Everything you ever wanted to know about HAWK and more ...
Hot on the heels of the recent site relaunch, we're on a drive to inject a greater sense of community back into SitePoint Forums.
As part of this, we're offering you the chance to get to know the staff a little better by way of an interview.
First up, it's HAWK, our illustrious leader.
So Sarah, never having had to interview a Galactic Overlord before, I’ll start off cautiously. Could you tell us a bit about who you are and where you come from?
I'm going to be completely frank here; I'm not really a Galactic Overlord. In actuality I'm a girl sitting in front of a Mac in a living room in New Zealand, with delusions of grandeur.
What’s it like living in New Zealand? Do you live rurally? What’s the thing you love most about where you live?
I live beneath One Tree Hill, which inspired the U2 song of the same name and is in the middle of Auckland, NZ's largest city, with a population of 1.4 million. NZ is a true paradise on earth. To sum it up in one sentence, we have a temperate sub-tropical climate (in Auckland, anyway), no poisonous creatures, free health and education systems and a culture of beaches and BBQs. One of the things that I am most grateful for is the fact that I was born a kiwi.
Beaches and barbecues, eh? At school we learned that Aussies and Kiwis celebrate Christmas on the beach with a ‘barbie’ and booze. Is that true or just a stereotype?
Totally true! It's our summer holiday and it's a kiwi tradition to head to the bach (pronounced batch – our word for beach house) where the main form of cooking is definitely the BBQ and yeah, we like a drink or two.
Now let’s move on to SitePoint. How did you end up becoming SitePoint’s Community Manager and what did you do before that?
This question also ties in nicely with two further questions we received from the thread Who wants to know HAWK's deepest darkest secrets?
@Forceflow : How did you end up in the web development field? Did you start out with a background in it, or something else?
@Stomme poes : I heard a rumourz you worked for Xerox. Is this true and if so what was the work there?
I got here in a roundabout way. I studied Architecture at University, and while I was there I worked part time answering the phones at Xerox so that I could use their reprographic gear for assignments. I worked my way through the ranks there and taught myself to code, ending up as a .NET developer for my last 5 or so years with the company. During that stint I found SitePoint and volunteered on the forums for years. I left Xerox to have kids, and was head-hunted by SitePoint and put on the payroll. It truly does pay to work for free occasionally. :)
On your blog you state that being the Community Manager is “possibly the best job in the world”. So tell me, what does a community manager actually do and what makes it so great in your eyes?
Yup, I stand by that statement. I get paid to tweet and boss people around on the internet. I get to work from home and I travel overseas to the office for Friday drinks once a month. What's not to love?? Seriously though, my job is split between managing the staff here at the forums, building and maintaining the forum, Twitter & Facebook communities, managing our brands via social media, running initiatives like Talk with the Experts, and more recently, building a new community around the Learnable brand.
And are there any down sides?
Not really. I have a very public facing role, so when things don't go to plan I am the person that tends to bear the brunt of any backlash, which can be stressful, but it is also the kind of challenge that I enjoy. I love people, and finding ways to deal with them regardless of the situation is one of the things that keeps me interested in my job.
What’s it like working remotely? What’s your setup like?
I absolutely love it. In the winter you'll find me on the couch under a blanket and a couple of cats, and in the summer you'll find me on a sun-lounger in the back yard. I swear that the Macbook Air was invented for me.
So you’re a cat person, eh? Me, too! I used to own a Persian cat which was terminally stupid and equally as lazy. I’d leave her asleep in the chair when I left for work in the morning and she’d be in exactly the same position when I came back ten hours later. How many cats do you have and do they have amusing names? (mine was named after a brand of beer). Have you got any other pets?
Yeah, I grew up with Burmese cats and they're addictive. They have real personality. We currently have 2 kittens named Dr John Hawk and Furry. We also have a budgie named Tailfeathers, who likes to play a vocal role in any Skypes that I have with the office.
How often do you actually visit HQ?
Generally once every 6 weeks plus special events. It's a four hour flight so it's very manageable.
I hear you’re the mother of twins. That must be extremely hard work, mustn't it?
I am. Looking back over the last four years it has been ridiculously hard, but it's all I know. Twins are hilarious – watching them interact makes it all worth it. I also like the fact that they make you a more relaxed parent and you have the confidence to know that your kids will always have a wing-man. That's a nice feeling.
And how do you balance the twins with holding down a job? What challenges does life as a working mother bring?
It has been a really organic process over the last few years. I started this job when the twins were one, so I fitted my work around their sleep times. Now I fit it around kindergarten. Next it will be school. You have to be flexible, think on your feet (I do a lot of my planning for work while I'm cooking dinner or working out), make sure you never compromise on either parenting or work – even if that means getting up at 5am to get something done before the day starts.
This next question will probably make you go “Ha!”, but what do you like to do when you have some free-time to yourself?
Exercise – pretty much any type, but my true loves are kick-boxing and the gym.
Remind me never to get on the wrong side of you then :) Did you ever fight professionally? This is also something that @Mittineague wanted to ask about. He asks:
Twin care supplanted kick-boxing?
Unfortunately not. I have a form of epilepsy which causes me to lose consciousness without warning. It doesn't really affect my day to day life, but it means that I couldn't get medical clearance to compete. I love the fitness and discipline that comes with the training though.
Staying with free-time, @rulloa asks: What are your favourite hobbies?
Like most kiwis, my other hobbies are eating and drinking. Hence the exercise...
Talking about health and fitness, the forums seem to have got a new lease of life recently (groan). Would you mind outlining some of the recent changes we've seen around here?
Sure. The thing that we are the most proud of is the redesign of sitepoint.com. We wanted a fresh new look – a move away from the traditional blog feel and something that is truly responsive. We're really pleased with the result and the community response. Part of that redesign meant bringing the niche sites back under the main brand so that we can focus our energy on content. The other big change this year has been the move away from printed books to ebooks, along with fulfilment of book sales through our subscription-based learning site, learnable.com
And is there anything else SitePoint-wise that we can be looking forward to in the future? Is there anything exciting in the pipeline?
At the moment we're working to launch the new look Learnable, with some great new features that should really help with the development of that community. And of course we're always working on new and interesting content!
Wow! That sounds great. Now to finish up, I’d like to hit you with the rest of the questions from the thread “Who wants to know HAWK's deepest darkest secrets?”
@rulloa asks: if you could choose one superpower, what would it be?
True happiness regardless of the circumstances.
@sega wants to know: What do you love most about your country and your life?
Life in NZ is safe and easy. Our kids can walk to school by themselves. We can drink water out of the tap. We know that if we get sick we'll be looked after. Our social welfare system means that we don't have homelessness. People are friendly and they're not afraid to try things. This is what life is meant to be like and I feel truly grateful for it.
From @myty : Which of the “five senses” (vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch) would you pick if you could only choose one?
Touch. I'm a hugger.
@Patche writes: How much money do you make from managing this community (if any)?
Millions and millions of dollars. This is a lucrative industry.
And @molona asks: So if you were not a Hawk... what animal would you like to be?
Sarah, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us and thank you to everyone else that took the time to submit questions. You rock! :spf: