Writer and editor who crafts stories about travel, food, feminism, and communication. Formerly at a hedge fund in NYC, currently a content-creator-at-large roaming around Latin America. Big fan of carrot cake and honesty.Find her at kathmeetsworld.com or on Instagram @kplumhoff
How Bumble’s Director of Engineering Learned to Be Herself at Work—and Encourages Team Members to Do the Same
Rose Hitchcock found out she was pregnant with her third child halfway through the process of interviewing to be Director of Engineering at Bumble.
She told the team at the social media and dating app and that didn't change their plans to hire her. "They were completely fine with it, really supportive," says Rose.
She started her new role while pregnant and plans to take six months off when she gives birth.
"They were like, 'Oh, take what time you need,'" she says. "That was another reason for me to come and work for the company, there was just no issue there."
We sat down with Rose to discuss her path to Director of Engineering, how she has found professional success by being herself (including as a working mother), what companies can do to create pathways to leadership for as many women and underrepresented people as possible, and why that matters.
Finding what energizes her in environments where she can be herself
Though Rose's role is in engineering, she doesn't have a formal background in computer science or engineering. She studied management science during university, and her first true exposure to programming came just after undergrad when she took a job as a business analyst at an IT consulting firm, which included five weeks of coding training.
Working as an analyst, she served as the liaison between the tech and business sides of various companies before transitioning into a technical project manager. That role was when she really "started to learn more about leading teams," and discovered that leadership and people management challenges were what she most loved solving.
"I really enjoyed helping people progress, promoting them and...working with people who were struggling to improve," she says. As her capabilities grew, Rose progressed into a more strategic role, coming back from her second maternity leave as a manager of other delivery managers. That's where she confirmed that management was where her passion lies.
"I have lots of colleagues and friends who are in management and they probably spend half their day doing coding stuff that they're not supposed to be doing, just because that's what energizes them and that's what they enjoy," she says. "For me, I get to enjoy my job and actually do the things that motivate me and that I'm really passionate about without feeling like I'm missing out on getting my hands dirty."
Throughout her career, Rose realized that she could only really enjoy her job if she was in an environment where she felt comfortable being herself. When she worked in consulting, that wasn't quite the case. "It felt like you had to behave in a certain way," she says. "To have the same attitude in order to get ahead, like being very self confident and self-promoting. You couldn't just do a good job—you then had to go and tell everybody what a good job you were doing."
That isn't who Rose is, so she ended up leaving consulting and going into industry, where she found the career growth she was looking for. "When you're in a smaller company, it's a lot easier to be recognized for your work, because people can see what you're doing," she says. "If you want extra responsibility or challenges, you always hear about them and can put your hand up."
But company size isn't the only important metric Rose considers. In a past job, she'd worked for an inspirational woman founder and wanted the chance to do that again, which is why the Bumble opportunity appealed to her so much.
"Obviously Whitney [Wolfe Herd, Bumble's CEO] is a strong woman founder. The passion she brought into the mission and what the company was trying to do, [with] this mission to support women to make healthy and equitable relationships really appealed to me," she says.
From the tech side, the fact that Bumble is still building most of its tech internally was another plus. "Teams that are building their own products are so much more motivated and engaged," adds Rose.
Encouraging others to grow and creating space for them
As a Director of Engineering, a big part of Rose's focus is creating a culture of growth for the teams she oversees. This starts with remembering the things that helped her to grow.
- Giving praise in public. "I tell people that I've noticed when they're doing a good job and praise them or thank them," she says.
- Giving pass-through praise. Rose doesn't stop by telling individuals when they're doing well—she also talks them up to other members of the leadership team, including the CTO. "I advocate for them," says Rose.
- Providing opportunities to shine. "It's important to communicate the talent within your team to folks outside of your immediate department. This allows room for a cross-functional awareness of your team's incredible work and how other departments can tap into a member of your team for future projects," says Rose. "I look for opportunities for my team members to showcase their unique set of skills and expertise, whether that's giving a presentation or attending a meeting."
She also works to create a healthy attitude towards work that avoids the self-aggrandizing and presenteeism that she found exclusionary in previous roles by:
- Focusing on output rather than time. Instead of worrying whether people are getting to work late or leaving early, Rose just asks one question: "Are they delivering?"
- Modeling behavior. Rose says that she started to work more flexibly after she became a parent, coming in early and leaving early to see her kids before bedtime, and working only four days each week. She encourages other people to set the schedules that work for their lives. "I try to consciously make an effort not to apologize [about my schedule] so that other people don't feel it's something to feel guilty about," she says.
