Real. We are embracing our new company values and celebrating those who bring their authentic selves to work, who help create space to celebrate diversity of thought, and who give back to the API community. Our Asian ERG, Asians in Motion (AIM), is hosting several events: a discussion about bringing your authentic self to work with Jerry Won (Dear Asian Americans podcast); a refugee-led virtual cooking class; ERG Movie Club discussions featuring Bollywood films, and a virtual volunteer event where we will offer career development mentoring for young women across Asia."
Learn more about LogMeIn here.
Educating on current events — Raytheon Technologies
"Raytheon Technologies is honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with an enterprise-wide global town hall event – Real Talk: Building CommUNITY Together. Organized by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) employee resource groups across the company, employees will share their personal experiences and discuss ways to support Asian American Pacific Islander communities. The event will also feature prominent leading advocates from renowned civil rights organizations to provide insight into the national context surrounding recent events. We will also feature AAPI employees internally and on our social media channels."
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies here.
Encouraging awareness, growth, and learning — Moody's
"Moody's is encouraging awareness, growth, and learning during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the following activities, led by our Multicultural Business Resource Group and DE&I team:
- Weekly newsletters featuring AAPI employee profiles and cultural resources
- Video screening and small-group discussions supporting #StopAsianHate
- Cultural panel discussion featuring employee stories
- Professional development activities
- External speakers speaking about Asian leadership"
Supporting professional development — Freddie Mac
"Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Freddie Mac – Together, We Are Stronger
Freddie Mac supports the professional development of Asian and Pacific Islander employees while promoting an increased awareness of the value they bring to the organization and our local communities. Our InspirASIAN Business Resource Group is hosting various activities throughout the month such as:
- Personal development session on empowerment led by a coach from our Employee Assistance Program.
- "Stop Asian Hate" lunch and learn geared toward discussing the hurdles facing the AAPI community.
- Fireside chat about racial injustice with leaders from our InspirASIAN and ARISE (employees of the African diaspora) BRGs."
Fostering inclusion, learning, and belonging – Nestlé USA
"At Nestlé USA, the Pan Asian Network (PAN), one of our many employee resource groups that support our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion initiatives, will host a variety of events to honor and acknowledge Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. These activities will foster greater inclusion, enhanced learning, and belonging for the AAPI community. PAN will highlight women's development in Asian cultures, Asian leadership and what their culture means to them, culinary innovation of Asian cuisine, intersectionality of LGBTQ+ and Pan Asian community, as well as an enhanced learning watch party of the PBS movie 'Asian American.'"
Learn more about Nestlé USA here.
Promoting cultural literacy – Relativity
The Community Resource Group at Relativity
"For Relativity, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportune time to not only celebrate the rich AAPI cultures represented within our company, but to also foster awareness and allyship amidst the current rise of AAPI hate. RelAsians, our internal community resource group, has organized a few activities for May: a book club focused on AAPI heritage—because we feel it's never too early to gain cultural literacy, a weekly spotlight on AAPI Relativians, and a virtual event that takes attendees on a tour through an Asian grocery store, introducing native vegetables and staple ingredients for traditional home-cooked Asian recipes."
- Contribution from Neha Pant, Sr. Performance Engineer & Angie Ocasek, Sr. Specialist, Partner Enablement – Co-Chairs of the RelAsians Community Resource Group at Relativity
Learn more about Relativity here.
Creating transformative experiences – Facebook
"At Facebook, our APIs employee resource group's mission is to create transformative experiences for all APIs at Facebook, Inc through key cultural awareness and engagement highlighting the API community. To kick off APIHM, we will host a series of events and conversations for the community and its allies designed to support the API community around the theme, The SUM of Us, including:
- Letting Others In: a mindful discussion series that privileges intersectional voices, storytelling, feedback, and vulnerability as tools for building empathy and inclusion amongst organizations.
- Racial Healing Learning Session: specific to the API Experience focused on naming of experiences and emotional responses, understanding the body's responses to racial trauma, what the audience can do in the moment for self-care, and long-term strategies to overcome the effect of the traumatic experience.
- Bystander Training/self Defense Workshop"
Learn more about Facebook here.
