Inside Change with Maira Benjamin
What is your role at Change, and how would you describe the scope of your work?
I am the Sr. Director of Engineering at Change. I manage a couple of organizations that help people start petitions. They also help people communicate about the petitions and to ensure the security of those messages. It’s the heart of what Change does, and I’m proud to be associated with it!
Since you joined Change, what are some Engineering initiatives you’re incredibly proud of?
I’m very proud of helping to kick off a High-Performance Team initiative and helping to hire more fantastic talent for the team. The squads have delivered on some significant projects this year that will delight our users. We have introduced the notion of a Movement that will help petition starters see other petitions similar to what they are advocating. We have also introduced a chat function to help people along their journey with us here at Change.
What are some ways you help your team build meaningful connections with one another?
I enable my managers to plan for virtual team lunches, and we will be having an excellent team offsite coming up soon where we will learn to build something together that each person on the team can have. Our offsite activity is all about making terrariums. The result of this is that everyone will have their terrarium and understand how to build one.
We also have virtual lunches together, which are a lot of fun since a team member will develop a great topic or idea for us to participate in together.
How do you ensure your team is aligned with the company mission and inspired by the work they do?
We engage in building quarterly OKRs, which align with the company goals for the year. Outside of that, the company has a weekly company meeting where we hear from some very dynamic petition starters who have taken their petitions to victory.
Seeing that continually engages the teams since they see actual users who have enacted change in their communities or countries.
Do you have some specific examples of how you’ve supported your team and provided them with opportunities to grow?
I help people’s aspirations to take on more work and more significant projects. If an engineer wants to be lead, I try to find an opportunity for them on projects where they can do that. I also encourage people to attend conferences, if possible.
How do you prioritize Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at work?
I prioritize DEI in my hiring process. We have goals for making sure that there is representation among the candidates that we interview. Currently, I am working on a Decision-making framework that makes sure that decisions are more inclusive and transparent to the team members involved.
I’ve also championed a panel on Misogynoir (which is misogyny directed towards women of color). And I am a member of a few ERGs, which helps me understand what matters to the communities and translate that into the engineering work that my teams take on.
What is one way the past two years have changed the way you work for the better?
I’ve learned that I need to block off a consistent band of time to do the heads-down work required to push initiatives forward in the Engineering organization.
I’ve also learned that working hard has to be accompanied by recognizing that personal time off is essential.
When you’re not at work, how do you like to spend your time?
I love to knit! I knit everything from hats, gloves, mittens, skirts, shawls, sweaters, cardigans, and even socks (although those are not my favorite things to make). Knitting is more of a meditative activity than anything else, and it is always nice to end the day with knitting.
I also love to read. I try to read every day if time permits. My favorite genres are science fiction and fantasy. However, I will read anything that looks interesting, from novels to nonfiction. I’m not a big fan of autobiographies, though.