What does the career path and a day in the life look like for the Director of Quality Engineering at one of Boston's anchor tech companies?
Tell us about your background.
Growing up on a rural wheat farm in North Dakota was certainly beautiful and idyllic (even though it was full of early-morning chores!). As I got older, I wanted to travel and learn about different cultures. Boston presented itself as a small, but cosmopolitan city full of arts, culture, and technology. I moved to Boston to attend Emerson College and earned an undergraduate degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. I have a few advanced degrees, but my proudest is my MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in VT where I was able to apprentice with a few of my favorite writers.
What were some of your first jobs?
I started working on my family farm as soon as I could walk. My first job was gathering eggs and the responsibilities piled on from there. Chores started at 5:30 am and there were no vacations or holidays.
My first paying job was age 12 when I was a summer docent at the Emmons County Historical Society. Mostly I tidied up and dusted, and learned the history of our county from the people who stopped in to visit the museum, as inevitably they would know much more about the various artifacts than I did.
I worked full time while in college, my most memorable job (and the one that started my trajectory in Quality Engineering), was working for a company called InstaTrac which is a legislative information, analysis, and tracking service. My responsibilities were gathering and inputting Massachusetts House and Senate bills into our massive database so that people with a subscription to the service didn’t have to go to the State House to acquire a hard copy of the bill in order to read it.
What were some of the foundation positions you’ve held and the skills that you developed leading to your current position?
Most of my foundational skills for my position came from my interactions with the arts. I’ve been a writer and musician for much longer than I’ve been in tech. From the arts (and from other artists) I learned to be scrappy, to jump on opportunities when they present themselves and if none do, to make my own opportunities for collaboration and interconnected functions.
Though I have “Quality” in my title, my job is much more about people. Connecting people to the technology, learning, and other people they need to do an amazing job and be fulfilled. When you cultivate those opportunities for people, they are happy and passionate about their job and in turn, the products they are working on are flawless.
How did you land your current position as Director of Quality Engineering at Carbon Black?
After working at Harvard Business School as Director of Quality Engineering for 15 years, I was ready to try a different industry. I posted to my Facebook network letting people know I was ready for a change, but that it had to be an amazing, technology-forward company whose mission was to help people.
I’ve always been a cybersecurity nut and have presented on the topic at conferences. A friend put me in contact with the hiring manager for my current position and I was 100% convinced after the initial phone screen that not only would this be the right move for me, but that I would be affecting the lives of millions of people in a positive way by helping companies protect their most valuable assets from security threats.
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your position?
I manage all aspects of quality for a product line that Carbon Black sells, as well as the team that is responsible for making sure all of our products work together seamlessly. I have a large number of direct reports, both on and near shore, but the team communicates well and works together fabulously which makes having that huge a number of direct reports manageable.
Day in the Life
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
Water! I’m mildly addicted to Polar Seltzer, especially the grapefruit flavor.
What time do you get into the office?
Depending on traffic, between 8am and 8:30am
Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?
I get up at 5am every day and have for as long as I can remember, likely the farmer in me. I usually grab my phone and check the status of our automated test runs and builds. Then I’ll take a few minutes to check my calendar, write some notes for different meetings and tasks, and then get my two-year-old daughter up and spend some time with her while we both get ready for our day.
After I drop her off at school at 7am, I settle in for my commute by jumping on the phone to check in with various team members. I get to work in time for stand-ups and attend as many as I can every day. It helps me keep my finger on the pulse of the various Agile teams.
I’d like to say I take time out to socialize or go to the gym, but in reality - lunch is the time I answer emails and walk around to check in on my direct reports because I’m often buried in meetings the rest of the day.
Most of the working sessions and strategy and planning meetings happen in the afternoon. Often I’m switching between a meeting on virtualization, to reviewing the latest intel on malware, to discussing sprint cadence, or quarterly planning. It’s always something new and interesting.
What time do you head out of the office?
Usually around 5:30pm-6pm.
Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely? Or… how do you decompress at night?
I’m never offline. Between text, email, flowdock, and the 100 other ways people can interact - I’m constantly checking on our progress. On top of that, I run an arts organization called WIREFOREST that connects artists with technology. I’m always planning the next big show and need to keep on top of everything related to that as well.
Any productivity hacks?
Be very timely. I try to never let anything sit in my inbox too long. I’m also not picky about how you communicate with me or where you continue your conversation. I constantly switch between IRL conversations, email, texting, flowdock etc.
What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?
I live and die by my calendar - Google Calendar integrates with every other calendar I keep both for my various jobs and for my personal life
I have a long commute, but Waze helps me get around traffic efficiently. I also get to see lots of new and beautiful scenery while avoiding backups!
We work with a contracting agency in Mexico and Duolingo is my secret weapon in being able to converse with them more naturally.
What time do you go to bed?
Midnight is the average for me, unless I have a show, then there’s no telling.