RedMonk recently hired our first-ever Project Coordinator, which means that the delightful Lily Townsend is the newest member of our team.
a big monkchips welcome to @lilytownsend23, redmonk's shiny new project coordinator.
— Buck Thirteen (@monkchips) September 29, 2022
Following the very successful return of The Monktoberfest (which Lily helped will into existence this year), I had the chance to sit down with Lily to chat a bit about herself, the experience of jumping into Monktoberfest planning in situ, and how she envisions the Project Coordinator role. We also talk about cats. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of this conversation.
Kelly Fitzpatrick: First off, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Lily Townsend: Project Coordinator, so exactly like it sounds! I coordinate the many projects at RedMonk. I’ve only been here long enough to plan the Monktoberfest event and manage all the logistics with that, but my future job will consist of tracking multiple contracts and projects, scheduling urgent requests and accommodations, additional conference/event planning, and anything else that comes in between. My job is to be the glue that holds together any cracks and to allow Steve and the other analysts to focus primarily on helping and guiding our clients.
KF: For folks who do not know, you started at the end of August, and at that point your primary job was to jump in and help get The 2022 Monktoberfest up and running (which at that point was about 5 weeks away). What was that like?
LT: Thankfully most of the work from previous years was available to give me the jumping off point I needed to ensure everything was on track for this year. The two new challenges were making sure that the new venue space worked well for our event, and handling the way we’d mitigate COVID exposure. The new space was open and roomy, and we contracted with a fantastic service, AttendSafe, that managed COVID testing to ensure that everyone felt comfortable and safe enough to attend Monktoberfest after two canceled pandemic years.
While the pre-planning for Monktoberfest the month before went fairly smoothly, the day of the event definitely had me nervous – I just wanted to see the event run easily and ensure that everyone was happy and having a great time.
KF: I will forever be a fan of The Monktoberfest because the 2015 Monktoberfest was my very first introduction to RedMonk (and also the amazing RedMonk Community). What are your takeaways from the event itself?
LT: The event seems to be beloved and very special to the people that attend – and the people that attend seem to come back year after year because it means so much to them. There’s a lot of value in having a small conference like this – everyone gets to have the same shared experience by attending all the same talks, and everyone gets the opportunity to connect with old and new friends because the attendance list is so small compared to other tech conferences. While this is a conference in the tech realm, it focuses more on the human side of things which makes the talks relatable, thought-provoking, and even emotional at times. The refreshing content and the connections at Monktoberfest seem to be what people carry home with them year after year. There’s a lot of heart in The Monktoberfest.
KF: What has the shift to working in tech (and working from home) been like for you?
Lily: Intimidating, if I’m honest! I’ve always had an interest in technology, but I have a long way to go in terms of understanding the many short word/acronyms and what they actually all mean. And seriously, wtf is Kubernetes? I am currently trying to learn the meaning of things and how they all work in layman’s terms, but without much background, I’m still trying to connect the dots. I keep telling people (and myself) that I hope it’ll be like when I was teaching English in Thailand; one day, my understanding of the Thai language just “clicked” after hearing the same phrases repeated over and over again in the classroom. Every day I learn a bit more.
This is also my first wfh job, and while I love the flexibility, pajama-bottom-days, and ability to work alongside my cats, I still am very much getting used to not thinking “I hope my team knows I’m doing work even though I’m not physically in a seat in front of them.” Trusting your employees to get their work done on their terms is huge, and a luxury and privilege that I feel very fortunate to have.
KF: As you know, one of the most important and mission-critical channels in our internal slack is #cats. How are your cats adjusting to the demands of Zoom, and can we share any Gulden and Koshka pictures with this interview?
LT: Yes! My cats are so spoiled. Now that both my husband and I work from home, they both get showered with endless amounts of attention every day. Still, it seems to not be enough for some reason. They like to knock stuff over and cause commotion during Zoom calls for attention. Most of the time though, they are sweet and are just happy to be able to interact all day with us (and fed “sneaky snacks” all day, too). Sneaky snacks are treats that they shouldn’t be eating outside of their regular feeding times, but they sure know how to beg (probably because I’ve trained them to do that :S).
My cats will often make on camera appearances during our team happy hour calls.
Koshka (left) and Gulden (right) stretch out
Gulden (left, as Pikachu) and Koshka (right, as a flower) are ready for Halloween.
KF: The Project Coordinator is a new role for you AND for RedMonk. Aside from making events like The Monktoberfest a smashing success, how do you hope to see this role evolve?
LT: That’s kind of the beauty of this role: being the person who helps be the glue between processes means that my role is bound to evolve depending on what is needed most by RedMonk, or what I find myself liking best about my job. Since I’ve only been here for a couple months now, it’s hard to identify exactly where I’ll end up, but I do know I enjoy establishing business operations and coordinating logistics.
KF: Last question: during your very first week at RedMonk you disclosed that you are not only a cat person, you are also something of a butterfly (or bug?) expert. So I have to ask: why butterflies? And can I get you to pick out a lovely butterfly meme or gif (pronounced the correct way) to leave folks with?
LT: I always loved bugs and the natural world as a kid. In a previous teaching internship, I taught a unit on insects to Kindergarten students which rekindled my childhood interest. There’s definitely some magic to seeing things again through a child’s eyes. So, that summer after the internship, I volunteered at the Portland, Maine Children’s Museum, and helped run a day camp on monarch butterflies. I was so enamored with the process of raising the caterpillar from egg to adult, and the way they primarily feed on a special plant called milkweed, that I tried raising them on my own and growing my own milkweed. I’ve done it every summer since, and I look forward to it every year.
As of this summer, Monarch butterflies are now considered endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While raising monarchs doesn’t really do much in terms of aiding population growth (despite keeping them away from predators), it fosters a love and care for the animal and its overall conservation. I think every kid should have the opportunity to raise a monarch for that reason, but the best way to conserve monarch butterflies is to plant native milkweed varieties as well as native pollinator plants. Adults feed on pollinator flowers, but also solely lay their eggs on milkweed. And the caterpillar eats only milkweed. Without milkweed, the monarch would officially be gone.