Tag Archive for: employees

In a previous post, Mario Maldari writes about his first week at Jama Software and gives insight into the Jama Software community and company culture. 

Version 1.0The beginning 

It’s hard to imagine that I started my career over 20 years ago, working on requirements management software.  I had just moved out to Boulder, Colorado from Boston and began work as a software test lead on a popular requirements product named RequisitePro. Over the next three years I saw the product evolve from a “floating tool bar” (that was to accommodate users who were comfortable with using Word and Excel) to a full-blown application with folder-based hierarchy and feature reach functionality. Other experimentations occurred during this time, which included plugins to VSNET and Eclipse. Our main competitor was a product from Telelogic named “DOORS.” These were indeed exciting times as the software industry seemed to be constantly evolving and we were working hard to keep up! 

Version 2.0Evolution 

In 2003, Rational Software was acquired by IBM®.  New technology, architecture, and clients were all added to help shift and shape the software. Rational® became part of the larger software group with giants like DB2 and Websphere.  The old suite of products were reinvented with Requirements Composer being the key offering for requirements management, which later evolved in to IBM® DOORS® Next®.  There was a focus on Rich Text editing to better accommodate clients who were using documents and spreadsheets.

In 2007, Telelogic was acquired by IBM and my two worlds combined. It was great to partner with what was once the competition and I met some of my favorite colleagues during this time. Efforts were made to capture the best of both Rational and Teleologic and combine them in to one offering. The products evolved and grew more complex to address the many varied industries they were intended to support.     

Version 3.0Change and growth 

Often times, we see smaller companies who don’t anticipate the need for formal requirements management early on.  They will either not track requirements or try and manage them using a spreadsheet or document.  When faced with a regulatory audit, they quickly realize the need for a more formalized method and strategy for tracking their requirements. Equally as important, is showing how the requirements have been verified and validated. The informal means of tracking requirements can prevent scale and hinder the growth of a business. It is essential to plan early and strategize on an approach to formally track requirements across the lifecycle. 

Requirements management software is needed across all industries and must accommodate a myriad of standards.  It must be simple to use, but powerful. It must be customizable, but effective “out of the box.” 

I’ve found the following key characteristics as essential needs for any good requirements management tool: 

  • Usability and simplicity 
  • Clear traceability and suspect tracking 
  • Version and baseline tracking 
  • Import, export, and reuse 
  • Collaboration and reviews 
  • Reporting and audit support
  • Verification and Validation  

The tooling and feature set itself is important, but what is also needed is a company that can support their clients through proactive thought leadership, guidance and industry specific templates and material that increase time to value. 

My version 3.0 requirements management journey has recently led me to Jama Software as a solutions architect supporting the aerospace and defense vertical. Jama Software develops the Jama Connect requirements solution. In addition to a great requirements management tool, they are industry experts, and provide expert thought leadership and best practice guidance to their clients.  This level of knowledge is a key distinguishing factor when searching for a requirements management tool. I am happy to be part of this extremely energetic, client focused company and truly looking forward to this version of my career in requirements management! 

In this post, Mario Maldari writes about his first week at Jama Software and gives insight into the Jama community and company culture. 

First Rate Onboarding Process 

I knew I had found my new home after day one at Jama Software. On the afternoon prior to my start date, there was a knock on the door and Fedex handed me a package, which contained my brand-new MacBook Pro 16 inch, pre-configured with my name and prepped for my session with IT the next morning. This got me excited. Everything about Jama Software’s onboarding process impressed me. I knew my schedule for onboarding days before joining, so I knew exactly what to expect.

As a solution architect a lot of my early days would be spent ensuring I was familiar with the product, our offerings, and “who’s who” in the organization. My onboarding was customized and tailored for this purpose. This is NOT the first time they have done this. The process was iterated over, matured over time, and extremely efficient. When I logged in to my laptop on that first day and opened up my email, I was pleasantly surprised to find that team members had already reached out and proactively set up meetings with me to introduce themselves and to get me acquainted with our tools and systems.

I instantly felt part of a family. 

Customer First Mentality and Thought Leadership 

During my first week, I was lucky to be included in a few of our customer calls in order to shadow and observe how we interact with our clients.   I was instantly impressed with the style in which we communicate with the customers, and how we take lead on providing our expertise and experience in helping them solve their business needs. It was clear that the Jama Software team is there for the clients from the initial trial phase, all the way through migrations, product deploy, trainings and consultations.

