From the Beltway to the Bay: My Experience Joining Boomerang

Posted By on Jan 27, 2017

For a few people at Boomerang, this is the only company they’ve known since graduating college. They lucked out. For most of us, we found our way here by navigating career paths that meandered through various industries, companies, and roles. Our common experience was that at some point we came across Boomerang and saw something special that warranted a move. This is the story of my journey to Boomerang and my experience since joining a year ago.

Act 1: Federal Consulting

Fact: the Harry S. Truman (White House) Bowling Alley is BYOB

As my studies at William & Mary came to a close, I found myself (and half my friends) entering the world as “consultants.” I hadn’t really considered consulting as a career until I started looking for internships, but it seemed like a solid first job. And it was! I made many friends, had a great manager and director, and as a poli sci major, got my dream client: the Department of State.

State taught me a lot, but that included just how slow and restrictive the Federal space is. I loved my colleagues (and fun perks like bowling at the White House!), but most of my time was spent finding hacky workarounds to an absurdly restrictive and outdated tech environment. So just over a year in, I left to join a friend’s startup, hoping that I’d be able to develop more widely applicable skills and experience.

Act 2: Intro to the Startup World

Coming from Federal consulting, a startup seemed like a dream come true. I was able to use the latest and greatest technology and encouraged to install or build whatever tool got the job done. I gained experience in a number of areas: JavaScript, SEO, customer success, content marketing, and more. But I struggled with aspects of working at a newly-funded, fast-paced startup that I hadn’t expected.

Like most early startups, my company had frequent deployments. But seemingly as frequent were large-scale bugs that affected our customers. Since my role involved customer success, I found it difficult to take on a role where I had to constantly apologize to customers for things that had gone amiss. I realized that I needed a happy medium between a risk-averse, immobile Federal environment and the “move fast and break things” approach many startups embrace. I wanted to work somewhere I could be confident in the product.

South American Intermission

I left the startup fairly quickly, and decided to make a more deliberate return to the workforce. I found a volunteering gig at a São Paulo hostel where I got free room and board for building a website and helping with other technical tasks. But most of my time was free, allowing me to travel around South America, meet people, pursue fun projects, and reflect on what I wanted to do next with my life.

Mendoza provided a nice setting for my AngelList job hunt.

As fun-filled months went down, so did my savings. I started looking for jobs, more confident than ever with what I wanted: a role that would develop my technical and quantitative skills, a company that had a product that I could be confident in, and coworkers that shared my values. My time in South America took me outside my comfort zone and gave me a fresh perspective. I didn’t want to return to DC and become complacent, so I decided to look for jobs in regions I had never lived in, but had always wanted to experience.

Eventually, I’d find a job opening that met all my criteria: a role where I could learn a lot, at a company whose product I was passionate about, in an area I had long hoped to explore.

Act 3: Boomerang

But Switzerland was an even nicer setting for workaway!

When I stumbled across Boomerang on AngelList, I was intrigued, as I had used Boomerang for Gmail to schedule emails since at least 2011. It was a product I was already passionate about and had shared with family and friends. My excitement grew when I saw Boomerang was filling a role that that sounded perfect for me.

The position involved both both data science and writing (the role was called “Data Delver + Word Wrangler”) and seemed like a great fit for my quantitative/technical background and love for writing (as this loquacious post suggests.) And the finishing touch: Boomerang rejected the mantra of moving fast and breaking things and described its culture as “thoughtful.” And so I quickly applied for the job, hoping for a future that involved living in the Bay Area.

Every interaction I had with the Boomerang team up to (and including) my on-site interview reaffirmed my belief that it’d be a good fit, if I got the job. I ended up passing on an offer in hand from another startup, hoping that maybe I’d get one from Boomerang too. Fortunately, my gambit paid off, and I started at Boomerang in January 2016!

