Tag Archive for: life at jama


Jama Software

If you’ve noticed some changes to the look and feel of Jama Software’s website… we want you to know that they’re more than just updated colors and spiffy functionality; they’re a reflection of a broader commitment to our customers and supporting the future of product development.

Our customers are at the forefront of innovative product development. They’re developing life-saving medical devices and spacecraft that will change the way we think of space travel. And while we know that our contribution may be nominal, we are committed to delivering the best requirements management platform, customer service, and overall experience that we can provide to our customers.

Every day we ask ourselves what a smart product development platform looks like. Is it possible to manage exponentially greater complexity with a platform people will actually look forward to using? Can we build a platform so indispensable to business that decision-makers will turn to it? And to those questions, we say yes.

Meet the New Faces of Jama Software

Our website isn’t the only thing that’s new – we’ve welcomed some incredible talent to the Jama Software team recently, and we can’t wait for you to meet them!

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Jama Software is passionate about creating a workplace that values diversity in race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability status, and perspective. And while this has always been true, we’re doubling down on our commitment to this effort.

Our mission is to ensure that all employees and potential employees experience Jama Software as an inclusive, collaborative, and inspiring place to work. We provide professional growth opportunities by investing in our employees; identifying and eliminating barriers to full participation; and cultivating an environment where employees know they are supported and valued.

As a result, we attract, hire, promote, and retain talented and compassionate people from diverse backgrounds — giving our customers confidence they are partnering with a company built on and dedicated to a strong set of core values.

The Future of Jama Software

Spring is a great time for new beginnings and we have some big things in the works for this year and beyond. We are working to ensure our customers can put less thought into the manual and mental labor of their development process, and instead spend more time innovating. Stay tuned.

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


A record-breaking heat wave hit Portland, Oregon, this week but it didn’t stop the community from showing up to celebrate Pride Month – if anything it helped fuel the festivities. This month, as individuals, organizations, businesses, and allies, we came together to honor, celebrate, and show support for the LGBTQ+ community. And we at Jama Software were no exception.

Every year in June, the Pride flag can be seen hanging proudly on almost every block of the city, on t-shirts, and in storefront windows. First stitched together lovingly by political activist and designer Gilbert Baker in 1978, the Pride flag represents so much more than an identity, it’s a symbol of equality, pride, and most importantly, unity.

At Jama, this month and every month, we celebrate our very own current, former, and future LGBTQ+ employees. We are proud of their accomplishments and we are incredibly grateful for their contributions to our workplace and communities. True equality translates into richer, better lives for all of us.

Committing to the Work of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

We acknowledge that there is a lot of work to be done and know that celebrating diversity, equity, and inclusion cannot just happen on certain days or months. It must be a conscious, concerted effort that happens in board rooms, staff meetings, and in our personal conversations. We must continue to actively learn, go beyond our comfort zones, and see things from others’ perspectives. We cannot be wholly inclusive until every individual feels like they are heard, acknowledged, and appreciated.

As part of our commitment to diversity and inclusion, we have taken the Portland Tech Diversity Pledge through TechTown PDX. Jama employees regularly participate in AllyShift workshops through TechTown and receive Unconscious Bias training.

Last year, our very own Colleen Yeager was given the opportunity to speak at TEDxPortland about her powerful advocacy for transgender youth and the story of her own child discovering his transgender identity. Over 70 Jama Software employees showed up to support Colleen and hear stories from the community.

The event, themed “Bridges,” was focused on acknowledging our progress and exposing our challenges in the greater Portland community. Many were incredibly moved and inspired by Colleen’s story, and we are proud to call her a friend and colleague of Jama.

Jama’s Own Pride Celebration

This weekend on June 16th, we’re proud to be walking in the PDX Pride Parade alongside other local tech organizations who share our vision for diversity and inclusion including Smarsh, Cloudability, Airship, and Technology Association of Oregon.

And what would Pride month be without a big party?

On Thursday, June 13th,  we gathered together in our Portland HQ for a rainbow cake, music, drinks and a good time. Check out some of the photos from the event.

Happy Pride, everyone!


From left, Jama Software’s Chloe Elliott and Dana Medhaug.

