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.
Josephine Roh loves brunch. Particularly hosting it — and bringing special dishes to life to share with her friends.
The latest recipe she’s mastered is for lemon ricotta pancakes.
Cooking is part art and part science, which might be why the senior technical writer for fintech platform Moov is such a big fan of it.
“I’ve always liked using both sides of my brain,” says Josephine, who studied English literature in college, in line with her right-brain strengths, but also added an economics major to sharpen the analytical left side of her brain. She credits this double-barreled approach with setting her up well for her current career.
“It prepared me to be a holistically well-rounded person when it comes to how I think and work,” she says.
We sat down with Josephine to hear more about how she found her way into a career in technical writing, as well as the tips and tricks she has for people interested in following in her footsteps.
A Career Exploration
Josephine started her tech career in customer success at an edtech startup. “It was great training because at a startup you wear lots of hats,” she recalls, noting experiences in user research and operations. After trying a more quantitative-heavy role that gave her exposure to fintech, she realized she wanted something more creative, with an innovative, distributed company.
That’s how she found Moov.
“I was looking for a place with a remote-first culture, and Moov stood out. Some places were hybrid, or said, ‘Maybe we’ll go back to the office,’ but Moov originated without an office and intended to stay that way,” she says. “But I didn’t want it to just be remote — I also wanted it to be very human.”
To Josephine, that meant a culture of coworkers getting to know each other, respecting each other, and caring about each other — which is how she’s experienced Moov’s culture.
“There’s a lot of mutual understanding,” she says. “Something kind of sweet Moov does is this monthly “unbemoovable” meeting where someone shares their story, with pictures, to the extent that they want to. We’ve heard a lot of nontraditional, exciting stories, including from career switchers, and it lends itself to an angle of diversity and creativity that feels like a very healthy, human-first culture.”
Her first few months on the job were spent learning about the product, coming up the curve on technical writing, and pulling together documentation. After finishing the first set of docs, Josephine decided to start focusing on making Moov’s documentation better.
Her manager saw and appreciated Josephine’s initiative and promoted her to senior technical writer, which made her feel like she had chosen the right environment for her growth.
“Moov has let me run with this, building our docs from the ground up because there wasn’t red tape. There weren’t people standing in my way saying, ‘No, this is not how you do it.’ Me being comfortable with that ambiguity and trusting that people like my manager were supporting me, allowed me to be able to grow in my career to where I am now,” she says.
Technical Writing: An Intro and 5 Tips
Josephine explains what technical writing is by referencing a multi-layered puzzle. “You have to understand a certain level of technical stuff, then be able to build a translation layer and explain it in a way that anyone can understand,” she says.
“It’s about writing guides and documents that help developers implement or integrate with different software. It requires some level of knowledge of how developers think and speak, as well as the tools that they're going to be using to make things happen.” That can take the form of API-heavy reference documents, which are more technical, or more “prose-y guides” that explain more holistically what a feature is and how to use it.
Here’s what Josephine recommends to others interested in the field:
- Make sure you have the right skill set. “Tech writing is good for folks who like writing, and don't mind writing about things that they don't yet understand, who are comfortable with ambiguity or diving into the challenge of learning something new and very specific.” Other key skills, per Josephine: interviewing, talking to people, process management, research, relationship building, editing, writing (duh!), and empathy (to imagine the final product from different audiences’ points of view).
- Brush up on key tools. “I’d recommend that future tech writers learn the suite of tools they’d work with. It’s almost imperative that you would know Markdown, which is kind of like HTML, but it's the language that formats text. It’s what most tech writers type in, basically. It would be good to know how API references are generated, too, and also helpful to know how to work with GitHub.”
- Interview other tech writers! “People are super open to talking about their experiences and because it's different at every company, you may want to get a more holistic perspective and talk to a couple of people. The company really makes or breaks your experience.”
- Practice, practice, practice. “Look at the world of open source. If you want hands-on experience, look for a project with incomplete documentation and ask the owner if you can help with documenting it!”
- Find communities to learn with. Josephine says that the online technical writing community is active and generous. “There are communities for any question you might have about tech writing, as well as free resources. I definitely recommend them.” As far as specific resources and communities go, Josephine personally suggests the following:
- Google’s Technical Writing Courses
- Git and its own reference documents
- The Product is Docs: Writing technical documentation in a product development group, a book by the Splunk Documentation Team
- The Write The Docs Slack community, with job postings, recommendations, and channels for sharing other resources
Yun Freund considers her background to form the “typical immigrant story” — but sitting down with the SVP of Platform and Product at Equinix, it’s clear she’s made it her own.
