Be Curious: Peerio
March 1, 2018

Be Curious

“I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.”
– Albert Einstein

Hi, I’m Jennifer, an ex cruise ship aerialist who has major FOMO working at a tech startup. Being a non-technical n00b working in cybersecurity gives me the opportunity to discover a whole new world.

As the Community Advocate for Peerio, my job is to build and maintain long-lasting relationships with our users, ensure flawless onboarding experiences, and acting as a lifeline between you and the rest of the Peerio team. In short, I help you get the most out of Peerio as quickly as possible. An advocate on your behalf, I take pride in making sure Peerio is an app you want to use.

I previously wrote about my transition from being a professional aerialist who hung from silks and bounced from bungees for a living, to working for a fast-paced, cutting edge tech startup. After one year at Peerio, it’s time to reflect on one of the valuable traits I possess that’s helped me build a career in tech and feel comfortable in this new environment.

My FOMO (fear of missing out) began when I heard our developers talk casually about Raspberry Pis, Cassandra, KegDB, and Cucumber. I didn’t know what they meant, and after frequent references to “Cassandra” in our company room on Peerio, I started to feel left out. My interest piqued listening to developers chat about this during happy hour, so I took it upon myself to find out. Glass of wine in hand, I turned to my CTO and asked…

So, who’s this Cassie girl and what’s all the buzz about?

She looked at me with a bit of confusion followed by intense laughter. She then explained Cassie girl and all her amazing abilities, and how she appreciated my inquiry considering it doesn’t necessarily involve me. After that, I continued asking about other yummy subjects like Raspberry Pis and Cucumbers.

So let me explain what I learned;

  • Cassie girl is the stage name I’ve given Cassandra, and she is best known as a database management system that can handle large amounts of data without compromising performance. Basically, she speeds everything up. Equivalent to my morning cup of coffee.
  • Raspberry Pi, which I initially thought was dessert talk, is actually a teeny tiny computer used for learning how to program, robotics, and internet of things. It’s used globally to teach the foundations of computer science. How cool is that?

Wait, there’s more than one Raspberry Pi(e)?

  • Cucumber is a software tool used to test other softwares. Nowadays, organizations implement critical test scenarios while development is in-progress. This approach is known as Behavior Driven Development (BDD).
  • KegDB, which I thought was a personal keg of beer personalized with my initials, (De Braga) is actually the foundation of Peerio’s new architecture. A keg is a container for encrypted data, and KegDB acts like a bunch of separate, private spaces that can belong to one or many users.

It was a feel-good moment knowing my curiosity lead everyone who was there to take part in our conversation. It was a fun, educational and humorous happy hour indeed!

Curiosity is empathy

I gave this casual engagement some thought as to why curiosity (at work) is so important. I have always been curious both personally and professionally. My curiosity towards the developers’ daily routine here only fuels my imagination and drive to learn more and succeed in my role. Knowing they sometimes pull all nighters to implement solutions for our benefit has also made me feel empathy towards our dev team. I tried to relate what they do with what I am familiar with and this is what I came up with.

When comparing my past as a performer, I feel there are many connections to programmers that aren’t evident or obvious to us. The way I see it, developers are just like artists. They are driven by their creative spirit to invent solutions (through code) to complex, abstract problems. Similar to how a choreographer creates phrases of movement, designed within intricate formations paired perfectly to music.

Cruising in “the zone” Photo by Jefferson Santos

With headphones the size of their head, developers get in the zone to spend hours tackling challenging code. Reminding me of when I would get in the zone to warm-up backstage before every performance. I’d stick my earbuds in and isolate myself, so I could focus on stretching my body in preparation for the show. This all made me realize, we’re more alike than different!

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is a very powerful and humbling experience. I believe having empathy in the workplace displays a level of compassion and support. I have a TON of respect for the people on my team, and believe that showing interest is an excellent team building strategy. What’s more interesting is, I’m working with some team members I’ve never even met face to face. Yet, in both physical and virtual spaces, since we spend our days collaborating—I’m never too shy to ask a question in hopes of gaining a better understanding.

Curiosity is confidence

Along with team building, I find my curiosity has lead to confidence building as well. I feel a sense of self-assurance after addressing my FOMO concerns. My curiosity proved to be appreciated by our development team, and knowing I can rely on them for a quick, or detailed explanation makes me confident. To be completely honest, some of this information confuses me, which I’ve accepted is okay. Turns out server databases aren’t really my thing, but feeling like I can relate to what my colleagues are working on makes me feel more grateful and confident within my company!

As a kid, my father would drill me with this statement, “if you don’t know, ask!” That advice paired with a competitive performing arts background, has made me feel comfortable asking questions and willing to take risks in the workplace. Just think, if someone asks you a question about something you are passionate about, doesn’t that motivate you to help them learn? It’s rewarding when others have a high level of respect or gratitude for the work you do.

My story is proof that being curious can take you places outside of your comfort zone. While that extends well beyond the office, I can see it clearly at work, where my curiosity and empathy help people learn something new–which can be the implications of personal data being mined from our day-to-day chats with colleagues or friends all the way to little tips and tricks on how to work together more effectively.

In return, there’s not a single week where I don’t also learn about the ways people communicate: team members from wildly diverse backgrounds designing a prototype together, journalists using digital channels to make safe contact with sources from far away, or just colleagues in remote offices transcending thousands of miles by sharing and laughing about a silly video.

I feel lucky having the opportunity to be curious, and to learn from so many diverse and interesting people who teach me that my passion spans so many industries.