I Asked 13 Buffer Leaders for Advice on Succeeding in My New Role

As part of my comprehensive Buffer onboarding — which had me up and running at full speed in a matter of weeks — I was tasked with setting up intro calls with the company executives. 

The prospect of sitting down (even virtually) with our CEO and other senior Bufferoos was daunting for a newbie. I was pretty nervous (in hindsight, I really didn’t need to be!). 

There was no set agenda for the calls, so I wanted to make sure I was at least a little prepared with some intelligent questions to ask should the conversation falter. Plus, I knew these company leaders were busy — when would I have the opportunity to pick their brains again? 

Thankfully, the conversations flowed, and I only had time for the question at the top of my list: 

“Give me one piece of advice for succeeding at Buffer.” 

I’m glad I was able to squeeze it in! So great were their responses that I took to asking other Bufferoos who had been at the company for a long time, too. It’s unique to have so many teammates who have grown with the company and been around for a good chunk of time, especially in tech (I blame the Buffer values and culture).

I knew my long-tenured teammates would have some value to add to what was fast becoming my Guide to Success at Buffer™.

This turned out to be the gift that kept on giving, and I’m still putting the advice they gave me into practice. In fact, their guidance will stay with me for the rest of my career. 

All in all, I spoke to 13 people (fitting, given we’ve just celebrated Buffer’s 13th birthday!).

Given that their guidance is so universal — both for people just stepping into new roles and those at fast-paced companies like Buffer — I thought I’d share their wisdom here.

1. Joel Gascoigne, founder & CEO

📍Started at Buffer in October 2010 as a Founder & CEO
🌎 Location:
Colorado, U.S.
⏰ Time at Buffer: 13 years, 2 months

Joel started Buffer in 2010 and has led the company through plenty of milestones (he wrote an in-depth article about it for Buffer’s 10th anniversary). Joel’s advice was tied to the different phases Buffer had gone through over the years. 

Joel’s advice: ‘Go beyond your role’

“Just really get into the details of everything. And don’t constrain yourself to exactly your role description. I’ve seen the value of going beyond and connecting with other teams.

[Buffer has gone] through different phases of that. In the early days, it happens automatically. When there are only 20 people, you’re going to be in each other’s business! But over time, we’ve had phases where we’ve been really siloed off. I think we’re coming back around right now and getting to a really good place again. We’re realizing how beneficial it is to be more interconnected.

For example, a Customer Advocate will do a much better job of delighting customers and solving their problems if, first, they connect with the rest of their team. They might discover that another Advocate has encountered similar issues before and learn how they solved them. Then, they might call on an Engineer or Product Manager, who will be able to share more about the system, maybe even how this may change as part of the roadmap for the future. That will give the Advocate so much more context and a deeper answer to the question. 

So my advice is kind of two-in-one. Think about it as going beyond your job and team and connecting with others, but also going a layer deeper. 

I think it really relates to having an ownership mindset and thinking more holistically. ‘OK, what am I really trying to do here for the customer? What are we building on the product side?’ Doing this will help you feel the impact you’re having on the bigger picture as well.”

2. Andy Yates, Staff Engineer

📍Started at Buffer in June 2012 as iOS Engineering Lead
🌎 Location:
California, U.S.
⏰ Time at Buffer: 11 years, 6 months

Andy was one of Buffer’s earliest hires. While he has worked mostly in iOS and apps, he’s also dabbled in marketing, too — Andy’s had a hand in building almost every part of the Buffer website!

Andy’s advice: ‘Be passionate about your industry’

“At Buffer, it helps to be active and passionate about social media. I’ve always been one to jump on the new thing as soon as I discover it. I was pretty early on Twitter, and since then, an early adopter of quite a few social networks over the years (App.net, Mastodon, etc.). Social Media is always changing, and platforms come and go.

