Learn how professionals in the tech
industry got to where they are today 
and what a day in the life looks like.

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Career Path: Garrett Rapp, Senior Solutions Architect at Bullhorn banner image

Career Path: Garrett Rapp, Senior Solutions Architect at Bullhorn

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What does the career path and a day-in-the-life look like for a Senior Solutions Architect at Bullhorn? We interviewed Garrett Rapp to find out.

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Where did you grow up?  What did your parents do for work?  

I grew up in a town called Harvard, Illinois near the Wisconsin border. My mom was a teacher of all different types (she also has a law degree). Although we lived pretty far into the country, my dad worked as an attorney in downtown Chicago. As a kid, I spent a lot of time roaming around the woods surrounding our property and both reading and emulating Calvin and Hobbes comics. Pretty much the rest of my time was spent playing piano.

Where did you go to college?  What did you study and what were some of your initial jobs out of school?

I attended Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU) in Bloomington, Illinois after a tough decision against pursuing piano performance. Instead, I enrolled at IWU as a biology major. By sophomore year, I switched to a religion major while I worked at the campus newspaper and the campus radio station. By junior year, I added an English and writing double major, and going into senior year, I was editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper. I still credit my time behind the wheel of The Argus as one of the most eye-opening and best educational experiences of my college and early career.

After school, I had a brief stint at the University of Chicago in a religion graduate program, from which I ended up withdrawing. At the same time, I was working the phones in an hourly job for TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson (a F250 transportation and 3PL company). I also did contract work in search engine optimization and content development for a company called L2T Media.

Garrett Rapp, Bullhorn
Garrett and his wife, Linda Martin, in London

What has attributed to your success thus far and has helped propel you to the position you have now?

For better or worse, if I’d continued in the graduate program I was in, I wouldn’t be here now. That’s not to say I regret it at all though: I got some real exposure to handling debt, grappling with sunk costs (and their associated fallacies), and weighing my pride and the idea of quitting against the likely outcomes and my personal happiness. I made the right choice, and I believe that you can learn a lot from agonizing over hard choices.

There may be a way in which that decision caused me to double down at the job I was working. I really dedicated myself to my career, and over the next several years at TMC in Chicago, I worked my way through several promotions into a key role in their internal Operational Excellence group. This role stoked my interest in consulting as a general career path and in technology (especially automation) as a focus.

What made the most difference at that early stage of my career was an obsession with efficiency, including typing speed, automation, templates, and organization, which freed up time to self-teach. There was no problem that I wouldn’t try to figure out myself first before I asked someone else. If you can afford to spend some time digging around and trying things yourself, you can learn all you need. If you don’t have time to do that, you have to make time for it first.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Senior Solutions Architect at Bullhorn?

Solutions Architect is a broad term, which can mean varying degrees of pre-sale business engagement and technical delivery engagement depending on the business. At Bullhorn, the role truly encompasses both, but a descriptor that really resonates with me is “Solution Owner.”

If we’re implementing our software for a client, we have a project manager who is the delivery owner, but we, as Solution Architects, are responsible for helping to ensure that the holistic solution works for the client. This goes beyond ensuring that our software does what it’s intended to do as outlined in the statement of work. We also need to know what systems the client depends on for their day-to-day operations beyond our software and how our data needs to interact with theirs.

Any tips for someone considering a career in Client Services?

A genuine interest in positive interactions with other people, even those you know little or nothing about, is the single most important piece. Dedication to your customer’s success is table stakes; to excel, you have to put yourself and the urge to blame aside, and refocus on the problem you have in front of you.

If you can find a way to build a rapport with your clients, you’ll enjoy making them successful. Face-to-face interactions make this easier, so I’d recommend opportunities to connect in-person with your clients. Bullhorn hosts an annual conference series called Engage that creates an opportunity for everyone in our company to meet our customers, and it’s consistently a highlight for me.

Beyond this, building your personal toolset is a key ongoing project. Whatever your specialty, try to broaden your horizons. For me in the technology and software space, this means looking at methods of conflict resolution and negotiation (I love the book “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury), trying to understand profit and loss and balance sheets, and brushing up on consulting skills. Some classic consulting case interview preparation and practice is invaluable for anyone who aims to grow their career.

