Meet Karinna Briseno, a Technical Advocate at Buffer who redefines success by balancing personal growth, mental health, and career accomplishments.
With a four-day workweek, she proves you can have exciting roles, a digital nomad lifestyle, and even time for off-the-grid hobbies. Dive into Karinna's unique journey at Buffer.
Thanks for joining me for Buffer Diaries, Karinna. If you could please introduce yourself with your name, what you do at Buffer, and where you’re currently located.
Aloha! My name is Karinna Briseno and I work within the Customer Experience Team on the Customer Advocacy team. I work closely with product, engineering, and advocacy teams to help improve the overall experience for customers using our platform. I currently reside in California, and I‘m from Hawaii.
When and how did you get started working at Buffer?
I've been at Buffer for seven years, and it all started back in 2016 when I was in college working part-time as a social media manager. I used Buffer to manage my clients' social media, and one day, I stumbled upon the hiring page while browsing the blog.
Intrigued by their work culture, I applied for a Customer Advocate role just after graduating. The interview process was friendly, and I had conversations with several lovely Buffer teammates. Fast-forward seven years later, I'm still happily working here!
What did you study in college, and what has kept you at Buffer for seven years?
I studied business and marketing in college. I've stayed with Buffer for several reasons over the years, one of which is the opportunity to grow and evolve with the company.
I started exploring coding and engineering about three years ago, and Buffer has been incredibly supportive. They even paid for my engineering boot camps. Being able to apply those skills directly in my role and positively impact our customers has been really rewarding. The support I've received, especially as a woman entering the engineering field, has made my experience at Buffer truly exceptional.
How has your role at Buffer evolved over time? Have you moved between departments like some of your colleagues?
My role has evolved over the years. Initially, I was hired as a Happiness Hero, but the title changed to Customer Advocate about three or four years ago. I've also been part of various sub-teams within the Advocacy department, including live chat and social.
More recently, I shifted to the Escalations team, which became a formal sub-team about two years ago, and my role title changed to Technical Advocate. We work on tickets in the inbox, prioritizing software bugs, coordinating with product and engineering, and mentoring other customer advocates.
About six months ago, my team evolved into the Customer Experience team, where our sole focus is working closely with the Product, Engineering, Design, and Advocacy teams to improve the overall experience for Buffer’s customers. It's always engaging, and I get to work alongside some brilliant colleagues and advocate for our incredible customers, which is why I love it.
What specifically made Buffer an attractive place to work when you were applying, considering you used the app to manage your social media?
What truly stood out to me were Buffer's values. Over the years, they've evolved as the company and its people have grown. The main attraction was not just the cool app but also the opportunity to work with a team making a real impact and doing something special.
Our value of “Living Smarter, Not Harder” really resonated with me since it inspired me to “choose to be at the single place on Earth where you are the happiest, and most productive, and you’re not afraid to find out where that is.” Working at Buffer has made me better by embracing and actively working towards those values.
Aside from your work at Buffer, do you have any side projects, or how do you spend your days off?
I intentionally avoid online side projects to maintain a healthy work-life balance and honor the 40-hour workweek. I enjoy spending time outdoors, going to the beach, and hanging out with my family/friends and dog on my days off.
Having grown up around the ocean, I enjoy spending my weekends in the water, paddleboarding, surfing, snorkeling, or scuba diving. I love engaging in off-the-grid activities that keep me away from my phone and allow me to enjoy my hobbies. I’ve also started training to become a Pilates instructor as a hobby.
How has working at Buffer, with its four-day workweek, remote work, and flexible hours, contributed to your lifestyle as a digital nomad or traveler?
Working at Buffer has truly been life-changing. The four-day workweek allows me to rest, recharge, and spend more time with my family and loved ones. It provides a bigger space outside of work to have a fulfilling life.
Remote work has given me the flexibility to shape my life around my core values and what's important to me at the time. Based on my priorities, I've had the opportunity to plan moves to places like Portugal, Hawaii, and California. Before COVID-19, I planned to move to Portugal in the spring of 2020. But, as the pandemic evolved, I felt it was important to move closer to my family, so I packed up my dog and moved back to Hawaii.
Remote work allows us to pick our locations based on our values (family, friends, or partners) and desires, a privilege I don't take for granted. There are different seasons to remote work, but it essentially offers the freedom to travel as a digital nomad or move closer to family, friends, or a partner. In a word, it's life-changing, as it allows us to choose our location based on what truly matters to us. With remote working, we can pick our locations based on "this AND that" rather than "this OR that."
It's fascinating how you choose locations based on values. Can you list the countries you've worked from or visited while at Buffer?