- Planning with outside commitments in mind. "When we're talking about project delivery, I work really hard to consider things about people's home lives," says Rose. An example: if she has a project launch date in mind, she won't assume that everyone is okay with working overtime to make it. Rose also asks the managers on her team to consider things like school breaks and holidays when planning. "It's actually trying to put the people side of things first, rather than always the delivery side of things," she says.
Why a diverse team matters at work
Rose thinks about diversity in everything she does, from recruiting to promoting to retaining talent. Here's what that looks like:
- Finding diverse talent: "If you say, 'Oh, it's really hard to find woman developers,' well, let's train some, then," says Rose, who works with recruiters to bring in strong junior technical candidates and trains them up in-house.
- Making diverse talent feel welcome: As a working parent, Rose knows the importance of a flexible schedule. While recruiting for open roles on her team, she saw that some candidates didn't want to change jobs because they didn't want to lose the existing flexible working arrangements they had with their current employers. So she made sure to let them know that the roles she was hiring for would come with flexible scheduling, including it in job postings as well as bringing it up in interviews. "I've had people, especially women, say to me that flexible schedules were a big driver in their decision to come and work for us," says Rose. "They knew they could have [flexibility] from day one and they didn't feel penalized asking for it."
- Promoting diverse talent: As soon as someone new joins her team, Rose sits down with them and helps to identify personal and professional goals. "I make a conscious effort to set objectives around where the individual's gaps are and what skills they would need to build on if they are interested in leadership positions in the future," she says. From that point, Rose starts giving them tailored stretch opportunities and exposure. Some examples include: asking a direct report to prepare a presentation for a small audience of 20 team members, having them represent a project at a tech-wide meeting, having them host a lunchtime session for an external audience, or sponsoring them to talk at a tech conference.
Building and retaining diverse team members isn't a priority of Rose's just because it feels right—it also makes for better work products and procedures, she says.
For Bumble, the perspectives of people with different gender identities and sexualities are especially relevant. "If you have a diverse team, their ideas and their expectation of what they want in our products is moving at the same speed as what our customers are expecting because they are representative of our community," she says. "How do we make sure that we're actually meeting the needs and wants of our community and bringing them new things that they actually want? [Well,] if you get people with more diverse experiences and different ways of thinking, you'll get innovation."
You've met some of them—maybe they're your family, friends, classmates, or coworkers, or perhaps you identify as neurodivergent yourself.
You may have recognized that some neurodivergent people are exceptionally skilled, excelling in things like pattern recognition and mathematics, and that those skills deserve to be celebrated, as the Harvard Business Review did in their report "Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage" in 2017.
But whether highlighting the significant contributions that neurodivergent employees have made or just honoring who they are as people, we wanted to take a moment this April to share some ways that industry leaders are marking World Autism Awareness Month.
We also want to acknowledge that Autism Speaks, the organization that began World Autism Awareness Month in the 1970s, has had a complicated relationship with the autism community. (Here's a good guide on that context.) We recognize that some prefer to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month, or to align with other organizations' World Autism Awareness activities, like the UN's.
However you decide to "Celebrate Difference"—the Autism Society of America's theme for April 2021—this month, PowerToFly and these 9 companies are celebrating right along with you!
Sharing inclusivity, not stereotypes, at Raytheon Technologies
"Raytheon Technologies and our Raytheon Alliance for Diverse Abilities (RADA) Employee Resource Group (ERG) is committed to trying to bring focus on invisible disabilities, as they are among the most misunderstood. Autism/neurodiversity isn't a mental illness and we recognize how important it is to bring awareness, be inclusive of everyone and avoid stereotypes. During Autism Awareness Month RADA is featuring a multi-regional presentation about Autism Awareness & Acceptance, as well as neurodiversity overall. The presentation is focused on educational information, including what Autistic people want in terms of inclusion and meaningful work, as well as dispelling common misconceptions."
Learn more about Raytheon Technologies.
Hiring a world-class workforce at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
"The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency recently launched the Neurodiverse Federal Workforce (NFW) pilot program, a collaborative effort between NGA, MITRE, and Melwood. The NFW pilot aims to help government agencies hire neurodiverse talent for U.S. Federal Government agencies. 'NGA mission success is contingent on a world-class workforce with a wide diversity of opinions and expertise,' said NGA Deputy Director Dr. Stacey Dixon. 'Neurodiverse talent can bring new perspectives to the NGA workforce and make important contributions to the mission.' The pilot is a great learning opportunity for NGA to continue to grow and improve our first-class workforce."
