On unsolicited criticism

Posted in work on July 22nd, 2014

I had a new experience a few weeks ago when I was speaking at Velocity. I gave a keynote to 2,000 people; throughout the following day, a half-dozen strangers came up to me to supply unsolicited criticism of my presentation tone.

They each approached me individually. They were all male. Some waited til I was alone to approach me, others did it while I was surrounded by people. I don’t think they knew each other, and I don’t think they were fellow speakers. I repeatedly heard the following:

  • “You sounded like a school teacher.”
  • “It felt snoozy.”
  • “You rehearsed too much.”

I’m a person who really appreciates feedback. I read the comments and reviews submitted through the Velocity site religiously. I gave the presentation 8 times at work before I gave it at Velocity, and more than a dozen people gave me incredibly helpful feedback on it beforehand.

But by the end of the day after my keynote, I was crushed. I had received a ton of praise and positive feedback, too, but I couldn’t hear it. My brain could only retain were these random, surprising, caught-off-guard moments that required me to nod and smile and try to make sense of what these people were saying. After dinner, I nearly broke down; I went to my manager, Seth, and told him what was going on. [1]

Seth turned to a nearby presenter (and fellow coworker) and asked, “Hey Jonathan, did you receive any constructive criticism or feedback after your talk?”

Jonathan said, “What? No. I mean, people said it was good. But not really feedback.” We continued our poll. The male presenters we asked received no unsolicited feedback (other than “that was great!”). Some women I spoke with, however, had received feedback on their tone as well.

I asked Seth, “Wait, are you saying this is gendered?” He nodded, “Yeah, I think it could be.” I was blown away. I was still crushed, but at least I could begin to try and process what had been happening. As someone who loves receiving feedback, I’ve had a hard time figuring out why I was so deeply affected by these strangers. I’ve narrowed it down to a few possibilities:

  • It’s hard to turn those comments into something constructive that I can learn from (or even really understand).
  • There’s something about the power they may have felt the need to demonstrate. They chose to come and say something to my face rather than simply add comments and a review through Velocity’s site (which is what the conference organizers were emphasizing regularly). [2]

Those around me have some additional guesses as to why they decided to approach me and say something. I’ve heard, “Maybe they thought you were cute and wanted to impress you.” I’ve heard, “Maybe they were insecure.” But I think the real nugget is that I wasn’t like a lot of the other presenters: I wore a dress, heels, and a big necklace. I was incredibly articulate and poised. I wasn’t a stand-up act or rough around the edges. I think that this set off a red flag to these men: “There is something different here. Different is bad.” Is it possible that the only frame of reference they have for a strong woman in front of an audience, speaking articulately, is their school teachers? [3]

I’ve rewatched that video quite a bit since I gave the presentation. I continue to need to reassure myself that I’m actually really proud of my delivery. I think I represented myself well onstage that day [4], and I think I represented Etsy well, too. In the few days following the presentation I told a handful of very close friends that I didn’t want to give a talk again – I was that shattered by what’d happened. I’m in a much better place now, thanks to being surrounded by people who give real, helpful, honest feedback. There are things I’m continuing to improve on as a public speaker, but none of them relate to my tone.

I wrote this post for two reasons: I want people who have experienced this to understand that they are not alone. And I’m writing this to remind folks to check yourself when you have an instinct to give someone advice or feedback. Ask yourself some questions. When’s the right time? Is it constructive? What’s moving you to give feedback to them right now? And is it possible that your brain was itched by them not in a bad way, but in a potentially eye-opening way for you? It may reveal some unconscious biases in yourself that would be worthwhile for you to explore.

[1] An even weirder part of this story is that one of the men who approached me also approached Seth and gave him feedback on my presentation tone.

[2] I’ve spoken with other women who’ve had a similar experience and we’ve commiserated about how much it rattles you. But I’ve also learned how to handle it in the future: “Thanks so much for wanting to give me feedback! Please put in your comments and review online through the site; I read every single one of those, and I’m MUCH more likely to remember it that way” with a big old smile. It’ll undercut whatever is driving them to come say it to your face.

[3] And I’m still confused: how is coming across like a teacher a piece of criticism?

[4] I’ve also read through the reviews (I have a 4.37/5 star rating!) and was asked to speak at additional conferences by two fellow highly-rated keynote speakers at Velocity. And reading through the feedback on Twitter (which was universally positive), I realized something big: female audience members reacted incredibly positively to my talk. Maybe my tone and presence didn’t shock them as much as it did the others.

