This is the latest in our Meet the Team series, where we introduce some of the hard-working people who keep Reaction Commerce moving forward. Today we’re talking to Jill Wohlner, our Head of People Operations. Jill joined the Reaction team in April of this year.
Jill, why don’t we start with a bit about your background. What has your career path looked like, and how has it brought you here to Reaction Commerce?
I went to undergrad for psychology and grad school for industrial/organizational psychology, which is basically the study of humans in the workplace. So I always knew I would have a people-focused career, but wasn’t quite sure what I would do specifically. My first job was as a temp HR admin at a company that manufactured slurpee machines for 7-11. It happened to be down the street from this tech company, Rackspace, that everyone in town wanted to work for because you could wear jeans every day and they had a cool office.
After a few years in the slurpee biz, I got an interview to be a recruiter at Rackspace, launching my career in the tech world, and the rest is really history. Since then I’ve built a few recruiting teams for companies like DigitalOcean, Simple Finance, and Fastly, led conference recruiting, worked as a technical community manager for a division of IBM, and spoken at a handful of conferences. The opportunity at Reaction was incredibly appealing to me because it let me get back to my roots and my training for handling all things people related, as well as working for a company that I am inspired by and believe in.
What are some things you’re working on right now?
Now is a very exciting time for People Ops at Reaction. Since I was the first hire to this team, I have been completely engrossed in ‘listening and learning’ mode. I love digging into teams and understanding dynamics, personalities, work flows, and so on. I’ve started laying the foundation for what’s to come: improved hiring processes, career paths, feedback cycles, and more. Now it’s about time to execute!
You’ve been with Reaction for a couple of months now. What’s it been like so far?
Reaction has honestly been a dream job for me. I have been accepted and trusted in my role since day one, and that’s been very refreshing. One of the things that made me nervous about joining was onboarding remotely (something I have never done before). Questions swirled in my head like, ‘Will I feel like I’m part of the team? Will I feel like I started a new job? Will I have the support I need?’ Thankfully, the answer to all of the above was yes. I actually really loved having my first day in my home office with my dogs because I felt so comfortable. I think there are still some improvements that can be made in regards to building our internal communities, but it’s on my to-do list.
Did you have any role models who led you to where you are today? Who would you say are your biggest influences?
My role models have always really been my parents. My dad was in the Air Force for over 20 years, and my mom was a fourth grade teacher for 30. They are kind and hard-working. They also taught me about bringing humor to the mundane and truly caring for others. I would be lost without them.
And then there are a few like-minded folks in tech I've been following for a while, who just blow my mind on a daily basis. People like Jess Frazelle, Ana Medina, Erica Joy Baker come to mind. They’re some of the smartest humans I know, so good at their jobs, and not afraid to be 100% themselves at all times.
You’re based in St. Louis, and Reaction is now a globally distributed team and company. What are your thoughts on having everyone so spread out?
The advantages and the challenges tend to mirror each other. Meaning, it’s awesome that we have the ability to hire globally, but then we also have folks spread out globally. Time zones are truly the most difficult part of the equation, and I think it’s a work in progress for us (and all globally distributed organizations). We continue to refine how we work asynchronously and how we strategically build teams in the right time zones, so we aren’t too heavy in any particular time zone.
That being said, the pros completely outweigh the cons. Having a global team can be uncomfortable to some at times, because it truly forces you to empathize with humans from all different backgrounds and doesn’t let you become too centric to yourself. If you want to be successful at a globally distributed organization you need to be inclusive for backgrounds, communication, lifestyles, and more, which I think is a huge plus in the long term.
Tell us about a retail or ecommerce experience you like.
I’m obsessed with the Sephora app. It’s the best ecommerce experience I’ve ever had. The amount of engagement I have with it (due to promotions and ease of use) is truly incredible. Also, it’s seamless between the app and the in-person experience.
If you were to launch your own storefront on Reaction, what would it be called? What would you sell?
I’ve been on an overalls kick for about the past five years; thankfully, they are now back in style. So it would probably be a shop called ‘Farmer Jill’ where I could find all my dream overalls. I don’t know if there is a need for this in the market, but we can pretend!
What do you do for fun? If we could peek into your life on evenings and weekends, what would we see?
My life pretty much revolves around my wife, Jen, and our two pups, Bean and Peanut Butter. We love going for long walks as a family in the evenings to decompress from the day. My other favorite activities include running, going to the movies, trying new restaurants, Twitter, watching trashy TV, and hanging with friends.
“Life is a ride for all of us, and empathy for yourself is a great place to start.”
At Reaction we put a lot of emphasis on the company’s values and principles. What are your personal core values?
My core values are authenticity, equitable treatment for all humans, and humor. I have found through the years that without those, I feel unfulfilled and unhappy.
What’s something that makes you smile? Something that makes you angry?
I am pretty well known for smiling constantly. I truly love to smile and laugh. So far this morning I have laughed at a gif someone posted to Slack and smiled at how goofy my pups are when they wake us and want loving!
Things that make me mad tend to revolve around injustices. I don’t like when people are treated differently than others or when folks are bullied, and I hate when people try to scare me.
OK, last question: What’s a piece of advice that you would give to your younger self?
This could be a novel in and of itself. I think I would generally tell tiny Jill to stop worrying so much--but then I’d probably need to tell current Jill that, too. I would encourage her to work on accepting herself sooner and not placing as much weight on what others think of her (or what she thinks they are thinking of her).
Life is a ride for all of us, and empathy for yourself is a great place to start.
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