Laïla von Alvensleben of MURAL: “Time boxing is everything”
Below is an article originally published on April 2, 2021 and written by Tyler Gallagher, CEO and Founder of Regal Assets. Go to Mural's company page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Build your team and agree on how you'll communicate remotely, how often you'll meet, a decision-making framework and the milestones you aim to reach before the event. If you don't do this at the beginning, project management will very likely get messy later, so it's worth spending more time in the beginning to sort those things out.
As a part of our series about "5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event", I had the pleasure of interviewing Laïla von Alvensleben, Head of Culture and Collaboration at MURAL, a digital workspace for visual collaboration. She manages a distributed team of 350+ people across multiple continents and time zones and is a champion for the remote-first and hybrid-remote approach to team collaboration, empowering MURAL's rapidly growing team to successfully work from anywhere. Laïla's background is in UX design, having worked on digital product design at Hanno and educational workshops at Hyper Island. She helped create the Remote Starter Kit and is a member of the Remote Work Association, a network that organizes online events to promote location-independent jobs.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your "childhood backstory"?
As a child raised in an expat family, I grew up in many different countries across South America, Europe and Africa. Moving from place to place every few years, changing schools, meeting new people and learning languages was normal for me. In hindsight, I realize how those early experiences shaped my future choices in the lifestyle I wanted to lead. I couldn't see myself in one place for too long, so I did everything I could to continue being able to choose where I wanted to live (and work from).
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
My background is in design. I went from interior architecture to graphic design and then UX design. In 2013, after working as a graphic and UI designer for a few years, I wanted to study again and earned a Master of Arts in Digital Media Management at Hyper Island. At about the same time, I also decided I wanted to find a remote job so I could travel and work from anywhere. To support that ambition, I wrote my thesis on Remote Design Thinking and was hired as a UX designer in a fully remote product design company. Six years later, I'm still working remotely. I joined MURAL, first as an online facilitator and remote work coach, then as Head of People Operations, and now as Head of Culture and Collaboration.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
During my first months of working remotely, I was exploring the digital nomad lifestyle while travelling in Brazil. I was staying with a friend in Rio de Janeiro who was also a Judo teacher. His classes were in his living room and I was working in a hallway leading to the kitchen. One day, I was on a call with my boss and the team when suddenly a group of bare-chested guys started walking behind me. Through the webcam it looked like there were naked men strolling around since you couldn't see their legs. I was so embarrassed but luckily my team had a laugh and it became a recurring joke for a while.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux was really inspiring to read. It explores the evolution of how companies are structured and organized, and showcases several large companies (with at least 400 employees) that were working in a completely novel way. For example, some of them applied the holacracy model, in which there's almost no hierarchy and employees choose their own roles and work together in pods and work very autonomously. Some also had flexible working hours and a human-centric company culture with an emphasis on making decisions together, creating rituals based on empathy and constructive team feedback. At the time I read this I was working at Hanno, a fully distributed digital product design company that was a pioneer in many ways. We didn't have an office, we chose our own salaries (they were also transparent), we didn't have hierarchy, we had unlimited paid time off and we made decisions together using an advisory process similar to the one in the book. It was hugely influential in how we worked together and I'm convinced that our traditional way of working will eventually evolve to the models described in the book.
Can you please give us your favorite "Life Lesson Quote"? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There's a quote by the author Maya Angelou: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." I've seen it play out between friends, relatives, colleagues and romantic partners. There are times when I've had to redefine how I wanted to stay connected with someone based on the interactions we had and filter out people whose words and actions didn't add value to my sense of self. I've learned to distance myself from those who diminish or disrespect me, and instead surround myself with people who bring a more positive and constructive energy into our relationship.
Ok, thank you for that. Let's now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing events in general?
When I was a university student in Geneva, Switzerland, I worked at a lot of corporate and VIP events, luxury trade fairs and conferences to make some extra cash. I'd also volunteer at music and film festivals so I could attend cultural events for free. This gave me a lot of insight on how big events were organized. I was studying interior architecture at the time so one of the first events I helped organize was the scenography for a film launch. Years later I attended a lot of workshops delivered by expert facilitators and that planted the seed on learning how I could run my own workshops. I eventually discovered the digital format and built my skills in online facilitation. In parallel, I experimented with online and in-person events at my first remote job, which led me to help plan a surf and yoga retreat in Sri Lanka for about 10 people. A few years later at MURAL I organized a bigger company retreat for 100+ people in Argentina that included team building workshops and social events.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?
