What does the career path and a day in the life look like for the Director of People Operations at one of Boston's real estate website development companies?
Where you grew up? What did you parents do for work? What was your first job growing up?
I grew up in Newton, MA. My dad was a lawyer, my mom in IT. My first job was totally under the table - I worked as a karate instructor and got paid in gift certificates to the Arsenal Mall. Yes, the actual paper certificates! The next job I had was at CVS.
Where did you attend college and what did you study?
I went to King’s College in Pennsylvania. I majored in Psychology, then added Neuroscience as a double-major when they opened a program up. I thought I was going to go into drug research, but one semester in grad school spending way too much time with rats on cocaine (it’s a long story) made me reevaluate my desired career path.
What were some of your first jobs out of college?
I went straight to grad school and was a teaching fellow to pay for my education and expenses. When I left the program, I helped coordinate conferences for and at the Mass Medical Society. Then I interned with the Boston Cannons (professional lacrosse) because I thought I wanted to go into sports management. Then I ended up at the New England School of Acupuncture in an Academic Affairs role (I didn’t do acupuncture). That’s where I had the opportunity to dip my toes into HR and a career was born. It’s a weird path, for sure.
What were some of the foundation skills that you developed from these early jobs that helped you in what you are doing today?
I’m a painfully shy person by default, but my early roles required me to interact with a lot of people I had never met before. It never was comfortable for me, but I had to figure out how to be “on”. I’m still fairly awkward at times, but I can definitely get to a place where outsiders think I’m comfortable in a crowd or at-ease engaging new people in a conversation. I think my early role also taught me how to solve problems with no baseline knowledge to build from or resources to turn to. There were a number of projects I was dropped into with no real context or support that I just needed to figure out and get done. It helped me get comfortable breaking things into pieces and really letting my curiosity run with things.
How did you land your current position as Director of People Operations at Placester?
Saw the job listing. Applied for the job listing. In all seriousness, it seemed like a role that built on my experience putting things in place and supporting a culture, only at a larger stage than when I started in my last role. I went through a few rounds of interviews and landed here!
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position?
If it impacts the employee or candidate experience, I pay attention to it. We need to hire great people, create an awesome experience, help grow people, make sure things work the way they should, and make it easy for people to do their jobs at a high level.
Day in the Life
Coffee, tea, or nothing?
Usually tea … and a lot of it. I do like a solid cold brew though!
What time do you get into the office?
Usually between 8 and 8:45. I like getting some stuff done while it’s pretty quiet in the office.
Every day is different, but can you outline what a typical day looks like for you?
I catch up on email because I try not to check it much throughout the day. I look at my calendar and see how much uninterrupted time I have and what projects I can fit into each window so I have a general plan for the day.
My afternoons usually are pretty meeting-heavy, so I’m mostly running around. I have to rely on Slack to coordinate with others and be available and responsive.
I get back to my email and try to work on the more urgent items. I also figure out if there are any things I’m holding up for my team and try to take care of them if they are manageable chunks. When I get home, I like to do a longer walk with my dog, reset my brain and think, then I eat dinner.
What time do you head out of the office?
It really depends, but generally sometime between 6-7pm.
Do you log back in at night or do you shut it down completely?
I do a mix of both. It really depends. I do try to make sure there are multiple nights a week that I completely shut it down.
Any productivity hacks?
Anything and everything to get myself longer blocks of time to do work! I block out longer blocks of “GSD” time (Get stuff done) on my calendar throughout the week. It forces people to ask me if they can book meetings in there before booking me. I also try to stack my meetings - it can be exhausting running from one to the next, but I’d rather do that than have the day broken up. I have a hard time doing meaningful work with just 15-30 minutes here and there throughout the day. When I’m doing heads-down work, I also put on my headphones and try to limit my checking of Slack and email so I can really get into a good flow.
What are the 3 apps that you can’t live without?
None of these are really productive apps, but here we go Google Play Music, Lyft, and Caviar. Music, transportation, and good food.
What professional accomplishment are you proudest of?
I was able to support and scale an amazing culture in my last role from 20 to about 170 people. I was incredibly proud of keeping the personal touch and making people feel like they were an individual, not just an employee. I also oversaw and ran the build-out and move of their HQ. It put me completely out of my comfort zone and was incredibly stressful, but I was so proud of the end result. When you are in People Ops, you don’t really think you’ll be going through electrical outlet placement and quality, cutting holes in walls for the perfect paint chip sample and deciding whether a wall should go to the deck or not. I loved it!
Here at Placester, I helped run the process of uncovering and releasing our Core Values. We ran a really awesome process and I’m so proud of the team’s work. I’m excited to look back a year from now and see where we are!
Who do you admire or call upon for professional advice?
We work with an executive coach here, Beth Harrison, who worked with me at my last company and is an incredible mentor and friend. She helps me navigate all the bumpy stuff by providing a fresh perspective. I’ve been fortunate to work for some incredible people - including Michael Monteiro and Dimitris Georgakopoulas over at Buildium - and am able to reach out to many of my former bosses (and some great co-workers) for a different viewpoint on a situation I find myself dealing with. There are a few other remarkable folks I’ve happened to run into in life who I will leverage sometimes for very specific issues. I also have a number of people here at Placester who have been incredibly helpful to me in ramping up the People Ops function here. I’ve been pretty fortunate!
Images courtesy of Placester and Jane Jaxon.