The Path profiles people working in what we think of as “dream jobs,” living their best professional life, and looks at the people and practices that helped get them there. We talk to these amazing folks about how goal setting, great leadership, tough decisions, and other key moments helped them get to where they are now. And, because so many career paths are inherently winding, we examine what it can look like to handle unexpected experiences along the way.
When it comes to sharing images, inspiration, and ideas online, Pinterest is one of the first names that comes to mind. The image-sharing company has transformed the way things are discovered and shared online, making it easier than ever to cross-pollinate ideas online. Boasting over 440 million active monthly users, the company has long shaken up what it means to find inspiration online. The same creativity, collaboration, and innovation that have made the company a global success is part of the internal structure of the company. Of course, no one knows this better than Clara Timpe, who is a Talent Brand Manager at Pinterest.
Since joining the company in 2018, Clara has moved up the ranks of the Talent Brand team. She now leads a small but mighty team that is responsible for making people all over the world want to join the company. From recruiting events to owning the careers page and running recruitment marketing campaigns, Clara’s team is responsible for telling the story of what it’s like to work at Pinterest. Ahead, we talk to Clara about what it’s been like to create boundaries while working from home, how Pinterest’s company culture has pivoted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and which routines and practices are helping her stay centered amidst increased uncertainty.
What did you go to school for and what did you think you wanted to do at that time in your life?
Although I’m a California native, I was hungry to explore more of the country after high school so I went to school at Willamette University in Oregon. At Willamette, I studied Intellectual History, which is essentially the history of philosophical thought. Because my specific focus was on political philosophy during the Age of Enlightenment, after college I thought I wanted to go into politics but I did a couple of political internships and realized that the environment actually wasn’t for me.
Can you give me the ‘Spark’s Notes’ version of your career history so far?
After my brief sojourn in politics, I stayed in Oregon and because I didn’t know what I wanted to do next, I joined a temp agency. They placed me at Squarespace in an employee experience role, and it was a perfect fit. I loved being able to positively impact people’s day and ensure that the place they spent the majority of their time fulfilled them.
Employee experience is intricately connected to talent branding (what I do now). At Squarespace, these roles intertwined, and when the time came to leave and return home to San Francisco, I decided to pursue a full-time Talent Brand role. I briefly joined a mobile marketing startup where I was responsible for their entire employer brand. There, I learned how to create and grow a program from scratch, measure it, and separate myself from it to maintain a healthy work-life balance. It was an amazing and enlightening experience.
How did you end up getting hired for the position you’re currently in?
One thing led to another and there were challenges to the startup life. A friend of mine worked at Pinterest and always said great things, so when I saw a role open up, I took the leap and applied. When I joined Pinterest I came on as a Talent Brand Specialist with a handful of years of experience under my belt, but not quite ready to lead a program. I was eager to learn but not eager to lead yet. Because of Pinterest’s unique position — small enough to feel like a startup but with the resources of a much larger company — the growth and experience I gained in that year propelled me quickly to a position where I was ready for more ownership and leadership.
When the previous Talent Brand Manager left Pinterest, I applied for the position. I had faith in myself that I was ready for the challenge, and Pinterest had faith in me, too. I’ve built out the team since then and have been managing it for a year now.
What do you love most about your job?
There are two main things: firstly, my team. The Talent Brand team (and wider Recruiting Team) make my job so easy and so enjoyable. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing them thrive.
Secondly, I love the duality of Talent Branding. To be effective you need to use both sides of the brain — using creativity to market a brand effectively (and all the fun campaigns that go along with it) but taking a programmatic and analytical approach. Talent Branding is multi-dimensional and has elements of PR, brand marketing, recruiting, and HR; and the variety of the day-to-day is so much fun.
What are some daily habits you absolutely make sure to schedule into your day?
I’m a very routine-driven person, especially these days when so much is out of our control. Every morning I start the day with exercise to get my mind right. I try to mix it up so I’ll run a couple days a week and do weightlifting the others. Starting my day with exercise makes such a difference; I’m more energetic, positive, and motivated throughout the day.
I also actively incorporate breaks into my day, I have a scheduled time block on my work calendar that I truly take to make lunch, check in with myself, and walk my corgi puppy. An online quiz once told me that I’m an “extroverted introvert” so blocking time into my day to step away from constantly interacting with people allows me to recharge and be more efficient and effective for the rest of the day.