In those early stages of a new network, there often aren’t APIs [Application Programming Interface — what we use to connect social media platforms to Buffer] that we can use right out of the gate, but it’s still handy to get familiar with the platform so if and when the platform opens up, we don’t need to spend much time to get familiar with the functionality available.

New networks, new features for existing networks, and even new features across iOS and Android help keep things fresh and exciting by producing new challenges that need to be solved. Over ten years later, I don’t find myself getting bored even though I created the iOS codebase back in 2011 (while initially freelancing for Buffer).”

3. Carolyn Kopprasch, Chief of Staff

📍Started at Buffer in October 2012 as a Happiness Hero
🌎 Location:
Oregon, U.S.
⏰ Time at Buffer: 11 years, 2 months

Carolyn was one of Buffer’s first Happiness Heroes (what we called our Customer Advocates at the time) back in 2012. She worked her way up to Chief Happiness Officer, Chief of Special Projects, and her current role, Chief of Staff. 

Her advice really resonated, given how much is going on at Buffer and how important the company’s history is in understanding where we are and where we’re headed. I had a lot to digest in my first 30 days at Buffer, but I’m glad I took the time to pour over all the resources. 

Caro’s advice: ‘Read everything’

“In a remote, global company (and maybe any fast-moving business), context is King! Teammates are more successful when they are tuned in to the heartbeat of the business, from the overall goals and strategy to the ongoing projects and the challenges and opportunities that teams are tackling.

I can’t think of a role where this doesn’t apply, but it’s especially true for a new teammate ramping up. Of course, this takes time; my suggestion for managing that tension is to skim: most things don’t need to be read in detail if they don’t directly relate to your role. 

Having a general awareness of the business outside of their own department helps new teammates learn how they fit into the organizational structure and have an impact faster.”

Caro also snuck in a piece of bonus advice: “Learning names!” Thankfully, I have a handy cheat sheet on our Buffer team page

4. Åsa Nyström, VP of Customer Advocacy

📍Started at Buffer in February 2013 as a Happiness Hero
🌎 Location:
Sydney, Australia
⏰ Time at Buffer: 10 years, 9 months 

Sweden-born Asa started at Buffer as a Happiness Hero over a decade ago and is now the department’s Vice President. Like Joel and Caro, she’s a member of the executive team.

Åsa’s advice: ‘Cultivate a mindset of curiosity’

“Whether you’re a new team member at Buffer or have been around for a long time, keeping on top of transparent information and asking questions will support your growth. 

You will not only build closer connections with your team members by engaging in their work, but you will also gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies of Buffer. 

Asking questions will enlighten you as an individual and can also spark discussions leading to improvements to projects or processes. A proactive approach will propel your growth and contribute to the overall success of your team and the company.”

5. Adam Farmer, Senior Escalations Manager & Customer Experience Lead

📍Started at Buffer in November 2013 as a Happiness Hero
🌎 Location:
Florida, U.S.
⏰ Time at Buffer: 10 years, 2 months

Adam is another teammate who got his start as a Happiness Hero in the early days of Buffer. He’s held various positions over the years, including Social Media Strategist, Technical Hero, and Quality Manager.

Adam’s advice: ‘Cultivate relationships’

“By far the best thing about Buffer has always been the people. Lean into that. Connect with people and cultivate those relationships.

As a company, we’ve had amazing times and there have been some difficult seasons. No matter the circumstances, though, the people around you can make all the difference.

While I’d never say Buffer is a family, it is pretty darn nice when you can say that you work alongside some friends.”

6. Octavio Aburto, Senior Customer Advocate

📍Started at Buffer in April 2014 as a Happiness Hero
🌎 Location:
Digital nomad
⏰ Time at Buffer: 9 years, 7 months

Octavio — or Octa, as we call him — started at Buffer almost a decade ago as a Happiness Hero. He spent some time on the Customer Research team and moved back to his happy place (pun intended!) on the Advocacy team.