Learn more from the podcast "The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Takes Workforce Diversity In A New Direction"
Learn more about the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
Supporting each individual's preferred environment at Elastic
"We distribute anonymous surveys that allow anyone, including neurodiverse folks, to address potential barriers that we should address.
Our accessibility working group acts as an employee resource as well as an equity-seeking team that works to create and develop a disability inclusive workplace at Elastic.
The majority of our Elasticians work from home. Our hope is that this empowers neurodiverse employees, including those who may be on the spectrum, to have more control over their environment so that they can manage noise and light sensitivity, control their personal space, and manage their own schedule to reduce anxiety."
Learn more about Elastic.
Pioneering neurodiversity at Freddie Mac
"Freddie Mac values the insights and different perspectives that result from employees bringing their authentic selves to work. Our Office of Inclusive Engagement works with several organizations to identify qualified candidates, consider them for suitable roles and pair them with mentors who can help them adapt to an evolving new normal. In 2020, we evolved our neurodiversity internship initiative into a more robust training, education and hiring process called 'Neurodiversity at Work' to directly place candidates with Autism Spectrum Disorders into full-time roles."
Learn more about Freddie Mac.
Decoding inclusion at MongoDB
"MongoDB supports the neurodivergent community through interview accommodations, providing new hires the opportunity to select equipment and denote special requests, and onboarding checklists broken down into useful sections. To raise awareness about neurodiversity in the workplace, we have a learning and development (L&D) platform which has content on collaborating with different working styles. Our L&D Program focuses on building skills in managing teams inclusively. We also host Decoding Inclusion, a series of events aimed at building community and sharing foundational knowledge about D&I topics, including neurodiversity, to further our understanding of differences."
Learn more about MongoDB.
Encouraging allyship at Folsom Labs
"At Folsom Labs, we are passionate about building a culture of acceptance and inclusion. Our goal is not just to spread autism awareness but to strive to be allies and elevate the voices of those with disabilities. Now more than ever, this is important as many are facing the added weight of mental health and wellness challenges due to the pandemic. Encouraging allyship throughout the community and building a culture where everyone can thrive are at the forefront of our current initiatives. We are proud to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month — to set a stage where we can celebrate our differences and continue to create a space of inclusion and support."
Learn more about Folsom Labs.
Recruiting for diverse problem solvers at Dell Technologies
"Dell's Neurodiversity Hiring Program provides professional development training, internships, and full-time career opportunities for neurodivergent job seekers. The program rethinks the traditional interview process by removing barriers that may limit an individual from fully showcasing their skills and capabilities. Additionally, program participants benefit from job coaching and mentorship provided by our community partners and True Ability ERG members.
A variety of critical positions across the company have been filled through the program. In doing so, we are bringing in diverse perspectives for problem solving that have helped us differentiate ourselves within the marketplace all while cultivating a culture of inclusion."
Learn more about Dell.
Supporting professionals with autism throughout their talent journey at Deloitte
"At Deloitte, everyone contributes to our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Our inclusive culture, empowers all of us, including those with diverse abilities, to connect, belong, and grow. Deloitte's Autism@Work program supports our professionals with autism throughout their talent journey. A customized, autism-friendly assessment process helps draw out our candidates' strengths. Our employees have an internal Coach, an Onboarding Advisor, and access to external job coaching. Our Onboarding Mentor/Buddy Program pairs professionals with autism with other Deloitte colleagues/allies. Through Neurodiversity Training, our professionals can help support and manage our differently-abled professionals. We also have our Abilities First Business Resource Group for people with disabilities plus allies."
Learn more about Deloitte.
Sharing stories to support awareness at Lockheed Martin
"Lockheed Martin shares employee stories internally to help others understand Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and hosts internal events to support ASD awareness and education. The Able & Allies business resource group, whose mission is to build an environment that empowers employees with disabilities, has recently partnered with ASD advocacy organizations to offer resources to assist with managing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with persons who have ASD and their families. Missiles and Fire Control (MFC) is a member of the Florida Ability Inclusion Network and strives to educate employees and leaders on disabilities and recommend best practices to promote a disability-friendly workplace."
Learn more about Lockheed Martin.
Kate Jhaveri does one thing every day that she suggests you try: belly laughs.
