SparkFun's 20 Years with Kristen

It's SparkFun's 20th anniversary! Today you'll be hearing from Kristen Moorefield, a SparkFun employee who's been here for over 12 years and has done it all.

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SparkFun is 20 years old this year! We're lucky enough to have a bunch of employees that have been around for over 10 of those years, and we wanted to share their reflections on their time here with you. Today you'll be hearing from Kristen Moorefield.

Tell us about your background.

I'm originally from North Carolina (born and raised), I moved to St. Louis when I was 16 and then to Boulder for college many years ago. I've got two adopted furbabies I love dearly, Roxie and Frank. I love Lionel Richie with my whole heart (seeing him in Sept - YAY). I actually started as a Temp AR person in Finance focused on Collections and cleaning up our AR Aging back in November 2010. I've been here for 12.5 years and currently am the COO.

What's your favorite project you’ve worked on at SparkFun?

While I'm no technologist (social sciences background here), I have worked on a ton of super fun projects at SparkFun from the social/cultural side of things. My favorite has to be how we came up with our Company Values - we pulled everyone into the classroom and broke them off into smaller groups, then had everyone use post-its to describe the culture. We bubbled them up multiple times to narrow down similar terms.

After that, the Culture League (a cross-functional group we formed several years ago to tackle action items for the company with a cultural bent) collated all the data, discussed definitions of each and highlighted our top 5 with definitions and presented those to the company. The exercise was very well received, people seemed to have fun, and everyone took ownership over the values.

Then, we created posters and recognition cards based on our Values - it was pretty fun, at least from my perspective. About 2 years later, I did what I called a "Values Roadshow" to see if people still thought the values we called out during that exercise fit the company and they still resonated with people! Each department had great feedback on how we could improve "living our values" on a daily basis and our individual and collective impact on the culture.

Favorite/coolest thing you’ve seen a customer make with our products?

I have to pick some of the larger scale projects we've seen in user stories - the people tracking the ice melt in the arctic with our parts is too frigging cool and will have a seriously positive impact on our world (sharing data so we can make better decisions as individuals and countries when it comes to climate change)

What were you doing before/what brought you here? Why’d you decide to work here?

I was working at the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant as a bartender/waitress/trainer occasionally. I can't say enough about everyone needing to spend at least a year working in the service industry - I spent 8 so, you know, I got my fill. I was ready to leave the Rio and find a career and I had a good friend who worked at SparkFun and she told me about the temp position and I jumped at the chance.

Who is SparkFun?

This is a very difficult question because it's the equivalent of asking who a human is - we're multi-faceted and unique and messy and full of character. We're a thriving group of hard-working folks who honestly want to ensure our customers have the solutions and tools and accessories they need to solve any problems that bubble up. This company is full of some of the smartest, most dedicated people I've ever met and it is a privilege to work here.

How has SparkFun evolved during the time you’ve been here?

SparkFun has been through so many iterations and evolutions, like any company that's 20 years old. Everything we've done, everything we've built is due to the people (those here now and those that used to be here). We have always been a dynamic company of fun and quirky individuals (myself very much included) just trying to help people solve their problems through emerging tech and we continue to grow and learn from the people who've graced us with their skills, intelligence, kindness, and quirkiness and we continue to grow and learn from our past decisions (what we said yes to and what we said no to), our successes, our failures (there have been plenty like any other business), and our collective commitment to make cool shit that will hopefully help someone in the world solve a problem they're facing!

Describe your first day!

Ha, well, I got all dressed up, spent the entire night before making my resume, references, and cover letter look as good as I could and was so excited. I walked in the next day (only person dressed up - should have done my homework), so nervous to meet with the Director of Finance at the time. I handed her my stuff and she looked at me, asked a couple questions while setting my paperwork on the table, and had me start that day. I knew NOTHING - I was in a very cold room, by myself. I had no idea who anyone was, no idea where anything in the building was, no idea about supplies or water or bathrooms and I was entirely too nervous to ask - thinking back on it now, it's hysterical but not so much in the moment :)

Favorite spot in the building?

I love being downstairs on the Warehouse/Production floor - so much activity, so many cool things happening, so many amazing people. It's where all the action happens and, at any time, you can jump in and shadow and learn about each position (so long as Kasey, Ray, and Brandon say it's okay, ha). Plus, if you do help out, you get to touch the products that go directly to a customer and that is so cool.

How would you describe SparkFun's culture?

Culture is so dynamic and can change daily but, overall, I think SparkFun's culture is one where you can be who you want to be (no questions asked) so long as you lead with kindness. We're a collective hodge-podge of very cool and very smart people who bring all of that to their jobs every day. We also understand that work is not the only thing going on in your life so we encourage people to truly find a balance between work and life outside of work. Work/life balance has become such a cliche but I truly believe you're a human first at SparkFun and an employee second, so take the afternoon to see your kiddo graduate from 5th grade, take the afternoon to go for a hike or a bike ride; take time to decompress and do the things that are good for your mental wellness.

A big thing for me regarding culture has always been to help people take ownership/accountability over their part in defining the culture at SparkFun - every interaction (both verbal and nonverbal), every attitude, every question, every single day, people are defining the culture at SparkFun. I talk a lot about Intent vs Impact and specifically regarding Culture - what impact are you having on your team/your colleagues/the overall company when you come to work?

Not saying everyone needs to show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every day - that's impossible and we're all human but I do believe we can do our best to show up every day with that mindset. And, if it's just a really terrible day (everyone has them, myself included), we're lucky enough to work at a place where someone will stop by or send you a chat or an email and help pick you up. We've got some really great people and teams here, without a doubt.

What is the best part of the work you do?

There are so many things I love about my job but the best part has to be the people - the teams we've built, the collaboration across functions, the ability to walk down the hall and learn about Finance, Supply Chain, IT, Engineering, Documentation, Marketing, and Business Development and then head downstairs and learn about Facilities, Production, and then Shipping and Receiving. It's really amazing and, while everyone is busy, they'll always take some time to talk to you about what they do. It not only makes you better at your function to understand the impact your role has on others and the impact their role has on yours but it's a unique opportunity to have a 20-year-old company with all those functions under one roof and the ability to learn whatever you'd like about all those business functions.

I also have to say, while I've answered this questions with 17 "best" things about my job - seeing people progress and get promoted internally is something I cannot say enough about - it makes my heart so happy to see those folks and we've got a ton, myself included. Our HQ/Admin team is full of people who've been promoted internally and are in completely different roles than they were 2 or 3 years ago and that is so cool to see (for example, we've got two folks in Supply Chain who used to be in Warehouse/Receiving; two folks in Finance who used to be in Production; one who used to be in Customer Support - and that's just two teams out of the whole company).

We've been celebrating our long term employees all year - check out the other interviews we've done:

Comments 1 comment

  • Member #134773 / about 11 months ago / 2

    From a customer point of view, I'd like to say that SparkFun is probably my favorite of all the companies that I do business with and/or affect my life. (Digi-Key and Adafruit are in a virtual dead-heat for a close second place!) So many other companies have succumbed to being slaves to the "bottom line" rather than putting the needs of people, both customers and employees, first.

    It's always refreshing to see the story of someone like Kristen who started out as a temp, and stayed on to become one of the top executives. Keep up the good work, Kristen, and all at SparkFun!

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