Dec 19: Chatbot interviews: Helen

Company

This is the nineteenth post in the FastMail 2015 Advent Calendar. Stay tuned for another post tomorrow.


Foreword (by Bron): We're hoping to run a series of blog posts over the next year where you can get to know a little more about some of our staff.

And what better place to start than with the newest member of the FastMail team, who also happens to have been doing email services for the longest.

I happened to be in the USA last year and got to meet both of Helen's families - the Pobox team and her awesome kids and husband. I helped the twins paint pumpkins for Halloween (yep, aquisitions take a while, that was over a year ago!)

I already knew the two companies would be a great fit from talking to Rik at OSCON about our technology stacks, design principles, care towards customers, etc. But meeting both families and seeing how well they got on was a clincher — these are good people.

So I'll hand you over to Helen, and our (mostly) tame chat bot...


Foreword (by Helen): Greetings, FastMailers! When Bron asked me if I would like to blog for the FastMail 2015 Advent Calendar, it was hard to say no — he knew I used to write a food blog (though he hasn’t see the many other blogs I have kept over the years).

But Neil has already written about the Pobox/FastMail acquisition, I’ve already written about it, and I just didn’t know what more there was to say about that.

So since we're still in the “getting to know you” phase, I submitted to be the first staff profile interviewee conducted by our bot, Synergy (check in next year for our profiles of all the staff bots!)


Name:

Helen Horstmann-Allen

Years at FastMail:

20 year Pobox staffer and customer; 3 year FastMail customer; 1 month FM staffer.

Role:

Jack of All Trades, Master of at Least One or Two

Background:

I’ve been working on Pobox full-time since I was at university. It’s my oldest child, my all-consuming project, the source of many of my closest friendships, all my professional triumphs and failures, and, now, my area of expertise to explain and share with an entirely new group of folks who have only seen it from the outside.

Favourite thing worked on this year?

Announcing the acquisition of Pobox and Listbox, I received notes from so many customers, former employees and friends who were thrilled at the news. Whenever you announce a change, you always get negative feedback. A good rollout is one that largely goes unmentioned — you didn’t make anyone too angry. Positive feedback is rare. So to get hundreds of messages all at once, especially ones that called out all the reasons why I thought FastMail was a good fit, was a special treat.

Are you an Android, iOS or other user?

iOS and other — I've spent every working day of the last 20 years at the command line of one UNIX variant or another.

Favourite piece of tech/hardware or software?

I am a Fitbit addict who gets very annoyed if it gets left behind, and will talk your ear off about how the Kindle Paperwhite should be the reading medium of choice for all serious readers. I appreciate software and the virtual world, but there’s also something universal about hardware -- I bought a boombox for my children, and it’s incredible to see how much easier manipulating the physical world is (especially if you can’t read yet.)

What's your favourite FastMail feature?

I was the first Pobox customer to fully migrate to their backend, and I have virtually every piece of mail I’ve sent or received for the last 20 years — so even a resync could have been extremely painful! It was an amazing moment when everything “just worked”, and a testament to the work Bron put in, both now and in the past, to making migrations as painless as possible for customers.

What are you listening to/reading/watching these days?

Reading: Most recently finished: Girl in A Band My favorite reads/rereads of 2015: Between The World and Me, Station Eleven, The Bone Clocks

Listening: Spotify playlists are my current preferred work music. I have a weakness for songs that include clapping, whistling, and “ooh”s. The Clapping Hands playlist and Pobox staff fave #ThrowbackThursday are often on rotation.

What do you like to do when you're not working?

I am slowly getting back into cooking after taking a break when I had twins — I am really good at things that are simple but take a long time, like soups, slow cooked meats, and jam. Walking is my true hobby, but I occasionally try to upgrade it to a run.

What's the best thing about working at FastMail?

How welcoming everyone has been, and how eager they are to try american food treats like Marshmallow Fluff! (Editor's note: no Melbourne-based staffer has actually agreed to taste Marshmallow Fluff.)

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

My “security through obscurity” protocol for keeping miscellaneous people from using my computer — I use a Kinesis Advantage keyboard with the Dvorak keyboard layout.