Like a piñata filled with brightly wrapped candy or an intricate stained glass window, Steve Simkins’ professional journey contains multitudes — constructed by wide-ranging experiences, interests and skills all integral to his colorful career.
From leading a team of 20 working at a sporting goods company to excelling as a training manager at a bank teaching other agents how to best provide support, Simkins spent years in a customer-facing role gathering valuable knowledge and perspective. But after years of rising through the ranks in retail management and financial customer service roles, he realized he needed a change.
“I always loved computers and technology, and a week or two after my first son was born, I watched a video of how someone could learn web development,” he said. “I spent the next year teaching myself while working a bank job, eventually finding my way to Web3 and Pinata.”
Today, Simkins is head of community at Pinata, a media company that powers a variety of marketplaces, metaverses and NFT projects that are built and distributed across blockchains. It’s a unique role he believes his career history has trained him for, transforming years of customer experience into Pinata’s support and developer relations.
TURNING AUTONOMOUS WORK INTO CONTINUOUS SUCCESS
“I’m excited to continue building the Pinata community by hiring and training more community managers for support, which will help us gain insight on ways we can better serve and listen to our users,” Simkins added. “Pinata has a bright future and I’m here for every step along the way.”
How does working for Pinata help you make progress toward your career goals?
Pinata has an amazing work culture that lets people grow and excel to accomplish their goals. Each employee is hired because we need help in a particular area. When I was hired, our head of product, Justin, needed help with support. I was able to jump in and fill that need, but apart from those initial responsibilities I was given a great deal of autonomy. My position was more about what I wanted to make out of it — to explore what the position could be.
Initially being a community manager was about support, but as I grew it became more about being the voice of our users and helping the Pinata team understand what was happening in the community. I still had the freedom to experiment with different technologies, try new blockchains that our users were building on, and see how our product could improve. My biggest career goal is to help build the future of the Internet, and I believe I’m doing just that with Pinata.
How have you grown professionally at Pinata? What skills have you learned?
I’ve grown in lots of ways because of this position. If you don’t have experience working in an autonomous role, being put into one can certainly be a place of growth and adjustment. I realized early on that sometimes I would ask a supervisor a question that was ultimately something I needed to decide for myself, and I was told that. Eventually you get to a place where more often you make decisions based on your own judgment, rather than waiting for someone to tell you what to do.
Pinata has also given me more skills in engineering, technology and product, but one of the most valuable to me is the ability to think outside the box. I quickly realized how well my manager was able to look at a situation and see option C when I only saw A and B. It’s something I’ve gained by watching other people, listening to them and thinking more thoroughly myself.
I get to learn something new each day, gain a perspective I didn’t have before, and I’m challenged to define what my current role is and what it could be in the future.
What professional development tools and resources, informal or formal, have you utilized? How are managers involved in the career development of direct reports?
Our Slack server has become a central hub — not just for communication, but education. We have multiple channels where we share industry news, blog posts on products, and concepts and philosophies. One of my favorites is “Pinnie’s Dreamland,” which is a free-for-all imagination space where we come up with products, apps and ideas that may not even be possible, but we dream anyway. Some of our best products have actually come from Pinnie’s Dreamland.
While there is a lot of autonomy and self-made decisions in the company, there is still a manager structure to help you grow in your role and career. One thing my team does, apart from the daily meetings or weekly one-on-ones, is managers hold six-month reviews. These reviews go over performance, but the managers also dig into what you as an individual would like to do moving forward, where you want to grow, and how they can assist you in that pursuit.
How has joining Pinata positively impacted your professional and personal journey?
I can easily say Pinata has been one of the biggest life changing opportunities for me. I’ve been able to use my existing skills in customer service to provide value to the company, but through the knowledge, experience and care of the team, I have also been able to grow toward a new career path in technology and product. I get to learn something new each day, gain a perspective I didn’t have before, and I’m challenged to define what my current role is and what it could be in the future.
In my personal life, Pinata has given me the opportunity to work remotely, move to a better city and spend more time with my family than I did before. I gain an immense amount of satisfaction in my day-to-day work that I’ve never experienced in previous jobs.