The Jama Software team understands the industries it supports and it shows. Customized templates and projects have been produced to enable clients to work within their industries and to support their required standards.  The amount of thought and deep understanding of these industries is evident in materials and artifacts that Jama has produced.   

A product to be proud of! 

There is apparent pride in Jama Connect and everyone involved from the product development teams, to product management, sales, marketing, to support. You can feel it! It is empowering to be part of a team that develops a product that they stand behind. It is clear there is active investment in the product and the roadmap is evolving and constantly adapting to the needs of industry and clients. It was refreshing for me to start using the product, which was easy to learn, yet powerful in terms of functionality and features.     

A Community and a Culture 

I was impressed with the focus on building community around Jama Connect. Just browsing through the User Community site I was able to tell that there is a strong buzz around the product and the customers using it. The Customer Support team is active in engaging with our clients, proactive in posting information, and responsive to requests and feedback. This is the sign of a healthy product and team!     

What Next? 

Just wrapping up my first month as a Jamanian – yes, that’s what we’re called! Each week that goes by allows me to reflect on my joining and feel appreciative that I have found a match in such a great company with passionate and bright employees. I’ve made it known how happy I am to have joined this team. I do seriously ask myself, “what took so long?” Looking forward to what’s to come next, and excited for the journey! 



Today’s guest post is from Kemi Lewis (aka Rico Tubbs), senior consultant at Jama Software. Kemi has 21 years of experience in systems engineering in the aerospace industry and considers himself a recovering IBM® DOORS® evangelist. 

Q: What are some cool things about yourself?

A: I am lucky enough to train Brazilian Jiujitsu under direct lineage to the original creator, Helio Gracie. The physics geek in me loves how body mechanics and leverage apply in BJJ.

Q: Why are you “aka Rico Tubbs”?

A: I loved Miami Vice as a kid and thought it was a funny stress reliever during the pandemic signing into Zoom meetings to see if anyone got the 80’s pop culture reference, whether it was internal with the CEO/executives or external with a customer – 80% of the time it worked 😉 other 20% of having to explain still made people recall their childhood.

Q: What are some challenges you have experienced in your career?

A: Getting people to listen to your technical recommendations or getting others who are at a lower level to be heard in the same respect. This has been due to several factors, everything from what your “title” is, to me looking youthful, to being of West Indian/African American descent, to my calm friendly personality which leads to my input not being taken seriously since I am not yelling my point across. I never understood why executive leadership or program management would throw their engineering teams “under the bus” to save face with the customer. We win as a team and we lose as a team, so why would I go above-and-beyond for anyone who displayed that negative characteristic. Product development only gets better when you incorporate insight from all parties involved, no matter their title.

This stereotyping has also been associated with being the “IBM DOORS guy” vs being a subject matter expert in systems engineering for a given product, where your technical acumen has been dumbed down to a tool or that systems engineering is just IBM DOORS.

Q What led you to your position here at Jama Software?

A: I have been a huge fan of Jama Software ever since discovering it while looking for an alternative to DOORS for a new product development launch. I championed its use at a small engineering company, and then when the small company was acquired by a conglomerate engineering company. When the career opportunity at Jama Software became available via LinkedIn, I jumped at the chance to be able to help other companies be successful using Jama Connect. I only wish Jama Connect had been available to me when I first started working in engineering. From the impact of COVID-19, most teams are requested to do more with less without being provided with ways to enable/empower them to do more with less. Utilizing Jama Connect is an effortless way to increase that efficiency and effectiveness; don’t expect higher product development productivity to magically happen using pixie dust.

Q: What was your first week like at Jama Software?

A: My first  week at Jama Software was like drinking from a fire hydrant. The thing I love most about working at Jama Software is the mentality of if you win, I win, and we all win – which is very refreshing.

Q What’s a common myth about (Traditional/Classic) DOORS and can you debunk it?

A: That it is a bad requirements management tool, which it is not. A good analogy – IBM DOORS is like a land-line rotary phone which stopped upgrading after switching to a push-button touch-tone phone and now there are smartphones available, like Jama Connect, which are mobile and make you more productive.

