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Career Path: Rebecca Perry, Engineering Lead - Wayfair Next Research banner image

Career Path: Rebecca Perry, Engineering Lead - Wayfair Next Research

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What does the career path and a day in the life look like for the Engineering Lead at Wayfair's Next Research team?

We interviewed Rebecca Perry to find out.


Career Path

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

I grew up in Concord, MA. My father worked as an attorney specializing in employment relations law, and my mother worked as an economist. My very first job was at Sally Ann’s Bakery in Concord Center. I mostly worked at the cash register, but occasionally got to learn how to make something from Bill Griffin the baker-owner.

Why did you decide to attend Bowdoin and study Physics?

I finished high school knowing that I enjoyed Math and Physics and was also interested in Engineering. I loved Bowdoin’s campus and wanted to spend four years in a small vibrant community before likely spending most of the rest of my life in cities. It helped that at Bowdoin I would get to continue pole vaulting, which I had started in high school.

As for studying physics specifically, it was a summer internship with a physics professor that hooked me. Someone recommended me to Professor Mark Battle who had been away on sabbatical. I am still thankful for Professor Battle and the anonymous person who made this connection for me.

What was your first job out of undergrad?  

I worked as a Data Technician for a wind energy consulting firm. I was attracted to the job by the opportunity to make an impact in clean energy and because it involved lots of data and graphs. I assumed that the role would tick the right boxes to keep me happy as a quantitative person. I quickly learned that the parts of physics that had kept me engaged were not just the numbers and graphs but more importantly the creative and problem-solving aspects. After one year, I moved on to a different job that was a much better fit and led to grad school.

You went back to school to continue your studies at Harvard.  What did you study and did you work on interesting research projects?

My Ph.D. is in Applied Physics (think physics with an engineering bent). I studied the three-dimensional motion of solid plastic spheres so small that thermal motion of a surrounding liquid is enough to move them appreciably. While small, these spheres are actually big enough to see with an optical microscope, and you can actually watch them carry out real random walks just like those used in mathematical modeling! In the course of my research, I learned to code in Python and particularly enjoyed coding for image analysis. Hopefully one day my dissertation research will contribute to leveraging random motion to construct desired tiny structures.

What prompted you to pursue a career in software engineering and how did you land at Wayfair?

I was looking for a role where I would be able to continue writing code to analyze images. I was volunteering at an MGH research lab working with CT scan data when I applied for a data science role at Wayfair. During an initial phone interview, I explained the kinds of three-dimensional problems I hoped to work on and was kicked over to interview for a brand new engineering group, Wayfair Next. As the second member of this fledgling team, I was tasked with evaluating and improving 3D scanning tech and taking on other research and image-oriented projects.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position and any interesting products you are building?

The team has grown, and I now lead the Research team within Wayfair Next. I am responsible for evaluating promising technology for use at Wayfair, supporting my team so that they can make creative connections to solve challenging problems, and identifying research projects with ambitious goals and potential for many smaller secondary wins.

Wayfair Next Team at an escape room
Rebecca (holding the 'Nailed It' sign) with the Wayfair Next team at Escape the Room Boston.

Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Typically tea, but what I really love is hot chocolate!

What time do you get into the office?

By 9:30.

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

Morning: Answering emails, checking on output generated by computers overnight, and making small code modifications based on the output. Each morning, our team of 12 or our subteam of four has a standup meeting to discuss current projects.

Afternoon: I might have a short meeting or two with another team to discuss a project. Outside of these, you’d be able to find me at my desk working on code to improve current projects that we are sending off to production or crafting new engagements to make sure my team always has interesting projects coming in.

Evening: Sometimes at the end of the day, when meetings are over, and people have started going home, I delve into the more research-focused projects that have no predictable timeline for return-on-investment, but could be really exciting if they work out!

What time do you head out of the office?

Between 5:30 and 6:30.

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

I bring home the parts of work that I actively want to keep thinking about. There’s a great 3D scanning Facebook group that produces a ton of interesting content to read. Preparing for presentations is one thing I find I can only do at home.

Any productivity hacks?

I make a calendar event for anything that needs to get done, even if there is no good reason why it has to be done on that day or at that time.

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

Google Maps, OpenMBTA, and Lyft. Phones are transportation devices, right?

What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?  