Sure, some places I've worked from include Madrid, Spain; Singapore; Portugal; Italy, where I spent a month working in Rome; Hawaii, where I lived the last few years; California; and New York.
Last year, I was also working from Greece for an advocacy team meetup, which coincided with my 30th birthday. Those are the main ones that come to mind, but there may be more.
How do you structure your workday and week at Buffer, including your hours and timezone?
My work schedule has evolved over the years. Last year, I had a unique four-day workweek, taking Mondays off and working from Tuesday to Friday. This year, I changed my work schedule, and I work Monday- Thursday, using Friday as an extra “overflow” day. I typically start at 9 am Pacific time and end around 6 pm. As part of a small Escalations team within Advocacy, we have to be mindful of our coverage and project time.
I usually allocate about four hours a week for engineering tasks and projects, mostly towards the start of the week. Tuesdays are meeting-heavy, while I focus on engineering or inbox time on Wednesdays. Thursdays, I mainly work on inbox tasks and coverage. It's busy but a lot of fun.
As a technical advocate, how has your role changed over time compared to when you were a customer advocate, and are there any special considerations for your current position?
As a technical advocate, our focus is two-fold: helping customers ensure they have a great experience and also providing mentorship and support for Customer Advocates on the team.
We work one-on-one with customers on trickier technical issues, troubleshooting, documenting steps, creating bug reports, and helping prioritize high-impact bugs for upcoming Engineering cycles. We also work one-on-one with Advocates, clarifying any confusion and ensuring they have the necessary resources to feel confident handling specific issues.
As Tech Advocates, we handle more quality assurance projects, testing new features prior to launches to ensure a smooth experience for customers. There's a greater sense of responsibility, scope, and ownership in my current role compared to when I was a customer advocate.
Have you encountered any unique challenges in your role, particularly as a technical advocate working within a smaller team and a four-day workweek?
The biggest challenge I face is maximizing my time. Having great ideas is one thing, but managing the time and resources to bring them to fruition, especially within a four-day workweek and a smaller team, can sometimes be challenging. We need to be mindful of when we step away and focus on specific tasks.
I'm essentially pursuing a full-time career within a limited number of hours each week, which requires dedication and the ability to make a significant impact within that time. It's a unique challenge I am grateful for, as it allows me to grow and continue challenging myself.
Having someone like Mick, an engineer who was initially a customer advocate and went through a similar process, serves as a role model and shows that it is possible to achieve growth in this way, even though it might not be the easiest path.
Looking back on seven years, what was something that caught you off guard when you first started at Buffer?
The transparency at Buffer definitely caught me off guard in the beginning. I had to get used to working for a company where anyone could easily find information about it, like salaries, for instance. It took some time to adjust to being more open about my salary with my friends and family.
After the first year, I became more comfortable with this level of transparency, and now, if someone asks me about my salary, it's not a question that catches me off guard.
What is your strongest earliest memory of Buffer?
My strongest early memory of Buffer was my first retreat in Madrid. It's fresh in my mind because I recently found a video from that time. There were around 80 people, and we were working at the Google campus in Madrid. I remember the team dinner, the camaraderie, and the feeling of being in the same room with people who were previously just in a little box on my screen.
One of my favorite memories was going to a karaoke bar after the team dinner. We crowded the small bar, and the whole team sang karaoke together. These are some of my fondest memories at Buffer – not only working with amazing teammates but also sharing experiences and feeling like we've known each other for a long time.
At the Madrid retreat, I was initially worried about having to be extroverted all the time, as I am both introverted and extroverted (an ambivert). However, I learned it's okay to step away and recharge my batteries, and the team understood and welcomed that need.
Some people believe that you have to sacrifice one aspect of your life, such as your personal life, to achieve success in another, such as your career. Given that you have a four-day workweek at Buffer and time for activities outside of work, would you say that you've achieved professional success without making significant sacrifices, even though some believe success requires a more demanding schedule?
I believe the way people define success can change over time. My definition of success has evolved over the years. When I was younger, I thought success was determined by money, hustling, my career title, and professional accomplishments. As I've grown older, I've come to understand that true success in life encompasses personal growth, relationships, and prioritizing my mental health as well.
I feel that I have achieved a level of success in my current situation, but I know there's still more room for growth. My perception of success has changed, especially after taking a seven-week sabbatical earlier this year. I was burnt out and realized I needed to invest more energy into other areas of my life.
The four-day workweek has helped me find a better balance between my personal and professional lives, and I believe it's possible to achieve professional success without sacrificing one's personal life.