The EVP and Chief Marketing Officer at the NBA credits her two kids with much of that levity—"They're very silly and they, at least once a day, make me laugh out loud," she says—though she seeks to make those lighter connections with her team at work, too.
"Especially at this time, it's so incredibly important to have that perspective with everything that's going on," she says.
We sat down with Kate to hear about her career journey, why she left tech to work in sports, how she led her team through the pandemic, and what advice she has (beyond laughing often) for other women seeking to build fulfilling careers—and communities.
Solving creative problems for different consumers
Growing up, Kate always had a book in her hands. "The ability to tell stories and move people with words and images is something that started with me very young," she says. She thought about parlaying that love of stories into becoming a college professor, but her father encouraged her to try something new before committing to that path.
So she took a job in consulting and immediately loved it. "I really, really loved the problem solving and the ability to see opportunities for different businesses and consumers," she says. Those skills translated well to a job at Dell, where she got to go deep on one set of problems and enjoyed the energy of her fast-paced team of coworkers. "I fell in love with the velocity that was happening in the tech industry and...really getting to know who you are interacting with."
But having focused on English and Spanish literature in college, Kate wanted a chance to shore up her business skill set, so she got her MBA at Tuck, Dartmouth's business school. "It was a good way to refine all of the different ways I could think about business problems and solve them," she says. It also helped her define the kind of job she wanted post-graduation: one as a marketing leader.
"Marketing is where the two halves of me come together: this ability to really think about and problem solve combined with this love of art and creativity and storytelling," says Kate. "I wanted to run a marketing team for a brand that I cared about," she says.
Finding her community with the NBA
When an opportunity to be the NBA's CMO popped up, Kate knew it was the kind of job and the kind of company that aligned with her values. "It's a brand that really seeks to unite people," says Kate of the NBA. "Whether that's through the sport of basketball, or the values we hold around diversity, equity, and inclusion, it's about how can we bring people together and do so with something that makes people feel really joyful."
Her role as CMO includes every aspect of marketing, and Kate likes that challenge. "Marketing is really changing; it's super exciting now, this amazing blend of art and science that gets me excited and gets me out of bed in the morning, thinking through how to talk to consumers in ways that matter to them."
And even though she switched industries from tech to sports, and picked up new lingo to go along with it, Kate has found the transition to be a smooth one. "The organization has been super open to a lot of the ideas that I bring from a different industry and is already super innovative, [so] it wasn't that big of a change," she says.
Kate's approach to marketing, whether for a tech product or for professional basketball, is focused on communities. She's long been fascinated by how communities are created and how they develop, and in her current CMO role, she draws on her own experience feeling part of sports communities, from rooting for the Celtics as a kid in Baltimore to living in Chicago during Michael Jordan's heyday with the Bulls.
"There is no better community than the community of NBA fans," says Kate. "The NBA has done such a great job of building that community and bringing fans in to feel close, not just to the players or the game, but to what the NBA stands for."
Pandemic pivot: standing up with the NBA community
Kate joined the NBA in August of 2019. Seven months later, the world was put on pause—and so was basketball.
The whole NBA found themselves reimagining how a season of professional basketball could look. Kate felt like they had a unique opportunity to bring people together, and that figuring out how to do that in new ways would serve their audience now and in the future, especially since she says that less than 1% of basketball fans ever make it to an arena to see a live game. "One of the most interesting things about [this last year] is that we're all craving community in some way, and whether that's in person or online, we all want human connection," she says.
That community was especially important last summer, when the Black Lives Matter movement took off after a string of extrajudicial police killings of Black Americans. "The absolute tragedy and horrific loss of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor was a moment where we really could stand with players …[and] our fans," says Kate. As NBA players chose to wear jerseys with social justice messages and the league painted Black Lives Matter on the court, Kate saw it as " incredibly powerful and values-driven."
The NBA's transition to a bubble with games played without live fans meant new opportunities for the marketing team to share content and interact with their communities. "[I'm proud of our] ability in that time to tell a really compelling story about how we had changed the game and how fans could interact with the game specifically to bring them closer," says Kate.
Those new ways of telling stories included professional games of H-O-R-S-E, The Last Dance documentary in partnership with ESPN, trivia games, reruns and new commentary of classic match-ups, and the first-ever 2K Players tournament, not to mention tons of social engagement with the NBA's community of super-engaged fans.
"We really tried to meet what fans needed and wanted, and we learned a lot about what content is super interesting and what platforms are particularly great for individual pieces of content," she says.
