Umbeler in Action: Sarah Wood

Name, Title and Team:

Sarah Wood, Technical Program Manager, Engineering

How did you hear about Umbel and why did you decide to apply?

Several past coworkers of mine had been researching Umbel right around the time I was beginning to search for new opportunities — word of badass work travels fast in this town. Dodgeball competitions might have been brought up in our conversations. So was the kegerator and the amazing office. But, there was also a healthy sense of admiration for the tech we’re putting out into the world. I sensed I needed a change, and moreover I needed a really challenging change. I was looking for a place that was dynamic and fast-paced and honestly, a place that is a little ballsy and audacious because they are good at what they do. Umbel checked all those boxes for me. I reached out to Alex Suebert (another past co-worker and friend), submitted an application, and the rest is history!

Fun fact: I got my offer letter while at my birthday party. Best birthday gift ever.

Can you describe your typical day?

Coffee. Most importantly, coffee first thing. Then it is a steady stream of project meetings, backlog maintenance, ticket tracking and future-planning. On any given day, I create or update at least 5 meetings for the coming week, update the appropriate documents for those meetings, follow up with all the parties involved with or blocking that work and then write it all down in my journal to keep track of it. I also juggle any and all blockers, impediments, concerns or callouts of the engineering team to keep the machine moving forward. It feels tenuous sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade having a million plates spinning for anything. It’s where I thrive.

What countries have you travelled to so far? And where do you want to go next?

I have family in the South Pacific, so when I was a child we’d visit them in New Zealand and Fiji fairly regularly. Now that I am travelling independently, I’ve been spending more time in Europe. Last summer I traveled to England, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria and Italy while conducting interviews and research for an upcoming book I’m in the process of publishing. It was a whirlwind and I definitely didn’t get to do everything one must do in all of those countries, so I’d be happy to visit any (re: all) of them again. I’m also super interested in travelling to Asia, particularly Japan.

What’s your go-to motivation songs – when you’re feeling sluggish and need a pick me up?

When I’m Small by Phantogram and Wildfire by SBTRKT are oldies but goodies for me. I’ve been called out on multiple occasions for blasting them while working. The sample of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TedTalk in Beyonce’s Flawless also visibly gives me chills every single time I hear it, so I go there when I need to be seriously pumped.

What would your advice be to someone just starting out in your field?

One of my mantras is from Conan O’brien: “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” I am an incredibly firm believer in that. However, do not, under any circumstance, sacrifice your health, happiness or values for the job. It’s so easy to cave on any one of those, especially when you are starting out, but it so difficult to climb back out once you’ve set the precedent with others.

What’s your favorite place in Austin?

The whole city is so much better than anywhere else I could imagine living, tbh, it is hard to choose. If I had to pick, though, I’d never leave East Austin. Between Wright Bros’ Brew & Brew, Whistler’s and Salt & Time, I’d have everything I could need to live and die happy.

How do you use data in your job? What about in your life?

Clear and efficient communication is a key component in achieving my professional goals as well as extracurricular and personal ones, and data is the grease that keeps those communication wheels spinning. Having what information you need when you need it in order to keep moving forward makes every conversation just so much easier, so I am constantly thinking ahead about what new information I can bring to the table.

Describe your co-workers in three words.

Is Bad Mother F’ers ok? I’m gonna say it is ok and go with it. Seriously, these people have so much hustle.

Best part about working at Umbel.

Aforementioned bad mother f’ers. This place has soul, and I cannot place too much value on that. I’m very lucky to have such a dedicated and powerful group of coworkers.

First thing you do when you get to the office?

Caffeinate as if I may die if I don’t.