“Modernizing Mobile Codebases”: Tracy Stampfli with Slack (Video + Transcript)

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Sukrutha Bhadouria: Tracy’s a senior staff engineer at Slack. Prior to Slack, Tracy worked at Adobe for many, many years, specializing in client networking and support for streaming audio, video, and screen sharing. Tracy lives in San Francisco with her husband and two kids. Welcome, Tracy.

Tracy Stampfli: Yes. My name is Tracy Stampfli. I’m a senior staff engineer at Slack. I lead the iOS infrastructure team. iOS infrastructure basically handles things like networking, and data syncing, and all the stuff that’s a bit under the hood of the app, supporting the UI and the features.

Tracy Stampfli: I’m going to talk about modernizing mobile codebases, but I’m really going to talk about modernizing and refactoring codebases in general. I hope that a lot of this talk is actually generally applicable and not just about mobile.

Tracy Stampfli: I’m going to talk about some things we’ve learned from doing a rewrite, or at least a partial rewrite, of both our iOS and Android codebases at Slack. Why did we think this was necessary? What decisions did we make about how to rearchitect our code? What has made this successful, at least so far? It’s still in progress.

Tracy Stampfli: Why did we decide to do this? Well, Slack’s mobile codebases had not really had a big rewrite or refactor in a long time. Slack’s been around for about seven years, and on iOS, we hadn’t actually done a refactor in that entire time, or a major refactor. Android had done one about five years ago, but that’s still a while.

Tracy Stampfli: Both of these codebases had a lot of tech debt. They had a lot of obsolete design patterns that didn’t match up with how we do things now. There were a lot of inconsistencies, you know, five different ways to do the same thing.

Tracy Stampfli: That made it really confusing for new engineers and hard to onboard, because it was hard to figure out what the right way to do things was. The code was fragile and too tightly coupled, which made it easy to inject bugs.

Tracy Stampfli: All of these things added up to slow down feature development. That became a really big problem. Mobile development was starting to be a drag on feature development in general at Slack. That was something we knew that we had to tackle and do something about.

Tracy Stampfli: We decided we really needed to prioritize addressing this tech debt, and invest in more modern architecture, and improve our development practices to speed things up.

Tracy Stampfli: Where deciding how to do this, there are a number of options. We’re going to do a big refactor, so how are we going to do this? We considered a few things. We could do just a full rewrite of our mobile apps. There’s some nice aspects of that. You get to just toss out the legacy code and start afresh, new project, just start going with new patterns, do it the right way that you’d like to rewrite all the features.

Tracy Stampfli: But obviously, there’s some risks with this as well. If you’re going to start from scratch and just fully rewrite the app, you have to bring it all the way up to feature parity with your existing code. For a product like Slack, that’s been around for a long time and has a lot of features, that’s going to be a really massive task.

Tracy Stampfli: While you’re doing that, you have to maintain two codebases. You have to keep the new codebase … There’s going to be feature development going on, so you have to be doing dual feature development in the old codebase and the new codebase.

Tracy Stampfli: Overall, this is just a very big, risky bet. What happens if you don’t ship that new, modern codebase for some reason? You’ve wasted a huge amount of work. We decided this was a bit too risky for us.

Tracy Stampfli: We considered some other options. When you talk about speeding up mobile development, one option that comes up a lot is sharing code. There’s a number of ways to do this. We could share code between iOS and Android. We could share code between the mobile apps and the desktop. There’s different frameworks for sharing code. You can share UI code or business logic. Slack actually tried to do some shared business logic a few years ago across the clients. It didn’t actually work out too well.

Tracy Stampfli: There are, again, some benefits here. Obviously, there’s this benefit of not rewriting the same feature or the same logic three times, or however many clients you have. You can also, hopefully, maybe share some developer resources across platforms if you go this route.

Tracy Stampfli: But there’s also, again, downsides. Shared code complicates your tooling. It makes things like just debugging, building the CI system … All of those things become more complicated. Also, the big danger is that, if you share code, you might lose native look and feel or native performance. This is a big issue for mobile.

Tracy Stampfli: We really want to take advantage of the latest and greatest features that each of the platforms has to offer. We want our iOS apps to feel like great native iOS apps, and same with Android. We want performance to be great on our mobile platforms. This was something that we were definitely worried about.

Tracy Stampfli: Also developer sentiment about this idea was just not very good. Our developers were just not excited about doing shared code. If the developers aren’t excited about it, it’s unlikely to be successful.

Tracy Stampfli: What’s left, basically? Well, you could refactor your existing codebase in place, essentially rebuild the airplane as you’re flying it. This is the option we ended up going with. There’s some, again, benefits and downsides to it.

Tracy Stampfli: Benefit. Reduced risk. We were basically having to refactor and ship this codebase continually. We just have one codebase, so at any given point in time, it always has to be shippable, because we have to keep releasing it.

Tracy Stampfli: We get faster payoff, because as we’re modernizing that codebase, it is continually being improved, and everyone working on the team is getting the benefit of that improved codebase as we go along. We don’t have to do this dual codebases, try and develop things in both thing, which seems very challenging.

Tracy Stampfli: But it does mean that we don’t get to just get rid of our legacy code. We have to actually deal with it. We can’t get rid of the tech debt. We have to migrate and rearchitect our existing codebase.

Tracy Stampfli: We launched this thing called Project Duplo. You may have noticed, there’s a Lego Duplo theme to this presentation. That’s because, as I’ll talk about a bit more later, one of the big themes of Project Duplo was modularization, or breaking down the codebase into smaller building blocks. Duplo are the larger Lego bricks, so yes, basically a big theme about breaking down the app monolith.

Tracy Stampfli: This was a big rearchitecture of both of our mobile code basis that we launched a little while ago. It was coordinated across both mobile platforms. iOS and Android came up with proposals together, did an investigation together, scoped this effort together. We’re now running the project together. This was all a coordinated effort.

Tracy Stampfli: The goals were, number one, improved developer velocity. Start shipping features faster. But also adopt modern design patterns, bring some of the patterns in our app to more in keeping with current mobile development practices.

Tracy Stampfli: And really enable larger teams. Obviously, the mobile teams of Slack have grown a great deal since the company started. We hope they’re going to grow a bunch more. The patterns that work for smaller development teams don’t necessarily work for a team of 40, and what works for a team of 40 may not work for a team of a hundred. So we really wanted to enable our growing development team.

Tracy Stampfli: And also set us up to adopt future technologies we might be interested in. Like right now, we aren’t actually using SwiftUI, but we might want to in the future. We want to have an architecture that keeps that door open, and allows us to have that possibility.

Tracy Stampfli: This project had three phases. The first phase we called stabilization. The idea here was to complete a bunch of ongoing migrations and refactors that we already had in flight, things that we’d started, but then didn’t have the resources to finish. Again, that was really leading to inconsistency, so we wanted to remove the worst of the tech debt, the worst of the anti-patterns, and just clean the codebase up to set us up for the rest of the project. This phase had very well-defined work streams and really clear metrics for success, so we really could track our work very well.

Tracy Stampfli: I’m not going to get too deep into the details of what we actually did on each platform, due to lack of time. But this is just some highlights of some of the top goals on each platform.

Tracy Stampfli: On iOS, we wanted to move to being 100% Swift. We were already about 80% before this project started. And we wanted to finish some migrations onto some of our infra frameworks. Similarly on Android, you’ll see these common themes of finishing migrations, finishing adoptions of different patterns and different frameworks, and breaking down some of the infra frameworks to be more usable.

Tracy Stampfli: The second phase here was modularization. Here, we’re getting into the building blocks. The idea here is that we had already somewhat modularized our code. We had on both iOS and Android. We had some code that was split off into frameworks, but we wanted to go a lot further in that direction, because there’s a lot of benefits to this.

Tracy Stampfli: By breaking the code apart into smaller frameworks, and breaking up that big app target, you reduce interdependencies, you remove this tight coupling between features that can make things more fragile and introduce bugs. You enable …

Tracy Stampfli: You have to have separation concerns, because you’re actually separating the code out. This enables developers to work better, independently from each other, and also improves the build times, because if you’re building your feature in a framework, as you make changes, you only have to rebuild that framework and not the entire app target.

Tracy Stampfli: The third phase was modernization. This is the one where, again, we’re really trying to look forward and think about what architecture patterns do we want to adopt that will make us compatible with current industry trends, but also will set us up for the next five years of app development.

Tracy Stampfli: We got into this project. As we got started and were going through the stabilization phase, we realized that actually this whole three phases thing wasn’t such a great idea. We realized that we should actually combine our three phases back down into two, and combine the modularization and modernization phases, because we realized that, if we’re doing these separately, you would refactor some code to split it out from the app, then modularize it, and then you would refactor it again to modernize it. That was going to entail a lot of wasted effort. To avoid refactoring things twice, we combined these phases and just made it a two phase project. So now it’s just stabilization and modernization.

Tracy Stampfli: As we were deciding what we were going to do for our modernization, and trying to decide what patterns we should pick, we did a lot of research with our developers, talking to our developers, doing focus groups, doing polling, trying to figure out what are the current pain points, and what did developers want to see out of this project. What did they really want us to do?

Tracy Stampfli: What we heard from them was interesting, because we didn’t hear that they felt super strongly about one particular feature architecture, or exactly how we did dependency injection. What we heard from them was that they wanted us to increase what you see here, CPR is the acronym we came up with, consistency, predictability, reliability. That was what was important to them, improving these things.

Tracy Stampfli: Consistency. Making it so that all the features all are built in the same way. So it’s easy to tell, if you look at another feature, that is built the same way the other ones are, the ones that you have built. So you’re familiar with the code. It all works the same way.

Tracy Stampfli: Predictability. Making things like routing and deep linking understandable. Making sure that the code actually works the way you think it’s going to work. Removing unintended effects where making a change somewhere in the product for some reason breaks something somewhere else.

Tracy Stampfli: Reliability. Again, making the code less fragile, so we’re spending less time on regressions and incidents and things like that.

