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January Employee Spotlight: Beth Donnelly
There aren’t many projects at RNL that lead me to regularly cross direct paths with Beth Donnelly, our product manager. But I sure know who she is. Ever since her first day on the job, she’s tackled any and every project thrown at her efficiently and effectively. I could safely claim that she’s a driving force that runs this company, and I’m confident very few people would disagree with me.
Boiling her personality down to just a few sentences is pretty difficult. She has a knack for explaining project specs and customer expectations in a down-to-earth, yet professional, way. Then she can turn around and be the life of the party with her strong sense of humor and her love of cuss words. When you have a conversation with her you feel like she truly listens, and when you listen to her speak in front of the company it looks like she belongs there. Check out what some of the RNL team thinks about Beth:
One thing is certain: whether you find Beth funny, smart, relentless, valuable, driven, awesome, or down-to-earth (and you’ll most likely find her to be all of these things), you’ll certainly notice the impact she has on our culture, employees, products, and company’s success.
So what kind of interview does a person like that have? Let’s find out!
Beth: I’ll try to be normal.
Amy: I think it will be good. I told people I didn’t need to prep a lot for yours. “She’ll just guide it and funny things will happen.”
Beth: It’ll go wherever! That’s what I’ve discovered about working remotely. I’m having a good time, the team’s doing really well, but what I’m realizing is I get crazy cabin fever. My first day back in town is just, “I want to talk to everybody!” It’s like when you come home to a dog that’s been left alone for a long time and it’s like, “Oh, hi! I thought you were dead!”
Amy: Everybody’s working and you’re just like, “Pay attention to me! Talk to me!”
Beth: Exactly. I’m the worst about that. But after the first day, then I get as normal as I get.
Amy: Well, let’s just jump right into remote work then. First, you started here in June 2013. Almost three years ago. Walk me through the roles you’ve had here.
Beth: When I was hired here, I was at a previous job that was not going well. I won’t go into details on that, but it’s a pretty well known issue in KC.
Amy: Oh. I heard about this.
Beth: Exactly. So it wasn’t going well. I met with Dan and he was like, “Sure, we’ll find something for you.” The title I had when I first started was Sales Admin, I think. It was an unknown job. They said they’d find stuff for me to do. And then I went on vacation. When I came back, I was now Sales Operation Manager and I had an employee! My first task was to “buy us a new CRM.” I had to Google “What’s a CRM?”
It was very much just a figure-things-out thing. My main job was to help Dan get all the information he wanted out of Salesforce. We had to find out about competitors, do research on the market, all that. From there we did some internal reorganizing and I ended up with the account management team. So then I learned the website side. We had a goal to increase launches, which was how we got the weekly lunch perk. It was one of those awesome moments where it was a late night and a handful of people, literally launching the last website of the goal the night of the final day.
Amy: Like out of a movie.
Beth: It was one of those epic moments where you’re like, “Go team! We did awesome!” And then when we finished that, they wanted to move me on to some new challenge. And I was heartbroken. You grow with the team, that’s your crew. They put me over sales for awhile, which was a terrible idea. (laughs) But working with Austin, I thought, “Austin would be great with this job. And I should not be doing this job.”
When Austin took over that, they said, “How about you go over and become a project manager working with our newest product, the facility management software.” That was exciting to come into a year-long project and be like, “Hey guys, what’s going on? What’s this thing? How does this work?” While I was working on that, we realized that having a project manager is pretty cool. So then we built up a project management team. For now I run that and this other big project we’re working on. Next week, I have no idea.
Amy: Yeah, I was going to ask if you thought you’d jump to a new role again soon.
Beth: It’s one of those things where the titles mean nothing. People ask me what’s my title and I’m always like, “I don’t even know.”
Amy: I feel like you’re Dan’s right-hand man, though. You do whatever he tells you to do. So your job title should simply be Beth Fuckin’ Donnelly.
Beth: (laughs) I’d take it, ‘cause you know I love cussing!
Amy: I know you do. I know you do. So that almost catches us up to where you are now. A few months ago your husband got his fellowship?
Beth: He was doing his residency here in KC for urology. He applied for oncological fellowships and got picked to go to San Diego. So last January, when we found that out, I talked to Dan, and I was like, “I love working here. I really do. What do you want me to do? ‘Cause in six months, we’re moving.” As much as it’s a nice idea to say, “Oh yeah, well I’ll just work remotely!” We had to figure out what that meant. And that’s what’s been going on. Again, I think it’s been going pretty well. The team seems to be pretty positive about it. We’ve definitely had some of the hard snags. And when I come into town, it’s all meetings.
Amy: Have you liked working remotely, apart from those spurts where you get cabin fever?
Beth: Oh yeah. I get to wear pajama pants every day! And I wear pants. It’s one of those things where people joke, “Oh, you’re probably not wearing pants.” I’m totally wearing pants, because you just never know when you need to stand up. That would be awkward.
Amy: Just slowly slide off the screen.
