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Program Manager | Mike


I was not someone who knew what I wanted to do with my life when it came time to choose a college major. The first program I ever applied to (and the one I still wish I’d completed) was the Film program at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.


But then I saw the musical Wicked and decided to alter my trajectory from film to theatre. I then proceeded to get one-half of a theatre degree before ultimately obtaining a bachelor’s degree in French (😅 it's...complicated).
I hadn’t had a plan when I changed my major to French. I didn’t know what I would do with it.


After a few years of working in unrelated fields (marketing and social media roles for an online Halloween costume retailer), I decided to move to Québec to attend graduate school. My plan was to live there permanently and teach English as a Second Language.



As you might be able to guess at this point, it did not go quite according to plan.


I did obtain a master’s degree in Second Language Education, but I moved back to my home state of Wisconsin where I still reside today. Upon my return to the States, I worked a variety of jobs from e-commerce customer support to retail to spa management. Eventually, I quit my low-paying, high-stress job as General Manager of a salon and spa and began my freelancing journey. I met with a friend who works in the translation industry, and he helped me get a foot in the door with one of the largest translation companies in the world. I wasn’t formally trained in the art of translation, so there was a learning curve, but I quickly found my footing. The only problem I was facing was that I only had one client and wasn’t consistently getting enough work. I had even taken a retail job to help make ends meet (haven’t we all?). I turned to Google to help me find other avenues for getting translation work and that’s how I met Upwork. A Google match made in heaven (but not how I expected). 

In 2018, while searching Upwork for translation jobs, I came across a job posting for a customer support role for Upwork. I was so fascinated by the platform and the future of work, that I submitted a proposal. Though I was on Upwork to find translation work, the focus of my proposal was on my robust customer support background. In addition to experience working in a call center and as a spa manager, I had tons of experience in the foodservice industry. From McDonald’s (my first job at age 14) to Chuck E. Cheese (I was hired to be Chuck himself - I consider it my first paid acting gig) to Starbucks (remember that “retail” job I took to make ends meet?), I’ve served a lot of customers. After my first ever video interview, I was awarded the project and began working with Upwork in May of 2018 as a Customer Ambassador offering phone support. I learned more than I ever imagined there was to learn about Upwork. There are so many moving parts!

I loved seeing the meaningful approach Upwork takes to improving its product offerings. It might not always seem this way, but so much care and thought go into the changes made to Upwork’s platform and policies. Every angle is considered and anyone can share their thoughts and experience with the product teams. I was so grateful to learn of the collaborative environment and to see firsthand how much the product managers care about Upwork users. In 2019, I was still really enjoying working with Upwork, but I wanted to get away from phone support so I could cash in some of those “freelancer benefits” (like working from a cafe). Working from anywhere other than my home office just wasn’t possible when my job was taking phone calls all day.


I began to watch out for open roles within Upwork that piqued my interest. In April of that year, I came across an opening for “Agency Program Coordinator.” I was thrilled to find this role because, after 11 months of supporting agencies and their members, I had a lot to say about the agency program! As part of my proposal, I outlined the challenges I saw within the existing offering and proposed solutions for change. I was fortunate enough to win the role after three interviews. I joined the Talent Success team as Agency Program Coordinator in May of 2019. 




Not only did I love this new role as the subject matter expert for agencies (there’s now a whole team entirely devoted to the future of agencies on Upwork!), but I had a lot more freedom. 


Whether I wanted to just get out of the house and work from a cafe or travel to visit a friend who lives hours away, I could! This was a huge change. I had been interested in remote work for years because of these “nomadic benefits” and now I was finally experiencing them for myself!

For me, the ability to work in varying locations (my desk doesn’t always inspire creativity) or step outside with my dog when I need to clear my head is huge. I also appreciate the easy access to my kitchen (no more packing lunches!) and the ability to have a quiet workspace (even when I worked in an office building, I never had a private office).

Later in 2019, I was promoted to Jr. Program Manager and turned my focus to helping with numerous initiatives designed to support talent from one-on-one coaching to events and webinars. Though I had already been active in the Community forums, particularly providing guidance in the New to Upwork board, I officially joined the Community team in 2021. Initially, I was responsible for researching and authoring our product release updates


Since late last year, I’ve been working on developing the infrastructure for the Community Contributor Program. I’m so thrilled that this program is finally live and that I can share it with the community at large. Time and again we see long-form forum posts from users who are eager to share their expertise and now we have a new place for that to happen!

That’s some insight into my freelancer journey. My career has certainly followed a strange path and I’m so grateful that Upwork has provided me with opportunities that I had never even thought to dream about! 

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