Tracy Stampfli: So this was really what we wanted to focus on. How do you do that? Well, we realized that if we wanted to increase consistency, we couldn’t just do that by coming up with some feature architecture pattern and expecting every developer in the team to implement it exactly the same way. You can’t just hope that it’ll work.

Tracy Stampfli: You have to enforce these things through things like templates, and linting, and code generation, and basically making it very easy for developers to know what the right thing is to do, and to do that, and much harder for them to do things that we don’t want to do, and re-introduce inconsistencies and anti-patterns. If we’ve decided we don’t want developers to use singletons, we need to add a linting rule that actually prevents that, versus just hoping that they won’t.

Tracy Stampfli: What did we end up deciding to as our main goals for modernization? Again, not going to get very deeply into this, but on iOS, this big push to break down the app into, again, service and feature modules. So increased modularization. We did decide to adopt a new feature architecture that’s VIPER-like. We’re adopting Combine.

Tracy Stampfli: This last one is actually pretty important. We’re switching to using Bazel, which I don’t know if folks are familiar with it, but Bazel is a build system that you can use in place of Xcode or alongside Xcode. It deals better with highly modularized projects, projects where there is many, many frameworks. Bazel handles that pretty well. It also has a build cache, which means, hopefully, again, we’re going to see improved build times, both locally and in CI, by having a better caching of build artifacts.

Tracy Stampfli: On Android, again, similar themes. Completing modularization on that side as well. Adopting some new frameworks and libraries to do things like networking, and JSON parsing, and configuration changes. And building abstractions around startActivity and onActivityResult.

Tracy Stampfli: Why has this project been successful, or has it been successful? Well, we started off with the stabilization phase. All goals of that phase were completed on time for both platforms, 100% completed everything. So that was certainly successful.

Tracy Stampfli: We are now in the middle of the second phase, the modernization phase. That’s still in progress, so there’s a bit of a caveat here. We’re on track, but there’s still a ways to go. But we’re successful so far.

Tracy Stampfli: Why has this been successful? Number one, it was an engineering-led initiative with executive prioritization and resourcing. I think both of these things were really important and really key to the success.

Tracy Stampfli: This has really been an engineering-driven, IC-driven driven project. It was engineers who came up with the initial proposals, who did the research, who figured out what the problems were and how that we should solve them, and who came up with all of the scoping and projects and proposals that have led to what we were actually doing as part of the project. So very much not a top-down project.

Tracy Stampfli: It was very much driven by engineers. But it had executive prioritization and resourcing, which is equally key. This isn’t something that you can do as a side project. It really needs dedicated resources. It needs executives to sign onto the fact that we’re going to do this in place of doing something else, in place of doing feature work or whatever. So we have to have that buy in that this is the right thing to do, and we’re going to get the resources to do it properly.

Tracy Stampfli: Along with that, sponsorship from key engineering leaders outside of mobile helped us get that buy in. We had principal engineers and key managers who were willing to say, “Yes. This is super important. This is the right thing to do. We need to do it now.” That helped us get this backing that we got to actually do the project correctly.

Tracy Stampfli: Additionally, splitting the project into a couple of phases was really helpful, because having this initial stabilization phase, we just knew what we had to do. We were getting rid of tech debt. Things were really well-defined. We just had to execute on it. That gave us time to do R&D for the later phase.

Tracy Stampfli: So during the stabilization phase, we were able to do the investigation, and the prototyping, and figure out what should we do for modernization, and make sure that we had all of those things set up, and all of our scoping and all of that by the time we hit the modernization phase.

Tracy Stampfli: Finally … This one is very, very important. This has been a very metric and data-driven effort. We really wanted to have very clear metrics to measure our progress, what we’re doing, how successful we’re being. It wasn’t just tracking with Jira or whatever. We were actually running scripts on every file in the codebase to track, how are we doing with these migrations, what progress have we made, where are we. We had a lot of dashboards and graphs.

Tracy Stampfli: This is an example of one of … For each of the goals that we had, we would have a dashboard saying where are we with this in terms of progress on this measure. That allowed us to do things like see if we were falling behind or we’re doing fine. We could switch resources between different work streams if we needed to, if one of them wasn’t doing as well.

Tracy Stampfli: On this particular graph, you could see it doesn’t quite go to zero at the end. That was because we had ported the code to Swift, but some of it was still behind feature flags, as we were rolling out those feature flags when this snapshot was taken.

Tracy Stampfli: But basically, this was very, very helpful for the initial phase of the project. We are continuing that in the modernization phase. We’re really trying to come up with very clear metrics for each of our goals, so that we can track it and see that we are being successful. That enables us to do resourcing planning and all sorts of things that are very, very helpful for the success of the project.

Tracy Stampfli: That is the end of my presentation. If you have … I don’t think we’re going to have time for questions, but feel free to reach out to me. I’ll try to respond in the chat if folks have questions. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if you want.

Tracy Stampfli: Also, as other folks have mentioned, Slack is also hiring. We’re hiring on the iOS team. We’re hiring on Android. We’re hiring on other teams as well. If you’re interested, please check out the careers page at Slack.

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“Communication Strategies for Remote Teams”: Nicole Salzman Page with Zumba (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: Our next speaker is Nicole. She is a product manager at Zumba Fitness, where she’s leading product growth and instructor education in Miami, Florida. Before joining Zumba, she was in product at Everlywell, The Knot Worldwide, and Box. She’s passionate about creating products that solve important problems for people and makes a positive impact in their lives. Welcome, Nicole.

Nicole Salzman Page: Thank you, Angie. And thank you so much for hosting this event, to the whole Girl Geek team, and for everyone too for being here. It’s been really inspiring so far with all of the amazing speakers so I’m definitely honored to be among this group. Let me present.

Nicole Salzman Page: Again, thank you for having me. My name is Nicole Salzman Page, and I’m currently a product manager at Zumba. Today I want to talk to you about remote communications strategy for working from home and beyond. This talk is for you if you’ve ever been standing in front of your company at an all-hands meeting, talking about an exciting new game-changing product you’re releasing for your customers, only to look out and see a sea of blank faces and, potentially, some people looking at their phone.

Nicole Salzman Page: Or, this talk is for you if you’ve ever led a go-to-market meeting for a new product launch, feeling like everyone knew exactly what to do next when they left the room, only to find a few days later that no one knew what to do next. And I want you to walk away today with the tools you need to ensure that that doesn’t happen and to communicate like a pro. And I know what it takes to communicate like a pro because I was a communications professional.

Nicole Salzman Page: Before I moved into tech, I was a communications professional, working in a variety of industries from a public utility company doing crisis communications to a nonprofit children’s hospital, where I led communications with a number of our donor groups. And when I moved into tech, I quickly realized that the strategies and frameworks we used in communications were also essential for technology teams. And I worked in product for a variety of technology teams, in companies with different products, team sizes, and customer groups, from enterprise software at Box to growth at Zumba.

Nicole Salzman Page: And I found that these communications strategies that we used as communications professionals really apply globally across industries and team sizes.

Nicole Salzman Page: Communication was important when many of us were in an office, seeing each other face to face and communicating in person all the time. But it is critical while we’re working at home remotely, and you don’t need to be a communications professional. You don’t need a communications background in order to communicate effectively. You just need a little bit of prep and a thoughtful strategy.

Nicole Salzman Page: I want you to walk away today from this session with a framework to be able to do this effectively in your own organization, both while we’re working from home, but also when you go back to the office, if you go back to the office. Being an effective communicator will help you in whatever role you’re in. As long as you work with people, having a communications strategy will enhance your ability to be effective.

Nicole Salzman Page: The strategy has five parts. I’ll walk you through them here and then deep dive. The first is to tailor the information. This is all about thinking about who the information is for. The second is to cut it for time. Consider what amount of time the person who’s on the receiving end of your communication has to process that information and make a decision. The third is to make it easy to find. Make sure that your stakeholders knows exactly where they can find it. The fourth is to make timing predictable. Make sure they know when they can expect it. And then the fifth is to automate it. Make sure that your stakeholders know exactly how it will be delivered. I encourage you to think about this as a five-part strategy. When you go to communicate to your stakeholders, think about all five of these things in order to make sure that you have that effective connection.

Nicole Salzman Page: The first one, tailoring the information, thinking about who the information is for. This is all about making sure that you’re giving the right information to the person who’s receiving it. For example, let’s say I’m a product manager, and I am releasing a new feature. As the product manager for this feature, I have a whole bunch of things in my head. I have the launch plan. I have this strategy, how it’s making money, what the goals are, how we’re going to measure success, how we’re going to test it, how are we going to tell people about it, how it works. And I have all of these things in my head because I work on it every single day. I’m in this all day, every day.

Nicole Salzman Page: What I need to understand to be an effective communicator is that when I communicate this information out, the people who I’m communicating to are not going to be in the same situation as me. In order to tailor the information for the right group, think about that group and what information they need. For example, going back to that all-hands example from the beginning, if I were to do a launch announcement of this new feature at an all-hands, perhaps what information might be most helpful for that group could potentially only be the goal and how we’re going to tell people about it. Those might be the two pieces that are going to get the company excited to rally behind this product without actually having to tell them about every other single thing about the product, because that’s where you’re going to start to get those blank stares.

Nicole Salzman Page: Another example, same product, same feature launch. Let’s say I’m taking this to an executive update. The executives definitely aren’t thinking about your one product all day, every day. They might be thinking about five different products. They might have heard about five different new projects going on that day. So in order to bring them the most essential information from them, they might only need to know about the goal and how we’re going to measure success.

Nicole Salzman Page: My last example on this point is go-to-market planning. This is where you might have the customer success team, your customer care team, your marketing team, your product marketing team. And in order for that meeting to be successful, the information that you might need to bring to that meeting could potentially just be the launch plan, the timeline, and how it works.

Nicole Salzman Page: Think about the audience and what information they need, and pull that information out of your knowledge base to provide to them. It seems simple, but it does take practice to make sure you’re providing that right information for your stakeholders so that they can take the information and do what they need to do in their jobs with it.

Nicole Salzman Page: For example, the executives, they’re going to be needing to make some decisions on the information, potentially at a high level, whereas your go-to-market team might need that information to go and do their jobs, like creating marketing materials.

