Diversity & Inclusion
Honoring Black History Month
As Black History Month comes to an end, we reflect on and honor the history, legacies, achievements, and contributions of the Black community in the United States. Hear from three members of MongoDB’s affinity group TUPOC (the Underrepresented People of Color) to learn more about what this month means to them, and how they are honoring Black history all year round. Bryant McCombs , Manager, Customer Success I manage the Customer Success team for New England, Eastern Canada, & the Mid-Atlantic. My team is responsible for making sure that our customers have all of the resources they need to be successful in leveraging MongoDB. I’ve had a very non-linear path to tech, starting my professional career as a performance coach at an athletic training facility. I then decided to transition into financial sales consulting, but quickly realized that it was not the career path for me. So, I decided to drop everything I was doing and move to rural Australia. There, I began working as an irrigation manager on a farm the size of Manhattan. After my brief stint as a farmer, I decided to get back into coaching and landed a role as volunteer assistant track coach at the University of Pennsylvania. During my time in Philly, I also held a number of part-time jobs and began attending my first tech meetups. It was when I attended Philly Tech Week that I finally realized tech was the place for me. Several months later, I landed my first role at a startup software development consultancy as an operations manager. I was the second employee and I knew next to nothing about software development. Over the course of two years, I helped grow the team to over 60 employees while managing everything from the company accounting, human resources, account management, and more. Those two years were probably the most valuable years of my professional career in tech, and I haven’t looked back since. When I was being recruited to work at MongoDB, the values that prioritized intellectual honesty and psychological safety were very enticing to me, and I’ve found them to be embodied values throughout my tenure. MongoDB has had a huge impact on my career within a very short amount of time. In the year and ten months that I’ve been here, I’ve been promoted twice: first as an individual contributor and then to a manager role. I enjoy working at MongoDB because we are solving some pretty huge challenges every day and are in a period of consistent and rapid growth. In college, I was a history major with a focus on the African Diaspora. I remember being amazed the first time I learned about the impact various African traditions had on the culture of a wide range of places such as Brazil, the Bahamas, and the U.S. When I think about the middle passage and the incredibly harsh conditions that my ancestors endured reaching America, I can’t help but think that it’s a miracle I am even here today. Learning anything about the lives of my enslaved ancestors has never been an easy task, with no equivalent of Ellis or Angel Island and poorly maintained slave papers. However, after extensive research, I found some of the names and photos of my ancestors that were enslaved in Mississippi and North Carolina. This process helped me reclaim some of my family’s history and feel more connected to my lineage. When a lot of people think of Black history they think of slavery or black and white footage of Martin Luther King Jr. marching on the capital. However, to me, it’s a lot more than that. My parents were teenagers before the Civil Rights Act was passed and adults by the time it was widely adopted. They experienced most of their childhood and a significant part of their adulthood without basic human rights. They struggled with racist institutions and setbacks based purely on the color of their skin, and as an unintended consequence of their experience, they became stronger and more resilient individuals. I like to think that they’ve passed that strength and resilience down to me, and as I begin to start my own family, I hope that I can pass it down to my children. When I think of what Black History Month means to me, I think that Black history is unable to be contained by a month and that Black history is being made and should be celebrated every day. Kayla Warner , Internal Communications Manager As a child in Alabama, Black History month was recognized and celebrated wherever I went– school, church, and especially at home. From rote memorization of Black History facts like Madame C.J. Walker being the first female millionaire, or memorizing lines for the latest Black History month play at church, I was fully bought into celebrating the achievements of Black people. However, I never gave much thought to why it was important to recognize these achievements. As I got older, I learned about the atrocities of slavery and segregation; met people who protested and participated in the Civil Rights Movement; and realized that my father was born two weeks after Bloody Sunday. It was now clear to me that Black History doesn’t live in the past– it affects us now and shapes our future. Kayla and her father As I came of age, racial identity and consciousness became more and more important to me. But to be honest, it was less by choice and exploration– but by necessity. The deaths of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Michael Brown made a seismic impact on my life because they were all my age. Race became the biggest conversation in my life. I had to interrogate my held beliefs and values, and define what being Black in America meant to me– when so much of Blackness in America was becoming synonymous with pain and strife. I had to forge my own identity, so I decided to do something radical. I chose joy. My definition of Blackness became one of light, celebration, laughter, and most importantly, hope. Black History Month has become a time to celebrate customs and traditions, to rejoice with levity and laughter, and to embrace my community. That communal aspect is key, especially within the Black community and other communities of color across the country. That is why I am so thankful that there is space for community at MongoDB through affinity groups like TUPOC. Onboarding as a remote employee is never an easy feat, but having a resource like TUPOC made me feel less alone and reminded me of the importance of fellowship. Beyond TUPOC, the Corporate Communications team has made me feel at home and respected as a member of the team. MongoDB’s value “embrace the power of difference” made me want to join and seeing it in action from the executive team to my peers has confirmed that I made the right choice. Courtney Turner , Campus Recruiter Black History Month is not just 28 or 29 days to reflect on the countless contributions of African American culture to society, nor is it a month to make a one-time purchase from Black businesses. Black History Month is truly a lifestyle for me. Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, I can remember my family teaching me about prominent figures in Black history like Medgar Evers, Dr. Shirley Jackson, and Carter G. Woodson. They also taught me about the harsh realities of Black history like the tragic murder of Emmett Till, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and the lynching of Joe Code. As a child, my mother and late aunt encouraged me to be active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where I hosted annual Freedom banquets, sang the Negro National Anthem, and was even recognized for my contributions to the community and the state. Understanding that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were created when admission wasn't granted to African Americans, I knew it was imperative that I attend an HBCU. Starting my college journey at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and completing my collegiate experience at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, I was surrounded by black excellence and unity, but most importantly I saw the hard work HBCU students put forth to excel even when not given the same opportunities and funding as other students. This is where my passion for inclusion and advocacy arises from, leading to my passion for starting a career in recruiting. Despite the stereotypes and labels placed on African American males, my mother always reminded my two brothers and me that we were kings. This led me to run and serve in the role of Mister Black North Carolina. My platform was Reconstructing the Black Male Image, and after serving as Mister Black North Carolina, I decided to launch my own mentoring program “Dapper Distinguished Men Society”. Courtney and his mother Today, we reflect not only on Black history but all parts of the Black experience. Black history represents the tears that slaves shed in the stillness of the night while working to escape into what they thought would be freedom. Black history contains the fear that Black families felt driving through sundown towns while using Green Books for guidance, it's the feeling of not being equal, not being heard, not being appreciated, and not feeling safe enough to jog in your neighborhood, visit the local store, and relax in the comfort of your own home. It is the realization that we have progressed but have so far to go to truly be counted equal. As we reflect on Black history and glimpse into our Black future, we recognize that no matter how many times we are knocked down, we are never knocked out. Interested in joining MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe and would love for you to transform your career with us!
