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New Crew Member: Rachel Mickelson

Published April 20, 2020

Rachel Mickelson joins the crew as our new project manager, and we're thrilled she chose to bring her experience and expertise to Ten Forward!

Joining a new workplace during a global pandemic probably isn't how she pictured her first day, but Rachel has taken everything in stride, and we're grateful for her patience and enthusiasm.

Read on for more about Rachel, including her love of competitive strategy games, her first forays into tech (hint: Flash!) and whether she prefers Star Wars or Star Trek. 




What brought you to Ten Forward?

"I was looking for a learning organization with a collaborative culture that values employee and community well-being. This is really important when we think about mental health and I see Ten Forward living out both agile and trauma-informed principles (safety, trustworthiness, transparency, choice, collaboration, mutuality, empowerment) in ways I haven't always seen before.

Plus, the project management position provides an opportunity to think big picture while also keeping track of the details. Some jobs require one or the other, so this role seems like a good mix."




What are you looking forward to learning or doing in your new position?

"I'm a lifelong learner, so I'm always curious, asking questions and digging deeper into the topic at-hand. For me, it's not so much a particular topic that I want to learn more about, but I'm most excited that there’s this built-in process for learning as we go. I'm curious to see what other people are really passionate about and what we can learn from each other."




Your onboarding has been during a global pandemic while the company is temporarily full-time remote; not your typical first day on the job!

"First of all, I'm grateful organizations are adding jobs during this fluid time. You see headlines about people losing jobs … so I really appreciate the opportunity to start something new. 

And it’s actually been pretty smooth; in part because I'm a homebody and also everyone's tech savvy. The challenging part is picking up on non-verbal cues and trying to forge new relationships without being in the same room; but overall it's been pretty easy to just jump right in. 

It's amazing we have these online tools because if we were just trying to connect over the phone?"  

She laughs. "That would be a lot more challenging!"




Like many Ten Forwarders past and present, you’re a graduate of the Madison YWCA’s YWeb Career Academy (a front-end coding bootcamp). What inspired you to attend?

"When I was in middle school, I made websites for fun. Much later, I found myself in a career transition that included a lot of trial and error. YWeb provided the space to learn alongside an amazing group of people who were overcoming the odds, too. 

The experience also helped me uncover how I am wired and where I fit best within tech. I was able to learn technical skills and pair them with my past experiences so that I could operate on a freelance level. After freelancing for several years, I really began to miss the camaraderie that comes with a team working towards a common goal."




I started out building websites as a middle-schooler, too! Mine were dedicated to my favorite TV shows. Do you remember what yours was about?

"Oh gosh, it was so long ago! I just remember installing 'under construction' gifs, page counters … "




Did you have a guestbook?

"Oh yeah, there was a guestbook. It was just so fun getting those features to work, putting it all together.

But the gifs were a big deal."




And yet, like, me, you didn’t pursue coding as a career, despite your early interest and aptitude. I’ve talked to so many women at conferences who have the exact same story - never being encouraged, not realizing it could be a job - and it’s kind of infuriating.

"Thinking back, there was nobody that said, 'Oh wow, you’re onto something here.' And in fact, some of the classes I took … "

She sighs.

"I really, really liked math. But the teacher didn't pay attention to female students. So it was just something that never got noticed or developed.

Later, when I was in a sales position, we needed a short teaser video, so I learned Flash and made one. Or a friend needed a website built, so I learned Dreamweaver. There were these things in my path: 'Oh, tech would be really helpful here. Why don't I just learn the skill, and then we'll apply it?'

So I'm grateful there was flexibility within my career to experiment. 

But no one took me under their wing; I had to seek out the opportunities and advocate to make them happen. If I didn't have that personality, it probably never would have happened."




Fill in the blanks: "If I could only __ one __ for the rest of my life, it would be __."

"If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be pizza.

I'm gluten-free and dairy-free, so I don't have a ton of options but that's probably a good thing. Otherwise I would have it for every meal. Cold pizza is the best."




What's something about you people might find surprising?

"I really like strategy games, and the variety that comes with them. When I was growing up, my dad and I would play Stratego - think chess meets capture the flag - so I've always been drawn toward games and opportunities that require strategy. With deck-building games, DC Comics, Ticket to Ride, Settlers, Dominion, for example, it's different every time you play and you can try out new approaches. Also, I moved 18 times by the time I was 18 so I'm used to things changing and enjoy the variety."




Sounds like we might have to bring back Ten Forward board game night! 

"Oh, that'd be awesome. Some people in my family don't like to play if they think I am likely win," she says with a laugh.




Favorite board game/video game, TV show/movie, band/musician, emoji.

Board game: DC Comics

TV show: Parks and Rec

Band: Ben Harper

Emoji: :boat:




Star Trek or Star Wars?

"Star Wars - although I fall asleep a lot when I watch movies, so sometimes naps win out."

Author details

Hilary Stohs-Krause

Software developer
@hilarysk