Extensive and exciting programming — 2U
"At 2U, Inc. we'll be honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with extensive and exciting programming coordinated by our employee-led Asian Pacific Islander Network (APIN). In a year marred by exceptional challenges APIN has centered activities around the ameliorating themes of joy, culture and wellness. Be it delighting in a ukulele mini concert, reading an interview highlighting an API coworker, winding down after too much screen time with a somatic healing session or engaging in a panel discussion with API tattoo artists, we have a packed month ahead with opportunities to support oneself and the API culture! Follow along @Lifeat2U on Instagram for more!"
Learn more about 2U here.
Amplifying voices and educating others – Smartsheet
"During APAHM, the API at Smartsheet community will be hosting several events and activities to educate others, amplify AAPI voices, and celebrate the AAPI community! We plan to kick off the month with a documentary viewing and discussion to learn about AAPI history, and hope to share personal stories from our AAPI employees throughout the month. We'll end with an opportunity for the community to celebrate itself by gathering together for fun and games, while eating food from local Asian-owned restaurants."
Learn more about Smartsheet here.
Rising together in sports and culture – NBA
"For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, APEX is proud to present a multitude of celebratory activities, headlined by an NBA Family Virtual Town Hall and, with the NFL and MLB, an Asians in Sports & Culture Symposium themed "Together We Rise" featuring prominent Asian personalities from the sports world. We are also launching a PSA with an NBA star, honoring Eid-al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan, offering a bystander intervention training led by AAJC, and – because the celebration wouldn't be complete without food – hosting a sushi making class for our members."
Learn more about the NBA here.
Creating courageous conversations – Commvault
"This May, we are celebrating all our Asian/Pacific Islander employees, not just Asian Americans. We will spend the month learning about and celebrating the diverse cultures of Asia through weekly events and activities led by our Multi-Culture ERG. Vaulters and external guests will teach us the history of practices such as yoga, origami, and Asian cuisines. We will also discuss topics like the rise of hate crimes against Asian people and the recent spike in COVID-19 in India. These activities and courageous conversations will engage our workforce and create support for our Asian and Pacific Islander communities around the world."
Learn more about Commvault here.
Honoring history through virtual events – Collins Aerospace
"Collins Aerospace supports our AAPI colleagues not only in May, but all year. Our parent company Raytheon Technologies hosted a virtual Town Hall last month to provide a safe space for open dialogue about recent events targeting Asian Americans in the U.S. In addition to this entity-wide event, our Asia Pacific ERG at Collins is hosting events that educate and honor the importance of Asian Pacific American history such as virtual Lunch & Tours spotlighting South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and India; and Thoughts & Support sessions. Site-specific events include virtual cooking class, and viewing PBS docuseries Asian Americans."
Learn more about Collins Aerospace here.
Highlighting new perspectives – MongoDB
"MongoDB will share daily historical facts, highlights of Asian American pioneers, and perspectives from our AAPI employees in a dedicated Slack channel. We will also be providing access to an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month webinar, organizing a trivia night, and holding Processing Together sessions for our internal AAPI community due to recent hate crimes happening across the globe. These sessions are a safe space for employees to share their stories and sentiments of what it is like as an Asian American in America today. (Read MongoDB employee Monica Lu's story about being an Asian American woman in tech here.)"
Learn more about MongoDB here.
Spotlighting diverse communities – Bumble
"At Bumble, moments like heritage month celebrations are often our anchor to ensure we are spotlighting diverse communities. In alignment with AAPI Heritage Month in May, Bumble is rolling out a series of thoughtful programming to encourage internal education and around how to support the Stop Asian Hate movement and better serve the Asian community globally. The lineup of initiatives include:
- BuzzWord DEI Discussion Series with featured guest speakers: This conversation will focus on the Asian community within the context of larger cultural issues such as dating app experiences, fetishization, masculinity, and representation.
- Bumble will be inviting employees to join a virtual Vietnamese coffee-making class. Created in partnership with Phin Bar, an urban brew-bar that offers Vietnamese-style steeped coffee combined with house-made ingredients, Bumble hopes to facilitate a deeper cultural learning and community bonding experience for the team.
- Bumble will also be activating channels across social media and our product to educate our community about bystander intervention and raise awareness around the importance of supporting the Stop Asian Hate movement."
Engaging in daring conversations – Procore
"In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, Procore recently organized an internal event to recognize and support the AAPI community. The event was hosted as part of our ongoing internal speaker series, 'Daring Conversations & Allyship,' to create space for an open dialogue around diversity, inclusion, and belonging. All employees were invited to tune in as employees from our AAPI communities shared their unique experiences, addressed anti-Asian hate, and discussed actionable ways to support our AAPI community."
