Talking with Caro Griffin, VP of Ops at TechLadies

September 11, 2020
To listen to the full episode, click here

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us, everyone. I am thrilled to have Carol Griffin with me here. Kero is the VP of operations from a tech ladies and I connected with the founder of tech ladies on Twitter, um, a couple of months ago, and I thought the kind of concept was really cool. Uh, I've kind of been involved with similar groups, uh, in my, my 15 years in tech and thought it'd be really interesting to host, uh, someone from their group here and was able to get with kero. I'm excited to kind of talk a little bit about tech ladies and also her experience with remote work and customer experience and hiring. Um, but I'd love to kind of pass the time more to kero, to introduce herself, uh, give a little bit of background of what's going on with her and tech ladies, and we'll go from there.

Caro: (01:10)
Great. Yeah. So, you know, I said I'm third Griffin. Um, but I'm, uh, most often known as Carolyn syrup on the internet. People are forgetting my last name and he's getting that mixed up. Um, but, uh, you know, yeah said I'm the senior operations leader. I'm working at a tech ladies right now. Um, I started my career as a developer before making the shifts operations. Um, so that's kind of my background and I'm really passionate about building sustainable businesses. So most of my experience has been at small mission driven companies. Um, most recently I was the director of ops at Skillcrush, which is a fully remote company in the tech education space. Um, and then after working part time with tech ladies for awhile have recently, um, come on full time with VP of ops. So, um, for those of you who are familiar, we're a community of over a hundred thousand women working in tech and, you know, all kinds of roles. Um, and our goal is to really help women and other gender minorities level up in their careers. So we have an online community that's really active and, um, weekly webinars as well as an active job board. And that's really where we do a lot of our work on kind of the company partner side. Um, and then, yeah, I mean, I've worked remotely for most of my career and after spending several years traveling full time, I now live in Mexico city. So that's why I'm calling it Sunday.

Joe: (02:23)
That's wild. Yeah, it's really cool. I love the mission and kind of values of tech ladies and, you know, I, why I've kind of always been, uh, connected to that, like community is I've had really great mentors and managers along the way that were women, um, and, you know, taught me so much. And they were definitely like mentors for that space. And so I've, uh, striped tried to stay connected, uh, there as well. Um, you know, with, you mentioned your, your remote, you've worked remote a long time, you've done a lot of remote hiring remote management. What is kind of the workplace look like to you? A, remote's definitely a piece of that, but what does it look like to you?

Caro: (03:05)
Yeah, I think first and foremost, it's asynchronous and flexible or at least that's the future of what I want to see in a modern workplace. Um, I think remote work obviously became the norm overnight for a lot of us. Um, but we were headed in that direction anyway. Um, and there will always be people and companies who want to share a physical space. I think we'll see that a bigger and bigger percentages of, uh, workplaces are at least partially remote and then even coal, coal located team. Um, in order to stay competitive really will have to embrace more flexibility in scheduling and work from home days. And that asynchronous work, um, will be required to make that happen, which I think is good for business and employees.

Joe: (03:45)
Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. Um, you know, I ran this survey a few weeks ago and overwhelmingly it was people talking about the hybrid workplace as being kind of the new, the new normal. Um, it was just almost around 70% said they preferred this like hybrid where you can kind of have the option to go into work. You can stay at home. Maybe you don't feel that pressure to be in the office at eight 30. You can come in at 10 or whatever. Um, how has kind of moving toward remote, uh, really helped accelerate that helped businesses create playbooks and, um, really advance kind of the modern workplace.

Caro: (04:30)
Yeah, I mean, I think, uh, like I said, we were, I think I was like, especially tech particularly was moving in that direction already. Like I remember when I started a school crashing, this would have been almost six years ago now. Um, we used to ask students all the time why they wanted to make a career change and work in tech. And I remember seeing that there was, there was always a good pitchers that wanted to learn tech skills specifically, so they could have more flexibility in their careers and ultimately find remote jobs and stuff. Well, most of them are, but seeing just how big that group thought over the years was just really something to see. Like it became more than just the people in remote areas and those who were caretakers who were living with chronic illnesses, it really became the norm. And I would say from like 20 to 90%, um, and just the course of a couple of years and now, you know, remote is everywhere in tech and whether it's here to stay or not.

