Kelly Koskelin is VP of Software Engineering at Samsara. She leads the Software Engineering teams who build Samsara’s platform infrastructure – the systems that form the foundation for Samsara’s connected operations platform. Her remit also includes the teams responsible for Samsara’s big data, machine learning and data science capabilities. Before this role, Kelly led Samsara’s backend software engineering team through a 10X growth in scale and spent many years working at tech giants, Cisco Meraki and Yahoo!
Kelly has been with Samsara for almost three years and has enjoyed every minute of it. At WORK180, we love seeing more and more women getting into STEM. We are even more excited when we see a woman at the top of her game in technology and engineering.
Kelly graduated from MIT with a B.S. in Computer Science and an M.Eng in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. We asked what inspired Kelly to get into the field, and it all had to do with her love of numbers and science.
“I studied computer science but I’ve also always enjoyed math and science. Engineering was a way to apply both, and having graduated at the time of the dot com boom, I focused my attention on the technology industry.”
Pick your employer wisely
Kelly advises any career-driven woman to pick their employers wisely and not just take any opportunity they are offered. Her career is built on doing her research into the companies that approach her, and she always looks at the diversity of the leadership team.
“Your employer does matter because it influences how opportunities are afforded to you. When you apply for roles, you must also be interviewing your workplace as much as they are interviewing you.”
Samsara invests heavily in career development, which has helped it become the pioneer of the Connected Operations Cloud. Today, over 20,000 organizations worldwide use Samsara to lower fuel consumption, prevent accidents, automate manual processes, and improve product quality.
“There is structured training here, especially for first-time managers. It’s important to set people up for success, and mentorship plays a big role in that. It’s a big focus for me and my team in engineering.”
The world is changing rapidly, so we asked Kelly what she does to keep abreast of industry news and research. Kelly says we should never underestimate the value of continually updating our skills. She spends a lot of time reading engineering and leadership books, blog posts, and listening to podcasts.
“It’s important to keep learning, no matter where you are in the organization. You can be a leader in any field or industry, no matter your position in the company. As an individual, you need to be able to self-manage and self-direct. You need to see what value you bring in as individual contributors. These things are not bound by title.”
A place where everyone contributes equally to the success of the company
Kelly shares that the organizational hierarchy at Samsara doesn’t get in the way of getting things done. Everyone has a part to play – regardless of role and position in the company.
“People here genuinely want to collaborate and work together to deliver the best outcome for customers. Our software teams truly believe in the impact of the work they are delivering. We have a culture of very high standards and low ego, which is a very energizing environment to work in.”
Samsara’s culture of transparency, openness, collaboration and accountability, combined with low ego, is the reason why Kelly finds it so rewarding to work at Samsara.
“Teams work best when they leverage each other’s skills. If you have too much ego, it will throw out the balance. I value collaboration and diversity of thought. It makes teams greater than the sum of their parts when you have a multitude of perspectives and ideas. It’s more fun that way, and I want to be around people who challenge me and my beliefs.”
A family-friendly tech firm
We loved hearing that Kelly was eight months pregnant when she joined Samsara.
“I jumped into the role and then went on parental leave. My manager was incredibly supportive and it really showed me how much Samsara values investing in employees for the long-term. There is so much understanding, flexibility and trust here.”
Kelly appreciates that her work is better when she takes time out to unwind. She loves nothing more than to spend time outdoors with her young family.
We ended our chat with Kelly sharing her biggest career tip. She never underestimated the value of networking which is how she came to know about the opportunities at Samsara.
“Building relationships is critical. It’s a ticket to so many amazing opportunities. Invest your time in your personal and professional connections. You never know what opportunities will come up!!”