Our feature this January is my colleague and Community Program Manager Extraordinare, @Mandy Ross!
Mandy’s love of being in the spotlight began when she was young, and through her experiences honing her skill of presenting and distilling complex, technical information to executives, she excels today in bridging our Community teams with our Product Teams. You can find her amongst a slew of strong, agile programs to close feedback loops with our customers and boost customer love.
I’m excited for us to learn more about her path and garner wisdom from her experience toward growing as a speaker!
Most definitely it’s “be the change you seek.” Having been in tech for 20+ years, I have heard a lot of people yammer on about their amazing ideas, but very few actually execute on them. Those who act on them are the people I admire and aspire to be more like, because they are the ones that end up changing the future.
One of my favorite quotes is by Mary Kay, which is “Ideas are a dime a dozen, but people who implement them are priceless.”
A successful team has a great balance of personalities and skill sets, led by servant leaders who are constantly removing roadblocks and helping the team improve. It has a strong emotional IQ, empathy for the group, and a culture of patience with each other.
My title is Community Program Manager for Product and Design, and I basically facilitate the Community as a feedback and customer communication channel for the product teams. My career path is long and winding, but after having been a technical program manager/agilist/ScrumMaster at big companies like Apple and Boeing, in 2012 I landed at a startup as the head of program management. There were some org changes (they laid off half the staff) and one day the CEO asked me to run marketing (because I was writing the blog, haha, great management 🙄).
I took a community approach to our marketing mostly because I had a tiny budget, and our product was an online collaboration platform. I found myself building a strong community of agilists and remote workers, and I used that network to drive an organic, grassroots marketing strategy. After that, I joined AgileCraft, which had been a customer of ours, where I led product marketing. When we were acquired by Atlassian, I found my way to the community team thru networking and discovered that my unique experience in both product development and marketing filled a gap.
What do I love about it? Everything! I love helping product teams and seeing the magic that happens when they connect with customers. I am also constantly learning, and that keeps me happy and engaged.
Before I did much public speaking, I was a QA engineer at Apple. We had these “War Rooms” during which execs would grill program managers on schedules, etc. When I eventually became a program manager at Apple and had to present at War Rooms, I would obsessively over-prepare for everything so I wouldn’t get my ass handed to me by some exec. I gained a lot of confidence speaking in front of big groups of important people through those experiences.
Sometimes being on a panel can be a little painful. I worked with one guy who constantly went over time when speaking and it made me realize that when speaking on a panel, you need to be respectful of and make room for others. Don’t dominate the conversation and let others have the floor.
Sometimes you have to be creative to get your message out and make it stick. I often use humor to create more engagement with my audience because I find it keeps things like and also makes my information more memorable. At Sony, I used to do our weekly reports in the voice of a random celebrity like Britney Spears or Kanye West. Because it was funny, people absorbed the information more.
Practice and prepare! I usually get my content ready at least a week ahead of time and have it peer reviewed. I also always have a script - I rarely try to improvise unless it’s a preso I’ve done several times. When my content is final, I read through the script out loud to make sure it flows right. Then, I record myself doing the presentation and watch it to see if there’s any way to improve it. I feel much more confident when I can see myself doing the presentation ahead of time and know what the viewers will experience.
Fond: At Palm, we made handsets that ran on the BlackBerry network. They had a super confusing certification process so I was able to simplify it out so that our exec team could understand it without too much hassle. After, they were pretty amazed that they could understand it, how I was able to present it so effectively and answer all their questions. Nothing better for your confidence than a happy exec team!
Not so fond: After an exec preso, I think at Apple, where I made a few jokes, one of them came up to me and told me that he “understood that there were many different styles of presentation” but that I basically needed to dial it back, be more serious and professional or nobody would take me seriously. I filed that away under “advice from a stuffy old white guy that I should ignore”. So far I’ve been fine. 😀
I would like to do some thought leadership writing on the role of community in product development, then do some guest speaker gigs for community industry conferences. I’d also like to do a podcast interviewing interesting people in tech or characters in my local area (I live in a small town full of weirdos in the Pacific Northwest).
Thanks, Mandy! Connect with her on LinkedIn and leave some love for Mandy in the comments 👇🏼
Sharon TanCommunity Manager
Connect with like-minded Atlassian users at free events near you!Find an event
Connect with like-minded Atlassian users at free events near you!
Unfortunately there are no Community Events near you at the moment.Host an event
You're one step closer to meeting fellow Atlassian users at your local event. Learn more about Community Events