March is Women’s History Month and March 8 was International Women’s Day. At UKG, we celebrate the successes of our amazing female U Krewers all year long, but this month we are pulling out all the stops. Our employee resource group FIRE (Female Inclusion, Resilience, and Excellence) Up has some incredible programming to elevate and empower our U Krewers in March — including multiple guest speakers, a roundtable with UKG leaders, an event for female vets in the tech space, and events focusing on women’s health and financial wellness, to name a few.
We’re also excited to share a Q&A with our Group Vice President of Relationship Management, Jane G. Jane is a member of three of our eight ERGs, including FIRE Up, BUILD (Black Upcoming Individuals in Leadership and Development), and ADAPT (Accessibility and Disability Allies Partner Together).
Tell us about yourself and your role at UKG.
I joined UKG in 2017. My wife and I live near the beach in Charleston and enjoy Friday morning surf sessions and dinner outside at any one of the Island staples near the beach. We have several rescue animals and I am on the board of directors of our local animal society. At UKG, I lead a global team of about 350 people focused on the retention and long-term success of our customers.
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Ask leaders you respect — especially if they manage a different part of the business than you — if you can join their team meetings. Make time to do it, so you can learn from their leadership styles and learn about other parts of the business. Be curious about all aspects of the company and build your network while you learn.
What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the workplace and how have you overcome them?
I have been fortunate in both the places I’ve worked and the generation I am a part of, being on the more progressive side of this issue. That said, I once had a senior executive at a different company ask me privately during a female leadership panel whether I thought there was “actually a wage gap” between men and women. I was in my early 20s at the time and I felt as though I couldn’t respond truthfully for fear of disagreeing with what I assume was a position that women don’t really get paid any less than men.
What has surprised you most about working at UKG?
Even after several years at the company, I am still surprised by just how much collaboration is valued over competition, no matter where you operate in the ranks. In many companies, competitiveness and politics are parts of the culture. At UKG, people are rewarded for helping others or their team achieve success more than (in my opinion) they are rewarded for achieving their own individual success. This breeds an environment of mutual celebration and support that is unique and surprises me every day.
What makes you feel supported at UKG?
I was recently leaving a meeting when one of our C-level executives stopped me to talk. He was asking my advice about an upcoming company event and wanted my opinion about inclusivity at the event. Then he asked if it was ok if he asked me some questions about my experience being a part of the LGBTQ+ community at UKG. I was touched by the sincere and genuine interest this senior executive expressed — he was asking so that he could continue to foster a culture at all levels where people feel supported and included. UKG is truly a special place to work and it comes from the top.
Is there a UKG program that has impacted you, or that you find motivating/encouraging?
I have so many more programs to explore, but one that comes to mind was my participation as a mentor in our BUILD mentorship circle. I spent a couple hours a month for eight months with four other BUILD members, following a mentorship curriculum that allowed us to share our unique experiences in work and life, learn about our aspirations, and help each other with advice and support. I am a more thoughtful leader — and a little smarter — because of the opportunity to have those months of interesting conversations with colleagues I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Interested in joining the U Krew? Explore careers at UKG.
Siobhan Sabino's first introduction to tech was one she's since realized is shared by many women who grew up in the 90s: Neopets.
"It's HTML and CSS," explains Siobhan of the options to customize a user profile and shop on the virtual pet site. "It was a very curious thing, and that was how I got into tech."
Her early interest grew when she went to a specialized high school that focused on computer science. "Essentially the requirement was, 'Are you good at algebra? Come on in!'" remembers Siobhan. "Suddenly there was this explanation of the things I'd been seeing. Here's how the Internet, this crazy new thing, here's how this is working. Here's how computers are working."
Siobhan credits her high school education with preparing her well to study computer science in college—she was the only freshman in her C++ class, she remembers, having skipped all the basics that she'd covered in high school—but it was also the place she first felt unwelcome. "A lot of the guys in my math class thought they were going to go to the computer program and didn't get in," says Siobhan. "And they were very salty when they found out I had gotten in. They were like, 'You don't belong there.'"
Siobhan was shaken at first, and in those early days, she recalls spending some time crying at her terminal, struggling with a QBasic program. "It was the first time I was aware of this idea that girls aren't supposed to be good at math, that women aren't supposed to be good at tech, and I just remember thinking, 'I can give up, or I can just become the top of this pyramid of people who do tech in school.' And I never looked back," she says. "I was not raised to be a quitter."
Siobhan's learned to prove herself, which is something she's leaned on throughout her career as she's taken on new challenges, including in her current role as Lead Data Engineer at youth sports tech company GameChanger.
We talked to Siobhan about finding a company where she felt like she belonged, how to pay forward that feeling to others, and how job seekers can find the fit and the community that allows them to be their full selves at work.
Finding the right culture fit
Siobhan currently does the culture interview for GameChanger. One of the questions she always asks—if you're interviewing for one of their open roles, take note!—is "What's the best team you've ever been on?"