My presentation workflow and challenges

Posted in tips on April 4th, 2014

I was asked to write about my presentation-creation process the other day on Twitter. I thought this was really interesting – I would love to know how other people approach developing, editing and improving on their presentations and public speaking skills! So here’s my whole process, including what I’m really working hard to improve upon.

Since this is such a long post, some anchor links:

First, some context: I’ve been professionally public speaking for a few years. My mother is a United Methodist minister, so I grew up watching her effectively give a talk every week. I grew up comfortable giving presentations, having watched her. To this day I can feel myself channel her when I begin a talk (I’m pretty sure our “Good morning!” intros are exactly the same). My father is a middle school math teacher, who is naturally also very comfortable getting up in front of an audience and talking. Thanks to what they modeled, I never really had a fear of standing up in front of audiences. I gave a few presentations (like running for class president) in middle school through college, but never took it seriously as a skill set to develop until I realized it was a way for me to level up my career in tech.

Creating the content

My good friend Ed Davis taught me how to write a presentation that tells a story. The first time I wrote what I thought was a solid deck, he very sweetly explained to me that it was missing a narrative. It wouldn’t have as big of an impact on my audience as I was hoping. Ed recommended I follow this pattern:

Landscape > Analysis > Problem > Options > Solution > Reason/Why it works > Bigger Idea

Landscape: here’s what exists
Analysis: here’s what I see
Problem: at the core is this issue
Options: here’s what we could do
Solution: here’s the best option and how it works
Reasons: why you should believe
Bigger idea: why this concept matters to you even if it is irrelevant to your particular work

At first I thought this was ridiculous. It was a slide deck on techniques to improve page load time. Don’t people already know why it’s important? After all, they were showing up to see the talk. Why should I add all this stuff about the landscape and a bigger idea? Don’t people just want to see how it works?

Thankfully I got over myself, and decided to give his suggestion a shot. And holy cow, the presentation was so much better. It forced me to ask myself: what is the bigger idea? Why is this stuff really important for people to talk about and learn about? Why am I even up there talking to begin with? Nailing down the bigger idea – something I wanted people to leave with, thinking about after they went home – was crucial to taking my presentation to the next level. Also, I absolutely love Lea Verou’s tips on talk content, and I’ll make sure that my content doesn’t just aim for beginners and involves the audience in some way.

When I’ve got the timing just about right, I do a ton of run-throughs for coworkers. I’m so lucky to have patient coworkers who are willing to give me their time and feedback. Mike Brittain is easily the best feedback-giver I’ve ever met; he always can see right through to the core of my attempt at a message. He’s given me some of the most creative suggestions to make sure an audience really understands what I’m trying to say. I aim to get both technical and storytelling feedback from folks as I practice.

I do all of this work incredibly early. I’m not a procrastinator by nature, and that really ensures that I have plenty of time to do plenty of run-throughs. I’ll probably do the presentation six or seven times at work before it’s done over the course of two or three weeks.

When I’m feeling like the presentation is pretty much there, I’ll start creating a ton more content to support the talk when I give it. I:

  • build tweets into my Keynote presenter notes to be auto-tweeted during the presentation
  • upload the slides to SpeakerDeck (example)
  • build a custom URL on laraswanson.com for the presentation to live alongside a list of resources (example)
  • make sure that all links to resources both on laraswanson.com and within the slides are custom bit.ly links that I’ve made, so I can track clicks later

I find that all of this hard work really pays off, as it’s both easy for the slides to live on after the presentation, and easy for me to measure the impact of the talk. My goal is to create a helpful resource. I’ve known some presenters who are conservative with putting their slides online, or make their slides very general and leave out the good bits, for fear that this will make folks not need to see them actually give the presentation in the future. Or something. To me, giving a presentation is all about sharing knowledge, and I want to make sure that I make this information as accessible as possible to the largest audience.

Gathering data

My favorite part about giving talks is really the data-gathering that goes into it. I like to measure:

  • clicks on the custom bit.ly links that I’ve built into the slides and tweets
  • which tweets have been retweeted and favorited, and how many times (example list of tweets that get auto-tweeted while I’m presenting)
  • visits to the laraswanson.com URL of the slides and the SpeakerDeck version of the slides

This all gives me data about what resonated the most with the audience. Maybe some tweets spread like wildfire; maybe others weren’t even favorited once. Looking at this data helps me know what to change about my presentation next time, and what content to explore and emphasize more. The most recent time I gave my Designing for Performance talk, I added a new section about changing culture at an organization. My tweet and link from this new content spread 60x more than any other from my talk. Needless to say, now I have a new chapter to add in that book I’m writing on the topic.

