Scaling Support Teams and People With John O'Donnell

Posted on Monday, Feb 5, 2024
In this episode, Kat chats with PagerDuty’s own EMEA support team lead, John O’Donnell, about the challenges of scaling a CS Team across global offices, mentoring others, and building your own career, all while remembering to stop and take a breath once in a while


Kat Gaines: Welcome to Page It to the Limit, a podcast where we explore what it takes to run software in production successfully. We cover leading practices used in the software industry to improve both system reliability and the lives of the people supporting those systems. I’m your host, Kat Gaines, and you can find me on Twitter @strawberryf1eld using the number one for the letter I. Okay. Hi folks. Thanks for joining us again on Page It to the Limit. I am your host, Kat Gaines, and today we have a guest with us. We have John O’Donnell, who is another PagerDuty employee. He works in our London office and is Team Lead of our support team there. So John is here with us. We’re going to chat a little bit today about support careers to a degree. We did an episode on that a few months ago with a group of folks. This is a continuation of that series and a little bit of a different lens, thinking about how support careers look. We’re going to talk a little bit about scaling and international offices and all kinds of fun things, but just before we get into that, John, I’m going to go ahead and just give you a moment to introduce yourself to our listeners.

John O’Donnell: Well, hello there Kat. How’s it going?

Kat Gaines: Good. Nice to see you.

John O’Donnell: Good, good. I’ve been practicing my breathy podcast voice for this, so thank you very much for having me. As you said, yeah, my name’s John. I’m the Team Lead for the EMEA Support Team. I have worked at PagerDuty for six years now. I’ve seen the region in EMEA grow hugely. Being part of the support team and having that team grow itself, I’ve seen challenges and wins and everything in-between. So yeah, it’s been a great ride so far.

Kat Gaines: It has definitely been a ride and a lot of interesting things to see. I just think when you stay at a company that long that you get to a point where there are people who look at those of us who have been around for a long time. For anyone who’s listening that doesn’t know, I’ve been at PagerDuty almost 10 years. So we’re in the club of the ancients here at PD in this conversation, and there’s just so much you see that you realize after a point where you’re picking up and having experiences that are sometimes really unique based on the size of the company that you might not get to in your next company or you may not have had previously in your career. And just things that you realize that other people can learn from too, and that’s part of why we’re talking to you today of course. So just to get us kicked off, we’re going to level set a little bit. We want to talk about why we’re talking about this, why it’s important, and just why we decided to have this conversation today?

John O’Donnell: Great. Yeah. Awesome. Well, yeah, to get us started with customer support and that kind of role. I always feel like a lot of people don’t really clock how important that role is and in the organization, how connected you are to every single team, be it marketing to product, to engineers, to sales reps, you talk to everyone all day long. Customer facing roles, that they touch every aspect of the organization. It might not work in one for six months, and I think it’ll be difficult for you to name a team that you haven’t had some level of interaction with. PagerDuty will be the third tech company I’ve worked for and I’ve always started in level one base customer support roles. You’ll never change your mind that this is the best place you can start in an organization to get a feel for what the company does, what our customers want and what they need. And that’s invaluable to be able to feed that back to the organization so you get a whole 360, which is great.

Kat Gaines: You do, and I think you’re touching on something too where I often hear people talk about doing support rotations in their companies and having new hires, for example, come work with support for some amount of time. It varies wildly, what I’ve seen to what I’ve heard, anywhere from a couple of hours to I think a few weeks is maybe the longest time period that I’ve heard, which is really intense for someone to not get as much into their actual new job and just go work in support for a while. But there’s a reason that companies do that, the folks who do choose to do it. And it’s exactly what you’re saying, that it’s a great place to get close to understanding who your customers actually are wherever you are in the business, what you’re building for, and develop a little empathy too, I think for your peers who are customer facing because if you’re in product for example, those people are eventually going to be knocking on your door, bugging you, asking you about this feature, that feature, that bug fix. And being able to approach that from a shared lens is helpful I think.