Nicole Salzman Page: The second one, and this goes hand in hand with tailoring the information. This is cut it for time. Think about what amount of information your stakeholders need. Once you have the right amount of information, this one really has to do with how much time the person on the receiving end of the communication has to process and take in that information. And this is going to depend on who the team is.

Nicole Salzman Page: For example, engineering team. As a product manager, I will work with the engineering team, often in really big chunks of time, like a four-hour sprint planning or potentially multiple sprint planning sessions. In this case, the engineers might need about 80% of the information that’s available. They’re going to need a lot of information. They’re making a lot of detailed decisions based on the information that I have about the product. So we need to make sure that we’re aligned and very closely in step, with a really big chunk of that information.

Nicole Salzman Page: Next, a business stakeholder or project sponsor. They might, just similar to the engineering team, who might be dedicated to the product just like I am as a product manager, potentially a business stakeholder or project sponsor has a small handful of projects that they’re responsible for making hiring decisions on, resourcing decisions on. So they do need a good amount of information, but potentially not as much as the engineers need. In this example, the business project stakeholder might only need about 40% of the information.

Nicole Salzman Page: And lastly, going back to that executive update, they might only have just a few minutes to read an email or hear the project update in a meeting. In this case, the executives potentially only need about 5% of the information. And I call this two sides of the same coin because when you think about cutting for time, you can’t really just take one communication and chop off different pieces of it, depending who you’re speaking with. It’s really important to make sure that you’re not just choosing the right amount of information, but the information that you choose is really the right information for that person that you’re communicating with.

Nicole Salzman Page: The third one is to make it easy to find. Make sure your stakeholders know exactly where they can find the information. If you’re like me, I’ve definitely spent hours before, trying to find information, using all kinds of advanced Google features, Google Gmail searches to try to find some data that my BI team sent me a few months ago, or maybe it was weeks ago.

Nicole Salzman Page: Your stakeholders are probably doing the same thing. So make sure that when you send out an update, you figure out exactly what the best place is for your stakeholders, and stick to that place. It might take a little bit of trial and error. You might need to do some research and figure out where your stakeholders will be.

Nicole Salzman Page: For example, maybe your executives like to work in email, and they like to open up PDFs from an email. Maybe your business stakeholders or project sponsors like to be in Confluence and like to open up links to a team workspace like Confluence. Or potentially, you are working with engineers, and you’re in Slack, and you’re day-to day talking back and forth in Slack.

Nicole Salzman Page: So wherever it is that you find that your stakeholders are going to be, make sure that you pick that place, and put it in the right spot. Put it in that spot every time so that way, when your stakeholders are thinking about where it is that they saw that update from you, they know exactly where to go to find it. They know that they can go find it in Confluence on a certain page, or in their email with a certain subject line.

Nicole Salzman Page: The next one is to make timing predictable. Make sure that your stakeholders know when they can expect it. This will help make sure that stakeholders aren’t chasing information down throughout the day. Make sure that there’s fewer emails being sent and efforts to try to find the information. They know exactly when they can expect it.

Nicole Salzman Page: And to do this, I would say to pick the best day to send your communications. And this is going to depend on what your communication is. For example, if you have a communication where you’re doing a wrap-up of the week, of the week prior, and your stakeholders need to act on this information to do their job throughout the week, this might be one where you send out an update on Mondays. For me, I wrap up information from the week before, related to traffic and users on the site. So, I send my updates on Mondays.

Nicole Salzman Page: Similarly, if you’re sending updates that wrap up the week, but your stakeholders don’t necessarily need to act on it right away because a lot of us have offices closed on the weekends, this might be a communication that you send out, potentially, at the end of the day on Friday. You can wrap up the week, give any updates, status updates, talk about next steps that are going to come up the next week.

Nicole Salzman Page: You also might have communication that turns over more quickly throughout the week. Maybe you have some data that moves really quickly throughout the week, that is going to be changing, and that your stakeholders that receive the communication need to act on multiple times throughout the week. You might choose two different days to send this communication out.

Nicole Salzman Page: And the last piece of this communication strategy is to automate it. Think about how it will be delivered. I’m sure many of you are familiar with Google Sheets.

Nicole Salzman Page: You can use Google Sheets as a way to save you time to put together these updates and these communications, especially if you’re new to having a communication strategy in your role. This might take a lot of setup on the front end. It might take you some time to figure out how you’re going to send out your communications, what the best place that it’s going to be. But all of that work will pay off as you start to see more alignment, decisions being made faster, products being released faster.

Nicole Salzman Page: Anywhere where you can automate, once you have this all set up, will help you as a product manager or whatever role you’re in that requires good communication, move a little bit more quickly. In the Google Sheets example, if you are grabbing data from multiple sources, you can actually port data from multiple sources into Google Sheets and manipulate the data there and send it out from there.

Nicole Salzman Page: Maybe you get traffic information from Google Analytics. Maybe you get sales information from a database that you use. You can get information from multiple sources and port it into Sheets so that you can use it in one spot.

Nicole Salzman Page: You can even go one step further and use an add-on called Email Spreadsheets. Email Spreadsheets will allow you to put together an automated spreadsheet, where you can pick any of the tabs in your sheet and automatically send it out on a certain cadence. For example, if you send out trend charts of conversion or registrations or anything you would need to show, you can take the trend chart as a PDF and automatically send it out to your stakeholders on a regular basis.

Nicole Salzman Page: And if you’re not comfortable with sending something automatically from Google Sheets directly to your stakeholders, you can even send it to yourself, and then forward it on to your stakeholders with your own commentary. So, lots of options.

Nicole Salzman Page: I encourage you to check out the different ways that you can create these efficiencies, because they’ll hold you accountable to those communications, and will help you keep them on a regular cadence, and help you keep up with them.

Nicole Salzman Page: And a quick note here is we really focused in this talk on one-way communication, giving updates on projects, aligning stakeholders to do things like product releases or feature launches. But there’s also two-way communication that you can create a communication strategy around. For example, project retros, issue postmortems, design sprints. There’s a lot of different two-way communication that you can use these principles to put a thoughtful strategy behind.

Nicole Salzman Page: The communications toolkit that I want to leave you here with today: tailor the information, make sure that you really think about who it’s for, cut it for time, consider what amount of information your stakeholders need, make it easy to find, make sure your stakeholders know exactly where they can find it, make the timing predictable, make sure your stakeholders know when they can expect it, and automate it. Save yourself time by thinking about the best way for it to be delivered.

Nicole Salzman Page: For me, I’ve seen this framework result in fewer emails, less of a need for constant one-off check-ins, more alignment, and the ability to get decisions made faster in order to make products, in order to release products more quickly and with higher quality. I hope that that works for you and your organization as well. I encourage you to bring this new communications strategy to your organization, and try it out. And please feel free to reach out with any questions. And if you try this in your own organization, I’d love to hear how it’s going for you so feel free to connect. I would love to hear from you. And thank you again.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you, Nicole. This was a great presentation and a lot of great takeaways for all of us to implement, especially with Google Sheets step. That was new for me and new for a lot of people who are a lot of our audience, who’ve been commenting in the chat.

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“Responsible AI: Why & Why Now”: Hema Chamraj with Intel AI (Video + Transcript)

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Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hema is the Director of Technology Advocacy with AI for Good at Intel. She’s involved with Intel’s pandemic response technology initiative to collaborate with customers and partners to address COVID-19 challenges. This is a really important effort. So thank you, Hema. She has a passion for technology and for the role of AI in addressing issues in the healthcare and the life sciences sector. Welcome, Hema.

Hema Chamraj: Thank you. Thank you, Sukrutha. Super. Hey, I’m really excited to be here to talk about this topic, Responsible AI for Healthcare. Before I talk about responsible AI, I want to go first into health care and then I’ll talk about AI for healthcare and then I’ll get to responsible AI for healthcare. So as you know, all of us here as patients, as consumers of healthcare, this is something that we all understand very well.

Hema Chamraj: Our health care system is really not in a great shape. As a nation, we spend the most, almost 20% of GDP on our healthcare system, but we have one of the largest sickness burdens. If you think about, at least nearly 50% of our population has at least one chronic condition. And also life expectancy also is lesser than Canada and Japan.

Hema Chamraj: So we are not doing that great. And as we age and as a population we’re aging, and so as we age it compounds the problem. And so what we ended up is with more sickness and more costs, and one of the things also that is not helping is the fact that we’ll have shortage of clinicians. So we’ll have less people to help us take care of ourselves.

Hema Chamraj: And so this is the state of healthcare we are in when it comes to cost, access, and quality. Really, it’s not looking good. And this is a form I’ve used multiple times over the years. I just have to change the numbers and it’s not trending in the right direction because in reality, we’re in trouble in terms of the healthcare system, and we need help from many, many, many directions, and we need innovations and tools.

Hema Chamraj: And I’m very, very enthusiastic about AI because of some of these. And here are some examples where I can try to explain why and how AI can help. When we think about healthcare, right? Just like every other sector we are collecting data and the data tsunami.

Hema Chamraj: Health is almost, 30% of the world’s data is healthcare. And it’s hard to think about, okay, how much, if we have all this data, how much, really, are we going to be using? It’s actually 1-2% of the data is really being put to work. So, and it’s humanly impossible really to be looking at this tsunami of data and make sense of it.

Hema Chamraj: And so in that sense, AI has made some real magic, especially in medical imaging and some of the areas where it has found all this hidden insights and hidden insights humanly not possible, actually. So that gets me all excited about, we need some tools to think of it. If we could really go after this 90+ percent of the data that is today not being put to work, if we could look at it, how much more problems we could be solving. And so that gets me excited.

Hema Chamraj: And also the other example here I want to call out is I talked about clinician shortage, right? This one is actually, as you look at developed nations, this problem is much more of a dire situation, because if you think about developing nations with a billion plus population and less than 80,000 radiologists to kind of serve this population, right?

Hema Chamraj: And those numbers actually could be, official numbers could be much lower than that in China. And think about that. This is the problem. And then if you have something, imagine that AI can look at all these cases and say, 70% of these cases actually doesn’t need to be looked at because they’re normal and then 30% should be actually be looked at by the physician because it needs attention, right? And so just imagine that, right?

