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Unqork @ Work: Kelly Kahler (She/Her)

Kelly with her husband and two children

Spend the day with senior technical program manager Kelly Kahler as she balances meetings, metrics, and motherhood all at once.

As a Senior Technical Program Manager, it’s Kelly Kahler’s responsibility to create scalable and repeatable SDLC processes to help Unqork grow, and ensure high-quality releases are delivered on time and on schedule. She meets with a wide range of folks across Unqork’s many departments to identify areas where structure can benefit Unqork in achieving its business goals. This helps teams deliver as efficiently as possible as Unqork continues to grow and scale up. 

A lot of Kelly’s work is building interdepartmental relationships behind the scenes, but she’s at the forefront of helping everyone at Unqork succeed. Here’s a glimpse into Kelly’s daily routine!

7:00 AM: I roll out of bed and make some coffee with my husband, Ben, before he heads off to work.

7:30 AM: I hop on our weekly leads sync for the Unqork Manage Camp. We discuss high-level items that impact team members, such as staffing and project priorities. I also give project updates at this meeting for the five major roadmap initiatives I’m involved with. Today, I’m mostly briefing on risks to project delivery and our mitigation steps.

8:00 AM: Time for the first of two team standups for the day, scrum style! We set aside 15 minutes daily to see how our work during this sprint is progressing, address any blockers to team success, and shoot the breeze with a Question of the Day. The people I work with are so great, funny, and caring, making this brief interaction a highlight of my day.

8:30 AM: I head downstairs to grab some breakfast and spend some time with my two little kiddos! Connor is three and a half, and Jorie (Marjorie) is one and a half. Since COVID, we have an amazing nanny who has a blast with the kids all day, reading books with them and making mud in the backyard. But I get to sneak some time with them all throughout the day, which is really special as a working parent.

Along with ensuring strong connections between Unqork teams, my job as a senior technical program manager is to streamline operations and ensure everyone is on the same page.

9:00 AM: I’m back at it with more coffee, and my prioritized to-do list. Along with ensuring strong connections between Unqork teams, my job as a senior technical program manager is to streamline operations and ensure everyone is on the same page. Since Unqork has grown so quickly in the four years since its founding, there are plenty of places where it makes sense to implement consistency. I like to do this by risk-rating the opportunities I see, and then involving each function and making them a partner in the effort. Even though it may take more time, I find that direct conversation gets us to an 80% solution pretty quickly. Plus, I don’t have to struggle to get buy-in once we implement a new process. The processes worth pursuing usually relieve pain points anyway!

9:30 AM: Now, I meet with our security team. It’s important that we have a robust security posture as we develop our platform, especially as Unqork applies for FedRAMP certification. This is a great example of an area where consistency is essential. Security is everyone’s responsibility, but we want to bake it into our processes so it’s never an afterthought as we grow our platform. In this meeting, I’m learning how the security team wants to approach their involvement in roadmap items given their staffing levels and other commitments. I bring my team’s perspective to the discussion, making sure the security reviews happen early enough to not result in rework for our engineers. 

10:00 AM: Meeting time with the engineering manager and product manager to discuss our priorities for the next sprint. I work very closely with these two people, and together we make sure the team is positioned to deliver roadmap items on time.

10:30 AM: Time to collect and assemble metrics from the sprint that’s about to wrap up! I create a dashboard for our team to discuss next week, where we can review sprint metrics and progress made against milestones. This will help give context for our sprint retrospective.

11:00 AM: Off to brainstorm on another set of metrics for another dashboard I’m assembling, which will show project and team health using automation from our project planning software. Once defined and set up, these metrics will inform our discussions with the Platform Leadership Team. They could also serve to support headcount requests, customer commitments, and other decision-making. 

12:00 PM: I poke in and see the masterpieces my kids have created! Today it’s a “Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet” poster with four little ghosts that look suspiciously like my kids’ feet. I get fresh office artwork weekly and I’m into it. After a few tickles and smooches, I’m out the door for a run!

1:00 PM: Post-run, I have lunch at my desk with my camera off so no one sees me mid-chow. Working from home lets me really take advantage of all the margins in my day, like exercising and then eating lunch during a meeting. Right now, I’m at Spectrum ERSG leadership tag-up. I joined a few ESRGs as soon as I joined Unqork, and they are one of the many reasons I love working here. Earlier this year I came out as bi and felt very supported at work. I was able to organize and host a Bi Visibility Day speaker, Robyn Ochs, and we had about 50 people join the session. Unqork funded it, and we all learned a lot!

1:30 PM: I meet with other Technical Program Managers! Today, we catch up and strategize about the things that are holding our teams back. We define some problem statements and add initiatives to our Risk/Issue Register.

2:30 PM: I pop in and read a book to my oldest, who stopped napping in March 2020 (I’ll just leave that there for every other working parent to commiserate with). Today, I get to snuggle and read one of his favorite new library books with him—and if I’m lucky, hear some of the wacky things he’s thinking about today. Sure enough, he tells me he wants “pancakes and sneakers” for dinner. 

3:00 PM: Usually, this point in the day is spent catching up on Slack messages, emails, and low-hanging fruit. I’m also setting myself up for success tomorrow by getting my to-do list dialed before I sign off at 4.

4:00 PM: I don’t sign back in again until the next morning, so the rest of the night I’m hanging out with Ben, Connor, Jorie, and our hound dog Fred. We love to get out on the trails before dinner so Connor can ride his strider bike and Jorie can taste-test the dirt—a little dirt don’t hurt! We moved from the east coast to Colorado six years ago for this very reason.

5:30 PM: My day ends with dinner, the kids’ bedtime, and hanging out on the porch with Ben drinking wine. It’s a great wrap-up to another day, and leaves me recharged and ready to tackle whatever comes tomorrow!

To hear more perspectives from other Unqorkers, check out the other entries in our Unqork @ Work series and Creator Spotlights.