John O’Donnell: Absolutely. And I think we used to do that quite a bit, didn’t we? Especially with the engineering team. They would come in and work with the support team. And I think for them, especially for engineering, it’s invaluable because they don’t necessarily talk to customers and they don’t necessarily… I know it’s silly, but use the product. They know what it looks like under the hood, but simple little quirks and things that might not seem a big deal to them, you realize that it actually… It is a big deal to a lot of our customers and a lot of that feedback comes to the support team and it doesn’t always translate over very well to engineering or some other kind of teams like product or whatever. So to really get to know the customer, it’s best to sit in front of them and get a gauge for the day-to-day of what they use.

Kat Gaines: Yeah, you’re right. It’s different to be sitting there looking at the UI maybe very briefly, just to verify that the change you made works and functions, versus actually spending time in it as a user and trying to navigate around functioning with that particular piece every single day.

John O’Donnell: Absolutely. Yeah, no, so it’s definitely valuable and as a person that’s on the ground, you see all that. So I think that it’s the best way to get to know the organization by a mile. I can’t think of any other role that gives you that insight.

Kat Gaines: I agree. And I think maybe we’re both biased being people with support backgrounds or currently in support, but I also feel like that bias can be validated a little bit because I feel that I’ve heard from everyone who I’ve ever known who’s shadowed a support team, whether at PagerDuty or elsewhere, that they really got a lot of value from it. And I saw people just put together even amazing presentations of their learnings that they were taking back to their manager that were things that I hadn’t necessarily observed even in the moment when they were doing that. And that’s just really cool to see that kind of evolution of understanding your customer in a different way.

John O’Donnell: Absolutely. It’s bedrock foundation of any tech company. So that’s why I love it.

Kat Gaines: Yeah. Let’s get a little bit into one of the topics I mentioned that we were going to talk about at the beginning. So we mentioned that we were going to talk a little bit about just careers and scaling as well when you are with an organization at interesting levels of development and growing larger. Why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about just how you came to PagerDuty? And one thing that they won’t know is that you were one of our day zero employees in the London office overall, not just in support. And let’s just talk about that experience a little bit and what that looked like for you?

John O’Donnell: Yeah. Well, currently I hold the crown for the longest serving EMEA team member, the last original hire, which take that for what you will.

Kat Gaines: I said we’re the ancients of PagerDuty. You are the ancient.

John O’Donnell: Well, yeah. So I came to PagerDuty on recommendation from a friend. I had heard this friend talk about PagerDuty and they always sung the praises of it and said it was amazing. And once they announced that they were going to open office in London, I basically got a job application shoved at me and they demanded that I apply so we can slack all day. So that’s basically how I ended up here. And when I joined, I think there was five of us in the team and there was me and another support -there was two of us in support and there was an eight-hour time difference between me and you, my then manager and the rest of the team. So that presented an enormous learning challenge to start with. I think you have to be comfortable six months in the role to actually be able to be a bit autonomous and get around it. So that in itself was quite crazy because your resources are so limited. There was an eight hour time difference between me and my manager and the rest of the support team because they were all based in San Francisco at the time. So it was PagerDuty’s first real attempt at going abroad and opening up an office. And I think the challenge for any company when they’re trying to do that for the first time, there’s definitely mistakes that were made. And there was definitely challenges in things like culture and training and there was gaps in documentation and things like that. And I think my advice would be for scaling a team abroad at any point, I think you need to have a lot of planning. I think you need to go in blind and pretend that I’m a new hire. How do I train, how do I get educated? How do I talk to our customers and can I do all that by myself basically? So I think a lot of preparation is needed and I think maybe that we had some gaps then, but I think it was a real learning curve for all of us, but also great opportunity for me to be able to look back on and bring that forward into how I would manage those situations differently or how I would help those new team members basically be able to take care of themselves. And so I think knowing all that and having been in that position myself, if I was to do that tomorrow, I think I would start by going in blind and thinking, can a future employee train and skill and be able to self-learn with all the documentation and do we have the resources and are they going to feel alone? And if they do, how do we prevent that from happening? How do we make this person feel as supported as possible when they might not be in the correct time zone or whatever from where their main team is and their manager is and all those kinds of things? So I think that’s where I would start. Scaling a team isn’t easy. Scaling a team for the first time definitely isn’t easy. So I think you just got to make sure that you have as many fail-safe plans as possible.