Q: Is (Traditional/Classic) DOORS required by the DoD (Department of Defense)?

A: No. Any DoD contract just requires what tools will be used to manage requirements for the duration of the program.

Q What advice would you give someone thinking about using DOORS for a new project?

A: Will you get FULL collaboration & engagement from your product development team by this tool selection? Well, (Traditional/Classic) DOORS does allow teams to  to collaborate – it’s just not modern as one would expect. DOORS is exceedingly difficult to use (in my experience, we had 12 weeks of training only to fumble around in the tool) and administrative intensive with extremely high maintenance costs, e.g., as a small engineering company, IBM DOORS’s licenses and the yearly support and services costs are VERY expensive compared to its competitors, thus this was the driving factor in me looking for a tool with a better ROI, given no one in our product development teams was using it.

Will this tool choice make their productivity better or worse? Jama Connect is much easier to collaborate successfully in product development compared to DOORS, but here are the difference makers you will get with Jama Connect: It’s a web-based tool that works on any OS platform. Social media based actionable comments allow people to resolve the issue just by replying to the comment notification via email without even having to be in the tool. Jama Connect Review Center allows light weight users to engage in and provide feedback only on data relevant to them.

Q What do you wish you had known when you started out?

A: Even if you love IBM DOORS, always keep an open mind as there are other alternatives out there that can make you more productive and not keep your data hostage in a tool.

Q: Can you recall any “bad times” when using IBM DOORS?

A: It amazes me how much time I used to spend hacking/debugging (Traditional/Classic) DOORS DXL scripts just to “TRY” to export some information out of DOORs correctly since the option of using Report/Telelogic Publishing Engine (RPE/TPE) was an expensive product add-on that was not purchased. The hacker engineer in me always liked the debug challenge of getting it to work, but from a productivity standpoint it was terribly inefficient.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best features in Jama Connect?

A: Ease of use. Jama Connect is a simple, intuitive, web-based tool that makes product development teams more collaborative and efficient, since everyone is working from the same source of truth.

Q: How does Jama Connect create new ways of working?

A: Jama Connect provides a more data-centric POV with Living Requirements™ that create end-to-end project traceability, visibility, and reuse where there is a real time system of record for the active product development process while providing a flexible platform with integrations that support multiple solutions across the ALM-PLM ecosystem.

Here is a Living Requirements dashboard in Jama Connect that now enables you to see what previously was hidden until too late using (Traditional/Classic) DOORS or a document-based solution. By showing process exceptions, risks can be found early and mitigated at the lowest cost.

Q: Does the collaboration in Jama Connect make product development easier for you?

A: 100 times easier. Getting any specification reviewed and approved was painstakingly long in legacy or document-based solutions. You had to export it to Word/Excel then send a chain email which led to a rat’s nest of emails and different versions that were all uncoordinated due to updates being made by each reviewer. And thus, you are constantly merging and resending out the same doc to make sure everyone is reviewing the latest version, in addition to making all the reviewers cognizant of each other’s inputs. So much time was saved not having to constantly merge 10 different versions of a Word document or Excel spreadsheet over multiple iterations. This legacy/document approach taken in the past was the main factor in losing new business via customer RFP bids repeatedly, given the amount of time wasted versus utilizing Jama Connect’s data-centric solution. Jama Connect Review Center made a 70% reduction in engineering hours spent on non-value-added work, review, and approval time.

Q: Are there any resources or advice you can share that has helped you on your journey?


  1. Be humble. The most success I have had in my career is by treating people how I would want to be treated.Think and act collaboratively.
  2. Ego can get in the way of excellence. I have personally experience this where if the idea did come from them, it wasn’t an innovative idea thus several years and millions of dollars wasted trying to “recreate the wheel” when a COTs scalable “wheel” solution was already available and an industry standard.
  3. The bitterness of mediocre quality lingers long after the sweetness of the low price is forgotten.Always look at things for the expected lifecycle duration of their use and do not be shocked when it does last. This has occurred in my career time after time where ONLY the initial cost is considered, yet there is surprise and panic when things start failing and customers are unhappy. It’s just like the three little pigs – a cheap/wooden straw house will not survive the hurricane forces of Mr. Big Bad Wolf! Pay for the bricks!

