Name: Marla Brizel Zeschin
Designation: Agent 0036
Double Agent Role: Staff Consultant and Support Agent
Special Skills: Bridging the gap between technical and non-technical areas of business. Understanding culture.
Location: Denver, CO
Favorite Emoji: 💕
My most recent project with my current client. This client is in the ed tech space, and Alex Martin and I have architected and implemented a third-party integration that’s about to go live. This integration will allow them to work closely with existing applicant tracking systems to help students apply to jobs more seamlessly. It’s one of those things that will make life easier for all of their users: companies trying to hire these students, students that are applying to jobs, and schools that are brokering these interactions. It’s been a technically challenging project with ample opportunity for fun and learning. Our client has been wonderful and they’ve really given us a lot of space to design this system as we see fit. We’re still ironing out the kinks of course, but I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to build. It’s really rewarding to see how our work will directly impact people.
My job is interesting because I wear two main hats: I’m a Staff Consultant but I’m also a Support Agent. So a big part of my role (and therefore my success) is tied into making sure the people I support are also successful in their own roles. I am really excited that Meri [Brace, VP of People Success] has joined us because I think it puts a renewed focus on people success as we continue to grow as a company. I think we’ve really started to think critically not only about aligning all of our people with opportunities that they can succeed at—we’ve always had an eye towards that—but also being intentional about using those opportunities to help people grow and further their own goals at the same time. I’m really excited to see that come to fruition because I think as we grow as an organization, those kinds of opportunities for people have expanded too. So it’s really cool to strategize about how we can align these needs for everyone’s benefit.
I often joke that in consulting you get to switch jobs without switching companies. I get to do and see a lot of different things, and meet a lot of different people with a multitude of working styles. At the same time, it’s nice to have a constant team within Test Double to collaborate with on the back-end of things that aren’t necessarily involved day-to-day at clients. You get an objective, detached perspective which is healthy—especially when things get challenging. So I really enjoy getting to switch up my day-to-day while still working with a consistent group that offers support along the way.
Test Double cares about its people in a way that a lot of other companies really only speak to. That’s not to say at other companies people don’t care about each other, but there’s something special here where people actively support other people. I think it’s been especially apparent this past year, where the world has just been trauma on top of trauma. People here recognize that you need to be a human being outside of work, and this is not something that quietly gets held against you the way it can at other places.
On the technical side of things, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Rails is here to stay and how it’s way more scalable than people like to give it credit for. There has been what feels like a recent rebirth of interest in Rails. I’ve been part of the Rails community off and on for six years now, and there was a period where folks were like, “Rails doesn’t scale,” or “Rails isn’t the new shiny thing”.
Now I think we’re coming back around and are seeing people continue to build these amazing Rails applications—including some of our clients who are among some of the largest Rails companies in the world—and seeing how they are using these tools to build these really resilient, large-scale web applications. It’s interesting to follow because I think it also highlights the value of dedication to a craft. And all of the folks who are proving that Rails is still a heavy-hitter are successful in part because of years of dedicating themselves to fine-tuning their craft. In an industry that seems to value quick progression and technology hopping, it has been really fun to then follow all the folks who dedicate themselves to going deep building great applications with a solid toolset.
I was promoted to Staff Consultant last year. When I made the leap to writing software full time, I was met with a lot of skepticism. So I struggled early in my tech career with confidence, which in turn became one of my big barriers to growth. To me, this promotion represents overcoming some of those hangups. I’ve worked hard and it feels validating to get to this place. It’s exciting to think about what doors this opens up for me for moving forward.
I’m excited about some return to normalcy—at least I hope! I don’t really have any big plans on the horizon, for obvious reasons, but I’m optimistic about perhaps getting to make some smaller but nonetheless joyful plans soon. Aside from that, I’ll be thrilled if we finally get a third season of Succession this year.
So I’ll go serious/less serious here. A few years ago, I read Evicted by Matthew Desmond and have been thinking about it ever since. The book is a well-written, in-depth account of housing insecurity in Milwaukee and follows several local landlords and renters over the course of several years. It was really eye-opening. I guess that speaks to my privilege because it was eye-opening to me, but it covers things other folks have experienced for a long time. The book really drives home the point that one tiny bit of bad luck in someone’s life can compound forever. It’s one of the few books where I’ve bought multiple copies, because I loan it to people and never get it back and I buy it again. So that book has been on my mind a lot lately.
Less seriously, one of my favorite TV shows during the pandemic has been Selena + Chef on HBO Max with Selena Gomez. She cooks virtually with various chefs, so it’s a very soothing pandemic adaptation because it doesn’t try to gloss over where we are in the present moment. She’s a novice cook, but she knows it and takes it in stride. It’s very endearing, and she ends up making some wonderful food.
Seeing my family. I don’t think I’ve seen my sister in almost two years. My sister is fully vaccinated, and I will be soon, too. Someone at my current client actually helped me find an appointment!
I taught myself how to crochet this year. It was a lockdown impulse decision. I saw an ad for a kit and thought to myself, “I’m gonna learn how to crochet” without really knowing anything about it. What can I say, Instagram advertising works on me. I have gotten super into it. I’ve made baby gifts for people, some blankets, and a couple of sweaters. And it’s just been nice and relaxing. It’s soothing, it calms my mind down and makes me feel less guilty about watching TV at night. It’s been fun to make things that I enjoy having in my home.
This interview is based on a recorded conversation with Marla Brizel Zeschin and Cathy Colliver. It may or may not self-destruct.