This blog series is dedicated to celebrating our Black, Latinx, and Women Engineers who are making an impact in the lives of our Gusties and Gustomers (Gusto customers) every day.
Today, we're spotlighting Jocelyn Lindenger, who has been with Gusto for 3.5 years as an Engineering People Empowerer for the Run Payroll Experience team.
Our interviewers are Kevin Gadd and Leanne Lee. Kevin works on Gusto’s Invite Team to hire software engineering talent, while Leanne builds public APIs and product features as part of Gusto Embedded.
Kevin: How did you join Gusto?
Jocelyn: After spending 12 years building my career in the government space as a data analyst, I felt a surge of excitement to transition into the private sector. This led me to relocate to New York, where I joined a fintech startup and became their first technical employee working as an engineer for three years. Interestingly, I had prior experience with Gusto because it was my payroll provider, which gave me valuable insights into the products.
I was seeking a new opportunity and Gusto spiked my interests. I recalled having a good memory when using Gusto as a fintech product. The prospect of transitioning from a smaller company with limited customers to a company with a substantial customer base truly excited me. In addition, the timing aligned perfectly as Gusto had recently opened its New York office, presenting an ideal fit for me at that time.
Kevin: In your role here at Gusto, what has been one of your proudest accomplishments/impacts you have had on the SMB customers we serve?
Jocelyn: I have experienced several moments of great pride.
- Experiencing the real impact of my work with a substantial customer base was truly rewarding – especially when I pushed and released a feature for the first time and witnessed many customers actively using it..
- I had the opportunity to lead a team in developing a product from scratch, which enabled customers to register and pay taxes for each state seamlessly. Seeing the tremendous impact of this solution in bringing relief to thousands of customers facing tax related difficulties, especially during the challenging COVID period, was a moment of pride.
- As a co-lead in our Pride Affinity group, I have actively participated in our program called GustoGives, which allows our customers to make donations to various causes connected to different charities. Over the past two years, our pride leadership team has been dedicated to suggesting and promoting charities that support the LGBTQIA+ community. We have been encouraging our customers to connect with these charities and contribute to meaningful causes that align with our values.
Kevin: How has Gusto played a role and supported you in your journey as an engineer?
Jocelyn: Gusto is a fantastic place for managers to thrive, striking a perfect balance between delivering products for real people and working closely with them. It’s an exciting space where we can create products that resonate with humanity. “Be human, meet humans, and build things for humans.” Moreover, Gusto provides an excellent opportunity to build and nurture an inclusive team while leading with authenticity.
Kevin: What makes you excited about the work you do to serve SMB customers here at Gusto?
Jocelyn: I’m thrilled to be working on a product that directly impacts people’s daily lives by facilitating their paychecks. The excitement comes from the opportunity to develop technology that is closely tied to our customers’ day-to-day experiences, making our work incredibly meaningful and relevant.
Kevin: What advice would you give to someone looking to break into engineering or are just getting started?
Jocelyn: Throughout my experience in Gusto, I have engaged in mentoring individuals at different stages of their careers. For those in the early stages, I emphasize the importance of problem-solving as a fundamental skill. This involves asking questions to clarify the edges of a problem, breaking it down into manageable pieces, and critically examining the assumptions they are operating under. By surfacing these assumptions, they can better understand the shape of the problem and identify areas of potential risk.
In tackling challenges, I encourage focusing on the most challenging aspects of the problem first, rather than opting for the easier parts. This helps to address complexity and mitigate the risk of inaccurate estimates. By addressing the difficult aspects upfront, individuals can mitigate the chances of encountering unforeseen difficulties later in the process.
Kevin: What does your typical day at Gusto look like?
Jocelyn: As someone responsible for managing a workstream and leading a team of 7 individuals, my daily routine lacks a fixed pattern. I usually collaborate closely with engineers, product managers, and designers to ensure everyone is aligned and working towards shared goals.
Kevin: What are your favorite parts of the day?
Jocelyn: I find great excitement in coaching and mentoring individuals, guiding them to achieve personal growth in their careers, and fostering collective growth within a group.
Kevin: What's something that working at Gusto has taught you that you will continue to take with you in your career as you grow?
Jocelyn: In Gusto, we used the term People Empowerer (PE) instead of engineering manager. I invested a lot of time growing as a manager, focusing on empowering and supporting individuals. One lesson I have gained is that expressing appreciation costs nothing and should be generously spread. It stands as one of the most effective approaches to fostering people’s growth and providing support, serving as a means to demonstrate acknowledgement for their contribution.
Kevin: How have you sponsored other engineers? Is sponsoring other engineers an important aspect of your role?
Jocelyn: I engage in extensive mentoring, providing guidance not only to engineers but also to other PEs and individuals from diverse fields beyond engineering. I offer my support to those who are my direct report and outside of my direct report. I actively encourage engineering opportunities and coaching them to build confidence. Many engineers I work with come from varied backgrounds and have doubts about their capabilities. My role is to help them realize their potential and excel in their roles.
Additionally, I actively contribute to community building efforts at Gusto. As a transgender individual and member of the pride leadership team, I have successfully gained support from the company’s leadership to access essential benefits and resources for our LGBTQIA+ members.
Kevin: What are some resources you've learned from? Any particular role models?
Jocelyn: I’ve gained valuable insights from skilled managers who have guided me through various challenging situations. Seeking their opinions on tricky situations has proven to be crucial. During my previous job, my direct manager was an exceptional mentor when I was transitioning into a manager position. Similarly at Gusto, I have had the privilege of working under excellent managers like Shawn Stewart, who embodies a human-focus management approach and serves as an inspiring role model. Moreover, the leaders at Gusto have shown me diverse approaches to leadership and how to effectively influence and lead others. Furthermore, the individuals I collaborate with serve as valuable learning resources. I actively engage with the engineers and actively seek their feedback.
I have learned effective strategies for handling challenging conversations with people through a book called “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most”, which originates from research at the Harvard Negotiation Project. In addition, the website https://staffeng.com/ serves as an amazing resource for learning about various levels of engineering roles.
Kevin: What advice would you give to a senior engineer on how to start operating at the Staff+ level here at Gusto?
Jocelyn: The most significant challenge in coaching engineers transitioning from senior engineer to staff engineer is the leap they must take from excelling their individual contribution and team support to extending their support to the broader organization. Confidence can sometimes be a factor in this process, as well as the need for effective time management. It becomes a tradeoff between dedicating less time to the immediate team and focusing on working on things that have a broader impact across the organization.
For engineers aspiring to reach the staff engineer role, a key advice is to exercise sound judgment in managing their time and selecting the areas where they can make a significant impact. At the staff level, engineers develop a distinct professional identity. The most effective way to make an impact is by leveraging their authentic style of influence at a higher level. It becomes essential for them to strike a balance among the various roles they may hold within Gusto.
Kevin: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!
If you are interested in building solutions that solve real-world problems in an inclusive and diverse environment, reach out to us on our career pages!