Get to know the people of Cloud City. In this regular (and sometimes irregular) series, we sit down with our designers, engineers and other team members to talk about development, consulting and life in general.
Today, we’re chatting with Arlette Thibodeau, a new addition to the Cloud City engineering team.
Currently reading: Elspeth Beard, “Lone Rider”
Currently bingeing: Letterkenny
Currently streaming: “Cocaine & Rhinestones” podcast
Tell us about your engineering journey. Is this always what you wanted to do when you grew up?
Sort of. As a teen in the late 1990s, I built my fair share of David Bowie fan sites using TextEdit and code copied off Netscape Navigator.
Before consulting, I studied journalism and worked as a copyeditor at the Palo Alto Daily. For a while, I was torn between journalism and tech. But everyone told me to go into tech. Even my colleagues at the paper!
While I was at the Daily, there were so many consolidations. The paper changed hands several times. I loved both fields, but tech seemed more secure.
Are there any similarities between journalism and engineering?
You have to be willing to do the grunt work to be successful. Everyone wants to be Hunter S. Thompson. But they don’t realize how much time he spent reporting, cultivating relationships and engaging his community.
In journalism and engineering, it’s a lot more about people than people realize.
All problems are people problems, right?
Everyone wants to know what my favorite ticketing system or tech stack is, and the answer is: the one that your team will actually use.
Software is a tool. And what makes it work is people.
If you have a work culture that doesn’t respect responsibility and communication, that can’t be solved by software.
Preach! How do you approach new projects to uncover what’s working and what’s not?
When working with a new client, I like to get the lay of the land by focusing on the pain points of the team and its users.
I have a lot of trust in people. If everyone is mad at the same thing, it’s a problem. It doesn’t matter how much it cost or how brilliant it seemed when it was implemented.
What’s your biggest strength as a consultant?
I’m really good at “unstucking” things.
Everyone says they want to improve their internal processes, which is great. But it doesn’t count if you just add a bunch of steps people hate.
Part of my job is to look at their process and not just say, oh you’re doing this wrong. Instead, the question is, do you even need to do this?
Love it! Is there anything else clients should know about working with you?
I have an orange tabby named Buddy who likes to participate in Zoom calls. He’s 14 years old. He was living in a planter in my friend’s yard. I scooped him up. Couldn’t resist.
Where can we find you and Buddy on the weekends?
Buddy’s content to spend his weekends on the couch. But I like to spend mine on my bike.
I’m one of the founders of the Bay Area chapter of the Switchblade Sisters Moto Syndicate, a women’s motorcycling social club. I also recently went on a bike tour of northern Pakistan. It was amazing. It reminded me of Death Valley, but the mountains are 10 times the size. The scale of the Himalayas is just mind-blowing.
In 2018, I rode through Patagonia with Rally for Rangers. Next on my list is Pakistan again and hopefully Iceland.
When I’m not on my bike, I love to knit. I can spin yarn and actually own a spinning wheel. I can knit almost anything, except scarves. As soon as I’m 6 inches in, I get bored.