Progress people bring diverse experiences to the table and make Progress a special place to work. In this post, meet Kate Pendarvis, director of digital marketing.
In our ongoing celebration of Women’s History Month at Progress, we thought we’d highlight the work of one of our finest employees—Kate Pendarvis. Kate is in charge of our global web presence. Although she’s based out of Burlington, Massachusetts, most of her team works in Sofia, Bulgaria. When she took the position nearly four years ago, she was the sole U.S.-based worker on her team.
It’s been a credit to all aspects of her work—relationship building, leadership, communication skills, as well as her marketing intelligence—that Kate has forged a tight-knit team, despite the distance and cultural differences.
This lifelong New Hampshire resident is also an active mentor and mentee, a mom of three, a podcast fanatic, a big believer in self-improvement, and a really great friend and teammate. Here’s more of her story, in her words:
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It’s been my passion from the beginning, starting in high school when I learned about HTML. And at the New England Institute of Art, where I earned my BS in interactive media design, in a three-year accelerated program.
I then fell backwards into a marketing role. I was a web and graphics designer then a web producer at Kaspersky Labs, where I started to do some marketing work. And I came to a crossroads in my career—to lean towards being a developer, or go into marketing. I quickly moved into management, and I decided to stay on the marketing side. Then I went to Acquia, where I moved up to director of digital marketing, which led me to Progress.
At Progress, I support all the forward-facing Progress web sites. So it’s supporting the different business units, managing projects from start to finish—from initial idea, to UX, design, backend/frontend development to production.
Well, when I took the job, I was the only person on the digital marketing side in the U.S. The whole team was in Sofia. I went from a small team at Acquia to a huge global team here. I had a lot to learn. When I started the team was 12 people, and now there’s more than 20, with four of us based here in the U.S.
There’s definitely challenges, but I have been pleasantly surprised how seamless and well it’s worked. The team had a strong process in place, that was important and very helpful. But a big challenge for me was building relationships with the team when I was not able to spend time with them. When I started, I traveled once a quarter to Bulgaria for a week. So, four trips a year.
But after that first year, I found that time wasn’t enough to really forge relationships. It’s not as easy to learn about somebody’s family or have a drink with them in a virtual meeting. So, in the fall of 2018, I decided to spend five consecutive weeks in Sofia—do it all at once—so I can spend real time with them over there. I brought my family over with me, my husband and my toddler.
That allowed me to understand the challenges they face with meeting times and working hour shifts to accommodate the U.S. hours, and also to build my relationships with them. They supported me while I was there—showed us around, taking us places to see—and that really was a huge part of building relationships with the team. From that point on, I was no longer just their manager far, far away—I was someone they knew.
It was also good timing, because while I was there I knew I was pregnant. I knew I’d be going on maternity leave after I returned, so spending that time over there at that time was huge.
Yes. I knew the keys to success of working with a fully remote team, even before the pandemic, was frequent and small personal updates and video chats. A simple daily check-in to see how people are doing was always helpful.
For me, personally, doing a good job and caring about the work I do, having that passion, is really what’s helped me succeed. I don’t think about being female in a male-dominated space, I care about doing a good job, and I care about being a good person. People know they can trust me and I’ll be open and honest, that’s just my nature. I tell you how it is, I talk you through it—I think that’s what makes a good manager. I try to build good relationships because I care. It’s a core value of who I am, and I believe it’s allowed me to succeed and move forward in my career, and my life.
And while women have definitely made strides in the tech world, it’s slow going. It’s takes a long time to make lasting change, and we can’t think we’re going to fix it overnight. Education and awareness are important. People are talking about it more now. So it’s got to start with awareness—understand there’s a problem—and then educate people why it’s a problem. I remember a year ago when we were looking for new hires, and I wondered why we didn’t have more diversity in our applicants. Well, those are the resumes I got. But, did we ask for more diversity in our applicants? No, I just got the candidates who applied.
We have to know to ask for it. I never knew to ask a recruiter for that; I didn’t know that was a question to ask. But now I’m asking, and we’re able to get those applicants. I see that as a key for Progress. It’s got to happen as the new roles come up, to look for those candidates. And I really hope this COVID time opened more doors for diversity. Working from home has been successful, so maybe that opens the field to more people to work here.