Hema Chamraj: Now actually that is reality because we have worked with some, our customers and partners. Actually in China, it’s happening and not for everything, but just for the lung nodule detection is one of the problems that we were able to address. And there’s no reason to think we cannot address other conditions, also. And so that is one example. And the other one is about drug development.

Hema Chamraj: Drug development is really needs, badly needs to be some kind of disruption because you’re talking about billions of dollars and sometimes a decade for each drug and only 10% of these drugs actually make it to the final. So we have this really tough problem. And already we are seeing how we say with the recent vaccines that we are seeing, we’re already making progress and AI is playing a big role in it already.

Hema Chamraj: And if you think about Moderna, one thing I feel like people may not have noticed it, but Moderna actually were able to put out a booster vaccine for the latest COVID variants in less than 30 days. And that’s unheard of. And so that gets me really excited about what all AI can do. And of course, in AI, I mean, if you ask people about AI for COVID, depending on who you ask, people may say, well, it didn’t really fulfill the promise, but I am on the other camp. I say AI has actually played a role here because we are seeing first time with our own partners and customers.

Hema Chamraj: And I just put in a few examples here, looking from the left-hand side on the disinfecting robots to telehealth. And then I talked about medical imaging being one area where we have seen a lot of promise, especially when we had COVID testing shortage, actually a lot of the MRI and the X-ray, the tools were very helpful to detect COVID. And then you have on the bottom section, you have virtual ICUs. We had ICUs to complement to make sure that the ICU beds are going low. There were some solutions there.

Hema Chamraj: And then there are more around genomic sequencing of this virus strains, and then AI repurposing, drug repurposing. This is an example where drugs that were created for a different purpose, but repurposed – Dexamethasone, Remdesivir, the one that President Trump took when he was sick, that was also, it involved some level of AI for drug repurposing.

Hema Chamraj: So if you ask somebody like me, who’s a AI enthusiast, has AI been helpful? And is it a important tool? My answer is a hundred percent yes, right? And of course, people who have been at AI, they’ve understood that it has to be about a responsible AI. That’s not something that they take lightly, but what has happened for us in this year has been a spotlight, right?

Hema Chamraj: The COVID has put a spotlight on really the disproportionate burden and the inequities in healthcare, right? That’s come to light in a way that we are all forced to step back and take a look. If you think about the 4.5 times the hospitalization rate, or the two times the mortality rate of black versus white, it’s data that you cannot dispute, right? It’s something that we have to, and everybody’s sitting and thinking, the first question is who’s to blame, right? That’s where most of us aim to do, but the questions more than that is, where do we start? How do we fix? These are all questions that we’re all asking.

Hema Chamraj: So we don’t need to go to AI immediately because that’s one thing I would like to see is that not people running towards AI as somehow being the problem, we should start with the system that has been in place and the processes that have been in place for nearly a century now. And I want to talk about that as a starting point.

Hema Chamraj: Now, before I say anything, I want to say that our clinicians are the best. We need more of them. I mean, they are in this service to help us. So it’s less about the clinicians. It’s about the tools that clinicians need as they look at their patients to make decisions, that they need tools. And let me see, am I progressing? Yeah.

Hema Chamraj: So I just pulled out a few of these risk scores that have been in use for a long time. And these are used by clinicians to make decisions on diagnosis and referrals and so on. There’s the AHA, the American Heart Association, there’s a score and a study just as recent as 2019, there’s a study that showed that there’s the black and Latinx patients with heart failure go to emergency department in Boston. This is in 2019 and they’ve provided lower levels of care.

Hema Chamraj: And it’s somehow it was actually built into some of the scores from AHA. And then there is another score called VBAC, it’s a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. And that score has been attributed to increased rates of cesarean sections for non-whites. And so I could go after each one of them, there’s EGFR for kidney failure. And so every disease category, there are so many scores that are embedded in the system that are being used on a daily basis, right? And so the question then is what are these scores? I mean, what’s the basis of these scores and it’s not all very clear. I mean, clearly they were done for a reason, but it’s not very clear.

Hema Chamraj: The assumptions are very invisible and race is often used as a proxy to explain the genetic differences and unconsciously, it has been propagating bias in the system. Now, one thing that I strongly and all of us, we believe that we look at the world based on our experiences. And so one example for all of us women here is that if you, I don’t know if you experienced this, but when women tend to go to the hospitals, and explain and talk about pain, that usually it’s chocked out as something psychological, usually.

Hema Chamraj: And that is not just something that happens once in a while. It happens routinely. And it is about something about a “brave men” and “emotional women” kind of a syndrome. So there are some things that are very embedded that propagates physician bias without them knowing it, right?

Hema Chamraj: And so this is the system there is. And then it happens more for people from the underrepresented and minorities, right? And so it requires all of us to look and understand what they’re experiencing. In order to even understand AI, we have to understand the experience. And so, there is the PBS documentary that I’ve started to look at, and this here is a story of one lady.

Hema Chamraj: She goes into for a gallbladder surgery, and then she is discharged. And then she complains of pain. And then she repeatedly and they repeatedly said, nothing is really at fault. And then when she collapses, she comes in and it is known that she has a septic infection. And that which is really a hospital acquired infection, which can be deadly. So, that’s just one example.

Hema Chamraj: And you really need to understand and look at, hear the experiences of people to really understand the level of fear. The level of distrust is in the system, right? And why does it matter? It matters because it translates to data that’s in the system. If you are so fearful that you don’t show up to the healthcare system, then there is the data is missing, that’s misrepresented, right?

Hema Chamraj: And so it’s an incomplete picture, but it has other things that are based on bias and that are based on beliefs. And the other, the additional thing we are seeing these days is this social determinants. These are things beyond just the clinical score, right? It talks about where do you live? How do you have access to healthcare?

Hema Chamraj: And a lot of these questions which are called social determinants is largely missing. I mean, we are doing, we are working towards it, but so what we end up having is this incomplete data that is then being used to develop algorithms as input, right?

Hema Chamraj: Just imagine what happens with that. You have data that is incomplete. So it’s garbage in, garbage out. And so there is one study that in 2019, this was highly publicized study that everybody, people with good intentions, try to build this algorithm and said, “Let’s look at the data and say, who is more sick. And so we can find out who should get the highest level of care.”

Hema Chamraj: And it turns out that the white population were determined to be more sick. And obviously it didn’t add up and turned out that the algorithm was flawed in terms of the design, because it was looking at cost as a proxy to say who are more sick. So it’s a flawed design looking at incomplete data from a distressed system. And obviously it leads only to a flawed diagnosis and hence wrong outcomes.

Hema Chamraj: So AI is not the where the problem starts, but it does do a few things. It reinforces or amplifies the bias and the power imbalances, right? And the people who develop the algorithms. I mean, it’s hard to imagine that they understood the experience of the people for whom this will be used against, right? I mean used towards. I mean, so there is the voices of the people who got the outcomes were not part of this, their voices were not represented.

Hema Chamraj: So this power imbalance continues. It becomes this vicious cycle, unless we stop and say, we really need to step carefully and see how we are developing AI. Are we developing AI responsibly? Is it equitable AI? Is it ethical AI? Is it based on trustworthy systems? So this is why I feel like responsible AI now is important, because as AI enthusiasts, right, we tend to get all excited, including me.

Hema Chamraj: I mean, I’m one of those people who says that we cannot do, we cannot fix the healthcare system if we don’t have things like AI, right? But I think it requires us to take a step back and see how we should be thinking about responsible AI. And there are so many things, it requires an hour on its own, but I would say we should go back to saying design AI, the design element of it is, let’s start with asking the questions.

Hema Chamraj: Why are we developing this algorithm? Who is it going to impact? How is it going to impact? What are the intended consequences or what are the unintended consequences? And then how do we remedy it? So these are the questions that we should start thinking about and start with designing AI for good and having a very comprehensive approach of the people, process, technology, systems, data, and algorithms.

Hema Chamraj: I mean, we have done some of this already, and this comprehensive approach is something that we are used to, and we need to apply that to AI because as technologists, which I am one of them, we tend to get all enthusiastic when we run towards AI. The questions we have, we ask are what is the speed, where’s the accuracy, what’s the sensitivity, what’s the specificity and the area under the curve. All of these questions are where people tend to, when they look on an algorithm to say, is it to measure the performance or the efficiency of it, right? But I think the question we need to focus on is how do we design AI for good?

Hema Chamraj: And there are many frameworks, but I’ve looked at these different lenses through which we should be looking at. Data and algorithm is very important because it’s about the data there. That’s where it manifests, AI manifests, and we have to understand the data governance. Where does the data coming from? How is it going to be used? The security, the privacy, and so on. Those are all truly very important.

Hema Chamraj: But, I would start at the beginning. At the people level, right? It has to be human centered, the human agency. And it is about not just the developers who are developing it. It has to have the voices of a diverse community of social scientists, physicians, the patients, and even the developer voices should include all of us.

Hema Chamraj: People who will have AI algorithms used upon. We need to develop the education pipeline so that we can be part of those developer voices. And so there’s a lot to be talked about here, but I would also, I would just say about the policy and the regulation, those are two areas that we are just starting out. I think we should pay more attention there because we need accountability and so on. But having said all of this are I still feel we have so much we can do together.

Hema Chamraj: We can lay this foundation for good and bring the best outcomes for all. So, that’s where I think I should be stopping. I’m getting a signal, guess I’m stopping there. Just saying that healthcare, we are all in here for healthcare. It’s not in a good state. AI can help, but we need responsible AI for ethical and equitable AI. And together we can do it.

Angie Chang: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Hema. That was an excellent talk.

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“Atlassian Coffee Break – Building Resilient Products”: Swati Raju with Atlassian

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Angie Chang: We’re going to have Swati from Atlassian join us here. And she will be sharing about building resilient products while we all grab a coffee or a tea and kind of get re-energized for the afternoon. I know it’s a long day of talks, so yeah. Please help me welcome Swati. She is the head of Confluence Engineering at Atlassian.

