Come see Cindy speak at CMX Summit in NYC on June 12-13.
Cindy Au has been working on community at Kickstarter for over four years.
The only thing I’ve done for over four years is shower in the morning (usually).
Over all that time, Cindy has had a wide range of experiences from the day she was hired as employee #9 to building the community team from 5 to 30 people.
Yup… a 30 person community team. Didn’t know Kickstart rolled like that, did you?
Cindy’s going to be speaking at CMX Summit in NYC so we asked her to do a quick interview before the event to give you a preview of what’s to come.
1) What does your role as VP of Community at Kickstarter involve?
Leading community at Kickstarter has definitely evolved over the years.
As I’ve grown into the role of VP of Community much of what I do is focused on expanding and scaling the ability of our community team to meet the needs of our users, as well as strategizing new ways in which we can engage with and serve our community.
To put that into concrete terms, lately I spend a lot of time on hiring, working with our community managers to anticipate new areas we’ll be growing into, and working with the product team to build new tools and resources for our users. In addition to community team-focused work, I work with our founders and other VPs to help guide the direction of Kickstarter. We’re constantly working on building a better Kickstarter, both as a product and as a company.
2) How has your role changed since you first started?
It’s changed quite a bit! When I first started at Kickstarter, my job was a grab-bag of “whatever needed to get done.” I fielded incoming questions about projects people wanted to launch, answered customer support tickets, wrote for our blog, combed through live Kickstarter projects looking for cool things to highlight on the homepage or on our tumblr/facebook, managed the Kickstarter Twitter account, handled trust & safety tasks (we didn’t have T&S officially back then), and organized events. For a few months I was also in charge of our Fresh Direct order!
Since those early days, things have evolved quite a bit. My role is now focused on leading and managing our community team, and giving them the support and resources they need to be able to handle the growing body of work that comprises community at Kickstarter.
As our company has grown, we’ve seen the general challenges that come with having more people, more teams, and more responsibilities. A big part my role has been guiding the team through each of these growth spurts and evolutions. This meant helping what started as a small handful of people grow into a team of over 30, with distinct roles and responsibilities (as opposed to the “grab-bag” model).
Our latest iteration of the community team is currently structured as Community Support, Community Engagement, and Trust & Safety.
3) What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career as a community builder?
A few months ago we experienced a data breach for the first time, which was by far one of the most challenging things the community team has ever faced.
In a very short amount of time, we had to work across the company to come up with a plan to resolve the breach, alert nearly 10 million users, and prepare to respond to any and all inbound inquiries regarding the situation.
Keeping our community safe was our #1 priority, and while it meant many sleepless nights as we worked around the clock to help our users, we managed to pull through! By in large our community was extraordinarily understanding, and I think alerting users in a timely manner coupled with providing immediate support made a huge difference.
4) What is community and why is it important to you?
I think of community as not just a group of people or a place, but as a sense of belonging.
I have always been a more naturally introverted person, and growing up in the midwest as minority, I certainly spent a lot of formative years never quite feeling like I belonged anywhere.
When you finally find that sense of belonging, it is often tied to shared interests, people, and places, but mostly it is a deep sense of comfort you find in being able to express yourself freely, without judgment, and amongst a community you identify with and trust.
Community can be three people or thousands. It’s where you belong.
Finding that was hugely important for me, and it drives me to want to make sure everyone out there finds a place where they belong. Getting out there and being able to bring people together is far and away what I love to do most.
5) What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a new community professional?
It’s hard to pick just one piece of advice, but I think for folks out there looking to join a community team, it’s important to always be honest and transparent with your community.
Be yourself — you wouldn’t be working in community if it wasn’t about sincerely connecting with people. And if something goes wrong, don’t be afraid to admit mistakes. A strong connection with your community means you can share in successes but also ride out challenging times together.
6) What do you hope to learn at CMX Summit?
I’m hoping to learn more about the different ways in which other community teams have grown and evolved within their organizations, and in what ways they stay connected to their community as their communities grow.
7) Now that you’ve reached the VP of Community status, what’s the next step in your career?
As VP of Community, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to engage with a huge, diverse community while simultaneously working on building Kickstarter as a product and company. I hope to be able to apply that experience on community-focused endeavors in the future. One area I’ve long had a focus and interest in is the video game development community — so that’s a space I definitely hope to be able to explore more. Regardless of where I turn up, it’s safe to say community will always be a part of what I do.
Join us at CMX Summit in NYC on June 12-13 where Cindy will be joined by speakers from successful companies like TED, Etsy, Buzzfeed, Meetup, Adobe with a splash of unique perspectives from psychology, behavioral analysis, product and design.
Get your tickets to CMX Summit while they last.