The Events Calendar’s Product Owner on her first job, creative problem-solving, and the joy of other people’s cats on video calls.
Leah Koerper’s first job was helping an older woman with household tasks. “I’d do everything from sorting her mail to fixing her printer to making cookies,” she says. “It was an awesome first job, and Jane and I stayed friends until she passed away at 100.”
Koerper grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, an hour-and-a-half south of Portland, where she now lives. She attended Whitman College in Washington, majoring in Classics and studying ancient language and history.
A chance meeting at WordCamp Portland led Koerper to The Events Calendar. “I had helped organize the event and was tired, so at the after-party, I looked for the most comfortable chair in the bar and sat down in a group of folks I didn’t know,” she says. “One of them talked about how he could find people to hire with the right technical skills but was having trouble finding happy people he wanted to work with. I said, “I’m a happy person. Hire me!” The next week I started a trial doing support for The Events Calendar.”
Koerper has now been in tech for 9 ½ years, all of which have been at The Events Calendar, where she works as a Product Owner. “I tell people that I make decisions about what features we’re going to build and how they should function for the customer,” she says, “and then work with designers and developers to make that happen. So it’s a lot of communication and translation from customers and customer needs through the various team roles to a final product.”
Creative problem-solving is a highlight of the role for Koerper. “I appreciate how dynamic my role is and how it’s not really about being deeply skilled in one thing but about having a variety of skills and being able to bring them together in a way that makes sense,” she says. “Being a product owner, in particular, is a unique intersection of creative problem solving and logical thinking.” The added challenge of needing to communicate what she’s thinking with colleagues who do have different skillsets and ways of thinking is another source of enjoyment for Koerper. “I also really, really love working from home,” she says.
Launching our Event Aggregator product was a proud accomplishment for Koerper. “I think it was the first thing I’d really strategized from start to finish. Zach and Matt were the developers on that project, and the three of us spent a lot of evenings working late and having a lot of silly fun,” she says. The product was a big success and still is one of The Events Calendars’ highest sellers.
In addition to her role as Product Owner, Koerper also manages the swag shop for The Events Calendar, handling logistics and coming up with unique gifts for work anniversaries and milestones.
Loyalty to her team keeps Koerper motivated. “Everything I am in my career today came from learning and experience I gained on the job,” she says. “The team has been kind and supportive through difficult times in my life, and there’s always been a place for me here through nearly 10 years of career growth and life changes. It’s nice to be a part of something like that, and I feel very indebted and appreciative.”
Another big motivator for Koerper? Seeing other people’s cats on video calls. (“Shout out to Zach Tirrell’s geriatric grandpa cat, Oscar, who is about 1,000 years old.”) Outside of work, Koerper enjoys crossword puzzles, horseback riding, traveling, and spending time with her cats, Frances and Bookcase.
For young people interested in exploring a tech career, Koerper thinks it’s important to know that tech is not all numbers and code. “Think about what kind of skills you have, think about the kind of lifestyle you want, think about the environment you want to work in. Then consider if tech is the right field for you.” Koerper says the answer could very well be yes because tech companies need an array of skill sets, not just coders and developers. “I lean on my more technical coworkers,” she says. “And they lean on me. We all bring different and important skills to the team. It’s really about figuring out what you enjoy doing. That may or may not happen to lead you to a career in tech.”