On Veterans Day at Jama Software, we honor the service of all military veterans, starting with two of our own: Chloe Elliott and Dana Medhaug.  

Elliott and Medhaug met at Milwaukie Junior High outside of Portland, Oregon, in the ’90s before their divergent yet overlapping paths led them to Jama. Both enlisted in the military, both turned an interest in code into a career in tech and both now sit on Jama’s Customer Care team. Medhaug, a technical support engineer, has been at Jama for a year and a half, while Elliott, a community manager, started in the spring.  

When Elliott arrived at Jama, she hadn’t seen Medhaug since their eighth-grade graduation. “I saw him and was like, ‘What’s your last name?’” Elliott recounts. Once they recognized each other, they realized their lives had plenty of parallels.  

Why They Enlisted  

After high school, Medhaug walked into an Army recruiting office looking for structure and a source of adventure. Given the choice between serving in Washington, Colorado, Texas, Germany or Korea, Medhaug opted for Texas, where he was an M1A2 Armor Crewman: “At the time I thought driving a tank in Texas would be pretty cool,” he says. And was it? “Yes, looking back I believe I made the right choice when I chose Texas. I made some lifelong friendships and it was the perfect training environment for life in Iraq, where I was deployed for 18 months.”  

Elliott graduated from the University of Oregon in 2001, in the midst of a recession. She was working three different retail jobs when she enlisted in the Air Force to attend the Defense Language Institute, which offers instruction in more than two dozen languages.  

“Then,” Elliott says, “literally a month after I signed up, 9/11 happened. My friends were, like, ‘Obviously, you’re not going to go now.’ I said, ‘Actually, I feel I was meant to go. This was meant to happen.’” Elliott trained in Monterey, California, but like Medhaug, she would be stationed in Texas, where she served as an intelligence analyst in San Antonio (“Her military career was more interesting than mine,” adds Medhaug).    

The Other Boot Camp  

When their military service ended in the mid-2000s, neither Elliott nor Medhaug was planning on a tech career. “I’ve always been interested in coding,” Elliott says, “but Medhaug and I came up at a time when people were trying to figure out what even to do with computer programming.”  

Yet even when Elliott expressed an interest in computers, her high school counselor shut her down, telling her she would be “uncomfortable” in the computer science courses — despite the fact that Elliott was already taking AP math classes.   

“I wish I hadn’t listened to her, but I did,” Elliott says. “When I asked about computer science, it was like I had said, ‘I want to play on the football team.’ It wasn’t a thing girls did.”  

After she left the Air Force, Elliott initially worked in sales and marketing, but that wasn’t the right fit. “I like working with customers, but I don’t like having to sell them things,” she says.  

Elliott used her GI Bill to earn an MBA from Concordia University in Portland. After that, she opted to stay home for several years to be with her young children.   

“While I was home,” Elliott says, “I was crafting, designing. I was really interested in tech, but I always thought, ‘I’m not smart enough to do it.’ I thought the barrier to entry was just too high. But then I found this learn-to-code app. I thought it would tell me I was stupid, but once I started, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s all it is? I do the same thing when I create my knitting patterns.’ It was the same logic I’d been using all my life. Why does it seem like the keys to this industry are too hard to find?”  

Elliott’s triumph with the coding app was, she says, an “epiphany.” She tracked down every free resource she could find and started teaching herself to code. She still had more money left from her GI Bill, so she found a local code boot camp that accepted the GI Bill: PDX Code Guild.  

“I liked that PDX Code Guild was Python-based,” she says, “because I’m interested in data analysis and data science.” As soon as she started code boot camp, Elliott realized, “I need to work in tech. I love this.”   

From Construction to Coding 

Meanwhile, after leaving the Army, Medhaug worked in construction for 10 years. “I would get laid off every once in a while,” Medhaug reflects, because of dips in demand when the economy faltered.  

When he wasn’t working construction, Medhaug started teaching himself to code in CSS, JavaScript, and HTML. He also taught himself Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator and began building custom websites and graphics for fantasy football fans. “I had a customer base, and I was actually getting paid,” he says. “But I never saw myself doing the backend work. I didn’t think I was smart enough. I was like, “‘Programming is way too intense.’”  

