Taking a Shortcut: Pavla Mikula
Welcome back to Taking a Shortcut, a series where we interview our colleagues. The order in which we run these interviews is random, but that randomization is guided by a complex AI (invented by our Director of Content) that is capable of communicating with a future version of itself from the year 2027 which can relay back the order employee interviews were initially published.
Why is our Director of Content spending his time directing content when he invented an AI so advanced that it can send messages backwards and forward through time? At the very least, shouldn’t he just be spending his time asking for its guidance to place bets on sporting events?
See, that’s the thing: there aren't currently any sporting events to bet on.
These interviews are meant to provide a glimpse into what it's like to work at a remote first company, while also exploring the topics of Burger King mobile apps, going out for long runs, and Beverly Hills 90210. For this week's edition, we spoke with Pavla.
How long have you been at Shortcut?
I joined in February 2017, so a little over three years now. It's really flown by.
Wow. What number employee were you?
I believe I was like number eight or nine, so we were small enough to sit in a single room, which was a glass cube at a coworking space called Workbench. We obviously would take up many glass cubes in present-day.
For the sake of social distancing, we’d probably need a glass cube for each employee. How long did it take for Shortcut to double in size from 8 or 9 to 16 or 18?
I'd say that was maybe over a year, that first growth into double digits was like... it happened, but it wasn't rapid, but I'd say the next like from 15 to 30 felt really fast. We probably did that in half the time. At first, it was like, "Oh, new people would start every couple of months." Then, it turned into every couple of weeks.
It's such a weird feeling when that happens. Counting the founders, I was number 7 when I started at Weebly. Going from 7 to 14 people took two years. Going from 14 to 140 only took around another two years. You go from this group of people who can have lunch together at a restaurant to suddenly you don’t know half the people you work with.
What do you do at Shortcut?
I'm the Director of Customer Success. My team is part of the overall Customer Experience department at Shortcut. CX has three parts to it: the sales team, the success team, and the support team, and we all work really closely together. The Success arm is responsible for making sure that customers don't leave Shortcut for other software and that they have the education, tools, and information to scale with Shortcut. We also do a lot of work around advocating for customers, making sure what they love about the product and any challenges they are feeling get taken into consideration by our product and leadership teams when we're planning our roadmaps
We do a lot of feedback sessions with customers, and we work closely with Product to run beta programs. When we're releasing a new feature, Product often comes to us to say, "We need 20 customers who would be a good fit for testing a new feature. Maybe they’ve wanted it for a while and would give really good feedback.” We go to our proverbial Rolodexes of feature feedback and find people who’d really get value from the feature.
That's very cool. Is this the same kind of work you were doing before you came to Shortcut?
In different variations, yes. Before Shortcut, I was actually working in a similar role for the parent company of Burger King and Tim Horton's, which is funny because I'm a vegetarian. They had a digital team in New York, and we were developing mobile apps for mobile order, prepaid, pick-up. The customers, in that case, were both the actual end-users of the mobile app but also the franchisee owners who were implementing this technology at their locations.
I did a lot of internal education around “here's how to adopt this platform that we're building”, and then, of course, on the end-user side, writing up a lot of material on actually how to use the app. I did that for around a year. I was a freelance consultant for a few years, and they were first one of my clients before bringing me on full time. I had a lot of small startup clients that I was helping do support and customer success for and generally just wear a lot of hats. It was always small startups where they just needed extra help with seventeen different things.
Another great client of mine was this company, FiftyThree. They made an iPad app called Paper.
I know Paper. That’s cool!
Yes, it's a great product. I worked with them around launching it on the iPhone. It was very project-based consulting. It's interesting because I was doing a lot of account management within this client work but then also, the clients were my customers, so it was double customer success management. I have to keep my customers happy, but then also keep their customers happy.
It's an interesting transition because customer success as a field is fairly new, definitely within the last 5 to 10 years that it had become an official department that people had. When you talk to a lot of other colleagues you hear, "What were you doing before this became a thing?" and everyone has a lot of great stories that are very consulting-based or maybe they were even teachers, educators, a lot of support folks, agency-client services types of backgrounds. It's pretty deep.
Under normal circumstances you would be working out of the New York office. Do you live in New York proper?