Jama SoftwareAs I’m writing this, I can’t believe I’m already passed my first month working at Jama Software as a new Jamanian, but what a month it’s been!

Enjoying Jama Software’s Virtual-First Culture

From virtual winter parties, yoga sessions, movie nights, coffee breaks, and zoom onboarding to delivering my first demo – it’s been a great and memorable introduction into an awesome company. There’s a stimulating buzz around the new starter group I onboarded with, and with Jama Software continually growing, I’m already no longer the last one through the entrance door here!

Whilst onboarding remotely into a new company was certainly unique, I’ve been inundated with offers of help and support by many people, all eager to help me settle into the company and contribute to my success — which has been welcomed and appreciated.

RELATED: How to Realign Engineering Teams for Remote Work with Minimal Disruption

Proudly Putting Customers First

I’ve quickly realized that I’m part of a wider team all focused on delivering outstanding customer engagements and helping them grow with Jama Software. Not only do we have people to help at all stages of the customer journey, (sales, implementation, account management, technical support ongoing consultancy and more…), these people are always looking to enhance services provided to strengthen our relationships with our clients and help build new ones.

Investing in our Product

Furthermore, I’m tremendously excited to hear the roadmap for Jama Connect and how we’re now geared up to take things to the next level. Being part of something that is growing and a company that is continuing to invest in its product, customers, and people (current and future) is extremely stimulating to me and something I’m looking forward to being part of.

It’s no wonder Jama Software has been rated a leader within the ALM domain which you can read more about here.

Experiencing Jama Software’s Commitment to Community

Being encouraged to volunteer for causes near to me is something I’m really impressed with. The company has built some great links with non-profit organizations which help people, especially in times of need—something that is more important than ever in the current climate. I’m looking forward to being a part of these contributions to the local community and giving back.

Focusing on the Aerospace & Defense Industry

Having worked across different industries in my previous role, I’m now very enthusiastic to be working within the aerospace & defense vertical, which is a strong area for Jama Software, with some great customers stories already.

With the release of our Airborne Systems solution, which includes out of the box process templates and compliance to various regulations, I’m looking forward to working with customers to help them achieve compliance across their product development lifecycle more easily.

In today’s remote working world, having a collaborative platform to streamline compliance and drive innovation for new projects is key – and where Jama Connect can help.

RELATED: Learn More About the Jama Connect for Airborne Systems – Getting Started Edition

Looking Towards the Future at Jama Software

In summary, all of the above has contributed to a great first month at the company. I’m looking forward to speaking with new customers and expanding existing relationships proving to them why Jama Software is crucial to their project success.

For now, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn to answer any further questions you may have and watch out for more events coming soon!

Take care, stay safe and I look forward to catching up soon.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.

Discover why Jama Software is continually named a top workplace and explore our open positions.


Veteran Employees At Jama Software, we have the utmost respect for those who serve in the United States Military, and we honor them today and every day.

In this post, we celebrate some of our employees who have transitioned from military to tech. Though we are proud of the many Veterans that are currently Jama Software employees, today we’ll be featuring two of our employees who were gracious enough to tell us about their experience serving in the United States Military, and how it shaped their life and career.

“In the face of impossible odds, people who love this country, can change it.” – Barack Obama

Meet Mandi Walker:

Walker served in the Army for 14 years before joining Jama Software as our Senior Information Security Analyst. Reaching Sergeant ranking, Walker’s service took her all over the world – everywhere from Fort Lewis WA, to Vilseck, Germany. She also did three tours in the Middle East, one in Afghanistan and two in Iraq.

Meet Pete Heirendt: 

Heirendt served in the Navy for seven years, first in the Atlantic fleet from New London, Connecticut, and then the Pacific fleet from San Diego, California. Heirendt left the Navy after reaching Lieutenant (O-3) ranking and is now a Senior Software Engineer at Jama Software.

Why did you initially enlist?

For Walker, the answer to why she enlisted was quite simple. “Serving in the military has always been a family tradition,” she said. “Generally, in my family, it was the men who served… I enjoyed breaking that tradition.”

For Heirendt, it was a little more complicated. He wanted a bigger challenge and to see the world. But he was also halfway through college and needed money in order to complete his degree. He tells the story below.

