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Dogs, the Startup Vision, and Bending the Computer to your Will

by Lily Bowdler – March 7, 2018

In honor of International Women’s Day, we profile four women who work here. Hopefully it gives readers a glimpse into what life at Igneous is like, and why we love it so much!

 Susan Greenberg

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What do you do for Igneous?
I am a software engineer! I work a lot on our telemetry pipeline, focusing on metrics, and our cloud infrastructure. But I’ve worked across just about every part of the product, ‘cause I’ve been here forever. I started in June of 2015.
Which office dog is your favorite, and why?
Frankie’s my favorite. She’s just so happy and fun. And she cuddles with me. I am a fan of all dogs. Definitely a plus of working here.
What motivates you when you are in the office?
I really enjoy the fast-paced development cycle. The code I write takes, at most, a week from when I write it to when it’s in the hands of customers. There’s always some feature that was needed yesterday, so there’s always an interesting problem to work on. And knowing that everyone else around me is also working towards these goals, and is really excited about these features, is really motivating for me.
Can you tell me about someone you admire?
When I was in high school, I was rowing, and there was a guy in the club who was in his 60s and had Parkinson’s. His boat was named Neva Surrender, and he was just the most inspiring person I think I’ve ever known, and actually credited rowing with the fact that the disease was progressing a lot slower than it should have been. Watching him row made me think, “If he can get out and row every single day, I can do whatever I need to do.”
Tell me 2 fun things you did last weekend.

I went to a concert at Barboza, saw Theo Katzman. Allen Stone showed up for a song, which was cool. He’s a big artist from Seattle. Theo is a nice Jewish boy,* and he’s in the band Vulfpeck. It was one of those shows where all the musicians were way too talented for that small of a venue, so there was a lot of interaction between the audience and the performers.

I rowed.

I did cat yoga for the first time.

I went to a Cards Against Humanity meetup, which substitutes nicely for meeting other Seattleites in more organic ways.

What makes you feel powerful?

I’ve actually been really enjoying leading our all-office stretch breaks in the afternoons. I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on it. People seem to be really enjoying it, and they listen to me! And it’s healthy.

On a more engineering-focused side, finding the elegant solution to a problem, finding that “aha” moment, is the most powerful feeling. Bending the computer to your will. You know.

*Susan’s mother and father want her to date nice Jewish boys.

Polly Lee 

What do you do for Igneous?

I work with my team to design and optimize the customer and user experience of our product.

I have a choice as a designer about what tools I want to use at Igneous, and my boss and coworkers are pretty flexible in how I produce my work.

Which office dog is your favorite, and why?
Frankie is my favorite. She is always too busy for me--she’s really popular. She’s a chocolate lab, so she’s obsessed with food. I mean, all dogs are, but she would go the extra mile to check out the extra garbage can, checking out whether there’s any food. Also, she survived a life-threatening fall. She fell off a cliff while hiking, and broke her hip, and they had to do a rescue and do a bunch of therapy to get her back in shape. And she acts like nothing happened. She’s a survivor.
What inspires you when you are in the office?
When I’m talking to Jeff [Hughes, CTO] and Kiran [Bhageshpur, CEO], and they’re able to articulate the company vision clearly. Having bought into their vision, I get excited about “how do I help make that come true” or “how can I improve on that vision, using my particular skills”.
What makes you feel powerful?
Speaking my truth. Saying what I mean. This naturally includes having the clarity to know what I’m trying to say.
Can you tell me about someone you admire?
I always like people who can tell the truth, even if it doesn’t sound nice to hear. I think, in terms of well-known people, it would be Chelsea Handler, the comedian. I like her.
Tell me 2 fun things you did last weekend.

I met a woman, she’s probably in her 60s, through a friend, and she--her whole life has been about activism. She was there in the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the early 80s in NYC, and she was one of those people who made people aware of AIDS and not be scared of it, got the government to change laws, got healthcare providers to give care, got money, and even got arrested as part of her activism. She said that her activism started when she was 8. She knew when she participated in her first protest that this is what she was meant to do. A lot of people have their causes, but non-profit work doesn’t pay anything, so they don’t really pursue them. So it’s really cool that she has such a straightforward story, and purpose. Talking to her, I was really star-struck.

I signed up for this transformational self-improvement type program. It’s called the Landmark Leadership and Self-Expression program. This program has its roots in the late 70s. The whole self-help movement came out of this program. So I’m learning my own--I’m learning the framework of how to cause a disruption to the things that matter to me.

 

MacKenzie Martin

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What do you do for Igneous?
I am the office manager/HR specialist. My favorite part has been getting to know all the employees on a personal level. I start to learn why they’re here, what makes them happy outside of the office, and I get to work on establishing a better and more fulfilling place to work with that in mind.
Which office dog is your favorite?

Kendal, for sure, just ‘cause I’ve watched her so many times over the last couple of years. We like to go hiking together. We have a little bit of a special relationship because when I dog-sit, I put her iron pill in a little bit more peanut butter than I’m supposed to. Sorry, Sunil.

She always spends Christmas with me. I’ve never had a dog personally, but now I want to get a golden retriever.

What inspires or motivates you when you are in the office?

OK. I’m going to tell you a story. When I first started, a lot of employees here didn’t really socialize with each other during the workday. But within the last two years, I’ve watched a more open culture emerge in the office. I get to know people on a personal level because I’ll talk to them about benefits, and about their families, and their life outside of work. It’s created trust. Because of that trust, I get to acknowledge who they are as individuals, not just as professionals. It’s created openness. And having that openness has created a lot of opportunities, and a lot of relationships have developed across the company over the last two years. People go hiking, hang out together outside the office… It’s created a lot of good communication between teams and within teams, strengthened working relationships. I love seeing people come out of their shell. It’s really motivating for me to see that happening.