Swati Raju: All right, good afternoon everyone, just want to clarify, I head up Confluence Experience Engineering, which is a subdivision within Confluence Engineering. But anyway, thank you so much for having me here today. I work at Atlassian and like Angie said, I’m going to be speaking about building resilient products. Before I get started, I would love to take a moment to wish you all a very happy International Women’s Day. I also want to acknowledge our female predecessors in science and technology have really opened the doors for us and paved the path for each one of us. I can’t think of a better way to spend International Women’s Day than in this group with all you wonderful women engineers. And thank you for folks who are hanging on for the coffee break to spend your coffee break with me and to learn about building resilient products. So today we’ll be talking throughout this conference a lot about resilience in ourselves and in our teams.

Swati Raju: Those ideas are all very close to my heart, but I would like to speak to you about a different type of resilience. Resilience and reliability in cloud products. So the learnings that I’m about to share are really based off of some of the work that my colleagues and I have been working on in the last year or so. But just to set the context since I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the name Atlassian. Atlassian builds software tools for team collaboration. The tools that we build help teams of all types. So it could be like sending the Mars rover up to Mars, or it could be startups that build the next concept electric car. So you may have used some of our products like Jira, Trello, Bitbucket, Opsgenie, or perhaps Confluence Cloud, which is a product that I work on.

Swati Raju: The organizers asked me to briefly touch upon my own background, and I would love to share with you real quick before we deep dive on our topic. I have a bit of an unconventional background because I studied architecture in my undergrad. After that I moved to the United States to do my Master’s in Design Knowledge and Computation. Worked in a few companies in the Valley from Yahoo! Search to Groupon. And then most recently I was heading up engineering for a small startup called Traveling Spoon, which incorporated three of my absolute passions technology, food, and travel. And then now I am at Atlassian where I work on Confluence Cloud. For those of you not familiar with Confluence Cloud, it’s a space for teams to do knowledge sharing and collaboration. So when I’m not working, I’m usually busy being a mom of two young boys and pretty much chasing them around all day long.

Swati Raju: Some of you might relate to that. So the common thread in my career from studying architecture to working on Search, to working on Confluence now, has been this idea of building something that’s enabling, empowering and really meaningful to the human experience. So when we talk about products that are truly critical to your day to day, resilience and stability are need to be part and parcel of those products. Let me give you some concrete examples.

Swati Raju: So on the first working day of 2021, Slack had a three hour outage. No disrespect to Slack, but if any of you were impacted, you recall how disruptive it can be when a critical tool like that goes down. Similarly, Confluence in 2019 had a bad outage. What we define as a severity 1 based on how many customers it impacted. What our users saw was this chilling screen and users could no longer access their wikis or collaborate with their teammates because of a code change that just didn’t work when it was pushed to significant load.

Swati Raju: The point is that if you are involved in building products that are critical to someone’s day-to-day working, the reliability of those systems become critically important. So I’m going to share with you three principles and practices that can help you improve the reliability of your systems.

Swati Raju: So let’s dissect each one of them. The very first one is accurately measure the customer pain. So if you’ve heard of Peter Drucker, arguably the most, one of the most influential thinkers in management, he said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” This is true in all aspects of life, especially true for reliability of our systems. So now traditionally, most measures of reliability were based on server-side metrics or what we call uptime. This is not always representative of what the customer is actually seeing. So reliability on the other hand measures what the customer is actually experiencing. A lot of cloud companies, including Atlassian, promise our customers very high reliability as well as uptime.

Swati Raju: So it’s a combination of both. But why is reliability and specifically like this idea of an overall reliability from the customer’s perspective versus uptime, a much more harder metric to nail, especially in distributed systems where you have a lot of depending microservices? Let me share an example here. So take for example, this lamp at my desk, right? It is dependent on the reliability of the bulb, the power cord, the lamp arm, the lamp plug, the shade. Hence, when you calculate the reliability of this lamp, it would be the reliability of each of its components multiplied by each other. The more components you have in the system, the greater likelihood of lowering the reliability.

Swati Raju: So, really we really need to think about kind of how to build systems that have great end to end reliability. Let me give you an example of how we have approached this at Confluence. So what we’ve defined is something called key user journeys. And these might be the most important things that a user does on your product. So for example, viewing a page is a really important key journey for us, and the team that owns that key user experience is responsible for understanding the operational metrics of the way the action, right from where the action the user takes to how the request gets sent and all the dependent services that then touches. So holding ourselves accountable for not only our own code but for the key user journeys that… and on how the code, what are the different aspects of the code that are being touched is critical.

Swati Raju: And then having visibility and alerting you to not only what the components that, say, your team owns, but also the underlying dependencies, becomes super key. What we ended up with then is a whole lot of rich dashboards and alerting for exactly what the customer was experiencing versus silverside reporting. So moving on, before I jump into the next principle.

Swati Raju: We collected data at Confluence and found that bugs and software are the majority of the root causes for incidents or what we call when a customer has an outage. As much as 50% of our outages were caused due to bugs in code. So this whole idea of move fast and break things does not always work. So don’t get me wrong. There might be situations and places where the mantra of move fast and break things works really well. When I was at a startup, trying to get something out into the market, where my goal was to prove my hypothesis on product market fit, move fast and break things absolutely works.

Swati Raju: However, when you’re working on a product that users depend on for their livelihood and revenue, this strategy needs some rethinking. For a B2B product like Confluence, where our users depend on us for timely collaboration and real-time reference documentation, taking such an approach is, dare I say, irresponsible. So in fact, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, who famously coined this phrase, or at least as attributed to have coined this phrase, move fast and break things, he announced in 2014 at F8, which is Facebook’s annual developer summit, that they had changed their mantra. So wait for it, move fast with stable infra.

Swati Raju: So unfortunately this phrase, doesn’t back the punch of the original move fast and break things, but you get the point. It’s addressing the reality of a product that has to support its users at scale. So the point I want you to take away is that speed of change should always be balanced with the ability to detect and recover quickly and B, ability to limit the blast radius when something breaks.

Swati Raju: So some of the examples of how, that I’ve seen to successfully balance moving fast with ensuring reliability have been progressive rollouts where a very small percentage of users incrementally get changes, so we gain greater confidence on the reliability of that change. Another way it will be longer soak times where we leave the production, the newest production version, and our internal instances for enough times then we can exhaustively use it internally. And then the last one is really this idea of early detection, looking for anomalies in the production pipeline.

Swati Raju: Additionally, what I found incredibly useful is moving to this idea of shift left in our approach of software development, where we shift the effort for improving the quality of the software earlier in the development process. So what we found at Confluence is that 89% of our instances or incidents, 89% of our hots and incidents could have been avoided by just adding more detection in the predeployment testing.

Swati Raju: So that should make it really clear. Investing in prevention early in the development pipeline is absolutely crucial. This brings me to my next principle, when we shift changes, we must always expect the unexpected and anticipate and plan for failures. So we need to build systems that can embrace failure as a natural occurrence, even if we do not know what that failure might be. So some of the methods that we have been using have… it’s been around load testing.

Swati Raju: It’s a really good idea to load test significant features with what might be a simulation of peak traffic, so you can identify bottlenecks for example. Throttling and limiting. So when planning operations in the cloud, we want to know what are the upper bounds and limits that can be consumed. This can be critical for us to design our systems. And some cases, we want to do throttling so that there’s a small, very, very small percentage of users who might get a bad experience.

Swati Raju: The 0.0001% and the 99.99% get an awesome experience. And obviously you want to work with your product teams to figure what that best trade-off would be. And then the last one is around reducing blast radius. So it is important to manage components that are impacted without the need for the overall system to go down. So we need to develop this into our fundamental planning where failure occurrences, such… that impact the overall health. We never reached that point. It’s always very, very local. So I’ve shared a ton with you.

Swati Raju: You can do all of those things, but here’s some really bad news for you. Things will still break and shit will still happen. The best that we can do in these situations, A, is to recover our systems quickly. And B, is to show some customer empathy. So this is an example of designing and planning for error states really shows that you are bringing empathy in the most rotten situations.

Swati Raju: So here’s an example of what the failure pages looked like in Amazon Prime, 2018. When all else fails, bring the dogs and the cats, right? And then finally, every outage or incident is an opportunity to learn, to helps us think about how we could have avoided it in the first place, how we can mitigate its impact in the future and how we can reduce the blast radius in the future. So here’s a recap of the three principles.

Swati Raju: And hope you can remember these, accurately measure customer pain, move fast and break things does not always work, and expect the unexpected so you can anticipate and plan for failures. Finally, I want to leave you with this thought. So no matter what your role, you should be thinking about your reliability. If you are a developer, really think through what are all the unexpected things that can happen when your code goes to production. What are the absolute crazy wild things that could go wrong?

Swati Raju: Because let me tell you this, they will go wrong. And if you’re an engineering leader, go beyond just thinking about tooling, metrics, processes, and habits that your team needs to do for the stability of your product. And really think about building that culture of reliability, because that truly shows how much you care for your customer.

Swati Raju: With that, I will wrap up, but I will make a quick pluck from teams in Atlassian that are hiring. I put a link at the bottom there. If you’re interested in working to support teams that will tackle some of the next big challenges for humanity and really care about working in a culture of awesome diversity, do go ahead and check those out. Well, that’s all I had. Thank you so much for your time. Enjoy the rest of the conference.

Sukrutha Bhadouria: Thank you so much, Swati.

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“Integrating Inclusive Research into Design”: Kat Chiluiza with Google (Video + Transcript)

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Angie Chang: She is a UX researcher at Google. She joined as a UX researcher, a senior UX researcher from Fitbit, which was acquired by Google. She has a background in digital media, entertainment, forensic, and health. Her specialization is in kids and family, digital products, and services. And with experience and years of research in curriculum analysis and evaluation, she worked at Nickelodeon, Televisa Foundation, and Sesame Workshop. So welcome, Kat.

Kat Chiluiza: Hi. Can everyone hear me?

Angie Chang: Yes.

Kat Chiluiza: Okay. Hi. Hi, everyone. Thank you for the introduction. And yes, so my name is Kat, and I’m a UX researcher.

