Kara Sowles

Kara Sowles

Manager of Community and Evangelism at Puppet

How did you learn about PDXWIT and what keeps you coming back?

I first learned about PDXWIT when we hosted some events in the Puppet office back in 2014. What I like about PDXWIT is that it's welcoming and engaging, even if you don't have time to go that often. I've tried to cut back on my after-work obligations to give myself time to rest and recuperate, yet I always feel welcome at PDXWIT, even if a year has passed since I've made it. I read every newsletter, and love how many opportunities there are to keep in touch and up-to-date on local news through the various community forums. That's valuable inclusivity.

Can you give us some background on your career in tech? Did you intend this career path?

I was a history major working odd jobs when I heard about Puppet at an event. I thought the company made actual puppets, and when I realized my mistake, I was so miffed that I walked right up to the person who'd been talking about it to express my disappointment. That person happened to be Puppet's founder and longtime-CEO Luke Kanies. In a 10-minute conversation, he talked me out of the idea that I lacked the skills to work at a software company and recruited me into the tech industry. I spent two frenzied days on a friend's couch learning everything I could, and I applied to be an intern in the Marketing Dept at Puppet. After my internship, I moved over to the Community Dept, and I've been doing community management ever since. What a difference a stranger believing in you can make.

I like to think of my career as a series of mountain peaks. I pick a direction and climb one mountain (one role, one skill), and once I get a bit higher up, I can see all these other mountain peaks — all these jobs and roles — that weren't visible before. Then I point and say "that way!" Later, from my new viewpoint, I have a whole new vista of options. I could never have anticipated working as a community manager; I didn't even know that role existed six months before doing it. I'm looking forward to the career surprises still awaiting me.

What's something intense that has changed you?

It's less of something changing me, and more of me improving myself. I've had teal/blue hair for almost a decade, and I had a lot of identities tied to the way others saw me, especially within the tech industry. After years of worrying that a move away from my signature locks would forfeit some of the social (and therefore career) capital I'd worked for, I finally made the change. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how easily people feel they own their version of others, and what it means to break that image. For me, it feels freeing. Here's to summer, and being whomever we like!