Kat Gaines: Yeah, I think that’s fair. And I think that the other piece I would probably add onto that is knowing that any plans you think you’ve made, it’s probably not enough. There’s going to be somewhere where you’re going to fail and you’re not going to have thought of something, and there are two aspects of that. Continue trying to plan for failure. It’s one of my favorite things to tell people to do just in support, in incident management, in anything that I think about on a daily basis, but continue trying to plan for failure and then also don’t be too hard on yourself when something comes up that you didn’t plan for. It happens, that is life and it’s very much life in scaling to different offices and trying to understand how to figure that out, right?

John O’Donnell: Yeah. We’re not clairvoyant over here.

Kat Gaines: No.

John O’Donnell: So you know, we can’t get everything right. Just have the best, the strongest onboarding program you can possibly create. Keep asking for feedback from your team. When my team started onboarding in Lisbon, I was very lucky that we’re in the same time zone. I did learn myself that there was certain team members who learned differently and there was a couple of them who weren’t the people who can read a documentation once and get it. And then there’s other people who needed more handholding and calls and shadowing, training live and all those kind of things. So I think you got to also know your audience too and be able to adapt because one size does not fit all, and I think companies can also make mistakes when they try that approach too. So basically what I’m saying is there’s no way to actually get this right.

Kat Gaines: There’s no way to be perfect, sorry.

John O’Donnell: You got to do as much planning as possible and keep asking for feedback. That’s all I ever did every single day, kept asking for feedback. When I refer to my first few months at PagerDuty, I remember very distinctly having a call with you when you were my manager and just having an absolute mental breakdown being like, “I can’t do this. This isn’t working. I am lost.” And you were basically just like, “Relax, it’s fine. Let’s take this one step at a time.” And that’s the approach I take now because I was too hard on myself just as an employee and I can’t imagine as the manager how that must have felt for you, being given this new challenge as scaling this team [inaudible 00:13:11] for the first time. So that must have felt very stressful for you. And then to hear your employee on the cliff edge wondering what’s going on, I take that learning forward too as well and put that into practice when I work with my own team.

Kat Gaines: Yeah, I think that’s the type of thing that I joked a moment ago about how you can’t ever be perfect, and I’m a perfectionist. I freely admit it, even though it’s a horrifying thing to say because you can’t be perfect in anything you do, but I’m always in everything I do, just striving for perfection. And so you’re talking about that moment and yeah, it was hard for me as a leader to wonder, “Okay, what am I doing wrong here?” And to eventually step back and realize, “You’re not screwing it up, you are not just the worst at this that anyone has ever been.” There are a lot of learning curves here to just understand how you scale, how you work with different offices, how you, like you were saying, make sure people have the resources they need and that actually requires that input from the people on the other side. And so you can prepare and prepare, but until you actually have the input, you don’t know what you’re missing. And so that’s something to embrace instead and say, “Okay, awesome. Now we know what we’re missing and now we can work toward it,” which is fantastic.

John O’Donnell: Yeah. You plan as much as you can, build a safe space so your employees feel heard, and from then on, there’s not much you can do to fail there because you’re just open. And I think that’s the best way to scale the team is to try.

Kat Gaines: I just want to clap a little bit extra for that, building a safe space. I think that that’s important when you’re in leadership, no matter what, no matter who you are, where your team is, what’s going on. But especially when you have people in a different country, in a different time zone, with cultural differences, you have to really be open to building that space and be more open to listening and leading by listening rather than any other style you may have learned. And I think you were touching on this a moment ago too, just understanding how to adapt and figure out how people work. I actually saw somebody the other day, and it’s in one of the support community Slacks that I’m part of. It’s either Support Driven or Elevate CX. I can’t remember which one this question came up in, but I saw someone asking a question about their adding team members in London, and the first thing they asked about was what cultural differences are there that I have to be aware of in terms of how people work and what am I going to run into? And I saw that and I thought, that’s really smart that you’re thinking about that right now. You’re not waiting until it comes up with opening an international office that you know that that’s something you have to think about a little bit.

