[One Year In] Meet Kendra Smith


(MHCommMgr) #1

Do you currently manage a community?
Sort of. I currently manage the superuser program for our 300 patient-to-patient health-related communities. This includes 60 superusers who help members use the site and make sure users questions get answered. In my role, I make sure that users who are engaged are recommended to take on the badge of a superuser. I also help answer questions in our communities, too, by promoting our health content within them, and moderate a special group for our superusers to share strategies for effectively helping other members.

What career path brought you to where you are now? I’m on the content team here, and communities were brought under content as of last year. I was asked to take on the role. I had always been interested in communities and their connection with content, so it has been fun to get the opportunity. It was a natural fit, too, because we were already experimenting with actively sharing our health content within the communities to answer questions.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
It’s tough for me when our community members are frustrated by something about the site and I have limited resources to change it for them or help them, since I’m not an engineer!

What’s the best job you ever had that wasn’t in community management and does it inform your CM work in any way?
I worked in a bowling alley and pool hall in college and I loved it. I spent a lot of time studying and listening to music with my feet up on the counter, only to have to take them down and get to work when a huge group of international students would come in to play snooker or something. I guess CM is like that, too, in a way… I can focus on content promotion and recruiting new superusers for a while… until something breaks on the site and everyone is PMing with complaints! I also had to spray disinfectant into a lot of stinky bowling shoes, and some of CM work is like that, for sure — unpleasant. Mostly because you’re dealing with people, and people can be stinky.

(Travis King) #2

Got any tips on making engineering teams sit up and listen to you @MHCommMgr ? :smiley:

(MHCommMgr) #3

I have had the best luck sitting with them at lunch and just mentioning what’s not working to be honest. I learn more about how things function in a 5 minute chat over a burrito than I could have imagined.

(Piper_Wilson) #4

@Travis - I worked remotely, so I never laid eyes on my engineers, but I found that a few minutes of chit chat in Slack helped me establish a relationship with them and would open up the door for those types of “burrito talks”.

I also found that, when our engineers were participating in the site that they seemed to take ownership more. Even if they couldn’t fix the problem, they were more open to hearing about it because it wasn’t coming from just me.

(Darren Gough) #5

My experience is usually to try and find their pain points and empathise. Most engineering/dev teams are being hounded by every area of the organisation who believe:

  1. Their project is the priority
  2. Their request “won’t take long for you to do, will it?” (everyone for some reason is an expert on predicting engineer’s development time).
  3. Often people at the top of the tree will completely disrupt months of planning by introducing a new, urgent request.

Building rapport with them (as others have rightly said) goes a long way to ensuring they will fight your corner / needs when the time comes.

(Sarah Hawk) #6

I can comment here from both sides of the fence. I was a developer before I became a CM and @Darren_Gough has hit the nail on the head with this:

That is the no 1 biggest frustration, followed a close second by people trying to tell you what to do, rather than what they want the outcome to be.

(MHCommMgr) #7

So true. I think our team is so busy with our various products, they only have a very high level understanding of what goes on. I’m not saying it’s their fault… I’m just saying it’s good to be reminded of that, and the fact that in these “burrito talks” you can take the time to explain to them what users’s experiences are.

(MHCommMgr) #8

That’s interesting. Coming from the content side and working with designers, I’ve never had that approach of “won’t take you long, right?” So maybe that also helps in this role. My questions are always, how much time would it take, and is it worth it?

(Richard Millington) #9

That’s such a great quote.

Part of this as well is that’s it’s casual and non-threatening. Official meetings can be threatening environments where people try to protect their turf. A casual lunch is a much easier environment for building relationships and understanding their motivations.