My Name Is Ashley Thompson — This Is Why I Joined Aha!
I have always aspired to make connections and take care of others. Initially, I thought I would do this with animals. I studied biology in college with the intention of becoming a veterinarian. However, something unexpected happened while waiting tables to support my degree — I became attuned to people. My work as a server taught me lessons that I still think about today.
I learned how to quickly form real connections and understand what people need before they even realize themselves.
So instead of pursuing a veterinary career, I joined a startup that created digital signage. My main job was to help build out our human resources department — taking care of new and current teammates, while also planning and hosting company events. During my five years there, I helped grow the team from 12 to more than 120 people. And I like to think I played a large role in supporting that growth and bringing people closer together through the events I organized.
Working at an emerging technology company was invigorating. So when a former manager told me about an opportunity at another startup — this one focused on cloud-based identity management — I was excited at the thought of applying what I had learned in a new space.
I was initially hired as the executive assistant to the CEO, working closely with people operations. But there was one major event that drew my attention — a five-day conference the company held each year for influencers and experts from the identity industry. I knew I wanted to help run it one day.
That day came two years later, when I took on a new role as corporate events manager and was asked to take over the conference. The work was both thrilling and demanding. I can honestly say that I was doing the work of five full-time employees — handling logistics, managing the budget, negotiating contracts, and meeting as many people as possible.
I was always searching for ways to connect with the conference attendees, whether it was remembering someone’s birthday or planning unique activities outside of the work sessions. One year, I gathered all attendees to participate in a second line parade though the streets of New Orleans — a true “bucket list” experience for many.
I tried to make everyone feel like a VIP, and I could see that people walked away from each event feeling happy.
After four years, the conference had grown from 800 to 1,500 attendees. I was starting to think about my next challenge. This is when I stumbled upon an Aha! blog post about how the team connected despite the fact that they were fully distributed. I was intrigued, so I started reading more Aha! blogs. Before I knew it, I was reading everything I could find about the company. I fell in love with the ideas I read about team spirit and building a culture of gratitude.
So, when I saw an opening for an operations and events manager, I knew I had to apply. I spoke with several teammates throughout the interview process, and I found that each person seemed to work hard, care deeply, and have heart. When I learned how this role would help plan company-wide events and work with teammates from around the world, I knew that I wanted to join.
At Aha! I get to do work that brings me joy and makes me feel like I am giving back to a tight-knit community.
A big part of this is helping to plan our bi-annual company meetings (our “onsites”). Our entire team gets together in person, with folks flying in from all parts of the world to one destination travel location. I do everything from sourcing the locations to planning meals and helping with last-minute travel issues.
For me, planning events like this in the past usually meant working in and updating spreadsheets with 30 different tabs. I was always updating and sharing the latest versions, but the plans were complex and only I understood the method to my madness. But since we use Aha! (the application) to grow Aha! (the company), I am able to use our roadmapping software to stay organized and keep all our plans in one place. Everyone has access to the plans and knows what is next.
When I am not planning onsites, I am working in operations — welcoming new hires, creating team-building exercises, and leading people through annual check-ins. I love that it is my job to help people be happy and succeed.
I am proud to be making a difference for this incredible group of people. These are, hands down, the best folks I have ever worked with. And I work hard every day to leave my teammates with a feeling that they are better connected.
That is why I joined Aha! — and why you should too.