Octa’s advice: ‘Focus on what brings you joy’

“Focus on what you enjoy doing the most to benefit the team and always strive to be aware of everything that is going on in the company, especially regarding product updates and internal communication.”

7. Mike San Román, Director of Engineering: Platform & Technology 

📍Started at Buffer in July 2014 as an engineer
🌎 Location:
Barcelona, Spain
⏰ Time at Buffer: 9 years, 4 months

Mike was one of Buffer’s first Engineering hires and has had a hand in all parts of the platform over the years. Now, he leads the Engineering team and defines our technical vision and strategy.

Mike’s advice: ‘Lean into Buffer’s values’

“Buffer is a values-first company, and if you are here, it’s because these values resonate with you as well: work on understanding them and what they mean to you. Use them as a lens to operate, make decisions, and grow in your role.

Reflecting on our values often has been a compass in my Buffer journey and has provided a lot of clarity on which areas to grow next.”

8. Ross Parmly, Senior Customer Advocacy Manager 

📍Started at Buffer in August 2015 as a Happiness Hero
🌎 Location:
Louisville, Kentucky
⏰ Time at Buffer: 8 years, 2 months

Plenty of Buffer’s former Happiness Heroes have remained, well, happy at the company — Ross is another of their number who has been at Buffer for several years. He moved into various senior and leadership roles (which makes sense, given his focus below!)

Ross’s advice: ‘Focus on continuous improvement’

“One thing that has always been part of the Buffer culture is a focus on continuous improvement. This shows up at all company levels, even down to teammates sharing and encouraging one another in personal improvement areas. It also is a big factor in how we operate as a team! 

Being open to change, feedback, and experimentation is a good way to thrive here. I’ve noticed that some of our most successful teammates over the years tend to be the ones who are motivated to creatively push our team forward, think differently about challenges, and improve upon existing processes.”

9. Juliet Chen, Senior Customer Advocate

📍Started at Buffer in November 2015 as a Customer Hero
🌎 Location:
London, U.K. 
⏰ Time at Buffer: 8 years, 1 month

Juliet also started as a Happiness Hero in 2015, and her role has evolved a lot over the years. Juliet wasn’t the only person who mentioned change in her advice. I love the idea of approaching it with curiosity — seeing it as an opportunity for growth and learning rather than a problem to be solved. 

Juliet’s advice: ‘Embrace change with curiosity’

“Throughout the eight years I’ve been working at Buffer, our team structure has changed multiple times, along with my title and the day-to-day work I do. I remember feeling quite nervous when I was asked to do live Q&As for our trialists or live chat with our business customers, but I trusted my manager and my team deeply, so I felt safe to try new things even if I was uncomfortable. 

Each time there was a change in my role, I learned to welcome it with curiosity and see it as a new opportunity to learn. In the end, I’ve always grown the most from those changes. We love experimenting with smarter and new ways to work at Buffer, which is why there has never been a dull moment over the eight years I’ve been here!”

10. Adnan Issadeen, Senior Engineer

📍Started at Buffer in January 2016 as a Systems Developer
🌎 Location:
Colombo, Sri Lanka
⏰ Time at Buffer: 7 years, 11 months

Sri Lanka-based Adnan tried his hand at a few things in systems development before settling into his current role. Adnan’s advice was rooted in a pivotal experience at Buffer. It was a hard-won lesson that he’s keen to impart to all newbies joining the team. 

Adnan’s advice: ‘Communication is everything.’ 

“Even after seven years at Buffer, I’m still learning to communicate more effectively. It can feel cumbersome to make time to communicate what’s in your mind and all the little changes you are making. 

But, there was an incident where I impatiently ignored communicating a change, and then I took down all of Buffer after deleting our cluster (yes, I did that). 

Later, I chatted with our then CTO [chief technology officer] at the time, who gave me an excellent piece of advice while discussing communication: ‘Our individual efficiency must not come at the cost of the team’s’. 

I cherish this advice, and I feel like whenever I improve at communicating effectively with folks, I’m doing something for all of us to thrive at Buffer.”

