Talent finder and brand building extraordinaire Christina
Christina De Giovanni, Katana’s talent acquisition and employer branding lead, sits down for a chat about life working remotely and reveals some scandalous secrets to boot.
Last updated: 02.05.2022
There was once a time when someone would hold a meeting, announce some exciting news, and maybe even ask the group — and the response would always be silent.
This is the Estonian way.
That all changed once Christina joined the company. Christina has energy and a larger-than-life attitude that’s apparently infectious, changing the culture at Katana while working remotely from the US, Florida. Since she’s joined Katana, positive reinforcement of employees has become the norm, and we now even give rounds of applause to good news — be it mostly in the form of emojis: 👏
Christina agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to tell us about her experiences working at Katana.
Based in the US, how exactly did you come across Katana?
I had seen a job posting on LinkedIn by Chris Jacobs (Head of Customer Experience).
I was reading the description, something along the lines of “we’re looking for a kick-ass customer success…” something. I thought to myself — this is brilliant! This is not the typical job ad you’d see from the likes of a US-based company.
People don’t realize how impactful first impressions are with job postings — it’s the first opportunity to showcase company culture. It looked and felt like Katana was looking for genuine, customer-first people.
So, I annoyed and poked at Chris for probably a month, and now I’m here — I guess my persistence paid off.
How have you found remote working?
At first, I was super excited about the idea of remote working because I’m an introverted extrovert, so having my own space and being able to be in my environment was something I wanted.
Then, as time went on and I started getting to know everyone, the remote option became more difficult as I missed everyone. It has been fascinating watching the growth of Katana and the expansion of our global team, and the changes these additions have made. When I started back in February of 2020, our meetings were around 2:30-3:30 am my time, and now we’re able to have them where so many more colleagues can join in on the fun.
How was it meeting everyone at Katana in person?
That was the best day — I probably cried so much — I’m glad everyone got to know me beforehand because they probably would have thought I was a total [ __ ] otherwise.
I was originally supposed to fly over in March 2020 from Ireland after my honeymoon, and then the pandemic happened. That means a solid year and a half, I got to know everyone online, which made it a lot more impactful when I finally met them during summer 2021. My favorite moment of the Katana summer days was waking up at 4 am in the sauna house listening to Kristjan (co-founder and CEO) screaming Adele at the top of his lungs.
What was great for me was that everyone works really hard, but letting your hair down and getting to know people on that personal level and having that human connection is really powerful.
You recently transitioned from a customer experience (CX) role to the culture department. How has the transition been? It’s been an exciting challenge.
I was in CX for two years. While it was great, and I enjoyed my time there, when the people and culture team had an opening, I always knew that this was where I wanted to be. I went for it, which is not something I typically do because I’m kind of a chicken [ __ ] with putting myself out there.
But I knew if I didn’t go for it, I would’ve regretted it and kicked myself in the shin.
Since I started, the biggest thing for me is the company culture and the people — it’s what keeps me here, so I want to nurture and continue this culture as we grow.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
As of right now, my main focus is really settling into my role and building out my workflows.
From a talent acquisition perspective, I’m helping our Sales Team, Customer Experience Team, Marketing/Growth Team, Onboarding, and Partnerships Team attract and hire our future Katanauts. From the employer branding side, the main goal here is to get Katana out there so people can really understand the essence of Katana and what we’re all about. Employer branding is critical within every organization because this is the message you’re sending to potential candidates and what sets you apart from other companies.
The best part of the job is getting to have one-on-ones with colleagues, figuring out what I can do to help them grow their teams and take stuff off their plate — it’s exciting for me to have these types of challenges.
What’s the best aspect of working at Katana?
The best aspect of working at Katana has been the ability to change my outlook, perceptions on life personally and professionally, and the unwavering support of embracing who I am and showing up as my authentic self every day.
I have always been an empath, quite quirky, and maybe my Harry Potter glasses give that away. In previous companies, my empathy and passion have been considered a weakness from a leadership perspective, and I always thought there was something wrong with me, and I wasn’t strong enough.
Being a Katanaut means not being pigeonholed into a position or tied down to your title.
You can collaborate here, explore your ideas and passions, and make moves in the company without feeling like you’ve hit your ceiling. When you don’t have a space big enough to hold the talent, people can become unhappy, and it can ultimately drive them away.
