How Flexibility and Encouragement Enables These Pros to Shape Their Career Paths
Going from an account manager to an engineer might sound like an unlikely career path. For Lily Ling, the expedition is well-illustrated by a critical project she helped execute. When her role at Riskified required her to develop a script that would prepare important data, doing so signaled more than just her status as a key contributor on the data integration team — but a “pivotal moment” for her.
“Writing my first script to transform and load a big batch of data was a huge win,” Ling said. “I essentially went from not knowing any coding or scripting languages at all to being able to transform, do the analysis and then eventually load data into our system with basically no help.”
Given her trajectory at the e-commerce fraud management software company — whose users include Ticketmaster, Wish and Finish Line — “pivotal” seems like an apt description: After a few years at Riskified, Ling moved from the account management team to data integration in what she described as a “seamless transition.”
“My manager was always really encouraging of digging into something I was interested in. When I said I wanted to pursue an opportunity on the data integration team, my manager was really supportive and instrumental in facilitating that transition,” said Ling, who was recently elevated to senior data integration engineer.
Making a move like that to a new department requires gaining an entirely new set of skills and successfully implementing them. Channeling years of experience into an altogether new role is also an ambitious endeavor.
Anna Slavin was a fraud analyst in the early days of Riskified. Over the years, she came to lead the company’s data integrity team. She successfully parlayed her background into her current role as payment fraud product subject matter expert, a position in which she helps drive decisions and supports projects by sharing the knowledge she’s cultivated in her more than 7-year tenure. It’s a role she said didn’t previously exist at Riskified, but gradually came to fruition thanks to an open mindset from management and constructive dialogue with colleagues.
“What really helped to push it forward was my current manager — who, at that time, was a new director on the product team and came from a company where they had formal subject matter expert roles. That manager helped me articulate why it was needed and envisioned the capacity and content of the role and its responsibilities. It was a process that we went through together to build the role,” Slavin said.
Though Ling, Slavin and Enterprise Account Manager Erika Fluehr — who went from the business development team to the accounts team — have all charted unique paths at Riskified, they each underscore how formal and informal resources, plus the right type of support from managers across teams, are crucial facilitators for growth.
Tell us about your growth at Riskified. How have managers helped you figure out where you want to go?
Ling: When I brought up that I was interested in moving to the data integration team, my then-manager was excited for me. Once I zoned in on what I wanted, I think it was easy for her to go to the manager of the data integration team and say: What are the technical skills that Lily needs to be successful in this role? How can we help her get there? The manager on the data integration team was also incredibly receptive and helped me not only make the transition, but, through training, also be successful once I was in the role.
Fluehr: My role evolved as Riskified grew. In early 2020, I moved to the account management team. I think what Riskified really focuses on is the willingness to learn and adapt to new challenges and being thoughtful about strategy and execution, and that allows people to move outside of their comfort zones.
Slavin: For my current role, I wanted to focus on the knowledge field of payments. I wanted to be an expert, but I didn’t know exactly what kind of role that entailed. Overall, I had the flexibility and the space to create a new role while also having a manager who supported my desire to find a new direction. That manager, along with other team leads, listened to what I wanted to do, dedicated time to think about that with me, and allowed me to demonstrate the value of the role.
Riskified really focuses on the willingness to learn and adapt to new challenges and being thoughtful about strategy and execution, and that allows people to move outside of their comfort zones.”
What resources are you able to leverage in order to help you grow?
Ling: There’s a wealth of resources. Something unique is that Riskified partners with employees as subject matter experts who act as instructors to spread knowledge and teach materials across different departments. They work with our learning and development team to define program content based on priorities of the business.
Additionally, we also have access to resources like DataCamp — which I used to learn R and SQL, both of which I use daily in my role — and Udemy, through which our team took a Python class together. By bringing in outside vendors, such as LifeLabs Learning, I’ve taken workshops on email writing, negotiation and presentation skills. We also have an online learning portal of Riskified-specific knowledge put together by our training team.
Fluehr: The L&D team also facilitates team workshops. For example, we’ll listen to a call and discuss what could have been better. It’s helpful to learn from real-life examples and team members’ perspectives. Also, the outside LifeLabs Learning sessions are super helpful. It’s cool to hear from outside experts in their fields and apply that expertise to our roles.
One key skill in account management is effective negotiation. I recently finalized a renewal that was a win-win for both sides, and part of what made it successful was being able to draw from those same development resources that helped me ramp up in my new role.
Slavin: I think the most interesting thing for me now, because I’m trying to promote deeper knowledge of payments, is that I can be proactive in my own development and seek out precise resources. For example, I purchased a few books on subjects that I was researching and participated in paid webinars and different conferences to learn about my domain. My managers support me with those initiatives.
Have you had the opportunity to teach junior-level team members?
Ling: I recently put together a session on effective written communication, knowledge that came from my experience as an account manager where I had to clearly communicate technical specifications to customers. It was awesome showing how my background helps me in my current role while educating not only junior team members, but the wider team.
Fluehr: I try to be a resource for one-off questions. Additionally, I try to bring skills from my former role on the business development team into discussions with the account management team, whether it’s looping in other stakeholders on new products or tips on how to engage executives.
Slavin: That was big for me in my previous role as a team lead. A big part of my work was onboarding, training and coaching new team members. I wrote and helped coordinate the four-week onboarding program for that team. Today, I do more specific sessions about particular subjects.
What do you see as your future growth path?
Ling: One of my goals is to get much better at Python. I also want to get more exposure to the product side of things and understand the strategy behind the decisions that we make, why we build certain features and how that affects the business.
Fluehr: I’d like to further develop my analytical skills and become more effective in presenting data. Riskified has many resources to help with this including data visualization guides and courses.
Slavin: There are teams that I work with all the time, but I want to expand the exposure of the subject to find ways to integrate deeper knowledge and knowledge-passing sessions into my work with the different teams — and, even beyond that, advocate for the functionality of the subject matter expert within different areas of the company.