Learn more about Procore here.
Taking action to foster change – SeatGeek
"This month the POC ERG will be meeting and hosting different activities to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This includes creating a safe space to discuss current events, and what actions our communities can take to foster change, sending out a newsletter which will highlight the Asian community in every aspect, and lastly, we will be hosting a guest speaker.
We hope with these planned activities and meetings, we can highlight, and uplift the Asian/Pacific American community, as well as bring awareness to the horrible ongoing attacks they are facing."
Learn more about SeatGeek here.
Uplifting and inspiring the community – Okta
"Okta's People of Color (POC@Okta) ERG is planning to commemorate AAPI Month with a series of fireside chats and iconographical facts posted internally in the #poc and #all diversity Slack channels! These chats will feature Dion Lim of ABC7 News and Comedian/Actor, Ronny Chieng. We will conclude the series with a partnership with Pride@Okta featuring supermodel, TED speaker, and transgender advocate Geena Rocero. The goal of this series is to educate, uplift, support, and inspire! The Okta leadership supports its AAPI employees, customers, and community."
Learn more about Okta here.
Empowering cultural diversity and leadership – Quip
"Salesforce will be celebrating through multiple virtual events, such as a leadership panel on the power of cultural diversity, a tea tasting, a tai chi class, a haka workshop, and more! Members of the Quip team have also compiled an extensive list of resources to support AAPI communities, including ways to donate, take action, and learn more."
Learn more about Quip here.
Focusing on lived experiences – Mindbody
"The Mindbody United ERG focuses on a different heritage or history each month, with May devoted to Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This ERG seeks to provide a platform to both celebrate and learn together. This will manifest in two ways: As a newsletter and a Zoom meeting. The newsletter will feature contributions directly from team members, while the meeting will feature Assembly member Evan Low as our speaker. It is our goal to focus on the lived experiences of the AAPI community, address discrimination, and how to chase after the part of the world we can make better."
Learn more about Mindbody here.
Promoting harmony and unity – T. Rowe Price
"T. Rowe Price is aware and appalled at the recent spike in hate crimes against the Asian community. In response, the firm will center Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month efforts around harmony and unity, in alignment with the Hawaiian value, Lōkahi – Forward as One. To share best practices, successes and areas of opportunities, T. Rowe Price will co-host a Leadership Panel on Asian Leadership Challenges with Baltimore Asian Connect, a consortium of Asian business resource group leaders at local corporations. The firm will also host a book club and restorative listening circles for Asian American associates and their allies."
Learn more about T. Rowe Price here.
Celebrating Asians globally
"May is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. Although traditionally a US celebration, at Autodesk we are celebrating Asians globally. The Autodesk Asian Network is hosting Innovative Leaders, including Lori Mukoyama and Jonathan Zee. Lori Mukoyama is redefining experience-driven design globally at Gensler. Jonathan Zee has an extensive portfolio of buildings that are helping to shape cities around the world at Goettsch Partners. Lori and her husband Jonathan combine design, architecture and engineering in their work while simultaneously manage a family together during this pandemic. This event is hosted by AAN, as part of a monthlong series of APA Heritage Month events."
Learn more about AutoDesk here.
Most people have one home town. Syamla Bandla has 13.
With a father serving in the Indian army, Syamla got used to adapting to a new environment every time his role changed and her family moved to a new city.
That flexibility served her well as she moved from fintech to insurance to startups and eventually into a role as Facebook's Director of Production Engineering—and as she managed a massive team through the pandemic-induced shift to all-remote work.
We sat down with Syamla, who had already shared part of her career story with PowerToFly, to ask her how she's grown and developed her own career, and how our readers can do the same in their own roles, especially now that remote/hybrid work is here to stay.
Step One: Adopt a Growth Mindset
Syamla's career really began to take off when she took on her first leadership role. The startup she had been working for was acquired by Dell, and she was tasked with integrating it into Dell's SaaS portfolio and taking four different products to market.
Oh, and she was a bit busy having her first child right at the same time.
"The learning curve was very steep!" remembers Syamla. "When I look back, I am really proud of myself for what I accomplished."
She credits one thing with her ability to juggle work and motherhood: her deep belief in a growth mindset.
