Get to know some Articulate employees doing amazing things all over the globe. In this interview, International Product Operations Manager Melanie Peterson sat down for a conversation with Software Engineer Sherry Umlah to talk Articulate, programming, and life outside of work.
Melanie Peterson: Sherry, thanks for spending some time doing this fun project! Tell us, what is your title at Articulate?
Sherry Umlah: I’m a software engineer.
MP: And for the non-tech savvy world, what does that mean?
SU: These days I primarily work on developing our company’s website, but I originally started with Articulate as a web developer on the marketing team. So I still help with designing our e-mail templates and creating our community blogs. Actually, I set up the foundation for the blog portion of this Life site!
MP: What did you do before you worked at Articulate?
SU: My last position was as the E-Learning Director for an international publishing company. Before joining Articulate, I went back to school because I wanted to update my technical skills. It’s sometimes difficult to stay current when you’re in management and you’re responsible for budgeting projects and managing timelines, as opposed to having an opportunity to program and get your hands dirty. So, I updated my skillset by going back for a degree in mobile media programming, then joined Articulate upon graduation.
MP: Wow, that had to be a big undertaking! Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to go back to school after many years in an industry?
SU: I think the most challenging part was attending class with students that were half my age. That said, it was also part of what made the experience so incredible! In addition to mobile programming, I learned a lot about cultural diversity and differences between generations. As for advice, work/life balance can be hard to obtain. Adding school to that mix makes things even more challenging. My advice would be to find an employer who values education and is willing to be flexible and support your personal growth. It helps to have supportive friends and family, too.
MP: Autonomy, and having autonomy in your work, is something we talk about a lot at Articulate. Tell me, how have you benefited from Articulate’s culture of autonomy?
SU: It took a little while for me to understand how we all work together, yet independently. It’s a great opportunity to have the autonomy to explore new technologies and come up with my own solutions to problems, while still having an amazing group of coworkers with whom I can bounce around ideas and collaborate.
MP: What surprised you most when you started working for Articulate?
SU: I was most surprised by the number of truly brilliant people we have working at this company. Not only are they knowledgeable, they’re also eager to share what they’ve learned. Everyone tries to make time to answer questions and help remove whatever is blocking workflow. Although we cherish our culture of autonomy, we’re also incredible at teamwork.
MP: This is so true. Let’s change topics—less about work, more about you! What’s the first thing you do when you sign in to work every day?
SU: That’s a funny question. There’s a Slack channel a few co-workers started with the goal of inspiring each other to work out more. The first thing I do when I log in is send off a “/giphy good morning!” Slack message to them all. You never know what surprise Giphy has in store for you with its randomly generated images. It’s a gamble.
MP: Ha! Yes, you can never tell what Giphy will give you. Speaking of fun things like Giphy, what is your favorite productivity hack?
SU: The web service If This, Then That. I use it to automate all sorts of things: posting my Fitbit steps to the Slack channel I previously mentioned, posting Pivotal Tracker updates to a private Slack channel I set up, changing the lighting on my WeMo home system, or modifying our Nest thermostat. It’s super awesome for automating communication from WiFi enabled devices or just linking things together like Gmail and Slack.
MP: Now tell me about life outside of Articulate. What are three things you do in your spare time?
SU: I have a lot of creative hobbies like painting, playing the guitar or keyboard, and metalsmithing. Aside from hobbies, I have a mini zoo at home (4 cats, 1 bird, and 1 dog), so I spend time spoiling them rotten.
I also love to travel. I grew up in Canada and have had the opportunity to visit lots of other places like Ireland, Latvia, Finland, Estonia, Germany, Turkey, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Denmark, Belgium, France, Japan, and Thailand.
MP: A passion of mine as well! I am curious which was your favorite trip?
SU: I think it’s a tie between Thailand or Finland. In Thailand, we stayed and volunteered at an elephant sanctuary. In Finland, we crossed the Arctic Circle and hung out at Santa’s Village.
MP: Finally, what do you love most about Articulate?
SU: Hmmm… the people would be #1. I have some amazing coworkers and friends here. That said, I also love the flexibility of being able to work from anywhere. It works so beautifully with my love of travel—even if it’s just working riverside for the afternoon.