3 Women Share the Career Paths That Led Them to Where They Are Today
For most of March, the world’s focus has been on the coronavirus pandemic, which is exactly where it should be. But that means we haven’t had much time to talk about, read about, or learn about much else. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I wanted to take the chance to highlight some incredible women and their personal histories, or rather their career paths.
I recently sat down with three Klaviyos (over Zoom, of course), Ashley Betttencourt, Alexandria Nunez-Bibby, and Julie Lungaro, to find out more about where they started their careers, what they’re working on now, and how they hope to grow in the years ahead.
Alex McPeak [AM]: What was your career path before coming to Klaviyo?
Alexandria Nunez-Bibby [ANB]: Before Klaviyo, I worked in the higher ed and nonprofit space. In both of those sectors, I worked very closely with volunteer management—so managing donor volunteers and alumni—and I also worked on events for both of those.
Julie Lungaro [JL]: I grew up in Arkansas and went to school for art and graphic design at the University of Arkansas. After working my first job right out of school, I wanted a change of pace and scenery, so I moved to Boston. This was right after the 2008 recession, so jobs in my field were limited, which caused me to work in various roles and industries.
After a couple of years, I realized I needed to get back on track with my career so I took a continuing education course to get back into design. I was a marketing graphic designer for a corporate real estate company and then I made a career switch into user experience and user interface design (UI/UX) working for a mobile app agency based in Cambridge and then worked for a smaller startup as a product designer after that.
Ashley Bettencourt [AB]: I was actually living in Scottsdale, Arizona and working at Yelp in revenue operations. I got into revenue ops because I started at Yelp in sales, and I wasn’t great at sales, but there was still some opportunity for me at the company. So I joined that team and then I started working with their mid-market national and agency team.
[AM]: What attracted you to Klaviyo?
[AB]: In about August of last year, I wanted to come back home so I started to look for jobs in the Boston area. Once I found out about Klaviyo, I was able to learn a lot about the culture. Having worked in a tech industry before, I knew I wanted to stay in the same path of a fast-moving, forward-thinking rocketship of a company.
It’s funny, I never heard of Klaviyo until I started looking for jobs, and now I want to tell everybody about Klaviyo. I’m always wearing my Klaviyo swag—I don’t know how I didn’t know about this company before.
[ANB]: I was attracted to Klaviyo because of the mindset of always be learning. I love that there is such a focus on being better, being faster, being stronger and that there’s a real potential to leave a legacy here. Building a foundation of what Klaviyo’s brand will be is such an honor. I knew that I wanted to be somewhere that I could actually have an input and be valued like that.
[JL]: I felt that there was so much to learn about the ecommerce and marketing space and there would be people around me that were way smarter than me that I could learn from.
I was looking for career growth and to be challenged. I was looking for a company that had a long trajectory and roadmap. Seeing how Klaviyo was growing internally and how the number of customers was growing as well was really inspirational. I was excited about the opportunity to be a part of the first product design team at Klaviyo and help grow that team.
[AM]]: What’s your title and what does your role entail?
[ANB]: I’m a campus recruiter and an interim onboarding specialist. That entails recruiting and attracting the best and brightest from different college campuses throughout the country and fully onboarding new hires. It’s really about making sure that our new Klaviyos feel welcomed and that they’re prepared to jump in feet-first and learn about our product.
[JL]: I am a product design manager, so I’m mainly responsible for the success and career progression of other designers on the team. I’m here to support them whenever and wherever they need support. I’m teaching and coaching other designers. I try to lead by example, but I coach others to lead by example as well because being a leader doesn’t mean you have to have the title of manager. You can be a leader in any role that you are in.
[AB]: I’m a channel operations specialist which includes two roles. I work on a team that’s called sales operations, but I’m primarily supporting our agency team. So for the channel group that is working with agencies in the program, it’s working with channel account managers (CAMs), working with the director, and then working with some of the agency onboarding specialists and business development reps.
[AM]: What does your day usually consist of?