"When we say 'superwoman, supermom, superhuman,' it's a myth," she says. "Everybody has the same 24 hours. It was a muscle I had to build in both roles–in motherhood and in work–about focusing on the journey."
Here's how Syamla defines a growth mindset: "Believing that talents are not innate and that everything can be developed with sheer dedication and hard work and focus—an absolute obsession and love for learning."
In practice, applying a growth mindset looks like not being afraid to fail. Whether that is Syamla stepping into a leadership role while balancing new motherhood or one of her direct reports taking on hiring responsibilities for the first time, Syamla says that it's all about believing that you can get through something.
"When you think about it, it's not the outcome that you're chasing—but the joy of the process itself," she explains.
And while volunteering for new initiatives or putting your hat in the ring for a promotion may have been easier when we were all in the office and you could grab a senior manager in the hallway, it's certainly easy to broadcast your willingness to take on more learning opportunities, says Syamla.
Step Two: Be Vulnerable
Syamla's current job includes managing all of Facebook's revenue-generating platforms, including Ads and Marketplace. "This role is very, very dear to my heart, and I love doing it at this scale," she says. It's a big remit, and in order to manage well, she needs to keep her team connected.
Her strongest tools for doing that are trust, authenticity, and radical inclusion.
"Listening is super important, whether it's with customers, peers, or managers. Listening with empathy means you're getting the big picture, not just the short-term," she says.
Here are her specific tips:
- Put your phone aside while you're on video calls. It shows your team that they have your full attention, says Syamla.
- Share personal updates when they feel appropriate. For instance, when Syamla's father-in-law got COVID, she ended up sharing that to the broader Facebook community, prompting dozens of people to reach out to her and share their own experiences.
- Show that you understand other people's situations. From being conscious about scheduling calls at times that work for coworkers in other parts of the world to checking in on teammates who are going through life changes, leading with empathy can go a long way, says Syamla.
Step Three: Build a Network of Advocates
"I used to believe my work would speak for itself," Syamla says. She found out that wasn't quite the case. "As a leader and a woman of color, I needed to find my voice, but also to make sure that my allies and sponsors were able to speak on my behalf, so I didn't have the burden of self-promoting all the time."
Syamla thinks that remote work actually provides more opportunities on this front. Not only can you drop humble-brag updates in company chats she says, but you can also more easily branch outside of your own company to connect with industry peers, which is key for upward mobility and recruiting opportunities.
"It's a blessing in disguise, to have so many virtual events," she says. "Being a working mom, I used to refuse events, because they required long travel away from my family. But the top tech conferences are online and they're really quality."
Same goes for learning opportunities. With platforms, including our internal learning resources at Facebook, says Syamla, it's easier than ever to make time for learning, and to share your progress with your managers so that they can see how committed you are to self-improvement.
She also suggests making use of social networks to connect with peers of similar backgrounds. "You will be surprised how many people actually respond back and they want to connect and talk about experiences when they come from similar domains," she says.
Step Four: Don't Forget to Prioritize Yourself
It's easy to let work bleed into your real life when work happens in the same place that you see your family and friends, says Syamla. Career development is important, but not at the cost of your own mental health and enjoyment of life.
"It's hard to draw that line, especially as a working parent," she says. "The key is to pace it out and draw really hard boundaries." For example, Syamla makes sure to take occasional Fridays off where she fully disconnects from work. And on family vacations, she makes sure to take at least an afternoon for "guilt-free mommy time."
"It's important to put on your oxygen mask first, because you can give a lot more when you are in your strongest mental state and physical state," she explains. "After I've taken that time, I'm a better person, a better mom, and a better leader."
Personally, Syamla likes to spend her downtime hiking, diamond painting with her daughter, and creating vegan versions of family-favorite recipes like thandai. She's slowly morphed into a morning person, too, going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until she was able to get up at 5:15 a.m., which gives her much-needed quiet time to walk, do yoga, and get into the right headspace to start her day.
Prioritization needs to happen at work, too, and can sometimes be easier in remote or hybrid workplaces. For example, Syamla is now taking executive coaching sessions, which she says she wouldn't have had time for had she needed to travel to them. "I get good ROI because it's a lunch session, and I don't have to block half an hour before and after to get there," she says.
She's also seen higher participation in Facebook's Coaching Circles—small support groups where participants can learn new skills, network, and help others solve problems in an engaging and confidential environment—now that they've moved online.