Garrett Rapp Bullhorn
Garrett Rapp in San Francisco 

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Lots of coffee! Not too picky about it - I’ll trade quantity for quality here.

What time do you get into the office?

About 7 a.m. I get a lot of mileage out of the first 1.5 hours of office time before my email, phone, and Slack messages start increasing. If I’m onsite with a client, the goal is arriving a minimum of 15 minutes before any meetings with them start, but ideally 20-25 minutes so I’m ready for a productive conversation.

What are three things that motivate you in your role?

  • I care deeply about my team and my department. I’ll go a long way to help other people in my organization because I like seeing them succeed.

  • Getting to be a problem-solver. In most jobs, when you get handed a problem, you actually have a plethora of resources, tools, and some time allocated to solving it. Real-life problems aren’t always that accommodating!

  • Getting to meet, understand, and make a difference for customers directly. I love working with end users of our software (especially in-person, like during user acceptance testing cycles) and helping them learn new things about the tool.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

This varies throughout the year based on what project I’m working on, but it can involve:

  • Participating in client calls (design and requirements, demos, handoffs, and defect reviews)
  • Participating in internal calls with our sales department
  • Creating statements of work for services engagements
  • Creating functional specifications for custom apps and automations
  • Troubleshooting or testing our software and custom automations
  • Deploying our software

What time do you head out of the office?

Anywhere from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., depending on what’s going on that day. All bets are off when I’m on-site with a client though - spending from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a client in their “War Room” builds camaraderie!

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

I often will log back in at night, if only to file away emails that I don’t have to respond to, or hit off quick answers. I don’t find it stressful to keep up on things after hours - it’s worth it to me to have less noise waiting when I kick off in the morning. It’s relatively rare that I need to get on the phone with my project teams or clients for urgent matters. That said, as a project and implementation consultant, there will be occasional evenings or weekends for working on big deployments and go-lives.

Any productivity hacks?

  • I couldn’t live without organized folders in my inbox, my desktop, my Google Drive, etc.

  • Know when to block yourself off and “hide.” If I have a deep, detailed technical specification to write, I’ll minimize email and Slack, silence my phone, and work in an obscure conference room to avoid interruptions.

  • I think it’s pretty common to freeze up or procrastinate when faced with tough problems. The key thing is to start on them anyway: start simple and don’t aim for perfection, but just start producing something. You can always improve it later, but you haven’t wasted time avoiding your main problem or displacing it with lower priority issues and requests.

What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?

  • Slack isn’t “the email killer.” Email has a very clear purpose and utility, but I do think that Slack is the ultimate office chat tool, and its iPhone app is excellent.

  • For traveling, ExpenseIt lets me photograph receipts and automatically puts their costs, comments, and allocations into my open expense reports. It’s a great way to not lose track of the money I spend while traveling for business.

  • I use the basic call, calendar, and mail apps a lot, but the other key apps in rotation would be podcasts and Spotify, especially for when I’m traveling.

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

Working my way into a technical and software specialist role over the years, given my lack of a technical and software degree, is my proudest accomplishment. The challenge now is staying up to speed!

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

If I call someone for professional advice, it’s likely to be a parent or sibling (who are all pretty accomplished). In terms of admiration, it would be one of my first managers - Adam Gerdel. He ran the Operational Excellence team at my first job, and he became a big role model for how to develop teams that want to work together, how to deliver results while also making time to think outside of the box, and how to support employees both personally and professionally - all while staying ruthlessly focused on efficiency and innovation. He’s a one-in-a-million team leader, and I’m grateful for all that I learned from him.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz.  Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

Top photo courtesy of Maximillian Tortoriello Photography, other photos were provided by Bullhorn.

About the

Bullhorn is the global leader in software for the staffing industry.

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Career Path: Thomas Salah, Sales Manager at SmartBear banner image

Career Path: Thomas Salah, Sales Manager at SmartBear

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What does the career path and day in the life look like for a sales manager at SmartBear?

We interviewed Thomas Salah to find out!

Career Path

Where did you grow up?  