John O’Donnell: Yeah. Well, I have a question for you. What cultural differences did you see when you started with your London team?

Kat Gaines: I think it can be a little less pronounced between primarily English-speaking countries, but I think there can be, for example, a little bit of a different style of working between, for example, London and San Francisco. There are just different approaches to the workday and how things happen. And I don’t know that I can articulate it well, but there is a marked difference that I notice. I think it’s those types of things and just really understanding what timeline do people function on? What is the level of formality in this working culture versus a different one? I think the San Francisco based tech scene, we tend to be very casual and everyone thinks they just want to be the coolest kid in school, is kind of the approach. I do. I sometimes feel like it’s a race to be the funniest or coolest person around, where we are just doing business at the end of the day and we can have fun and that’s an awesome part of good company cultures, but sometimes people lose sight of what they’re actually supposed to be doing a little bit too. I think I’ve always felt a little bit more just getting down to business from the London team while still knowing how to have a lot of healthy fun. I don’t know that there are huge ones between English-speaking countries, but I think it’s a broader awareness for folks to have. Right? When we were doing this, when you joined, we were opening London and Sydney offices at roughly the same time. And I think that as a leader, that was also a learning curve for me of understanding, “Okay, there are these two new places coming into my life very quickly and suddenly and what is that going to look like from a perspective of not just how people work, but also how people get what they need?” Like you were talking about previously. And there are all kinds of solutions you can have to that. I’m not going to recommend one of the solutions I had, which was have a crazy work schedule. There were days where I was on with the London team up super early and days where I was on with Sydney and staying in the office kind of late. And I think that that is one tactic you can take for a while, but there’s also a need for balance that you need to figure out and find out how to pursue, even if you’re doing something like that all at once.

John O’Donnell: Absolutely. Yeah, because you can’t be halfway there for everybody.

Kat Gaines: Yeah.

John O’Donnell: You got to try, like you said, to balance it because if you’re halfway for everybody, you’re not a whole person to anyone, so you might as well just not be there at all.

Kat Gaines: You got to find a way to be a whole person, and I think that’s the thing I see really great leaders too a lot is stretch themselves too thin and just think that, “Okay, well, I’m giving all of myself to everyone all the time.” You’re not. You’re only giving a portion of yourself to these people because you haven’t learned that balance and as hokey as it might sound, you have to step back and take care of you for a minute as well.

John O’Donnell: Yes, absolutely. I definitely agree there.

Kat Gaines: Speaking of leadership, so we’ve been talking about how you started as an individual contributor on the team and you are now a team leader in a leadership role. Can we talk about career paths a little bit and you can talk about your own journey and just what you explored or what we’ve seen other folks do? Any direction you want to go with this is fine.

John O’Donnell: I would say one of the mistakes I made, but I probably wouldn’t change it, is there was nothing that I didn’t consider, and this goes back to what I said about being in support and being able to touch every organization after a really short amount of time. I knew somebody in every department and I talked to everybody, from marketing to events, to communications, to customer success, going up the ladder in terms of more technical roles within PagerDuty as well. So nothing I didn’t touch, nobody I didn’t speak to. So how I ended up taking on the leadership role was that I actually really like customer facing roles. I like working with people, mentoring and seeing people’s career grow and taking care of them and making sure that everyone has what they need and being a little bit higher up the ladder so you can influence how things work and help create the support team that you want to see. Because I love the support team and I want it to be as best as it can be, and you can do that as an individual contributor by just doing your best and leading by example, but when you get a little bit higher up the ladder in terms of leadership roles, you have more influence. And that’s why I wanted to climb up the ladder and keep it amazing, but make it even better where I can see improvements. After throwing a lot of stuff at the wall and none of it sticking, basically that’s how I ended up going for the leadership role that was coming up on the support team and really putting myself behind it, advocating for myself and, “This is my role, this is what I’m going to be here for because this is what I’ve worked for and I’m going to be really good at it.” So in terms of wider getting into the tech space, it was by accident. Before I moved to London, I lived in Canada. I spent about two years working there, and the first job that I got was at this teeny tiny, scrappy, bizarre little tech company. I love the energy, I love the culture, I liked that the product they had, it was improving people’s lives and I enjoyed it. I thought it was great, and I wanted to continue that when I moved on. So yeah, moved to London, joined another tech startup, same kind of thing, really enjoyed it. And then I ended up at PagerDuty.

