If I could sum up my life, especially my career, I would describe it as a series of both deliberate and unexpected experiences that from first glance might look more like a migrating bird without a compass. I moved to nine different states before settling in Canada with my family by the time I was sixteen. When it came time to go to university, I was first a Drama major before deciding to defer for a year, eventually coming back to education and majoring in English. Then I segued into Kinesiology before moving into Humanities and finally falling in love with Communications.
Then there’s my job history. I started in the exhilarating (sometimes anxiety-inducing) frenzy of startups before moving into agency life, where again, I found my home. I’ve since worked with major brands like Johnson & Johnson, Clorox, Kraft, Unilever, eBay, and Pfizer. To this day, I love the thrill of the variety and connections to be built with clients, and the endless, shifting, always-changing strategic connections to be made. I also love seeing an idea come to life online—it was especially exhilarating in the mid to late 2000s during intense digital platform shifts, as social media was just starting to take hold as a branded communications vehicle. The ebbs and flows may not be quite as drastic these days (for now), but there’s always something to learn and something else to unlearn.
On Going Off Grid
I started my career in Toronto, but eventually my partner and I made the decision to head west, go freelance together (he’s a web designer/developer), and move to an off-grid cabin on an island of 1,500 people, eight hours outside of a major city. We purchased ten acres of raw forested land, some chickens, goats, pigs. A barn. We lived for three years in a canvas-wall tent with two little children—now almost five and three—while building websites and managing clients together, before finally moving into a humble little house we designed ourselves along the way.
When we first moved out to the wilderness, it was an adventure that both of us felt might end up just being a temporary yearlong chapter. This hard reset on priorities, life choices, and goals allowed us to make room to grow our family, but we didn’t know whether we could grow—or even sustain—our client base from such a remote location. We’ve been fortunate to find that the rise of remote work and the growth of distributed organizations has meant that we haven’t had to choose between homesteading and everything I love about my digital work.
On Finding Balance
If someone knows the answer to this…I’m all ears. Before kids, finding balance was much easier because there would just be juggling the shifts of computer work and garden work throughout the day. Our adorable monkey wrenches make this balance much more about collaboration with my partner, Scott—letting him really lead the garden/livestock efforts while working to make myself available, when I can, as needed. We both had to really take a step back and recalibrate our expectations for each other and the growing season when we were just starting out on this land with two children under two. The work and farm juggle that had seemed fairly easy to weave into the day before was now frustratingly, constantly, out of reach.
This summer was our seventh growing season together—the fourth one on our own land. Maybe I’ll have a better answer after the eighth season?
On Working Remotely
I love the fluidity in how I’m able to structure my day or week around life. When I went to an office every day, I had a dreadful time feeling confident enough to take a Thursday afternoon ‘off’ even if I’d arrived at the office by 7 a.m. every day that week. And I wasn’t even in organizations that were terribly concerned about bums being in seats from 9 to 5. When you work remotely, everyone has to be that much more personally accountable for their time and responsible for their deadlines, proactively communicating with the team—because the happenstance communication you get in an office just doesn’t exist. I go to our shared workspace every day, so I still get a bit of that division between work time and family time, which I appreciate. But overall I think I personally thrive in a remote setting, and so far I find it attracts a higher proportion of people I enjoy working with.
On Joining Modern Tribe
I was really fortunate (and also worked my tail off) to be able to make a solid go of it as a freelancer for years before joining Modern Tribe. A big part of that started with the foundation of both skills and relationships that I developed earlier in my career, working in the city and following a more typical trajectory for a number of years up the standard job title ladder. Before starting to work with Tribe in early 2018, it wasn’t out of the question that I could have continued to be ‘just’ a hired gun for agencies at random while maintaining my own client base…but I’m so glad I didn’t. For the first time in years, I feel like I’m part of a pool of people pointed in the same direction, excited about the same things, even though we’re all coming from different places and perspectives. I missed that part of work quite a bit while being out on my own.
