Banjos, Trumpets, and Bass—Oh My!
“The PagerDuty values that resonate most with me are Champion the Customer and Run Together. The first because I work with customers every day, and the latter because what I love about PagerDuty is that we consciously make an effort to cultivate a culture of humility and open-mindedness, and I think that’s reflected in how our leadership makes decisions.”
– Muriel Gordon, Solutions Consultant, Sales Engineering Team
How many people do you know have the ability to play 6 different instruments, have studied several languages, and are triathletes and artists specializing in oil paints? What in the world, you may be thinking. Such a person can’t possibly exist.
Well, as crazy as it sounds, this person does indeed exist.
Meet Muriel Gordon, PagerDuty Solutions Consultant (formerly of Customer Support), and bass player for the PagerDuty band, The On-Calls—which, at the request of PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada, she had to assemble in six weeks.
“Funny story, Jenn just walked up to me one day and said she volunteered the PagerDuty band to play at this Nasdaq event,” Muriel laughed. “I just said, what band? I didn’t think she was serious until she asked me a few weeks later how the band was coming along.
“That’s when I realized when the CEO asks you to do something, you do it.”
Of the six instruments Muriel plays, all but one was self-taught, including the ukulele, snare drum, banjo, and trumpet. She also taught herself several languages—as of this writing, Muriel speaks English, has studied French and Norwegian, and is currently studying Russian, which her girlfriend (who is Russian) is helping her master. “I’ve always been a big fan of languages and always liked writing. I feel like I can articulate and explain myself with language,” she shared. “I found that, by learning idioms and etymology of words, I can learn so much about a culture and about a person, just by learning the language that they speak.
From Coffee to Customer Support to Solutions Consultant
The path to PagerDuty wasn’t an easy one. Muriel graduated from college in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis into the toughest job market in decades. “I worked a bunch of service jobs and didn’t know what to do with myself,” she shared. But she received some advice from her father that would stick with her for years. “He told me that the universe is indifferent to whether I succeed or fail. That it was up to me to get some marketable skills, to work hard and make myself indispensable in this job market.”
Muriel decided that the best way to make herself indispensable was to learn as much as she can—be it languages, instruments, or something else—a mindset she brought with her to PagerDuty.
She got her foot in the door in the tech world while working at, funnily enough, a Peet’s Coffee store. “A friend from college walked in one day and we started chatting,” she explained. “He worked at Lyft, which was right down the street. The next thing I knew, I was hired to join the Customer Support team, where I was one of the founders of the critical response team.”
She brought her Customer Support skills to PagerDuty, where she eventually moved on to a Solutions Consultant role. “Support was great and there was a lot of people-facing work, which I loved. But I wanted to spend more time with individual customers so I could better connect with them to help them be more successful,” shared Muriel. “There’s a lot of strategy involved, and it’s fun to work with someone as they’re building out an ideal workflow to suit their needs.”
But the Solutions Consultant world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. “I like people a lot and it’s very easy for me to connect with people. But meeting after meeting; sometimes that wears you down,” she explained. “That’s probably the toughest thing. But you have to show up and do it right and not let the sales rep down.”
Speaking of rainbows, Muriel co-founded RainbowDuty—an Employee Resource Group (ERG) that supports the LGBTQ2+ community—not long after she joined PagerDuty, and also created the logo. “I wrote a coming-out blog of sorts for the ERG, and the first draft wasn’t very political,” she shared. “But then our head of HR at the time said that it was too vague, that it wasn’t my story, that there was no passion. She wanted the honest story. And that was the first time for me that a company was following through with what they’re saying they want to do, and my blog was the result.”
RainbowDuty was such a success that others in the company asked for her help in launching SisterDuty, an ERG that promotes an inclusive culture and professional development opportunities for women. Today, SisterDuty schedules regular events featuring women leaders who hold leadership roles in sales, engineering, and other areas in which women are traditionally underrepresented.
With so many things going on, how does Muriel stay sharp and focused? “I found out working out helps me focus,” she shared. She has a varied workout plan, with an emphasis on swimming. “I started swimming in pools across San Francisco, then moved on to open-water swimming, then I got more serious about the sport.” Eventually, her training led her to compete in her first triathlon. “I didn’t place in the race, but I made it to the end, and I learned that it’s worth it to push through something difficult because the sense of accomplishment you get at the end can be the fuel that gets you over the next obstacle.
Additionally, she learned being “kindness-forward” goes a long way. “I try to be nice to people because I found that if you treat people well, they tend to reciprocate. ‘Be nice to each other’ is my mantra,” she said. “I ain’t a saint and I don’t always succeed, but I always try.”