I grew up in Gloucester, MA, a small fishing community located 45 minutes north of Boston.  

What did you parents do for work?  What was your very first job?

My parents owned and operated a restaurant for 25 years of my life. I think I washed my first dish at 10 years old. I was in the kitchen cooking with my Dad at 12, and I was waiting tables by 14. My grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins all worked at the restaurant – it was a family affair.

Where did you go to college?  What did you study?  

I graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in economics. My goal was to attend a NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) school and continue playing hockey. NESCAC schools offer a top-tier liberal arts education combined with highly competitive athletics. Wesleyan felt like the right fit for me from the other NESCAC schools I looked at, and I have no regrets in my decision. The classes were very challenging, we had the best hockey season in program history during my time, and I met people from all areas of the world with different perspectives that made me who I am today.

What was your first job out of college?

As senior year winded down, many of my friends were interviewing for finance and investment banking roles, but I knew that wasn’t for me. I am a people person, and I knew I didn’t have the patience or interest in living behind a spreadsheet and crunching numbers all day. I connected with people in my network across several different industries and liked the idea of technology sales. A family friend had been selling software at PTC for 15 years and helped me to get a job as an Inside Sales Representative (PTC’s word for Business/Sales Development Rep). This was six years ago, and I have been selling software ever since.

What are the details of your current role at SmartBear as a Sales Manager?

I manage a team of six-quota carrying representatives for one of our top product lines. As a sales manager, my focus is teaching my team sales strategies from the initial discovery through close to help each rep reach their goals. While I am involved in all deals that reps need assistance with, I pride myself on coaching and developing my reps rather than writing an email or taking a call for them. I really love working with my team to understand the “why” a particular result occurred to scale that approach if the result was positive and adjust the approach if the result was negative. All sales reps will tell you their goal is to hit their number, and I am responsible for helping them do that at SmartBear, but I believe my true value is helping my team develop the skills that are going to result in them always hitting their number and enjoying long-term success.

Your career path has consistently been on track for a promotion every 1-2 years.  What has attributed to your success?

This is no mystery - work hard, be accountable, and never settle for less. I’ve always had these core values at the top of mind. As in sports, if you put in the effort and stay focused on consistently delivering on your goals, then coaches/managers/leaders will continue to trust you with more responsibility and give you a chance in big-time situations. I’ve always wanted to have the ball in my hands when the game is on the line or a deal teed-up that gets the company across the revenue target. I see those high-pressure situations as an opportunity to prove my worth, and all I can ask for is the opportunity. What I do with that opportunity, well, that’s on me.  

What is your most proud accomplishment at SmartBear?

Without question - rolling out “Personal Development” sessions. Each rep on my team has a 30-minute recurring meeting on my calendar to discuss the topic of their choice in an open discussion format. Topics include written and verbal communication, objection handling, adding and selling value, creating urgency, negotiating, and many others. My intention in rolling out “Personal Development” was to offer each of my reps the opportunity to focus their attention on a specific skill that they would like to improve on and separate from the day-to-day grind of sales, separate from the forecast, the calling, and emailing. I want my reps to look back on their time at SmartBear working for me as being the most impactful years of their career. I hope to be a mentor for them for years to come.

Thomas Salah

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?


What time do you get into the office?

I get into the office between 8:30-9. My team covers the West Coast territory, so work starts a little later than most.  

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

I get up every morning at 6, gym from 6:30-8 and then head to the office. I have a good idea of what the day is going to consist of from reviewing my calendar the previous night and listing out my highest priority tasks.

My highest priority task daily is reviewing my pipeline and identifying the key opportunities that are going to get me to my goals and ask myself, “What can I do today to progress this opportunity?" I then look to start knocking down other high priority tasks before the rest of my team arrives, and the day starts moving along quickly. I have meetings to attend daily, but I strive to be at my desk at all other times.  

When I am not in meetings or on customer calls, I spend time reviewing our activity metrics, adding value to my team, and teaching. Around 6 o’clock daily, when the day is winding down, I spend time finishing any outstanding tasks and set my plan for the next day. I also like to spend some time before I leave catching up on the news for the day on Twitter.