The Power of Embracing Differences: My Journey to MongoDB
September 14th, 2021 marked my first full year at MongoDB, and what a year it’s been. A bit about me Hi, I’m Cara! I’m a Team Lead, Executive Assistant, specifically for Tech & Product. I’m based out of our NYC office and live in Jersey City with my girlfriend and our three cats. At MongoDB, I support our amazing Chief Product Officer and also lead a team of awesome Administrative Assistants (AAs) and Executive Assistants (EAs) within Tech & Product. We are hiring like crazy, too, and I can’t say enough great things about our team. Beyond my already rewarding and challenging role as a Team Lead, I also get to work on other meaningful projects while growing my core career. I’m incredibly grateful and humbled to be a Global Lead for two of MongoDB’s affinity groups (known as employee resource groups at some companies) alongside some of the best, most passionate people I’ve ever met: Queeries - A closed group and safe space for people who personally identify within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. The Queer Collective - An open group for the LGBTQIA+ community as well as our amazing allies (all are welcome!) to exchange thoughts, ideas, and learn and grow from each other. As we like to say, the future is inclusive! Finding my voice and professional purpose The funny thing is, I didn’t know what an “affinity group” or “employee resource group” was for most of my career. I used to work in a more conservative corporate environment and spent over a decade in the food/hospitality industry with people whose views were wildly different from mine. One of my bosses always asked me if I had a boyfriend or when I was going to settle down with a nice guy. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but it was a discomfort I got used to. How sad is that? The crazy thing was, it didn’t feel sad or weird or anything at the time. I just thought I had to stay hidden at work. That’s what you did. It wasn’t “professional” to be gay. The first time I saw a queer coworker was when I had my first real introduction to the tech start-up environment. He was so vibrantly open about who he was, and I was in awe of him. I stayed quiet for my first few months there and studied people’s reactions, interactions, and how they responded when he would say things that I never thought could be said in an office. They weren’t bad things by any means, but they were topics about being queer that I watched everyone embrace. Then, it slipped out during lunch one day. I thought maybe I could casually mention going on a date so it would be less weird, but everyone was super surprised. I get told I “look straight” a lot, which I’ve always found irritating. What does that even mean? Do I need to be masculine-presenting to be gay? Me (right) and my girlfriend From there, I moved on to work at Zocdoc, which truly opened my eyes to affinity groups, workplace queer communities, and how far they expand. It was the first place I worked that even had an affinity group. I befriended two amazing humans there who were the founders of ZocPride, which represented Zocdoc’s queer community. We got to talking and they told me they only planned something for Pride month. They’re not planners, they actually hate planning, but they didn’t want the group to die. So I said, “Good news. Hi, I’m Cara. I’m super queer and I love to plan things!” We chuckled and then I immediately started planning and researching what I could do with this awesome gift I was just given. Since we had no D&I team and a very limited budget, I worked to find other companies to partner with as well as vendors who would be open to sponsoring events for us. Before I knew it, we were partnering with Out in Tech to host an external panel discussion about queer access to healthcare. We hosted it on Coming Out Day and had about 300 guests. From there, things really took off. We did a “spread the love” campaign for Valentine’s Day, had hugely successful fundraisers for NYC’s AIDS Walk, and then, you guessed it, went crazy for Pride. I proudly introduced the art of drag to Zocdoc and started their annual Drag Bingo Pride event. We also sponsored and had a booth at the Lesbians Who Tech Summit the year that Hilary Clinton came to speak. It was unbelievable. My MongoDB journey After receiving incredible offers to work at a few more companies, unexpectedly experiencing workplace discrimination, and reflecting on what I want and need to be happy and thrive in a work environment, I found myself at MongoDB. One of my amazing colleagues from Zocdoc was working here and we were catching up. I heard the details about the Company and role and thought it sounded like a great fit! I love working in tech, but specifically with Product & Tech teams. They’re brilliant, passionate, quirky personalities that vibe well with mine and in my experience, are hyper-focused on having fun and building a positive culture. Because of my previous experiences, I knew exactly what I was looking for. I asked questions that could be uncomfortable to some, as far as the company’s commitment to Diversity & Inclusion, what it means to them personally, and how they practice what they preach. I didn’t want any more wooden nickels. The interview process was amazing. Everyone was super responsive, informative, and helpful and didn’t hesitate to answer any of my hard-hitting questions. Interviews are a two-way street, and I was immediately put at ease when I realized that MongoDB was the place for me. My recruiter started telling me about our growing D&I team, our affinity groups, and how involved and supportive the leadership team is. Then I got to interview with my manager, our Chief Product Officer, who I clicked with instantly. I knew right away that I wanted to work with him. In my experience, I haven't always been lucky with great bosses. I’ve been ignored, lied to, dismissed, looked over, and simply not appreciated. I don’t feel that way here. I feel heard and respected, and that speaks volumes in itself. I’m often encouraged to take time for myself. I had some personal health issues at the beginning of the year. I was anxious to take time off because I was still so new, but the outpour of support and understanding I received blew my mind. That’s when I knew I had really found my new home. When I joined MongoDB last year, The Queer Collective was still a new group, only three months old at that point, and I was able to join at a very exciting time when there was lots of opportunity and momentum. We officially launched the group alongside the communication of launching our first-ever celebration of (inter)national Coming Out Day . We celebrated again this year and have decided that it will be a company-wide annual tradition. Last year, four of our leads (myself included) shared their coming out stories, and we didn’t realize how much of an impact it made until feedback started to trickle in. We were told that some employees joined MongoDB after reading our stories and some even felt comfortable coming out of the closet and stepping into their own light. If that’s not rewarding, I don’t know what is. This year, more employees shared their stories , and we partnered with our Benefits team to host an internal panel discussion. October is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we thought it would be the perfect time to talk through and bring awareness to the mental health journey that comes along with coming out and embracing your true, authentic self. We will also be planning a full week of impactful programming for Trans Awareness Week so that we can continue to amplify the voices in the Trans Community while encouraging continued education. This past July, I also spoke at MongoDB.live (formerly known as MongoDB World) with my Queer Collective co-lead and dear friend Seán Carroll about Allyship and how to upgrade to an active accomplice. It explored what accountability and support look like and how we can all improve our support of the LGBTQIA+ community. The feedback was amazing, and I can’t wait to evolve our topic and content and hopefully speak in person next year! I also have the pleasure of working closely with our incredible D&I team on impactful initiatives, such as helping with large external events and partnerships like the Lesbians Who Tech Summit, where we secured a top-tier sponsorship at the largest queer tech event in the world! I’ve also been part of meaningful conversations, such as expanding gender and identity options and helping to evolve and plan for benefits that help and impact the Queer community. The list goes on, really. I frequently sync with our D&I team and I’m so grateful to work somewhere that truly invests in fostering an inclusive and equitable work environment. Why MongoDB is the place for me I’ve worked in a lot of different industries, with people from every level and walk of life, and now I feel as though I’m where I was meant to be. MongoDB’s values truly align with my own, and this is the first company that I’ve seen make an actual effort to align their company objectives and goals with their values. Here’s how I live some of our MongoDB values every day: I proudly embrace the power of everyone’s differences (mine included). We evolve and move forward with a magical combination of varied backgrounds, interests, and ideas. Why bother doing anything if you don’t plan to make it matter ? I stand behind everything I work on and am proud of the meaningful projects and impacts I’ve seen first-hand so far. I’ve always been a big idea kind of human - Think Big, Go Far - I thrive on creativity, ambition, and being a relentless dreamer. When I joined, I received a postcard from our CEO. Part of it said, “We want your time here to become a real inflection point in your professional career”, and I can wholeheartedly say after just my first year, it already is. I’m constantly learning and growing at MongoDB. From management training to webinars to endless learning and development resources, and beyond. These were things I had been requesting, asking, and looking for at previous companies. They were things promised to me “eventually”, but they never came. Here I was in my first week at MongoDB, given them without asking. This is a company that truly cares about its employees’ development and success. I’ve hired (and am growing) an awesome team of amazing humans who I’m so proud to work alongside every day. Any job can be great, but the people make it extra special. The EA team at MongoDB is like no other, and I can’t wait to see its continued growth and evolution. Helping to build and evolve a world-class EA org is incredibly exciting and rewarding, and I love being a part of it. I love that I can be fully myself at work and am given the opportunity to make an impact in so many ways. I can’t wait to see what the future will bring. It’s been an unbelievable experience and journey so far! Interested in joining MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe and would love for you to transform your career with us!
MongoDB Employees Share Their Coming Out Stories: (Inter)National Coming Out Day 2021