Kat Chiluiza: And really, UX research is about speaking to users, in order to understand their needs, their motivations, their behaviors, and then, taking these insights, in order to better distill what it is that we need to learn and apply and adapt into your own products and services and features.

Kat Chiluiza: I am trying to find my deck, because this is normally the part in which I would then lead into the actual deck itself. So if you would just bear with me for a second.

Kat Chiluiza: Yes. So UX research is about making sure that we are the voice of the user. However, we know that sometimes that it isn’t always the case.

Kat Chiluiza: When we think about products that are out there, sometimes they aren’t accessible or inclusive of people of different needs. This is not only frustrating, but limiting, right?

Kat Chiluiza: If you’re unable to use something, you might actually decide to leave the product altogether. Oftentimes, what causes this is when users’ intersectionality isn’t taken into account. That’s really what I’ll be talking about today, inclusive design and research.

Kat Chiluiza: What exactly is inclusive research? Inclusive research is when research is conducted in a way that involves and respects people of diverse identities. This could be gender identity, your ethnicity, any disability that you might have, all of that fits into identities. When you think about that intersectionality, that’s where, oftentimes, products do tend to fall, and not fully fit the needs of the full person.

Kat Chiluiza: Most people commonly think that we can address this by making research and design more inclusive in diversifying our participant pools. However, the challenge really is that diversity for diversity’s sake isn’t automatically going to lead to inclusive research findings. Instead, inclusive products is an intentional act. Inclusive research is an intentional act, and something that occurs throughout the entire production cycle.

Kat Chiluiza: Today, I’d like to share some tips that empower folks in product and design, to think about ways that you can add more inclusivity in the production process. And I’ll talk briefly about, what are some things that you can do when preparing for research, and when delivering those findings, and I’ll spend most of the time sharing examples of how research questions can fail to address that full spectrum of a person’s identity, and give examples on how we can improve them.

Kat Chiluiza: So let’s start at the very beginning, preparing for research. What are some things that we can do at the start, in order to make sure that we’re starting off at the right foot?

Kat Chiluiza: When we start planning for research, it’s important to narrow down and really kind of understand what it is that we actually are trying to get to know. Three questions to ask yourself at this stage are, what do you want to know, what do you already know, and what are you hoping to do with this information?

Kat Chiluiza: These questions are both not just for the researchers, but for the stakeholders, as well. This can help inform who you recruit, identify potential types of edge cases, and then, also keep you from going beyond the scope of the work or the scope of the research, as it’s very easy to sort of get down different paths.

Kat Chiluiza: When recruiting for participants, think critically and use your own intuition about, what are the users that might be excluded when designing for this product or feature? Ask yourselves who are our marginalized users, or think about, who are the users that might be negatively impacted by a feature update?

Kat Chiluiza: Oftentimes, there might be trade offs when making a new feature update. And in those trade-offs, is there going to be a certain user base that is negatively impacted, or whose services might actually not be as supported as well as before?

Kat Chiluiza: You can also look at behavioral data. What are your analytics telling you, not about the patterns, but about the outliers? For example, if it were a standard deviation, who are those people at the margins? Once you’ve identified those groups, then you can have a better sense of who are the recruits, who are the people that you often don’t speak to, but might benefit from actually doing so?

Kat Chiluiza: So now let’s actually get into writing out your discussion guide or survey. Every time we conduct research, we’re looking for ways to ensure research rigor. We make sure to screen out any of those double-barreled questions or any questions that might be leading or loaded. And we’re also mindful about the type of bias respondents may have coming into a research project. In fact, that’s part of the reason why we are so thoughtful about the recruit itself.

Kat Chiluiza: But what about our own cultural bias? How often are we reflecting on the types of questions we ask, and looking to see if we’re being exclusionary or insensitive, as we’re asking these questions?

Kat Chiluiza: Researchers unfamiliar with working with diverse audiences may ask questions that inadvertently show bias, right, or stereotype, or even completely ignore context. Oftentimes, these are researchers with the best intentions, but it just so happens, all of us have our own bias, and that’s how these things sort of happen.

Kat Chiluiza: To put this in context, imagine this was a survey that was sent to young adults in the US, and it’s asking them to select their favorite sport. And now imagine that this is the survey, and these options are the ones that were presented.

Kat Chiluiza: Technically, the researcher did their due diligence when it came to writing out these this question. These options are actually the most popular sports in the world. And so, as a result, it would make sense to include this as, “What are your favorite sports?” available.

Kat Chiluiza: However, they didn’t take into account that this audience is from the United States and localized, what might be popular in that country. Had they done so, they could have adjusted the potential responses to make it more culturally competent and relevant. While this question may seem really obvious to a lot of folks from the US, the reality is that this type of bias exists in anything.

Kat Chiluiza: So let’s look at a question that might be heteronormative. “What is your gender?” Heteronormative questions are those that are written from a cisgender or heterosexual perspective. The reality is that sex, gender and sexual orientation are far more nuanced, and should be their own individual question.

Kat Chiluiza: Additionally, if we look at the options, we notice that there’s a specific option for cis female and cis male participants, yet all trans people are put together. It doesn’t actually give an option between trans women or trans men. And lastly, when we look at the word “Other” to use to describe an identity, this phrase itself, “Other,” is dehumanizing to folks that might not fall into the first three categories.

Kat Chiluiza: This is an updated version that actually breaks down the nuance between gender identity and sexual orientation. And since identities have evolved over time, there’s also some new options in there, added to reflect that nuance. And by breaking down these questions, there’s also the benefit that it can help researchers and stakeholders better pinpoint what it is that they want to learn, and tease out what’s not relevant in the project.

Kat Chiluiza: If we go back to the initial set of questions that you answered in the beginning, now you can actually see which of these questions actually is most relevant to your project. How are you going to use this information that’s been presented?

Kat Chiluiza: So let’s take a look at this other question. This was, again, these are all questions that have been out in the real world. All of these have happened. This is a survey that was directed towards women on a website. If we pause for a second, I’ll give you guys two or three seconds just to think about what might not be inclusive about this question.

Kat Chiluiza: While this survey possibly considered the participants’ sex, it didn’t consider their gender identity, or even that some folks might just have a broader range of shoe style preferences that can impact their answers. Not all women identified folks wear women’s shoes. But this question assumes that our respondent is going to give a woman’s size. But what about those that only wear men’s shoes, or only know their shoe sizes in men’s sizes?

Kat Chiluiza: It also only gives shoe sizes in the United States, which is an oversight, since many websites tend to have a broad international readership. By neglecting these factors, you’re now risking faulty data since participants don’t actually know what size to put down, or they have to convert the sizes. Now you’re asking your participants to do additional labor, and possibly feel ignored, since they have to do their own work in order to provide you with answers.

Kat Chiluiza: But if we are realistic, we know that users or participants in surveys don’t tend to take that time in order to make those types of conversions. What’s more likely is that they’ll probably just leave the survey. And so, now this group that was already underrepresented will continue to be so.

Kat Chiluiza: Let’s see how this can be addressed. This updated version has the sizes available in both men’s and women’s, and that also show conversion sizes across different countries.

Kat Chiluiza: So let’s take a look at this Eurocentric question. While the question about race is very common in surveys, often, the options don’t include some more common groups in the US. And this question, in particular, doesn’t reflect the most up to date language, when it comes to describing some specific races, such as with the Hispanic option.

Kat Chiluiza: Lastly, there isn’t an option for mixed race people. Before we jump into how we can address that one, let’s also take a second to look at this other Eurocentric question. This one in particular is one that’s been making trends in culture surveys across organizations. And really, while this question is well-meaning and comprehend, and appears to be comprehensive, the reality is that it conflates culture, religion, and skin colors all as one, and ignores that they potentially have different experiences, and potentially could be treated differently.

Kat Chiluiza: When we look at how these questions can be updated, again, we noticed that there’s this breakdown of different identities, right? Race, culture, skin color have all been broken down separately. There’s also more comprehensive options when it comes to the changing demographics in the U S. For example, with Hispanic, there’s now been added the Latina, O, and X.

Kat Chiluiza: Here’s a question that one might see when you’re applying to jobs. “Do you have a disability?” A few issues that commonly are raised with this question in particular is its vagueness. People don’t know how to answer because they aren’t really sure what’s considered a disability for the specific role.

Kat Chiluiza: Instead, it’s often suggested to contextualize this question, and clarify what it means when you’re saying a disability. And lastly, allude to the relevance of this question at all for your specific application. So in this updated version, it’s, “Do you have a physical disability that can impact your ability to lift 10 pounds unassisted?”

Kat Chiluiza: So what’s the takeaway? Be clear and explicit. Think about the context of your questions in a person’s everyday life. Because if not, you risk basing decisions off of bad data, alienating your user base, as they might want to leave, or just left with a negative taste in their mouth. Or you might have to spend more money and time redoing the research, if you realize that that the data that you’ve gotten was impacted by some faulty questions.

Kat Chiluiza: Now that we’ve seen a few different questions and thought about intention, intersectionality, you’re probably thinking, “When is it appropriate to ask these questions? Or what type of considerations should I take into account?” Or even, “How do I know if I’m going in the right direction? I do have the best intentions, but now I’m wondering if that, maybe, that just might not be enough.”

Kat Chiluiza: The first thing to do really is just to go back to what you were originally hoping to learn, and what you were hoping to do with this data. That information is going to be really key, as it’s going to help you narrow down, what are those relevant questions you actually need to ask?

Kat Chiluiza: Then once you have that sense of, “Okay, these are the things that I definitely need to know,” then you can begin writing the questions. And as you begin to write these questions, learn to look from others, research the topic online, see what are some trends or some updates or things that have changed along the way, such as, for example, with the Hispanic/Latinx option.

Kat Chiluiza: Or see what others have said about crafting questions to that specific target audience. For example, the HRC, a few years ago, launched their own recommendations for how to ask the question around sex and gender.

Kat Chiluiza: And lastly, check your ego. There’s going to be a lot that you’ll learn and unlearn along the way. As identity changes, as the way in which we speak about different marginalized groups changes, then that means that how we adapt is going to be very different, and what was relevant before might not be relevant now.

