Ordinarily, in dev.life, we chat with developers about their passion for programming: how they got into it, what they like to work on and how. But this is creek.life – a dev.life special interview, introducing Allie Schwartz, our VP of People. Allie is a long-time Creeker and is one of our new 4-person management team who leads Fog Creek. We’ll be introducing the other two in future interviews.
Location: New York City, NY, US
Current Role: VP of People at Fog Creek Software
How did you end up at Fog Creek?
When I was 25, I was working at a non-profit for a woman who hated me. On the side, I had created and was hosting a cooking web series from my apartment in Brooklyn. At the time, that was my passion project, and really where my focus was. As is true of most passion projects, it didn’t make any money, so I needed a job to pay the rent.
I sent an email to everyone I knew in New York saying I desperately need a new gig, and to please send opportunities my way. My good friend from Oberlin, Sam Vanderpol, was working at Fog Creek in QA, and he responded that FC was looking for their first ever Receptionist. My boyfriend at the time was a Software Developer and a Joel fan. He told me about Fog Creek’s reputation for being an incredible place to work, so I applied, was hired, and was the receptionist for over 3 years.
In 2013, I left Fog Creek for our sister-company, Stack Exchange, where I worked on the Stack Overflow Careers Sales team for a year. Then I went to a small startup called Spring to head up people operations. I’d been there about 6 months before Fog Creek came calling with an opening. I couldn’t pass it up – and here I am!
Tell us a little about your roles at Fog Creek
I think of the position of Receptionist at Fog Creek as the “Keeper of the Happiness”. When I started in 2010, I answered phones, worked with our caterers, and generally tried to create an environment where our devs would be happy to spend their days. I used to tell people my job was “to make sure the nerds eat lunch”.
Over the years, I picked up more and more responsibilities like planning events, helping with recruiting, and tackling the sales inbox. When I came back into my new position, “keep people happy” was still my marching order, but the work had definitely changed. I still plan events, just bigger ones, and I still recruit, but now I manage the full cycle. I spend a lot more time talking to our employees in a more official capacity during 1x1s, and I’m involved in strategic planning for the company long term.
The biggest challenge for me in my role at Fog Creek has been tackling new responsibilities in areas where I have less expertise. It can sometimes be a “fake it ‘til you make it situation,” which is a little scary, but also fantastic because I never stop learning, and I’m often hitting new milestones, which is empowering. The best thing about Fog Creek is we trust that our employees are smart enough to try new things, and we give them the opportunity to stretch and grow. It feels great when your company invests in you, and it’s a major incentive to get really good, really fast.
When are you at your happiest at Fog Creek?
There are so, so many things that make me happy every day at Fog Creek. Eating lunch with my friends, random chats in Slack, the beautiful view from our office, etc. etc. My favorite part of the job is when we make an offer to an awesome candidate who accepts; it’s always thrilling to add someone to the team, particularly when that person is smart and gets things done. I also love when our remote employees come in for parties and remote weeks; never a dull moment when everyone’s together!
What software tools do you use and couldn’t live without?
I love FogBugz for recruiting, and Trello for checklists and project management. We use Slack, which is great, and personally I’m pretty into Seamless…that’s a joke, but only sort of.
What are a few of your favorite Fog Creek blog posts?
I always like the meet the intern posts, and the old classic, “David’s voice activated standing desk”. I also love Cupcakes in Paradise by my predecessor, Liz, which is about adapting your recruiting process for interviewing remote candidates.
Outside of Fog Creek, what do you like to do?
I have a great group of friends from college; they’re my urban family. We’re very tight-knit and spend a lot of time together. We’re always out in Brooklyn going to the movies, trying new restaurants, or wasting hours at the ones we’ve been to 1,000 times.
I’m relatively artsy, and I get a lot from working with my hands, so at any given time I’m toiling away on 1 or 2 projects. These days my interests skew to mostly home improvement projects – painting walls, styling my living room, mounting shelves, what have you. And I also just got this coloring book for grown-ups that’s eating a bunch of time…
Other than that, I’m a pop culture enthusiast. I spend a lot of time watching things – high and low brow, I do not discriminate. I also love podcasts and puzzles. A perfect day is a coffee, bagel, the crossword puzzle, a trip to Ikea, take out and a movie on the couch.
What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself starting out in your career?
Oh man. There are so many things. I think the most important piece of advice I’d give to anyone starting out in any career is that you have to learn to ask for what you want. Part of your manager’s job is to have conversations with you about career development, your salary, etc., so don’t be afraid to broach those subjects, even if you’re at the bottom of the food chain, and know your value. Work hard, and be your own advocate!
…And if you’re working for someone who doesn’t value you, leave. Immediately. No job is worth feeling bad for every day. The odds are you won’t do good work in that environment anyway. Take your toys and go, something better awaits you!
Thanks to Allie for taking the time to speak with us. Have someone you’d like to be a guest? Let us know @FogCreek.
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