(05:16)
And so I think, um, you know, there's always been companies who've been really resistant to the idea of remote because they don't see how it's gonna work. Um, and I think forcing all of us to like, see how it's gonna work and figure it out and see, you know, like it gets kind of, didn't give us a choice in a lot of ways. Um, and I think that's shown a lot of people that they don't want to work remotely and companies that they don't want to be remotely. I think it's shown just as much. And I hopefully more people that like, this is totally possible. This is the thing that a lot of companies have been doing for a while now. And I've been doing well and have been using as a competitive advantage. Um, and so I think it just kinda, it just kinda forced us to figure it out in a lot of ways.

Joe: (05:53)
Yeah. And certainly like true remote work is easier than working from home during a pandemic. Uh, which is what I always say.

Caro: (06:03)
Yeah, it's that distinction. I keep seeing that everywhere. And it's so true. Like if you're not working remotely, you're working during a global pandemic and, and like reckoning in the U S and just like in a recession and like all of these other things. So this is something we also used to tell students at school crunch a lot twos last couple of months is that it's like, if you can work remotely now and prove to your boss that you can do it with all of this other stuff happening, then like you have so much leverage to like negotiate remote work or flexibility. After the fact,

Joe: (06:31)
You know, I have a huge, uh, like corporate crush on get lab and how they've kind of been able to be, uh, the flagship remote company forever. Um, and I had, you know, I have Emily [inaudible], who was a, uh, strategy lead over there on the podcast, um, earlier in the year. And she talked a lot about how they still try and bring people in and keep people together. Uh, there's still kind of that personal element that needs to be there. We are humans. We still like to be together and hang out and do things it's not work related. Um, what do you think from you, what you found, what is like the number one tip you have for remote work? Um, and let's take, let's take that two ways. Let's say like for you as a remote worker and also as a remote manager, uh, what are, what are too? Yeah.

Caro: (07:27)
Yeah. So I guess for companies, I would say my number one tip is to embrace asynchronous work early. Um, I think there's a difference between remote work and flexible work and they're not necessarily the same thing. Um, and I think the more we all get accustomed to working remotely, the more candidates are going to recognize that difference. Then the more team members are going to recognize the difference. And so I think a lot of the advantages you have now just for being remote, um, you're gonna, you're gonna lose if you don't adapt to also being flexible and, and synchronous. And I think, um, you know, flexibility is one thing that I think asynchronous work is how we embrace that flexibility and really support it. Um, and so, um, what I like really mean when I talk about, I think it's just like don't default to zoom calls, try to solve things, um, without having to be in the same room at the same time, instead of sending that Slack message, you know, one line at a time taking someone's attention, then the full two paragraph and just normalize, letting people respond when they hit a natural wall and whatever they're working with, you know, context switching takes such a huge toll on our productivity.

(08:26)
Um, and the more we can hire good communicators who really have good written communication skills, um, and can that we trust our employees to be getting work done, even if we don't see their little green actives on Slack. Um, it's just gonna take us so much further.

Joe: (08:43)
Awesome. So how do you kind of enable that, um, what what's kind of some training you can do to both managers and employees to really help facilitate that and create that culture?

Caro: (08:56)
Yeah, I mean, I think, um, the, one of the things that I think we really have focused on on my teams is this idea of outcomes versus output. Um, and I think it's important in anything but especially important in, um, a remote context, because, you know, at the end of the day, I don't care how many sales calls someone did. I care how many clients they closed. And so like just trying to be really transparent and clear with my team about, you know, how, um, like what I expect from them and what metrics they're going to be measured by, and then hold them to those, right? Like, and it's hard, it's a hardship for some people to make and some people can't make it, but the best employees can. And those are the ones you want on your team, because, you know, we're programmed to want to check things off the, to do list that's really rewarding.

(09:45)
Um, but like who cares, how many tasks member of your team finished? They didn't accomplish anything. So if there's just always the one that comes in at eight 30 and leave and stays until seven, if they're getting half of the results, someone who works like a six hour day and takes a full lunch hour, you know, like, um, and I think obviously you have to make sure that there's like parody and fairness across your team and that, you know, one person is employing the whole team, but, um, but I think really focusing on what, uh, outcomes you want versus like sustain, like, you know, um, is important.