Deploying 3D scanning tech to the two Wayfair photo studios is an accomplishment I am very proud of. I didn’t do anything like that during grad school.

Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?

There is a leader of an adjacent group at Wayfair whom I highly respect and look to as a role model. I also highly value what I have learned from my grad school friends and friends-of-friends who are successful in their careers in software engineering, scientific research, academia, and clinical psychology. I’m thankful for this group of peers who provide outside perspectives on difficult situations and happily bask in each other's successes.


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

Images courtesy of Rebecca Perry.

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Join the team reinventing the way the world shops for home.

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Career Path: Maureen Morris, Manager of Enterprise Sales at Quick Base banner image

Career Path: Maureen Morris, Manager of Enterprise Sales at Quick Base

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

We decided to interview Maureen Morris, the Manager of Enterprise Sales at Quick Base, 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 Milton, MA, as the youngest of four children. My dad worked as a judge (now retired) and my mother stayed at home to raise us. When I entered kindergarten, she made the decision to go to college, she went part time and graduated when I went to 8th grade. It was her work ethic and dedication to family that helped shape my own path as a working mother of five.

All of my siblings followed in my dad's footsteps and became lawyers - one a real estate lawyer, one a liability lawyer and one a criminal lawyer. I was the “black sheep” who went into sales after college.

Where did you attend college and what did you study?

I went to an all girls high school in Hingham and then went on to Seton Hall University in New Jersey.  

I started as a nursing student, but after one year of science and math courses, I knew that it was definitely not for me. My parents were “thrilled” when I called and told them that I was going to take some criminal justice and communication classes. I went on to major in communications and knew that I had found my calling when I got to stand in front of hundreds of students to do my final public speaking exam.

What were some of your first jobs out of college?  

I worked all through college scanning cards in the dorms and tended bar over the summer at The Black Rose, The Purple Shamrock and Jose McIntyre's.

When I graduated, I got my first “real job” at ADP in Boston. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was excited to put on my first suit (it definitely had shoulder pads) and couldn’t wait to tell my friends about all of the glamorous business trips I would be going on.

Reality struck on my first day when my boss told me my first glamorous “trip” would be to Watertown and Arlington. I got to go knock on doors and “sling” payroll solutions. Not exactly what I expected, but that’s where my love affair with sales began.

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

I look back on my early years in sales can’t believe how much things have changed. I actually used to walk up and down the streets, casually ignoring “no soliciting” signs and convincing business owners to buy from me. I was like a storm that blew in, made some noise, and walked out with a signed contract. There were no laptops or cell phones, so I had carbon copy contracts that I had clients sign before I excitedly ran off to a pay phone to call my boss and say “I got another one!”

I grew up in sales, I worked for some of the most amazing leaders who provided me direction, tough love, and recognition of my accomplishments. I also received some of the best career advice back in those early days. I was told that if I ever wanted to be a sales leader, I had to act like I was one already - not just once in awhile, but every day. Following this advice shaped my career and landed me my first promotion when I was the “first pick” to lead the sales office after my manager got promoted into a new role.  

How did you land your current position as Manager of Enterprise Sales at Quick Base?

This past February my husband and I were taking the kids up to North Conway for our yearly family ski trip. All seven of us, my husband and 5 kids, were packed into the car when the phone rang. I answered, which I very rarely do when kids are around. It was a recruiter following up on a LinkedIn message she had sent me. She jumped in and started telling me about a position for an “experienced sales leader and a really great company.” I listened and did what every mom of five has to do on a long car trip -- pass out Goldfish, pick up sippy cups and mute the phone multiple times to ask my loved ones to “please be quiet.” At the close of the call, I offered to circulate it across my network and check back in a week. The response was clear - “we don’t want someone in your network, we want you.”

Though I was hesitant to leave my current gig and start over with a new leadership team, I had to stay true to myself, practice what I preach, and go check it out. Why not? I agreed to sit with other leaders at Quick Base. It was evident to me immediately that this was a company that valued their employees and invested in their employees’ success as I have always done with my own teams. I was excited to help shape and grow a sales team, be part of something new and put my mark on a fast-paced and growing organization.

After starting, I know that my instincts were spot on! The team and company have exceeded my expectations and I’ve never been so happy and fulfilled in a role.

Maureen Morris with her team out to dinner.
Maureen Morris with her team out to dinner.

Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position?