National Coming Out Day is celebrated annually on October 11 and is widely recognized in the United States. MongoDB proudly supports and embraces the LGBTQIA+ community across the globe, so we’ve reimagined this celebration as (Inter)National Coming Out Day. In our yearly tradition of honoring (Inter)National Coming Out Day, we asked employees who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community to share their coming out experiences. These are their stories. Jamie Ivanov , Escalation Manager For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to play with dolls and felt closer to my female cousins. This was rather difficult for someone who is a male at birth being brought up in a fairly conservative family. At a young age, I knew that I was different but lacked a way to describe it. I certainly didn't have the support I needed, so I was brought up as a male. My father went out of his way to “make a man out of me” and toughen me up in ways that weren't exactly the most productive. Going through school, I still knew that I was different because I kept feeling attracted to both genders, but I was too afraid to admit to it. I found a youth group for LGBT teenagers that gave me a safe place to be myself and admit to people who I really was. Outside of that group was still pretty scary; I knew that I had to be straight or I would risk being beaten up or harassed, so I tried to push my queerness aside. In my 30s, after going through the Army and having three children, I realized that I couldn't keep pretending anymore -- who I was wasn't the true me. I started telling people that I was bisexual and hoping that they wouldn't see me as less of a person. Most of the responses I received were "yeah, we kinda figured.” Having that weight off of my shoulders was immensely relieving but something still wasn't quite right; while admitting that helped explain who I was interested in, it still didn't explain who I was. Through a series of fortunate unfortunate events, a lot of the facade I had built up for so many years came down, and I realized that who I was didn't match the body that I was given. It was terrifying to talk to anyone about how I was feeling or who I was, but I finally told people that I am a transgender woman. It was one of the scariest things that I have ever done. Some people didn't understand, and I did lose some family over it, but most people accepted me for who I am with open arms! Since being true to myself, more weight has been lifted off of me, and my only regret is not having the resources and courage to admit who I really was years and years ago. Since I've come out as bi/pansexual and a transgender woman, I've built stronger relationships and felt much more comfortable with myself, even to the point of liking photos of myself (which is something I've always hated and realized it was because it wasn't the real me). When a MongoDB recruiter reached out to me, I asked him the same question I asked other recruiters: "How LGBT friendly is MongoDB (with an emphasis on the transgender part)?" The response I got back from my technical recruiter Bryan Spears was the best response I had received from ANY recruiter, or company, and was the deciding factor in why I chose to work at MongoDB. Here’s what he said: “MongoDB is a company that truly does its best to follow our values like embracing the power of differences; we have many employees who identify as LGBTQ+ or are allies of the LGBTQ+ community. We also have two ERGs, MongoDB Queeries and UGT (Underrepresented Genders in Tech), which both aim to create and maintain a safe environment for those identifying as LGBTQ+ or questioning. From a benefits standpoint, we have expanded the amount of WPATH Standards of Care services available for people who identify as Transgender, Gender Nonconforming, or Transsexual through Cigna. While I know none of the information I have shared tells you what life is like at MongoDB, I hope that it shows we are doing our best to make sure that everyone feels respected and welcome here.” I didn't always have the support I needed to be myself at some previous jobs but MongoDB has raised the bar to a level that is hard to compete with. I'm happy to finally find a place that truly accepts me for who I am. Ryan Francis , VP of Global Demand Generation & Field Marketing Growing up in the 90s in what I used to call “the buckle of the Bible Belt,” I did not believe coming out was in the cards. In fact, I would sit up at night to devise my grand escape to New York City after being disowned (how I planned on paying for said escape remains unknown). I was, however, out to my best friend, Maha. During the summer between my Sophomore and Junior years of high school, I spent time with her family in Egypt. On the return trip, I bought a copy of The Advocate to learn about the big gay life that awaited me after my great escape. Later that month, my mother stumbled upon that magazine when she was cleaning the house. She waited six months to bring it up, but one day in January sat me down in the living and asked, “Are you gay?” I paused for a moment and said… “yup.” She started crying and thanked me for being honest with her. A month later, she picked up a rainbow coffee mug at a yard sale and has been Mrs. PFLAG ever since, organizing pride rallies in our little Indiana hometown and sitting on the Episcopal church vestry this year in order to push through our parish’s blessing of same-sex marriage. Needless to say, I didn’t have to escape. My father was also unequivocally accepting. This is a good thing because my sister Lindsay is a Lesbian, so they sure would have had a tough time given 100% of their kids turned out gay. Lindsay is the real hero here who stayed in our homeland to raise her children with her wife, changing minds every day so that, hopefully, there will be fewer and fewer kids who actually have to make that great escape. Angie Byron , Principal Community Manager Growing up in the Midwest in the 80s and 90s, I was always a “tomboy;” as a young kid, I gravitated to toys like Transformers and He-Man and refused to wear pink or dresses. Since we tended to have a lot in common, most of my best friends growing up were boys; I tended to feel awkward and shy around girls and didn’t really understand why at the time. I was also raised both Catholic and Bahá’í, which led to a very interesting mix of perspectives. While both religions have vastly different belief and value systems, the one thing they could agree on was that homosexuality was wrong (“intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law” in the case of Catholicism, and “an affliction that should be overcome” in the case of Bahá’í). Additionally, being “out” as queer at that time in that part of the United States would generally get you made fun of, if not the everlasting crap kicked out of you, so finding other queer people felt nearly impossible. As a result, I was in strong denial about who I was for most of my childhood and gave several valiant but ultimately failed attempts at the whole “trying to date guys” thing as a teenager (I liked guys just fine as friends, but when it came to kissing and stuff it was just, er… no.). In the end, I came to the reluctant realization that I must be a lesbian. I knew no other queer people in my life, and so was grappling with this reality alone, feeling very isolated and depressed. So, I threw myself into music and started to find progressively more and more feminist/queer punk bands whose songs resonated with my experiences and what I was feeling: Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, The Need, Sleater-Kinney, and so on. I came out to my parents toward the end of junior high, quite by accident. Even though I had no concrete plan for doing so, I always figured Mom would be the more accepting one, given that she was Bahá’i (a religion whose basic premise is the unity of religions and equality of humanity), and I’d have to work on Dad for a bit, since he was raised Catholic and came from a family with more conservative values from an even smaller town in the midwest. Imagine my surprise when one day, Mom and I were watching Ricky Lake or Sally Jesse Raphael or one of those daytime talk shows. The topic was something like “HELP! I think my son might be gay!” My mom said something off-handed like “Wow, I don’t know what I would do if one of you came out to me as gay...” And, in true 15-year old angsty fashion, I said, “Oh YEAH? Well you better FIGURE IT OUT because I AM!” and ran into my room and slammed the door. I remember Mom being devastated, wondering what she did wrong as a parent, and so on. I told her, truly, nothing. My parents were both great parents; home was my sanctuary from bullying at school, and my siblings and I were otherwise accepted exactly as we were, tomboys or otherwise. After we’d finished talking, she told me that I had better go tell my father, so I begrudgingly went downstairs. “Dad… I’m gay.” Instead of a lecture or expressing disdain, he just said, “Oh really? I run a gay support group at your Junior High!” and I was totally mind blown. Bizarro world. He was the social worker at my school, so this makes sense, but it was the exact opposite reaction that I was expecting. An important life lesson in not prejudging people. When I moved onto high school, we got… drumroll ... the Internet. Here things take a much happier turn. Through my music, I was able to find a small community of fellow queers (known as Chainsaw), including a ton of us from various places in the Midwest. I was able to learn that I was NOT a freak, I was NOT alone, there were SO many other folks who felt the exact same way, and they were all super rad! We would have long talks into the night, support each other through hardships, and more than a few of us met each other in person and hung out in “real life.” Finding that community truly saved my life, and the lives of so many others. (Side-note: This is also how I got into tech because the chat room was essentially one gaping XSS vulnerability, and I taught myself HTML by typing various tags in and seeing how they rendered.) I never explicitly came out to anyone in my hometown. I was too scared to lose important relationships (it turns out I chose my friends well, and they were all completely fine with it, but the prospect of further isolating myself as a teenager was too terrifying at the time). Because of that, when I moved to a whole new country (Canada) and went to college, the very first thing I did on my first day was introduce myself as “Hi, I’m Angie. I’ve been building websites for fun for a couple of years. Also, I’m queer, so if you’re gonna have a problem with that, it’s probably best we get it out of the way now so we don’t waste each others’ time.” Flash forward to today, my Mom is my biggest supporter, has rainbow stickers all over her car, and has gone to dozens of Pride events. Hacking together HTML snippets in a chat room led to a full-blown career in tech. I gleaned a bit more specificity around my identity and now identify as a homoromantic asexual . Many of those folks I met online as a teenager have become life-long friends. And, I work for a company that embraces people for who they are and celebrates our differences. Life is good. Learn more about Diversity & Inclusion at MongoDB Interested in joining MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe and would love for you to transform your career with us!
Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month
We’re honoring Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) in a few ways here at MongoDB! First, hear from three MongoDB employees about their own experiences and what this month means to them. Then, keep scrolling for a Spotify playlist, reading list, and movie list curated by members of our affinity group the Underrepresented People of Color Network (TUPOC). Alicia Raymond , Director, HR Business Partner (Core & Cloud), New York City At 18 years old, and without knowing a word of English, my mother left behind her entire family in Chile to come to the United States. This was in 1973, shortly before the dictator Augusto Pinochet came into power. The following years in Chile were tumultuous and my mother, who was now married to a U.S. military member, relocated frequently. Over time, she lost contact with her family in Chile. Years later, I was a college student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a Morehead-Cain scholarship. The scholarship allowed me to take part in various summer activities, including a summer of studying abroad. Chile was on the list of countries where I could study, so I jumped at the opportunity to go there and find my family. As soon as the plane touched down, I began searching for traces of my family members. This was before the prevalence of social media, so I spent a lot of time sifting through phone books. Finally, I was able to locate a phone number for my mother’s younger sister, Esther, but I didn’t call her right away. I was anxious about how I would fit in with my Chilean relatives. My identity as Latina had always felt a bit nebulous — a common feeling among multiracial, multicultural people and second-generation immigrants. I was Spanglish-speaking and white-passing, and I had not grown up among a Latinx community in the U.S. At the time, I struggled to feel like part of the Latinx community, but I also felt a deep obligation not to abandon the complex mix of identities I inherited from my mother — a mix we are still learning about today. Until recently, she didn’t know she was almost half Indigenous American — a detail her parents hid to improve their chances of integrating into the middle class of Chilean society. Alicia with her mother and aunts from Chile in New York City Eventually, I worked up the courage to make the call. After a few rings of the phone, someone picked up on the other end. I confirmed that it was Esther and then, in broken Spanish, I explained who I was and that I was in Chile. Esther’s excitement melted away all of my concerns. We scheduled a time to meet in person that week, and we have remained in contact ever since. After re-establishing and maintaining contact with my Chilean family, my bonds with my Chilean heritage strengthened. Although my cultural identity still feels complicated, within that complexity lies an incredible blessing. It has given me the opportunity to navigate multiple worlds and be shaped by varied perspectives and communities. That’s not to imply that those identities always meshed