I get home around 8:30, which is also when my fiancé gets home, and we sit down for dinner. Dinner usually consists of whatever we meal prepped on Sunday. Rinse and repeat.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

As much as I try to shut down, I really have a hard time doing so especially when I almost always have my phone in my hand. It’s nearly impossible for me to ignore my Outlook inbox, but I do try to limit myself to only responding to customer emails and discussions impacting revenue. The other topics can wait until the morning.

Any productivity hacks?

In a fast-paced technology company like SmartBear, it is very easy to get distracted. I work on staying organized and focusing on results, but if there is one issue I have, it’s thinking that I can do everything.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

My Dad. While he has never had a corporate job, he has been managing people for much of his life running a restaurant, and he provides unique perspectives on how to overcome challenging situations. He is even-keeled and soft-spoken, so whether the day was good or bad, he usually knows what to say to bring my expectations and feelings back in line, if needed. He always taught me never to get too high or too low and keep grinding. I talk to him several times a week about sports, business, and just about everything else.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

Image courtesy of Thomas Salah and SmartBear.

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Smartbear's tools are built to streamline your DevOps processes while seamlessly working with the products you use – and will use

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Career Path: Okan Okutgen, Channel Operations and Strategy Lead at Formlabs banner image

Career Path: Okan Okutgen, Channel Operations and Strategy Lead at Formlabs

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What does the career path and day in the life look for the Channel Operations and Strategy Lead at Formlabs?

We interviewed Okan Okutgen to find out.

Career Path

Where did you grow up?  What did you parents do for work?  What was your very first job?

I was born and brought up in Istanbul, Turkey. I moved to the USA for college and have been living abroad since then. My father studied economics, but runs his own distributor business in Istanbul and provides spare parts to car manufacturing facilities. My mother was an English lecturer at a university, and she is now retired.

My first job was my college internship at Daimler AG (parent company of Mercedes Benz) in Stuttgart, Germany. I was placed there through my university’s “Summer Work Program in Germany.” I was working in the procurement department and had to develop a strategy and plan for procurement of industrial washing machines. The coolest thing about it was that I got to improve my German, and also got to experience a foreign working culture early on.

Why did you decide to study Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton?  It looks like you were very involved in various entrepreneurial efforts on campus. Can you highlight some of the details?

I love solving complex problems and engineering education gives you a distinct way of understanding, dissecting, and solving problems. I picked mechanical engineering because I think it is a fundamental engineering branch that has many broad applications. It does not narrow you down. I studied Aerospace Engineering because I love challenging myself.  I found “being a rocket scientist” pretty fascinating; in one class we designed a microsatellite that would detect new planets and tested our design at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Funny detail – since I was a foreign national, a security guard followed me during our entire stay at NASA, including accompanying me to the bathroom!

I have always been interested in the intersection of engineering/technical solution and business.  I believe a lot of the big problems in the world such as climate change, social inequality etc. can be solved by innovative businesses that make financial sense. Unfortunately – not everyone will be an environmentalist. However, if you build profitable green businesses that are integrated into a capitalist system, you can broaden the number of people who will contribute to a more sustainable life even though they might not be as passionate about the environment.

Princeton was a great environment to explore those interests and to highlight this message. I became involved with, and then served as President of, the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. This is one of the most active and biggest student clubs on campus. One of my goals as president was to make environmental and social entrepreneurship a more prominent part of our activities such as our annual Business Plan Competition and our ongoing speaker series.

Okan Oktugen

What was your first job out of your undergraduate studies?  

I worked at RED (Recycled Energy Development), which was a small company with a mission to “profitably reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The mission statement appealed to me since it aligned with my view that big problems can be solved by businesses. At RED we built, owned and operated combined heat and power plants and waste energy recovery plants that would produce highly efficient energy at industrial sites in the USA. In the business development department, I did the techno-financial analysis of various projects and worked on the acquisition of a major industrial park power plant. As part of my role, I had to be able to be down in the weeds of the technical, legal and financial details and marry them, but rise up to see the big picture and help craft deals that met the goals of various stakeholders. I also met one of my mentors Tom Casten, who was the chairman of the company. He has started or led multiple companies in the energy space. He is a published author who was also actively contributing to energy efficiency literature with articles. I was privileged to be part of some of his work.

