Pamela Gillaspie, Director of Product Management at TestPlant, is a Fairygodboss who knows what it’s like to juggle working and parenting. In fact, she says that returning to work after taking a few years off when her kids were young was “one of the hardest things” she’s ever done, but she persevered and wound up in a position that inspires her every day. Her career advice is motivating and practical: “Get excited!” she says. “Find the thing you love most about your work, and develop it.”
Fairygodboss of the Week: Pamela Gillaspie
Director, Product Management - TestPlant
FGB: Tell us about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
PG: I started off as a technical writer, which was a natural fit for an ex-English major who was drawn to technology in college. I tended to be pretty gung-ho about the subjects I was writing about, and all the more so when that became software testing.
Over a couple of years, I gradually morphed from a writer to a tester at TestPlant, where I had the opportunity to build a great QA team. More recently, I’ve moved over to the product side (where the products are, of course, software testing tools.)
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
PG: I’m sometimes a bit of a hermit, but over the past couple of years, sheer excitement about the work I’ve been doing has brought me out of my shell. I’ve spoken at several conferences in the US and Europe, written for tech publications, and co-moderated a Software Testing Meet-up Group. Every time I do some sort of public speaking, I say I’ll never do it again, but just writing about it now makes me want to do more.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
PG: When my kids were little, I took a few years off from work to stay home with them, and starting back to work was one of the hardest things I’ve done. The companies I’d contracted for were gone, I had no network, the world had moved from print to web, and I spent months feeling like no one would ever hire me again.
FGB: Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? And why?
PG: I have many Fairygodco-workers who have made our company a very family-friendly place to work. We have a lot of flexibility, and it’s not assumed to benefit women alone. There are a lot of great, involved dads among us, which means no one looks askance at a busy mom. We’re all in the same boat.
FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
PG: I have my second-degree black belt in taekwondo. It’s cardio, strength, and power posing all in one! (I also dote on my dogs and play as many games as possible.)
FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?
PG: Bruce Lee, in a heartbeat. Not only was he an unparalleled martial artist, he also just emanated inspiration. Be water, my friend.
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
PG: I’ve never actually done karaoke, but my daughter and I used to sing a mean Love Shack duet in the SingStar 80’s Playstation game.
FGB: What is your favorite movie?
PG: It’s down to Casablanca and The Muppet Christmas Carol.
FGB: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
PG: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. I don’t often re-read books, but I read this one during a harried time, and I have a vague feeling that I loved it, but I don’t actually remember anything about it.
FGB: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
PG: Lots of travel and John Fluevog shoes.
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
PG: Get excited! Find the thing you love most about your work, and develop it. Maybe it’s the market you work in, the job you hold, or the tools you use; whatever it is, embrace it and become the expert. If you’re not feeling the love, explore other options. Small companies are great for this, because there’s always more work than people to do it. If you see a need that you want to be the one to fill, go for it (especially if there are new skills to be had!)
FGB: Why do you love where you work?
PG: We have an exceptionally collaborative culture at TestPlant. Case in point: as I’m writing this, I just got an email from our US President telling me that a new sales hire wants to talk to me about his product ideas. I love it!
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women. So each week, we celebrate a woman who makes a difference in other women’s careers. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate and thank her by nominating her here.