On donuts

After the presentation’s done, I’ve checked the data, answered questions, and thanked people, I’ll go find a donut. I’m not really kidding. Eating a donut is an integral part of my career celebration process. Years ago, I found that whenever something awesome happened in my career – maybe I got published, or promoted, or launched a project – I wouldn’t take the time to celebrate the achievement. I’m an achiever by nature, the kind who feels like every day starts at zero. Not deliberately marking these moments left me feeling like I wasn’t actually accomplishing anything. “Oh cool, that A List Apart article went up,” I would think, then move on with my day. Once I realized that this was happening, I decided to be deliberate about marking achievements by eating one donut. Well, sometimes more than one, if it’s a really big deal. The act of donut-eating has actually helped me feel like I’m accomplishing my career goals, and I’ve started documenting them here.

My personal challenges

Outside of finding the perfect donut, there are a few things that I personally find challenging when it comes to public speaking:

1. Not just reading from the presenter notes, or walking around.

My comfort zone is reading aloud from my notes, standing at my laptop. I once tried to give a talk during college in which I attempted to “wing it”, going off-script and riffing and walking around. It was a total and complete failure, and for a number of years after I stuck to a script. But in the last few years, I’ve learned to remove those notes, as they’re just a crutch. I practice enough before I give a presentation and affirm I really do know my material, and I do leave some bullet point notes to cover. But mostly, I’ve recognized that eye contact with the audience is really important to my delivery, so I’ve worked really hard to break out of my comfort zone.

2. Not having enough content to fill the time.

I think this is the opposite problem to what many public speakers have? I’ve heard many people say that most of their work on their presentations is cutting down content to fit in the allotted time. I have never in my life had this problem. Usually the first time I rehearse a talk that I think is ready for editing, it’s ten or twelve minutes long – not nearly enough to fill a 30- or 45-minute time slot. The feedback I usually get from people during rehearsals is about what kind of content I should be adding to fill in the gaps. This is usually the most stressful part of the process for me, as I worry about not having enough to say to fill the time, and reassuring myself that there will always be plenty of Q&A to fill any gaps if I finish too early.

3. Blushing.

Since childhood, I’ve been a blusher. I don’t necessarily blush when I get embarrassed, though. It happens for the most random of reasons: if I’m caught off guard by someone asking me a question, I blush. If a teacher called on me in school when I raised my hand, I’d blush, even though my hand was raised and I was totally prepared to answer. Really even just thinking about blushing makes me blush. It’s just one of those really stupid, random physiological things that I’ve dealt with forever.

Knowing I was a blusher used to make me nervous about public speaking because I didn’t want the audience to interpret it as me being uncomfortable up on stage – I’m actually quite comfortable in that element, and I didn’t want people to misunderstand, so I avoided doing a lot of public speaking during high school and early college. But then I realized, hey, it doesn’t really matter what people think. If I’m delivering good content, people will pay attention to it. So what if I blush during the first three minutes of a presentation? My delivery can still be just as strong, and by the time Q&A rolls around, I actually think that people see how excited I am to answer questions (my grin comes out full-force).

4. Jersey fast-talking.

I’m from New Jersey, and yes, I’m really proud of that. But one thing that Jersey gave me is my very fast pace of speaking. It’s something I’ve needed to be incredibly cognizant of while public speaking. It’s nice working in NY where folks are generally used to this quick speech pattern (and who don’t hesitate when I say “chawcolate cream-filled” when I get really excited while ordering a donut), but when it comes to public speaking, I am constantly reminding myself to slow down.

Proposing talks

I want to mention that I honestly haven’t done that much talk proposing, having been fortunate enough to be invited to do a lot of public speaking. This is thanks in part to the brand recognition of the companies I’ve worked for. It’s also due to the networking I’ve done at conferences. I spend a lot of time in the “hallway track” when I attend a conference, meeting people I’ve always wanted to meet, talking about what we’re working on, and brainstorming ideas that could end up as interesting talk topics. This kind of networking is what got me my current job and my book deal, and it’s also where a number of conference organizers have encouraged me to propose talks to their conference. I worked with these folks to propose talks that get accepted, whether it was mentioning those people’s names in the proposal form, asking for their feedback on the topic early, or even workshopping the proposal idea with them directly.

