Meet The Three Malbateers

by Alice Alfano |
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It may sound like an anomaly, especially in the midst of The Great Resignation, but research shows that there is a link between having a best friend at work and increased performance and engagement. So, does that mean having two best friends is better?

Uh, absolutely! And it shows as our customer support and success teams are world-class!

Meet the three Malbateers - Brian McNees, Becky Evans, and Heather West -  who are Malbek superstars doubling as a group of three lifelong friends who believe there is something special about working for Malbek. So, we met up for a Zoom date to answer some of our colleagues’ burning questions about our history and experiences at Malbek. And as Brian said, "feel free to assume every sentence uttered below ends in laughter"! 

 

Brian: I’m going to hit record now. This is going to get real weird.

 

How did you meet?

Becky: Officially, Brian and I met when we were in a carpool together in preschool. And then, according to my mom, on our first day of kindergarten, we walked out of school together, excitedly planning out a picnic.

Heather: And many picnics were had, I assume.

Brian:  So awesome. I feel like we did stay true to having the picnics. We stayed best friends throughout elementary school and forgot about preschool until much later in life. We were going around saying we’d been friends since first grade until Becky’s mom reminded us: “oh no, you’re short-changing yourselves!”

Becky: The keeper of knowledge.

Brian: And then I believe you two met in…?

Heather:  Sixth grade. We would have been eleven, I think, at the time. Becky and I were in class together, but I met Brian something like a day later because we all shared the same lunch recess.

Brian: I remember you introducing us at recess and thinking, “She seems cool.” Little did I know!

Heather: And then we proceeded to have many a screaming contest. I'm pretty sure that's why my voice is as low as it is.

Becky: A lot of hula hooping contests, too, right?

Brian: Oh yeah.

Heather: We were all very bad at it. <All laughs>

 

What is your favorite childhood memory with each other?

Heather: I would say it’s a tie between two recurring events: New Year’s Eve and 4th of July.

Brian: You stole my answer!

Heather: New Year’s Eve was always in Brian’s basement. We had bottles upon bottles of our choice of red or white sparkling grape juice, so of course, we chugged entire bottles of these things at midnight. As much as the thought of that makes me want to be physically ill now, it was great at the time.

Brian: That sugar high was the equivalent of being drunk. We were ridiculous after that.

Becky: I’m pretty sure I ate entire platters of cheese that your family bought specifically for me.

Brian: I do recall there always having to be the Becky cheese tray.

Heather: Along with the strawberry wafers for me.

Brian: Then we always did 4th of July at Becky’s house with a wonderful gathering of people. The volleyball net was often up, and we would play… some semblance of volleyball.

Becky: More like chase the ball.

Brian: It was just such a such a cool experience. We shared each other’s houses and shared each other’s families. We talk a lot about family at Malbek, and you two are family, no ifs, ands or buts about it. Honestly, family isn’t a strong enough word. I often say you’re both one of my limbs at this point.

Heather: On the subject of sharing each other’s homes, I would like to add that Brian broke into my house on my 17th birthday to place, in my bed, a 4-foot-tall ceramic penguin that he had painted with a few other friends. I found it when I came home from work, and Brian’s name was literally on it. It was after 9pm, so calling Brian at that hour was technically not allowed according to his dad’s rules, but I thought the situation called for it. He did not agree. I got yelled at.

Brian: I brought that up to my dad recently. Oh, he remembers it. Still thinks you should not have called after hours. I love these memories. I saw a picture of our high school recently and it reminded me of just hanging out in the grassy area after school, not wanting to leave because we wanted to spend time together, being silly and having fun.

Screenshot_20220603-161357_Facebook

Heather: So good!

Becky: So many fun little memories.

 

Do you ever get tired of each other?

Heather: Cool, that’s an easy one. No.

Brian: Are we supposed to? Is that what people do?

Heather: Why would anyone ask that question? Are they trying to start a fight?

Brian: Okay, okay, this is a legitimate question. We've spent 2.5 to 3 decades of our lives together. There have been moments where we've not been as close, or where we haven't talked for whatever reason.

Becky: But those times when we would go for months without talking, usually it was not because we were sick of each other, it was just that other things got in the way.

Heather: Yeah, I think Becky and I actually literally went over a year without talking.

Becky: Oops…

Heather: It was close to 2 years.