Kat Chiluiza: In fact, even that HRC survey that I mentioned, that was written in 2016, and since then, even I had to make some adaptions to it, just to make it a little bit more relevant for the 2020/2021 audience.

Kat Chiluiza: Once you actually have these questions, then you can begin drafting a survey, or piloting your research in some way. You can do this with a small sample. This way, you can make adjustments to language or approach, while still being able to retain that data integrity.

Kat Chiluiza: Even with just one or two people, you can see if there’s some areas where you veered off in the wrong direction, or maybe the participants themselves might call out something that doesn’t sound contextually correct. And then you can make those changes without having impacted your larger pool.

Kat Chiluiza: In the last few minutes, I want to briefly touch on data analysis and insights. So we know that in the data analysis stage, there might be times in which you’ll see some trends that are consistent with just the Latinx participants, or maybe just your LGBT participants, but aren’t trending across the entire sample.

Kat Chiluiza: Especially as you begin to increase your diversity pool of participants, you might be seeing certain trends in certain areas. But as we all know, sometimes stakeholders are resistant to making changes, especially if they feel that it’s only going to impact a small subset of users. While this can feel demoralizing, the reality is that you can advocate for these changes in the same way that you would do for any other type of UX or UI changes that you might be running across.

Kat Chiluiza: For example, you can conduct a second round of research for that specific demographic. Then you can continue to show that this is a pattern that impacts this group, and it’s very consistent that this impacts this group.

Kat Chiluiza: Or you can test design iterations to address the user concerns with a larger sample size. Oftentimes, changes that are made to impact one marginalized group tend to have a broader impact for the entire community.

Kat Chiluiza: If we think about on sidewalks, the small ramps that are there, initially, that was made to make, to make it accessible for people in wheelchairs. But now people with strollers, people who are on bikes or scooters, they all benefit from it. If you see in a larger sample size that other groups continue to benefit from it, then it’s clear that this is something that could have a potential powerful impact on your product.

Kat Chiluiza: You also want to include some examples from competitors implementing more inclusive solutions. You want to make sure your company is staying up to date. These are just the trends in the industry. And by taking these steps, you can show how your company can remain competitive, or become even more competitive. By tying it to some type of business need, whether it’s acquisition, retention, subscriptions, or so on, then you can further help boost that case.

Kat Chiluiza: This session really has only scratched the surface of what there is to learn and think about conducting research with diverse audiences. But I hope that you now have a greater understanding of how even a small change to a question can have a meaningful impact to the users answering them. It allows them that one moment to actually be reflected in the types of questions in the Internet in itself, that actually shows them for who they are.

Kat Chiluiza: We can all advocate for systemic change and user research. So let’s all fight for a world where tech reflects those needs and wants of all consumers, one user at a time. And so, thank you.

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“Start With Who: Choosing Your Next Career Opportunity”: Kellee Van Horne with Affirm (Video + Transcript)

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Sukrutha Bhadouria: We have our next speaker, Kellee. She’s the Director of Client Success at Affirm. Before Affirm, she spent seven years at LinkedIn leading sales and marketing. Kellee has had a range of financial leadership positions, including CFO for africa.com and Lead Financial Manager for a food sustainability startup. We always meet colleagues looking for their next opportunity internally or externally. So this talk is perfect for us. Welcome, Kellee.

Kellee Van Horne: Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here with all these amazing women on International Women’s Day. I’m going to share my screen and you guys can let me know if you do not see it. Otherwise, I’ll get started. So this talk today is focused on one of my most passionate subjects: how do you accelerate your career? How do you really get work that matters to you and that you think makes an impact?

Kellee Van Horne: And so today, I’m going to talk through some of the things that I focus on when I’m managing my career and the things that I always tell other women when I’m giving them mentorship and advice. So I just got an introduction. I’ll do a quick one, again. Director of Client Success at Affirm. I’ve spent 18 years in sales, marketing, tech, and financial services. And in my free time, I’m the mom of three lovely, fun, and energetic children. And so you can usually find me building a fort on the weekend when I’m not working.

Kellee Van Horne: Like I said, I have a lot of career conversations. I love having career conversations with people, both because I know it’s so important to how you see yourself and also how you think about how you want to make your way in the world. And one of the things that always comes back when we start talking about career conversations are what are the right questions to ask when you’re considering a new opportunity? And for me, it really boils down to three main focus areas.

Kellee Van Horne: One, who? Two, why me? And three, what next? And so I’ll talk about why these things are important and why I ask these questions. But before I go into that, I wanted to spend a little bit of time on why even asking these questions in the first place is really important. We’re obviously seeing a lot of focus on equity and particularly gender equity in the workplace. And we’ve started to see some progress at the top.

Kellee Van Horne: If you look at the Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey, we’re seeing that SVPs have increased from 23% to 28% representation of women. And in the C-Suite, we’re seeing about 17%… Sorry, 21% up from 17% of women are in the C-Suite now but there’s really a broken ladder. And this primarily happens in your entry-level careers, right when you’re going from individual contributor to manager, where we’re seeing about 100 men promoted for every 85 women to an entry-level manager position.

Kellee Van Horne: And so what continues to happen is that these promotions continue to accelerate and you’ll end up with a distribution where your management organization will be 62% men and 38% women. And I am a person that loves justice and I love fairness. And that doesn’t sound just and that doesn’t sound fair when we have 50% of our U.S. population is women. And so how do we think about addressing this inequity in the work that we do?

Kellee Van Horne: The other thing I’ll mention is that COVID is really widening the gap that we’re seeing in terms of women’s representation in the workplace, particularly in leadership, where one in four women have expressed interest in either downshifting or exiting the workplace because of the additional responsibilities that’s placed on them for COVID either because of childcare or because of elder care.

Kellee Van Horne: And so it’s really, really critical for everyone in this room to think about as you’re thinking about your career, how can I create a support system around myself? How can I create a sustainable career working with people that really believe in me and who think my work matters so that it can help you to retain yourself essentially in the workplace? Because it’s not easy, right? There’s a lot of things that are stacked against you from a statistical perspective. And so what can you do personally to accelerate your own personal experience?

Kellee Van Horne: And so I always start with who? I’ll give you guys a quick story. So I was working at LinkedIn in the summer of 2015, and I got called into a conference room by my HRBP, which is never usually a great conversation. And the nuts and bolts of it was I was losing my team. My scope and responsibility was being significantly downsized. And I basically had the choice of taking this new role, or looking for another role internally, or taking a severance package. This was challenging because I had no boss for the past three months. I’d been reporting ostensibly to another leader. But that person really didn’t have any responsibility for me and didn’t really spend a lot of time coaching or understanding the work that I was doing. I was also about six months pregnant at the time with my first child. And so I was feeling particularly vulnerable in that moment, just knowing that I had to make a very quick decision around choosing a job that I didn’t want and wasn’t excited about.

Kellee Van Horne: Taking a severance package that would end right before I delivered my very first baby, or finding a new job in a couple of months and hoping that someone’s going to take a chance on me to hire me and then leave my head open, because they lose that head count when they hire me while I’m out on maternity leave for five or six months. It was a very hard time and probably one of the lowest points in my entire career if I’m being honest. But what I ended up doing was I hustled. I spent a lot of time understanding the job opportunities that were around me. And I ended up deciding to not go for the job that would be closest to the experience that I had last time. But I ended up trying to choose a role based on the person that I would be reporting to. So I found a role that was reporting to a woman that I’d known as a colleague at my time at LinkedIn, and was very well respected in the organization.

Kellee Van Horne: I respected her a lot and she also respected me, which was really, really critical and important because I knew I would be coming back to work in a role that I’d never been in before. I’d never taken care of a child before, I had no idea what that would throw at me. And I knew I needed to be in an environment where the people around me really cared about me and about my experience not just as an employee, but also as a human being. And so it ended up being one of the best career decisions that I’ve ever made in my entire life. I not only learned more than I’ve ever learned in any other career role from the leader that I decided to go work for, but I also came back to an environment where I felt trusted, where I felt respected and where I knew that people had my back when I made tough decisions or when I took risks. And so from then on, every single decision that I make around career has been first and foremost who will I be working for?

Kellee Van Horne: And even more importantly, who will that person be working for? Because I want to make sure that the organization that’s standing behind me is one that I believe in and that believes in me. And so what I really would suggest for everyone as you’re thinking about your next career opportunity or next move, ask yourself these two questions. First, is the person you’re going to be working for a rockstar? Are they well-respected in the organization? That means that they are in a position to accelerate their careers and when their careers accelerate, your career will also likely get some tailwinds and accelerate as well. Does the person think you’re a rockstar, right? You want someone that really trusts you. When things get hard, you want someone that’s going to pound on the table for you. And so evaluating people based on whether or not they’ll do that is one of the things that I always recommend.

Kellee Van Horne: Does the person have skills or expertise that you want to learn, right? It’s really important, particularly when you’re early in your career, to be in constant learning mode. And that’s what your manager is for, is to help you build skills. And then again, is the person the coach? Or are they really just an IC? I think one limitation of a lot of organizational structures is that a lot of people end up managing not because they want to be managers, but because they see that as the only way that they can accelerate their careers. And so you have to decide and understand who the person is that you’re going to be reporting to. Are they a coach? Or are they an IC+? It’s okay to work for an IC+ actually, if you’re late enough in your career and stable enough in your skillset that you don’t really need someone managing the day to day.

Kellee Van Horne: But I’d say if you’re early in your career, let’s say the first 10 years, I would really strongly encourage you to look for people that are really coaches, because that’s when you’re going to be developing those foundational skills that allow you to excel as you get later and later in your career. I’ll pause here to see if there are any questions. Ah, what is an IC? Excellent question. Individual contributor. So someone who works on their own behalf, doesn’t manage anyone versus a manager. Yeah. Great. So yes, TLDR work for people who are highly respected, work for people who respect and care about you. So the next question you’ll want to ask yourself is why me? And so this isn’t really a question of why would they ever choose me? It’s really what is going to allow me stepping into this role to immediately have early wins and successes that demonstrate my credibility and competence in this role?