Tell me about someone who’s made a significant impact on your career trajectory.
Everywhere that I’ve worked, I’ve met people who’ve impacted my journey. At Squarespace, I had two managers who had very different styles but both believed in me and showed how a great manager can change the trajectory of your career. My last manager there taught me a lot of important lessons, perhaps the most important being that if you see someone’s potential before they see it, you have a responsibility to develop that potential.
One of my previous managers at Pinterest took a huge leap of faith on me too, and it’s opened my doors wide open. She unequivocally believed in me at a pivotal point in my life and I owe my opportunities to that belief.
Because these women believed in me and my potential, I’m where I am today in a job and company that I love. It’s my responsibility to pay that forward and be the kind of manager who recognizes potential, and recognizes my responsibility when I see it.
What’s been the biggest learning lesson in your career so far?
To be open to new opportunities and change. That comes in many forms — be that new jobs, company restructuring, pandemics, or what-have-you. Because change is a constant, I’ve learned to adapt to it and to recognize opportunities when they arise. Being adaptable and not being afraid to push myself is a lesson I’ve learned and regularly remind myself of when change does enter my life.
What do you think makes a good leader?
Vulnerability. It’s hard to be vulnerable, especially in a work setting, but as humans, we trust leaders who are authentic and who tell the truth in hard times. A good leader is someone who can garner the respect of their peers by leading with vulnerability and from there, create a foundation of trust. After that, everything will be easier from inspiring a team through good times to helping them understand when you have to make hard choices.
A previous department-head also once told me to always “lead with positive intent” and when you evaluate leaders from that perspective, you can see the good ones rise to the top.
How do you approach difficult conversations with your team and other colleagues?
I start from a place of curiosity and again, assuming best intent. During difficult conversations, it’s important to me for it to really feel like a two-sided conversation and to practice empathy so we can achieve the best outcome. These days, difficult conversations are so much more difficult so I try to be kind and seek solutions and ways to move forward instead of getting stuck on disagreements or differences of opinion.
Work culture looks completely different than it did even a month ago, how are you adjusting? And what practices are helping you stay centered amidst increased uncertainty and anxiety?
The million-dollar question! For me, self-care means building time into my day to be alone and recharge. I exercise, take my dog on many a walk, and read books that bring me into another time or place (anything from Transcendent Kingdom to Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series).
When I’m not working, I also try to get myself out of the working mindset by doing completely mundane things like watching “bad” reality TV (looking at you, “Selling Sunset”) and of course using Pinterest to plan some-day trips in South America or re-planning my wedding which was postponed because of COVID-19.
Today, industries and culture are evolving more rapidly than ever in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Has your personal relationship to work changed? If so, how?
I’ve always been a work-life balance kind of person. I really need a clear separation of work from my personal life. But in the wake of COVID-19, the balance is more crucial than ever. I used to be able to get on my bike and ride home at the end of the workday, then pretty much leave my work at work. Now, it is hard to separate work from life when both happen in the same physical space. This close relationship to work had made me put even more mechanisms in place to preserve my balance.
Amid pivots to remote work, has your company culture pivoted or changed?
It’s changed so much! We’ve recommitted to and greatly improved our approach to D&I during the Black Lives Matter movement and beyond (but truly, there is much more to do) as well as putting our employees first. We’ve translated our perks and benefits to remote — such as virtual yoga, meditation, and fitness classes, but we’ve infused the creative Pinterest spirit as well with virtual events and weekly dance classes for parents and their kids on Google Hangouts. Our Workplace and People teams put a lot of work into making sure there’s something for everyone.
What do you think managers and leaders need to be doing to create better workplaces as we move forward from this moment?
Over the past six months, it’s become clear that the most important way that managers can create better workplaces is to prioritize taking care of our teams. Whether that means providing resources to working parents, giving the company mental health days, or rethinking performance reviews, taking care of our people in every aspect is paramount. I’ve seen that happen at Pinterest and I think it’s vital to continue this work moving forward. It’s changed the way I manage as well, and I’ve found that when you make taking care of your team the foundation of your management style, your team reaps the rewards of high performance and results.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Trust your gut. When you’re early in your career it’s easy to lack confidence and to question if your path is right (especially if it’s not the one you spent 18 years planning). I’ve learned from experience that when I trust my gut, it always leads me to where I’m meant to be.
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