How the Austin Chapter of MongoDB’s Women’s Group Built Community During the Pandemic
November 30, 2020
#Diversity & Inclusion#Culture
MongoDB is on a mission to create an inclusive workplace where every single employee can thrive. With a range of established affinity groups — and new ones forming regularly — MongoDB looks for ways to amplify those groups’ efforts and help support their overall mission.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced offices to shut down and employees to work from home, our affinity groups were challenged to find creative ways to support and grow their now-remote communities. As leaders of the MongoDB Women’s Group Austin chapter, we share how we pivoted this challenge into an opportunity.
First, What's the MongoDB Women's Group
The MongoDB Women’s Group is a community of MongoDB employees identifying as women, nonbinary, or trans. Our mission is to create a bold, visible, and united force for gender equality. To help us get there, the MongoDB Women’s Group hosts monthly members-only meetings as well as events open to both members and allies.
Relaunched in 2018, the Austin-based chapter connects women and allies in our Austin office to a community of local companies and women’s groups that can support their growth within the tech industry.
Pre-COVID, we gained a lot of momentum with our events, which included a live speaker series in the office, yoga, and events focused on subjects such as fertility and imposter syndrome.
When COVID-19 hit, we faced a new challenge: how do we create a sense of community for our members when everyone works completely remote? Although initially daunting, the challenge of organizing remote events was an opportunity in disguise. It enabled us to kick off a speaker series for all employees, featuring prominent women in leadership positions across the country.
Enter Angie Brown, from The Home Depot. Angie was the first woman to join our remote speaker series, and we couldn’t have asked for a better person to kick it off. She began her career at The Home Depot in 1998 as an entry-level software developer and now is Vice President of Technology — Merchandising, leading a team that develops solutions to support cataloging, pricing, and assortment capabilities at the giant retail chain. She also helps to mentor aspiring leaders in a number of ways, including actively participating in Atlanta’s Women in Technology association.
Here, we share some highlights from our fireside chat with Angie during which she discussed her career and provided advice on what women can do to set themselves up for success.
Fireside Chat with Angie Brown
MongoDB: What advice do you have for those just starting off in their careers?
Angie Brown: Opportunities can look like problems and not everyone wants to run into the fire, but avoiding problems can really be a missed opportunity. That’s one important lesson I’ve learned throughout my career.
Although you should have a general idea of where you want to go, you also need to be willing to flex. Things might unfold in ways you didn’t expect. If you’re too prescriptive, you might miss out on them. So, you need to find a way to strike a balance.
MongoDB: You took a role in leadership fairly early. How did you change your skills and evolve as you moved up?
AB: When I talk to people considering moving into management, I ask them to look at the job and determine if the required qualities and responsibilities would make them happy. It’s not just about the title and pay increase. When you pivot from being an individual contributor to being in a leadership role, servant leadership is a huge part of it. If you look at management as a way to control, you won’t be happy. If you look at it as a way to serve others and help them be successful, then you’ll find joy in that career shift.
I didn’t prethink this when I first moved into management and had a little bit of an identity crisis. I was used to being the one who got things done. All of a sudden, my role and life was all about going to meetings, and I didn’t look at meetings as tangible work. I was over it. Where was the joy in this?
If your joy comes from having your hands on the keyboard and needing to do things your way, then being in management would be like fitting a square peg in a round hole. At first I felt invalidated and unsure of myself because it wasn’t my hands on the keyboard. I had to work through that and do a little soul-searching. I reframed my thinking to be happy leading a team and helping them solve their problems, even if it meant I wasn’t solving them myself. I had a lightbulb moment when I moved into a director role when I realized I was still solving big problems by helping my team tackle them.
There’s nothing wrong with where you find your joy and no judgement if your passion aligns as an individual contributor; we need amazing developers! Always be aware of the work itself and make sure it aligns with what you enjoy.
MongoDB: How have mentors played a role in your success?
AB: I wish I had invested in mentors much sooner. In the early stages of my career, I didn’t think I needed help and believed I could just figure it all out on my own. I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness.
In hindsight, my mentors have absolutely formed part of who I am today. I don’t have just one mentor. Instead, I look at a topic and focus on finding a mentor for that specific topic. With that approach, I have ended up having a number of mentors.
Thank you again to Angie Brown! We appreciate your insight and inspiration.
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