I organize many online events at MURAL: our All Hands meetings for 400 employees across 17 countries, remote workshops for our customers, webinars and conferences, team building sessions, and more recently, virtual company retreats. When COVID-19 forced countries worldwide into lockdown, I celebrated my birthday online with friends from around the world. Instead of doing the usual Zoom meeting where people hang around, I created a virtual house party using Zoom and MURAL with multiple activities happening simultaneously in different Zoom rooms. It gave me tons of ideas on how to create a similar experience on a much larger scale for MURAL's team. I put those ideas in action last summer with a virtual company retreat for 250+ employees. The theme was a MURAL World Tour that happened entirely online, complete with an airplane ticket invitation, pilots and flight attendants, an itinerary flying from snowy mountains to tropical beaches to outer space, in-flight entertainment and many gifts sprinkled throughout the journey.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job creating live virtual events? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
The virtual event that impressed me the most last year was the virtual version of Burning Man. This yearly event usually takes place in the desert in Nevada with 70,000 people co-creating a temporary city. When they had to cancel the event, the community came together to build the Multiverse, an infinitely expanding virtual world that included many of the iconic Burning Man elements like the playa, the Temple and the effigy of the man that burns. I couldn't take part in all the activities during the week-long event, but the creativity of what I saw online blew me away, especially knowing how little time they had to build it. To replicate an event of that magnitude and originality, you'd need a mindset of endless possibilities and a group of people who care more about experimenting and pushing boundaries than about doing what is 'expected' at an online event.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to run a live virtual event? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I think people limit themselves too much. They think of an online event as something boring that can't be as engaging or fun as an in-person event. My advice is to assume there's always an alternative for everything — it may not be exactly the same as what would happen during an in-person event, but there are other aspects of being online that can be leveraged to make it a better experience for everyone. I believe online events are also more inclusive because everyone can go through the experience in the same way and choose how present they want to be. For instance, it can be a much more comfortable experience for introverted people who don't like big crowds. If they're properly facilitated, it can give everyone a chance to have a voice, whether that be during a video call or on a messaging platform.
Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?
Of course I'm biased, but none of the events we do would be possible without MURAL! Using our platform alongside other tools like Zoom and Slack can create a successful virtual event. They cover the three basic components of an online event: the visual aspect (Zoom to see each other and MURAL to visualize what we're doing), the interactive aspect (MURAL to engage with others in real time), and the conversational aspect (Slack to send messages).
Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?
There's a lot of planning going into these events, so a project management tool like Asana or Trello is helpful. Using spreadsheets in Excel or Google Sheets is also useful when creating budgets or gathering data about your participants. I've seen polls and live Q&As being used effectively with tools like Mentimeter or Slido. After an event I also like to send out a survey for feedback in Google Forms, but you could also use a tool like SurveyMonkey or Typeform. And let's not forget Spotify to set a mood! It's incredible how music and sound can change the atmosphere in an instant.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. An in-person event can have a certain electric energy. How do you create an engaging and memorable event when everyone is separated and in their own homes? What are the "Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event" and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Planning an event takes at least 2–3x the amount of time than the actual event. If you're organizing a one-hour event, it will take you approximately 2–3 hours to prepare it. Of course, the more events you plan, the better you become at creating them and the less time you'll need.
- Decide early on why you're doing the event. If you're doing it for an entire company (e.g. like a virtual retreat), ask your leadership team what success looks like for them. Then create a story around it and make sure everything that is being communicated and experienced is consistent with your story. It will make the event more memorable and help the event designer have a few restrictions that help foster creativity.
- Build your team and agree on how you'll communicate remotely, how often you'll meet, a decision-making framework and the milestones you aim to reach before the event. If you don't do this at the beginning, project management will very likely get messy later, so it's worth spending more time in the beginning to sort those things out.
- Rehearse! Go through the entire event journey or script with your speakers and facilitators at least once. Test things out: make sure your equipment is working properly and that the instructions are clear at every stage of the event. You will always find things to iterate that you wouldn't have found if you hadn't tested it. Ask speakers to practice giving their talk and find ways for the participants to interact with them so that it doesn't sound like a webinar.
- Time boxing is everything. The trick to making an activity exciting is to set a dedicated amount of time (use a timer — MURAL has one in the product!). The time pressure will keep people engaged because they know it won't last too long and it helps facilitators stay on track too.