“In the mid-1980’s I was half-way through college, working on a Computer Science degree, and needed money to finish college when a letter came from the US Navy to recruit college students to sign up early for their Nuclear Submarine Officer program, which offered money while you finished your college degree. I liked that I’d be committed to learning nuclear engineering despite having no background or classes in it — it was a sink-or-swim deal since you had to first sign a 5-year contract.”


“The Army ingrained their values into me while I was serving, and to this day I still hold myself to those same standards: Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.” – Mandi Walker

When did you leave? What was the process like?

In February of 2016, Walker decided to leave the Army and resume her civilian life. The process, she says, wasn’t exactly simple. “It was stressful transitioning from a life that was structured and disciplined to the uncertainty and chaos of the civilian world. Even though it was stressful, and still is, at times, it was also exciting, the new and unknown and a great deal of freedom you don’t get while serving.”

For Heirendt, it was his love for computer science and ultimately his career that led him to leave the Navy. “I never intended to make Navy-life a long-term career, because I really did want to get back to programming computers again,” he said. “After serving my 3-year sea tour I rotated to shore duty in Jacksonville, FL in 1992 where I enrolled in night classes at the University of North Florida to get a Masters in Computer Science.”

It was perfect timing, he said. His first course was about a new thing called TCP/UDP sockets that let computers communicate over something called a “network.”  Heirendt reminisces: “I bought a 386 PC and booted it up in one of the precursors to Linux called 386-BSD, so I could do my TCP-socket network programming at home rather then drive across town to the campus lab (this was before remote access from home). This learning experience got me completely hooked!”

How did (does) your military experience affect your life today?

While enlisting in the Military certainly comes with its set of challenges and sacrifices, both Walker and Heirendt believe that they learned lifelong lessons from their service. “The Army ingrained their values into me while I was serving, and to this day I still hold myself to those same standards: Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage,” said Walker.

Heirendt believes his time in the Navy gave him the tools he needed for a successful career, he said it’s easy for him to learn complex distributed systems and risk management. And that his time in the military gave him the ability to work well on a team and clearly communicate. “In 1995 I got my first job as a software engineer, and 25 years later I never stop loving and learning this field. At this point I cannot imagine ever stopping what I do,” said Heirendt.

What do you miss about being in the Military?

When asked what aspect of serving in the Military they miss, both Heirendt and Walker had definitive answers. Heirendt says what he misses the most is “a culture that pushes everyone to go to the edge of their limits, both mentally and physically.”

“I miss the camaraderie,” says Walker. “At every duty station, I met so many interesting people from completely different backgrounds and cultures. Some of the best friends I have had in my life I met while serving.”

“I think it’s important for civilians to understand that most veterans, especially those who served in combat, didn’t all come home whole, or are still healing, physically, mentally, and emotionally from their experiences.” – Mandi Walker

Is there anything you wish civilians understood about military service?

There sometimes can be a divide between civilians and Veterans – something that’s hard to explain unless you’ve had the experience of serving in the Military. Heirendt and Walker weigh in on this:

“Every veteran has different experiences in the military, some great ones, and some experiences that were not so great,” says Walker. “I think it’s important for civilians to understand that most veterans, especially those who served in combat, didn’t all come home whole, or are still healing, physically, mentally, and emotionally from their experiences, so a little extra patience a little more understanding for them would be a good thing. It might be frustrating at times, but these are men and women who were willing to sacrifice their lives for your freedom.”

For Heirendt, what he wishes civilians knew about military services comes in the form of advice. “The military can be a great stepping stone in a person’s career and life,” he says.

Today on Veterans Day, as we honor and celebrate our Veterans, let’s remember the fundamental self-sacrifice made by those who have enlisted, and take time to thank them for doing so. From all of us at Jama Software, thank you to our nation’s Veterans.

Interested in launching a career at Jama Software? View our open positions.

Getting feedback is very, very hard. My first memory of professional feedback was when I was 16, working at the drive-thru window at Burgerville. After only an hour of working away from the fryer and direct with the customer, my manager whisked me aside to tell me I had a bad attitude and needed to be friendlier. I was mortified, angry and ashamed. Me? Bad attitude?! I couldn’t afford to lose my job — I had to pay for gas money after all — and the thought of being relegated to the deep fryer for the remainder of my high school years was horrifying. I had no choice but to be “friendlier.” I did, and a funny thing happened. I went from hating my job to loving my job. You couldn’t peel me away from the drive-thru window!