Kat Gaines: Honestly, hats off to the teeny tiny bizarre startups. I feel like myself included, that’s how so many of us have gotten into tech of just, okay, well, I needed a job and I applied to this place and I had no idea how I got here or what I was doing. It’s not always the, I think people envision a very smooth career path of, “I was planning for this and I studied all the right things in school to ensure that I would work in tech.” And it’s like, yeah, that flow happens, but also the accidents happen potentially more and they make for interesting teams too, where the background you have on the team just becomes this really diverse array of people with experiences that all contribute in some way to what you’re doing, even if it didn’t seem related at all to begin with.

John O’Donnell: And you learn so much that way. When you work in different companies that a lot of the time stuff is on fire, you learn how to manage through that chaos, you adapt and you build so many skills from just being able to articulate yourself correctly and quickly and get the problem solved through trying to figure out is there a better way to do this or maybe enjoying the chaos? But there’s a lot of that, and that’s what I loved about it. I never saw that chaos at PagerDuty, thankfully, but I learned a lot from the companies where I did and I took that with me and I think that’s been a massive help to how I approach things.

Kat Gaines: Yeah, absolutely. You said something a minute ago that I wrote down because I wanted to touch on it around why you ended up in this role, and one of the reasons being that you like people, you like customers, that you’re good at talking to people and helping people. And there’s something that, again, it’s something that sounds cliche sometimes, but it always clicks for me a little bit when people talk about leadership. When you’re a leader, your people are your customers too. And so I think that’s another thing for people to consider when they’re thinking about skillsets and their career paths and what you’re doing. If that’s something you truly enjoy, you need to understand that that’s still an aspect of moving into leadership. I think it can sometimes be common, not terribly common, but sometimes you’ll see folks say, “Okay, well, if I move into leadership, I’ll be a little bit more removed from doing the actual work, or I won’t have to talk to customers so much.” No, no, you have to talk to customers still, it’s part of the job. And you also have your new set of customers, which are your team that are relying on you for everything day to day. And so it’s both a really cool way to continue using that skill and also a reminder that you don’t get to stop using that skill just because you’re not necessarily maybe in the queue every minute of every day.

John O’Donnell: I think that’s a myth a lot of people have about going into leadership that you’re cushioned from chaos or you’re hidden away from it. You’re absolutely not because your customers, your team come to you when there’s a problem, when there’s a big problem. And I’m always happy to take an escalation from a cranky customer because a lot of the time, all they want to do is just hear another voice. You can tell, so many times where I’ve stepped in and I’ve just basically repeated what somebody else has said in a different kind of word salad, and they’re like, “Okay, cool, thanks.”

Kat Gaines: They hear it from a voice of authority and now they’re set.

John O’Donnell: Or just literally somebody else. So I think you’re never hidden away, and if anything, you’re more exposed and responsible. You’re the last boss the customer needs to fight. You get the tougher ones. You need a lot of skill to do that sometimes. You need to be able to hear the customer and let them talk, and then also check in on your team as well, make sure that they’re doing okay and that they’re not overworked or stressed or burnt out or God forbid, thinking of leaving. So yeah, no, there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of skills you need to use every day, a lot of soft skills. So I think that’s stopped. That doesn’t stop with leadership at all.

Kat Gaines: Literally never. It’s never something you can stop practicing, I think. And I’ve gotten to this point where I just bristle at people always calling it soft skills. I know it’s just our terminology for it, and so we all use it, it’s fine, but what that implies about the skills being soft or maybe easy to pick up, they’re not, they’re hard skills, if anything.

