Finding Her Sport: Being Part of the Team in a Startup Environment
A Conversation with Vouch's Lead Designer Carrie Phillips
She signed on as their lead designer, and in the two and a half years she's been at Vouch, she's worn half a dozen different hats, experienced a personal evolution in the way she strikes a work/life balance, and made inroads against the goal she shares with the whole Vouch team of creating a business insurance product that works for startups.
We sat down with Carrie to hear more about why she became interested in design, why she joined Vouch and how Vouch's culture supports her design work, and what advice she has for others looking to succeed at a high-growth startup.
Carrie's first few design projects were practical ones.
"I grew up with a little sister who has a bunch of disabilities, and my father and I spent a lot of time building things around the house and retrofitting really crappy medical equipment," she explains. "We were always sort of trying to make her environment work for her and her interests, like to play baseball or cello or go to school. So much needed to be adjusted that I developed a bit of an eye for problems to be solved."
Carrie credits her early experience seeing how her sister navigates the world and coming up with ways to help her as sparking her interest in product design. She studied industrial design at Ohio State University with the goal of working in medical products and technology to improve accessibility.
"I think when people say accessibility, they think of making sure the buttons on the screen are high enough contrast so that somebody with colorblindness can parse out the active areas or text hierarchy and screen readers and stuff like that," says Carrie. And while she notes that those are certainly important examples, larger impact in the accessible space stems from general innovations.
She gives an example of what she means: "Like my AirPods. I'm jazzed about AirPods because my sister wears hearing aids, and hearing aids are still clunky and ugly. AirPods are like a sneeze away from a hearing aid, they're pretty close, and that's really cool."
Other things that fit in that category? Google Glass, Siri, swipe keyboards, and Google Maps, says Carrie. Those are the kinds of projects Carrie wants to work on—projects that transform the way something is done or experienced and, in so doing, create a better product for people with disabilities. "When I think about accessibility, I'm almost thinking about it like, what are the most interesting innovations happening for the mass market that could then trickle into smaller niche markets and really change lives?" she says.
Carrie is still a team of one, which means she's done almost every kind of design work for Vouch at some point over the last few years, from mocking up onboarding funnels to branding to conducting user research and handling "QA bug bashing stuff." She has a practiced spiel she uses to explain her work to new hires at Vouch:
"Design is intended to make things useful, usable, and beautiful. And each of those words routes to a different field of design. Beautiful is user interface, graphic design, and making it pretty. Usable is more UX—how can I organize this flow or label things in a way that somebody doesn't get stranded somewhere and confused? And useful is more product design. It's like, how do we actually answer the question in the first place? Not just how do we make the solution we've already chosen useful, beautiful, or usable...it's more, what should the solution be in the first place?"
It's that top-down, open-ended problem solving that Carrie loves most about the product design work she's doing now. "It's really fun, sort of the puzzle of unpacking the problem and coming up with a solution," she says.
The puzzle is a particularly big one for Vouch. "Vouch is rewriting policies. We're trying to solve [the business insurance problem] at the very bottom," says Carrie. "A lot of my most valuable time is spent trying to understand what it is we're building and how this tiny decision over here is going to cascade all the way to the customer experience in a year when this policy gets approved."
Carrie approaches solving that puzzle with what she calls her best "user-centric shot." For example, she'll design a button, including its text, in the way that would make the most sense to customers. "Then that does a round trip through insurance, ops, and legal and comes back to me. If it sounds too much like a robot lawyer rewrote it, then we put it back in the cycle. We are a no-lorem-ipsum shop because text is just too important for meaning," she explains.
It was Vouch's mission that initially inspired Carrie, but the reason she keeps going into work (or, in the last ten months, logging in to work) is the company's culture.
"It sounds very corny, but the team genuinely cares and gets to know each other, which produces an environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing really big, weird ideas," says Carrie. "Vouch isn't interested in just making insurance a little bit better. We really want to shake it up. So everybody has to feel safe throwing out some real ridiculous nonsense from time to time. And you only do that when you're amongst friends."
That focus on human beings is so important that it's one of Vouch's five core values and the one that stands out the most to Carrie.
"Put people first" can refer to users, teammates, and individuals, explains Carrie. "It means 'put your partner first, your kids first, your people first," she says.
3 tips for succeeding at a startup
Carrie has worked to bring accessible product design to every company she's worked at, from the small startup she founded with friends after college to Vouch. She's able to make the most impact in environments like Vouch's, where open collaboration between teams and a constant focus on learning is shared by all.