Not until Medhaug was injured on the job and recovering from back surgery did he decide to pursue “some type of coding career” full time. Medhaug learned about PDX Code Guild and went for it even though he wasn’t fully versant in Python.   

“I decided, ‘OK, I’m going to go to this boot camp and kick butt,’” he says. “Everybody else in there had experience. They all had college degrees. I was the only one in there that was ex-construction. I didn’t know what they were doing at first, but I made it through, and then I interned at PDX Code Guild for a year after I graduated.”  

“He has 16,000 points on Treehouse now,” Elliott interjects. “I’m gunning to beat that.”  

Enter Jama  

Toward the end of his internship, Medhaug was sending out his resume and going to networking events, but he wasn’t enjoying himself at those meetups: small talk isn’t his favorite activity.

Luckily, WorkSource called Medhaug to prescreen him for the Business Support Internship at Jama.  

Initially, Medhaug hadn’t been interested in a support role; he was looking for a job as a junior developer or engineer. “I didn’t know if I’d like dealing with customers,” he says, “but I do. By nature, I like helping people, and I like problem solving.”  

When she finished code boot camp, Elliott was looking for the next opportunity to develop and deploy her skills. She had never worked in tech before, and even the job titles and functions were unfamiliar to her, so she decided to find a company where she could learn “by osmosis.”  

Elliott was drawn to support because it requires a holistic vision and versatile abilities: “You have access to all kinds of information,” she says, “and it requires a generalist application of your skills.” The Business Support Internship at Jama struck Elliott as the best way to launch her career in tech. 

Redefining “Mission Critical”  

Medhaug says his Army service changed him for the better: “I used to be kind of a screwup in high school,” he says, “but not anymore. I learned to take my job seriously.”  

After her time in the Air Force, Elliott finds day-to-day stressors easier to shake off. “Things that upset other people or seem like big deals are just not big deals to us,” she says. “We’re like, ‘It could be worse.’  

“For Medhaug, it’s probably, ‘Hey, at least I’m not sitting in a tank where it’s 130 degrees. At least I’m not sitting in a skiff, no windows, can’t bring my phone in, waiting for something bad to happen.’”  

It’s not just that military service gives a whole new meaning to the term “mission critical.” Military service requires that people put aside their individual fears and personal priorities to work as a cohesive whole: the ultimate teamwork.  

“If there’s one thing you learn in the military,” Elliott says, “it’s to think unselfishly about the mission. It’s not about you. I’m not saying everyone should join the military, but I think people are at their best when they think about the mission, not about themselves. I feel like Medhaug and I are aligned on that.”  

Military service requires fundamental self-sacrifice, and it’s those sacrifices we honor on Veterans Day. “I don’t know how to explain how many freedoms veterans give up,” Elliott says. “We literally know what it’s like not to have any kind of autonomy over your person, where you’re going, what you’re going to wear, what you’re going to do, how you’re going to think. I would do that all over again. Serving my country was one of the best things I ever did.

Thank you to all of our nation’s veterans. Interested in launching a career at Jama? View our open positions 

Every year, thousands of companies from Oregon and southwestern Washington are invited to vie for the opportunity to be named one of the region’s Top Workplaces.

Eventually, a shortlist of participating companies emerges, and their employees are surveyed on a range of satisfaction issues such as business direction, values, communication and connection.

We are excited and humbled to announce that our employees helped Jama Software become one of the Top Workplaces in 2018.

“It’s an honor to be recognized in a field of peer companies for a result that we care deeply about,” said Laura Stepp, Vice President of People at Jama Software. “We understand that our employee experience here ultimately defines the customer experience with us and we want both to be exceptional.”

The internal survey that helped Jama Software net the honor ensured employees were anonymous in their feedback, and was conducted by a third-party research firm, Energage, in cooperation with The Oregonian.

We asked Stepp some questions about the recognition, as well as her perspective on the employee survey feedback about life at Jama.

Jama Software: One of the areas Jama received high marks was in employees saying they felt connected to and appreciated by the organization. How does Jama work to build that relationship?