Joe: (10:18)
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense in it. It's kind of like a, definitely like a top down model where like I'm here at cloud app, SAS companies are really focused on annual recurring revenue. That's kind of like one of the key key things that, uh, businesses, you know, keep their doors open with, but we turn that into an acronym for like the three goals that we care about, which is acquisition, retention and revenue. Um, and so activation is our acquisition, you know, is getting new people in retention is loyalty community, keeping our customers happy. Uh, and then revenue, obviously it's kind of, you know, the last one. So I think to your point, like having that top down and then orgs kind of fit into those, uh, overall outcomes, uh, really, really helped drive the culture.

Caro: (11:14)
Exactly. Yeah. And I think you can have, you know, we have a similar, um, that's why I said the teams I've worked on and thinking about, you know, like what's the turn is and what refunds are like. And that's really been my focus on kind of operation side and having, um, you know, teams on those, but also individuals, um, who are responsible for certain aspects and just really trusting them to get the job done and setting expectations around what you expect them to get done. And what goals do you expect them to hit, but also like when you expect them to ask for help and like raise a red flag, you know, that they need more support or, um, and I mean, I think you mentioned when you initially asked me two sessions, but then I went down that tangent. But, um, I, again, another way to do that is really, it is important to connect with your team and especially remotely.

(11:56)
And, um, I think something I've always been really proud of is trying to think we had a, um, pain on my last team that was anything you can do, we can do remotely. Um, and we really like took that probably a little too far sometimes, but, um, we're really trying to make sure that we got to know each other as people and that we were friends on top of being coworkers. Um, and so, and, and setting, um, like the expectation and like the culture of the fat is like something we've been encouraged. Um, I think when a long way, and it meant that we had a lot of really fun traditions, my favorite of which was baby shower. So we used to do remote baby shower for 14 members, went on leave. And, um, we did a lunch and learn that come with like ball Brock style painting class.

(12:38)
We've had remote bar classes that someone hosted, you know, we've done a lot of things remotely. Um, and, but I don't think it's all about just like events and hanging out. Right. Especially cause you don't want people to feel obligated to spend our personal time at work. And so, um, something I really try to think about as a manager is finding ways for my team, um, to grow together and learn together. So whether that's lunch and learns or kind of the more fun hobby version, we call it second chairs or reading, uh, having book clubs, um, but also celebrating whether that's baby showers or happy hours, um, and then like working together. Um, because I think there's a big push back. I know I'm going to contradict myself a little bit, cause I just talked about like the beauty of asynchronous work, but sometimes like you do need a meeting. Sometimes you need a face to face and also video on and like into just have not every dream college meeting, some of them are replacing those, like I'm walking up to your desk and asking you a quick question or like pairing. Um, and so really encouraging, like pairing and mentorship across, um, so that you're not just communicating asynchronously via Slack all the time.

Joe: (13:42)
Really great. Yeah. I think those are some really good examples. Um, you've got some really great experience with tech ladies. I want to spend a little bit of time there. Um, thank you for, you know, kind of some overall broad 10,000 foot view comments as well. Um, two part question, we'll start with part one and then let you answer and then go into part two. Um, what are some tips for really hiring and finding a diverse talent? Um, we mentioned, or we're talking about Utah before we jumped on. And the challenge with Utah is that one it's a small state. So there's just less people to draw from, um, to a lot of women choose to stay home when they have children. Um, when Utah, Texas, you know, lots of Midwest States probably have that similar challenge. So you get, you know, 50% of the workforce that would be qualified, kind of pulls themselves out, um, how you kind of find that talent, certainly being remote friendly helps. So you're not stuck with, uh, only people around your footprint. Um, but go dig into that little bit.

Caro: (14:52)
Yeah. I mean, I guess the first question I have when you, especially when you talked about Utah specifically is like, why are those women choosing to opt out? Because I think a lot of women don't opt out because they want to opt out and opt out because they, even if, I mean, you could argue the word why, but like they opt out because they feel like for whatever reason, that's the best alternative for them because it's like, is it because they, they only option is they feel like it's a 45 hour work week or because their childcare is so expensive and you know, or like whatever those cases may be. And so how do you solve for that? And so I think, um, like the ability is a really big driver there and across men and women, we're seeing more and more. And with HR side that that's like flexibility and parental leave or some of the biggest desired benefits for both genders.

