Meet Janessa Olson

For the past two years Janessa Olson has been participating in PDXWIT events. We asked her how she got connected to the group and why she loves her work. We also found out she has her own podcast!

“I had the amazing opportunity to work with Megan Bigelow at Jama Software, and I learned about the group through her. When I first joined WIT, I was very new to working in tech and still trying to figure out how I wanted to advance my career. Megan encouraged me to start attending the events to network with and talk to other women who'd been in tech for a while to get their advice and hear their experiences.”

These days Janessa works at Womply. She told us, “What I love most about being a product manager is that the job is never done. There's always more to learn, there's always another way to iterate your software, and there are always problems to solve.”

Like a lot of the women we talk to, she didn’t enter college with the goal of pursuing tech. “My degree is in Human Services, a combination of Sociology and Psychology. I had this college experience of getting to my senior year and realizing that I wanted to work in technology. Through a friend, I was able to get an interview at Jama Software, and despite having little to no experience, they hired me! I'm confident it was mostly because they liked me, haha. I was sure I would rarely, if ever, use my degree — most of my college cohort now work for nonprofits. But actually I use it quite a lot, especially the interpersonal communication. From what I've observed so far in my career, a really good product manager is not only skilled at talking with people, but they're even better at listening to them. While I wouldn't claim to be perfect at communication (there's always room to grow), I do credit my degree for my interpersonal skills now.”

Janessa has a passion project — her own podcast — and we had to find out more:

I've been playing video games since longer than I can remember. (Actually, here's a video of 4 year-old me playing the Sega Game Gear!) Video games are still very much a habit of mine. They're a powerful tool for telling stories, self-care, and even for providing healing. Unfortunately, the community has been very toxic the past few years (I'm talking about the tire fire that was Gamergate), and I wanted to find a way to help move the video game community towards recovery.

A really effective way to foster empathy within a space is through storytelling. When we hear a good story, our brain patterns actually "sync up" with that of the storyteller's, and in a way, we experience what they've experienced. It's incredibly powerful. I decided to use the storytelling platform I knew best — which is podcasting — to create Virtual Recollection, a podcast that tells stories about video games and the people who play them.

Virtual Recollection's main goal is to bring members of the video game community together. Even if that ends up only being a handful of people, I'll feel better about the state of the community. I have a completely separate goal to be the This American Life of video game podcasts, but that's quite a bit loftier!”

Click here to listen to Janessa’s Virtual Recollection podcast. Even if you’re not a gamer, you will enjoy listening to the stories she tells.