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'Taking Care of Yourself Allows You to Show Up for Your Community': Erica Moss' Top Advice for Budding Builders

Like many of us in this industry, Erica Moss came to community in a pretty roundabout way — but what she does now is the "perfect storm of her superpowers."

The Senior Manager of Community at Atlassian took some time out to tell us a bit about that journey, share some insights into lessons learned along the way, and offer advice to community newbies.

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How did you find yourself working in Community?

Erica: "It definitely wasn't a linear path — which is not atypical. And I think that's kind of what's wonderful about our space, because you meet people from different backgrounds, with different passions. My career was rooted in journalism. I was always a strong writer, and I've dabbled in copy editing and page design as well. But I was always a dot-connector. I loved bringing people together, whether it's in an NSYNC AOL chat room, or a meetup for dog lovers. So I was doing a lot of that organically.

I loved writing and storytelling, so journalism fit really well for a while. But media is a pretty volatile industry, and I've always been a little bit risk-averse. So I was like, how can I hang on to what I've been doing, and parlay some of those skills into something else? That's when I found myself at an agency doing PR and digital stuff. Then I moved to New York and found myself on the tech startup scene, doing things like inbound marketing and SEO. And again, sort of dabbling in community in these different roles, but not focusing 100% of my time on that. Fast forward a bit, and I landed at Trello. I always joke that it was the easiest job in the world, because everyone loves Trello. It's not really difficult to galvanize — people were already hanging out, already singing our praises. And then Trello got acquired by Atlassian. And that's where I find myself now, working on the community team. I work specifically with our ambassadors, the folks who love Atlassian and want to shout from the rooftops about how they use it. It's been a ton of fun.

I didn't have any formal training in community. If I'd had that earlier on in my career, that would have been such a game-changer. I think that's why I'm so geeked about C School! But I was really propped up by a lot of the folks who were doing similar things. Maybe we weren't necessarily calling it community building at the time, but that's absolutely what it was. I think I ultimately found myself there because community is the perfect storm of all of my superpowers."

Sounds like it! What do you love about it, specifically?

E: "I get to help people. I get to solve problems, which keeps me on my toes, keeps me challenged. I get to write. I think being a strong writer is a wonderful asset. I get to emcee stuff, which is not something that I anticipated or knew about going into it. But, you know, you're hosting coffee chats and panels, and you really build up your skills in terms of public speaking, which has been wonderful.

Ultimately, the most wonderful thing about it is that you get to see the immediate impact of your work. You're having these conversations on a daily basis, your humans are telling you, 'Because you did x, y was able to happen.' And, you know, what's better than that?"

Can you tell us about a moment when you really felt like you were making an impact?

E: "I think when I received an email from a community member, thanking me for helping them gain confidence with my professionalism and kindness. They said it really matters to them that we've created an environment where folks of all backgrounds are valued and that we can see past names and avatars to the person who's trying to make a difference."

What mistakes have you made that taught you the most in your career?

E: "So, I'm a people pleaser. I will bend over backwards not to ruffle feathers, to make someone else's life a little bit easier, which can be a superpower in community to an extent, but I need to make sure that I'm not doing that to my own detriment. So setting boundaries, setting parameters around what will be tolerated and what won't. Really protecting my time has been a really important lesson for sure."

Would that be your no. 1 piece of advice for a budding community builder?

E: "I love this question. I think it's kind of a myth in community that you have to be always on — that you have to have Slack and your work email on your phone, all of that stuff. But I think what you learn over time is that this is a very human-centric occupation, and you want to bring your whole self to the table. And you don't have to do that to your own detriment. Taking care of yourself allows you to show up for your community, for your humans. And as soon as you shift that mindset, and reframe it for yourself in that way, life gets a lot easier.

Another piece of advice I feel really strongly about is for folks to advocate for themselves. When you are advocating for yourself, you're not bragging, you're simply knowing your self-worth. Just be unapologetically loud about how passionate you are, about how valuable you are. This manifests in a variety of ways — I think you should always be elevating your wins publicly at work, as well as keeping a list of them for yourself. So when you're having a bad day, you can go back and look at this list. And it is invaluable when it comes to things like negotiating for a higher salary at work, asking for the consulting fee, or just reminding yourself that you're great at what you do."

Want more from Erica? She's one of many incredible community experts speaking at our summit this week! Tune in on May 12, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. PDT. Book your spot for the summit here.

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