Last modified on March 24th, 2021
By Stephanie Mitchell
“The most damaging phrase in the language is ‘It’s always been done that way.’”
– Grace Hopper, Computer Programming Pioneer
This month, the world – and AppFolio – has been celebrating Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (IWD). The women of AppFolio represent a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and talents, and while we value their contributions all year long, this month marks a special time to celebrate and spotlight them.
Not only does AppFolio value diversity in backgrounds and perspectives, but we also count on it to make our culture thrive and drive deeper customer connections. This month, we’ve created several opportunities for AppFolio employees and customers to connect, celebrate, and learn:
- Producing an International Women’s Day-themed episode of our Top Floor podcast that features a line-up of female AppFolio Property Manager customers making a difference in real estate
- Tapping into the collective knowledge of our team with “Braindates,” small, technology-enabled knowledge-sharing conversations covering a variety of topics that are relevant on International Women’s Day and beyond
- Convening our team for several virtual, all-company panels where we heard from women representing all aspects of our business, sharing insights about their careers, successes, and challenges. Here are a few excerpts from those conversations.
Senior Director, Community Association Market
What is the biggest professional challenge you’ve ever faced, and how did you overcome it?
“I was in my first product manager role (before joining AppFolio), brought to a company to launch a new product. I dove in headfirst and did everything to make it a success.
Fast forward a few years, we realized what it would take to invest to truly make the product what our customers needed to take their business to the next level — and we didn’t have it. I made the difficult decision to end the life of the product.
The experience taught me how to think critically. I had to step back from my personal feelings to objectively consider what was best for the business – and for our customers. It was a great learning opportunity for me, and it colors my approach to decision-making today.”
Director, Payments Business Operations
What is one specific thing that really helped you get to where you are today?
“Although I’d love to say that I always had a plan, the truth is that I really had no idea what I wanted to do coming out of college. When I happened to get a job as a customer support representative at a tech company. I was scared. How was I going to answer all these technical questions when I wasn’t so comfortable with it myself?
Despite the imposter syndrome I was feeling, I leaned into my discomfort. That experience – and the roles that came after it – gave me the tools and skills that have carried me to where I am today. Not only did they help me face my fears, but to understand what I liked and what I didn’t like, and fine-tune my career path.
My advice is to pour 110% of yourself into whatever you’re doing, especially the things that make you most uncomfortable. You never know where that will lead you and what it’ll teach you.”
Vice President, SMB Sales
Did you have a mentor? What’s an important lesson they imparted?
“My most influential mentor was my childhood horse trainer, Barbara. She set the bar high for what a powerful, successful woman looks like. Among the many values she instilled in me were trust and fearlessness. She expected me to be brave by getting in the arena and doing what I needed to do. I went into competitions against grown men, jumping big fences with no fear. I did this because I trusted her implicitly and had no doubt that I would win. And I did!
I knew she believed in me and trusted me to be successful. It’s a lesson I’ve carried with me as a leader: when employees feel their managers trust their abilities, they’ll have greater confidence and perform at a higher level.”
Nicole De La Loza Rivera
Manager, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
How has being a woman uniquely prepared you to be a leader?
“Being a woman of color has given me a greater understanding of what it feels like when you don’t see someone who looks like you in the workplace. I have empathy for what teammates might be experiencing, and I understand that having a sense of belonging can take time and intention. Sometimes it’s simply just hearing ‘this is a place for you to grow your career.’
I truly value the people who have been there to support me. Now, I want to be that support to others and think it’s one element of being a woman of color that has helped me to lead.”
Senior Director, Customer Outcomes
Has the pandemic affected how you approach your job?
“I’ve learned to be more trusting of and flexible with others. Literally, every person at AppFolio is in a different situation and has been impacted differently by the pandemic.
Personally, I’ve been more mindful of recognizing those differences, and approaching interpersonal situations with my teammates – and our customers – with greater understanding and compassion. The understanding and compassion I’ve received in return inspires me and fills up my bucket.”
Director, Creative Services
What do you wish you could go back and tell yourself at the start of your career?
“As a young woman trying to climb the career ladder, there’s sometimes a tendency to feel that you have to add this layer on top of who you are in order to present yourself as stoic and never showing emotion. I know I did, and it’s only years later now that I realize it wasn’t necessary.
I wish I had shown up more authentically in my past by letting my guard down more, instead of feeling like I could never be vulnerable. I would tell myself not to be afraid to ask for the things that I want, and to show up every day as my true self.”
Comments by Stephanie Mitchell