Season 2, Ep. 22 – Meet the team: Gun.io’s Talent Growth Advocate, Victoria Stahr
It’s ironic that our Talent Growth Advocate, Victoria Stahr, moved to Nashville knowing she wanted to leave her live of running music events behind, but great for us that her superb operational skills have made our talent onboarding program the success it is today. Hear what she has to say about how to mae moves on this latest episode.
How’s your day, Victoria? Welcome to the Frontier podcast, by the way.
Thank you. It’s so nice to be here. My day is going well.
Well, I’m glad that your day is going well. I know like this time is—it’s like crunch time, because we don’t really slow down over the holidays, right? Like people are still hiring and getting hired, so we just kind of like condense all of our work into a shorter period of time. So I’m sure you’re stacked <laugh>
Developers are still looking, so—
They are, especially around like the holidays and kind of the new year. I feel like we have every year a surge of folks joining the platform in January, right around the new year, ‘cause people are thinking about career changes or maybe like lining up additional work then, so you’re getting into busy season.
Yes. It’s always consistent. Consistency is key, I would say that.
<Laugh>Well, we’re kinda teasing it, but Victoria, why don’t you introduce yourself and just share in like broad strokes, what you do here on the team.
Hi, I’m Victoria. I have been with Gun.io since 2020, and I would say my primary role is to be a support system for developers. Pretty much from the beginning, everyone has a chance to speak with me. I conduct all of the onboarding calls, give everyone a sense of what Gun.io is—like, what we’re looking for, and help them sort of tailor that information as they come in, so they can put their best foot forward on the platform overall.
So basically like the friendly face that everybody meets when they join the platform?
Yes, yes. I love to introduce the rest of the developer relations team during my onboarding calls. But I’m always like—and I get to be the personality. Hi, everyone! You can speak with me for the next 30 minutes today.
The feedback that we consistently get from developers is, job seeking sucks. Like no matter how you do it, it’s always a little bit dehumanizing. You know, you like put a bunch of effort into a job application or into like an interview process, and then you never hear back, and people just like, don’t recognize that you’re a human with a life. And the feedback we always get is like, ‘Wow, people remembered my name here, and somebody reached out to me personally to see how I was doing and recommended a job to me, because we had talked about something like that before.’ And that’s like you, that’s what you do here.
Yes. I love being the human element of Gun.io. Like making sure that everyone stays in the loop as much as possible, especially as they’re looking for their first role as they get started on the platform, as they’re applying to their first role, and getting some of that feedback. As much information as we get on our side, I wanna make sure that we’re relaying as much as possible to the developer side—and I think that’s really important that there’s always a human aspect.
Right, yeah. And making sure that everybody knows that there’s somebody on their team—who is you. Like you are their biggest advocate, you know, really trying to get them hired and celebrate them when awesome stuff happens.
I am a cheerleader for all developers.
Alright. Well, ok, that’s what you do now. And obviously, like there’s a bunch of core skills that make you really good at that. Namely, you are a people person, and unlike me, who dies a little bit inside every time I get on Zoom, you get so much energy from working with other people. So I’d love to hear, I mean, obviously I know this, because I hired you—but like talk to our listeners about how you landed here. How did you start your career in developer relations?
When I think back on sort of my career trajectory—it seems a little bit odd—but when I think about it more, it really fits together. My main background is in entertainment events. I used to run an amphitheater. I managed an amphitheater for four years, and that’s just its own sort of chaotic world. When I moved to Nashville—shockingly moved here thinking and knowing that I didn’t want to do anything music anymore—and ended up doing operations with another tech company here in Nashville. And it sort of went hand in hand with what I did before. Operations very much is having a defined process, but still sort of in a somewhat chaotic environment, depending on what you’re doing. And so being able to translate those skills was really easy, looking at this job as it came, as it popped up, I really enjoyed sort of that startup aspect in terms of everything was still new, exciting— was going to be sort of fast-paced, but I could still interact with people on a very individual level, but you sort of lose in —sometimes in an operations space. And so that’s how I’ve ended up here and continue to chat with developers on a daily basis.