Looking to the future
As someone who is personally and professionally passionate about inclusion, Syamla is keeping an eye on what the future of remote and hybrid career development looks like.
"A lot of leaders will be tested on building inclusive environments when some people opt to work full-time remote and some people are coming into the office. I think we have to be super intentional and even more laser-focused on getting the inclusion part right," she says.
💎 What does a recruiting process with "diversity at work" in mind look like?
📼 Press PLAY to hear some insights from a recruiter at Procore into what it's like to work at a company that encourages diversity. Cynthia Griffin, Senior Talent Operations Specialist at Procore, shares some tips and tricks to stand out in the recruitment process at Procore.
📼 Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are at the forefront of Procore's recruitment efforts. They work to mitigate unconscious bias, address microaggressions, and implement training on leading inclusively during challenging times. Plus, they hold community round tables and listening sessions to amplify the voices of underrepresented employees and nurture the ecosystem of employee resource groups.
📼 Diversity at work is one of the main focuses of Procore's recruiting process. Don't miss Cynthia's valuable tips on how to prepare for your interview with Procore. During your panel interviews, the company has a set of standard behavioral questions and stages that will cover both technical and leadership skills. This will help them identify the qualities that will make you successful at the job. As Cynthia says, "take us on your journey". Think about your past experience, whether it's professional or personal. The recruiting team really wants to understand the journey that you've been on and where you might like to take your career in the future.
The Importance of Encouraging Diversity at Work
Optimism and ownership helped define Procore from their beginning stages. Their values are ingrained in daily operations, from how they run meetings to the ways the team communicates with each other. "It's at the core of who we are, how we lead, how we grow, and how we continue to hire".
📨 Are you interested in joining Procore? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Cynthia
Cynthia is an experienced recruiter with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. Skilled in Coaching, Sales, and Applicant tracking systems, she's a strong human resources professional who graduated from Ventura College.
More About Procore
Procore Technologies is building the software that builds the world. We provide cloud-based construction management software that helps clients more efficiently build skyscrapers, hospitals, retail centers, airports, housing complexes, and more. At Procore, we have worked hard to create and maintain a culture where you can own your work and are encouraged and given resources to try new ideas. Check us out on Glassdoor to see what others are saying about working at Procore. Our headquarters is located on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean in Carpinteria, CA, with growing offices worldwide.
Sarah Mogin never used to like writing open-ended essays in school. She found herself much more motivated by tangible problems.
Calculus had some of those—she never had trouble with her math homework—but when she was in school she never envisioned just how much she could incorporate that love of solution-finding into her daily work, much less that she would have a career as a developer one day.
"I've always gotten a lot of motivation out of solving complex problems of any sort," says Sarah.
After college, Sarah made a big move to New York and found herself in a job working at a digital marketing agency. From there she began to gain a better sense of the pathways to new opportunities that existed in the digital space and took the steps she needed to make a significant life switch.
Now, as an Associate Tech Director at design and development company Work & Co, she's able to work on a diverse set of projects and apply a creative lens that makes use of all of her past-life knowledge.
We sat down with Sarah to hear more about her career switch and what advice she has for other people with non-tech experience who are looking for ways to make the most of all they know.
Taking risks to capitalize on opportunities
When Sarah first moved to New York, she got into digital marketing via a $10-an-hour Craigslist ad. With plenty of opportunities to learn practical skills like search engine optimization, social media marketing, and writing online press releases, she came up the curve quickly.
"I wasn't super passionate about those things, but I appreciated having a job and concrete tasks, so I dove in," she says. After a few more years there, she had started a PR department, written training documents and marketing materials, and hosted webinars and seminars.
"It was just kind of a time in my life where I kept saying yes to things and experimenting. It was a way to keep learning," says Sarah, who realized that she wanted to continue her learning in more formal ways, too, like going back to school.
Having spent some time honing her skills in communication and social media, she realized she wanted to tap more deeply into other aspects of the digital space. She had long had an interest in web development and programming. "I didn't have a class on it in high school. I didn't know anyone whose parents were programmers," she says. "I had some hesitancy about making the change, but I wanted to have a skill and combine what I could do naturally with someone teaching me an advanced skill or trade."
So she took a risk and left her job and enrolled in a 12-week coding bootcamp.