At the end of the day, my number one priority is to make sure that every single person on my team is successful.

Sure, I have to attend the regular leadership meetings, pipeline discussions, client events etc. but I try to structure my day around ensuring my main focus is on the team and individuals success.


Day in the Life

Coffee, tea, or nothing?

Coffee all day, every day.

What time do you get into the office?

Between 7:30 and 8:00...depends on Route 128’s traffic.

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

Morning:

I am up every day by 5:15 am with the help of an alarm clock or my 2 and/or 3-year old (usually the latter). Next, I head downstairs, pop in my first K-Cup and open the daily sales dashboard to check out how the team is trending for the month.

The next hour can go one of two ways - smooth or chaotic. If all goes accordingly, I can hop in and out of the shower, blow dry hair, put on makeup, get dressed and go. Typically, though, things are a bit more hectic. I often spend this time running around with the kids, searching for binkies, dolls, cars or trucks, passing out waffles and juice....the list goes on and on.  

Regardless of how things play out, I am in the car no later than 6:45 am, at Dunkin by 6:50 for my second coffee (this one is extra large) and on my way to the office.

During my drive, I catch up with my husband on the “home life”. I’m lucky to have a husband who manages his work hours so he can be with the kids during the day and coordinates all of the activities - hockey, basketball, LAX, friends houses, camps and the list goes on and on. This is our time to catch up on what’s going on. I also try to chat with my mom at least once or twice a week.

Once I arrive at the office and settle in, I’m typically off to one of my daily meetings. I like to use the mornings to meet one-on-one with my account executives to strategize on deals, role play upcoming meetings or attend calls with their customers.

Afternoon:

Around noon I make it a point to go take a 10-minute walk outside to clear my head.  I make it a point not to look at email during this time. My guilty pleasure is to do a quick check of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Maureen Morris checking her phone
Maureen Morris checking her phone.

Afterwards, I head back up and most on afternoons I attend meetings with our marketing, customer success, product or finance teams. The culture at Quick Base is one of collaboration and these meetings allow all of us to ensure we are aligned as we all work toward a common goal of building on the success of this amazing company.

Evening:

It’s time for a coffee, a hunt for any kind of chocolate and an attempt to get through some emails before I head out.

What time do you head out of the office?

I try to leave the office by 5:30 so that I can make it home to kiss my 2-year-old goodnight. On my ride home, I make a few work calls to talk through anything my team needs. I prefer to pick up the phone rather than shoot off an email so we can better connect and strategize.

When I arrive home, I put work out of my mind and enjoy the chaos of my family. I know bedtime is just around the corner so I try to savor every minute of it before I tuck them all in and kiss them good night.

Maureen with her family at home
Maureen with her five children at home.

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

I log back in between 9-9:30 and work until about 11:30-12:00 doing follow up and preparing for the next day.

I’m also a firm believer in the importance of learning every day so for the past 18 years, I have made a habit of taking 30 minutes each day read or listen to something that will make me smarter.

Afterwards, I head up to bed with my guilty pleasure: M&M’s, Hershey Kisses, and Twizzlers.  I shut my eyes and do it all over again.

Any productivity hacks?

Waking up early, having my coffee and enjoying quiet time before the day starts has changed my life.  

I live by lists. I make my list for the day the night before. I have to get through the list before I head home for the day. I am flexible with the non-urgent items and I allow myself to move them only if the task does not impact someone else.

I often wake up in the middle of the night with a thought or an idea that I want to share with my family or team so I keep a pad of paper and pen next to me so I don’t forget my thoughts.

Regarding internal meetings, I’m all about delegation. If there is someone else that can relay a message back to me, then make a point of taking turns attending them so we can try and give back time in our days.

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

  • EasilyDo: it takes my Quick Base calendar, Google calendar and any events in Gmail and compiles it all into one daily schedule. It also sets reminders, consolidates receipts, and so much more. It puts everything in one place.

  • LinkedIn

  • Outlook groups- for collaborating with my team

Personal: Nordstrom, LittleHoots, and Amazon


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

Images courtesy of Quick Base and Maureen Morris.

About the
Company

Unlock the potential of your digital operations with Quickbase's no-code platform.

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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.

Morning

- 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

Afternoon

- Remember to eat something for lunch

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

- Make sure the two important things got DONE

Evening

- 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.​​

About the
Company

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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