While I was too inexperienced to realize that feedback was going to be a crucial aspect of my growth, I was lucky that I accepted it and moved on. It wasn’t until many years later that I finally realized how important feedback was. About three years ago, I was working for a San Franciso-based company out of the Portland area. All of my leadership was based in San Francisco — which meant I rarely saw them — and my only regular connection back to the mothership was 1:1s with my direct manager. One afternoon, on a regularly scheduled call, he dropped the feedback that changed my life. It went something like this:

Boss: I recently spoke to our Director (his boss, my boss’ boss) and he mentioned that you had a “sharp edge” in one of our meetings with executives.

Me: What does “sharp edge” even mean?

Boss: I’m not sure.

Once the call ended, I sat in a conference room and cried. I felt completely helpless in the face of a phrase that I had no idea what it even meant. I had no examples, no frame of reference, nothing to help me learn or understand where the feedback had come from. Nothing. I kept hearing the words ring through my head the rest of the day. I was sure, since it was my boss’ boss that was saying it, that my career was over. That night, I was able to get my mentor on a call. I should explain that my mentor, who is still one of my mentors today, is an accomplished, experienced, executive from the Bay area. His direct choice of words is both refreshing and earth-shattering. I recounted the story to him while driving the long commute home. After all my words and tears, he said to me: “Feedback is a gift. You may not like it or agree with it, but it is a gift, and be thankful for it.”

How to give feedback

To be honest, I felt even worse after hearing that. Since I trusted he knew what he was saying, though at the time I didn’t believe him, I decided to sit with his words. In time, the pang of the words “sharp edge” faded and I realized what he meant. When you have the opportunity to hear what people are saying about you, your work, or anything you are involved with, if you listen, you will gain invaluable insights into what is working and what isn’t. The gift is that you can only improve, iterate and learn when you have information to guide you. Granted, some feedback is more actionable than others and some feedback is just plain not true. The beauty lies wherein it is your choice to accept the feedback or not. Pro tip: If the words strike a nerve, use it as a sign to sit with them and find out why.

This experience also taught me the importance of giving feedback. I never want anyone to experience the “sharp edge feedback” effect based on words I have said about them to someone else. It takes courage to give someone feedback and a tremendous amount of courage to listen and provide gratitude to feedback given to you.

In case you are wondering, I never did learn what “sharp edge” meant or why those words were used to describe me.

So what does this have to do with PDX Women in Tech? Everything! Take a look at the picture below from the PDXWIT August Happy Hour. What do you notice? When I saw it for the first time, I was struck by my smile. A truly authentic and proud smile.

How to give feedback

One of our photographers, Meghan Lewis, managed to capture me at a moment where I felt authentic pride, happiness, and comfort. The reason? It was because our August 2016 Happy Hour at CorSource was a culmination of many things, all a result of voraciously asking for feedback, sometimes giving and mostly receiving.

These are some of the successful changes to PDXWIT that have happened as a direct result of feedback…

  • The announcement of our official 501c3 status: People had been telling me for years I needed to do this. I finally listened.
  • Lightning Speakers: Again, people had been asking for years to have speakers at our events. While we had been doing this for a few months, August felt like the first time we treated it formally and it was exceptionally well-received.
  • We announced that the Mentorship Program had over 350+ members. As I mentioned in a recent guest blog for TAO, the only reason this program exists is due to survey feedback.
  • We launched our History Spotlight featuring Ada Lovelace. This was based on a combination of having attended the United State of Women Summit and being repeatedly told by members that they were looking for a deeper connection with the context of where we are and how far we’ve come.
  • We finally placed the food separately from the beverages. Yes, while this sounds minor, it created a vibe and flow like I’ve never experienced. After months of receiving survey feedback stating that the events were too loud and crowded, we started receiving feedback on how amazingly easy it was to navigate and hear in a crowd of 167 people!
  • The Welcoming Committee, a group we established after receiving feedback the events were too intimidating due to the size, transitioned into the role of event experience, welcoming people, engaging the wallflowers, and managing noise during the speaking segment. The next phase of this includes networking themes to make it easier for people to start conversations with one another.