(15:36)
And so, I mean, I think, but overall I think the number one thing that I stress to teams all the time is that you can't expect, okay, I'm underrepresented groups, whether that's women or be ICRC or chronically ill or veterans or whoever that is like, you can't expect them to come to you. Um, you have to go to them. So you can't post the job on your careers website and expect them to apply. You just can't, you have to, um, go find them where they're at and convince them that you're worth working for. And that you're trustworthy. Cause a lot of these people are underrepresented in industry, like, and have probably had some toxic experiences. And so, um, you know, like as a hiring manager, I relied, I never posted, I like don't want to name names, but like I never posted on like the really big job boards that were going to, those were never the good sources of candidates.

(16:23)
Anyway, I was always posting on diversity boards like tech ladies. I've hired several ones, tech lady before I worked there. And um, but also there's diversity in tech and people of color in fact. And, um, there's a lot of really good job boards and we would even just like bit more niche job boards that are a little specific. Um, those are all good places to look. And then also just like specifically reaching out to candidates, um, whether that be on LinkedIn or get hub or Twitter, um, and encouraging them to apply, um, can go a really long way. And I've seen the difference between, you know, having a, uh, candidate pool with 10% women and 80% women. Um, but I do think your employer brand, um, and the fact that you're remote can go, can go such a long way, but that it really helps to start with, um, making sure that your job description is inclusive, um, which I'm happy to talk about. That's a separate note and, um, and then really getting it in front of the people that you're trying to attract, um, and, and tracking who's looking at it and who's applying and making sure that you're also not disqualifying them at a disproportionate rate that like, even if you manage to get, you know, a 50, 50 pool of men and women for your roles, that you're not, then that when you move on to the next stage, it's not 90% men. Um, because that, that should be a red flag. All of us.

Joe: (17:40)
Yeah, definitely any bring us a really good points. I think, uh, locally here in Utah, and I know in the tech community, I I've seen like the paternity and maternity we've, um, I, there's a couple of local kind of larger companies here in Utah, like Qualtrics and one named podium that, uh, has daycare as a part of their headquarters. Um, and yeah, so I think it is, it is partly like that brand, uh, making sure people know like, Hey, if you come on, you know, you, you have these options. Um, one other cool thing that, that Adobe was working on that I was a part of and never materialize while as there, uh, was something called the returnship. Uh, so it was women who chose to take out five years or whatever it might be to have the workforce. And Adobe was working with probably Microsoft and some other tech companies to have this like return program where they would bring women in, have an internship, like a three to six month engagement to give them kind of that skill set back that they may, you know, maybe didn't keep going. Uh, but I thought that was another kind of cool idea that, that,

Caro: (19:00)
Yeah, I would love to see returnships become a bigger and bigger part of the industry, especially at bigger companies that have the resources to support them. I think it's, there's so many good wins there, but I also think even smaller companies, something that, um, I've done a lot as a, as a manager is hire people at 80% or 90%, um, and just give them, um, shorter work days or, um, Fridays. I mean, I would say a four day work week is a lot more disruptive to the team, but we've had a lot of team members who've come on and because they're remote, they have been out of the workforce for years. Um, but because they're remote and more flexible, um, they've been able to like kind of reenter the workforce because that works for them and their schedule in their family for whatever reason. Um, and so I think anytime you can do that, especially if you can even just force yourself to not have like a knee jerk reaction of that, we can't do that. We need someone full time and it's like, but do you really like, can you get by with like five hours, less hours a week? Um, and like figure out a way to make that work because I mean, the return on a diversity, you know, like the studies have been done, they're more profitable. So like, how can you facilitate that? Um, so

Joe: (20:07)
Yeah, good to have that diverse thought, um, that diverse background, people thinking differently, really challenging each other to, you know, good environment. What, what part of that part to the question, um, say you're able to bring on, you know, a good background, different, different background of people. Um, that's also its own unique challenge when you're not hiring the, say you have a team of five and you're not hiring the same five people that all have the same professors at whatever school and are all kind of the same cultural background. How do you kind of support that? How do you provide a good culture that can, um, you know, take the benefits from that versus, uh, you know, some of the downsides there might be?

Caro: (20:55)
Yeah. I mean, I think first, um, it really is about building that strong, positive culture. And I think, you know, some of the things I mentioned before around finding ways for your team to learn together and celebrate together, whether that's like we're launching a new feature, let's all get on a zoom call and do a countdown clock for five minutes, which is something we've definitely done before. Or like, you know, those are, are things that build camaraderie. And, um, I have a friend who always uses the term, like it puts credits in there in your account. Um, and so I think, um, as much as I don't always want to think of, you know, work relationships is all transactional. Like it's true. You know, when you get to know someone you're willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. And so I think that can really provide a good foundation.