Pavla: Yes, I live in Brooklyn. I've been here since 2005. Oh my God, it's year 15. It really sneaks up on you.
Are you someone who absolutely would always prefer to work from an office, or was working from home something you wanted to be doing?
Pavla: I would do it every now and then. As much as I hate to admit it, and like I think that people who are spontaneous and don't have routines seem cooler and more fun and I aspire to that, but if I'm really honestly looking at myself, I'm a creature of habit. I really love a good routine. It's more about the stability and the pace of going somewhere.
That being said, my mom and sister live in Portland, Oregon. I used to go visit them a lot when that was a thing I could do. Every couple of months, I'd mix it up with a West Coast visit and work from Portland for a week or two.
Since you're a creature of habit and you like your routine, have you done anything to try to recreate a work routine at home?
Yes. I really like to run, and so I try to keep up my running schedule during the week before work. That's become easier because my commute is a whole lot shorter, so I have a little bit more time in the morning. Then, on Fridays, my husband and I started a tradition of ordering takeout on Fridays to try and bookend the week because I think we both would go to the office and we both had a challenge with the barrier of the end of the day because when you're working from home, you really have to make the day end. You can't just get up and get on the subway and say, "I'm going home."
I like the idea of doing takeout on Friday because I do takeout way too often. I should probably limit myself to Friday.
It's funny because we used to eat out way more, and with the pandemic, we're cooking more, but we're also like, "This is hard," and we need something to look forward to.
You like to run. Is it simply something where you go out, you jog, you clear your mind, or are you the sort of person who runs marathons?
No, I'm a total fake runner enthusiast. I've never run a race, but I love to get out there and clear my head. I run maybe three to four times a week. I use Runkeeper, and so I like to race with myself. "Oh, I got to beat my pace from last Wednesday," or "I got to get a new distance."
You sound like a real running enthusiast to me because I run like three or four times a lifetime. If it's three or four times a week, that seems about as enthusiastic as you can get.
Thank you. I'm very honored that you think that. It's a very nice outlet, and you can definitely find in the hustle and bustle of New York City, it's like a nice thing to do for yourself.
As to the takeout, do you have like favorites you go back to on a regular basis? Do you like to be continually trying new things?
Going back to the creature of habit thing — this is also my number one recommendation for anyone who happens to find themselves in New York — there's a great restaurant called Caracas, they're a Venezuelan restaurant. They make the most delicious arepas I've ever had, and we definitely order from them way, way too much. They were closed for a little bit in March and April, and we were like, "Oh no, we have to explore other places now." It was a good exercise for us, but I'm really glad they're back now.
How else do you pass the time while being stuck at home?
It's been tough because I love the outdoors. Usually, this time of year, I'm always trying to scheme how to go upstate to go hiking or in the winter like to try and go skiing, even though it's really nowhere on the east coast. It's been tough to feel cooped up. I try and go outside in the neighborhood as much as I can, that's where running really comes in, but other than that we've been binge-watching a lot of TV currently. We're on season 6 of 10 of the original Beverly Hills 90210. I'm trying to do things that are good for me that are not 90210, like reading, but it's definitely an addictive habit.
If you think about it 90210 was just like they took an incredible novel and brought it to life on the screen.
Yes, it's so high brow.
You've been at Shortcut longer than almost anyone. In that time, what’s something you've learned or that you've had reinforced so that you now know it even more than you did before?
Oh, that's such a good question. One thing that makes working at Shortcut pretty special is everyone-- this is going to sound really generic at first, but everyone really cares about the product in a way where it’s like even if your job doesn't necessarily touch the product directly, you still are knowledgeable about it. We benefit from that because we use the product ourselves.
I think there are a lot of companies and other startups our size where you get teams who are either selling or supporting the product who don't really use it very much because there's just not a good context to do so. We're really lucky that we actually use Shortcut to do our work, and I'm continually learning-- you can't stop learning that way, which makes every day not boring, there's always something new, and everyone has a Product hat on all the time. “How do we make this better?” or "Oh, customers are saying this. We're feeling that pain point too. What are we going to do about it?"
It's almost always a cross-functional conversation and you end up learning about so many more perspectives that way. That's what I've learned from being at Shortcut for three years, there are just so many new perspectives and thoughts to be exposed to, which is very cool.