Everything we do with PDXWIT is based on feedback from our community through surveys, coffee meetings, phone conversations and emails. This continuous cycle of feedback can be traced back to the words “sharp edge.” Without that painful experience, I wouldn’t have learned to treat feedback as a gift and thus learned to seek it out rather than wait for it. Without it, PDXWIT may still be the small community-based group meeting monthly at no-host bars, instead of the non-profit organization that is changing the lives of Portland women in tech.

Oh and if you have feedback, I urge you to reach out to me or one of our board members. We’d love to hear from you.

PS. I should also add that this article started out very differently on a totally different topic. Before publishing, I requested one of my trusted advisors to review it and based on her response, you can see below that her feedback is what got me thinking about writing about feedback.

How to give feedback

This article was originally published on Medium.


This October marks three years since I started working at Jama. In those three years, I’ve helped to manage three different offices. Although I had a background in office administration and event planning and management, I had never managed an office the size of Jama’s when I started.


This is a photo I took on my bike ride in to the first day at 2+T

Before joining Jama I had been an office manager, bookkeeper, and executive assistant for a very small non-profit organization with two-and-a-half full-time employees. I knew that things would be a little different at a startup that was rapidly closing in on 100 employees. But between my previous work experience and my keep calm and carry on demeanor, I knew that I could roll with whatever Jama might throw my way.

There are some things that you just don’t expect, though.

During my on-boarding process, I received great training and insight from the previous office manager, who was moving into a different role. A week after I started, she was scheduled to be away for a long weekend. “Oh,” she said as an afterthought. “I ordered some more cereal for the kitchen and it might arrive while I’m gone. Just put it away in the cabinets if it does.”

I was flabbergasted when six giant boxes arrived from Amazon one day. They were addressed to her. She’d told me to open any packages that came for her while she was gone. “Maybe she ordered some furniture for home,” I thought as I cut the tape on the first one.

Nope. It was cereal. Same thing in the next one, and in the next one. I thought it was a practical joke. I thought maybe this was part of the good-natured initiation process, which also involved me having to put together my own Ikea filing cabinet at my desk.

Instead, it was my first lesson about the scale at which I had to start thinking. At my previous job, a case of copier paper could last us the better part of a year (and we were a very paper-heavy organization). At Jama, a case of paper might last us a couple of months if we were lucky. I had to start thinking about coffee orders in the dozens of pounds. And a gross (12 dozens) became my new favorite measurement of quantity.

But it wasn’t just reworking my brain to operate at a higher scale, startup life also meant getting used to change as a constant. Two weeks after I started, just as I felt like I was getting my bearings in the office, Jama split in two. The company had almost outgrown its current office but we had not yet found the right larger space that we could continue to grow in. So, as a short-term solution, Jama had taken a short-term lease on another office a few blocks away. Our Engineering, Product, and Support teams moved to what came to be known as Jama South, while the rest of the company stayed at Jama North. It was about a 10 minute walk between the two offices, but we also bought some snazzy orange bikes to help folks move between the two spaces more quickly.

The garage door at Jama South that shows a map of the two offices in relation to each other

This office split was not a surprise for me. My interviewers had been very candid about this during my hiring process and I was ready and excited for the challenge. It was interesting to order supplies for two separate offices split along departmental lines. Although both offices had similar populations, one office ate way more cereal and way less fruit than the other one. Coffee and beer consumption were about the same, but office supplies (pens, paper, etc) were very different.

A little over a year after splitting the company into two buildings, Jama moved into a unified space at SW 2nd Avenue and SW Taylor Street in downtown Portland. After the dust settled, I expected my job was going to get easier. One building is easier to manage than two buildings, right? It turns out that’s not necessarily true. Our new building provided plenty of interesting quirks and problems over our first year that kept me busy.

New Jama office under construction

New Jama office under construction

And it turns out that having more people in one space instead of fewer people in two separate spaces requires a different way of approaching office management. It’s not just a process of doubling supply orders to make sure that there are enough bananas. There was a period of fine tuning our supply ordering and studying how people were actually using the new space.