Beth: Exactly. (laughs) Slowly slide under the table. And I’ve got my cats. It’s funny because over Thanksgiving Alyssa said she was really thankful for me staying on the team. And Dan goes, “Don’t be thankful for her staying on! She gets to just sit and pet her cats all day.” I felt like I should have some witty retort for that, but that’s pretty much legitimate. My whole team knows my cats.
Amy: Don’t both of your cats have Star Wars names?
Beth: No, so, actually... My husband Zach is really into Star Wars. And I enjoy Star Wars, but I was never a huge Star Wars fan. Before we got an animal, he said he really wanted to name an animal Artoo.
Amy: That’s cute.
Beth: We got our first cat when we moved to KC and we named him Artoo. And then Beep Beep, the other cat, would just tear around the house when he was little. We were trying to figure out a name for him and my dad said, “Beep Beep. Because he runs around the house like a roadrunner.” It’s funny now having Artoo and Beep Beep. His name either sounds like the sound R2D2 makes or like BB-8, the newest droid.
Amy: Oh, perfect!
Beth: It works out well. So people think they were named together, but it was completely incidental.
Amy: That’s awesome. I’ll admit I thought you were a big Star Wars fan. You’ve got that shirt you wear a lot.
Beth: Oh yeah. I got a lot from Zach by proxy. My nerd stuff. I’ve always been into video games though. Ever since I was a small child.
Amy: Yeah, you’re wearing a Fallout hoodie.
Beth: I’ve always loved video games. And comic books. And other sci-fi stuff. I’m more of a Trek fan than a Wars fan, honestly. I grew up at the right time, too, ‘cause I was born in the 80s. So I was there as the movies were still coming out. I remember the commercials for the ewoks, but it just never did anything for me. But Indiana Jones. I joined The Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine as a child because of Indiana Jones. I got my little membership card and everything.
Amy: Nice. Well, it’s kind of an interesting juxtaposition because you also studied classical languages pretty extensively. Roman and Latin?
Beth: Yeah, so I’ve always loved history growing up. As a kid I wanted to be a paleontologist or an archaeologist. Or a stunt person, because I liked history and I liked action movies. But I realized I had no upper body strength and my hands sweat a lot, so I would never be able to even hang from a balcony. I realized that was probably not the life for me, but I did love history. On top of it I always really loved languages. I took six years of Spanish in middle and high school. Then when I got to college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, honestly.
Amy: No one does.
Beth: I was an undecided major for a long time. And I fell into Latin by accident, because I wanted to keep taking languages but Italian was full. Mizzou was like, “Well we’ve got Latin and it’s basically the same thing.” (laughs) So I took that, and Mizzou had just this wonderful department of classical languages. Just super smart professors who cared a lot. They were super passionate about their work and about their students.
Since I loved languages, I did well in their classes. I would ask them questions about things I had seen in research and what not. So they were like, “Ah, this is a little nerd we can use!” So I helped start up the Latin club there and just had a great time. At the time I was a double major in sociology. But they said, “If you take some Greek, then you can get this classical languages degree. If you want to go on with this, that’s really what you should do.”
Amy: And then you became a genius of classical languages. That’s really cool.
Beth: My life is a long path of happy accidents I think. I thought I was going to take Italian, and at the time I had no interest in taking Latin. Well, that’s not true. I took two years of Latin in high school, but it was like… I don’t know how to politely say this… It was like the blow-off class. Actually, our teacher would oftentimes play videos. And there were two guys in the class whose only goal was for one of them to run a distraction on her while the other put in Top Gun. It worked many times. I think I saw Top Gun, in full, two or three times during my senior year Latin class. I never expected to get into Latin, I guess. I’ve moved away from it professionally, but in my free time I try to pick up a book every now and then. I’ve got a nice little library of various authors.
Amy: Nice. Well speaking of your life just being happy accidents… You’re super married.
Beth: I am super married. I’m hella relationship-ed. It was a happy accident. Timing. He’s a year younger than I am, and we met in the dorms when I was at Mizzou. So I was a sophomore and he was a freshman. I was like, “That guy’s cute.” But he had a long-term high school girlfriend. It was one of those situations, right? So we stayed friends. We ended up working together in the dorms. He and this girl eventually broke up during his junior year. Well, now we’re working together in the same dorm. And I’m like, “Ha ha, yes, he’s single. But respectfully, I will wait one month for every year they’ve been together, because I heard that was a thing.” (laughs) We were still friends and we would hang out, but we tended to have other people with us.
Amy: That’s a good way to get to know someone.
Beth: I think those are the best relationships. The ones that start as friendships. Honestly. When you know things about people, it just makes things better. Lusty, passionate love doesn’t last forever because you get to know the person. You know what I mean? So you better hope that person you’re getting to know is someone you actually like as a person. Someone you want to just sit on the couch and hang out with. So I was really lucky. We got along really well as friends, and it finally got to the point where things seemed to be picking up.