John O’Donnell: Yeah, we’ve all had a manager that clearly doesn’t want to be a manager or doesn’t like working with people. And so, well, why did you want to do this? You have to let customers moan and you have to let your team moan because people are always going to have something-

Kat Gaines: You’ve got to.

John O’Donnell: And make sure they have their own lives too, and you have to be a sounding board. So yeah, soft skills, but yeah, they’re not easily obtained and some people just don’t have them.

Kat Gaines: You have to have the space for that. And I think something else you mentioned earlier too, we were talking a little bit about self-care as a manager, and that’s something that can play into having those skills and to having empathy for other people is making sure that you are taking time to step away and take care of yourself and get what you need before you’re trying to provide other people with what they need. So I guess I have a question around that, which is how do you find that as a leader? Is there a support network you found? Mentors, coaches? Are there things you do to just make sure that you’re showing up completely as much as you can for your team while still taking care of yourself? What does that look like for you?

John O’Donnell: Well, I’ll step back a second and just… I’ve obviously had moments where I’ve not been at my best and I’ve maybe snapped or been short with somebody because I either have 10,000 things in my mind that this other thing is not going to come up the top of the list so I’m dismissive or brush it off or whatever. And I’m not on my best then, and I really hate when I do that, but I find solace in colleagues that are not in support. So I can soundboard off them because if it’s somebody within the support team, well, first of all, you shouldn’t really be having a b**** or moan with people in the support team about the support team. I don’t think that’s very healthy. So I think that certain colleagues I have within PagerDuty, and I just run them through a scenario and I’m like, “This is what’s happening. This is really grinding my gears,” for lack of a better term. “How do I get around this?” And I’ve always had such amazing colleagues that will always give me a fresh perspective and be like, “Well, have you thought about this? Or maybe think about that or look at it this way,” or maybe say this to them. Even if you don’t find a solution, you let off a bit of steam, you get that bit of self-care where you’re reminded that it’s not the end of the world and you can get around this problem and a lot of the time someone else will have a good idea for you. And then understand the organization too. It’s not much use me telling my friends at home about some big problem having at work because they won’t get the full context or maybe know that person or know that customer or whatever, but people in the organization will and they’ll be able to talk you through it. So that’s who I go to. That’s who I’ve always gone to, and it’s always worked out really well for me. I’ve always been very lucky.

Kat Gaines: I agree. I think just having someone, whoever it is. And if it’s someone in your organization that you can trust, that’s great. If there’s someone who doesn’t have that, I think the closest next step you can get are peers who have similar roles to you at other companies. Right?

John O’Donnell: Yeah.

Kat Gaines: I mentioned a couple of support communities that I’m part of earlier, and we’ll put these in the resources sections for folks because whenever I do talk about them, I like to tell people to go join them and hang out with them because it’s a bunch of really cool people. But the first one is the Elevate CX Slack community and conferences, which I really love being part of. It’s just a group of people who completely get customer experience and also get each other and get the human aspect of it, which is just an amazing resource to have to bounce things off of people. And then the other one is Support Driven, which is similar, and those are places where I see people just go ask folks for opinions on things or say, “I’m running up against this particular issue.” They can lead out specifics if there are things they can’t talk about outside of the org, of course, but there are always, always people jumping in and sharing their similar experiences and helping folks navigate. And whatever that looks like for you, it’s good to have someone you can bounce those things off of and just know that you’re not alone because leadership especially can be really lonely sometimes, and you might feel like you’re trying to do something for the first time and forget that yeah, “Other people have done this too, and there are other people that I can talk to about how to do this right.”

John O’Donnell: Yeah. Like you said, leadership, definitely. I think a lot of the time you’re expected to shut up and put up and get on with it, and sometimes it’s fine, but other times you need to go to your Slack community or talk to your work wife or husband and pull them out aside for a coffee and talk them through something, and they’re the resources that will always keep you going, keep you motivated and get you through difficult patches.

Kat Gaines: Yeah, you got to have those people. And again, it goes back to the self-care thing. You have to have your people and you have to take time to lean on your people and take your time out to recover from whatever else is going on too. “Put on your own oxygen mask first,” as they say.

