Tech Trailblazers

Tech Trailblazers: Emily Mikailli

  • Name: Emily Mikailli

    Role: Head of HR, Signifyd

    What does your typical day look like?

    A typical day for me starts bright and early, between 3:30 and 4 AM. I drink some coffee and catch up on emails before catching a 5 AM workout class. I jam home in time to be there when my kids wake up, make them breakfast and get them ready for the day. I kiss my husband and son goodbye and drop my daughter off at school on my way into the office.

    Once I arrive, no two days look the same. I typically have anywhere between 5 and 15 pre-scheduled meetings in any given day. These might be meetings with other members of the executive team, 1:1s with my direct reports, team meetings, meetings with other departments about their headcount plans, coaching sessions with managers, or check ins with key employees.

    If I have breaks between meetings, I am either addressing urgent issues that arise and need my input or consult, troubleshooting with my team, working on longer-term projects like a new strategic initiative we might be undertaking, or preparing slides for a presentation (for the Board, our executive team, or our monthly manager training session, for example)

    I try to leave the office around 5 PM most days so I can get home in time to make my kids dinner and play with them for a bit before they go to bed. After that, I tackle any urgent emails or Slack messages, hopefully get a quick ride in on my Peloton, and sometimes read or watch a TV show. I’m in bed by 10 PM almost every night, even weekends.

    What are you currently working on?

    Right now, I’m launching several strategic initiatives at Signifyd that are very exciting and that I’m quite passionate about. One is an effort to improve internal communications so that we both give and get good information to and from our employees. Now that we have multiple offices globally, we have to be much more deliberate about how information gets shared so that everyone has equally excellent access.

    Elements of this initiative include launching quarterly pulse surveys with hands-on manager accountability for their team’s engagement and culture, a weekly email communication from our CEO sharing critical information across the company with input from all of our managers, and setting up rotating meetings between our employees and our CEO so that he can hear firsthand how they are doing and how we can improve.

    What inspired you to join this company in particular?

    I was inspired to join Signifyd because I sensed (correctly) that our CEO, Raj, was an immensely thoughtful, intuitive and open-minded leader that would be both an amazing mentor as well as a phenomenal partner in making the company a great place to work.

    Did you always want to work in this industry (tech)?

    It wasn’t until I realized I did not want to practice law (quite an expensive realization, having already finished law school and passed the Bar exam) that I started to think about a career in tech. There was a time in my life where I wouldn’t have dreamed of being in the position that I am currently with the type of responsibilities and exposure that I have.

    In fact, I still pinch myself quite often because I love my job so much and feel so fortunate to be in the position that I am. I think, like many women, for most of my life I had much lower expectations for my own career and success, so the path I’ve taken has surprised me more than perhaps anyone else.

    What’s your favourite part about your work?

    I’ll give the cliche answer here, but only because it’s absolutely true - it’s the people, 100%. I decided not to practice law because I knew I craved more human connection and Signifyd has fulfilled that desire to an unimaginable degree. I don’t know how any other company will measure up in the future. We have such a unique, quirky, passionate, interesting group of employees that care immensely about one another. I look forward to coming in to work every day.

    What would you say to other people considering a job in this industry (tech)?

    I would tell them that the sky is the limit. Don’t think you don’t have a place in tech just because you haven’t been there before. Learn as much as you can about the jobs you think you are interested in, and do everything you can to get your foot in the door. Don’t be shy about asking others for advice or connections. There is so much growth and opportunity in tech, and there is room for every type of skill and experience. In fact, that is part of what makes tech so great. Know your value and think big!

    Who inspired you to work in this field?

    Honestly, I got into this field because I saw a goldmine of opportunity and enjoyable work that would allow me to support my family, have balance, and play to my strengths. I didn’t have a ton of exposure prior to just going for it, so nobody in particular inspired me to do so. But I can tell you that the most inspiring person in my career thus far has been Becky Cantieri, my former boss at SurveyMonkey.

    I looked up to her (and still do) as someone that could do it all - she had the poise, credibility and presence of a formidable executive, while still being approachable and having fun at work. She also did an amazing job of balancing family and work. When I’m feeling lost or lacking confidence, I try to envision how she would project herself in the same situation and it’s very helpful.

    What do you consider to be the most important tech innovation or development in recent years?

    As a mother and a concerned citizen, I’m most encouraged by the technological advances that are intended to combat climate change and its disastrous effects on our planet. But within my particular realm, I would have to say AI. There are so many cool things happening right now with artificial intelligence, particularly within recruiting and human capital management. With the right data, we are now able to predict things like employee attrition and better personalize our employee experience. It’s all very cool.

    What tech gadget could you not live without?

    Naturally, it’s my iPhone. It is the thing that allows me to do it all. I can stay connected to work and my family at all times, which gives me sanity.

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