Tell us a little about yourself/background?
I graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering. I considered studying computer science, but I thought it would be a bit boring since I taught myself to code in middle school. After graduating, I started working as a software engineer at Workday. I was able to incorporate my love of education and learning about the newest emerging technologies into my role there. I helped start an intern program that provided students the opportunity to work on real projects, not just run coffee or file paperwork. I also started a book club focused on Ruby best practices.
I left Workday to join Pivotal as a software developer consultant. My position was at the intersection of design, product management and development. Having the ability to look at things from engineering, product and design lenses gave me the ability to provide clear cross-team communications. I became very interested in team dynamics, organizational communication and workplace wellness and diversity. I built out a program that focused on psychological safety in the workplace to help create a strong learning environment for employees. I worked to improve communication and ensure best practices were adopted throughout the entire organization. We often think change happens by osmosis, but it requires a lot of work and communication.
I took some time away from the tech space to focus on my artistic interest. I wrote a screenplay, produced a feature film, made oil paintings and started a figure drawing class that is LGBTQ+ focused. I am an avid volunteer and gardener in my spare time. I volunteer at the National AIDS Memorial Grove which was created in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis and houses the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Some of Chris’s amazing oil paintings:
What drew you to Styra?
I was really impressed with how down-to-earth and cool the leadership team was. From the beginning, it was clear to see they were very genuine and open in the way they spoke. I was sold not only on the product but the company culture. I love best practices and emerging technologies that will have wave effects over the industry. I was drawn to Styra because I want to be a part of something that can revolutionize an industry.
What excites you most about your role?
I have been speaking the language of product management and doing the work for a while now, but my title had always been as software engineer. I saw this role as a great opportunity for me to take that final jump into product management. I am also excited to be working at a company that really cares about its employees and holds strong company values.
What do you like best about working with developers?
Developers really care about getting things done. There is a misconception that developers just want to take a ticket, solve it quickly and clock out, but I don’t believe that is true. I find that developers care very much about their work and solving customer problems. Developers have a unique drive to act on those values instead of talking about them. They don’t want to talk about doing it, they just want to actually do it.
Where do ideas for new features/products come from? How do you decide which ones to build?
New ideas come from everywhere and everyone (and I mean everyone) no matter what their function might be. You probably have an idea that is worth looking into and has value. Engineers are not only thinking about the back-end, they often have great ideas for front-end features that customers will love. Customer Success teams can have great product ideas because they hear directly from customers what they are looking for.
Prioritization is the art of project management. There is really no one right answer to how to best decide which projects to prioritize over others. In the end, it is always a negotiation between the decision-makers. You want to approach these decisions focused on what projects are going to provide the most value to your customers and place you in the best strategic position within the market. Also, always be willing to change course if needed. You need to be able to reinvent yourself and grow in step with the market. In the end, the best advice is: keep going and keep learning.
If you could have any superhero power, what power would you have and why?
I would love to be able to make myself invisible. I am a very sociable person, but I also love my alone time. Being able to disappear into the background would make it much easier to have some quiet time with a good book and a cup of coffee.
What fictional character do you identify with the most and why?
I know I may sound a bit stuck up choosing a main character and savior, but I really relate to Paul Atreides from Dune. I relate to him because he is a man trapped at the intersection of many worlds. Both of his parents are from different political backgrounds and he grew up being taught both of their ideologies. As an adult, he has to find a way to merge those ideologies to build his own worldview. I often find myself at intersections of what seem to be vastly different worlds, but I enjoy finding where they can intersect with each other and improve upon each other.
Where is the best place you’ve traveled to and why?
I would say Italy is the most beautiful place I have visited. Madrid would also be at the top of my list. I felt like I really vibed well with the soul of the city while I was there. My mother also has family living in the area and I really enjoyed the opportunity to connect with them while visiting.
When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you pass the time?
The hard part for me is deciding how to pass that time. In an ideal world, I would go for a walk or do a quick sketch. I have been doing a lot of watercolor paintings of flowers or fashion recently. To be honest, a lot of my free time during the day is spent scrolling through TikTok.
Want to lean more about life at Styra? See our company page to lean about the mission and culture that drive us.