Laura Stepp: Connection and appreciation are driven by effective communication and positive relationships at work with managers and peers.

One way that we try to build an immediate and foundational sense of connection is through exceptional onboarding. We want every employee to feel like they have a comprehensive understanding of our company’s vision, mission, values and direction as well as all the tools they need to navigate their first months with us.

In terms of relationships, we work pretty hard on setting expectations and providing training that supports inclusivity, openness and respect. We also share our business success financially through variable pay programs to ensure all employees share in the belief that achieving our goals is a team effort.

And finally, we make an amazing product that directly helps our customers build incredible products that change people’s lives — and this mission is inherently inspirational and naturally creates a connection in the hearts and minds of our employees.

JS: Another area employees ranked highly was feeling well-informed about important business decisions at Jama. Can you talk about the transparency that Jama tries to instill throughout the organization and how it does that?

LS: Transparency is a very big deal to our employees and this showed up in many aspects of the survey results.

We have a range of communication practices we use to foster consistent transparency: our CEO writes a weekly note with updated business results that’s emailed to the entire company every Friday; we have a monthly, global, all-hands meeting that focuses on new customer introductions, our business results against our goals and various departmental activities; plus, twice a year, we conduct a company strategy kick-off session that sets the pace and direction for upcoming quarters.

In the end though, transparency can be found in the style and practice of our leadership, which is focused on trust and treating employees like the intelligent adults they are.

JS: Overall, the general culture at Jama also scored very high. Could you talk about the company’s values and how that translates into daily life around the office?

 LS: We have five core company values: Focus and Act, Lead Tenaciously, Innovate Relentlessly, Care About the Customer and Be Great to Work With. They were defined by our employees and management teams working together to determine what were the non-negotiable attributes for any Jamanian.

In terms of company culture, these values are our North Star: We hire for competency aligned to these values, we onboard every employee in the context of these values, we leverage these values as a backdrop for employee feedback, recognition, development and progression and we use them to guide action when the decisions might be tough.

We could talk extensively about how any one of these values shows up in our approach to challenges and opportunities — but let’s just say we need them all, working together in concert, to create the kind of exceptional employee experience we seek to create.

Interested in working at Jama Software? For the latest open positions and opportunities, check out our Careers page.

At Jama Software, we live vicariously through our innovative customers. We strive to provide them with the best product development platform on the planet, and today I’m thrilled to share some exciting news that will strengthen that commitment for years to come.

Jama Software has received a $200M growth equity investment from Insight Venture Partners with participation from Madrona Venture Group. The new funding will be used to accelerate our long-term global growth and drive the expansion of the Jama product development platform.

With Insight Venture Partners —  one of the world’s most well-respected venture capital and growth equity firms — Jama has found an investor that shares our passion for product development and has also helped many other dynamic companies grow. Founded in 1995, Insight has raised more than $18 billion and invested in over 300 companies worldwide.

The investment from Insight Venture Partners will give us the ability to speed our product roadmap, support our ongoing global expansion, and broaden our partner alliances and product ecosystem.

Since our founding in 2007, one of the big trends we’ve seen is the increasing complexity of product development coupled with the intense pressures of getting to market faster than ever.

Companies simply cannot compete at the level necessary to be successful in today’s marketplace while relying on yesterday’s development processes. The Jama product development platform was created to help businesses overcome those challenges.

Today’s news solidifies our belief that Jama has the potential to empower many more forward-thinking companies around the world to achieve the success they envision by releasing the game-changing products of tomorrow.

On a personal note, I also believe in the importance of building a strong, standalone, high-growth software business in Portland, Oregon. This investment gives Jama a long runway to make growth happen and build an enterprise software business of significant scale that will not only help Jama achieve its business goals, but also boost our local business community in the process.

To everyone who has contributed up to this point, we give thanks as we look towards our shared bright future. It’s truly a new day for Jama and our customers, and we’re more excited than ever to build great products.

As Jama Software’s customer base continues its rapid growth and our solution becomes more mission critical for our customers, it was clear I needed to bring on a rockstar to lead our engineering efforts going forward. One who has experience with large-scale enterprise software, critical business processes and workflows, as well as big data and analytics. Plus, this person would need to have empathy for companies building products in regulated industries.