Why did you decide to return back to school and earn your MBA from HBS?

I still wanted to do more in the intersection of engineering and entrepreneurship. Even in undergraduate, as I was studying engineering, I knew I wanted to go to business school and complement my technical education. Business is definitely not something that you can just learn in school. However, my two years at HBS were very defining for me as I reflected on what kind of a career I want to build and what kind of a leader I want to become. It is a unique place to do that – I was surrounded by diverse classmates who challenged me every day.

What kind of career do you want to build? What kind of leader do you want to become?

My goal is to become a leader who makes a difference in the world. I know it sounds like a cliche recruiting tagline, but it is true. Making a difference has many forms. It ranges from working in companies that have a mission that goes beyond profit, to being a coach and mentor to peers and direct reports every day. I found Clayton Christensen’s quote from his book “How will you measure your life?” very inspiring and eye-opening. He says:

“I used to think that if you cared for other people, you need to study sociology or something like it. But….I [have] concluded, if you want to help other people, be a manager. If done well, management is among the most noble of professions. You are in a position where you have eight or ten hours every day from every person who works for you. You have the opportunity to frame each person’s work so that, at the end of every day, your employees will go home feeling like Diana felt on her good day: living a life filled with motivators.”

What type of management consulting work did you do at Bain & Company?

Bain has a generalist model that focuses on strategy consulting. Given my engineering background and interest, I spent most of my time with IG&S clients (Industrial goods and services), who were more B-2-B and had technical products. I did a variety of projects such as developing a corporate strategy to drive the growth of a facilities management company, redesigning sales & operations planning for the global rental power company and streamlining the procurement efforts of a global EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction) company.

Personally one of the biggest highlights was my role in a pro-bono project as part of the Bain Green Team. We helped a sustainability data company perform more effectively by redesigning their entire operating model: including company structure, accountabilities, governance and ways of working. Our goal was to ensure that every resource and activity in the company is aligned with company strategy and mission, which is to make environmental reporting and risk management part of business decisions.

One of the key learnings from Bain is the ability to quickly ramp up about an industry or function that you are not familiar with and identify the key business levers that would bring the most value to the company whether in growth or operational efficiency. The 80/20 rule is crucial: 80% of the value comes from 20% of the work. It pushes you to do prioritization so that you only focus on the activities that will drive big change and impact, which is very important for every business where time and resources are limited.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position at Formlabs? Why did you join Formlabs?

I joined Formlabs because I was fascinated by Form 2, the most advanced desktop 3D printer ever created and the company culture. I think it is a company full of youth, drive, ambition, and willingness to set new norms in the 3D printing industry. And my time here has proven me that this was the right move for me. Every day I feel satisfied because I am building a company with my colleagues. As a fast-growing company sometimes we do things for the first time or we have to iterate fast based on new information we have. I tackle difficult problems that require trade-offs, quick thinking, flexibility, and creativity. That challenge invigorates me and grows me professionally, which I love.

My role has two hats. I am the Global Channel Operations Lead. Our channel is our network of distributors and resellers that sell Formlabs products around the world. My goal is to make sure this network works effectively and efficiently as we make more Formlabs products accessible to more end users around the globe. This involves project managing sales, marketing, customer support, and operations team globally to ensure products and services are delivered to channel partners efficiently while ensuring a good experience to end users.

I am also the lead for the North America and International Channel Sales team, where we work to grow our top-line revenue in North America, LatAm and ASEAN regions. We recruit and grow the right partners in these regions that not only allow us to hit our aggressive growth goals, but also provide the best customer experience and value to end-users. We want to make sure as many people around the world can have access to our technology and use 3D printing to create things.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

I have one cup of coffee every morning. No more, no less.

What time do you get into the office?

I get in between 8-9 am depending on when my first meeting is. I try to get in about half an hour before my first meeting to just settle in and orient myself before I start the day.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

Morning: I work out in the morning. Either I do HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or yoga.