On the one hand, stepping off the urban treadmill allowed for some pretty drastic priority shifts and a renewed sense of self-worth outside of ‘just’ work accomplishments. On the other hand, I feel far more equipped now to maintain my own unique recipe for work-life balance out here. I’m also able to invest my mental energy in an organization that I think cultivates outstanding work for our clients and that also works incredibly hard for us to feel valued and recognized as individuals within the greater collective. I’ve rarely seen such efforts among leadership in any downtown office. Without that commitment, I don’t think we as a remote group of colleagues would be able to thrive together or individually.
On Being A Woman In Tech
Being a woman in technology can be exhausting at times. In recent years we’ve broken the conversation open, and it’s allowed for a far better chance that, if you’re faced with a difficult situation seemingly predicated on being female, you can find the right resources, people and tactics to cope. There’s less tolerance of mistreatment and a far heightened sense of right and wrong when it comes to how women are treated in the workplace (and elsewhere).
I try to look on the bright side, find the silver lining and wherever possible, give the benefit of the doubt. But even that approach sometimes feels counterproductive if I’m smiling through a situation where I could otherwise be a more active agent in helping someone (of either gender) realize that what they’ve said or done was non-inclusive or outright offensive. That’s important not just for my own self-confidence and integrity in the relationships I have with my colleagues and clients, but for the next generation of women growing their careers in tech.
We’ve come a long way since I first started out, and Tribe’s strong stance on weaving inclusivity into the fabric of our culture is one of the many reasons I love this company. But of course as an industry, we still have work to do.
On Being a Product Strategist
My role is a unique one. I work directly with multiple stakeholders from the initial planning stages and facilitate multiple teams on both the client side and within our internal team throughout design, content strategy, and development. We’re sometimes empowered with ambitious overarching project or product goals and the latitude to design the best user experience. In other cases, the requirements are narrower—more specific—and our challenge is to find a way to still be compelling…inside the box. It’s a complex job that requires a breadth of skills, an appetite for change, a willingness to investigate and a constant desire to find the right answer—not simply be right. I love the challenge of it.
On Managing Busy Weeks
I try to limit how much work I do on the weekend, but I do enjoy dedicating a bit of time on Sunday to prepare for the days to come. I look ahead at the week and try to gauge what has to get done on Monday/Tuesday, calibrating this against the meetings scheduled in my calendar. I try to have my list of 15- to 30-minute tasks handy so when I do get a mini block of time between meetings, I might be able to knock out a couple small things instead of letting the minutes fruitlessly pass by.
Meetings with clients, meetings with the team, writing, chatter on Slack, updating and noting what needs to happen next.
On the days when I have tasks that will require two or three hours of dedicated focus time, I close Slack and email tabs on my browser. It’s rare that I can do this more than a couple times a week, so if there’s a bigger deliverable, it’s up to me to pre-plan how it’s going to break down so I can chip away at it in smaller chunks without leaving it all to the last minute.
Sometimes I’ll break off early for the afternoon to hang out with my family, often while letting ideas simmer in the back of my brain. This increased time with the kiddos before they go to bed might mean a little bit of work later at night, but this feels like a positive, proactively chosen decision as opposed to the product of being too distracted to focus during the day.
The tangible work I’m developing might be a simple email recommendation, a more detailed analysis summary report or documentation to support the development team and ensure clarity with our clients. The less easily quantified aspects might come in many forms, such as talking through a complex challenge with a developer: offering a sounding board, perspective and a checkpoint for project priorities. Or working with my project manager to ensure the team’s priorities and availability line up with the product roadmap we’re following. It’s varied—sometimes frenzied—and so much fun.
On Doing Good Work
I can’t say I have a favorite client because it’s not just about a single relationship or interaction that makes the job so fulfilling. I have favorite moments, milestones, and achievements we reach together. I get something out of the thrill of a new kickoff, as well as the tried and true, inside-out systemic knowledge and perspective that comes from working with one of our client partners for months, even years. Overall, the best projects are the ones that challenge us with sophisticated functional requirements and clients who approach our partnership with an equal sense of collaboration and care. I feel lucky that this is a regularity—rather than a rarity—at Modern Tribe.
On Living Well
To me, it’s about staying present and in the moment. Cultivating authentic, genuine relationships. Holding space and time for reflection, gratitude. Always learning.