“I came to the United States about 30 years ago with $80 in my pocket. I earned a CS degree from a Beijing university when computer science was new. I was good at math, so that’s what I studied,” explains Yun.
Fast forward a few decades, and Yun is now running one of the largest organizations at Equinix, a Fortune 500 digital infrastructure company focused on providing an interconnected platform to its global 10k customers. While focusing on external growth — the business has grown nearly 40% since her arrival — Yun has also invested in internal progress, especially when it comes to Equinix’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) goals.
“I know first-hand how hard it is, as an Asian and a woman, to be able to survive and excel at a workplace, and I’m proud of how Equinix has grown to be an amazing workplace where employees feel that they are safe, belong, and matter,” says Yun.
That’s not just her opinion. Glassdoor confirms this, having given the company a “best place to work” distinction in 2021, and a special award for best places to work for LGBTQ+ equality list by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
We were excited to learn more about Yun’s strategies for empowering her team — including her belief that making room for failure is just as important as celebrating success.
The Intersection of Technological Innovation and People Management
Yun first heard about Equinix through a recruiter. Decades into her career in tech leadership, she was looking for a role where she could drive innovation in both technology and people management.
“After many rounds of discussion with our executives, I realized Equinix is a company that’s full of potential. It was doing a lot of innovation on interconnected SaaS products and networking products, and I thought I could really help drive, from a culture and process perspective, the company's digital transformation journey,” reflects Yun.
Her first order of business? Building a strategy for scaling product development. Yun had long worked at the intersection of engineering and people management, and she embraced the challenge to scale a talent strategy as well as changing the culture.
That resulted in clear growth — not just for Yun’s career, as in promotions and new responsibilities, but also in what the company was able to do.
“Helping to cultivate a DevOps culture, move products to the Cloud for high reliability and availability, and build operational excellence for our customers is contributing to us fulfilling our purpose, which is to be the platform where the world comes together, enabling the innovations that enrich our work, life and planet,” says Yun.
Diverse Ways of Measuring Impact
Yun doesn’t manage her team by the balance sheet alone.
“Improving the bottom line, or operating more efficiently, is just as important as improving the top line, or driving more revenue and more customer adoption,” she says. “Sometimes it’s not about how we get new products and services out the door, but how we run things more efficiently.”
For Equinix, says Yun, that includes committing to becoming carbon-neutral by 2030.
“We’re a company that really touches life every day, from online shopping, to sending emails and streaming movies, to smart cars,” says Yun. “We want to be doing that sustainably. For example, by using AI and machine learning to lower our power consumption and using green sources of energy.”
Yun knows that to drive the most impact, Equinix needs a diverse team. She has partnered with other senior leaders and employee connection groups and started driving a more coherent DIB strategy across the company. She is excited to see the progress and wants to continue the effort in building a diverse and safe workplace for everyone — including by leading through her own example.
3 Key Ways to Empower Your Team
When Yun says that it’s important to empower your team, she doesn’t mean that you simply transfer the responsibility to your team and call it done. Here’s what she does mean:
- Embrace failure. “It’s easy to say, ‘Ah, empowerment. Here’s the purpose, go drive impact.’ But sometimes it’s not all rosy,” she says. “The road to empowerment can sometimes be a failure. How do you support your employees along the way? When they fail, you should not blame them. You should be there, on their side, to help them do a retrospective and learn from it.”
- Show trust via delegation. “Giving your team the opportunity to make their own decisions helps give them a purpose. It shows them they can make a difference. Accountability and ownership will help drive your team to have deeper engagement and commitments, and ultimately deliver results.”
- Tie individual responsibilities to company OKRs (Objectives, Key Results). “I always communicate to my team that every engineer and individual contributor’s work will have an impact on the business, no matter how small that is,” says Yun. For example, if an engineer is working on a new digital experience component for the customers, their work will contribute to some kind of business outcome such as, hours saved from many customer support calls or customer satisfaction score improvement, and that in turn drives operational efficiency and customer experience improvement for the whole business. “When employees realize their impact on the business, it elevates their motivation as well as their state of mind.”
Monica Arias has long been interested in the new and the next. That interest is what drove her to work in national security after 9/11, and in the cryptocurrency space after learning about modern-day crimes committed on the blockchain.
One thing she has noticed every time she’s been somewhere new: the importance of having a diverse early team to shape it.
“We need minorities to be willing to take a chance and apply to firms like ours and other tech firms,” says Monica, who is currently a Federal Business Development Lead at Chainalysis, a blockchain data platform. “As these companies grow rapidly, we need diverse candidates who can offer diverse thoughts and approaches to problems.”