Her own answer to that question, she realized, was a team where she worked with all senior engineers. She was the youngest and the only woman. "There was no sense of 'I have to prove myself, and to prove myself, I have to put other people down,'" she says. When she interviewed at GameChanger, she felt like it was a similarly ego-free place.
At first, she took the interview at GameChanger just to practice. She was ready for a new challenge after being at her last company for four years, and wanted to ease her way back into recruiting. A company focused on providing scorekeeping, statistics management, recap stories, and live streams for youth sports didn't seem quite in line with Siobhan's self-proclaimed status as "not a big sports person."
"Non ironically, my favorite sport is muggle quidditch," she says, smiling.
But Siobhan got on the phone interview anyway. "At the end of this half hour, I was like, 'Oh my god, I want to work there. I want to work at GameChanger because the person I talked to was so excited about the job,'" she remembers.
That wasn't par for the course in the world of tech recruiting, Siobhan had learned. "I've done interviews with famous companies where I go in excited and I leave thinking, 'Well, you clearly don't want to work there. And you're the hiring manager! Why would I want to work there?' I've done interviews with big tech companies where I go in for an onsite and they'll have more than a thousand engineers and they can't find a single woman for me to talk to. For GameChanger, it was that feeling of it is about the culture."
For Siobhan, that culture was one that focused on people and on creating meaningful connections between them. That includes between GameChanger users—"I really felt like the company genuinely valued working in sports and helping to make people's lives better, helping coaches and volunteers, helping kids to learn how to work together, and I wanted to be part of that," explains Siobhan—and between the company's employees.
Here are some specific questions she recommends asking your interviewers:
- How does your team celebrate wins?
- What is the most fulfilling thing you've done that was hard at work?
- What is your day-to-day like?
- What is it that you say makes your culture special?
- What do you love most about your job?
Fostering belonging at work
Siobhan recognizes that a big part of feeling like she belongs at work is an innate sense of confidence—one she's fostered since her middle school experience—and that another is being in a supportive environment with a welcoming culture. Choosing the environment that's right for her hasn't always been easy, but as her career progresses, she's gotten better at identifying places she wants to be, like GameChanger. She's also recognized what she can do to pay that sense of belonging forward and help others.
Creating an inclusive, welcoming environment works both ways: it's more efficient from a workflow perspective, especially on a team of engineers, who will feel more comfortable bringing up problems, sharing interesting ideas, and collaborating on solutions. And it's also more enjoyable from an interpersonal perspective.
"I've had interviews where I asked people what's their favorite part of their day. And they're like, 'I love technology.' Maybe that works for other people. For me, I like other people. I like talking to people. I like getting their ideas. I like hearing what they cooked for dinner. And also, what do they think of this architecture?" she says wryly.
When it comes to what a company can do to support those two aims, Siobhan has a couple of examples of what she's seen at GameChanger:
- Creating a "one team" mentality. When one of GameChanger's co-founders stepped down, explains Siobhan, it was a tumultuous time emotionally, and other companies might've seriously floundered. That's not what happened at GameChanger, and Siobhan credits it to the deep sense that all teams, from data to product to design and beyond, are unified. "I remember the CTO and CFO both making comments that there'd be no work that would happen that day. That that's okay. As a company, we had to mourn that this was the end of an era, that that's fine, that they left us with the tools and the culture to reach out to each other and say, 'We're going to go through it together. Are you okay?'" says Siobhan.
- Truly caring for people. "We were one of the first companies sent home early in the pandemic and we'll probably be one of the last ones to reopen, because this is about the team. This is about everyone feeling comfortable, everyone being healthy," says Siobhan. "You're not a cog in a machine, you are a person who has a family and a life and we want you to feel good because we will do the work. That will happen. But we can't replace you."
And on what an individual can do, Siobhan shares two things she does as a leader and a teammate:
- Creating connections. When she first joined GameChanger, Siobhan reached out to the person hired right before her and the person hired right after her and made a cohort, and she continues to reach out to new hires today. "Then if you're having a bad day, you have someone to talk to. Maybe they're just someone to listen to your bad day. Maybe they'll actually have a solution," she says, noting that Slack has made it even easier to send low-stakes invites to new coworkers to help you get to know them.
- Sharing the unvarnished truth. "In my experience, what makes GameChanger unique is this sense that it's okay not to be okay. I try to be honest about my struggles with mental health and verbalizing it both so that I'm advocating for myself, and so other people can feel they can advocate for themselves as well," says Siobhan.
At the end of the day, says Siobhan, finding and creating a place where you feel like you belong and your ideas matter is the most important part of work, and it's worth investing time in figuring out where you can experience that. "There are places whose answers [to culture questions] make you lie awake at night and go 'No, no, no, no, no, you don't want to work there,'" she says. "It's not that you as a person failed. It's that this is not the right culture fit. And that's fine because it'll work for someone else. You find somewhere that works for you."
If GameChanger seems like a place that might work for you, check out their open roles.