We’re trying to build a healthy culture at Kadence, where the wellbeing of the team is important to everyone here and we all support it. This week, we’re excited to have our QA engineer and trained Therapist, Ciaran Starrs join us to share his experience about workplace wellbeing and stress management.
First of all, can you describe your role at Kadence?
I’m a QA Engineer, so along with the rest of the Engineering Team I am responsible for making sure that our product meets a high standard of quality. In a nutshell, we want to make sure that our product works as intended under expected conditions and that the design makes sense so that our customers can use it with ease and have a positive experience.
Therapy to engineering, what an interesting mix! Can you tell us your story?
Sure. I got into psychology and subsequently therapy work, because I worked as a Coordinator on a year long corporate training / second language learning programme for 4 years. When starting up as a therapist I found the cost of having a website built prohibitive and then decided to try building my own through online courses. That sparked my interest in IT, so after giving it some thought I took things a step further by going back into full-time education to study Software Development which has led me where I am today.
Is there anything you’ve taken from your therapy training that you apply in your role on the engineering team?
I guess in therapy I sometimes had to help people with relationship and communication issues, so I learned a lot about those areas, but honestly what I learned around psychology is applicable to everyday life inside and outside of the workplace.
We’re talking about stress management at the moment as a team at Kadence, something we want to keep talking about as a team, this is not a one-time conversation. What is your perspective on how to manage stress at work?
The first thing I would say is that it’s important to note that stress isn’t necessarily a negative thing and sometimes it can motivate us, but if there is too much stress the consequences can have a devastating impact on both our mental and physical health and it’s something we need to monitor and be acutely aware of.
The starting point is to look at the bigger picture; for example sleep is massively important. If you don’t have sleep, diet, exercise, work / life balance and relationships in good order and you are stressed then addressing these things may be a sensible starting point.
The interesting thing for me in terms of psychology is that if you put two different people into a challenging environment their stress level will likely differ entirely, so it’s clear that how we perceive situations and how we think, massively impact how stressed we might become and in normal situations, with some practice we can gain a good deal of control over our thought patterns.
From my years in therapy I know that people often get stressed about things outside their control, so it’s important to focus on things you have at least some control over and to accept that there are things outside your control for which there is zero value in focusing on. In the workplace I think that relationship and communication issues have potential to be big drivers of stress so it’s important to pay attention to these things and do them well.
All engineers or anyone who has any experience of coding will know that taking a break whenever they are stuck can result in a solution popping into their heads. In work and in life taking a step back from what you’re doing is more often than not very helpful and a good way to take back control if you feel overwhelmed.
Finally, I would say that there still seems to be some stigma around reaching out and getting professional help for mental health issues, but thankfully this has changed for the better in recent years. You can’t always handle everything on your own and getting a little help might be the best thing you ever did, so don’t be afraid to do it.
Why did you join Kadence?
Initially I was really impressed with our product. It seemed fresh, relevant to the times we were and are living in and I thought it had the potential to go in a lot of interesting directions. I was also really impressed whenever I met with the team, so joining Kadence wasn’t a difficult decision.
What do you enjoy about working here?
I am proud of the product the team has made and because it’s ever changing and improving it makes the QA side of things fresh and interesting. I love how the opinion of everyone across Kadence is actively sought and how we can all freely make suggestions for improvements. I also like the team I work with day to day and the values and way of doing things at Kadence in general.
What could we do better?
It’s a good question and not one I can answer easily. I have to say given the times that we are in and the challenges we have faced with remote working we have done incredibly well as a company.
What else don’t we know about Ciaran Starrs?
People outside the Product and Engineering teams may not know that I can speak Japanese. I lived there for 7 years and in many ways the country is like a second home to me and is a big part of my life. Prior to Covid I visited pretty much every year and I can’t wait to go back for a break whenever it’s feasible.
Keen to find out how to build a better hybrid working experience for your people? Join our discussion in the upcoming webinar “Why hybrid working starts with people and culture” – reserve your spot here