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November 20th, 2020

The Humans Behind the Bots: Karen White

  • portrait of Rasa


At Rasa, our team is building the standard infrastructure for conversational AI. Behind the scenes, the people of Rasa come together from diverse backgrounds to solve today's most interesting challenges in NLP and dialogue management. We're pulling back the curtain to highlight a few of the humans behind the bots.

Today we're talking with Karen, Developer Marketing Manager at Rasa. We'll learn Karen's story and explore the day-to-day projects and technologies they're passionate about.

Hi, Karen. Tell us about yourself! What was your path to joining Rasa?

Before I joined Rasa, I was working as a Developer Advocate for an ecommerce platform based in Austin. I'm really attracted to hybrid roles-a little bit marketing, a little bit writing, a little bit coding. My educational background is in technical writing, so I'm a big believer in the power of good documentation, but I also enjoy being active in product development, helping to grow a sustainable business, and working with the community.

I met Alex, the CEO of Rasa, at a Developer Relations conference in 2019. We chatted about Rasa and I was struck by how genuinely invested Rasa is in building a thriving open source community. I had been looking to transition into a more traditional marketing role for a developer product, that would still allow me to work with technical communities. A few months later, I moved to San Francisco to join Rasa as the second hire on the marketing team.

Take us through a typical day as a Developer Marketing Manager. What types of projects do you work on?

People might be surprised that on most days, the work I do in developer marketing isn't too different from what I used to do as a Developer Advocate. The biggest theme that runs through my work is developer education.

Marketing is about creating new users of the product, and when your user is a software developer, the best way to do that is to provide resources that help them do their job better-in this case, build better AI assistants. On a typical day, I might be writing a tutorial for the blog, hosting a webinar about a new product release, or helping run one of our Rasa Developer Certification workshops. I love the variety and challenge of the projects our marketing team works on.

Which areas of your work are you most passionate about?

One thing I'm deeply passionate about is being hands-on and deeply understanding the product. To effectively market a product, especially a technical one, you have to know first-hand what users experience. Before I joined Rasa, my primary programming language was JavaScript, but I've been getting more comfortable with Python since I've started building assistants.

Another area I'm passionate about is writing great copy. It probably goes back to my experience with technical writing, but I love taking a complicated topic and putting it in plain language or figuring out which angle is going to resonate the most. I love knowing that a piece of content I write is going to help someone searching for the solution to a problem.

What's an important problem you're solving at Rasa?

One of the challenges this year has been launching and scaling our Developer Certification program.

We found that there were a lot of developers who had been building assistants with Rasa for a long time and wanted a way to demonstrate their achievement, as well as developers who were just getting started and wanted a path to levelling up. Together with the marketing and Dev Rel teams, we've been working on making certification options available to as many developers as possible through e-learning, including launching our Certification Workshop on Udemy, and most recently, launching the certification exam as a standalone option for experienced developers, who want to skip the workshop and test directly into a certification.

How would you describe Rasa in three words?

World-class: At Rasa, you're surrounded by talented, intelligent, hard-working people. Nobody is average. It creates an environment where going after ambitious goals is the default.

Compassionate: Respect for employees as a whole person runs through the entire company. A lot of companies say they value taking care of employees outside of work, but at Rasa, it's backed up by actions.

Thoughtful: One of the Rasa values is that there is always a next level for an idea, a goal, or even yourself. As a company, Rasa is very thoughtful about questioning the way things are done today and finding ways to become a company that reflects the type of world we want to live in.

How do you collaborate with other teams at Rasa?

Marketers are always on the hunt for information, whether it's learning about a new release from the Product team or talking to our Customer Success Engineering team or Sales to hear about how people are solving challenges with Rasa in real life. I rely on input from a lot of other teams at Rasa to help tell the right story about the product and the brand. Our team is distributed around the world, but Rasa takes a pretty deliberate approach to remote communication, and we try to document as much as possible in Slack.

What does a culture of diversity mean for you at Rasa?

A culture of diversity means celebrating and respecting the differences among our team members, but it also means making a conscious effort to build a team that includes underrepresented groups and different perspectives. I love that our entire company is taking an honest look at where we are today, making a plan, and taking actionable steps to make this happen.

How has working at Rasa helped your professional development?

As someone who didn't come from a traditional marketing background, joining the Rasa marketing team as it was just getting off the ground has allowed me to learn more about the "craft" of marketing. At a larger company, marketers tend to be specialists, but at a growing company, you get the benefit of being more of a generalist and diving into a lot of different types of projects.

Another advantage for professional development is that experimentation is encouraged at Rasa. At a startup, there's no resistance or negativity around new ideas. The only limitation is the number of other priorities and hours in the day.

What's the most interesting thing you've learned lately?

I recently read an article about how the physical properties of sand are surprisingly complex and not yet well understood by science. Just a little reminder that there are still a lot of mysteries to uncover, even in mundane things we take for granted.

What's the best career advice you've received?

One thing that's resonated with me is accepting discomfort. Progress happens when you push yourself into situations where you're out of your comfort zone. At the same time, I've been really lucky in my career to work with folks who gave me a chance to take on new projects while giving me room to make mistakes. Finding the right balance between discomfort and support is the key to growth.

Thanks Karen! You can find Karen on Twitter and Medium.

Want to team up with Rasa? We're hiring! Find open positions on the Marketing team and other roles on our Jobs Board.