To me, those relationships are really everything, and this kind of networking has gotten my career to where it is. It sounds kind of false and empty to state it that way, but these are really valuable connections I’ve made with people – not just surface name-dropping. I don’t network just to network; I talk to people to really understand the kind of problems they’re solving, and to see how I can help them with my own research or knowledge or projects, and in doing so I think that they value my work, too.

The people on the Web are so interesting and smart and really want to help each other; it’s a big part of why I love this industry, and a big reason why I love the hallway track at conferences. How do I know Amanda Harlin, the woman who asked me to write this post? I saw Amanda at Fluent last month after meeting her at 200OK last year; I ran up to her and her husband while we waited for the keynotes to start to say hi, and they kindly came to my talk later in the week. These are meaningful, lasting relationships – the kind where we can all rely on each other to help one another in our work and careers.

Live tweeting from Keynote

Posted in tips on March 14th, 2014

A version of this post originally appeared here. It’s now updated with more recent resources!

I recently gave a presentation at FluentConf about Designing for Performance. I set up my presentation using Keynote ahead of time to automatically tweet relevant links and quotes from my Twitter account as I went from slide to slide. This was awesome for a few reasons:

  • By seeing what was retweeted after the presentation (and by tracking clicks on the bit.ly links I’d created just for these tweets), I was able to get a good sense of what pieces of information resonated the most with folks.
  • It opened up a channel of communication with my audience that hadn’t been there before. People knew exactly how to reach out to me with questions during and after my presentation. They didn’t have to wonder if they should email me, hunt down my website, etc.
  • It looked super fancy.

Most of my instructions below come from this video with a few modifications that will allow you to test tweet from your presentation, then learn how to switch to your real Twitter account.

1. Set up twurl

  1. In Terminal, type sudo gem i twurl --source http://rubygems.org
  2. Enter your system admin password (your OSX password)

Now you’ve got twurl, which will allow your Mac to tweet. It’s important to use twurl because of the recent changes that Twitter made to their API authentication requirements. Twurl can grant an access token for your Twitter application (next step) and authenticate your tweets.

2. Register a Twitter application

  1. Using your main Twitter account, visit http://dev.twitter.com/apps/new to register a new application so you can tweet.
  2. Name your application with a unique name, and you can use the same for the description field.
  3. For the website, make sure you include “http://” in what you enter.
  4. Agree to the terms, complete the captcha and create your application.
  5. Click “Settings” on the tabs under your application name.
  6. Change “Application Type” to “Read and Write”.
  7. Click “Update this Twitter application’s settings”.

Congrats! You have your own Twitter application that will allow you to tweet from your Mac. Next, we need to set up your Mac to play nicely with it. Keep that application window open in the background.

3. Create your test Twitter account

Because you will want to play around with Keynote and tweeting before you take it to your real live Twitter account, you should create a testing playground. Create a new account and log in (I used a different browser so I could go back and forth between my real one and my test one). I recommend making the account private so you don’t accidentally alert anyone you @ or who follows your hashtag.

4. Connect your application with your test Twitter account

  1. Find your application’s API key and secret key back in your original browser. Edit the following and replace the_api_key and the_secret with that information:twurl authorize --consumer-key the_api_key --consumer-secret the_secret
  2. Copy that line (starting with “twurl…”) and your keys into Terminal, and press return.
  3. Terminal will give you a long web address starting with “https://api…” Copy this entire URL and paste it into your browser where your test Twitter account is logged in.
  4. The browser will give you a pin code, as you’ve just connected your application with your test account. Copy the pin and paste it into Terminal. Hit return.

You now have your Mac working with your test Twitter account. Congratulations!

5. Install Keynote Tweet

  1. Download Keynote Tweet 2.5
  2. Unzip the file and copy Keynote Tweet 2.5 to your applications directory.
  3. Run it and enter any hashtag you wish to use.

6. Test tweeting

  1. In Keynote, put any text you’d like to tweet in between [twitter] and [/twitter] tags within the presenter notes area. When you play that slide in your presentation, it will tweet from your test account.
  2. If you run through the slides too fast, it won’t tweet. Give it a few seconds per slide to tweet before going to the next.
  3. Add all of the text you want, and run through the entire presentation. Make sure that all the tweets go through. If they don’t, check your character length. I found that I needed to count my username’s character length in the total tweet.