Then I prepare breakfast for me and my wife: Boiled eggs and a breakfast smoothie with berries.

As I get ready, I listen to the Economist (the app has an audio version that reads you the articles).

Then as I am driving to work I talk to my family members on the phones (parents, in-laws, brother). Due to the time difference, it works best when I talk to them in the morning.

I go through my planner to orient myself for the day and prioritize my activities.

I usually have a couple of meetings especially with team members who are in European and Asian time zones.

Afternoon: I have few more meetings and usually have a couple of hours blocked for some alone working time.  

Evening: Early evening I go through my emails, to make sure nothing time-sensitive is pending.

Then I go through my planner and update it accordingly based on that day’s work.

I go home and have dinner with my wife, who is a current student at HBS.

We either go out to meet friends and attend a social school activity or stay in and watch one of our TV shows. We are obsessed with the Crown.

If she has still some school work to do, I do some reading on my own or pick up some work emails.

What time do you head out of the office?

It depends. Usually, I leave between 7-8 pm.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  

I do log back in as necessary, but I usually prefer powering through and leaving a bit later instead of logging back in. Either way, I make sure I have my family time with my wife. I have dinner with her every night.

Any productivity hacks?

I use the weekly planner (not daily!) framework from Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People.” In this planner, you divide all your tasks into 4 quadrants in a 2 by 2 matrix based on importance and urgency. You not only focus on important and urgent tasks but also focus on important and non-urgent tasks. This way you not only firefight but also spend time on what will drive long-term value. Read the book! It is not only for professional life!

What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?

  • 7 Minute Workout (by Johnson & Johnson): Great way to exercise and challenge yourself if you have limited time. I do 2-3 cycles of 7 min HIIT.
  • The Economist: I listen to the audio version as I get ready in the mornings. It not only keeps me current with what is happening in the world but oddly calms me down:)
  • Whatsapp: Need to stay in touch with friends and family.

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?

Working in companies with cultures and missions that excite me such as RED and Formlabs. I am proud to have found companies and roles that appeal to my deeper values and motivate me to perform at my best. I enjoy coming to work every day and I think that is a privilege.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

So many, but first that pops to mind is Elon Musk. I admire him, as he pushes the boundaries and tries to make the world a better place with business.

I call upon my core support network that consists of my wife, close friends, family and my career coach (yes such a thing exists and provided as support by my school to alumni.). My wife is my rock and best friend. She supports and challenges me every day.  

Also, I can admit that I read a lot of professional development and self-help books.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

Images courtesy of Okan Oktugen.

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Join Formlabs if you want to bring ground-breaking professional 3D printers to the desktop of every designer, engineer, researcher, and artist in the world.

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Career Path: Virginia White, People Operations Lead at Formlabs banner image

Career Path: Virginia White, People Operations Lead at Formlabs

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What does the career path and a day in the life look like for the People Operations Lead at one of Boston's fastest growing tech companies?

We decided to interview, Virginia White - the People Operations Lead at Formlabs, to find out.

Career Path

Where you grew up?  What did you parents do for work?  What was your first job growing up?

I grew up in Houston, Texas. My parents worked in completely different industries. My mother is a database programmer for an enormous technology consulting firm, and my father is a paramedic for the city. Both my parents have been steady in their careers/industries for 30+ years.

The first job I ever had was at the Hyde Park Miniature Museum (in Houston, TX). I worked with the grandson of D.D. Smalley, who originally started the museum in his attic. The museum was resurrected and recreated in the gallery of a bookstore for nine months. I was lucky to work there. I was a ‘docent’ – but not in a traditional sense. I spent my weekends fixing model trains, organizing stamps, cleaning typewriters, and explaining the history behind all the objects. One of the really special things about this place was that all the patrons were allowed to pick everything up and play with it. I spent a lot of time repairing things and I loved the opportunity to talk to everybody that came in the door.

Where did you attend college and what did you study?

I went to the San Francisco Art Institute (S.F.A.I.) and I studied New Genres. The major was mostly focused on conceptual art and new media – but I did spend most of my time doing drawings. I’ve always loved making things with my hands. I still do a little bit of this in my spare time.

What were some of your first jobs out of college?

