Tag Archives: work

Hello Zillow Group!

Zillow logo

Since my work laptop arrived Wednesday and I cleared the I-9 hurdle this morning, I’m incredibly happy to announce that I have accepted a Web Marketing Operations Manager role at Zillow Group, starting next week!

What will I be doing? From the job description:

  • Partner with the website marketing team and program managers to define and execute on the web technology stack with the goal of supporting marketing initiatives
  • Build and handle web pages and merchandising placements within the content management system (CMS) based on business requirements
  • Work with marketing and development teams to coordinate requirements and govern website tagging and tracking
  • Drive and configure integrations of tools such as customer data platform, A/B testing, forms, and other technologies with the CMS
  • Build and maintain a high level web technology roadmap
  • Coordinate the selection and management of agencies and third-party vendors for web consulting and platform execution
  • Collaborate with other marketing operations partners to ensure website solutions are in alignment with other channel approaches
  • Stay plugged into emerging technologies/industry trends in the web technology space and apply them to strategies and tactics

A few of the many things that attracted me to the role are that Zillow Group is in the midst of shifting their business model from essentially selling ads against their inventory to a vertically integrated real estate solution in a sector that is ripe for disruption, the ability to learn more about the marketing discipline, and that everyone I talked with just seemed like good people. Zillow Group has also embraced flexible work, so I won’t have to commute every day and they score well for gender equality. They’re also hiring, so come work with me!

And to answer the question, “Heather, what the heck have you been doing since you left IMDb almost five years ago?” – it’s been a ride.

When I left IMDb I had resolved to take six months off to just be a mom for my kids after a turbulent year and feeling burnt out on tech. Around month five, just when I was getting the itch to get back to work, my mom unexpectedly passed away. It hit me hard, and with the object lesson of life being short I decided to take more time off to support one of my kids who needed some extra help, settle my mom’s estate, and figure out what was next for me. One year turned into two and then bled into a third before realizing that spending down my retirement fund wasn’t the smartest financial move.

Prior to my mom’s death I had visions of doing user/customer experience consulting, but freelancing is hard and requires a lot of hustle, and I just didn’t have it in me at the time. So, I turned my attention to a side project that I’ve been incubating for a few years, Alluvial Lux, designing and fabricating custom freshwater aquarium sculptures. Throughout 2019 I worked to get the business structure set up and start work on my first design. As my money started to run out, I realized I needed another job and started looking in September 2019.

My 2020 plan was to work full time in tech and use weekends and nights to get Alluvial Lux up and running, using my living room as a gallery showroom for the sculptures, and see what happened.

I was intentional in looking for an all- or mostly-remote gig, and interviewed at WordPress VIP (VIP), a subsidiary of Automattic, a remote-only company for an Enterprise Technical Account Manager role. Hiring in there took about six months(!) and my first day of work in March 2020 coincided with the first Covid lockdowns in the Seattle area. My Alluvial Lux plans were put on pause because the whole world changed and I wasn’t about to have people I didn’t know over to the house.

On the surface, VIP seemed like a perfect fit; it’s managed WordPress web hosting at scale and was very digital.forest-like. I’d be able to marry my web operations background with my experience in supporting enterprise customers. The reality turned out to be not so great for me.

The 7/24 nature of the business gave me stress flashbacks to digital.forest, there was more technical support than I realized or wanted (my bad for not realizing that beforehand), and over time I realized I didn’t fit well into their technical operations and business cultures. But ultimately I lost faith in leadership over a business decision they made that I was morally opposed to and their dissembling and condescending justifications for making it is what drove me to seek a new job.

I did make some great friends there and I wish my former colleagues at VIP all the best.

Onward to the future!

New Year, New Job and Shingling

After two and a half years of a fascinating, challenging, and wild ride in the Windows Phone division, I am moving this coming week to the Developer Division where I will be Senior Program Manager in Visual Studio overseeing a project that spans the Visual Studio marketing and developer websites.

This will be the fourth large website project I’ve done for Microsoft, the first three were combining the Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 TechCenters, launching Microsoft Answers, their first forum-based consumer customer support site, and launching App Hub, the Windows Phone developer website, which combined the XNA Creator’s Club and the previous Windows Phone developer site.

The common threads across all of these sites that I drove was re-factored information architectures, large-volume content presentation, and leading cross-divisional working teams. I’ve learned quite a bit over the past six years at Microsoft about these areas that I’ll certainly bring to bear in my new role.

On a different note, most recently, I’ve spent the past few months analyzing quite a bit of data around the API Reference portions of the MSDN Library and have been evangelizing my results to documentation teams across Microsoft. I’m cautiously optimistic that a couple of teams have taken the data to heart, as I know that some work has begun to address some of the larger pain points. When this work by many, many people eventually comes to fruition, it should dramatically increase MSDN Library search engine relevance, hopefully making problems like this and this much less severe, and make the treasure hunt for API information less frustrating.

In a nutshell, structural artifacts of the documentation process creates web pages that are similar in content. Search engines use a process called shingling to de-duplicate and willow results. In cases where they look across large, structured documentation sets, you may not ever get search results for specific pages because they look too similar to other pages. (Examples A, B, and C.) Mark Manasse of Microsoft Research was kind enough to give me some of his time in December to explain this in more detail and give me some great ideas to pursue to understand the scope of the problem and ways to solve it.

I wish I could say more now, but changing page patterns for millions of web pages takes time. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