in a frictionless way — my father’s parents almost disowned him for marrying my Latina mother — but even that friction helped expand my view of the world. In a career context, this has allowed me to be highly adaptable to new circumstances, adept at perspective-taking, and flexible enough in my own beliefs to understand others’ viewpoints. Those skills are essential for my role as an HR Business Partner, where the issues I face often involve multiple stakeholders, rarely have one right answer, and require a big dollop of creative problem-solving. I am eternally grateful for the multifaceted lens my cultural background has provided me. Alicia's mother as a child, outside the house she grew up in Gustavo Chavez , Senior Solutions Architect, Austin Hispanic Heritage Month is not just a month, it’s a lifestyle! I’m originally from a small town in Mexico and was raised all over the state of Chihuahua. Growing up, I was always fascinated by airplanes and technology, and when I reached high school I had the opportunity to start learning computer programming. My friend’s father owned a payroll-processing company, and he started teaching RPG and COBOL on an IBM System 34 (yeah, I know, I’m dating myself) during the afternoons, so I would go there two or three times a week. This is where my passion for computers and technology really grew and led me to pursue a degree in computer science. After graduating, I began working at a local startup doing offshore work for a mainframe application performance-monitoring company located in Santa Monica, California. The company, Candle Corp, then offered me the opportunity to work for them in the U.S., so my wife and I packed our things in a U-Haul and drove 900 miles west to Los Angeles! IBM acquired Candle Corp in the mid-2000s, which led me to Austin, Texas. After a few years, I had the opportunity to join MongoDB. Diversity is celebrated here, and we all work together toward a common goal while having fun along the way. In my role as a Senior Solutions Architect, I support the LATAM Corporate Sales organization and help align MongoDB technology with customer needs and business goals. My children were born in Los Angeles, where, as an immigrant, I started thinking about my role as a parent in preserving Hispanic language and culture for the next generation. Luckily, it wasn’t too difficult given our location. The shared history between Mexico and the U.S. provides the perfect canvas to paint a picture of blended colors and influences from other places. This is apparent all across Texas and the southwest of our country. The food, architecture, names, battles, and social struggle through the years help build the foundation of what it means to be of Hispanic descent in the United States. We are embedded in the fabric of the region and country, and that is what we aim to share with everybody — our common bonds instead of our differences. Today, as the proud father of two young adults attending university, I can honestly say the job is not done. We still have other generations to share our culture and heritage with. I hope we can ensure that future generations are proud of being Hispanic and proud of the contributions made by members of the Hispanic community to the United States. Gustavo and his family Camilo Velez-Gordon , Field Marketing Specialist, New York City In 2003, my mom and I hopped on a one-way flight from Colombia to Newark International Airport with four suitcases and a lot of unknowns. As a 7-year-old with minimal knowledge of the English language, I had no idea what it meant for me or my future, and I was terrified. My family and I quickly settled in northern New Jersey, and I learned English in less than a year thanks to cartoons and shows such as Rocket Power and Drake and Josh. Throughout my upbringing, I learned that two things will always be true: Family is and always will be an important part of my life, and in the United States you are in control of your destiny, which may not be the case elsewhere. The older I get, the more significance Hispanic Heritage Month has in my life. This may be due to a deeper understanding of the importance of culture and my background. The month is a great opportunity to reflect on my journey to where I am today, and also a good time to educate the people around me about what it is like to be Latino in today’s America. The tech industry has always been fascinating to me, but, while in school, a career in tech always seemed like a far-fetched goal. Through my network, I was fortunate enough to secure a marketing internship for an ad-tech firm while finishing my senior year as a business student at Montclair State University. Once I got my foot in the door, I was determined to take full advantage of the opportunity. To this day, my main takeaway from the process of getting into tech is that mastering the skill of networking will open many doors in your career. As I approach my two-year anniversary at MongoDB, I frequently look back on my journey to where I am today, and I can’t help but smile. The terrified 7-year-old from 17 years ago came a long way. At MongoDB, I continue to grow, evolve, and learn. During my tenure, I have met incredible people, achieved many milestones, and launched multiple global programs that have had a positive impact on the business. I am so proud of how far my family and I have come, and I could not be more excited for what is to come for MongoDB. Camilo and his family Celebrate the Hispanic and Latinx community's contributions to music, literature, and film Spotify Reading list Title Author The House on Mango Street Sandra Cisneros I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter Erika L. Sanchez The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz Dominicana: A Novel Angie Cruz War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America's Colony Nelson A. Denis Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics Frederick Luis Aldama Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism Greg Grandin Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza Gloria Anzaldúa The Borders of Dominicanidad Lorgia Garcia-Peña The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists Naomi Klein The Arawak: The History and Legacy of the Indigenous Natives in South America and the Caribbean Charles River Editors The Indian Chronicles José Barreiro Eva Luna Isabel Allende The Bronx Evelyn Gonzalez Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and the Neoliberal City Arlene Dávila Bodega Dreams Ernesto Quiñonez The Eagle's Throne Carlos Fuentes The Poet X Elizabeth Acevedo When I Was Puerto Rican: A Memoir
The Future is Inclusive: Meet The Queer Collective, MongoDB's Affinity Group for the LGBTQIA+ Community & Allies
MongoDB affinity groups are employee-led resource groups that bring together employees with similar backgrounds, interests, or goals. They play an important role in our company and culture. Our affinity groups build community and connections, help us raise awareness of issues unique to members’ experiences, and offer networking and professional development opportunities. I sat down with some of the leaders of The Queer Collective to learn more about their initiatives, impact, and plans for the future. What is The Queer Collective? The Queer Collective is a member-based group working towards equality in the workplace and beyond. We envision a workplace atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable bringing their full selves to work, regardless of gender identity, gender expression, race, religion, age, or sexual preference. We aim to champion LGBTQIA+ rights in the workplace, provide a space for queer people and allies to meet, encourage an open exchange of thoughts, organize impactful events, and provide education and networking opportunities to individuals who would like to learn more. The Queer Collective is open to LGBTQIA+ and allies and complements our closed employee affinity group, Queeries, which provides a safe space for queer-identifying employees. The Queer Collective is open to all MongoDB employees who would like to join. How did The Queer Collective get started, and how has the group grown? In early 2020, the Dublin Workplace team decided to organize activities for a virtual Pride celebration throughout the month of June. This was an ambitious idea that required a collective of people, so a call for volunteers was sent out. By the end of May of 2020, seven people offered help, and in the end, it became a huge success. The same seven volunteers decided to keep working on evolving these initiatives, and that's when The Queer Collective was officially born. We realized that raising awareness and sharing knowledge with the community (both the LGBTQIA+ and ally communities) couldn’t be accomplished in just one month, and so The Queer Collective formed into an ongoing initiative. The most fun part of forming any group is naming it. There were multiple ideas, but the one that stuck the most was a pun of sorts. It combines both the collection of documents in a database and the LGBTQIA + community: The Queer Collective. We are now almost 200 members globally and can't believe how much we've grown in just a year. As we continue to grow, we hope to start regional chapters so that our planning and programming can evolve on a global scale. What types of initiatives does The Queer Collective organize? We organize a range of social, educational, and awareness events. Over the past year, these have included (Inter)national Coming Out Day , Transgender Awareness Week, Pride Month programming, Zero-Discrimination Day in partnership with MDBWomen, and smaller events such as happy hours and Drag Bingo. This year and for the first time ever, we are a top-tier sponsor for the Lesbians Who Tech Summit, the largest & most diverse tech event in the world! As we continue to grow and diversify, we have partnered with MongoDB’s Learning and Development team to develop training on managing and supporting LGBTQIA+ employees and colleagues. We’ve also begun developing programs on intersectional thinking to help leaders, managers, and other colleagues understand the importance of intersectionality in the workplace. How has participating in The Queer Collective impacted some of our employees? The Queer Collective has provided visibility to members of the LGBTQIA+ community and the amazing allies that support us. Some of The Queer Collective’s leads have been approached for advice and support by members of the LGBTQIA+ community who are coming to terms with their own sexuality or gender expression, as well as colleagues looking for a supportive corporate structure in which to be themselves. Awareness initiatives have impacted how many people view the LGBTQIA+ community, providing an opportunity for people from different backgrounds and cultures to learn about the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals by listening to their stories. Hear from one of our members to learn more about the impact The Queer Collective has had on our allies. The Joy of Being an Ally in The Queer Collective Community Diana Balaci (She/Her), Workplace Manager, Paris “I am the Workplace Manager for MongoDB’s Southern European offices and a very proud ally of the LQBTQIA+ community. Allies help to support, uplift, and amplify the voices of others, and I humbly feel that I learn something new every day alongside the wonderful humans that are part of The Queer Collective.” “To understand my activism is to know my story. I come from Romania, an ex-communist country. I was born in Bucharest and lived in a big industrial and university city in the southwest of the country until I was 24 years old. In my family, I was taught values like tolerance and supporting differences early on. All the while we were still living under very conservative, traditional society patterns. My upbringing, combined with my choice of attire and value for art, culture, and universality made me pivot towards the extremely few and timid queer people in my hometown. In a time when the word ‘gay’ was not even spoken publicly, I witnessed the bullying and ignorant labeling of my best friend. Defending him started a wave of questions and pointing of fingers, questions that I am honest to say I did not know how to respond to. I promised myself then and there that I would continuously do my best in growing and learning more about the LQBTQIA+ community. Fast forward to now, my friend is happily engaged and in a loving, fulfilling relationship with the man of his dreams in a more open-minded Bucharest. As for me, I’m still educating myself and those around me.” “I am thankful for the opportunity to meet amazing people through The Queer Collective who have such complex personalities that truly value inclusivity and diversity. They embraced the weird, loud, outspoken person that I