Community Operations Manager, Dominique Harris, reflects on her journey here, what she's learned in the last 8 months, and what we’re doing to better support our community.
Beginning a new role in a start-up
My career has not been your standard - graduate college, get a job, and eventually be promoted- path. I worked in the service industry for years and had a fortuitous opportunity to transition into working customer service for a fast-growing tech company. Over the past 10 years, I’ve had to teach myself how to be scrappy, develop interpersonal and technical skills, be scrappier, and learn from my failures and successes.
At the time I was offered a position with Instawork, I believed I had seen-it-all and done-it-all in the “support universe” and was eager to take charge of building a high performing support team. Instawork had experienced exponential growth in 2019, and the Support team was “building the rocket while flying into space.” The company recognized that the current team could not sustainably answer the phone calls and support tickets without a strategic plan, and was making a real investment in supporting the community of partners and hard-working professionals using our platform.
In the truest sense, Instawork is a start-up; it was apparent to me that every team member had a major impact on the company’s trajectory. Throughout my onboarding, I recognized the uniqueness of the product we offered and our marketplace. I felt the authenticity of our executive leaders, Marketing team, and Account Managers. They were connecting with our customers and diligently promoting their success as if it were their own. Our Operations, Sales, and Engineering teams were relentless in their pursuit of innovative solutions for our customers.
Most specifically, I observed the tenured Support team members deliver genuine empathy and assistance, educate our customers, and expertly navigate complicated issues for our Professionals, the gig workers. These individuals were helping our customers sustain their livelihoods, and removing issues from doing so with an unmatched earnest dedication every single day. Let me repeat, every single day!
I knew that my role would be challenging, but could not have anticipated the occasionally arduous, and even more so ambiguous journey that I was embarking on. I was just really excited, like really.
The impact of a pandemic
Did I mention that I started my position at the beginning of March of this year? Did I mention that Instawork had primarily focused on the hospitality industry? These two details may have been relatively insignificant if I were simply discussing the merits of working in support for a tech start-up, but the intersection of these two very significant details with starting a new role I now realize was the ignition of a transformative experience, professionally and personally.
Within a few weeks of my start date, COVID-19 halted both the hospitality business and therefore ours. I was already suffering from a heavy dose of imposter syndrome but coupled with the devastation to our industry, our community, and our business the overwhelming excitement I felt rapidly turned into debilitating anxiety. I didn’t think or rather had convinced myself that I was equipped to lead a team through the unpredictable and unrelenting set of circumstances.
As I took calls from concerned businesses and from professionals’ messages about seeking work, asking what’s next, what can Instawork do - the gravity of the responsibility we had to our community began to seek deep into my subconscious. Our customers weren’t just “users” of a product and service, they were people trusting in Instawork to provide opportunities for them. Our work wasn’t about Zoom meetings and responding to emails, it was mission-driven.
The next few months were dizzying, our Sales, Marketing, and Operations teams were in the field truly pioneering, heading into unknown terrain with indestructible determination. Our Product and Engineering teams were sprinting to improve our product to accommodate the new landscape we were all navigating with measured steps and eyes only on the horizon.
While the entire company focused on creating new work opportunities, our Support team was front and center, answering questions we’ve never answered and having conversations we’ve never had. We were addressing uncertainty with as much certainty as we could. We felt their pain, and we hoped for their relief. We quickly learned information on services and aid provided in each state, we were actively engaging with our business partners and our professionals to help them plan for the unknown and feel a bit more secure.
Working in Support is a unique responsibility, and a privilege. I am most especially honored to work alongside a marvelously talented, and incredibly hard-working team who have taught me the humble lesson of delivering results amid the most uncertain circumstances. We also support each other by being thought partners, peer educators, strategic planners, cheerleaders, careful evaluators - always as a team, always an advocate.
Investments in our community
I’ve learned a few critical lessons over the past 8 months. The first is that the well-being of our community must be our highest priority, that "trust and safety” is imperative to get businesses restarted and people back to work. I knew that we had to establish a shared commitment to our success, and collaborated with the team to ensure our Community Guidelines reflected what was essential for all us, for our community. The second is that if we can’t be efficient, we can’t be effective. Lastly, I’ve learned our customers deserve speedy, quality, and convenient solutions to their issues because they are working hard in a still evolving environment.
You might be asking, how are you going to accomplish this? Here’s what we’ve done so far:
- We’ve increased our team by twofold, providing 24/7 staff covering live operations and support.
- We’ve enhanced a Trust and Safety program to ensure we identify and escalate the most time-sensitive issues so that we can resolve the issue within 1 hour.
- We’re adding more help articles to help you navigate our product and services. Please click here for more information.
- We’ve reduced our suspension appeals process to 72 hours.
- For our new professionals, we’ve created role-specific training and educational resources in-app! Our team will be available for you during onboarding with faster response times to get your profile set up.
We know there's more we can do and Instawork has made it a priority to improve our operational excellence. Our Community Operations and Product team are working closely, so expect more features and improvements in our payment processing.
I’ve learned that while we may have cleared a path forward for our partners and professionals, the real journey has just begun. If we continue to work together, success won’t be a goal to achieve, it will be a shared experience. Like really.
Our company values aren’t just words
Recently while chatting with a professional, having a meaningful conversation about our expectations for each other - for us, he had to be a reliable high-quality professional, and for him, we had to be a reliable source of work opportunity - I realized something. Remember that sinking feeling of responsibility to our customers I had? At that moment, it surged into the forefront of our conversation. I told the professional that we had to work together to be successful, and I really meant it, like really. We both paused for a moment, and in that very brief moment we shared a sigh of acceptance, understanding, and commitment.
I spent the next few days reflecting on our company’s values: to genuinely have empathy, trust, and candor, to always be learning, to exercise a bias for action, and to act like an owner. I thought of all the early mornings and late nights our teams had, the long meetings, and the hard decisions made. All of it.
I realized something else, I couldn’t name one colleague that wasn’t demonstrating our values, that hadn’t committed to our mission, that dismissed their duty to continue being the essential staffing engine for our essential businesses and professionals. Every single day.
I recognized that Instawork has a lot of opportunities to improve, and better serve our customers. We may become a mature company, but we’ll always be a start-up, strapping on our boots, taking on the next challenge, and making it an opportunity. Because it’s what we do, and who we are.
Instawork is a leading flexible staffing solution located in 20+ metro markets, including California (SF Bay Area, LA, San Diego), Texas (Austin, Dallas, Texas), Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, NJ/NYC Metro, Phoenix, and more.