Stumbling blocks or Stepping Stones

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Stumbling blocks or stepping stones. It’s all in how you work with what you’ve got.

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Transitioning from my previous life in academia and the non-profit sector to the SaaS industry could certainly have involved plenty of chances to stumble… I was the first hire after all; no onboarding, no employee manual, I just dove right in. I didn’t want to disappoint the CEO and wanted so badly to be useful, but I did not have a background in PHP, Laravel, or even MySQL, how was I going to be an asset (pun intended) to the growing business? 

Up until my joining Grokability in 2016, I’d been working for a psychology-related non-profit for 8 years and teaching at a few of San Diego’s universities and colleges for 12 years. I learned A LOT through my own education, then later through teaching others, but I was left to wonder how I would translate the skills I’ve developed in my previous work life to best benefit Grokability.

My first perceived stumbling block was learning how to “business.” I had never “businessed” before, especially in a field outside of my area of expertise. Turns out, the operational aspects of the non-profit sector vs the for profit business world are truly not that different. There are certainly different goals and different tax forms to file, but at the end of the day, someone has to keep track of bills and our employees, and that someone is me.

There was, however, still my perceived “technical deficiency.” I mean, I wasn’t a total noob. I had some “tech” related experience, mostly just front-end web design stuff, which I had been doing since the days of Netscape Navigator – laughable now considering all the technical know-how I’ve picked up in my 5 years with Grokability. Scratch that. Perhaps know-how is not entirely accurate, more like know-of. I still don’t touch our servers (and rightfully so), but now when I watch a tech savvy series like Silicon Valley I actually know what they’re talking about, so that’s something : ) And fortunately, our wonderful team of engineers have built Slack-ready command tools for me to perform otherwise too complex server-related functions without the possibility of blowing up a server. Which is good. Yea stepping stones!

Another potential stumbling-block-turned-stepping-stone was learning how to translate my people skills to a different audience. As a teacher, I peopled. A lot. Every class was like a one man [woman/person/nerd] show. It was about keeping my audience of 13th graders (ahem, young adults) interested and engaged. But I’m working in asset management now, no expectations to make tracking assets interesting and engaging. 

But then I realized I had a lot of experience helping my students understand sometimes difficult concepts, not too unlike trying to guide customers through a featured project like Snipe-IT. Sure, I could have stumbled, and perhaps there were a few minor stumbles, but in the end having to refine my peopling skills to accommodate a new audience became an important stepping stone for me. To this day, I am still learning how to best support our customers to improve their user experience.

The peopling aspect also applies to my co-workers here at Grokability. In my non-profit life, I worked exclusively with psychologists and psychiatrists. If your only experience with this particular brand of people is laying across from them on a couch, you likely do not know that they’re not necessarily as easy to work with as one might imagine. There’s some obligatory ego-massaging required to get things done, so working with engineers and various technologists – piece of cake.

That’s not to say that my transition into the world of tech was seamless. One of the biggest potential stumbling blocks I faced was imposter syndrome. At some point I realized that just because I might not be a technologist myself, it doesn’t mean that our customers know more about our software than I do, even if a fairly large percentage of them are IT managers, Software Developers, and Network Administrators. Five years in, I am happy to say, I’ve worked with what I’ve got, and… 

I got this.

Thanks for reading about my stepping stones from educator to Operations and Support Ninja to COO here at Grokability!

About the author

Victoria Pak
By Victoria Pak

Snipe-IT at Laracon

Open Source in Business Interview