am. I am in awe when I see the efforts they make to give a voice to everyone, and I am humbled and touched when I see them sparing their time to make sure that events are safe, accessible, and welcoming to every identity. I am honored to be in this community.” What has been The Queer Collective's biggest highlight so far? We launched an incredibly ambitious program for Pride 2021, including both fun and educational events organized by our members all across the world. The schedule included educational training, voguing workshops, drag events, a trans experience fireside chat, a U.S. benefits webinar discussing fertility and family-forming, virtual happy hours, and more. Pride 2021 kick-off drag event with Cissy Walken Our biggest hope is that our Pride programming advocates for inclusivity, educates about respect, and celebrates the wonderful complexity of the human experience. We believe this is the best spotlight so far as it includes multiple events over the month of June. Some past events that have also been impactful are (Inter)national Coming Out Day 2020 and the Trans Awareness Panels hosted the same year. The first emphasized the life experiences of LGBTQIA+ members in The Queer Collective, and the latter focused on the trans color in the LGBTQIA+ rainbow: educating participants to see the transgender identity, to understand it and, most importantly, to respect it. Respect is highly cherished by all members of The Queer Collective and is the foundation of all our actions. From gender pronoun forums, to book club discussions, to learning and development training, our goal is to support and educate others about all identities. “I see you and I respect who you are” may be easily said on paper, but it takes real effort to turn it into actions in your everyday life. What are Queer Collective's goals and plans for the future? We are delighted to announce that we have partnered with Ryan Francis , Vice President of Worldwide Demand Generation & Field Marketing, to be our executive sponsor. Ryan’s support will help us grow, amplify our message, and enable our voices to be heard in spaces we don’t have access to. While it is a commitment, we are excited to see where this partnership will take us. Ryan had this to say: “I accepted the invitation to be the executive sponsor for The Queer Collective to do more for my community here at MongoDB. It's easy to forget in the rush of Zoom calls, deadlines, and fire drills that I'm incredibly lucky to be in the position I'm in, and it's because of the people who have done the work before me that I am. It's the least I can do to create visibility for my community and support them to the fullest extent.” The next step for us is to foster intersectional cooperation with other MongoDB affinity groups. We have worked quite closely with Queeries, the closed group for queer folks at MongoDB. We admire the work of MDBWomen , The Underrepresented People of Color Network, MongoDB Veterans, and Underrepresented Genders in Tech, and we recognize that true inclusion, equality, and equity is only achieved through intersectionality. We intend to partner closely with these groups and any emerging affinity groups. Everyone exists at the intersection of multiple identities and labels, and we need to be mindful that The Queer Collective member identities are multi-faceted and complex. We also hope to collaborate with other teams and departments at MongoDB with a focus on working together to solve for equity across the business. What do we mean by that? There are nuances in ways of working across teams. The Sales team works in a very different way and has a different set of priorities than, for example, the Product or Engineering teams. We want everyone at MongoDB to benefit from an inclusive culture and welcoming environment. No matter your role, you should feel safe, welcome, and supported in bringing your full self to work at MongoDB. Finally, we’re working on developing partnerships externally so that the work we do extends beyond MongoDB. This began with our sponsorship of the 2021 Lesbians Who Tech Summit and we also have an upcoming talk at MongoDB .Live on allyship which will be given by two of our leads. We hope to continue sponsoring more conferences, speaking at more events, and lending our knowledge to other groups. Meet our current Queer Collective leads Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB and joining The Queer Collective? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe and would love for you to transform your career with us!
Meet Some of MongoDB’s Influential Women Leaders in 2021
Each year, MongoDB highlights some of our most influential leaders in celebration of International Women’s Day. These women are making a huge impact on their teams and the company, have grown their careers at MongoDB as managers, and inspire us every day. Kathrin Schmitt , Manager, Corporate Sales - DACH, Dublin, Ireland Change is the only constant in our life. Embracing it and continually searching for opportunities to grow is my secret to finding success. When I got my master’s degree in finance, it did not occur to me that I would switch gears and change fields entirely in my early 30s. My family and many friends thought I was crazy for abandoning an industry that I worked hard to be a part of and successfully started to build a career in. However, I saw how technology is changing the world, and I wanted to be part of something that is growing and disruptive. When I got the opportunity to join MongoDB in early 2016, I left all my friends and family behind and embraced the challenge of moving to a new country and industry at the same time. Five years later, I don’t regret a single day. I am leading our DACH and French Corporate Sales Teams at MongoDB, and personal and professional development are still key to my success as well as the success of my team. My team is building the market from the ground up, and this requires courage, innovation, knowledge, and trust. Our technology is disrupting the database market, but few people know that our Sales Team is outstanding and disruptive too. I rely on the entrepreneurial spirit of my team to understand how we can not only find new customers but also build scalable processes that will exponentially grow the customer base in these regions. Learning, developing, and innovating is deeply ingrained in our team culture. This is crucial, because it allows us to try new things and fail until we eventually succeed. I truly trust that my team knows what is best for the market and their customers, and I wholeheartedly support them in their own development. MongoDB has a very open, inclusive, and collaborative culture—one that I have felt completely confident in and supported by. I feel as if I can be myself at work, and that’s something I try to pass on as well. Our jobs take up most of our lives, so it’s important that we feel fulfilled, safe, productive, and in a position where we are not afraid to fail and can share our opinions without feeling judged. I want to inspire and encourage my team to build together and to be the best version of themselves. I love helping my team grow and succeed, and I hope I can share my passion for MongoDB and our product with them. The database market is the largest in software sales, and we serve customers who are truly changing the world. I’m surrounded by compassionate and supportive women at MongoDB every day, and as I expand my team, I’m focusing on bringing more women into our sales organization and providing them with the resources they need to advance their careers. As a leader, it’s really important to make sure you’re there for your team. When you take care of your people, they will take care of others. Lungowe (Lulu) Andala , Global Payroll Manager, New York, NY I was born and raised in Zambia and at the age of 16 migrated to Australia to study. Once I graduated from university, I kind of stumbled into a payroll coordinator role while looking for a job in my field of study. I had never done payroll before, but I’ve always loved working with numbers so I interviewed for the role. The company saw my enthusiasm and willingness to learn, and I got the job! After a few years, my partner and I moved to the United States, where I worked for a professional employment organization (PEO) before joining MongoDB. When I think back, all my prior roles pushed me toward a management position, even if I didn’t necessarily know that at the time. One thing I always enjoyed was training and sharing the knowledge I had with peers. This naturally led to me being the person who trained new team members. As I honed this skill, I noticed that people got more value from “guidance,” which facilitated a better understanding of concepts, as compared to a more traditional step-by-step training method. I never thought I’d be a manager, but when I was presented with the opportunity to build a team here at MongoDB, one of the things I was most excited about was how I’d contribute to the growth and development of the team. My manager has been a strong role model who continues to help me grow by pushing me beyond my comfort levels, while still offering the same guidance and coaching I strive to provide in my own management style. When I became a manager for the first time, I was worried that I wouldn’t get it right and that this would impact my team’s motivation and performance. If I could go back and talk to myself back then, I’d say “Stop being in your own head too much.” You may stumble a few times, but you’ll realize that if you give your team opportunities to grow and develop, they will stay motivated. If you provide clear and achievable objectives for your team, they’ll understand what value they are bringing, not only to the team but to the company. They’ll feel as if they are working toward something tangible and that their work is making a difference (which it is). Sometimes your team will come to you for guidance and you won’t always know the solution right away, and that’s okay. Someone once told me a good manager is the one who asks the right questions, not someone who knows everything. Don’t place value on knowing the answers to everything all the time. My approach to leadership is to be democratic and be a coach. In almost everything I do, I try to keep my team in mind. I ask myself questions like “How will this impact the team? Are there growth opportunities for my team? How can I get the team involved throughout this process or project?” I try to give my team members the independence and autonomy to make their own decisions, while always being there to guide them through any decision-making or problem-solving process. Tammy Bailey , Lead Engineer, Sydney, Australia Years ago, when I began graduate school, I was a bit dismayed to learn there was a hefty teaching requirement — as if I wouldn’t have enough work already! But I quickly grew to love teaching. My favorite students were inevitably the most difficult ones. I loved the challenge of finding alternative methods to ensure all students could learn, and finding the right motivation to inspire the uninspired. As an engineer, I missed the fulfillment that teaching provided — and quite honestly, as an extrovert, I really missed the social interaction. Thus, I set out to find a place in the engineering world that would check all the boxes. Back when I was an individual contributor, I spent most of my time working independently. Writing, testing, and debugging code were my main responsibilities, and I viewed my technical proficiency as a measure of my success. Now, as a Lead Engineer, my days are spent collaborating with others. My focus is no longer on the task at hand, but on the team assigned to complete the task. I use my technical experience to scope and design projects, and I trust in the technical proficiency of my team to see those projects to completion. I champion a culture that is friendly, accepting, accountable, inclusive, and diverse. I love so many things about my role! I love building a team culture that ensures everyone has a productive, positive, and safe environment to work in. I love to plan team events and brainstorm new ways to engage all the personalities on the team. I love working with my fellow leads, having a voice in planning and resource allocation, and setting milestones and goals. I love mentoring engineers — mapping out their goals, finding their path, motivating them to move forward, and celebrating their successes along the way. I believe the true skill of effective leaders is the ability to guide their teams along a successful path, while knowing this path may not look the same for everyone. Leaders inspire, motivate, and empower their teams. They respect the insight and experience of the team and allow everyone to have a voice, building their teams based not only on talent but also on culture and personality. They want their teams to be excited to come to work every day, and find ways to make that possible. They lead by example. If you are an engineer who would like to manage your own team, my first piece of advice is to ask yourself if you genuinely feel people leadership would be a successful path for you. Test the waters by seeking out mentoring opportunities and noncoding tasks, signing up for design review crews, and contributing to improving team processes and culture. You should find these things enjoyable and rewarding, and the people you engage with should find it enjoyable and rewarding to work with you. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, and demonstrate that you can use it to grow and improve. My second piece of advice is to find a company whose values you admire, a manager who inspires and motivates you, and a team that embodies what you hope to achieve when building one of your own. When I interviewed at MongoDB, I learned some of my teammates have worked together for decades. Decades! That is nothing short of amazing, and it was definitely a team I wanted to be a part of. My manager indeed inspires and motivates me and helps me grow as a leader simply by being a fantastic leader himself. MongoDB provides me with a successful environment built on strong core values and the opportunity to advance as a leader in the company. Jenny Liang , Lead Product Marketing Manager, New York, NY I’m very grateful for the recent opportunity to grow my career into a managerial role at MongoDB. I’ve always wanted to lead a team, and luckily, my professional goals aligned with the company’s trajectory. Currently, I lead Product Marketing for MongoDB Atlas , our core cloud product. In this role, I define strategies for how my team can create more value for the business and scale efficiently. The fast pace of product innovation combined with our ambitious growth goals have also helped justify the need for more product marketers. That said, being a new manager has been both challenging and humbling. I never expected to have to recruit and onboard team members in a fully remote environment! There’s so much learning that happens indirectly in an office that can be hard to re-create virtually. Everything is more deliberate, and it puts pressure on everyone to stay on top of things. Part of my responsibility as a manager is making sure my team feels as if they’re being included in conversations and are aware of what’s going on around them, even if it isn’t something they’re directly working on. An important lesson I learned as a manager is that there are many ways to “be helpful.” By nature, I like helping others, but I was used to expressing that by doing work or teaching people what I knew. Now that I have a team, I realize I have to help them in different ways. For example, sometimes I need to say no to requests so they can focus on the highest priorities. Other times, I simply need to be a good listener. By giving people space to think aloud, they can often find a solution on their own. One of my current focus areas is championing ways to iterate constantly and test new ideas. I see it as one way to set a good example for my team and encourage them to think about how they can be leaders in the future. I pitch my ideas as pilots, experiments, or research projects to get buy-in. Then I execute as best as I can, reflecting on what works and what doesn’t. This part is super important! If you don’t share what you learn, then you can’t inspire others to change what they do and build off your experiences. Think of it as your contribution to the team’s knowledge bank. In my experience, becoming an influencer in decision-making is an important way to show executives and people in leadership that you’re making an impact and that they should invest in you and the growth of your team. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe and would love for you to build your career with us!
Latinas in Tech: Andy Morales Coto
This spotlight is part of a blog series to amplify exceptional Latina talent in the tech industry. Through our partnership with Latinas In Tech, this article originally appeared on their site . Tell us about yourself, Andy. How did you get to where you are today? I’m originally from Costa Rica and have been living in NYC for the past six years. I’m a product designer, but I wasn’t always one: before coming to New York, I was working in multiple industries, as a game designer, a copywriter, and a digital marketer. But I guess most of that is just titles and places I come from, not really the way I got to be where I am. If I look more deeply, I would say that the moments that have led me to where I am today are a mixture of privilege and the fallout of self-discovery. I was born in an upper middle class family, the daughter of two public servants — a doctor and an engineer — and learned English pretty early on at their behest. I was able to go to private school my whole life, up until college, when I attended the University of Costa Rica, which is publicly funded by all Costa Ricans. I wouldn’t say I had a luxurious life growing up: there were certainly hand-me-downs from my sisters, but I also never had a problem buying a video game console if I wanted it — I’d just have to give up having a birthday party (and I did). Overall, I’d say my parents motivated me to follow my dreams, and would gladly take me to any classes I wanted (English, robotics, programming, drawing) from the time I was a little girl. In that sense, I always had a leg up, understood what was considered “excellence” in education, and pretty early on set my mind on studying abroad eventually. With that said, my comfortable life became, well, not comfortable at all when I came out at 19. College changed my life completely. Finally being able to understand who I was, I came out as queer to my very conservative parents, and the reception was extremely toxic. For the first time, I understood what it meant to not be able to afford a meal, or even a bus ticket. I walked miles to go to college several times, hell-bent on finishing my degree in communications (the closest thing to tech, I figured, without the toxicity of the homogeneity of computer science). Finally I graduated, but my whole perception of the world had changed: I became more empathetic and less judgmental of others, and I knew what depression and trauma were. Coming out made me a better human being with an understanding of my privilege, and I’m deeply grateful that I took that step. Coming out made me a better human being with an understanding of my privilege, and I’m deeply grateful that I took that step. I continued working for several years after graduating from college, did another degree in marketing while I worked, and finally got accepted into Parsons (NYC) on a scholarship to study transdisciplinary design. And here we are! Oh, also, and this is very important: I’m married to a lovely American and live with her and two fluffy tabby cats in Brooklyn. NYC is what I call home now (and probably forever). What inspired you to pursue a career in the tech industry? I think pretty early on I was in awe of technology, and I don’t just mean computers, but also cars, glasses, electricity, hammers. I’ve always admired anything that expands the possibilities of what a human can do. But my “aha moment” happened when I was 10 and accessed the internet at the University of Costa Rica. My mother was a teacher there and had access to connection before the rest of the country did. She’d sometimes let me use her computer, and I still remember using Netscape in complete fascination of what this meant for humanity: we would all be connected. That’s when it really clicked for me: I love this, I love computers. As a manager at MongoDB, what have been some of the most memorable and impactful projects you’ve worked on so far? I’m the most proud of the people I manage, and seeing them grow every day. My direct reports are infinitely more talented than I am in some ways, and I welcome that. I want to be surrounded by people more talented than I am, and they’re going to change the face of the design industry, I have no doubt. Watching them get better and better, lead projects of their own, and successfully navigate difficult stakeholder situations — well, it just puts a smile on my face! But, apart from that, a specific project I’ve enjoyed is Blue Sky, a yearly design-driven sprint that we do in conjunction with key stakeholders to create the “concept car” of the product I lead design for. This will be the second year we do Blue Sky, and we hope to use design thinking beyond the graphical user interface, partnering with product and engineering to imagine the future experience of MongoDB Realm in the CLI and the IDE. With each Blue Sky, design positions itself as a partner for our stakeholders, and our proposals coming out of the project tend to be implemented up to 75% of what we design. It’s exciting to become strategic partners in the direction the product will take. How has your culture (and/or other identity marker) shaped you as a leader? As a manager? Well, my culture is a mixture of queer culture, Costa Rican culture, and NYC culture. I think all of these shape me as a leader, because it means I am not a monolith as a person; I’ve learned to see the world through many different perspectives. Being able to compare and contrast how different cultures view or react to situations makes me self-aware, and puts me in a position where I strive to understand how others are reacting to situations, in the frame of their culture. I’d say this is empathy, which is a bit of a design cliche, but I actually think that it’s more than empathy — it’s vulnerability and sobering humility. Trust me, I wasn’t always super self-aware, but as I’ve gotten to know the world through different cultural lenses, I’ve realized that I have to be careful with how I help others be what they consider their very best. Whether it’s grappling with cultural expectations or navigating workplace biases, we fight through many challenges as Latinx women. What’s one you’re working through currently? I’m definitely sometimes worried about how I come off to my teammates, particularly those who are not Latin American. I can be emotionally vulnerable, honest, and bubbly: I cry at work at times, I am not afraid of jumping into difficult conversations, and I laugh loudly. Unfortunately, as a woman and as a Latina, these can be seen as vapid qualities, symbols of weakness. Why is she so loud, so emotional, so open to talking? In the past, I’ve tried to cover this up by being serious, talking softly but more deeply, and avoiding vulnerable conversation; as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that inhibiting those qualities hinders me at work, because it makes me feel miserable, and that I end up gaining more supporters in the long term by being as open-hearted as I am. I definitely think I have my upbringing in Costa Rica to blame for that: it is not the norm for women to be like that at work, but while I was growing up I certainly saw more female bosses be open and vulnerable. I can be emotionally vulnerable, honest, and bubbly: I cry at work at times, I am not afraid of jumping into difficult conversations, and I laugh loudly. This, of course, sometimes brings some internal turmoil: Am I just not meant to be in this American culture? Am I borrowing from my Costa Rican experiences without giving back? There’s a certain sense of duty that you feel toward those who are in your home country, even if your current definition of home has changed (I consider myself more a New Yorker than anything else, by now). To be honest, I don’t have a solution to that sense of duty and loss, and I struggle with it pretty often. I deal with it by donating and helping others that want to chase their dreams in the USA, but I still struggle with it. It’s hard not to miss the place you grew up in. It’s a big piece of you, no matter where you go. Looking to the future, what inspires you, and what initiatives are you most excited about right now? I’m inspired by games, and I can’t wait to continue using playful design in every product I design. Tangentially, I design live action role playing (LARP) games, and I can’t wait to be able to play with my other designer friends again, hopefully at a house by the beach. What’s one piece of career advice you’ll never ever forget? One of my professors from grad school, Mathan Ratinam, told me once that throughout his career he learned that you are lucky if you get to choose a job for one of three reasons: you love the work, you love the mission, or you love the people. I’ve tried loving the work, and I’ve tried loving the mission, but let me tell you: if I don’t enjoy working with the people, I’m not going to be happy in the long