[ANB]: It’s always changing, which is one of the things that excites me the most—there’s never a dull moment. I have the ability to put on my campus recruiting hat and think about what career fairs we’ll be going to and how we’ll partner with different clubs, but then I can also wear a different hat and think about how we can continue to enhance the experience of new Klaviyos when they arrive.
[AB]: There are some daily tasks that I do regularly, like answering Slacks from the channel team for when they need updates or reports in Salesforce or if they’re looking to get some data on a client. I also manage the partner portal, which is where our agencies log in to see how they’re performing or referring leads. At a higher level, I work with the director of agency partners, Scott Segel, and the Vice President of Global Strategic Partnerships, Rich Gardner to provide insights and reporting on weekly performance and goal setting. A big part of my job last year was 2020 planning to provide insights and ideas on what the targets would be and what goals we would need to hit them.
[JL]: A lot of what I do has a goal of being a steward of design and helping educate others within our organization as well as the community more broadly to know about design and design thinking, which is a human-first approach. This means encouraging our company or other organizations or individuals to focus on the people that they’re creating for, which leads to better products and services. I’m often communicating these ideas with teams across the company including product managers, engineering, customer success, and support.
[AM]: What’s an exciting project that you’re working on?
[JL]: There’s no one on the product and design team right now focusing on our self serve customers, which are usually entrepreneurs or small business owners. I’m going to start spending a couple of hours every week evaluating all the different steps our customers take today from initially signing up for the product to generating their first dollar within Klaviyo.
Eventually, this will lead to designing best-in-class solutions of how we can improve our onboarding experience and ultimately decrease the time it takes for our customers to get value out of Klaviyo.
[AB]: I’m working to refresh our partner program at the moment. Last June they rolled out a completely new structure and so myself, two CAMs, the manager of channel customer success managers, the director of agency partnerships, and the director of marketing are all getting together and reevaluating what the program looks like today and how we can improve it, streamline it, and make it more fluid for the agency side. We’re evaluating what they’re seeing in the partner portal, how they can achieve their goals, and how they get the most out of the program with us.
[ANB]: I’m working very closely with the inclusion task force to figure out a better plan for diversity recruiting. This means thinking about how we raise brand awareness and how we get the buzz of Klaviyo at different HBCUs, which are historically black colleges and universities, and all-women colleges. I’m looking into more ways we can start leveraging the different clubs on campus so that we’re using the resources and partnerships that are already there.
[AM] What’s your favorite part about working at Klaviyo?
[AB]: The people. Having worked at other companies, it’s not often that you find people who are as excited to come to work as you are.
I like to go to work. I’m excited about work. I’m motivated by accomplishing things and I think that, more than anywhere else I’ve ever been, the people that I’m surrounded with here are equally motivated. They come in every day ready to do their job. It’s incredible being surrounded by other people who are genuinely happy and excited to be here working towards the same mission.
[ANB]: I like that it never feels stagnant and that you’re always learning, you’re always growing. I’ve never felt too comfortable, which is good because I feel that’s when you throw in the towel and say, “Oh I don’t see that growth opportunity anymore.” But here, it’s nice to know that there’s always a new challenge ahead and it’s exciting to figure out the best ways to tackle them.
"I've never felt too comfortable, which is good because I feel that's when you throw in the towel. Here, it's nice to know that there's always a new challenge ahead and it’s exciting to figure out the best ways to tackle them."
[JL]: At Klaviyo we have a unique opportunity to carve our own path.
I was sitting down with our CEO a couple of years ago casually on a Friday and said, “I was thinking of starting Klaviyo’s first design podcast” and he said, “you should do it.” The next Friday, we recorded our first design podcast and two years later, we’re still producing it today.
That’s just an example of what it’s like working here. You are encouraged to take charge and speak up and say, “Hey, you know, I have this idea.” If it’s good, people are usually on board.
[AM] What’s been the highlight of your career so far at Klaviyo?
[JL]: When I started at Klaviyo, I was what you’d call an individual contributor. But we’ve been growing super fast and there wasn’t any design leadership, so I had to step up.
I started helping with hiring, which I had never done before. I started managing, which I had never done before. And I went from learning how to be a good designer to also learning how to be a good manager and helping lead a team.
