The Transformation Series: Michele Robertson
by Michele Robertson
I was born and raised in Arizona where most people I know end up taking jobs in the healthcare industry due to the large retirement community in the area. My story was a bit different. My husband got offered a job in California and we decided to move to the Bay Area. Initially, I’d promised myself I’d take six months off after we moved but started getting stir crazy and decided to look at personal assistant positions. I was contacted by the COO of a software development company and decided to go for it. It started off with minimal responsibility, but things escalated quickly. I started growing and doing things I’d never done before, like how to build a website. There was a lot of trial and error, but I kept telling myself “you’re not always going to get it right the first time,” and I just kept going and learning.
The company I was working for started hiring senior level engineers that would go on to work for larger companies like Lyft and that’s how I first got introduced to Ross McCray – he got hired as an engineer for a project. Some of our first and fondest memories were me constantly chasing him for his hours, which was fun to say the least!
The “Meetup” culture is really big in San Francisco and that’s how I got to build a great working relationship with Ross who went on to co-found VideoAmp. VideoAmp really started taking off and their VP of operations asked if I’d be interested in working with them. I started flying out to LA on a weekly basis – managing the back office, payroll and all that good stuff. Eventually, VideoAmp asked me to relocate and my husband and I decided to go for it. And there starts my (long and incredible) journey with VideoAmp.
Joining a start-up from the very beginning means wearing a lot of hats. I think I’ve worked in almost every function in the company…besides engineering! I was always in an operations role, but also got my hands in finance (like payroll, managing our bank, writing checks), marketing and events (getting to plan tons of fun stuff) and so much more. It was a lot of work but the experience was priceless. The most important part was having such supportive leadership that gave me the freedom to flourish in my role and pave a way for myself.
Since starting at VideoAmp, a day hasn’t gone by without a learning experience or opportunity to grow. One of the biggest learning curves was so quickly scaling from a handful of employees to managing a workforce of 220 at one point. It’s a whole different ball game!
Nowadays, you’ll find me managing our back-end people systems while also supporting the different functions across our People Team and Executive Board. I love that my role and responsibilities touch so many aspects of the business and support our employees in so many different ways throughout the employee life cycle. Among the many systems we use for payroll, benefits, compliance, on and off-boarding, immigration, etc., one of my favorite projects would be “Project Accelerate” which is a program that helps employees realize their full potential and take their careers to the next level.
What I also love is getting to manage our real estate across the country. Building out our LA office a couple of years ago was one of the biggest and most rewarding projects I’ve worked on – partially because I admittedly had zero experience going into it. Once the buildout was complete, I had such an amazing sense of accomplishment but also put in for a much-needed vacation. I remember my boss at the time asking me to chat before leaving the office for my little getaway. He said he wanted me to take a look at something in the kitchen and led me into our stadium only to have the entire office there to congratulate me. This was the biggest AHA moment for me, that I was so truly appreciated by my colleagues. The bond VideoAmp bond is a strong one!
Fast forward to 2020 and we’ve all been met with a whole new set of challenges. COVID-19 has been a curve ball with no playbook. As a company we’ve been going at it together, listening to staff, polling them, having conversations and listening closely. In New York, there was a huge behind the scenes transition happening as we closed our office and moved into a new one. Doing a “touchless move” and build-out in our new NY office has, and continues to be, a big challenge and learning experience. It takes a lot of extra care and communication and utilizing resources in very strategic ways. Even though it’s not happening in the most traditional way, we’re making every effort to make the new NY office feel as genuinely “VideoAmp” as possible – so that you feel the spirit and personality of the company the second you walk in the door. The added precautions for going back to the office after COVID-19 are all being taken into consideration as well. We’re lucky to be starting from scratch and doing things right to make sure our employees feel safe and comfortable when we eventually head back to offices.
I’ve never worked for a company that takes care of their people on the level VideoAmp does. Not only are the perks amazing, but the ability to have a voice and actually have it be heard, is so refreshing. Speaking of perks, one of the first fitness challenges we ever did was put on my lap and I had no idea where to start or if people would even join. But in the first 3 minutes, we had 55 people raring to go and I was like “Whoa, this is going to be fun.” The focus on fitness is game changing for so many employees, including myself. When we were still going into the office, I was even able to bring my daughter to some of the fitness classes. I loved being able to bring her in and show her first-hand what kind of badass women I work with every day.
When I started working for VideoAmp my daughter was in 2nd grade and it’s made me so proud that I’ve been able to show her that she can accomplish anything she puts her mind to. And a lot of that is thanks to my time at VideoAmp. We had a charity event last year, where we volunteered and gave back to local schools during the holiday season. I was so proud to involve her and expose her to such good influences and examples. Sharing my experiences with my entire family has been so rewarding and inspired them to work hard, strive for more and get out of their comfort zones.
To say the least, VideoAmp completely changed the life I envisioned for myself, in such a great way. On a professional level I’ve gotten to grow, accomplish and travel in ways I never would’ve imagined. On a wellbeing level, I now have my own routine and newfound relationship with fitness. And on a personal level, I’ve been able to create bonds and relationships that will stick with me for life. Even now, not being able to see each other in-person everyday has been hard but I still feel so connected and part of an incredible team, regardless of the hardships we’re all facing. I’m so proud to work for a company that puts people (and our families) first, no matter what.