term. Whenever I consider a career move, I don’t focus on the mission or the work as much anymore, because those haven’t brought me the happiness that I thought they would. People do. Whenever I consider a career move, I don’t focus on the mission or the work as much anymore, because those haven’t brought me the happiness that I thought they would. People do. How do you reset when you’re in a funk? I let myself cry/experience sadness first, I go to therapy (cannot stress this enough: if you can afford it, please go to therapy), and I practice Muay Thai. I just love kicking a bag and sweating the problems out, you know? Any podcasts or blog recommendations? I don’t really listen to podcasts or read blogs that often. I play games and I read books; those are my two sources of design inspiration. I’d say, if you can, play “Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” to see what the epitome of design is. Also, play any LARP from the Golden Cobra Challenge: http://www.goldencobra.org/ . You can print those for free and play them with people online. Bookswise, I’ve been reading Fall ; or, Dodge in Hell , by Neal Stephenson, but sometimes it hits too close to home. Is there anyone you’d like to shout out for their support along your career journey? My wife, Crystal Morales. She’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. She is the smartest career advisor I know, and the smartest person I know. Period. Mathan Ratinam, of course, whom I mentioned before. He has inspired me so many times and listened to me talk for hours on the phone. A champ. My friends who, during college, helped me get a meal when I couldn’t: Olalla, Edith, Diana (my best friend since then), Warren, Memo, MaJo. A big hug to them all. And my college teacher Andrea Alvarado, who understood the pains I was going through at home when I came out and, instead of failing me, gave me extra work to do, showing me that part of being compassionate is never being condescending. Andy is thriving as a lead product designer at MongoDB . If you’re ready to work with what sounds like an incredible group of people, here are three open roles you should check out! Product Manager, Server Sales Development Representative Lead Engineer, Docs Platform
PowerToFly Event Recap: MongoDB’s Regional Sales Director Offers 10 Valuable Career Lessons
In November 2020, MongoDB hosted a virtual panel discussion with our partner PowerToFly . During this session, women in roles across MongoDB’s Sales organization — from entry-level to leadership — shared more about their experience working at such a fast-growing company, how they’ve owned their career growth, and advice for anyone considering a career here. One mic-drop moment during the event was when Stephanie Samuels , Regional Director of Sales at MongoDB, shared 10 unique and insightful lessons based on her experiences that anyone — early careerist or seasoned professional — should consider to guide their career success. 10 Career Lessons by Stephanie Samuels Lesson #10: You are not a label. Lesson #9: Have a strong work ethic. Lesson #8: Advocate for yourself. Lesson #7: You are not an imposter. Lesson #6: The most valuable resource you have is your time. Lesson #5: Make work-life balance a priority. Lesson #4: Create a personal board of directors. Lesson #3: Run your own race. Lesson #2: Have perseverance. Lesson #1: There will be beauty for ashes. Watch the full video Download the lessons here: About PowerToFly: MongoDB is a proud partner of PowerToFly, a recruiting platform that connects companies to women in tech, sales, marketing, and more. With a mission to improve diversity recruiting and hiring, PowerToFly is a targeted job board that offers high-visibility employer branding services to help pools of underrepresented talent discover new roles at great companies. Learn more about PowerToFly here . Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and we’d love for you to build your career with us!
Meet Vanessa Le: How MongoDB Has Helped Me Embrace My Differences
As a global company, MongoDB has so many amazing employees with interesting backgrounds and stories. I recently sat down with Vanessa Le, Senior Commissions Analyst, to learn more about her journey from Vietnam to Ireland, what inclusion and belonging means to her, and how she feels supported at MongoDB. Ashley Perez: Thank you for sharing your story, Vanessa. I’d love to hear what it was like growing up in Vietnam and how your love for travel helped you move to Ireland. Vanessa Le: I was born in Vietnam to a middle-income family. When I started high school, my parents separated and my family experienced financial problems. Growing up, I always had a dream of going abroad to study and see the world, but at that point, we couldn’t afford it. I set that dream aside and went to college in Vietnam while working different part-time jobs to support my family and pay my tuition fee. During my second year, I found out a friend from college received a fully funded scholarship from an NGO to study abroad. This sparked my dream of studying abroad again. I knew it was hard to afford going to school overseas, but I also knew that it was no longer impossible, so I set my first big life goal: get a scholarship that would pay for me to study in another country. I spent months researching all available scholarships. After going through many rounds of applications over the course of two years, I got into the interview round for some. But I ended up being rejected by all of them, one by one. I was really disappointed with myself and almost gave up before I decided to give it one last attempt. With persistence and experience, two of the applications were successful! Between the two choices, I selected Irish Aid and became one of 20 Vietnamese people who got a fully funded scholarship from the Irish government to pursue a master’s degree in management consulting (my degree choice) in Ireland. Having no idea about the country beforehand, I quit my job in Vietnam and flew to Ireland with the flight, accommodation, and tuition fully paid. AP: That’s such an amazing story. How was it moving to Dublin, especially since you knew very little about Ireland? VL: Realizing my dream, I had the best year of my life studying, traveling, learning new things, discovering new cultures, and making new friends. I didn’t experience too much of a culture shock until I graduated and started searching for a job in Ireland. Being the only Asian in the first company I worked for was a tough experience and drastically destroyed my confidence. I was proud of where I was from, but at the same time, I felt isolated because I was different from others around me. Being Vietnamese became a barrier to me for blending in. Although I had worked hard, got promoted, made friends, and tried to expose myself to different social activities, I still never felt as if I belonged. I constantly doubted myself and questioned whether I made the right decision coming to Ireland and if it was the right place for me to settle. AP: That sounds really hard. Can you tell me what happened from there and how you ended up at MongoDB? VL: I joined MongoDB in 2018 as the only person on the Commissions team — which is primarily based in Palo Alto, California — who was located in Ireland. I work cross-functionally with Sales Ops, Accounting, HR, and Payroll to oversee commissions payout for the Sales team in EMEA and APAC. I am very fortunate to be part of the Commissions team, and at the same time, also a part of the International Finance team in Dublin. Commissions is still a small team of five, so whenever we get a chance to meet, I always get such a warm feeling — as if we are a family. Coincidentally, all the team members are Asian Americans, so from the very first moment when I met the team, I naturally felt connected, even though I’m remote from the rest of them. From day one when I joined the Dublin team, I was amazed at how diverse the team was. On the International Finance team of less than 20 people, we have as many as 10 different nationalities. This allows us to blend together, learn from each other, and embrace our differences. We’re excited to share and learn about each other’s cultures. When we’re in a group discussion, I no longer feel embarrassed about my accent because all the team members have their own accents. That is unique and should be appreciated. On the team, my differences no longer felt like a barrier. In fact, our differences were what made us all alike. That has helped me to regain my confidence, and for the first time since I started working in Ireland, I now feel as if I belong. AP: It’s great that you feel that connection. What is your favorite part about working at MongoDB? VL: Joining MongoDB has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my career. I love the opportunity to interact with different teams, the career progression, the constant challenges, and the impact I can make. As the company grew, I witnessed the size of the international Sales team almost tripling in the last two years, which made my role challenging and interesting at the same time. The challenges I tackle at work have motivated me to upskill myself everyday. For example, I learned to code and applied my VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) skill to automate the Excel-based processes within the Commissions team — and within the Accounting team, too. The opportunities to work with the Business Systems team on system configuration and automation projects have also inspired me to extend my knowledge and skills into data analytics, which is something I’m very passionate about. Looking back at the last two years, I’ve grown so much with MongoDB. On a personal level, the opportunity to work in a multinational company and team has taught me to be more open-minded, and to welcome and respect people from different backgrounds, with their own unique life stories. As someone who originally was shy, I’ve overcome the fear of speaking in public and of being judged. Now, I’m more confident and assertive when expressing myself, amplifying my voice when needed and protecting my perspective on things I believe in. The excellent training and growth opportunities aside, the reason I stay is because of the culture and the people. MongoDB’s core values are not just there as a formalistic slogan. Ever since I joined the company, I can see that every single person I’ve worked with has really lived the company’s values. From the top executives to all of my peers, everyone has set great examples for me to learn from. I’m thankful for having such great leaders, including my managers, Derek Lowry and Prev Dole, and my VPs, Jillian Gillespie and Shalena O’Connell, who have always given me tons of support and inspiration. They have encouraged me to live these core values, which has empowered me to push my limits, challenge the status quo, and become a better version of myself. AP: From what you’ve said, a sense of belonging and inclusion is really important to you. Can you share more about that? VL: It is indeed. Feeling fully accepted within a company, being proud of who you are, and feeling safe to express yourself authentically is very important to me. If benefits attract talents, I think the sense of belonging is what retains them at MongoDB. It’s a crucial factor for employee engagement and for the company’s success. AP: That’s powerful. What does inclusion and belonging look like at MongoDB? VL: One day, I had a virtual coffee chat with MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria and a small group of people, where he casually talked about his childhood and the books he loved, and answered personal questions. To me, that is inclusion. When we worked in the office pre-COVID, the CFO, Michael Gordon, joined us for a team lunch. He talked about his weekend and what he and his wife were up to. To me, that is inclusion. Someone on the team felt safe enough to share with everyone that she just started a language course to improve her English without being afraid of being judged. To me, that is inclusion. My boss came across an article on the change of Irish immigration law and forwarded it to me to make sure I wasn’t missing the news. That is inclusion. My team ordered sushi and they included veggie sushi because one of the team members was vegetarian. That is inclusion. My colleague proudly and bravely shared his coming out story to the whole company and saw that MongoDBers embraced, celebrated, and supported it. Again, that is inclusion, and it is so amazing. I love the fact that MongoDB is so diverse. However, its diversity isn’t simply about hiring many people of different nationalities, but about clearing the barriers, amplifying everyone’s voices, and appreciating everyone’s unique backgrounds. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us!
