The following blog post is the latest edition of Meet the Bees, a series in which we get to know the employees at CloudBees (affectionately known internally as “Bees”). In today’s post, the spotlight is on Saskia Webster-Zazzi, events project manager.
Saskia is an experienced events manager and our readers might actually be familiar with one of the main events she recently led: DevOps World 2020. I had a very enjoyable chat with Saskia and I managed to find out more about her life at CloudBees and about her likes and dislikes, in general. Let’s dive into the highlights of our conversation.
Let’s start with the ‘real’ Saskia. How would you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi, my name is Saskia and I am part of the awesome Events Marketing team here, at CloudBees. I was born, raised and spent most of my life in London, but I relocated to California about two years ago. I like to travel and pre-pandemic, I really enjoyed going out for meals and discovering new places, even in my own city. I like to describe myself as ‘easy-going’ but the truth is that I like the structure and peace of mind that comes with good, meticulous planning.
What is it about CloudBees, that made you want to be part of the hive?
Definitely the Bees! CloudBees provides a truly collaborative and supportive environment. I had reservations about working remotely but everyone here is so friendly and willing to help. You never feel that you’re running around in circles because every time you have a question, someone will answer it. Plus, every individual decision is respected and you really feel that you are making a difference and having an impact.
What is the project that you are most proud of, since you started with CloudBees?
DevOps World 2020, of course! Why? It was our first virtual conference, fully executed in the space of four months, with over 80 speakers, 14,000 attendees and over 120 sessions across multiple tracks.
What was the highlight of DevOps World 2020, for you?
I vividly remember that moment…. when we logged onto the hosting platform, for our first (ever!) virtual DevOps World. I woke up at 3am; it was pitch black and I went into the other room to check what was going on. Then, all of a sudden, people just started... chatting. The fact that we were all online and this was a virtual event became irrelevant. We were all there, at DevOps World, talking, interacting, introducing ourselves, sending greetings from all corners of the planet. I will always remember that adrenaline rush and that incredible feeling of being connected, of taking part in an experience shared with thousands of other people, across multiple time zones.
Speaking of this year’s event… Any hints for what’s coming for DevOps World 2021?
Haha, I can’t tell you too much, but what I will say is that it will be a two-day event and we’ll be shifting up to another level. We’ll try to tailor the event to the specific interests of our attendees, even more than we did last year. As such, we will be focusing on certain verticals and audience segments, to make sure our attendees get the most value out of investing their time in our sessions. Most importantly, we will really try to focus on what it means to work and collaborate together.
What do you think the future holds for tech events and conferences, in general?
There is definitely a yearning for the in-person experience and, although virtual events will be ‘the thing’ for a while, people will eventually go back to physical events. However, organisers will have to be far more creative than pre-pandemic because virtual events demonstrated that physical and financial barriers can be broken. We’ve tapped into global audiences, we’ve had people from all over the world attending our events, with no costs for travel or accommodation expenses involved. At the same time though, it is true that nothing can replace seeing people face-to-face and humans will seek those real experiences again, as soon as travel becomes safe and hassle-free. Maybe the ‘hybrid’ model will become more popular, as people will be more likely to get the best of both worlds: in-person experiences, for those attendees who are physically close to the venue where the event is taking place but also the ability to join the event virtually, for those people who cannot justify the travel cost.
From a project management perspective, what’s the main thing a project manager should consider, for their projects to be successful?
The success of a project depends on the success of the team and that team is made up of people, real humans with different skill sets and motivations. Understanding each person's role and contributions and how their strengths can best be utilised to drive the project forward is crucial. As a manager, you need to take some time to get to know your team members’ skills, interests, strengths and weaknesses, to ensure that your project is on the right track.
What’s one thing about remote working that you like the most?
Let me start with what I miss most about going into the office, because that’s easier! I miss having that ‘me’ time in the morning, when I just get to pop my headphones in, listen to whatever I want and wait for the train on the platform, enjoying the morning rush. I miss picking an outfit and dressing nicely in the morning. I miss going out for lunch and discovering new places that maybe I didn’t even know existed.
But, as a mother of two, I really see the benefit of working remotely. It’s great to be able to build your work schedule around your personal-life schedule and not the other way around. I also enjoy being able to work flexibly without having to follow a rigid schedule. I like logging on at nine pm because I want to, because that’s when I feel at the peak of my mental energy and inspiration. I have to say though, the culture here at CloudBees is really great in this respect and you really feel empowered to do your best work because the importance of flexible working is fully understood and appreciated here.
If you had to eat just one meal for the rest of your life, what would that be?
My usual go-to answer is sushi - there is a restaurant in London, Sticks’n’Sushi, that I used to love going to when I was living there, so that’s probably why I usually think ‘sushi’ when I think ‘favourite meal.’ However, since COVID-19 has kept me grounded in California and away from the UK for over a year, I am missing Caribbean food, curry, rice and peas, roti, jerk chicken, patties... I can go on and yes, I know I cheated with my answer by picking a cuisine, but I can't pick a meal!
If you weren’t working in your field, what would you be doing?
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Whitney Houston. Not a singer, not a performer… just Whitney. I think that, as a child, I was infatuated with Whitney’s talent and her incredible achievements, but I soon realized I didn’t have her vocals. So I gave up on that idea and circled through different options instead, from lawyer to interior designer. With hindsight, however, I think I chose those because I liked the sound of them, rather than what they actually entailed! I ended up in Events Management and I think that if I weren't managing events, I would still be doing something related to project management, but in a different field.
Last question: If you could meet one fictional character or celebrity in real life, who would that be and why?
I have to say Beyonce. Why? She's the ultimate Queen B(ee), of course :-)
It was a pleasure catching up with Saskia and getting to know her better. Watch this space to meet more Bees in our upcoming blog posts!