[AB]: From a business standpoint, it would be completing the 2020 planning that I mentioned. It was a heavy lift. It was not something that I had done before. It was a huge learning opportunity and it allowed me to work closely with my manager who had a ton of insight and information to share.
But I’d also have to say the Patriots game that we went to as a whole company was so awesome. I’ve never done anything like that. The fact that I work at a place that offers that is just incredible.
ANB: Definitely being featured in the Built In Boston video—that was very cool.
[AM] How are you hoping to see your career evolve here?
[AB]: I’m excited for the potential opportunity to lead a team of additional channel ops reps in the future and be a part of the evolution, which is I think the most exciting part of working at Klaviyo.
The agency part of the business is still new. I would like to see it evolve and continue to be a part of the conversations in ways that we can improve, grow, and scale the program so that it’s as big of a part of a business as our other sales channels.
[JL]: I’m excited to continue on this leadership path and be more a part of the strategic side of incorporating design thinking at Klaviyo and advocating for design in the Boston community more broadly.
Part of that is doing more things to get out of my comfort zone, like speaking on more panels or helping organize community events. The last thing I really want to do is prepare a presentation and get in front of a ton of people, but things like that challenge me, so I need to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone and pushing my team out of theirs, as well.
[ANB]: I love being able to blend brand awareness with recruiting. I hope that I can host more recruitment events focused on diversity and would like to partner with other companies or groups so that we’re more present in the tech world and that everyone knows who we are and what values are embedded in our culture.
"I need to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone and pushing my team out of theirs, as well. "
[AM] How can companies keep making progress when it comes to creating gender equality in the workplace?
[JL]: I think female leaders within organizations have to be quite bold. They have to speak up for what they believe in and they have to advocate for themselves first and foremost. As a result, they advocate for their team as well.
[ANB]: Companies should partner with other groups that empower underrepresented professionals so they can thrive and become leaders in the tech space. Organizations like She Geeks Out, Tech Ladies, SheHacks, Out in Tech, AfroTech, Black Is Tech, and Techqueria are doing amazing work in the inclusion space. Knowing that these groups exist and are focusing on underrepresented professionals is a real chance for companies to partner with them and expand their mission.
[AB]: I think that we have to be cognizant of fact that it doesn’t always come naturally for companies to prioritize equality and it’s something that’s so important. We need to open up our minds to the fact that we have to go that direction. We need to explore other avenues for hiring and get into different pools of candidates and look outside where we’re comfortable to make a very concerted effort to get to a place of true equality.
[AM] What can we do as individuals to keep progressing in terms of equality?
[ANB]: We need to continue to share events with one another and share relevant articles that we see. I love being in the inclusion task force Slack channel that we have at Klaviyo. Everyone posts articles about body image bias and how to attend different recruiting events and how to take that event and get real meaning from it. Sharing within your network is key.
[JL]: When we’re hiring leadership roles on our team, I always ask, “Where are my ladies at?” I ask if the recruiter is looking at women or diversity for this role. You need to take responsibility and make sure that you’re asking those questions or most likely, no one else will. And if you believe in something, keep pushing through it and don’t give up because no one else is going to do it but you.
And if you’re at a company where they’re not willing to listen to you or you feel like you’re ruffling too many feathers, then maybe it’s not the right company for you.
[AB]: I think it’s making a concerted, focused effort on being open-minded and making an effort to consider diverse candidates for these leadership roles. I think that doing that will also distill down to the individual level, where people will start to think—or even better, maybe think less and just automatically consider—that a woman or person of color would be just as good of a fit for a role.
[AM]: Are there any influential women role models that have helped you get where you are today?
[ANB]: I would say my mentor, Alicia. She’s significantly impacted the person who I am today because she pushes me outside of my comfort zone.
If I was nervous to do a specific project and I talked to her about it she’d say, “No, you have to take this on. You’re not going to learn as a professional if you don’t take this opportunity.”