Let's imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a live virtual event that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
The first step would be to figure out why you should have the event, what your budget is, and how much time you have to prepare it. All three will greatly define your experience but once you know what you have as a foundation, you can start planning accordingly.
Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I'd create a movement around personal development and mental health. Admitting that you have mental health issues has definitely improved over the years, but it's still not spoken about widely enough. We're all humans with our own set of experiences and baggage, and it would make a huge difference on an individual and societal level if we were more open about our struggles without feeling shame. There are more and more professionals and platforms out there that can provide support, which is great. Yet, mental health is still something that is mainly spoken about with a therapist and not necessarily at home or in the workplace where we spend the majority of our time. I can imagine a lot of other issues would be resolved if we took the time to listen and understand how people felt in order to support each other better.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I'd love to meet Brené Brown. Her talks on vulnerability and shame struck a chord with so many people, including organizations that invited her to speak to their leaders and employees. It's about time that we become intentional about having these kinds of conversations with each other. I've listened to her podcast too and aside from being a nerd (I'm all for that) she seems to be a warm, friendly and genuine person. We need more of that!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
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.
In this video, you'll hear super valuable insider tips from Manisha Bavabhai, Meli Comparini, and Catie Ross, recruiters at
MURAL—a digital workspace for visual collaboration that enables innovative teams to solve important problems.
Listen in for insight into the hiring process and actionable tips that will help you ace your interviews. Manisha, Meli, and Catie share what each interview step entails and the best ways to prepare, whether it's a product engineer interview, product designer interview, or sales interview.
Have you heard of the STAR Method? It's a great way to answer behavioral questions during your interview. And since MURAL's interview process is remote, don't miss these dos and don'ts for remote interviews!
Are you interested in joining MURAL? They have open roles! To learn more about them, click here.
As we celebrate Pride this month, we should also take time to reflect about the practices— or lack thereof— at our companies that help to support and empower members of the LGBTQIA+ community all year round. (LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual. There are other variants of this acronym such as LGBT, LGBTQ, and LGBTQQIP2SAA, which all refer to the same community.)
From the Stonewall Uprising to the United States' Equality Act, we've come a long way, but the staggering statistics around the LGBTQIA+ community in the workplace tell us that there is still work to be done.
As employers and leaders in our organizations, it is our duty to create an inclusive work environment where all employees feel safe and included.
To help you make your workplace more inclusive for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we've rounded up some key statistics and highlighted best practices — covering everything from inclusive language to benefits — in the infographic below.
Click this link for an interactive PDF version of the infographic:
Looking for more ways to promote LGBTQIA+ inclusion at work? Check out the links below to learn more.
See what other companies are doing to celebrate Pride month:
Infographic statistic sources:
- One-fifth (20%) of LGBTQIA+ Americans have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs
- Almost half (46%) of LGBTQIA+ workers in the United States are closeted in the workplace.
- 1 in 5 LGBTQIA+ workers report having been told or had coworkers imply that they should dress in a more feminine or masculine manner
- One-third of LGBTQIA+ Americans reported that discrimination affected their ability to be hired
- 1 in 10 employees have heard their own supervisor make negative comments about LGBTQIA+ people
Clarus Commerce's Nupur Daruka on Finding Your Next Growth Opportunity
Nupur Daruka is someone who loves learning new things. That's true when it comes to remodeling her house—she's just finished her kitchen, having mastered tiling backsplashes, and is moving on to her basement, where she's focused on flooring—and to how she approaches her work.
As an Engineering Manager at loyalty and subscription software company Clarus Commerce, Nupur is responsible for helping other people lean into opportunities to learn new things, too.
From helping engineers find the right growth projects to coaching people who aren't sure where they'd like to end up, Nupur enjoys guiding others to create the paths that are right for them and their own goals.
We sat down with her to hear how her growth-focused approach landed her at Clarus and what advice she has for engineers wondering where to go next.
Identifying strengths: how Nupur's own journey taught her how to help others
Nupur got into software engineering because she enjoyed logical thinking and math. She stayed because technology, by nature of its constant evolution, provides plenty of opportunities for continual learning.
"That's what excites me," explains Nupur. "Whether it's a new technology or working on a problem in a new way, you're constantly working to understand the business side of things, figuring out how to implement solutions, and problem solving. That's what gets me out of bed every day."
But she knew that purely putting her head down and cranking out code wasn't where she wanted her career to go, so she pursued an opportunity to become a manager at her then-employer.