It’s so hard! I don’t think I’m perfect at it. One thing for me, over the last four years I’ve taken a really huge interest in listening to podcasts. I listen to a variety of them, for my personal growth, and listen to lots on lots of different topics. I’ve done a lot of mentoring, and I started meeting with a life coach. Having those conversations, along with a lot of observation, you become more aware of how people operate and think—you understand the why, instead of being stuck in your own confusions and pity.
When I have a conflict with someone, I try to understand the why. Find out what motivates them, and that sets me up to communicate more effectively with them. It’s not always perfect; some personalities are more reactive than proactive. Some people might need more time to react, so you give them more time. Managing personalities and being aware and understanding them sets me up to be more thoughtful in my initial conversation or response to conflict.
Managing personalities—it’s really hard. It’s the hardest part of being a manager. I’m always learning and trying to be better.
It’s been so different, and it’s made me more appreciative. I have always been really career focused and admittedly put my career over my family. My husband is a stay-at-home dad, always has been. My work life was an escape of sorts, I admit. I was such the opposite from a stay-at-home mom, and I tried to be aware of that so, when I got home, I tried to do everything. It’s not mom guilt—I don’t feel guilt; I know who I am and proud of it. But it was exhausting. I’m tired because I worked all day, and he’s tired from dealing with the kids all day.
But being home (during COVID) gave me an appreciation of what he had to go through during his day, and it also gave my husband an appreciation of how busy I am all day. It actually allowed our household to operate more effectively. Now, when the kids are napping, he can go run errands—and he couldn’t have done that before. I didn’t think I would like working from home, but then we got into a good groove. It gave me more time with my family. I’m still working long hours, but now I just work through lunch because I don’t know where else to go!
I didn’t think I would like it, but now I kind of get it. Work-wise, everyone has stayed the same—focused on work and getting the job done. And I see now how there can be a happy medium. I’m very much an extrovert—I get energy from other people; I want to see more faces, have conversations in the hallway; and have more time away from home. But the flexibility working from home has given me has been so wonderful, and now I want to have more of it.
I’m just so competitive. I don’t know where it came from, but I’m competitive in all aspects. I did individual sports as a kid, and I always wanted to beat my personal bests. It’s just my competitive nature, and it’s still there. If I’m in the gym and someone is running harder next to me, then I’m going to try and outrun them.
It has carried over to work life. Earlier on, I did it by putting in more hours than others. I put in the time to make sure my work was better. But now that I’m more mature in those areas, I’m setting more boundaries, trying to find a better balance.
Knowing when to lean in and when to lean out is important. As a leader, you can’t know everything all the time. You need to be able to make decisions by trusting the advisers you have around you, trust your team members to do their job. But when you know something doesn’t seem right, you have to dig in.
My advice for women is to surround yourself with smart people, and get a mentor. It could be informal. If you have a female leader that you admire, ask them to get a cup of coffee. I was lucky: I had two managers who saw something more in me, and that drove me. And that drives me now, too, to meet those kinds of people. So, look for those people, so you can just observe and learn.
Well, I have three small kids, so I don’t do a lot these days. Recently, running is something I’ve been getting back into; I was a long-distance runner in my youth. Yoga is big for me.
A big passion of mine the last 15 years or so was hot-air ballooning. Before I could drive, I met a hot-air balloon pilot, and was fascinated by his career. They needed help on his crew, and it turned into a family for me. It was a huge passion in my life, but I don’t get to fly anymore—the pilot retired.
I also used to have my own motorcycle that I’d ride to work, but after having the twins I sold it. I feel less safe on the road in this digital age, with everyone on their phones while driving. But now, my kids are so much of my time. I like doing things they love, and I’m trying to introduce things to them early. We’re getting them into ice skating and skiing.
To get to know other Progressers like Kate, read more of our Progress employee interviews here.
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Dave Pierce strives to be a writer’s writer, an editor’s editor, and a marketer’s marketer. An award-winning journalist formerly of The Boston Globe, Dave combines his love of SEO, content management and social media with his passion for storytelling. At Progress, he manages, writes and optimizes content. Dave lives in New Hampshire with his wife and teenage daughters. You may find him at Northeastern University hockey games on the weekends from October to March. You can find him on LinkedIn every day.
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