Kellee Van Horne: You want to have a really strong answer for that, and so I’ll talk a little bit about my experience. When I was leaving LinkedIn, I decided to go to a company called Affirm that I mentioned earlier. And it’s completely different from the work that I was doing at LinkedIn. It’s a different industry, that’s focused on retail, financial technology, credit and lending, whereas I was in the marketing and employee advocacy space before I left LinkedIn. And so ostensibly, there’s not a lot that I can draw on to make sure that I’m successful in my first time and role at Affirm. But the great thing was I actually had quite a bit of foundational skills that I could draw on to make me successful when I got to Affirm. So one, I’m a customer facing professional, and that’s something that I can do in any environment. I know how to work with people. I know how to build relationships with external customers.

Kellee Van Horne: I also really know how to collaborate well, right? And so when I work in a complex business like the one that we have at Affirm, I can really lean on those skills and accelerate my ability to add impact because I’m able to work with almost anyone in any kind of team, and that’s a huge asset to me. And then also, I really like working in a startup environment where we’re building things from scratch and I don’t mind ambiguity. And so that’s an additional skillset that I brought to my role at Affirm that allowed me to add value really, really early on, even though I was still learning the business. And so as you think about and evaluate different career opportunities, don’t just think about what will be the biggest stretch for you, also think about what will give you the opportunity to have early wins and demonstrate your credibility and your competence so that people will continue to give you more and more stretches?

Kellee Van Horne: As you think about what skills and things that you want to really lean into for your new role, you should think about what are the most pressing problems that are facing your future manager or team, right? You want to solve the problems that matter the most for the business, not just the ones that you find most interesting. And then also, what are the skills or experience that you’re going to leverage into those problems? Where are the places where you can add unique value, really focus on that. And again, your goal is to crush your new role as quickly as possible. And so I see there are some questions, I’m going to try to see if I can get to them. There they are.

Kellee Van Horne: Q&A maybe. How do you find out if the person you want to work for is a rockstar? Excellent question, particularly if you’re coming from outside of the organization. So everyone, hopefully, when you’re going through an interview process will get to meet both the person that’s going to be managing you, but also the people that report into that person. You should ask the question, and not directly, are you a rockstar? But rather ask questions about the results that that person has delivered. Ask the person and ask their team. What are the things that this person is known for? What are the results that this person has driven in the organization? That will allow you to understand are there things that they’ve done that people would consider to be really great?

Kellee Van Horne: And the way that people talk about those results will give you an indication of is it an okay result? Or is it an amazing result? The other thing I’ll say around looking for a coach, particularly if you’re applying from outside of the organization, is you should absolutely ask people when you are interviewing with them what is their leadership style? What is their coaching style? How do they invest in their team? Some people will have really robust answers and that will give you an indication of how much time they spend thinking about and making an effort towards that.

Kellee Van Horne: And then similarly, you want to ask the team that, right? When you meet other people that would be your colleague when you’re interviewing, ask them, what is it like to work for, blah, blah, blah? What are some ways that you guys are working together to build your skills or to build your career? It’s a very fair question. And if anything, it shows that you’re being really thoughtful about your career path. So I would definitely encourage everyone to start asking those questions if you’re not already. There are some Q&As that I’m not sure how to get to. So maybe someone will add them to the chat if you can see them, and I’ll keep going and I’ll make sure we answer them before we get done. So what next? This is really a conversation around where you think the next role is going to take you in terms of the next five years, 10 years, so on and so forth.

Kellee Van Horne: And the reason that you want to ask yourself this when you’re evaluating career opportunity is because you want to start thinking about can I set myself up for that next thing through the role that I’m taking? Part of that, right, again is building the requisite skills for that next job. And so focusing your early wins on building in skills that will allow you to take on more more quickly. But also, it’s about painting a picture for the people around you, around what you want to do with your career so that they can help you. One of the biggest things that we all need is more help from other people, and I am definitely guilty of it and I know so many people that are guilty of it as well is asking for help, asking people to give you advice, asking people to give you opportunities. And so the more you can talk about what you need and what you want next, the better it is.

Kellee Van Horne: And just keep in mind that most corporations, most companies, will plan in advance at least six months and some up to, let’s say, three years or five years out, right? And so think about the long-term timeline as opposed to what do you want to do next month or next week. Give your manager, give the organization some time to find something that’s really transformational for you and that’ll allow you to leverage into the opportunity when it’s there as opposed to just trying to force yourself into something right away, because it feels urgent. The more time you have to find the right thing, the better. And the more time your manager has to find right thing, the better.

Kellee Van Horne: And so the what next questions that you want to ask yourself, what skills do I really want to master? What experiences do I want to have? What types of things do I enjoy doing most in my career? And what impact do I envision making during my career? And those are the types of conversations you want to be having with the people around you as you talk about how you want your career to evolve in an organization.

Kellee Van Horne: And so I’ll give an example. When I was at LinkedIn, before I left, I was talking to my current manager about the fact that I really wanted to continue to hone my sales skillset. I was on the customer side and working with current customers, but I wanted to do a better job of building relationships that were net new and really have the opportunity to focus on that. And so I said that to her and I spent probably about six months crushing it in my current role, and also just socializing this idea that that’s something that I wanted to grow into as I continued to do my work at LinkedIn. And so lo and behold, after about six months, they said, “Actually, we are going to start off a sales specialist role supporting another organization, and we think you would do a great job as being the very first person to take it.”

Kellee Van Horne: They would never have thought of me if I hadn’t raised my hand early on and said, “This is something that I want to grow towards. Not that I need to do it today, but that it’s something that is on my mind as I round out my skills as a professional,” right? And so I definitely, as a manager now, really appreciate when people can flag things to me early and let me know so that I can keep things in mind as we continue to evolve as an organization. And so the goal is to communicate really specific and personalized ideas around how you want your career to grow. I’m going to go back to the chat really quickly. How do you balance the possibility that the organization will change and people will move around? Absolutely. That always happens. And you should always expect that the organization will definitely change and that people will move around.

Kellee Van Horne: And so what I always say these days is if there’s a reorg and you don’t like things, just wait another six to 12 months, there will be another reorg. If you were working for someone that you really like and respect, sometimes there’s the opportunity to follow that person, right? If you think that that’s required. Or what you also can do is try to consider is the new person that you’re going to be working for, could they also be an advocate and a mentor for you, right? So then you have now two people in the organization that really respect and care for you just as you respect them. And so it’s really about partnering with the person that’s managing you to try to see if you can establish that kind of trust or relationship where you’re allowed to take risks and be creative. And in return, you get support and the ability to take on more.

Kellee Van Horne: And so if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine. There’s literally millions of jobs in the world. So don’t feel like you have to nail it every single time. But as you’re thinking about the next thing after that reorg happens, just keep in mind for who’s going to be the next person that I want to work for. I’ll go really quickly to the rest of the skills that I would recommend focusing on and then would love to go to questions again. So we talked about making it specific and personalized. One thing that I’ll definitely say since I’ve been managing for quite a few years now is that almost everyone that I’ve managed on the client success side, customer success side, has expressed an interest in being a manager at some point. And so everyone has said, “My next play, my next thing I want to do is manage someone or coach someone. I really love doing that.”

Kellee Van Horne: And I really appreciate it because it definitely demonstrates that the people that work in our organization care about others, right? It’s a quality and a trait that you really want to have in your employees. But the challenge is that it’s not differentiated at all, right? And so if everyone’s a manager, then no one will report to anyone, right? It’s impossible to make everyone that’s good a manager on the same team. And so that doesn’t mean, right, that there’s no opportunity on our team. It just means that we need to be more thoughtful about what actual skills you want to build external to just managing.

Kellee Van Horne: And so I’ve got some brainstorm skills that might be helpful as you’re thinking about what are the skills that you want to talk about and lean into outside of maybe just growing your team, growing your scope? And so on the left, you have some soft skills that Udemy has said are the hottest skills based on the learning curriculum that people are reading.

Kellee Van Horne: And then on the right, I’ve put some skills that I think are really valuable to leaders as you get more and more senior, right? Understanding how to build a business case, understanding how to manage a P&L if you’re on the business side. Being able to lead a cross-functional project, right, is often a relevant no matter what kind of function you’re in. And then turning around failures, that’s something that’s really hard to do, but if you get good at it, it’s very, very, very valuable.

Kellee Van Horne: We talked about a few things in finding your next career opportunity. First, who? Who are you going to work for? Who’s going to be your partner as you accelerate your career? Why me? What are the things that are going to allow you to really crush it and build credibility in your role so that when it’s time for what next, people are already looking at you and thinking about how they can help you get to the next level?

Kellee Van Horne: It’s really, really simple in a lot of ways, but I think that it’s probably the most foundational advice that I can give and the things that I say over and over again when you have the chance to meet me one-on-one. Hopefully, this is helpful to everyone. I’ll shift back to questions because I think I have one minute. Let’s see if there’s one more that I can answer. How can people who are introverts do this? Ah, so that’s an interesting question. I think I would consider myself to be an introvert honestly.

Kellee Van Horne: I guess if you’re defining introvert as someone that doesn’t like spending time with other people or feels uncomfortable spending time with other people, I would definitely encourage you to continue to work on that skill in a safe space with a friend, because so much of business, so many opportunities come from the people that you know, right? And so you have to have at least some minimum level of rapport and then also understanding with the people around you to be able to be thought of in the moment, right?

Kellee Van Horne: It’s really hard for people to think of you and think of you for opportunities if they don’t actually know what you want to do next. And so not to say that you should change being an introvert because that is who you are, but rather think about how do you make it so that people can get to know you and know what you like to do so that they can think of you in the future? And I think that timer told me I was at time, so I will stop now.

Angie Chang: Perfect. Thank you, Kellee. There’s so many questions for you in the chat, in the Q&A. If you have a minute or two after this, feel free to pop in the chat and answer some.

Kellee Van Horne: Oh, sure. Yeah, I’ll answer them.

Angie Chang: Thank you so much. That was excellent. I think a lot of people felt very heard and helped, and we are a lot of introverts here at the Girl Geek X team, so we completely empathize that it is possible to do many things as an introvert. So definitely.

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