"I'm a people person," she says. "I like to engage with people, talk to them, get to know them. That's why I wanted to continue onto a leadership role—I knew I could help people. When I look at a leader, I think of a teacher, a mentor, a coach, and sometimes a friend as well. I don't see myself as a person who is on top."
As she grew into a great line manager, Nupur realized that she didn't want to stop there, either. "I have a natural knack for understanding business requirements and higher-level things and helping to implement them through development," she says. That led to her looking for opportunities to grow into more strategic leadership, which led to her becoming a director, first at SSI and then at Dynata.
Owning a comprehensive set of business and people goals was a big job, but Nupur embraced the challenge. "Some people get burned out, but for me it was fun, because I was learning, trying out new things, being creative, and figuring out ideas," she says. There was one extra-helpful guiding principle she learned to apply, and still applies today: "I never think of what I don't have that is crippling me. I always think of what I do have and how I can make the best use of the tools to solve the problem. That's always kept me going."
But sometimes growth peters out, and that's what Nupur realized several years into being a director. She knew the business inside and out and felt comfortable—too comfortable.
"That's when I knew I had to come out of my comfort position and make myself uncomfortable, to learn and challenge myself. Because that's when you stop growing, and I wanted to continue on my path to learn and grow," she says.
So she started looking for a new opportunity and found Clarus.
"I wanted to be around people who are open to ideas, communication, and feedback," she says. "And when I mentioned to recruiters that I knew that I was talking to Clarus, they all said, 'Oh, they're a great company, with great people.' And that made me feel comfortable."
An extra bonus? The high number of women employed at Clarus (they make up 59% of the company's employees!). "That really makes us stand out," adds Nupur.
4 principles for finding your path as an engineer
Now, as an Engineering Manager at Clarus, one of the biggest parts of Nupur's job is helping engineers to find their own paths to professional fulfillment. The company's open and communicative culture (and growth!) helps make that possible, as does Nupur's own experience. Above all, she recognizes that not everyone will have the same growth path that she does. Here's how she breaks it down:
- Understand yourself. "What excites you the most? What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you going?" asks Nupur. "Identifying that will get you a better idea of what the next move will look like." She gives examples:
- Do you like working with people, and are you a good listener? Maybe it's time to pursue a management path.
- Do you enjoy solving complicated problems above all? Consider taking on a role as a solutions architect.
- Do you want to stay involved in technical problems but also get reps mentoring others? Consider a project or team lead role.
- "And just being a software developer is also okay!" says Nupur. "If you love to code, if you really enjoy being a nerd at that, then just be that! There's nothing wrong with that."
- Find an opportunity to test out your understanding. If you've identified a path you'd like to pursue, it's a good idea to explore it while you're still in your current role. Nupur suggests talking to your manager to find the right kind of stretch opportunity, whether it's mentoring new hires, leading an internal project, or taking a more active role in hiring and performance reviews.
- Learn something everyday. Even as you're finding yourself successfully transitioning into newer, more demanding roles that line up with your interests, learning is a continuous process, so stay open-minded to it, says Nupur. She herself prioritizes learning by making time each day to listen to podcasts. Even if she's busy—as a single mom and self-proclaimed workaholic, she doesn't have a lot of extra time—she'll listen to one while she prepares dinner or cleans up. Her personal favorites include The Official AWS Podcast, The Clark Howard Podcast, and Motley Fool Money, among others. "A lot of them are about tech or personal finance, but they also talk about other things. For example, I've learned about how to build high-performing teams, which is something that I can apply on a daily basis," says Nupur. "Podcasts are key."
- Be open-minded to different cultures along the way. If you're going to grow in your career, says Nupur, you'll need to be able to work with lots of different people. That's true for a director and for a senior software developer. She credits her own experience managing offshore teams with teaching her this lesson: "Learning about different cultures brings a different perspective and understanding. It's important to have empathy for them because it builds trust and loyalty," she says.
In this video, you'll hear insight from Karli Henriquez, Senior Manager of Artist Relations at SoundCloud, into what it's like to work at SoundCloud as a Latinx professional.
How does SoundCloud, the world's largest music and audio platform that connects creators and their fans across the globe, support cultural diversity? One incredible initiative is Clouds Of Color: employee resource groups for Latinx team members and allies to get together, learn, and celebrate their community.
Latinx voices and culture deserve more representation in the workplace, so, as Karli advises, "make sure to walk into every room or Zoom as your true, authentic self!".
Are you interested in joining SoundCloud? They have open roles! To learn more about them, click here.