After a lot of deliberation, I’ve decided to leave Slack.
I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to help build the company and product. My timing was fortunate: I was somewhere around the 50th person to join and I’m leaving as we near 1,000. I was the first person other than Stewart to manage the PM team and I hired somewhat fewer than half of the PMs working at Slack today. I started the user research and UI writing groups and then I hired great managers to take those teams over.
I gave away so many LEGOs that it became my pitch to the many high performers I hired: I am here to help you and Slack succeed together. My favorite example of this in action is the incredible Kelly Watkins. I hired her as a PM on the Growth team. In less than a year, she’d been promoted to the Global Head of Marketing. (Ask not what your reports can do for you, but what your reports can do for the company.)
I spent most of my tenure at Slack building out the Growth team and defining, measuring, and significantly driving our key activation metrics. Our team ended up being the most diverse organization at the company. We grew to about 50 people and maintained a roughly 50/50 gender ratio. As we matured and built out the leadership team, the managers leading Product, Marketing, Analytics, and Engineering were all women — and we were not all straight and white, either. I was frequently the only white person in group meetings. I don’t think I was ever the only woman.
During one of my final product design reviews we were discussing language in a button to ensure it would translate well. I polled the cross-functional group: Of the 7 people in this room, how many languages do we have fluency in? The answer was 12. We got up to something like 18 if we included more basic proficiency levels. This is just a small example of why diverse teams are so strong. If you want to see around corners, hire people from different hallways.
I helped build Slack, but Slack helped build me. I learned not just about how to scale products and people, but also about what it means to be human.
Early on, someone on Twitter was being mean to me and I caught myself before I replied with defensive snark. The habits of tactical empathy and courtesy I’d been learning from Stewart, Anna, Johnny, Brandon, Ali and Eric kicked in. Relating to people with kindness and respect had become a reflex.
In that moment, I saw this person as they really were — a flawed person like me, with opinions and half-formed thoughts they expressed on the internet in 140 characters. Someone, like anyone else, who is deserving of kindness and receiving the benefit of the doubt. I channeled Slack’s voice and de-escalated the conversation. Then I put my phone down and thought, Working at Slack has made me a better, more thoughtful person… What the f***.
That moment really crystallized what Slack meant to me. We built a culture and a product that continually inspired me to put others before myself, to push myself to improve, and to be fearless about helping my colleagues and our customers. Slack the company set a high standard for how to speak and think and relate, and I became a caretaker of that culture.
In part I left because I want to bring that standard of respect and inclusion into more of Silicon Valley, and because I want to find that level of intense challenge again: How do you scale from 500,000 to 5+ million DAU in two years while growing revenue, driving activation, and building a diverse, empathetic team?
So for now, I’m taking some time off to explore what’s next. I’ve opened up my DMs on Twitter so I can continue to mentor women and people of color. I’m talking to founders and investors to see how I can help other people answer some of those questions.
I’m running my hands down the seams of rocketships, and thinking about the stars.
If I can help you, please reach out.