I found all that in John Gasper, our new Vice President of Engineering.

John is a seasoned technology leader with more than 25 years of experience building state-of-the-art software solutions in Silicon Valley and Portland, Oregon. He was most recently Vice President of Engineering at Skyward IO in Portland, where he built applications for commercial drone operators. Previously, he ran engineering teams for industry leaders such as PeopleSoft, Intuit, ADP, Serena Software, and Thomson Reuters, in multiple domains including financials, payroll, taxation, healthcare, and requirements management.

John is also passionate about the thriving technology culture in Portland, and serves as co-chair of the Technology Association of Oregon’s Development and Engineering Community.

At Jama Software, our mission is to modernize, digitize, and transform product development so it becomes a competitive advantage for our customers.

The No. 1 job for John, and our engineering organization overall, is to continue building for the reliability and quality of our software and hosted solutions so our customers can always count on us being there when they need it most. John’s second priority will be to continue our heritage of bringing cutting edge solutions to product development teams, so we can make it easier for them to build the innovative products of the future.

I’m thrilled to welcome John as a Jamanian, and am excited for our employees, customers, and partners to get the chance to work together with him. To kick things off, John was kind enough to answer some questions from our team about his new role at Jama Software.

Jama Software: What attracted you to Jama Software?

John Gasper: Jama Software has a great reputation in town, so I thought I needed to check out this company. Once I met Scott and several other employees, I could easily see the reason for the reputation! Jama has assembled an amazing team. Couple this with a strong business model and incredible customers, and you get an unbeatable combination. I’m looking forward to working with the Jama team to write software that is used every day by companies around the world to add real business value.

JS: What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the Jama Software engineering team?

JG: The Jama Software engineering team is doing an amazing job. There are obviously opportunities to build more features and leverage the ever-changing technology. We need to do both.

I would also like the engineering team to continue to be a a model for others in Portland. The tech community here is fairly close-knit. Jama Software can participate in meetups, the Technology Association of Oregon, Tech Talks, internships, and more. This will not only let us showcase some of the cool things we are doing, but also help to grow the overall technology community in Portland which, in turn, helps recruit and retain the very best talent.

JS: Our customers count on us to deliver a reliable product development platform. What’s your approach to ensuring product quality?

JG: Quality is the single most important aspect in software. Great features that don’t work create frustration for customers quickly. This means quality needs to be in every step of the development process. Everyone has a role: the requirements need to be reviewed to make sure they are clear and meeting the business needs, the code needs to be unit tested by the engineers before it goes to QA, and then QA needs time and tools to be thorough.

I also like to engage others in the quality process, including those in the company and customers, where it is possible. This also includes using our product ourselves. If we find it hard to use, imagine how much more difficult our customers will find it! Understanding how customers really use the software often empowers the team to drive quality at each step.

JS: How do you plan to foster innovation that enables teams to make product development a competitive advantage?

JG: I’m a big fan of carving out time for “experimental” engineering. This could be a few hours a week or even a day each month, when the team is working on their innovation projects. Innovation is often a team sport, so I like to see small teams working together on these projects. I also like them to be demoed to a wide audience, since that might spark someone else’s innovation.

Since most of the best software out there started as someone’s innovative idea, it’s important to support these projects early on. It’s also important to recognize that not all ideas will turn out great. This means celebrating the “failures” is just as important as celebrating the successes.

To help inspire innovation on our product, I hope to have the engineering team engage with customers to see how they are using it. Watching people do their job with our product is an amazing way to inspire the team to build a highly competitive solution that our customers will love.

JS: Every Friday, our engineers take turns creating music playlists for the team to enjoy. If you were tasked with being the guest DJ one afternoon for the Engineering department, what artists would be on your playlist?

JG: This is the hardest question! My music tastes tend to be very eclectic, so I pick my own playlist based on what I’m doing and my mood at the time.

I could see a playlist running the gauntlet from the golden age of jazz with Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong up to modern jazz like Diana Krall and Norah Jones. I’d have to through in some Sting as well. I could also see some classic 70s rock in there like Queen and Styx.