Monica currently works closely with the Chainalysis federal government team to pursue opportunities to support customers that are in need of Chainalysis data to track blockchain criminals and bring them to justice. She was well-prepared for some parts of the job after holding various roles but had to come up the curve on technical skills — which is why she’s sure that other candidates like her, from non-technical, underrepresented backgrounds, will be able to do so, too.
We sat down with Monica to hear more about how marginalized people can break into crypto and best position themselves for success in the field.
Connecting to a Bigger Mission
Growing up around DC, Monica got early exposure to federal service. From a young age, she knew she wanted to help represent and advocate for people.
She went to law school, thinking that would be the best path to fulfilling her goals. But living through 9/11 inspired her to support national security missions more actively. That’s how she got her first exposure to her now-employer — she brought in Chainalysis for a demo to learn how to on leverage their blockchain analysis tools.
“I’ve always wanted to be a part of something that had a bigger mission,” says Monica. “And the crypto space had that.”
It wasn’t just any crypto company that interested Monica, though. She particularly liked the company’s innovative culture and fast growth.
“Chainalysis is a very open and encouraging place,” says Monica, who came in to interview at the startup having studied up on crypto, but never having worked in the field or with blockchain technology.
“The culture is very much about learning, and they’ve created an environment where they enable you to do so. The underlying foundation is ongoing learning, and soliciting ideas on how to evolve and expand.”
Leveraging a Non-Technical Background
Monica gets what it’s like to not want to apply to an opportunity because you feel underqualified — that’s what happened to her.
“In some conversations, the feedback I received was that I didn’t have enough of a technical background and that therefore it would be challenging to go and join a tech firm,” she says. “It’s a big deterrent for so many people. And it also compounds things. Because if you’re a minority or from an underrepresented group, you’re already less likely to apply. And if you have no technical background, you’re even less likely to do so.”
How did Monica break through that? She got creative.
“I had to take a step back and say, ‘You know, I have skills. How can I transfer those into a non-technical role supporting a tech firm?” she says.
We asked her to share more about what that process was like, and here’s what she said:
5 Tips as You Gear Up to Be Competitive in the Tech Industry
- Find firms that are in fields you find interesting. Since you’re going to have to do a lot of learning, find a tech firm that is involved in a field you are excited about. Monica found her interest - crypto! She’s excited to continuously be learning about the rapidly changing crypto landscape. She added, “the tech industry can be demanding so you need to stay motivated about the work you’re doing and believe in the company you’re with.”
- Find firms that are open-minded, too. Interviewing at Chainalysis even without technical skills on her resume didn’t pose a problem for Monica. That’s because they were willing to look at her in her entirety. “It’s not just, ‘Do you fit A, B, and C,’ but ‘Do you have the overall skills and ability to learn and grow in this type of field?’”
- Recognize your transferable skills. Monica coaches other people with non-technical backgrounds like hers to start by acknowledging their accomplishments in their own fields. “What have you done? Is it people managing? Because these firms manage people in one way or another. Those and other skills can be leveraged and transferred,” says Monica. “Literally, make a list and identify those skills, then highlight those skills throughout your resume.”
- Remember that most people are in the same boat. “You won’t come across too many candidates who have 10 years of crypto experience, because this field is new,” says Monica. “The perfect candidate who meets every single qualification listed in a job ad may not exist so instead recruiters — especially those who are good at their jobs - spend time getting to know candidates. But they can't get to know you if you are deterred from applying by thinking you don't meet all the qualifications.”
- Study up. Monica follows crypto influencers, keeps up with crypto companies on LinkedIn, follows government statements on crypto, and reads reports put out by her firm and others. “If this is your focus, you need to read, talk, and network — just be curious,” she says.
Lucy Wang only has one regret about her career in product marketing: that it took so long for her to find it.
“I switched between different lanes quite a bit early in my career, before I finally hit product marketing,” she says. “I wish that I had had a program or network of mentors to go to and say ‘Hey, I’m an engineer, but my passion is connecting with people. There are so many roles within marketing. I don’t know which one is cut out for me. Can you give me some advice?’”
She did figure it out eventually, building off of long and productive stints in marketing functions at Microsoft and Amazon, among other places. Currently, she is a Director and Head of Product Marketing at security software company Veracode. And now more than ever, she’s focused on paying back her hard-earned knowledge and perspective.
“I bumped around and figured it out years later, but I could’ve avoided some pitfalls,” she says. “And now I feel passionate about providing mentorship to others so they can avoid some of those detours.”
We sat down with Lucy to hear more about what advice she has for those considering a career in product marketing — including which soft skills are really necessary (and perhaps even more necessary than hard, coding-based skills) to succeed.