7. Switch to your real Twitter account

  1. When you’re ready to switch to your real Twitter account, you’ll need to connect your application to your real Twitter username. Run through the steps in “Connect your application with your test Twitter account” above, but when you copy the “https://api…” link into your browser, make sure it’s the browser where you’re logged in to your real Twitter account.
  2. Next, you’ll need to change the default profile that you tweet with from within twurl. The first time you authorize an application, twurl stores your access token for this Twitter account as the default. To see what user names have been authorized for your application, type twurl accounts in Terminal.
  3. You’ll see your test and real Twitter usernames and the application key for each. Notice that your test username is marked as the default. To change the default type twurl set default YOURREALTWITTERACCOUNT in Terminal, substituting your real Twitter username there.

I highly recommend testing the entire presentation a few times to make sure that your tweets make sense and have a short enough character count (especially if you’re adding a hashtag automatically).

Happy tweeting!

We’re all equally drenched

Posted in work on September 17th, 2013

I was recently reminded of a big reason why I love working at Etsy.

It was when I signed in to Facebook as part of my waking-up routine and found some comments on a photo I’d posted the night before. The photo and caption:

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Engineering managers at Etsy braved the torrential downpour for happy hour. Hard to tell from the photo, but we are SOAKED.

I love this photo. I love the adventure that my fellow engineering managers (many of whom aren’t represented in the photo) and I went on the other night, running through the streets of DUMBO in a torrential downpour to our monthly happy hour. We were soaking wet but chose to hang out late in the evening with each other anyway.

Before I went to bed that night, I received and deleted one comment on the photo, from my former CPA. He wrote, “You are the only woman? No wonder you love your job…getting to hang around with guys all the time :)”

I deleted this comment because, well, it’s unnecessary and weird. Yes, I’m currently the only engineering manager at Etsy who is female. But that’s certainly not why I love my job. I don’t typically remove Facebook comments, but this one just seemed really out of place and, well, weird. Off it went.

So when I signed on the next morning, I was blown away by the conversation that happened overnight between my fellow engineering managers and some of our friends.

Commenter 1, a friend of a coworker: “Only 1 lady?”

Reply from my Etsy coworker, an engineering manager: “[Commenter 1 name]: Etsy is doing wonders to close the gender gap at the workplace, probably more than any other tech company, but for now only one of our eng managers is a woman. We want to fix that, want to apply?”

Commenter 1: “I know. I applaud etsy for their efforts with getting women engineers started and in the door. I’m happy you are thinking about it at the management level too. And yay to Lara for being a trail blazer.”

Reply from another Etsy engineering manager: “Etsy is definitely leading the industry on terms of equality in the workplace. We’re all equally drenched!”

Commenter 2, who I used to work with: “Here’s my pitch – Bringing women into STEM starts in middle school. The ladies turn on to Math and Science and need encouragement and acceptance then. Support STEM early in education! www.asdnh.org”

It’s really hard to articulate why this conversation was so powerful to me. Why was I so surprised by this string of comments on my own Facebook wall? After all, I talk about the issues surrounding women in tech pretty frequently elsewhere. And why was I so struck by what my coworkers had written?

1. I didn’t have to respond.1 Usually when the issue of women in tech comes up, people look at me, whether it’s because I’m the one with the two X chromosomes or I’m the one who is more vocal about this issue or whatever. I tend to be the defacto carer about the issue, and when everybody suddenly looks at you to speak about that thing that you care a lot about, you do it. But get this: these two coworkers totally stepped in and stepped up. They very swiftly responded to the question, and…

2. …this was an amazingly positive response to a very hard question. “We’re all equally drenched” is phenomenal. “Want to apply?” is tremendous. These guys nailed it. It didn’t get heated, it didn’t get defensive, no one had to come and put out fires; it was simply accurate and positive.

3. I didn’t expect it to happen because I don’t feel like a token at Etsy. In my career I’ve been told by other companies that they wanted to hire me because I’m a female developer, that I was promoted “70% because of my skills and 30% because I’m a woman”, that I was invited to present because they had a quota to fill. As I’ve written about before, I don’t feel like I was hired at Etsy because of anything except my skill set and ability to do this job. And as I wrote there, do you have any idea how refreshing it is, as a female technical manager, to not wonder if I was given an offer of employment because of my gender?

I know that Etsy is working hard on this issue. In this moment I was reminded that it’s not just “Etsy” as a generic organism, but also individuals around me day in and day out, for whom the topic of gender imbalance in our industry is close to their heart but not necessary to speak with me about every day. Because it’s an issue, but it’s not a token issue. I haven’t forgotten that I’m the only female engineering manager at Etsy, but I am certainly not reminded of it daily, because of the way I feel here.