She also taught me about speaking up for myself and how to say no because I’m a “yes” (wo)man. Having someone who’s been in the professional world for a while, it’s just been nice to hear that you can say no or that it will get done, but it will be done on my time has made a huge difference in how I approach taking on new projects so I’m setting myself for success and not having these expectations that I can’t hit. Her biggest advice to me was “don’t be afraid to push back”.
[JL]: Though I don’t know her personally, I really look up to Julie Zhou, former VP of product design at Facebook. She recently wrote a book titled, “The Making of a Manager” where she talks about her experience as a design manager and practical advice on being the kind of manager you wish you had. She is completely honest about her fears, insecurities, and mistakes she has made in her career, which makes her very relatable.
[AB]: My manager, Zahra Bukhari. She’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever worked with and she’s one of those people who actually shares what she knows, which is incredible.
I feel like I’ve learned so much from her. She came from a high-powered job in the financial industry and I think that she’s just carried that with her. She sits at the table and is present and outspoken in those conversations, and I admire that. I know that a lot of times when you’re uncertain about something, especially if you’re new, you might feel hesitant to speak up.
Zahra’s taught me that you just have to own it and go forth with confidence. Even if you’re wrong, you can always take ownership of being incorrect or not knowing the answer, but she’s taught me to take a seat at the table, be present, and lean in.
"You have to own it and go forth with confidence. Even if you're wrong, you can always take ownership of being incorrect or not knowing the answer, but she’s taught me to take a seat at the table, be present, and lean in."
[AM]: We hear about so many incredible companies working at Klaviyo. Are there any women-lead brands that you think are excelling in the space? Who and why?
[AB]: Manasi Gangan came to Klaviyo and talked about her business, Nested Bean, where she created sleepers for babies with a weighted piece that goes over their chest. She was working at Fidelity, became pregnant, went on maternity leave, and her kid wasn’t sleeping at all. And out of necessity, she created this incredible brand.
She’s just a boss. I asked if she went back to her job after starting the company and she said, “I only went back to give my two weeks notice,” because she had created a successful brand basically overnight.
[JL]: The Love is Project, which was started by Chrissie Lam, sells unique bracelets crafted by female artisans in developing countries and all the bracelets contain one word, “LOVE.” In a world that can feel heavy and discouraging at times, especially right now, there is one thing that binds us all together, and that is LOVE.
[ABN]: For Klaviyo:BOS, I had the opportunity to sit on CurlMix’s breakout session. Listening to Kim Lewis was absolutely amazing and I was very impressed with her session. In African American hair care, there are tons of options. But the fact that she was able to brand Wash and Go Wednesdays on Facebook and actually show customers how to use that product was amazing. It’s completely changed the game and to see such an innovator and an influencer in-person and knowing that I work for a company that empowers these businesses is awesome.
"It completely changed the game and to see such an innovator and an influencer in-person [at Klaviyo:BOS] and knowing that I work for a company that empowers these businesses is awesome."
[AM]: What are you doing to help the Klaviyo community amidst the coronavirus outbreak?
[ANB]: The biggest thing that I’ve been doing is easing everyone’s concerns, especially from the aspects of new Klayvios, and reassuring them that we’re moving forward at max speed. We’re still working remotely, but we want to make sure new hires feel that warm and tingly feeling just like they do when they get off of the elevator at our office, so I’m focused on making sure that we can still do that virtually.
[AB]: I’m just trying to be available as much as I can. I’m not necessarily supporting customers as directly as customer success or sales, but I’m supporting the team of people who are. So I’ve really tried to make it a priority to Zoom every single time we can—talking face-to-face is huge because I think a lot of times communication gets lost when you’re just Slacking back and forth all day. Even if I go out and take a walk, I’ve got my phone on me so I can respond and let them know I’m around when we’re not able to connect. Let’s stay in touch as often as we need to.
[JL]: We recently scheduled a team happy hour as well as sporadic coffee meetings just to hang and chit chat. When I’m talking to my direct reports, I ask them, “How are you doing?” and “What can I do to support you?” because everyone’s going through this differently. They might not talk about it, but I want them to know that I’m here to listen and I’m also transparent about sharing my struggles with what’s going on in the world right now.
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