11. Hannah Voice, Head of Customer Advocacy Operations

📍Started at Buffer in February 2016 as an Onboarding Specialist
🌎 Location:
Brighton, U.K.
⏰ Time at Buffer: 7 years, 11 months

Hannah has always been on the Customer Advocacy team in her seven years at Buffer but has had several different roles — from Onboarding Specialist to Customer Engagement Strategist to Customer Advocacy Operations Manager and now, Head of Customer Advocacy Operations. It’s no surprise that her advice is to get comfortable with change. 

Hannah’s advice: ‘See beyond yourself’ 

“Not only is it crucial to see and think and act beyond yourself, but you also need to see and think and act beyond your immediate team.

We are all working towards the same goal, regardless of the specific initiatives we might be working on to get there. Definitely bring your point of view, but also be willing to listen, learn from others, and widen your perspective. Take time to reflect, learn from setbacks, and move on with those learnings under your belt.

Decisions that made sense a year ago might not make sense today, and it’s important to be able to recognize when a shift is necessary and also be willing to embrace the change. Embracing change and disrupting the status quo is often where the real magic happens at Buffer. 

Change is not for everyone, and having more stability and a predictable schedule is absolutely a valid preference, but it might mean a fast-paced company like Buffer isn’t the perfect fit for you. We want every person to succeed at Buffer, which is why we put a lot of time and effort into hiring people who we think will be a great fit not only for the role but who will also thrive and be happy in this environment.”

12. Julia Cummings, Senior Customer Advocate

📍Started at Buffer in March 2016 as a Happiness Hero 
🌎 Location:
California, U.S.
⏰ Time at Buffer: 7 years, 7 months

Julia started working at Buffer — her dream job, she says — fresh out of college as a Happiness Hero and spent time in the Marketing team before hopping back to Advocacy. Whatever role she worked in, she was able to tie it back to our customers by keeping an eye on the big picture, she says.

Julia’s advice: ‘Absorb everything — but not all at once’

“We’re a remote, international team, and things are always moving in all directions. So it’s important to keep on top of that as best you can, to read all the documentation and all the information being shared. 

Having all the context will help you zoom out and see where your piece fits in the larger puzzle. It adds meaning to the work I’m doing in my day-to-day role to understand how that fits in with our larger vision.

That said — you don’t have to know everything the second it happens. It can be overwhelming if you put pressure on yourself to keep up with everything all the time. Pace yourself. Digest it, but do it slowly. Do it in a way that is sustainable because there is always going to be more.”

13. Maria Thomas, Chief Product Officer

📍Started at Buffer in October 2020 as Chief Product Officer
🌎 Location: 
Colorado, U.S.
⏰ Time at Buffer: 3 years

As Buffer’s CPO, Maria rounds out the executive team. She’s the most recent hire at that level (Joel wrote about the decision to create a product-focused leadership role), but it’s hard to imagine a Buffer without her. 

Her advice about communicating early and often is something I’m working hard at right now, as I know that’s an area of growth for me. What made it feel much less daunting was her mention of figuring out your own system that feels most natural to you. 

Maria’s advice: ‘Over-communicate’

“In a remote environment with so many tools in motion, it’s easy for small (or even critical) updates to be overlooked or missed altogether. As you’re learning a new role and team, it’s vital to over-communicate, as you don’t yet have established routines and relationships to lean on.

Checking in early and often can help minimize situations where you don’t have the full picture. At Buffer, all teammates commit to checking all communication tools each workday and responding in a timely manner — but we all have our unique methods to accomplish this! Over time, you’ll develop your personal routines, and it will feel like second nature to decide where to share information with your teammates.” 

What else would you like to know about life at Buffer?

Transparency is a core value for us, and we’d love to learn what else you might be curious about! Is there a Buffer teammate you’d like to hear more from? Leave us a comment below, and we’ll get cracking.

 

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