What’s your proudest achievement at Katana?
I feel like this answer is hard for me because it makes me sound pretentious no matter what I say.
I have gotten feedback from the team that I’m open, that I’m there, and I’m uplifting. But I think my greatest achievement is understanding that it’s okay to be myself, that it’s okay to open up and let others in.
But I hate talking about myself.
I have this meme card on my wall, and it says, “When you’re an introvert, and you hear ‘let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves.’” This is me. It’s probably one of the worst questions anyone could ask me.
What does Kudos mean?
When I came here, I noticed a lot of people were doing really cool things and supporting others, even helping people from different departments, but you never really heard about it.
During the pandemic, with everyone going remote, I thought that maybe people didn’t know what type of impact they had on others and Katana. I wanted a way for people to show their appreciation for others online. Especially since giving compliments face-to-face can be awkward because it takes a certain amount of vulnerability.
So, I thought, how about a Slack channel instead?
This way, we can have a public forum where people could be recognized and make others feel more comfortable opening up and praising each other.
I feel like getting recognition can make a person’s week or their entire month. The places I’ve worked at in the past have been very competitive, and it’s counter-intuitive. I believe being more positive and open creates a better working environment — then, when you receive feedback in the future, it’s not as harsh because you’ve built this relationship with others.
What would you tell someone joining Katana to expect?
Expect to be challenged and be ready for an epic adventure.
Expect to come in and be valued for who you are, including your quirks and differences. I don’t think it’s particularly an easy job because we all have really high standards and ambitions. But, it’s an incredibly rewarding place to work where you can expect to learn and grow in ways that you wouldn’t have without joining us.
What would it be if you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life?
I am gonna so be judged no matter what the answer I give, holy [ __ ].
‘Take on Me’ by A-ha. For some reason, I just feel like it’s just a bop. If you’re in a room with people, the majority of them will know the song, they will sing all the high notes, and they will put their arms around each other and slosh beer on the ground. Music is very important to me, and I have a soundtrack for everything, so maybe I wouldn’t want to listen to this for the rest of my life?
But, it’s the first thing that pops into my head and puts me in a good mood.
Marvel or DC?
When it comes to Marvel, other than Betty White, I was completely gutted the day Stan Lee passed. I think that was one of the worst days of my life. As a child, I loved the comics, and growing up with his movies, waiting for the easter egg of him popping up in the film was my favorite.
Guardians of the Galaxy has been my absolute favorite, and I know people think it’s weird, and it’s been largely commercialized, but I love that they’re just a bunch of misfits that go out and still [ __ ] [ __ ] up.
Both movies have soundtracks to my life — I don’t care for modern music, so I know it will be a good day when I listen to those soundtracks.
If you could take three things to a desert island, what would they be, and why?
I have a sticker on my computer that says, “Hang on, let me overthink this.”
Stuff like this gives me anxiety — it makes me think, what if this actually happened. I don’t have a plan for this — I guess this is my chance to make one. I’d be lying if — oh my God, I can’t admit these things.
I have a childhood blankie, and it has a sewn-on picture of Ireland and an Irish blessing poem written on it — this blanket has been through my whole life, and I feel like if I had to go into a box with just one thing, I would take this blanket.
I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this to anyone in my life — I’m 33 years old, and I have a blankie.
One night we heard the blanket rip, and I started to panic.
But my husband, who will now murder me for letting this out, once ripped it in half, and he sat on the floor and learned from YouTube videos how to sew it back together. The blanket came from Ireland, my grandfather purchased this for my mom probably 25-30 years ago, and it sat in the closet until one day I used it, and it just became my blankie. I’ve fought to have it taken into operating rooms with me, and I think the operations turned out okay because a 33-year-old has a blanket.
I don’t know — it’s been there through all my babies, the rough times, college, and everything else — it’s kind of one of those things I just can’t let go.
What about the other two things?
I would say something where I could be connected to people.
Some way to produce food, like seeds or something, so I wouldn’t die of starvation. If I had to kill something, I would die even if I had to smush a fly. I’d probably have a funeral for it and cry — I’m that much of an empath.
So, a device for connectivity, a food source, but my blankie is number one.
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