I think the thing that made you such a no brainer for the team is like—and I think a lot of companies who are on the same phase as us kind of feel this—there’s always a need for somebody who is just like down to try stuff. You know, like they’re an operator, they’re an executor, like give them a thing and they’re gonna figure out how to do it, but that thing is gonna be different, right? Like in a startup it’s like, well, one week we’re like pretty sure that doing this is gonna be a difference maker and then maybe the next week is totally different. And if you hire people who are just used to doing something that has a playbook and never changes, like those people are not gonna be—it’s gonna be really draining for them, right? To constantly have kind of like the change in focus. And that is not you. Like I feel like you thrive with new challenges, and we have thrown a lot at you over the last two years.
I would say my role probably has changed the most <laugh> in the last two years, but I think what’s exciting about that is the constant idea process that we go through on the Gun.io side, and being able to execute those ideas in different ways is always really exciting. Like, there’s not necessarily a playbook, and so we get to sort of play around a lot, figure out what works best for us, what doesn’t. And it has helped us grow immensely over the last couple of years that I’ve been on the team. And I love seeing that, and I love being a part of that.
Yeah, and I think the other thing we win by having you kind of on a bunch of different projects and teams is—you’re pretty much the only person on the team who has been embedded in every team except for maybe engineering. Like you have been embedded on the marketing team, you’ve been embedded in sales, now you’re in dev. And so you have just a really broad understanding of what makes the business tick and also customer needs through like a bunch of different kind of stages of life, right? From deciding to use Gun.io to being in the funnel to, you know, now managing the experience on the dev side.
Yeah, and I think that’s something that’s super beneficial that I think developers notice too is that there’s a complete overview, if they have questions, that we’re able to provide answers for—because more specifically for myself, I have been a part of almost every team outside of engineering, but I keep tabs on what’s going on in engineering. And so being able to give candid answers, we’re very transparent around the information that we give to developers, as well. We wanna make sure that that feedback loop is constant and that we can provide the best experience for everyone. And so knowing what’s going on in sort of every department and how to explain that has been really helpful. And I think developers understanding how we work and how we can best help them.
And I mean, you’re like a walking encyclopedia, right? Like people talk about institutional knowledge and I feel like you hold a lot of it. (Victoria: Yes) Ok. So your experience here has been really broad. The work that you’ve contributed to Gun and our communities has been really broad. If there was one thing over the last two and a half years that you think you have just gotten like so good at that you could maybe write a book about, what would it be?
I would say that I have become the grand master of onboarding processes. If anyone needs to figure out the best way to schedule, if you need to figure out the best way to sort of lay out something to get the most information to the right amount of people in the shortest amount of time, I can knock that out for you. I think keeping the onboarding sessions into those 30 minute small groups has been really beneficial. We get to speak with as many developers as possible, but still keep it super personal, which is something that we do like to highlight here. I wanna make sure that I have a chance to speak to everyone more individually, so that way, I can give more specific feedback, tailoring. And so I would say if you need help, just identifying processes and making them as condensed as possible, give me a shout and I can help you.
Yeah, <laugh> you’re the process queen. And I think that’s actually like an interesting more recent case study to dig into. Like we had a huge problem with our onboarding process for new developers, because we have such a huge influx of folks joining every day. And obviously one of our value propositions is like everybody who’s approved on the platform has been vetted, and that process is very in depth. But before that happens, there’s like several layers of screening, honestly on both sides. Like us screening developers and developers screening us to see if this is the right place for them—that has to happen. And figuring out how to do that in a way that still lives up to our brand promise of being personal and knowing people by name, but also is efficient, I think was—that like hamstrung us for a while. So how did you approach that problem? And what’s the solution that we’re working with today?
