June 15, 2012

Where Am I Now (Part Two)

I finished out yesterday at the end of my training period, which happened to overlap with my Christmas holiday.

I realized that I hadn't really talked about what our community managers do. So, when I came on board, the team's purpose was to be a group of generalists overseeing the entire network, monitoring meta posts and handling moderator and user issues. Part of this includes running the support email inbox, known as team@, which is where users can email the company directly.

If this feels like probably too many things for one person to handle, you'd be 100% correct. There's a lot of things I enjoy about community team, but the things I find most trying are the stuff that's rote. Our workflow is task-oriented, which was a huge shift from the project-focus that CHAOS had. That single change was almost certainly the most difficult adjustment.

One of the things I didn't realize until much later (when it was flat-out told to me) was that I was something of an experimental case. Up until my onboarding, no non-technical person had been asked to join the Community Team. I was essentially being tested, to see if any non-technical person could actually "make" it on the team. Frankly, knowing this wouldn't have changed anything. I wanted to do well on the team because it was better for the company. I gave it my best because it deserved my best. That's really all.

I won't pretend that hearing I passed wasn't a bit of a boost, though, haha.

Success Kid knows my feelings.

I will say that there have been more than a few upsides to being a community manager. I have a universal diamond, now, and my words/decisions hold a certain amount of real power. The flipside is that I don't feel substantially different in my reach now than when I was with CHAOS. The difference is entirely perceptual; I think people see me differently now that I'm a CM, which is kind of hard to swallow. I'm the same person with the same abilities as before; I just happen to have the moderator demarcation beside my name now. It's like I changed my hairstyle and suddenly got a lot more respect.

That said, over the past several months, I think my own bitching none-too-gentle pushes have forced the team to move into what I feel is a more productive direction. We've changed a lot of things about our workflow to help, and I think this team is more willing to take risks with how we make things happen.

There have definitely been problems. I soon realized that one of my colleagues and I were phosphorous and water -- not exactly the most functional combination. There have also been huge changes internally, personnel changes that have a long-reaching effect on how we run ourselves. I've had a lot of trouble with workaholism, which in turn impacted my personal life. I've also had ethical dilemmas in some of the choices I've made. It's been a really varied six months, honestly.

I love working with our moderator staff, but at the end of the day it can feel really isolating to realize that I'm a non-technical person in the middle of a huge crowd of technical people. Community Team is mostly former developers hired on for an interpersonal role. Our moderator staff is a reflection of our largely-developer audience (and thus, in turn, mostly developers themselves). As a CM, I interact with our dev team fairly regularly.

And yet, people are still people. I've quickly realized that I'm at my best when I'm helping someone through a problem. I like helping our moderator staff. I hate it when they break down due to frustration or stress or sheer dissatisfaction, and I don't mind taking on that emotional burden. Oddly, for someone who is generally really terrible at dealing with "all the crying women," I can manage a mod meltdown without feeling overwhelmed. Weirdly, I became "the one with all the feelings" even though I honestly was never that person ever before. (My friends in college joked that I was "dead inside" for a reason.)


Ultimately, I'm just happy to be the person that the team needs. If the mod staff needs a Team Mom, then I'll be that person. If Community Team needs to prove that non-technical people can come onboard and be okay, I'll be the guinea pig. I'm reasonably versatile and, at the end of the day, I want to make an impact in our work. If that means taking on a role that's unusual, so be it.

Tomorrow I'll talk about some of the things that I need/want from this team moving forward, and where I hope the team will be in a year from now.

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