I never really had that big ‘line’ between college work and post-college work. I started working full-time when I was 17 and never stopped. In my first few years of school, I had a lot of different jobs and cobbled things together – writing tutor, library assistant, I even worked for a bankruptcy trustee for a while. I would do whatever was needed to make things work. After a few years that became stressful, so I decided to find one job and stick with it.

I got a job doing ‘Operations’ (aka everything) at a boutique wholesale-to-retail company, Keena. I started while I was in school, and stayed for 4 years. There were only two other people in the office, including the co-founder, and the rest of the employees were sales reps across the country. We sold high-end consumer gifts and accessories (like hand-silkscreened cards, designer pillows, art books, etc) and worked with companies of all sizes. I worked there for 4 years and I loved it. I got so much exposure to the nuts and bolts of running a business and forged a lot of relationships across the consumer goods industry, many of which I still have.

What were some of the foundation skills that you developed from these early jobs that helped you in what you are doing today?

For a long time, I worked at small companies (and Formlabs was small when I started!) and I learned a ton about general operations and ‘keeping the ship running.’ I was usually working with just 2-3 other people total, usually creatives, and I would be behind the scenes getting things done. I got a lot of experience in sales and working with customers. I also had the opportunity to build out an office twice for two different companies and I gained knowledge of project management. I was definitely a master of none; I enjoyed doing everything I could get my hands on, and I was always willing to take on more responsibilities.

The biggest skill I’ve built from these experiences was working with a variety of people and personalities to get the job done. I’ve always been good at (and enjoyed this) but this shows up in people management, project management, and general execution of everything I do. I spend a lot of my time in 1-1 interactions with employees, talking and debugging if there’s something larger we need to improve. At the size Formlabs is now, I hardly ever am doing something just ‘solo’ – most challenges need more than 1 person to ‘make it happen’ at the right scale.

What brought you to the Boston area?

I was ready to move out of San Francisco – I had been there a long time and I was ready to be challenged more. I had planned to apply to graduate school, but then got connected with Formlabs...

You were an early team member at Formlabs.  What employee number were you and how did you get connected with them?

I was 10 or 11, depending on how you count. I had been working with another technology and design company, Nervous System, that was using 3D printing, so Formlabs was on my radar. However, Formlabs wasn’t much of a company yet. I happened to be doing some consulting for other companies in Industry Lab, where Formlabs used to have their office, so I got an introduction and applied from there. I did have a ‘traditional’ interview process (phone call, face to face interview). I remember feeling that I bombed the phone interview (for Sales & Marketing Lead, something I wasn’t really ‘qualified’ for) and didn’t have good answers to any questions. I spent the next day or two doing research and figuring out what I could have done better. I vaguely remember emailing them begging them to give me another chance in person – and then I arrived very prepared. I had researched the two (!) jobs that I wanted and came with 4 typed pages that included a list of potential customers and a plan for their future office space. I think that interview went well...

Formlabs Sample Parts
Sample parts from a Formlabs 3D Printer

How has your position evolved since joining the company?

My role has (and continues) to change constantly. Every 6-12 months, responsibilities or scale have shifted. I started as ‘Facilities & Operations Lead’ – which was pretty much an office manager role. I thought I was a bit overqualified, but we grew so fast I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing. I thought, “I had better catch up.” In my first year, I was the ‘first’ person for a lot of roles that are now much bigger teams (customer support, sales, logistics, finance, etc). I always thought I would remain more customer-facing, but at some point, I decided what I really cared about were the people who worked within the company, and I wanted to put my attention there. My work in Operations became more focused on scaling our space and how we take care of the people within it. A few years after that, our team and our people needs had grown, and it made sense to build out a People Operations function as well. I’ve worked across the spectrum of People Operations work, from recruiting to HR – and have just now landed on the part that I really love.

Even though I feel like what I’m doing now in People Operations is ‘new’, I see that I’ve always been focused on these themes, just through a different lens. The real difference is that now this is 100% of my job, not the extra sliver that I’m fitting in on the side.