Yeah, so originally a lot of the information we just sort of sent via email or within the copy within the site itself, which is helpful I think in guiding people as they initially join. But I do think developers do still tend to have questions around how we work, what we do, what makes us different. And so being able to conduct these onboarding sessions—it initially started as just a few sessions a week. I think we’re now up to 14 a week that we end up doing, where — (Faith: What?) <Laugh> The demand is high. Yeah. People wanna talk to me, you know, but making sure that we can get relevant information to people personally, because I think it is easier to explain a lot of the concepts as far as making sure there’s a good understanding of what we’re looking for as far as information that you enter and how that aligns with what clients are looking for in the future. And so we’ve started that originally as a session that was up to—I think five people could sign up at a time—that we realized there was just no way to actually communicate with them within that 30 minute time span. I could present my information, but there wasn’t enough space to engage with everyone as a developer. And so it was just me talking at people for like a good chunk of time, which I don’t even necessarily do to myself.
So I think being able to tailor it a little bit more into those smaller sessions and making sure that we are able to have more meaningful conversations is what that sort of delved into. We’re able to condense it down to it’s limited to 10 people per sessions so we can still have one on one conversations, dive into what their profiles look like now, give feedback, but still cover all of the relevant information and have space for additional questions and clarifications, which I think is really important. And it’s just sort of developed like that over time into something that I think is really important and meaningful, to make sure that everyone does have a chance to put their best information forward as they continue into that approval process. Because it is such a competitive environment, we wanna make sure that we are able to support developers as much as possible and give that tailored information to them. And so it’s just developed more and more for the last six months or so.
And I think that’s a testament to how much you’ve really took on the advocacy part of your role, which is like, in order to serve developers, we need to like deeply understand what drives them, what bothers ’em, the pain points they have during the hiring process. And you are essentially like an embedded user interviewer on our team. Like, you talk to developers all the time, and so it’s just really cool to see how those sentiments are like bubbled up to you, and you’re able to condense them into a process that is good for developers, right? Like uniquely good for developers. So that’s been really cool to watch over the years.
I think so too.
If somebody’s listening and they’re like, Man, I am so interested in working with developers. Maybe I’m not a developer myself, but it’s a world I wanna be involved in, and maybe dev is a path for me. What advice would you give them career-wise to maybe find themselves in a position like you?
I think my advice to anyone that wants to work in the development space, especially from like sort of my perspective and what I do is—one, be open to learning, be open to change. Something that’s sort of a mantra for me is the only constant is change. And so being aware of what that looks like and how you can adapt is gonna be really important. I think understanding your level of adaptability is also important. Some people do like structure, like process, and so making sure that you have a good understanding of if you’re okay with that or not is something that I would probably recommend the most is knowing if you like structure, if you don’t <laugh>
That’s really good advice. I think there’s a lot of—there’s a lot of room to grow, and I think we’re, as a business, starting to think about how we can productize this as well. But there’s a lot of room to grow in the way that we share information between hires and job seekers. And a lot of that information, it’s not that people are like not wanting to share what kind of worker they want, right? Like what kind of work style or what makes them tick professionally. And so often we dunno the right questions to ask ourselves, right? Like, I think you’re uniquely self-aware to know that about yourself. So I think that’s really good advice and probably insight that folks haven’t thought of.
Yeah, I think job descriptions will give you a good outline, but understanding how it aligns with how you work and the type of work environment you want becomes one thing.
Well Victoria, this is really helpful. I feel like I’ve got a good picture of kind of how you got here, what makes you tick. The last thing I wanna ask is, outside of work, if there is something that you are an absolute guru in and everybody should ask you about, what would it be?
Everyone internally definitely knows this, but I am a concert junkie, so if you ever need show recommendations, music recommendations, any genre, I got you. Pretty much always in a music venue. If I’m not on Slack, that’s likely where I am. So you need anything music related, just go ahead and ask, and I got you.
I always ask Victoria about venues, like if there’s a place where I should go see a show, kind of regardless of who’s playing and also like where to sit. Like I feel like you’ve got Ryman seating locked down. You just like know, you know how to watch a show. So I appreciate that.
I’m checking off all the venues, I’m ticking them all off. I’m taking names, seeing shows.
That’s right. Alright, Victoria, well enjoy the rest of your Friday. I will let you get back to talking to developers. I know you’ve got a couple conversations today, so thanks for joining. We’ll see you next week.
Of course. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Alright, see you later.
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