It is not a bad thing that people noticed that I was the only woman in that picture. But my favorite part about this whole event was summed up by my engineering manager coworker Justin Kerr Sheckler, whom I’d emailed to thank for his words on Facebook. He replied to me:

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a clear example of how much scrutiny women in our industry are subject to. Your gender was literally the only thing anyone could think of when they saw that photo! I’m glad you found our comments helpful, and I’m glad I work with you, because you’re very bright and talented!”

This. Yes, I do love to talk about the issue and how important it is that we solve it. But Justin perfectly summed up for me why I was so struck by it happening in this way. It’s not just battling weird comments like the one I deleted; it’s dealing with the other really messy parts of this issue that are harder to talk about or wrap our heads around. I feel incredibly fortunate to work at a place like Etsy, where I’m surrounded by people who see me for what I bring to the job, and who are actively by my side.

1 Okay one more Etsy anecdote about not having to be the one who responds: I have to shout out the Etsy coworkers who spotted a creeper at a conference months ago who was sitting and staring at me for too long. He’d positioned himself at a table just far enough away where he could overhear our conversation but not be a part of it, and he wouldn’t stop trying to make eye contact with me. But I wasn’t the only one to notice; some male Etsy coworkers picked up on it without me even mentioning it. I never bring up that stuff to coworkers after getting laughed at for it at a previous company. But my Etsy coworkers were totally aware of both the dude and my discomfort without any heads up from me, and they ensured I made it back to my hotel room un-harassed.

There’s nothing “pink” about interviews at Etsy

Posted in work on February 14th, 2013

There’s been a bunch of really great, thoughtful responses to this Forbes.com article by Meghan Casserly on hiring practices at Etsy. The crux of what’s wrong with that article, to me, was summed up nicely by my coworker Rafe Colburn:

“There’s a lot that’s wrong with this blog post, starting with the assertion that Etsy has exempted women from anything. For example, ‘brutal challenge-based interviews’ were never a standard part of the interviewing process at Etsy” – from Interviewing is just a model of employment

The article assumes that the change CTO Kellan Elliot-McCrea was discussing in his original presentation was to give female applicants a different kind of interview (as Casserly called it, “pinkifying” the interview process). I feel qualified to comment on how wrong this idea is because:

  • I interviewed at Etsy for a technical management role.
  • I accepted an offer to work at Etsy.
  • I have been through many interview processes over the course of my career.

I’ve seen how other companies do it, and Etsy’s interviews are very different, but no less technical or rigorous. I’ve been to “prove to me quickly how smart you are” interviews. I’ve been to unorganized, sad interviews where companies appear desperate to fill the role. At more than one company, I was given a technical interview with a language I had zero knowledge of, because they had never hired for a front-end developer position before. I’ve interviewed with companies who hinted that I would be the token female engineer. I’ve walked out of interviews upon realizing what a bad fit a company would be for me.

There was nothing “pink” about the application or interview process at Etsy. The day that I had my in-person interviews, we started at 10am and I left at 6pm. I met with numerous employees with different roles and each had a totally different approach to interviewing me. That evening, I noted how challenging the day felt – it was easily the most exhausting interview day I’ve ever had. Never once did I feel that the process was different for me because I’m female, nor did I feel like any person who interviewed me wanted to hire me because I’m female. I have no idea how Casserly came to believe that female applicants get interviewed differently than male applicants at Etsy. They don’t.

Importantly, I felt that Etsy employees asked me questions that would truly help them figure out whether I was right for the role and right for Etsy. They’d “found my edges” technically – they already knew from phone interviews and a technical screen what I was good at, and that final day of interviews was to find where my technical strengths end. Rigorous, exhausting, but really the best way I’ve ever seen interviewing done. Do you have any idea how refreshing it is, as a female technical manager, to not wonder if I was given an offer of employment because of my gender?

Remember, a company’s interview process is an opportunity for the interviewee to see what the employer’s like too. I have turned down offers because of what I experienced during the interview process. It’s one of the big pieces of the company’s first impression (the other big one being the first day at work – don’t get me started on how much companies can mess this up). I was sure at the end of the day that whether they hired me or not, they would have all of the information they needed. I didn’t think “Oh I wish they had asked me about this” or wonder what I could have done differently; they did such a good job with the questions, the variety of people, and the organization of the interview schedule that I was sure they would be making a truly informed decision, and the right one for the role itself and for Etsy as a culture.

I’m proud to work here as an engineering manager. I’m proud of what Etsy is doing as a B-corp and what they’re doing with Hacker School. I’m very proud to be a part of Etsy during this really exciting time.