"What I care about with startups is the hustle and momentum," she explains. "I know a lot of people are really into the impact that they could have in Silicon Valley. But I don't care if thousands of people use what I made or just a few [do]. I really love being on a small team that is intimately aware of their competitors and is earning the respect of new customers and trying to win."
"I like playing on the team. It's like the only sport I've ever been good at is startups," says Carrie.
She's gotten better at her sport over time and has three key lessons to pass on:
1. Do regular personal retros. Carrie used to have a 30-minute date with herself every Friday ("in the morning, 'cause if I did it Friday afternoon, it wouldn't be worth my time; my brain would be fried," she notes) to do a retrospective on the week. She's fallen away from the habit, she says, but is bringing it back as she keeps going deeper into the specifics of the insurance world. "I reflect on the week, what I learned, what I did, what changed, what produced a big emotional response for no good reason," she says.
2. Organize pairing sessions. One of the key parts of Carrie's workflow is the "tweaking sessions" she has with engineers on her team. "Instead of peppering them with tiny, nitty-gritty feedback all along the way, I reserve some time at the end, like, 'We're going to get coffee together and you're going to share your screen and I'm going to angst over the spacing a little bit and it's going to be kind of annoying 'cause we're going to be nudging around pixels,' but it almost always ends with something that feels like 10 or 20% more polished," she says. "And it makes sure that I'm perpetually aware of the friction generated by my requests."
3. Don't lose yourself. "Startups are just so fun. They move so fast. You can get kind of lost in the hustle or momentum of things," says Carrie, who says that she struggled to remember that in her first few years on the job. "I used to really let that hustle and momentum take over my life. It was too fun to stay late and get ahead and really sweat the details. I thought I was being a good designer by getting really amped on whatever teeny-tiny change needed to be made," she says. "Try to enjoy the momentum—relish the fact that your job is actually exciting and moves quickly and that you can see your change in production in the wild—but also, know that you will not ever regret closing your laptop at 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM," she reminds readers. "It'll be fine."
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.
💎 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:
Download FREE guide here.
💎 Wondering how you can show up as the right candidate for the job?
📼 Press PLAY to hear some insight from a recruiter at Helm into what the right candidate for the job looks like in an interview. Alayna Sye, Helm's Senior Technical Recruiter, knows an applicant is going to be the right for the job usually after the first conversation. Find out exactly what will make you stand out, as well as the steps for the application process at Helm.
📼 You can be the right candidate for the job even if you don't check all the boxes in the application description. Alayna debunks this common misconception that recruiters are only seeking applicants who have 100% of the qualifications listed for the role. That's simply not true! There are so many valuable skills outside of the parameters of the job description. And, as Alayna says, oftentimes she doesn't know the company needs these skills until she sees them in a candidate at the job interview. Don't miss her take on the minimum amount of qualifications you should meet to apply for a job at Helm.
📼 What are the steps in Helm's application process? First, once your application is received and reviewed, the recruiting team will move you forward through a series of interviews to assess your potential. Some roles also require an additional assessment to see how you would perform in the role and also for you to learn the type of work you could be doing. Once the hiring team decides that you're the right candidate for the job, a decision on an offer can be made. Congratulations!
Tailor Your Resume to Be the Right Candidate for the Job at Your Interview
You can tailor your resume to the role you're applying for by taking a look at the job description and comparing it to what you've done. Emphasize relevant experiences on your resume to make it easier for the hiring team to see the value you'd bring to the role and hopefully move you through to the next round of interviews.
📨 Are you interested in joining Helm? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Alayna
Alayna Sye is a driven, detail-oriented professional with remarkable work ethic and organization skills. She possesses relevant experience in recruiting, project coordination, resource management, communications, data analysis, and more. She consistently demonstrates her ability to self-manage and work independently, however is a valued member when working with a team. Her experience working with corporate departments and leadership to continually assess their workforce needs, which are essential to executing corporate initiatives, has afforded her the opportunity to gain insight and perspective into the operations of several complex programs within a variety of organizations.
More About Helm
Helm is a team of scientists, designers, engineers, and campaigners. They are building a data and technology platform for organizers and issue advocates. They design and execute experiments to better understand human civic behavior, determine which interventions drive impact, and scale them toward a more participatory democracy. Helm works with visionary leaders who seek to create a more equitable world. Their tools give elite operators power to shape campaigns, organizations, and movements.