The Work

My first year at Boomerang has flown by thanks to a plethora of interesting projects. Every day involves mastering new skills and applying them to compelling tasks. I learned Python (the hard way) my first few weeks here, and immediately used it for my first project: an analysis of Jeb Bush’s and Hillary Clinton’s emails. It was a fun topic to cover, and an indicator on how long I’ve worked here: Jeb Bush was still relevant when I started! My first project highlights a key part of the Boomerang experience: continually learning new skills (or programming languages) and being able to quickly use them to make something awesome for our customers (and readers!)

I’ve had the freedom to take on all kinds of projects since joining Boomerang. I brushed-up on my HTML and CSS to build landing pages for Respondable, got a taste of machine learning while exploring politeness classifiers, used the Twitter API to learn just how loyal our customers are, put on my SEO hat to build new landing pages around new keywords, and A/B tested all of the things (like rich formatting) to improve conversions. Boomerang is small enough (we roll 18 people deep) that it’s the norm to take on a variety of fun projects while developing a wide-array of skills. It not only serves us all well from a professional development perspective, but it also makes it hard to have a dull day!

And if I ever do feel stuck on a Python script or technical task, I simply switch gears and write! I’ve penned customer emails (known to include limericks), as well as blog posts and guest contributions to publications like Entrepreneur. I came to Boomerang with a somewhat academic prose (here’s the opening to the writing sample I applied with: “The effectiveness of precision strike campaigns has become a prevalent talking point during the past five years due to the emergence and expansion of U.S. drone campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen, and beyond.”) Boomerang has definitely developed my writing skills, and I’ve learned how to craft content for a more general audience. It’s fun when writing limericks and using phrases like “we roll 18 people deep” is part of your job; that didn’t happen much at the State Department!

The Culture
While the work at Boomerang is great, you leave it at the office when you head home for the evening. Boomerang is one of the few jobs I’ve had where the phrase “work-life balance” doesn’t come up much. But that’s because it’s a core part of the culture and respecting said balance goes without saying. We come in around 10:30am, leave around 7pm, and that’s true for 99% of workdays. The few times we do stay past 7pm is because something fun is happening, whether it’s a product launch with a midnight press embargo, a celebratory dinner at House of Prime Rib, or throwing a customer appreciation party in the city.

Boomerang Respondable Launch!

And Boomerang’s culture is so much more than its work hours! While many companies spin remote work as a perk, Boomerang values everyone coming to the office around the same time so we can maximize the time we’re around each other. “Collaborative” is one of Boomerang’s core values, and being in the office to bounce ideas off each other, pair program, or ask questions is a big part of that. When lunch comes around, we all split up to get food from whatever restaurant we’re craving, but we get takeout so we can all reconvene in the office to eat lunch together. We also have one day a week where we all go out to lunch at a nearby restaurant. If there’s a perk to take away here, however, it’s not that we get one free lunch a week, it’s that we have a culture where people want to eat together regardless if lunch is provided.

But the aspect of Boomerang’s culture that I’m most thankful for isn’t an official company value or employee benefit. It’s that while work is confined to work hours, our camaraderie continues into the evenings and weekends. Many of us took time off of work to drive down to LA together to visit Universal Studios (aka Harry Potter world). Some of us even took a week off to travel Europe together (including stays at hostels in Spain; some were great, some not so much!) If there was one thing I was worried about when I decided to move to California, it was that all my friends and family would be thousands of miles away on the east coast. I’m grateful to have found a company where my coworkers are also my friends, and I can’t think of any perk that would come close to matching that.

TL;DR: Boomerang is pretty great

The work at Boomerang is fascinating and fun, the product continues to be one I not only understand but am passionate about, and the team is full of people who bring the perfect balance of passion, hard work, and levity to the workplace. We eat lunch together, we travel across California and across the world together, and we are focused on making people more productive with their email. It’s an amazing place to work, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, I will refer you to our Tumblr to show you the kind of people and celebrations we have here at Boomerang, rather than write another thousand words about it!

And the best part of this story is that there is no ending: Boomerang continues to be a stellar place to work. Yet each new hire, without fail, makes the team even better. It’s an exciting place to work, and if you’re interested, you can learn more about opportunities we have open. We hope to see your email (and CV) soon!

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