Probably the thing that I love most about my job (aside from the people that I work with) is that it constantly challenges me. Every day when I come into work, I know that the day is very likely going to throw a wrench into my task list at some point. An HVAC unit might decide it doesn’t want to work, a window shade might get stuck, we might run out of apples, or the building fire alarm might get tripped accidentally by the construction happening downstairs.

But through it all, I’ve learned to be flexible and to roll with it. With help from our Front Desk and Office Coordinator, I’m learning every day how to run the office more smoothly and more efficiently. We’re not perfect yet, but after three years and three offices, I’m no longer surprised when the giant boxes of cereal arrive.

The sand is warm and the sun makes it perfect swimsuit weather. Three women, a girl, and a man are enjoying a lovely day on the coast: fashionable sunglasses, skimpy swimwear, big smiles. Californians? You’d think, except it’s an old photograph taken at the Caspian Sea.

Next slide. A young woman walks on the same beach. The photo is crisper, more recent. She’s wearing a longer tunic and the wind is blowing her hijab, covering her hair.

Next slide. A gorgeous set up for a bride and groom getting ready to pose for a photo. The sun is setting, the light is orange and low, and they are standing on the sand of a hot desert.

Next slide. A little girl and her mom in a winter wonderland. Snow is everywhere and there’s lots of it. Portland knows snow? Tehran does!


It takes about 20 hours to get there. There are no direct flights and if there were, they’d take 16 hours of air travel. With an 11.5 hour time difference “it’s the other side of the planet”. The little girl in the snow and the young woman on the Caspian Sea beach are the same person, my colleague Shabnam. Tehran is where she grew up and returns to visit her family. Jama is where she tells us about her Iran.

The photo on the beach was a pre-revolution shot that wouldn’t be possible to capture today. Women can wear a bathing suit but in an area separate from men. In fact, segregation goes beyond sandy beaches: Shabnam didn’t enter a co-ed classroom until her college years. She shows us a high school photo of girls wearing school uniforms: unrevealing and hair-covering. “None of these girls, but one, live in Iran today, which is sad and telling.”, she comments. Women can drive, vote and work. They don’t have the right to get divorced and cannot assume custody over children older than three years. And there are a lot of things that are not allowed publically.

But just like the desert and snow photos show contrasting images of the same country, within the limiting system blossoms creativity. Shabnam has friends who work in the film and music industries and cannot imagine working elsewhere. How do you shoot a movie with actors who cannot touch each other? How can you create music if women are excluded from singing? How can you party when dancing and alcohol are illegal? How can you wear hijab and be a fashionista?

“The religious police is everywhere and it’s scary” but there is a certain underground for everything: music, female vocalists, having a good time with friends, hanging out with your boyfriend in a coffee shop or on a trip (a term that’s still a taboo with the older generation). More importantly, Shabnam’s friends who work in creative, feel as if they would not be inspired outside of Iran as much as they are currently, despite all the limitations in policies of their country. This is what constitutes their art and it wouldn’t be the same somewhere else.

What is Iran like? “It’s not  Iraq” – That’s a neighboring country.  “It’s not a camel on a desert” – There are two deserts in the middle of the country. “The Head of The Cat”, or the Northwest, is cold, with snowy winters and -20*C temps. The South, by the Persian Gulf,  is warm and humid. Tehran is metropolitan, busy, diverse, polluted and surrounded by gorgeous, snowy peaks to the North. The food, which Shabnam shared with us, is tangy, fruity and sour-ish: Persian Kebab, rice in all forms, lamb stews with herbs, sour cherries and plums are among culinary staples. The buildings are historic, dating ten or twenty centuries back. People are very friendly and inviting.

I’m getting a clear sense of my colleague’s life in Iran. She skillfully transported us, Jamanians, across the globe. I look around the room and I see our CEO, VPs, managers and my colleagues all drawn into the history of the 1979 Revolution and its consequences, photos of monarchs, “The Separation” poster, and ancient mosques.

“I cannot describe or explain my culture because this is something you need to experience yourself”, says Shabnam. “But if I was to choose one thing I’m proud of, it’s not the Persian Rugs. It’s the Persian Poetry”. The particular poem she presents is written by an Iranian poet, Sa’adi, and also inscribed on the United Nations building entrance, which she reads in Farsi:

“Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you’ve no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain”