Tiffany Oda

Chief Operations Officer at Talkbase

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My Story

Tiffany Oda


Experience: 10+ years

Colour: Cerulean

Book: Harry Potter, all of them

Pets: Yes. Spunky potato 10-year old shiba inu named Yoshi

Stay in touch with people. Remember that the community member always comes first. Be human. Be empathetic and kind.

How did you start into community management? What was your career path across the years?

I started my career as a project and programs manager, then later worked at a few startups doing customer success, support, and developing customer journeys. Though I didn’t know it at the time, it was the beginning of my professional community work. I was responsible for putting together customer events, figuring out support to scale, and helping our customers be the most successful using our products by providing an online forum where they can share tips and stories with one another, and where our team could also jump in and help where needed. It was during this time that I also became an active member of the Salesforce Trailblazer Community.

I had implemented Salesforce a few times by then and relied heavily on the community for help learning all of the things, from implementation to customizations to training/enablement. I adored the community and the product, so when I saw an opening for a Program Manager on the Salesforce Trailblazer Community team, I knew that was where I wanted to be.

As time continued on, I found myself focused less on things like community engagement, moderation, and being interactive on a daily basis with our community members, and more on time doing things behind the scenes. I was creating project plans for upcoming commununity events and programs. I was setting up our tech stack and tools for both the team and our community members to use. I was setting up reports and dashboards and circulating them to relevant stakeholders. I was finding inefficiencies and figuring out ways to move faster and more automated. I was getting feedback from community members on how they navigate the tools and resources we provide them. These were the things that were the start of my love for community operations, that perfect balance between front and back of the house activities for community. Internally I was hearing more of, “Tiff will handle the operations,” and I leaned into that.

After almost four years at Salesforce, I was recruited to join Venafi, a company that has been around for a long time but had not yet built a community. The opportunity to build a community from scratch for an established company was intriguing to me. Getting to experience the community space outside of the Salesforce bubble was exhilerating – I had no idea how many community tools and platforms there were, and I also absolutely loved meeting other community builders in the industry. It was around this time I also met Cassie Mayes, who was doing community ops for the Atlassian community team, and it was an “Aha” moment when we realized we were not the only ones of our kind, so we started Community OPServations, a community for community operations people. We hold monthly meetings and share best practices and knowledge with one another, and we now have over 300 members. I’ve made it a point to try and give community operations a name – I write content, created a course dedicated to commops hosted by CSchool, assist with creating job descriptions for teams looking to hire a community operations person, and speak at conferences and on podcasts to educate and spread awareness to others in the industry.

Around this time, I also started doing some strategic consulting work with Talkbase, a startup that was focused on building a community operations tool. It started as providing some feedback on their product and their roadmap, but then evolved to a deeper level of engagement, when I worked on re-launching their community and launching some community programs. I truly enjoyed working with the team and had a strong belief in the product, so when I was affected by layoffs and my position at Venafi was eliminated, I was asked to join full-time as COO at Talkbase.

Getting to be COO allows me to continue to guide the direction and establish operational excellence throughout the company, but I also have the pleasure and privilege of leading the Talkbase Friends Community team. It allows me to expand my scope and still be highly involved in both the community and the community ops space.

What have been the main challenges of your career?

Not surprisingly, most of the challenges I faced in my career were early on. I started my career in a role that was too advanced for me and my lack of performance and ability to handle the job showed. I then thought that I was interested in marketing and public relations and found myself not only hating the work but not being good at it either. “Fun” fact, I was let go from a role at a PR firm the day after my long-term boyfriend broke up with me, so that was not a good time. I also lost myself for a bit and went to go work in a wine tasting room. When I found myself and began working in tech again, I faced harassment and discrimination from multiple bosses at multiple jobs. I once asked for a raise and was told, “I think you’re good where you’re at for a woman in tech.” It was a lot of perseverance and advocating for myself, knowing what I’m good at and where my strengths are and finding the roles and environments that best supported that, that got me out of those funks

What has helped you develop yourself as a community professional?

Always being open to learning and feedback. Learning from others who have been in the space longer than you have. Practicing copywriting. Having great mentors and coaches. Attending events. Networking. Being in it all day, everyday.

What's your favourite community platform?

Full transparency. I don’t think there is one perfect community platform. You need to build a tech stack with the tools and platforms that work right for you and your community. This is just one of the reasons having a community operations person is so pivotal for community teams.

What is “community” for you?

I use the term, “It takes a village” a lot, and that’s really what community means to me. Community can be the people who live in your building, the people who are in your neighborhood or city, it can be your group of people with a shared or similar interests. It’s your friends. It’s the people who you can turn to to learn from, get support from, and who you can count on being there. It doesn’t matter if it’s a professional or a personal community, the same values hold true. Ideally, a trusted place you can go or people who you can turn to who support one another.

What's one single strategy that you may suggest to increase value for the people in your community?

Member engagement is not really a core goal for community operations, and is honestly not my forte. But I’m firm believer in having those 1:1 authentic relationships with your community members and never losing that personal touch. Take the time to introduce yourself, say hi, find out their favorite food or their pet’s name, and don’t forget to drop a line and say hi once in a while. Get them to be a multiplier, if they go and do the same thing to others in the community, that engagement grows and grows. Make sure they feel heard, seen, and valued.

What would you recommend to those just starting into community management?

Work on your personal brand and get your name out there! It’s a small industry, so network, attend events, say hi to people, have coffee chats, raise your hand to speak. Even if you’re new to community management, you have unique experiences, professional or otherwise, that someone can learn from. Stay in touch with people. Remember that the community member always comes first. Be human. Be empathetic and kind.