Becky: We are both really bad at reaching out.

Heather: Really bad. I don’t feel any less close to Becky because of it. And we kept up with each other through Brian.

Brian: It’s just natural life. We do communicate much better now than we did when we were in high school. If you remember... Obviously we stayed friends through junior high and high school. Even if there were moments of teenage drama, we always stayed core to our friendship. Then, senior year of high school, me being the very honest, direct human being that I am, I informed both of you that we should just stop talking now.

Heather: You did a great job of trying to ditch us. Really stellar.

Brian: Look, everyone says childhood friends grow up, lose touch, and grow apart. I didn’t want to go through that. So, just like a dating relationship, I said, let’s just call it there and not drag it out. That’s what I was thinking… obviously, it didn’t work.

Becky: That’s funny because what I remember, on the other hand, is writing a letter to my future self as part of a time capsule. I’m pretty sure I told 15-years-in-the-future me that if I’m not still friends with you, I better get over myself and fix it.

Brian: Wait, really?

Heather: Wait, who all made that cut?

Becky: Ha!

 

How do you keep in touch? What is the glue that holds you together?

Brian: I feel like we’ve all made a conscious choice to stay in touch. Living in different states, it helps that we all enjoy video games so that we have something to do while we’re talking: we’re accomplishing goals together, working together, or... sometimes working against each other.

Becky: *cough cough* Brian.

Brian: I want to point out that you did not name a game, you named a person, which is a true statement. I think part of the reason why we work together well remotely at a company is that our friendship has been remote for so long. We found creative ways to watch movies with each or play video games with each other across state lines.

Heather: Over 15 years we've been remote, if you count while we were in college, too. We keep in touch by having fun together. I also think the glue that holds us together is our ability to make light of tough situations, and also to embrace our individuality. We have many things that we created in common by growing up together, but we are also individuals.

Brian: I had an eye-opening conversation recently about how hard it is to have childhood friends. You may have a certain concept of a person in your mind and not be able to let that go. The three of us are not the same people we were in grade school or high school.

Heather: When I first started at Malbek, I told Becky, “I promise I’m not the slacker I was in high school.” Luckily, Becky does know my strengths. We’ve talked about how we ended up going down a similar career path. She knew my skill set and was able to say that this would be a perfect position for me, even though she knew I loved the job I was at.

Becky: That part was selfishness, thinking it would be amazing for you to work here.

Brian: That’s the thing. We’re very different people. We’ve grown. We have seen and, more importantly, encouraged each other to grow. That doesn’t necessarily mean growing in the same way. We have different beliefs. But we support each other’s individuality, like Heather said.

Becky: I absolutely love those moments of discovery, getting to see people I love in new ways. Maybe it’s a new skill that I never would have imagined for you, or maybe we did learn similar things, just separately, on our own paths, like with Heather and me.

Brian: At my core, I know the two of you are amazing human beings.

 

How is working with friends different than working with regular coworkers?

Brian: When things come up, good or bad, there’s often a lot of context. Because we’ve been there for each other for a lot of different things, you know what’s happened in my life and that certain things will affect me in different ways. I think that helps our communication. Other people may not realize something going on is more sensitive, or even more exciting.

Becky: And we can also hear things in each other’s voices that others might not notice.

Heather: This is a completely different work environment to any other job I’ve had simply because the two of you are here. Being the newest, I had both of you here by the time I started. If I had a question, I knew there were at least two people who would not care or think that I was dumb if I reached out to them. Meeting the Malbek team, I know no one here would think that, but it’s scary, starting a new job. Just having you there as resources was so helpful.

Becky: And for the two of us who are thinking more about the new employee experience, we can recognize the things we need and provide for each other as new employees. That gives us empathy to start to think about how to create that for other new employees who don't have their best friends of 15-20 years, or however long it has been.

Heather: It is nice to know that we have each other. I have a variety of other people that I feel like I can vent to at this point. But there are times when I think it doesn’t feel appropriate to vent about something to a colleague, so I’m going to vent to a friend.

Brian: Yeah, and sometimes things come up that are maybe affecting both your work and personal lives and it’s nice to not have to worry about crossing those lines with certain coworkers. We already have a personal relationship, so we know it is safe to talk about between us.