There’s one question Lucy asks all of her mentees when their relationship begins: “What’s your passion? That doesn’t mean the industry that gives you the highest pay. We spend a lot of time at work and if that’s not something you feel passionate about, you’ll feel burned out very quickly.”
As a student, Lucy considered educational psychology as a life-defining passion, but later found her passion elsewhere. She was in Seattle in the early 2000’s and saw how the tech field was taking off and impacting daily life, and she decided to give it a try.
Growing up, her engineer father had stressed the importance of pragmatic thinking and problem-solving skills, which served her well in her first tech role. She did a master’s in computer systems to deepen her knowledge, and her hard-working approach helped her make it through several rounds of layoffs when the dot com bubble burst.
But working through turbulent times made Lucy realize that pure engineering was not her true calling.
“I felt passion and energy from connecting with people,” she reflects. She took on some management roles and even ended up doing an MBA. Several jobs later, she found herself at Microsoft, where she had her first “true, bonafide product marketing experience.”
That’s when it all clicked for her. “I have a special knack for positioning and messaging a very technical product in a way that people understand,” says Lucy. “I can explain and sell things to someone who knows little about my industry.”
When it came to subject matter, Lucy jumped at the chance to head up the marketing for Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure (Platform as a Service) and later AWS’ portfolio of databases.
“Everybody was moving to the cloud; it was a full digital transformation,” she says. “People were freaking out about how to do that, and I understood that pain.”
Embracing cloud meant dealing with a new set of security concerns, which set Lucy up well to transition to Veracode when the opportunity came up.
“Customers had to think about business continuity when migrating to the cloud. If we transition to the cloud, what happens to our portfolio of applications? Can they continue to run without a break? What about cyber attacks? These are real topics people have to worry about.”
Passion + Skillset = Impact
Passion is the first step in Lucy’s framework for finding meaningful work — but the second is knowing that you can make a difference.
“When you feel passionate about something and you have the skill sets to bring value to the table, you are helping the business to do better down the road. It’s pretty powerful and fulfilling,” she says.
That’s what led Lucy to take a role at Veracode. She was interested in the security field, having worked through related problems for cloud products and also in her own personal life, where she’d dealt with data breaches twice as a customer of her bank.
She also liked that Veracode was a mid-sized company where she could really visualize making an impact.
“It’s not a small company, but it’s small enough for you to make a sizable impact,” she says. That’s been especially true during the last year and a half of the Great Resignation, she notes, which has put pressure on her and all managers to step up their game and really have an employee-first mentality.
“You cannot be their authority figure. That’s so 1980. You have to be the coach, the mentor, the shoulder that they can lean on in life. It’s extremely important that they’re happy, that they can feel safe and motivated to do more. You start by showing them what you can do for them: how you can enable them, how you can help unblock them, and how you can help them build a career here,” says Lucy.
Lucy is excited about the parallel problems she is currently working to solve — first, how to bring Veracode’s security platform to its target customers, and second, how to build a team that can empower customers while fulfilling their career goals at the same time.
5 Key Soft Skills for Product Marketing
When Lucy is hiring for her team — or even helping to interview for other teams within the company — she’s looking for a range of abilities, and few of them are hard skills.
“People think you have to be a nerdy person. You have to be a math genius to find a job here. That’s so not true,” she says. “If you have the right passion, portable skills, and a can-do, can-learn attitude, you will find a job in tech.”
Here are some of the key soft skills Lucy looks for and helps her mentees foster:
- Creative problem-solving. “If you want to grow faster, you have to find gaps and you have to find solutions to fill those gaps. People hire you for a reason. They have a real business problem to solve. So you come in, identify the problem, come up with a solution, and execute.”
- Getting curious. “Curiosity is really important. If you are curious about how things work, then you'll come up with something even better than what is already in place.”
- Building relationships with people who are doing what interests you. “This helps you get the real detail, the real download on what roles are like, and also gives you a support system like mentors you can go and ask for help.”
- Empathy. “I’ve seen many great [women] leaders in IT who, on top of having the same brain power as any other gender, have a special ability to nurture and connect, which I have found powerful and refreshing.”
- Accepting your mistakes. “You want to learn through the mistakes. Don't beat yourself up for small mistakes; there's no need to do that. If you don’t make any, when something bad does happen you won’t know how to deal with it.”
Overall, Lucy wants other women and underrepresented groups to have confidence in themselves — and to not cut themselves off from a promising career before even trying it out.
“All these other people, they seem to have everything. But underneath the calm surface, they also panic, just like you do,” she says, smiling. “Have confidence in yourself.”