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Culture

An enduring lesson from my mother

As I stare down 40, I can tell you that there were lessons learned, and lessons I wish I had learned at home before I left for my freshman year at the University of Southern California. Now over 20 years removed from that day, I like to think I’ve picked up a few lessons along the way — and I have the literal scars to prove it. 

One important lesson, particularly for the former athletes among us, is that you can absolutely play basketball after 35. Just be sure not to jump too high or play defense, and definitely don’t play in an open league against recent college grads. 

Had I known this ahead of time, perhaps I would have opted for a designated shooter role and avoided the ruptured achilles, MRSA infection, and four surgeries that left me in bed for months. 

Quitting is not an option

The comeback wasn’t easy — early morning PT, significant pain, days with seemingly no progress other than my ability to endure greater levels of pain, and a goal of “full recovery” that seemed far off in the distance. But I kept going, and one day about halfway through my year-long recovery a light bulb went off in my head. That light was a memory of the most important life lesson of them all — and it was from my mother.

My mother had through her words and actions taught me that, no matter what, I was not allowed to quit. If I just kept learning and going I’d eventually reach the goal and have a more positive impact on myself, my family and the world as a result. 

Building unitQ

That mindset, which helped me endure my physical pain until I recovered, is also quite helpful when it comes to company building. unitQ founders Christian and Nik gave me an opportunity to join the founding team at unitQ when I had absolutely zero operating experience. I never gave up despite the light at the end of the tunnel seemingly barely flickering at times.

Over four years later, the light at the end of the tunnel is as bright as it ever was. We have built a world class product, signed customers like Chime, Strava, Spotify, and raised rounds of funding from Accel, Creandum and Gradient Ventures. 

Thanks mom

We’ve had some great success and, like every company at this stage, have had to fight through our fair share of challenges. But we kept going. As Christian says, “we work hard to get a little better every day.” Over time those days add up. Over time the incremental improvements become giant leaps forward. Over time a group of individuals becomes a team through open discussion, a shared mission, and shared values. 

I believe the values that define us, that will define our success at unitQ, are the same values that I learned from others and especially from my mother — the importance of not quitting when the going gets tough, of working hard to get a little better every day, and winning as a team.

Thanks for the advice mom. I love you.

(Anthony Heckman is Sales Director and a founding member of the unitQ team.)

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Culture

Career roadmap: unitQ data engineer profiled in InfoWorld

Data engineering combines elements of software engineering and data science and is one of the fastest-growing roles in IT. According to Indeed.com, data engineers develop and maintain the architecture used in data science projects. They are responsible for ensuring that data flows between servers and applications uninterrupted.

Data engineers must be familiar with a range of operating systems and databases and able to write and program software. They are experienced with data warehousing and data analysis and must possess excellent critical thinking and communication skills. Data engineers may learn their skills through a combination of education, on-the-job training, and ongoing certificates. Indeed notes that acquiring a certification is an excellent way to showcase abilities and move ahead in the field.

To find out what’s involved in becoming a data engineer, we spoke with Lance Miles, a data engineer at unitQ.

Continue reading on InfoWorld, where this article was first published.

Categories
Culture

unitQ has great culture because my old job didn’t

It was about 4pm on a Wednesday, and I was sitting in my dark, gray cubicle, working on my accounting spreadsheets amid a small sea of other drab cubicles.

My teammates were standing up and avoiding eye contact with me. Something was up. I noticed my boss, the assistant controller, was wearing his hat as if he was on his way out. I saw a coworker put on her coat, another his sunglasses. What was going on? The whole finance team, except for me, all 8 of them, were gathering to leave and it wasn’t even quitting time. The CFO came out of the elevator and everyone left, without me. 

Then the office manager, who wasn’t on the finance team, messaged me: “Omg, the CFO invited me to go to happy hour with his team, but it was last minute so I didn’t go.” 

Mean spirited 

I was crushed. I felt so left out. My colleagues were grown adults who were behaving like the mean girls in elementary school.

I had been at this job for about two years and had gone through a lot as I helped my team grow. Now, I felt like I’d been left out. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was already feeling frustrated with my role here, and this got me thinking about my next opportunity at another company.

Fortunately, within about 6 months, a former colleague reached out to me with an amazing opportunity to join a Series A startup as their financial controller. This was a huge step up and I gladly accepted.  

When giving notice, I quipped to my boss, the assistant controller, that I’d keep him in mind if I ever needed an assistant. He did put together a nice counter offer, and it would have been more money, but it was too little too late. I simply felt like an outsider to a company where I routinely put in 70-hour weeks.

Everyone is invited

unitQ holiday party!

Being left out taught me to value how important it is for employees to feel part of a team, of a work culture, and not to feel left out. I’ve carried that same thinking to unitQ, a growing startup where I’m the senior finance director and I also lead the human resources function from our Burlingame, Calif., office.

I plan a lot of team-building events and virtual gatherings. Everyone is invited. I care deeply that my colleagues feel included, respected and valued. 

Food bank volunteering!

When new hires join, we play 2 Truths and Lie over Zoom to get to know them. We have a Coffee Chat channel in Slack where people opt in to be randomly paired with another team member. It’s been a great way to interact with our hybrid-workforce team members stationed everywhere.

Don’t mess with us!

For co-workers in the Bay Area, I organize in-person team building events. For our holiday party, we not only invited all of our US-based remote team members to join, but we paid for them to bring a guest as well to the Bay Area. It was lovely to meet our remote team members’ significant others!

