What was your path to this role—both before DoorDash, and since joining the team?
I went to school for journalism and moved here to Phoenix after graduation to work as a morning news producer. I did well, but honestly it wasn’t my thing—and then nine months in, I was laid off. Suddenly I’m unemployed and thousands of miles from my family and friends. Before news, I was in hospitality; I’d worked at restaurants since I was 14. So I went back to waiting tables, and one day, a customer said, “What are you doing here? You should be selling something.” I thought, “Huh, maybe he’s right,” and I applied for my first sales job the next day, at a company that made marketing software.
Then in 2017, around the time I found out I was expecting my son, I started looking for another job, and DoorDash was one of the places I applied. I was actually moving forward with a different company when they called for an interview, but there was just something about DoorDash that pulled me in. I started as an account executive, and at the time I didn’t think I ever wanted to be a leader. I remember Scott Butler, who’s now our inbound senior sales manager, suggested it, and I was like, “That’s cute, but no.” I had a baby on the way; diapers are expensive; I just wanted to make my commission check!
But then I came back from maternity leave feeling like Superwoman, was promoted to senior account executive, and decided to give management a shot. I became a team lead, then an associate manager for our Inside Sales team—which handles over-the-phone sales, both inbound and outbound—and now I’m a manager. And as soon as I started leading, I realized Scott had been right. I love my people. And DoorDash as a company is truly invested in the team; we understand the business is nothing without them.
I love my people. And DoorDash as a company is truly invested in the team; we understand the business is nothing without them.
Tell us more about that. How does DoorDash invest in its people?
We like to really dive deep into the experiences of different team members—pick their brains and figure out what will work for them. And we recognize that diversity challenges us in a good way, because it opens us up to perspectives we wouldn’t otherwise have. That’s actually part of why I joined. When I interviewed, I saw people of all ethnicities, backgrounds, you name it, even though the team was relatively small back then.
The focus on people is also part of what makes our jobs so fun. Of course that looks different right now with everyone remote; pre-COVID-19, I was actually the head of the culture committee for our sales floor, and we did all kinds of things—potlucks, Spirit Week. We played real-life Mario Kart, where you get to pop or steal someone else’s balloon when you close a deal. But when everyone started working from home, I think culture and belonging became all the more important. We’ve put a lot of focus on ways we can support each other remotely—like the Elevate program, which pairs underrepresented women in leadership roles with senior team members and offers them professional coaching to help further their careers. I’m also working with a group of women from the Inside Sales team right now, to make sure that women are getting equal opportunities and that we’re staying true to our values as we grow.
What’s it like being a parent at DoorDash?
I actually felt supported even before I interviewed, because I’d read all about our CEO, Tony Xu, deciding to offer parental leave to employees regardless of how long they’d been with the company. As someone who was job-hunting while simultaneously creating an American citizen, that blew my mind.
Even with that policy in place, though, I remember being so nervous the day I told our HR business partner I was expecting. I was 12 weeks along, and I’d only been with the company for a month or so. I thought they’d think, “Oh, my God, Karlie got one over on us.” But our HR business partner said, “This is great. We can’t wait!” I was the first person on the team to take advantage of the new leave, and she was so excited. After that, I told the rest of my team, and they were incredibly supportive, too.
And it’s only gotten better since. When I came back to work, they had a beautiful mother’s room ready for me. We have an employee resource group, [email protected], with an active Slack channel. We extended our parental leave to 16 weeks. And when COVID-19 hit, a ton of thought went into supporting employees who have dependents. I’m lucky that my son is in daycare, but a lot of people have school-age kids at home. You’re juggling schedules; they’re crashing Zoom meetings. And from the senior level on down, everyone’s come together and completely embraced the situation.
Tell us about a recent challenge you and your team have faced.
The pandemic was a big one. There was just so much to do to make sure people were safe and to keep up with demand. I’ll never forget opening my computer the morning of March 16, that first Monday after the national emergency was declared—because I’d never seen so many Slack notifications in my life. We all had so many questions, and very few answers. But we made a plan, and it was really incredible watching the way the team rallied. We had one organization just taking inbound calls; we were training people who had started the week before to build menus in the backend.
Even after those first few days, it was tough for a while. Part of my job is to listen to my team’s calls, so I can coach them—and they were talking with business owners who weren’t sure whether they’d be open the next day. Empathy is key in our work even in good times, and a lot of people were, understandably, very frustrated and scared. Sometimes our pitches turned into therapy sessions.
Eventually, though, we started to hear some people saying, “You all have been responsible for 30% of our business,” or, “DoorDash is the reason we’re still open,” or even, “We can’t believe it, but we’re opening another restaurant.” That’s really rewarding. And we’ve learned so much this year. We’re still learning! There’s always room for improvement. We can always get another step ahead. But this experience has taught us a lot about how to navigate uncertain times and see around corners. I really believe the only constant is change, so even post-pandemic, it’s still going to be important to keep people—both our team and our customers—our North Star, and make sure we can continue to support them as we grow.
What are you most excited about right now?
Uncertainty! Usually, uncertainty scares the crap out of me. I’m very detail-oriented and I like structure and projections. But at DoorDash, it’s exciting, because so many paths are going to open up that we haven’t even thought about yet. And seeing what we’ve done over the past three years, I have no doubt that whatever’s coming will be huge. I can’t wait.
One thing I do know is I want to continue being a leader, in whatever form that takes. I live for the moments when something clicks for someone on my team, whether it’s right away or after a lot of hard work. Most of the time, they don’t even realize it, but as their leader, I see them nail a phone call or be ready with the answer to a question, and I just know.
And what’s so cool is everyone is different—different struggles, different strengths. That’s awesome, because everyone I work with teaches me something I can use to build my own skills, or to help the next person I manage. Like anyone, I have days where I wonder if I’m doing enough. But I just love seeing someone grow and knowing I’m actually making a difference. That’s what gets me out of bed every day.