So far, her favorite innovation—and one that she plans to bring into the post-pandemic world—has been the digital fans. The NBA created a virtual fan experience where more than 300 fans each game were invited to appear live on the "Michelob ULTRA Courtside" 17-foot-tall video boards surrounding the court, allowing for an atmosphere of cheering (and occasional jeering) even with otherwise empty seats. "It's such a great way to bring people closer," says Kate.
Paying it forward: tips for building your career
Kate has four key tips for other women looking to build careers—and communities—that work for them:
- Remember that your dream role might "hire on hustle." Kate is a builder: "I like to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty," she says. Leaning on her ability to get things done, even with a scrappy team or a limited budget, has been how she's gotten several roles, she says. Focus less on what degree you have or who you know and more on a track record of making things happen.
- Before accepting an offer, ask "Do I want to have a beer with these people?" That's the question Kate makes sure she'd say "yes" to before starting a new role. "You're spending a good portion of your life, whether on Zoom or sitting in the office, with these people. If you aren't really enjoying [them], it makes the job less fun. It's about the passion and the people," she says.
- Once you're in a new role, make sure to speak up and share the ideas that got you there. "For women especially, it is deeply important to not lose your voice. There are times when you may be the only woman in the room, and there are times when that room could be fairly large. It's still really important that you know that you belong there," she says. "Everyone has a little bit of doubt about what they're doing, but don't lose your voice. Have every confidence that you belong at that table. And your ideas are welcome and needed. Otherwise you wouldn't be there."
- As you take on new roles and responsibilities at different companies, be kind to everyone you come across. "Marketing is a small world," says Kate. "You will have the opportunity to cross paths with people again." She says that now, her community of peers is her biggest source of inspiration and continuous learning. "I see where they've gone, they see where I've gone, and we have a connection," she says. "Focus on relationships and individuals, because they will stay with you far longer than you think."
Fostering Strength & Vulnerability with CallRail's Crystal Thornton
Crystal Thornton has long mastered the perfect chocolate cake, but that doesn't keep her from trying out new recipes. She's currently working on making edible glass structures out of isomalt sugar.
She's always been one to take on new challenges, whether in the kitchen or in life. She usually succeeds at them, too—and often goes above and beyond. Like when she set out to run a 5k and ended up completing five marathons. Or when she entered her first bodybuilding Figure competition.
But like 75% of women in leadership who told KPMG that they experienced feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt in their careers, Crystal has struggled with imposter syndrome despite her many professional successes.
"I'm probably the best hype woman or cheerleader possible," says the engineering manager at call tracking software company CallRail. "But I don't do that enough for myself." Even her husband, she says, has noted that she always under-credits her accomplishments, from successful bakes to big promotions.
Over the last few years, Crystal has made a point of addressing that imposter syndrome. "I am going to speak into existence who I am and what I want for myself, and realize that I'm worthy and I'm deserving," she says of her new approach to her worth.
We sat down with Crystal to learn how she's come to recognize and address those feelings of doubt, as well as how she's working to pay that recognition forward by creating an environment for her team where everyone feels supported and welcome.
Building a career and navigating toxicity
Crystal first thought she wanted to be a teacher, like her mom, and studied English and African-American Studies to prepare for that career. When she graduated, though, she was more inspired by communication outside of the classroom, so she started working as a technical writer.
While she was good at the work, Crystal says she struggled with the culture. "I was in a predominantly white environment; I was the only Black woman there," she says. "I was in a junior role, trying to figure out the lay of the land, and I just did not have the support that I needed." Crystal now identifies that manager as the first person who made her feel "less than" at work. "No matter what I did, I just didn't feel like I could do anything to get into the good graces of my manager. It was very toxic and I could not figure out why I always felt so small after work each day."
She wanted to leave that role, but she felt like she needed more experience under her belt first, so she stuck with it for two years before becoming a QA analyst.
She quickly proved her talent in that space, becoming a test lead and then a senior QA engineer, but she still had a hard time owning her success. She was doing a teambuilding exercise and couldn't think of a response to the prompt "What's something you're proud of?" when she first realized she was belittling her own accomplishments.
It wasn't until Crystal was at CallRail and had what she calls a "truly great manager" that she started to see herself differently. "He always encouraged me, listened to my ideas, and pretty much let me run my career. He gave me a lot of open space to figure out what I wanted to do, and to make my own mistakes as well," she says. "It got to the point where I would pinch myself, like I cannot believe that I am finally somewhere where I am happy and can grow with the best manager."
When she was considering taking a promotion to become a QA manager at CallRail, he supported her—and helped her feel confident enough to apply for the promotion beyond that one, too.
Leaning in, with help
Crystal was listening to a presentation by CallRail's VP of Engineering when she heard him say they were looking to hire an engineering manager and that those in QA were welcome to apply.
"My ears perked up," she says, "but I thought, 'He's just saying that so we won't feel left out. I have no coding experience whatsoever, why would they want me to be an engineering manager?'"
The VP's encouragement to apply wasn't enough to crack the imposter syndrome that Crystal was still dealing with.
But then her manager checked in and told her she should go for it. "If he hadn't pushed me a little bit, I know that I would not have even thought about applying for the engineering manager role," says Crystal.
And then her good friend gave her a speech about why she needed to apply: "'You can do this. You're already doing this. You will be a great engineering manager. Stop talking yourself down. You will be awesome,'" remembers Crystal.
And that did it.
She applied and was offered the position, and even then, it took several days for it to sink in that she was about to make a big move in her career.
That was the moment she decided to face her imposter syndrome head-on. She realized there were two stages to dealing with it: first, leaning into the support of the people around her who believed in her. And second, remembering to believe in herself. "The question I ask is, 'Why NOT me?'" says Crystal.
"For the longest time, I felt pressure to not fail. I felt that I had to work extra hard to prove myself, and to prove that I belonged. At the time when I started my career in the tech industry, I did not see a lot of people that looked like me. I didn't have a community to lean into for support, which is why I love to see all of the new groups that have been formed, like Technologists of Color, for example."
Now, as an engineering manager, Crystal is working to pay that forward.
"That support goes a long way, 'cause a lot of us don't have that support," she says. "I don't take that for granted. My goal is to be that same support for someone else." "Navigating in this industry, well really, life, I have learned to not only advocate for others, but to advocate for myself. For a long time I could not find my voice so I didn't use it. After a while, I found out just how much of a disservice it was to my growth in my career. How can I expect to help others if I can't speak up for myself?"
Enabling happiness, and 3 ways to support that
As a manager, Crystal knows that all of her team members will be different. As such, she works to create an environment where everyone can thrive, understanding that what works for one person won't work for another. That's part of why she chose a career at CallRail in the first place, and she wants to contribute to building the culture that has been so welcoming to her.
"I was consulting with a company where I had to travel five days a week, and I decided that the next company I went to had to have work-life balance and great benefits," she says. "That's how I ended up at CallRail. I needed to feel happy, whole, and accomplished."
There are a few things Crystal has identified that are important not just for individual managers to do but for companies to enable at scale in order to foster an inclusive culture that works for everyone:
- Be intentionally inclusive. "Make it known that you're trying to include everyone in some way," says Crystal. "Everybody's career path is going to be different. Everybody's walk of life is going to be different." At CallRail, for example, Crystal points to the top-down focus on diversity and inclusion, sponsorship of ERGs for people of color, and mentorship programs.
- Encourage feedback and really listen to it. "Even as a leader, I might not know what's going on," says Crystal. "I depend on the people who report to me to tell me what's going on so I can fix any issues." This means going beyond anonymous surveys, she says, and really showing employees that you're making changes that impact them for the better.
- Create safe spaces through communication and a focus on personal growth. "People need to feel like they're able to come to work and be comfortable and accepted," she says, highlighting how truly important that was throughout the last year of economic uncertainty and a racial reckoning.
Vulnerability in the present
One of Crystal's managerial superpowers is that she is just as comfortable with what she doesn't know as she is with what she does. "When I found out I was going to be a manager for some really smart people, I was like, 'Oh, gosh, that guy could probably create an app on the fly, I can't do that!'" she says. "But then I said, 'Crystal, that's not your job. You're not supposed to code. You're not supposed to solve the outage issue. Your job is to support your team and provide guidance for their careers. You are there to be their person and advocate for them.'"
And now, while her imposter syndrome does pop up every once in a while, Crystal knows how to stay focused on all her accomplishments that have brought her to this present moment, without worrying if she deserves to be there or what's next.
"I'm enjoying being an engineering manager," she says. "I'm growing. And if I'm thinking about a five-year plan, I am going to miss out on some great times. I'm going to start overthinking. I'm going to create problems that haven't even occurred yet. And I just don't need that type of negativity in my life. That's just my rule in general right now."
"I mean, if I learned anything last year," she adds, "it's that plans often don't go according to plan! Take it day by day, week by week, and month by month. Really take time to appreciate life!"