An interview with Sarah Mulvey
Sarah, you were a teacher in South Carolina, then up and moved to Boston. You got a job as an administrative assistant at The Predictive Index, but you’ve got a totally different job today. Walk us through your journey at PI.
Sure! I never expected to end up where I am now, but I guess that part of the fun of working at PI. If you are good at something, or want to learn more about something, you’re encouraged to chase that thing. In my case, it all started when the Science team at PI needed help with some validity studies that they were running. I had a little bandwidth in my current position, so I volunteered to help with some of the basic things, like keeping track of the study volunteers and administering assessments. It really just became a snowball effect; I got more and more involved, and with management and coworkers who were more than happy to teach me what I needed to know, I eventually switched to the team full time. It’s funny because my initial position as an admin assistant was a temporary position, but I knew on my very first day that I wanted to work for PI long-term. The day that Helen, the VP of HR at the time, pulled me into her office and offered me a full-time position at the company, I literally screamed, jumped up and down, and hugged her, and for those who know me, it’s a lot more emotion than I’m usually willing to show! It’s one of my happiest memories.
You’ve also had the opportunity to learn about a lot of new domains since coming to PI. Tell us about some of those learning opportunities.
I always like to remember my very first learning experience at PI, which was the day that I learned how to use the vlookup function in Excel. It was within the first couple of days of my job with the company, and I was working on a spreadsheet for someone in the Finance department. I needed to merge some data, and he carefully showed me show to do it with the vlookup function. I was slow with it at first, so I went home that night and practiced over and over again until I had it down pat.
This was a starting point of something much bigger; I discovered how much I love working with formulas and data, which became a much bigger part of my job later on. Since then, I’ve learned how to do so much more in Excel, as well as other platforms, like SPSS, mostly with the guidance of my boss, Greg. My coworker, Austin, has also patiently showed me how to do some pretty amazing things with data, as well as beginning to teach me to use R. Since my boss gives me enough freedom to decide how to complete tasks, I’ve also had the opportunity to teach myself to use MYSQL using the cloud-based software Domo.
PI has also provided learning opportunities by sending me and my colleagues to conferences like Domopalooza and SIOP(Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology). It was at my first year of at the SIOP conference that I was blown away by world of IO Psychology and decided to pursue a master’s degree in the subject.
So your career has really evolved while working at PI. Talk about what kind of exposure to helpful mentors you’ve had along the way.
This question makes me feel like an award-winner at the Oscars. I have had so many mentors along the way that I would be thanking them all long past when the music came on and I was kicked off the stage! My most prominent mentor has been my boss, Greg. He’s the kind of boss that empowers you to take on challenges by boosting your confidence and trusting you with ownership of projects. He’s also always been there whenever I’ve needed him. Once, I messaged him and said “Greg, I’ve made a huge mistake….” and without even waiting to hear what the mistake was, he replied “I have your back.” He then helped me work through the mistake and we resolved it together.
My coworkers Austin Fossey and Lisa Black have been great mentors as well. They have much more experience than me in the field and are always more than willing to help me with any of my questions or walk me through a process that I don’t understand. Austin even set up a recurring “research lunch” for the three of us so that we would have a time to share knowledge. They’re both very encouraging as well, recognizing and appreciating even the smallest of things.
There are other leaders at the company—Mike Zani, Daniel Muzquiz, and Matt Poepsel—who have all served as mentors in a variety of ways in my time here at PI. Mike and Daniel are the CEO and president, but they always make time to listen to their employees and try to maintain relationships with everyone. When I was trying to decide what grad school program I wanted to enter, Daniel even sat down with me and walked me through the pros and cons of various options. And Matt Poepsel, the Senior VP of Product, has been encouraging to me from the very beginning of my time here at PI. He, too, is the type of leader who empowers others above all else.
You’ve obviously had enormous success and growth at PI, but what have some of the challenges been along the way?
I am a very quiet, go-with-the-flow type person. This has been a challenge as PI grows and changes, and as I began to take ownership of more projects, it became more and more important that I learn to speak up in meetings and voice my opinion. Ever the mentor, my boss Greg helped me work through it (“start with saying anything, Sarah, shout ‘FIREWORKS!’ if you need to!”), and I gradually became more comfortable with speaking up and offering my opinions.
And the wonderful thing about PI is that when opinions are offered, people actually listen, no matter what their place in the company is. It’s validating to finally start to speak up and then discover that when you do, people actually listen and consider what you have to say.
You get to have interactions with people throughout the company. What’s are some of the common threads you find in the people that work at PI?
Our company has shared values that we call THREADS–Teamwork, Honesty, Reliability, Action, Drive, and Scope–that I think are really exemplified in the people that work at PI. When I interview candidates for positions here at PI, I am often asked the same question “What do you like best about working at PI?” I always smile, because this is my favorite question and the answer is simple. “The people.” I say. “Everyone I work with here—from senior leadership to my colleagues—is smart, fun, good at what they do, and most importantly, passionate about our vision: Better work, better world.”