15 Minutes with Jessica Gilmartin of Piazza
Piazza "changes the way students learn and find jobs." We wish Piazza existed when we were in college. It’s a free online platform that connects students to teaching assistants and professors to keep learning interactive and most importantly, inclusive. And, if that platform wasn’t amazing enough, it even links students to the companies that want to hire them – impressive.
Ever wonder what's it's like to be part of a bustling tech business? Jessica Gilmartin, the COO of Piazza, gave us a peek into a typical day in Silicon Valley:
I wake up at 6am. Actually, my 5 year-old son wakes me up, then my 4 year old usually follows a few minutes later. I get the kids settled downstairs, while my husband takes over making breakfast for them and giving them (hopefully educational) iPad apps and movies to watch. I'll grab my own iPad and catch up on emails before getting ready and sending the kids off to school.
My commute to work is exactly 8 minutes by car. Sometimes I walk, which is a great 30-minute stroll, when I can listen to 97.3 [morning show and current music]. My commute is my only down time during the day.
Once I’m at my desk, I'll grab a Fraiche low-fat yogurt and mix it with granola and honey. (In the Midfield note: Fraiche was cofounded by Jessica; we also love her healthy breakfast!). A typical day in the office is a mix of meetings with team members and external meetings. It's rare for me to travel for work because that can take critical time out of the day. There’s a saying that "time is the enemy of a start-up". So, when I go to external meetings, I usually take a Lyft so I can multi-task. It’s been transformational in my life to help me stay productive, even when I'm on the move.
I handle a few media requests each week. Over the summer I did an on-air interview in New York City with Bloomberg on Piazza's great work related to where top technology grads want to work. It was my first on-air spot, and I was really nervous. But, I have a great technique to deal with nerves - I distract myself. I don't explicitly think about a presentation or interview right beforehand because I've already done all the prep. I called my husband, and we chatted about everything except the interview. Once I was on-air, I felt totally calm and ready to answer questions.
I don't drink coffee, and I typically don't take a lot of breaks during the workday. Instead, I get fresh air and time with my core team members during one-to-one walking meetings and working lunches. It's important for me to keep a pulse on how the different teams are doing, and it's a great way to stretch my legs and check-in with everyone.
Technology is, not surprisingly, a huge part of my everyday life. I live and die by my Google Calendar (ask my team or my husband!). TripIt is a great travel app to stay organized when you travel, and it even alerts you about flight delays. I use Clear to skip lines at the airport, and Luxe to park my car - anything to squeeze a few extra minutes into my day. At work, my team leverages different chat platforms to quickly collaborate - Skype, Google Chat, Slack, you name it we've got it. At a start-up everything is about speed, so tracking people down over a chat platform helps move projects forward.
Each day we do a hundred little tweaks to Piazza. Most of what we do is to improve the user experience- we are especially focused on making it easier for students to connect with peers and companies. And we are also constantly innovating to make it easier for companies to find the best students to hire. It's a lot of work, but a lot of fun.
My nanny leaves at 6pm on the dot, so it's important for me to walk out of the office at 5:45pm. I get time with the kids until they go to sleep at 8:30pm, and then I indulge in an hour of TV with my husband. I'm also a huge planner, so I'm usually researching kids' activities, birthday parties and trips.
I log back into work from 9:30-10:30pm to knock out more emails and plan for the next day. It's actually relaxing because I'll be working on the couch with my dog next to me (a great work partner!). I'm lucky because we don't have employees abroad except for two engineers in Latvia. So, I don't have to play time zone catch-up most days since the core team is local. The majority of our customers are on the East and West Coast of the U.S. and Western Europe, which means I can head to bed at 10:30, read for about an hour, and then go to sleep by 11:30pm to recharge for the next busy day.
Thank you to Jessica for sharing her day with In The Midfield! If you want to learn more about Piazza go to the site and check out a real class. We think it's pretty amazing.