(21:34)
Um, and I also think it's important to provide lots of avenues for feedback because different people be comfortable sharing things in different ways. You know, I've had team members who feel so comfortable telling me like anything and everything, and then I've had some that I feel like I still have a good relationship with who are still a little bit more, um, try around being critical or saying something they didn't feel comfortable. And so having an anonymous way for them to give that feedback. And I think also, especially if you're bringing in your personal man or your first black engineer or whatever the case may be, I think it's important to also, um, to recognize that and to name it, that they're the only one in the room and say that, like, you want them to tell you how things are going to give the real answer and also should try to provide them with alternative support, whether that is, you know, a, um, a coach that looks like them, or has their experience, if there's no one at your company that can provide them with that.

(22:23)
Um, and, or, um, thinking them up with someone from the other team, um, and just like giving them that, so that they have that resource to, to, um, say, you know, like, Hey, I'm having a problem with you have that problem. Um, having those buddies, um, can really go a long way. And I also think it's like from an institutional level, thinking about everything you do with the company sends a message to your employees. And something I talk a lot about with teams is thinking about the benefits you offer. Um, and this comes actually back to job descriptions. Cause I always recommend that teams put their, like information about their team and their culture and their benefits on the job posting, um, cause the job posted the job ad, you know, it should be an advertisement of why someone wants to work there. Um, and if you are listing like free lunches and you don't mention your parental leave or you offer different amounts for men and women, like that's telling me what you value. Um, and sometimes, um, I think companies, especially ones who are a little more just, and just haven't realized how something comes across with a certain group of people, um, can, can make a lot of mistakes. So having, um, so really looking at all of those critically and asking for feedback from people who don't look like you can really go a long way.

Joe: (23:34)
This is awesome. Yeah. Kara, there's some really great tips. I appreciate you kind of digging into that and providing some knowledge there. Um, I always, I ask kind of the crystal ball question at the end, we touched on modern workplace a little bit. Um, what do you see the future of the modern workplace looking like, um, you know, what is it five years from now when we are out of a pandemic hopefully, and we're all kind of back to normal with, you know, quotes, what does that look like? Do the Googles of the world still support remote work? Do we get more of the like Shopify guys and it lasts scenes that have said, Hey, we're remote forever now, or Twitter as well, jumped on that. Um, the kind of like, you know, back to business per usual, that we were before,

Caro: (24:27)
Um, I think it depends on the size of the company. I think some of these is expected that they have to feel out of these big companies go fully remote. I think a lot of them will, will, will go back to the office, maybe not a hundred percent, but I think, um, particularly bigger companies like that who are, um, trying to be really disruptive, um, and, you know, take big things. I think we'll have always had some in offices, especially for their more executive leadership, um, and like the more senior team members. But I think that, um, and I hope that the modern workplace, um, is more flexible even when, when companies do go back to the office. And I like to think that we're also having a push towards more sustainable businesses. Um, and I think those companies that are focused on that, um, kind of runway and who are focused on, um, you know, the more mission driven, um, stuff I think will, will really embrace them at work. And I think we'll see more of these like get labs, buffers, you know, base camp kind of stuff. Um, more skill crutches. I hope we're tech ladies. Um, and that, uh, and that that's just gonna help bring people who've been excluded from tech into tech at a higher rate, whether that is, you know, women are BI POC or, um, people who have different needs and

Joe: (25:42)
Awesome. Yeah. I think we're on a similar, similar train of thought, which is great. Yeah. I think, I think we're moving toward that direction, which is kind of fun to see it evolve.

Caro: (25:53)
Yeah, absolutely.

Joe: (25:55)
Caro, uh, you're, you're great. I appreciate the conversation and taking some time out time out of your day. Um, good luck with everything we'll be in touch and everyone definitely check out tech ladies. Um, great place to find that diverse talent like Carol mentioned, and lots of other resources there as well. Um, and yeah, thanks again for your time. Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learned something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool used to create instantly shareable videos and GiFs. Perfect for both internal and external communication get started for free at www dot [inaudible] dot com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.