Honestly, celebrating individuals, their strengths, their differences, has really helped the team become stronger. It motivates people to invest in Igneous on a personal level, not just professionally.

I’m really inspired by my work with management to make sure that this is a good environment for everyone here, making sure there is true equity.

Can you tell me about someone you admire?

Pat Wadors, who was the Chief HR officer at LinkedIn. She has dyslexia as well, and so it’s been really cool to watch her career grow. She was the one to start the D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) program at LinkedIn, and it’s become a huge pillar of their company. They base their community outreach, their corporate giving, their hiring, around this.

They take days off of work to celebrate diverse employees and have talent shows. She travels the country giving talks about the value of having diverse teams, especially in the tech industry.

She is such a badass.

Tell me 2 fun things you did last weekend.

I did a biking pub crawl, where we dressed up as “apres-ski,” so I did a big biking tour in a full-on 80s ski suit. We went down to Georgetown, which is way underrated, by the way. We went to Lowercase Brewing, we went Georgetown Brewery, all of them, four or five, and then ended the night with way too many tacos from Red Star.

On Sunday, I stole my friend’s dog and we went for a long run, ran around Greenlake a couple of times and went to the farmer’s market. Went to my parents’ house for dinner.

What makes you feel powerful?

Wow, that’s a cool question. I would say, recently, yoga and meditation. Getting aligned with where I want to go in the future professionally and as an individual. Speaking about things I care about with people in the office, people I respect.

Spending time around other very driven women and individuals, who believe in social equity and who work as hard as all the women do here, makes me feel pretty wonderful.

Anything else to add? Any fun stories about the office, perhaps?

I definitely appreciate that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

My favorite memory to date is watching our founders and execs sing karaoke to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” at our coming-out-of-stealth party. They all got really into it. We have karaoke at all of our company events. The people here are so into it that sometimes I feel like I’m working at a karaoke bar.

I ordered Igneous-logo blankets for the company for the holiday party in 2016, and the next Monday, when I came into the office, half the engineering team had made an enormous blanket fort in the cubicles. So that was pretty funny.

Catherine (Cat) Chiang

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What do you do for Igneous?
I’m a content developer, which means that I’m involved in some way with anything that our marketing team does that requires content. That can range from the blog, to social media, to whitepapers, to award submissions, to our website.
Which office dog is your favorite, and why?
I have to say Light, because he’s just so cute! He likes attention, but not in a super “dog” way. He’ll be like “hello, I’m here”, and sometimes he’ll follow me into the kitchen, because sometimes I give him treats, but he’s not super in-your-face about it. And he is very clean.
What inspires or motivates you when you are in the office?
I enjoy listening to music while I work. Sometimes just looking outside while I work when it’s sunny, because we have a pretty nice view from the office. Sometimes caffeine.
Can you tell me about someone you admire?

I recently read “All About Love: New Visions” by bell hooks, a really amazing Black feminist. I learned so much about love in both the political and personal spheres from that book, and there’s so much from that book that applies to my life and the world around me.

I think it’s so cool that she was able to write this book that’s not only very heavily rooted in theory, but also very accessible to people who don’t have an academic background. I also admire her for being a revolutionary feminist thought leader.

Tell me 2 fun things you did last weekend.

I got brunch at Plum Bistro, which is my favorite vegan restaurant in Seattle and in the world. I highly recommend their mac and cheese and their Breakfast Slam. I took my friends there, and they were kind of skeptical, but then they were like “whoa, I can’t even tell it’s vegan!”

I had a dumpling party with my friends. We all went to my friend’s house, made dumplings together, and then ate them together!

Were they vegan dumplings?
There were pork dumplings and vegan dumplings. I am not vegan. I just dabble in it. It’s fun from a purely culinary point of view.
What makes you feel powerful?

Working at Igneous, I feel empowered pretty much all the time, because compared to other work environments--usually I was the youngest person there, and I would never really feel like my opinion or my skills carried as much weight as they do here. I feel like here, senior level people care what every single employee thinks, so that’s pretty empowering.

I guess for me, feeling powerful is about feeling like I have influence over the world in a positive way. So, I feel like it’s not just about monetary success or career advancement. For me, it’s like, if one of my friends says I’m helping encourage them in their life, even in a very small way, that makes me feel powerful.

I do think that power, in a lot of ways, is more heavily associated with masculinity, and also with a lot of negative things--domination, weird oppressive dynamics, etc. I think a lot of times, especially in the context of career advancement/development, power can be seen as a negative thing, like, accumulating personal power at the expense of the people around you. I like to see it like, power should be a shared thing, and if you are empowered, you can empower others.

I think it’s just my background. I went to a women’s college, and was involved with a lot of social justice movements on campus. I started thinking about power as something that is taken away from communities, rather than something that is exercised positively. In mainstream America, the ways power is used can be negative for a lot of people, so I’ve got a negative connotation with the word.

Can you talk a little bit about how you got into the tech world?

I graduated from college with a degree in physics, and I decided I didn’t want to do physics, so my first job was at a nonprofit as a database developer. I found this incredibly boring, so I decided to do something that was more in line with my creative passions, which includes writing. So I took an internship at another Madrona-funded startup called Pixvana as a social media marketing intern and found that that was what I wanted to do. Then I did an internship at a communications agency, but didn’t really like the agency life. I prefer the startup life.

When I joined Igneous, I found that my background, which wasn’t in tech but was pretty technical, came together with my writing skills pretty naturally here.

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