John O’Donnell: Oh yeah, be kind to yourself. Good Lord.

Kat Gaines: For heaven’s sake. Okay, so we’re getting near the end of our time, but there are two things we always ask every guest on the show, and the very first one is tell me something you wish you would’ve just known sooner throughout the last few years and through the things you’ve done in your career the last few years? Is there anything that if you’d known sooner, you would’ve been like, “Okay, cool. That’s how I’ll handle that?”

John O’Donnell: I think I’ve already said this probably a few times at this stage, but take a breath, all the way down. You’re making things hard on yourself for no good reason. Ask questions first and yell later, and don’t do the reverse because I was doing the reverse where I was just… My head was on fire but: take a breath. The world’s not going to burn. No one’s going to die. You’re not going to be canned tomorrow because you can’t figure out how to answer the support ticket. It’s going to be okay, so just relax.

Kat Gaines: Yep, calm down. Do whatever you have to do. I fully agree with that. It sounds so cliche, but I was talking to someone about this the other day that I am getting myself back to a practice I got out of which was just taking a few minutes to meditate every single day. And it sounds cliche, I guess sometimes it’s the thing for me that works, but it’s when you can see the difference in when you’re focusing on your own calm and what your own just energy looks like throughout the day. When you’re letting yourself take that time, take that breath, like you’re saying, it changes your life. It changes how you go about each day. And so what you’re saying I think is just really worth it to take that time and to be able to not just take that moment and make it easier, but you’ll set the tone for your day a little bit differently if you’re pausing to take that breath that you’re saying.

John O’Donnell: Yeah, absolutely.

Kat Gaines: Our other question that we ask everybody is, “Is there anything on the topic that you’re glad we didn’t ask you about?”

John O’Donnell: Probably have I been able to put the answer to the first question into practice? I’m glad.

Kat Gaines: I won’t ask you about that. It’s fine. We don’t have to talk about it.

John O’Donnell: Yeah, I love the topic we talked about. There’s anything I would kind of shy away from the topic, the topic of support, because it’s all-encompassing and it’s gritty sometimes, but all in all, great, loved it, loving it still.

Kat Gaines: Continuing to love it. Good. Same, I hope that this is something that folks will get something out of. It will be useful, and I’ll just shout out to anyone listening that I am always open to connect with folks to talk about any of these types of topics. I love chatting about them. If there’s someone who wants to come on the podcast and talk about these things more, I never get tired of talking about it as well. So please, please contact us. But otherwise, John, thanks so much for joining us. It’s just been lovely chatting.

John O’Donnell: Thank you so much for having me. It was great.

Kat Gaines: All right, and thanks to our listeners for joining us. Again, I’m Kat Gaines and we are hoping that you have an uneventful day. That does it for another installment of Page It to the Limit. We’d like to thank our sponsor, PagerDuty for making the podcast possible. Remember to subscribe in your favorite podcatcher if you like what you’ve heard. You can find our show notes at and you can reach us on Twitter at @pageit2thelimit using the number two. Thank you so much for joining us, and remember, uneventful days are beautiful days.

Show Notes

Additional Resources


John O'Donnell

John O'Donnell (he/him)

John O’Donnell is the Team Lead for PagerDuty’s EMEA support team. John has worked at Pagerduty for 6 years but has been in the tech industry for nearly 10. John’s passion lies in providing Pagerduty’s customers with top tier support, and supporting his team in feeling heard and achieving their goals. Outside of work, John can be found in one of Londons galleries, museums, restaurants or parks.


Kat Gaines

Kat Gaines (she/her/hers)

Kat is a developer advocate at PagerDuty. She enjoys talking and thinking about incident response, customer support, and automating the creation of a delightful end-user and employee experience. She previously ran Global Customer Support at PagerDuty, and as a result it’s hard to get her to stop talking about the potential career paths for tech support professionals. In her spare time, Kat is a mediocre plant parent and a slightly less mediocre pet parent to two rabbits, Lupin and Ginny.