I didn’t know if he liked me too because we had known each other for so long. That’s the only problem with trying to date friends. You don’t know if it’s just friendship, right? So it was the most embarrassing thing in the entire world. I’m a very direct person, but this was as direct as I could get: I hopped on AIM. Oh yeah, AIM. I chatted him and said, “Do you find me attractive?” And he said “yes.” And then there was a long pause. And he was like “Do you think I’m hot?” And I said “yeah, totally.” And then I signed off. (laughs) Then basically the next day we were like, “Do you want to go on a date?” But the timing was weird because I was a senior and it was the last week of college. He was gonna go do some AIDS research stuff in Denmark for the summer. We had this long, letter-writing relationship over the summer. Which was actually kinda nice.
Amy: He was in Denmark writing you freaking letters?
Beth: Yeah. He got me a little Lego Yoda from Legoland in Denmark. He came back, but I was in grad school in St. Louis and he still had a year at Mizzou. And he knew he was gonna go into residency and apply for med school. So we were like, “We’ll see how this goes.” We dated remotely and it was awesome. When you only see each other for a weekend, it draws out the long romance period, right? Every time we saw each other it was like a vacation.
We stayed together, even through his residency. I was substitute teaching in St. Louis to try out teaching. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t for me, and I realized we were getting to the point where we were like, “Are we getting married? Is this happening?” So I decided, “Screw it. I’m moving to Columbia.” And then yeah, we got married a year later. We’ve been together, married, for five years. Through medical school, his residency up here, and now onto where we are. Forever.
Beth: It’s good though. I love it. I got a good guy. My parents were like, “You did well.”
Amy: Married a doctor.
Beth: Oh, I know, I lucked out on that one! He’s really great. Because he’s been there with me through all the ups and downs. My life has been a list of happy accidents, but also a list of sad ones. So it’s been great having someone who really gets me and really is my friend. He’s not just some stranger I fell in love with.
Amy: It sounds like you’ve got a good thing. So, even though you’ve been remote, I know one thing you’ve managed to keep up with is pranks. Mostly people pranking you.
Beth: Yeah, I was about to say, I don’t think I’ve kept up with pranks. In fact, I think I’ve been pranked way too many times.
Amy: Yeah. But people have kept you in the office culture by pranking you a bit.
Beth: That’s what I love. Really, it’s awesome that I work somewhere that they are open to just make fun of me publicly. And I know that sounds weird, but you don’t want people making fun of you behind your back. You know what I mean? So if people are willing to do something like that, “we’re just going to publicly tease you,” I think, “I’m part of a team!” And that feels good.
Amy: So you haven’t really…
Beth: I’m not good at pranks!
Amy: I don’t think you really prank people. I think you orchestrate. You’re more of a mastermind kind of pranker.
Beth: Well… I do promote pranks. Absolutely. The thing is I escalate too quickly. I can’t think of something that’s creative and simple that will really get under their skin. I’m like, “I don’t know, why don’t we go…”
Amy: “...shoot them.”
Beth: Yeah, exactly. Let’s go burn their house down. Let’s steal their dog or something. So I take it too far. And I don’t do surprises well when people prank me. I love it because it’s a sign of caring or whatever. But my first reaction is surprise and then anger and then happiness.
Amy: And then logic.
Beth: There’s always that moment of “How DARE you betray me!” (laughs)
Amy: Like at your surprise party when you called us all the C-word.
Beth: Yeah! Same thing. It’s like, “It’s so delightful that you surprised me! But I’m also SO ANGRY THAT EVERYONE LIED TO ME!” It was a whole web of lies!
Amy: (laughs) Hey, well I asked people in the coffee shop what they wanted to know about you. Everyone was talking about your perfect skin, and you happened to step in when it happened.
Beth: Yeah, I didn’t know that! The perfect skin is totally news to me. I don’t notice things like that. It seems very complimentary. I was like, “Shoot, thanks, I didn’t know I have perfect skin.”
Amy: So what’s your skincare routine?
Beth: I… wash my face when I shower.
Amy: Ah, there you go. That’s what people are missing.
Beth: Sometimes when it feels dry I put lotion on it.
Amy: I think not drinking coffee has something to do with it.
Beth: Yeah, I’m not a coffee person. I can drink it, but I just don’t enjoy it enough that I want to drink it. Diet Coke is my jam.
Amy: Oh right. You drank nothing but Diet Coke in high school.
Beth: Actually, I realized, that’s really true. I was thinking it’s a good thing I played sports in high school, because that’s the only time I would drink water. So thank god for that. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t. I’d be like a desiccated shell.
Amy: True. Well, I won’t end on the note of desiccated shells. To revisit RNL, I guess my last question is: What’s your favorite part of working here?
Beth: I always feel like it’s a cop-out answer, but it’s the people. I think we definitely have an atmosphere where you can make of it what you will. We have an open atmosphere, and if you want to be more introverted and do your thing, you can do that. And, at least for me and the teams I work with, I really do try to be part of a team. We’ve got a good balance of personalities that work well together. I think people here genuinely like each other. There’s always going to be tensions or stresses, but I think we do a good job here in terms of communicating with each other about those things. And that’s been awesome. I love it.
Amy: It’s not a cop out if that’s how you really feel!
Beth: I do. I have emotions. (laughs) I play like I don’t, but I do, deep down inside.
Amy: That’s the perfect note to end on. Beth’s got emotions, y’all.