Inside Drift: Meet Michelle Ai, Senior Manager, People Operations

Hey everyone 👋

I just chatted with another member of the Drift team, and I can’t wait for you to meet them.

So far you’ve met Fernanda Lavalle, Shannon Donovan, Mary Mitchell, Catherine LaMacchia, Nadine Shaalan, Kahlil Trocmé, Britnee Laughlin, Sam Boyd, Allison Betito, and Carolina Caprile.

In this edition of Inside Drift, I am so excited to introduce you to Michelle Ai. Michelle is the Senior Manager of People Operations on our Company Success team in Boston. Michelle grew up in Australia and started her career in investment banking before transitioning to the startup world. She was so energized by the excitement of the hypergrowth culture that she’s never looked back.

Ready to meet Michelle? Let’s go ⚡

Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Kaitlyn Martins: Let’s start with a fun one. What are three words you could choose to describe Drift?

Michelle Ai: The real deal.

Kaitlyn: Tell me about your role at Drift. What are you responsible for?

Michelle: I’m the Senior Manager of People Operations, which means that I analyze our data and draw connections in areas within HR – recruiting, employee engagement, diversity, retention, compensation. Using these insights, I work with members within our People team to develop and refine our people processes, drive initiatives to improve areas within an employee lifecycle, and collaborate with leadership to execute our people strategy.

Kaitlyn: Why did you decide to get into Company Success?

Michelle: Company Success is all about pushing our whole company forward, formulating strategic goals, and then clearing the way for each and every one of us to do our jobs effectively.

I decided to get into Company Success because I can be more effective in this type of function after having been on the other side with ‘front-office’ roles. It’s really interesting to look at the data available across the business and then identify what we need to execute.

Kaitlyn: What has been your favorite project to work on at Drift?

Michelle: It’s ongoing work, but I’m always thinking about whether we’re collecting and using the data we have in the best way possible. For us at Drift, it’s about actioning on data. We don’t conduct surveys just to say we’re surveying our employee base. We use surveys as a way to test our hypotheses and identify actionable insights. When I started at Drift, it was pretty much a  blank slate. I was able to collaborate with others on the team and create reporting tools that help us ask (and answer!) more meaningful questions.

Kaitlyn: Why did you decide to join Drift?

Michelle: I began my career in investment banking, and loved my work there – it was incredible training. I then attended business school to get a more holistic view of the business landscape. After that, I worked at a Series B startup. I had never felt so energized and knew that I wanted to be on the operational side of things. I was looking for a company that had a really bright future, sold a product that customers loved (I used Drift at my last company), and operated with leadership principles that were consistent with my own.

Kaitlyn: Before working at Drift, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?

Michelle: I was a bit of a nerd, and volunteered at my local library when I was 12 or 13. The library was transitioning from an analog system to using electronic machines, so I got involved with that. There were a lot of menial tasks, but reflecting on that experience makes me appreciate that I was part of this major transformation that was taking place not only at the local library, but in the world.

Kaitlyn: What’s a fun fact about you?

Michelle: I have moved houses or cities more than ten times within the last 10 years 🏡

Kaitlyn: How has Drift helped you in your career development?

Michelle: I did a lot of soul-searching before joining Drift. When you’ve worked in different industries, and in multiple roles, people want to box you in and figure you out. One thing that helped me during that time was when I listened to Drift’s CEO David Cancel’s Seeking Wisdom podcast. It was his values and observations that got me so excited about working at Drift and being a part of the team.

Drift has given me the confidence to pursue new challenges – I had never worked in HR before, but at the end of the day, it’s just problem solving, and I love that. I now know what a promising startup looks like, and Drift has helped me distill those career questions down to identifying what really matters to me. I know that I need to always feel challenged in my career, and I need to be learning all the time. That’s what I will take with me beyond Drift.

Kaitlyn: Have you picked up any fun hobbies or discovered any hidden talents during quarantine?

Michelle: Quarantine has made me even more of a wine snob. I’ve also developed my cocktail-making repertoire.

Kaitlyn: Where is your favorite place to travel to?

Michelle: I grew up in Sydney, Australia. Now that I live in the U.S., I love those trips back home!

Kaitlyn: What advice do you have for prospective Drift candidates?

Michelle: Don’t join a startup because you think that’s the cool thing to do. Join one if you want to be really challenged and you’re hungry to learn. Drift is fast-paced – we don’t care much for meetings, because execution is all that matters. In other words, we have a bias for action. Assess whether that’s important to you.

Want to join Michelle on Drift’s Company Success team? We’re hiring. Check out our open roles here.