I also like to support local bands, so expect to see some Pink Martini, The Decemberists, and Portugal The Man. Since I’m always looking for new bands, I’m sure there will be a few other surprises in the list!

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.

It’s easy to get lost in work. We end up spending so much of our time on our work, in the building, and with our co-workers, that it really begins to become a part of our actual life. This is why it is so important to also highlight the activities that people do outside of work.

All of the way back in January of 2016, our treasured Anthony Szabo took a trip to Seattle to take an audition that would end up landing him on one of his favorite shows, Jeopardy! To everyone’s delight, he was called back within a month to fly down to Los Angeles to actually compete in a real live recording of the show!


It was the last week in April, and the time had come that Anthony had been waiting for. The stakes were high but he took up the challenge, bringing his quick wit, brilliant personality, and heavy heart to the table. Anthony ended up competing until the very end of the show to the last round of double Jeopardy where he answered correctly, tied with his opponent, and earned a well-deserved and respectable position of 2nd place!

As we all gathered around to watch the show, everyone in the office had a sense of pride, comradery, and excitement for Anthony. Being able to come to this office each day and work with such talented people, both in the work they do for Jama and outside of Jama, will continue to not just amaze me, but allow me to learn and grow from their strengths.


PDX Women in Tech has humble beginnings — very humble, in fact. In late 2011, after a thrilling experience at the Grace Hopper Women in Computing Conference in Portland, I felt sad. I was sad because all the smart as hell women went home to their respective cities. I would probably never hear Sheryl Sandberg speak in person again and I would never feel such camaraderie with a diverse group of people. Also, I had to go back to work at my IT Systems Administrator job surrounded by people with whom I could not relate to (read: there were very few women!).

Luckily I had previously arranged a first time coffee meeting with Kasey Jones at Starbucks. It was the unknowing antidote to my despondence. I shared my sadness and she shared hers. We bonded and commiserated.

“I hate my job because I have no one to talk to.”

“Why do I have to go to a conference to meet awesome women in tech?!”

“Sure, there are other women-specific tech groups out there, but their titles include ‘code’ and ‘hack’ and I’m not a coder or a hacker!”

“My co-worker just asked me out on a date again–for the third time!”

We found ourselves at a crossroads. We could talk about this for the next 10 years, or we could do something about it. We chose to do something about it. Right there, in that Starbucks, we created PDX Women in Tech (Okay, it was actually called PDX Women in IT, but we changed it a couple years later!).

Step 1: Create a LinkedIn Group

Step 2: Create a logo
Megan LOGO

Step 3: Create a Twitter account and get our name out there
Megan Tweet
Yes, apparently our first tweet was a retweet. Did I mention our humble beginnings?

Step 4: Announce a meeting place and time, and see what happens

At this point we both decided that the absolute worst that could happen was Kasey and I would share an empty bar for two hours. We had nothing to lose. In January 2012, we arrived at what used to be the H50 Bistro on Naito Parkway in Portland, OR and waited for people to arrive. They did. Fifteen of them in fact. We declared victory and have been meeting monthly ever since.

Four years later, we’re ready to take another leap of faith. Our next step is a big one. We have officially decided to make the transition from a simple community user group to a not-for-profit 501c3.

The decision to make this move wasn’t easy. You can read more about it in the letter sent to our members below. While there’s tremendous value in bringing women together to network, I want us to do more and dream even bigger together. We had to level up. Taking on more work requires more resources.

Not only are we making the transition to a nonprofit but we successfully raised our first dollar. Adrienne Barnett, one of our board members and a professional photographer, came up with the idea for a Headshots Fundraiser. Since every professional needs a great headshot, and not everyone can afford their own photoshoot, we thought this was a win-win opportunity. Adrienne offered her skills, Jama Software offered the studio space, and our first fundraiser came together. Mirroring our first event, we put the call out and people responded. In fact, it sold out with such high demand that we will do it again soon.

Today, we’re more energized than ever to charge ahead and take on the challenge of creating a more equitable and diverse Portland tech scene.

Megan Newsletter

Last month’s newsletter to PDXWIT Members