Heather: I thought I was going to have to do a lot more code-switching. I thought I was going to have to have “Professional Heather” and “Friend Heather” and code-switch based on who I was talking to, but I’m not finding that much at all. Honestly, with our wonderful atmosphere, I feel like I can be genuine here.

Becky: Malbek’s culture lends itself to this blending of being ourselves, being friends, having fun.

Heather: It's easier to do that because there are people that I care about, and I've known forever here.

Brian: Since I was the first of us to end up here, I want to ask both of you: coming into Malbek, was it also helpful to have someone you've known your whole life vouching for other people and other aspects of the company?

Becky: One thousand percent, yes. The most important thing for me was that I would have a good supervisor. Brian could say in a heartbeat, with no hesitation, that Jamie is going to be an amazing supervisor, and he was right. That made it a lot easier.

Heather: He said the same to me as well.

Brian: I said it to Jaime this week! I reminded her just in case I hadn't told her enough. That makes me happy to hear. Like Heather said, we can reach out to each other with questions, but there are certain areas of Malbek where I may not be an expert, or Becky may not be an expert. We can't just keep to ourselves, plus we've got a great team! Malbek does an amazing job of hiring intelligent, cool people.

Becky: I am introverted, so it's not the easiest thing to reach out to other people. But because Brian will randomly go on about how great some other employee is, and how this person or that person is his “favorite,” it helps me realize I should probably learn more about them.

Brian: I say it about everyone here. Malbek employees are my favorite people!

 

Is it hard TO KEEP from laughing during work meetings? How do you balance the work relationship with the friend relationship?

Heather: We laugh at the appropriate times. It’s fun to be a little chaotic while waiting for meetings to start, when everyone is sort of trickling in.

Brian: And in our social hours.

Heather: I don't think it's difficult to focus when we're actually talking about work.

Brian: We all do take our jobs seriously and work hard. Rather than being a distraction, sometimes I think hearing either of you talk actually raises my focus because of the pride we feel for each other. I think to myself, “I have to be in this conversation and make sure I’m contributing. Be on my A-game and not let you down.” It happens every time I hear Heather or Becky say something awesome.

Heather: Sorry you're confusing me for Becky. She says awesome things.

Brian: Both of you say awesome things! There is a really beautiful heartwarming feeling when I hear either one of you showing your expertise to the team.

Heather: It's impressive for me to listen to both of you. Sort of feel Mama Bear proud.

Brian: Let’s talk Mama Bear proud for a second here. When the two of you presented at our Customer Experience Summit, I took a picture and sent it to my parents who also take pride in the work you do!

Becky: It was a lot of fun for us to be in person together at the Customer Experience Summit for the first time since becoming coworkers. Outside of official work time, we were seamlessly switching back and forth between being ridiculous, goofing off, and then suddenly talking work topics, brainstorming things we can improve, or things we need to focus on.

Brian: To both of your credits, we are also open and honest about when it is time to change topics because we’ve been talking too much about work and need to separate.

Heather: It's so nice that we are close enough to recognize those cues, so we can say, “let's talk about something else,” even if the other person hasn't said they're feeling like it is too much work talk.

Brian: Separation from work and social life is important, especially working remotely, and I think we do a good job of it.

Heather: This is really great. I already appreciate you both a lot, but it's nice to talk about how much I appreciate you. Without Becky getting really uncomfortable.

Becky: I am looking away.

 

What do you love most about working at Malbek?

Heather: I really love the culture, but I've mentioned that 1 billion times. I find that the challenges I face every day are unique to this position, in a good way. I like the fact that if I don't know how to solve a problem, I know where to go to find the answer, and I can find innovative ways to make new answers. It's nice to have that challenge.

Becky: I like seeing the collaboration and brilliance of the team in coming up with those innovative solutions. It’s nice, and it makes my job easier. Other than not having enough time to document everything the team comes up with that I think would make amazing articles.

Brian: I would second both of those. I also have to say I love our customers as well; they are phenomenal to work with. We have such a good group. I'm generally working with the admins, and they are just so knowledgeable. They are also coming up with some of these creative solutions you were talking about! We are giving them as much information as we can. They are using our Help Center and taking the trainings. They then take all that information, internalize it in really fun and cool ways. It is really cool to be a part of that. To help enable them to do such cool things is very rewarding.

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