AfroTech Virtual Summit Recap: MongoDB Employees Share Advice with Rising Tech Talent
This past August, MongoDB sponsored the “ AfroTech : Tech is Still Hiring Virtual Summit.” During this session, our leaders provided personal stories and insights about what a successful career in technology looks like. MongoDB panelists included: Stephanie Samuels , Regional Director, Sales Tosin Ajayi , Sr. Manager, WW Solutions Architecture Wisdom Omuya , Engineering Director, Atlas Data Lake The panel was moderated by Danielle James , Diversity and Inclusion Manager at MongoDB. Panelists shared actionable advice you can apply today, including how to build a roadmap for personal success, ways to bounce back from challenges, the importance of communicating your value, where to find support during your leadership journey, and more. Hear their thoughts: What specific skills are required to become a leader in your field? How do you handle tough feedback constructively? How do you differentiate yourself from others? How do you communicate the value of your work? How do you bounce back from a mistake or conflict? What should someone do if they believe they're ready for a promotion, but their manager feels otherwise? How can someone prepare for MongoDB's technical interview? What rituals have helped you accelerate your career? What can people do today to help them have a successful career? Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us! Join MongoDB in supporting organizations fighting for racial justice and equal opportunity. Donate to the MongoDB for Justice fund by December 31, 2020 and MongoDB will match the donation up to $250,000. Learn more .
Employee Spotlight: MongoDB Product Manager Talks About His Role And The Company’s Push For Inclusivity
Editor's note: This was originally published on AfroTech's Website . Having a game plan for your career can help you reach monumental milestones and attain goals that not only benefit yourself, but the greater good of the company that you work for. Just ask product manager (PM) at MongoDB, Garaudy Etienne, who has succeeded at the company by using his expertise of processing data to help fuel product growth. Thanks to his engineering and business background, Etienne helps elevate MongoDB products to a higher level of success in the industry’s competitive landscape. The product manager knows the in-and-outs of tech and advocates for inclusivity in the workplace too. Etienne spoke with AfroTech to share an inside look into his unique experience working at MongoDB as a product manager and how he’s using his impact to dismantle offensive database terminology through the master/slave removal project. AfroTech: Tell us about your background and your role as a PM with MongoDB? Etienne: I’ve been a product manager for three years and was previously an aerospace engineer. I grew up in Haiti, Belgium and New Jersey. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Princeton University and my MBA from the University of Chicago. I’m a product manager for the sharding team at MongoDB. Sharding is the process of splitting up a customer’s data over several smaller computers instead of one giant computer. At a certain scale, it is a cost-effective way of storing and processing more data for most companies. Our team is responsible for making sure the data is split in a way that lets websites or apps stay fast as they continue to grow. This means if an app grows to millions of users, they can still read or write information to their database without any issues. AfroTech: What experience(s) prepared you the most for this role? Etienne: My engineering background combined with my MBA have most prepared me for this role. Knowing that I wanted to be a product manager before attending business school helped me focus my learnings and efforts with that singular goal. AfroTech: How were you recruited/promoted/hired into this role? Etienne: Believe it or not, I just went to MongoDB’s website and applied for a “Product Manager, Distributed Systems” posting the company had. I received an email shortly after, asking to set up a phone interview with the recruiter. I’d like to point out that this is not a recommended approach. It’s best to connect with an employee and get some more information about the company and a referral, if possible. AfroTech: What exactly does being a Product Manager mean? Etienne: First, let’s define what a product is: a product is anything you create for other people to use. Being a PM is all about helping the company build a better product. It’s about discovering what to build (and not build) for our customers and when to build it. This means setting a strategy and vision for the product so the engineers see a maximum impact for their efforts. I do this mainly by asking lots of questions, talking to customers, and talking to other teams close to customers, such as customer success managers, technical services engineers, and solutions architects. AfroTech: What inspired you to become a Product Manager? Etienne: I knew that I was interested in business in college. When I finally decided that aerospace was no longer for me, I knew I wanted to still be involved in technology but in a business capacity. I did some research to see what career paths were at the intersection of business and technology. I also spoke to a coworker who was applying to business school at the time to get his thoughts. The more I researched, the more I believed that product management was the right path for me. Photo Credit: Garaudy Etienne, Product Manager, Server at MongoDB kicks off MongoDB's 2019 Black History Month event hosted by TUPOC/Mongodb AfroTech: What’s important to know/do once in the role, and what are the career advancement opportunities for a Product Manager at MongoDB? Etienne: Once in the role, it is important to focus and learn to say no. Requests come from all over the place. It can be customers, sales, marketing, engineers. Not only can you not please everyone, but not every request will lead to a better product. As far as PM career advancement opportunities at MongoDB, there is always plenty when a company is growing, and growing fast. For me, this means soon becoming a Senior PM, then leading a team as a Lead PM. We’ve just hired two Directors of Product on my team, which is the next step after Lead PM. If you don’t want to manage people, there’s always the opportunity to manage much bigger or more important products. AfroTech: How does your role as a Product Manager at MongoDB differ from others? Etienne: One huge difference between being a PM at MongoDB and other places I’ve worked is that I don’t have to spend time managing project timelines. At my previous role, I spent 60 percent of my time managing project timelines. The majority of my time is now focused on discovering/solving customer issues and figuring out how our team’s product fits into the overall company vision and the competitive landscape. In addition, I have been empowered to set the entire strategy for sharding. I recently had a meeting with our Chief Product Officer, where I laid out our plan for the next three to five years. I have never had that kind of autonomy before. It is pretty standard for all other product managers at the company, no matter the level. AfroTech: How do you think your company is making the working environment more inclusive? Etienne: The company has taken several steps to make working there more inclusive. Some of them predate my arrival, such as the parity pledge. The parity pledge promises to interview at least one female candidate for every job opening of director and above. The company is currently undertaking an effort to remove offensive database terminology such as “master/slave” and “whitelist/blacklist” from our code base. Senior leadership has reached out to Black employees to continually get their input and feedback. MongoDB also recently made Juneteenth a company holiday. I personally felt like I mattered a little more when our CEO spoke about the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd before it became just another PR ploy for tech companies. AfroTech: Tell us about your role as an advisor on the master/slave removal project? Etienne: The master/slave removal project started back in January. I have been involved in the discussion from the beginning. I was a staunch advocate for making the changes to older versions of MongoDB when we were debating whether or not to just do it for our latest version onwards. These changes will take close to a year of engineering effort, and it was a good opportunity to challenge the company’s commitment to Black people because this affects our bottom line. I have been in every meeting, from defining the scope of the project, to the design and implementation, and I’ve had to be involved both as a product manager and as a Black employee. AfroTech: Is there anything else you would like to add? Etienne: I wish MongoDB was a more well known company by the layperson. I think a lot of great Black employees in tech are missing out on an awesome company because we’re in the database space and our main users are developers. I’m hoping to do my part to democratize access to information about both MongoDB and product management for Black people in tech. Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe, and would love for you to build your career with us! Join MongoDB in supporting organizations fighting for racial justice and equal opportunity. Donate to our fund by December 31, 2020 and MongoDB will match the donation up to a maximum aggregate amount of $250,000. Learn more here .
How the Austin Chapter of MongoDB’s Women’s Group Built Community During the Pandemic
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. If you are interested in joining MongoDB, explore our career opportunities and join an innovative team that is disrupting the database industry every day.