In the last few months, we’ve volunteered at a local food bank. Let me not forget about our team go-karting excursion that seemed more like a smash-em-up derby. And I’m still trying to recover from the hiking trip that seemingly was uphill on the way out and back! We also have weekly company dinners, too!

Go-karting winners! 

Getting to know each other outside of work has helped form deeper bonds, and only improves our working relationships. 

Startup magic

Of course, things change as companies grow and scale. As headcount increases, it makes sense that certain events and celebrations will become team specific rather than for the whole company. My advice to growing companies is to make sure that, as you scale, you don’t push people out of a team into isolation. No one likes the mean girls. No one likes to be left out. 

Does planning team building events and developing a stellar company culture sound like something you’d be into? Come work for unitQ. Take a look at the job description for our new People Ops Manager role! The ideal candidate will be based in the Bay Area and work in our Burlingame office a couple days per week. 

Is People Ops not your thing, but working for an awesome startup with a fun culture is your thing? Take a look at all our open jobs!

Categories
Culture

unitQ: Our Vision of Product Quality Nirvana

When my co-founder, Nik Lindstrom, and I sparked the initial conversations that eventually became unitQ, I was ready for a challenge. Nik and I had previously founded a company called Skout. It was a mobile-only social network that we eventually sold in 2016. That acquisition capped an amazing nine year journey with a fantastic team, a great community, and groundbreaking product. I was, and remain, incredibly proud of what we built with Skout, and selling the company gave me a chance to reset and recharge.

Spending time with my family and friends (and surfing!) took up most of my time in those days. I was lucky enough to eliminate meetings, product reviews, marketing pow-wows, 1:1s with co-workers, and other work activities from my life. Going from full-speed to full-stop was a binary change that I found both relieving and a bit stressful. So after a year-and-a-half, I reconnected with my former colleagues.

As we reflected on some of the challenges we faced at Skout, one of the biggest was staying on top of product quality in real-time while growing at an explosive rate. With a product spread across so many platforms, languages, versions, and third-party integrations, something, somewhere, was always broken. 

In one incident, there was a small bug affecting our Polish language Android app, causing it to keep crashing on launch. Since Polish language users were only a small portion of our overall audience, we didn’t flag or prioritize the bug as a high-impact issue. But, after receiving a large volume of negative Play Store reviews from our Polish users, we eventually pushed out a fix. What we later discovered was that delaying the fix cost us $360,000 in revenue and 6 months of frustrated users. That’s real money and customer goodwill that we squandered because we didn’t recognize the true impact of that seemingly minor quality issue.

Product quality can make or break a company

I won’t name names, but you’re probably already thinking of a recent annoying app experience. Whether it’s a clumsy UI, lack of responsiveness, errors, crashes, or a failed integration, even minor quality issues can push your users to competing apps. But, looking at it with a different perspective, your users are the ultimate quality team. They’re constantly testing every possible configuration of device, language, network, product version, OS and OS version, connection, and more. 

Looking back on the ad hoc, manual product quality process we used at Skout, it was frustrating to realize how we struggled so long on a problem that every product company experiences. So why hadn’t anyone built a platform to capture user signals in an actionable, real-time manner?

And so, unitQ was born

We set out to capture the massive amounts of priceless product quality data users are creating, and do so in a systematic and timely manner. We assembled an incredible team of amazing people, including some old faces from Skout. In the beginning, we were lucky enough to have both large and small companies take a chance on an entirely new product that was defining a new category, but also solving a universal product quality challenge. 

Today, almost three years later, unitQ Monitor is used by support, product ops, engineering, and leadership teams at category leading companies like SiriusXM, Pandora, Quizlet, StyleSeat, and many others. I am—all of us are—extremely proud of the platform we’ve created. It is something truly magical and I’m delighted to hear our customers continuously rave about the platform, the data it captures, and the insights it surfaces. They’re excited because the benefits are real, quantifiable, and substantial. In fact, unitQ customers have realized:

  • 20% average improvement in product quality in just 30 days.
  • Up to 40% reduction in support ticket volumes.
  • Up to 35% increase in app store star-ratings.

New metric to provide holistic insights into quality

We know that product quality is critical to company growth. New users are quick to drop bad products, and existing users will eventually churn to a competitor if product quality issues aren’t quickly addressed. But, just as we experienced at Skout, the gaps between users, customer support, quality assurance, product development, and engineering combine to create friction for any product quality improvements.

What unitQ brings to all of these teams is a new metric for product quality, which we call the unitQ Score. It provides an up-to-the-moment, data-driven approach for measuring quality, tracking progress, and comparing product quality directly with that of competitors and other leading organizations. 

The unitQ platform then connects product and quality teams to the granular issue data contained within user feedback to quickly identify and address issues. This helps companies boost engagement and retention because they’re getting product quality insights they can instantly use to polish the diamond they’ve already built. It’s all possible because our platform captures existing user feedback data from the App Store, social media, and other channels. That data is then integrated with the internal tools they’re already using, like Zendesk, PagerDuty, Slack, and more. And, across their company, teams use those insights to make quantitative, data-driven decisions about product quality and direction, engineering prioritizations, support allocations, and more, and then quickly get to work improving and enhancing their products. 

You can have it, too. Just request a demo and we’ll show you how it works.