Virginia (lower right hand corner of the picture frame) is sure fitting in with the rest of the People Ops team.
Virginia (lower right hand corner of the picture frame) with the rest of the People Ops team.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as People Lead at Formlabs?

While it is not only on my shoulders, I definitely feel responsible for keeping Formlabs a great place to be, as we scale. Right now, that translates into finding and growing employees, and general engagement. That includes recruiting (Formlabs is still growing tremendously, so we are investing a lot of energy into hiring) and the arc of someone’s life-cycle when they are here (onboarding, growth & careers, offboarding).

What I’m doing right now hits the perfect intersection of working on things that cross both people and culture – with the extra challenge of doing it well while we hire like crazy.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Gave up caffeine a few weeks ago, so currently, chamomile tea.

What time do you get into the office?

Between 8 - 10 AM. I prefer to start my working time by 9 AM, but that doesn’t always happen.

Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?

I definitely live by my calendar. I’ve only recently learned to find the right balance between ‘scheduled time’ and ‘available for what comes up’, but that’s definitely been a challenge.


- Wake up at the last possible minute and head out the door (I’d love to change this habit)

- Eat something at work, we have so much good food here!

- Read, respond, and organize emails, omnifocus, and administrative tasks

- Plan out the two important things I will get done TODAY

- Knock out phone calls


- Remember to eat something for lunch

- Reserved for project time or 1-1 time (as needed)

- Make sure the two important things got DONE


- Overflow time for reading, responding and organizing emails

- Spend time with my cat and partner OR go to the gym

- Most evenings I also cook dinner

- Clean something (helps me relax)

What time do you head out of the office?

Depends on what time I got there, and what is happening on that day. Almost never around 5 PM. A few days a week I leave by 6, and at least 1 day a week I work later than that. I love to get things done while the office is really quiet, which is usually before 10 AM and after 4 PM.

Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?  Or… how do you decompress at night?

I’ve never been great at shutting it down completely, but I’ve been learning how important this is. I prefer to spend my energy getting things done during the day, so in the evening I can be available for the other people and things in my life that I want to spend time with. That said, if I’m really excited about something, I will just work on it until it’s done, even if that means staying up late. I like to follow the energy and inspiration when I have it, not just structure it all into my day.

I do have a lot of blend between work and personal life – almost all of my closest friends work at Formlabs – so even something like cooking dinner at my place for a crowd might turn into some work-related discussion, and I’m OK with that.

Virginia White and Jory Block
Virginia hanging out (or onto) Jory Block, who also works on the People Operations team at Formlabs.

I’ve also been teaching yoga at Be. since I started working at Formlabs, and I can’t imagine having one without the other. The contrast between the two environments is pretty extreme. Formlabs energizes me and keeps me charged up, Be. slows me down. Yoga has really been my life-raft if didn’t have this practice I wouldn’t even know how to shut things off.

Recently I decided that I wanted to become a ‘runner’ – so I’m slowly working on that.

Any productivity hacks?

I am a huge believer in the David Allen GTD methodologies. I have been practicing these for years, and still feel like an amateur, but I believe my capacity to take on bigger challenges must be related to my ability to stay productive and get important things done.

Focus on TWO important things you want to accomplish every day, and that’s it.

If possible, don’t keep your email open during the day. Email is a complete time-suck, and even if a lot of your work happens via email (like mine), you’ll probably get more done if you check it less frequently. Responding to emails can ‘feel like’ work, but at the end of the day, if I didn’t reserve time for my brain to really work on something non-reactive, I probably didn’t finish one of my important things for the day.

What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?

Omnifocus – I started using omnifocus a few months ago, and now I think I couldn’t live without it. It takes ‘organizing time’ and commitment, but it’s so worth it. I use it for both work and personal life projects.

RescueTime – This app told me how much time I was spending responding to emails and working on my calendar. It was shameful. Made it much easier to change my working habits when I could quantify where my time was going.

Apple Podcast App – I’m so obsessed with podcasts that I’ve read very few books the last few months.

What time do you go to bed?

Between 11 PM - 1 AM. If I’m teaching yoga the next day, I go to bed early. Otherwise, I’m at the whim of my energy levels, which can be pretty unpredictable.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz.  Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.​​

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