Meet Maarika Krumhansl

What’s your name, where do you work, and what do you do?
Maarika: My name is Maarika Krumhansl, which is a mouthful, and I’m the release manager at Jama; I’ve been there about a year. My day-to-day activities revolve very closely around the release cycle. We release monthly and there are milestones that we meet and hit every release, so I often think of myself as a project manager for releases. So, I set the dates and hold people accountable to the content.

What in your background led you to the point of becoming a release manager?
My background is in math and theatre, and believe it or not, that is a great combination, because I have always been really analytical and detail oriented, but at the same time doing theatre is a great practice for being able to get in front of a room full of people and lead a retrospective, or discuss the contents of a release. I’ve never felt very nervous or awkward in front of a large group of people because of that.

What do you find most challenging in building your career?
Finding other release managers. I know of a couple, but release management is pretty niche role. It is as technical as you want it to be or as project management-y as you want it to be. So there’s not really a template for where to take your career as a release manager. You can kind of become a release engineer or do like a dev-ops-y kind of bent to it or you can get a [Project Management Institute] certification for project management, and go down a more formal agile or implementer kind of route with it. My career path, like everyone’s, is a little bit like half chance, half goal setting and a little bit of magic. I never really question that I was going to have a career in STEM. My dad was a software engineer, and I was always really drawn to science, so I knew it was going to be in that realm. Math was what I decided to do in undergrad, and in grad school, because it was the common denominator. So I was in school for a long time because I didn’t quite know where I wanted to go with that in STEM. Essentially, I ended up going into tech support out of school, which was great for me, and led me into a dev-ops position, which read to release management/account management position, which is how I got to where I am.

What advice do you wish someone had given you when you first started your career?
Depending on whether you’re more interested in doing one the more technical or dev-ops-y stuff, or the more project management-y stuff… find a mentor. Work for someone who has been around the block -- who knows how things are supposed to work, or go work for a big company yourself and see what a working mature company and process looks like, so that if and when you want to come back to a startup, you have a little bit more individual agency. You’ve see it working before, or you have spoken with someone and worked with someone who has seen it working before, so that you have a little bit more authority, and can make informed decisions.

Who are your biggest influences?
The managers that I’ve had in Portland have been really wonderful for my career. For teaching me the content of my job, and how to be a voice of positive change in a company, and being able to protect me if I do something that upsets people outside of my department, or inside of my close group of people that think like me. They’ve been really good at flying cover, so to speak. The managers that seem to have worked out best for me are the ones that don’t always make people happy, but they make the right decisions. So the question that I would ask the manager that you’re applying to work for is to ask about the conflicts they've seen or worked through at their workplaces, and what their management style is in terms of leading upward. [How they encourage] and influence change in the levels of an organization above them.