Dealing with imposter syndrome
The bootcamp ended up being a great decision, says Sarah, but that wasn't immediately apparent. Finding a new role coming out of her training was tough. She filled out 100 job applications and found that many companies didn't want to take a chance on someone with a non-traditional background. "They just didn't understand that I was this well-rounded person with a lot of skills already but now had added coding, and I was good at it," she says.
Eventually, Simon & Schuster bit, and Sarah got her first official role in tech, coding in Ruby on Rails (and enjoying free books that came with the job).
After she'd gained enough experience there and when it came time to leave that company and look for something new, though, Sarah was daunted by having to prove herself all over again.
She wanted to work somewhere that could meld strong creative and design foundations with technology, thinking a job like that would fit her interests and abilities well. When she heard about Work & Co, she knew it was the place for her—but wasn't sure if they would agree.
"I liked that there was a defined focus on products and experiences, that everything they built was intended to be an enduring product that people could use every day. To me, that was going to be fun to work on. But, in addition to being a tech outsider, I was also an agency outsider," she says. "I had only worked in-house."
Sarah ended up getting a job offer from Work & Co, which was open to her self-taught background. Without a ton of code samples under her belt yet, she started as a developer but quickly moved up with team members around her acknowledging that she was at a higher skill level than they initially thought.
She was able to take on a range of complex projects, in sectors ranging from education to nonprofit to retail and on products that span websites and CMS platforms to e-commerce and chatbots. It's been seven years since she made the switch and today Sarah is not only still a hands-on developer with a diverse toolkit, but she's also an award-winning technology leader and mentor to other employees.
5 tips for making a career switch work for you
Sarah kept—pleasantly—surprising her team. From being able to lead client projects (leaning on her digital marketing agency experience) to knowing how to hire new team members, she was able to lean into the skills she honed in her past roles and make an even bigger impact.
Here's the advice she has for other people looking to do the same thing:
- Recognize that as a career-switcher, you're bringing much-needed updated thinking. "Even when I was a new engineer and sometimes thought of myself as an imposter, coming from a bootcamp, I had a more up-to-date engineering background than some of the other developers," reflects Sarah.
- Be confident about what you bring to the table. Sarah says her past experience has allowed her to confidently volunteer for new roles and to share her opinion. "I have context from my prior life that can be helpful," she says. "It's good to have those skills in your back pocket in addition to what people are just expecting you to have as an engineer."
- But start with crushing your main job first. "It's easy to get excited about initiatives like helping to recruit or leading meetings or events. I really love doing those things, but you have to make sure you're doing your day-to-day responsibilities really well," says Sarah. "It's a lot easier for people to invest in you if they already see your success."
- Manage up by taking initiative. "Sometimes people have trouble relinquishing control or figuring out how you can help," says Sarah, who recommends just getting started. "Rather than proposing an idea to someone, you can show them something you've already put together. Instead of saying, 'I want to write a post on our company blog,' you can say, 'Here's an outline for a post.'"
- Pay it forward via recruiting. "I wanted to be involved [in hiring] right away because as someone who had just broken into the industry, I wanted to help people like me, or even people different from me, but who felt like outsiders for any other reason," says Sarah. "My experience has taught me that there are a lot of different ways to get to where you need to be as a good engineer. At the end of the day, it's just about whether you can do the job, and less about where you came from or what you've done before."
Only 4% of companies that say they value diversity consider disabilities. Even fewer include learning and thinking differences.
While neurodiversity is a concept that is gaining more awareness, many employers have still not fully grasped the importance (and benefits) of understanding neurodiversity and how to effectively incorporate and retain neurodivergent individuals in their organizations.
This document is a follow-up guide to a conversation PowerToFly held in August 2021 with Managers, HR Professional, and Organization Leaders about Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace, and its purpose is to continue the conversation and give actionable steps toward inclusion. We will be focusing on ways to create an inclusive hiring process —from application to interviews—and how to support and empower neurodivergent employees at work.
This guide is broken into four parts:
- Neurodiversity explained: helpful definitions and vocabulary that will help you more accurately speak about neurodiversity in the workplace.
- Types of neurodiversity: details about different neurocognative conditions, and the strengths they present, as well as the struggles that individuals with each condition may face in the workplace.
- Accommodating neurodiversity: advice on best practices when it comes to hiring, retaining, and evaluating neurodiverse talent.
- Reflection and resources: questions that will help you reflect on your organization's inclusion practices and additional references on the topic.
Download the full guide here or check out a preview below: