Meet Jelani Vassall
This week we are highlighting Trovata team member Jelani Vassall. A second-generation Jamaican born in Nashville, Tennessee, Jelani considers himself a citizen of the world. He attended high school in South Florida and studied Computer Engineering at the University of Central Florida. His expertise is regularly split between customer success and engineering. To his team members, Jelani is a voice of reason, always reassuring, and is a positive force on every project.
What is your role at Trovata?
My job title is Program Manager for User Experience. My daily duties are broken up into a few different sectors: onboarding, customer support, and project management.
What do you like most about your role?
My background is actually in Computer Engineering, and in my studies, I have learned to code both software and hardware. Because of this, I have a knack for system-level thinking. I like that my role gives me insight into the many pieces that keep Trovata running which proves to be very useful in problem-solving as well as preventative design when assisting with new feature development. Working in a startup environment also allows me to get my hands dirtier than may be possible at larger organizations (aka, every once in a while, I get to touch a piece of code).
I also very much like bridging the gap between the engineering team and customers. One of my big roles is to play translator, to help talk about some of the technical aspects of the product with some of our customers and partners in a way that everyone understands.
What are you most looking forward to in your second year at Trovata?
That’s a good question. There are a lot of new features our team is working on. I sit on onboarding as well as training calls for new customers. I get to take the feedback they have and help translate it to the technical team so they can incorporate new features.
One of my main roles is to help make sure that the product is always developing in a way that’s most useful to the customers. There are quite a few new features that have been developed from feedback that I have fed to the team. These features will really change the way the product looks, feels, and is used. I’m really excited to see how the product evolves as we’re going forward.
How was your transition to remote work?
Trovata is one of those companies that has been spread out almost since its inception. I was actually originally hired in the San Francisco office, which had a pseudo-remote shared workspace.
The transition to complete remote work wasn’t that different for me, just because of the work culture that we already had. I’d say the hardest thing is just, you know, not being able to turn around and talk to a person that you need to get a hold of.
We’ve all adapted very easily, and a couple of interesting work habits have even spawned from it. We have these working sessions, where we sign onto Zoom and try to recreate the environment by hanging out and having sidebar conversations while working. That’s worked out pretty well for considering the times, but yeah, overall, it’s been great.
Can you tell me about some of the Bay Area Trovata Team traditions?
The SF office, in particular, definitely has a strong food culture, and I’m actually the resident foodie in the group. I’m always suggesting new lunch spots and restaurants for people to try out.
There is one spot in particular that the team frequented from before I joined called El Garaje, which is a cash-only burrito joint in downtown San Francisco that we used to go to from time to time. Even during COVID, we found a few places where we can meet up, socially distance, eat outside, and still get together when allowed.
What is something you want to share about your Trovata experience?
One of my favorite things about Trovata is the work culture. As you go throughout your career, one of the things you realize is that working on a cool product is one thing, but working on a cool product with a great team is another.
One of the things that really attracts me to Trovata is the team that works here. They’re just awesome all around, very diverse, and no one looks down on you. Everyone’s very helpful and wants to see this product do as well as it possibly can, and that’s just an awesome environment to be in.
There are other places you can be where it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to get things done right away. While we definitely have a sense of urgency here, whenever there’s pressure, it’s for a reason. That’s something that’s very much appreciated because it helps you with a work-life balance, especially in times like these, where you need to make sure you have as much space as possible between your work life and your home life.
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
For hobbies and interests, for me, traveling is definitely at the top of the list.
Right now, I think my favorite place is Germany. I’ve been there three times and have traveled about seventy-five percent of the country. Every time I go there, it’s a good time; usually a guy’s trip with me and a bunch of friends from college. We go, and we’ll rent race cars, drive around the Nurburgring, and catch up with the many friends we’ve made throughout the years. London is probably a very close second.
I am into motorcycles, cars, and car racing. I ride in an Energica Eva Ribelle, which is an electric motorcycle from an up-and-coming brand. It’s the 66th one made in the country. Before that, I’ve owned three or four other motorcycles. My car is a Cadillac CTS-V, which is basically a four-door Corvette. I have had that for about seven or eight years now. When I was living in Florida, I was very much into Drag Strip racing and Auto-Cross. I wanted to be sure I didn’t have fast vehicles just for the looks.
In non-COVID times, I play basketball as much as my body allows me to. I’ve done that, probably since I was nine or ten years old. I think you can say I’m an avid basketball fan and player. I’m also a gamer. While I always enjoy a good story-driven FPS, I also really like Real-Time strategy games (think StarCraft, Command, and Conquer) as well as medium-complexity RPGs.
When we aren’t locked down due to the whole global-pandemic thing, I also run a happy hour group called “Vibes Called Qwest.” It’s a group that I took over once I moved to the Bay Area to help provide a consistent meeting ground for Black and Brown professionals in the area. The way it used to work was that twice a month, we meet up at a different bar or restaurant in the city. There was no theme or fireside chat; it was only to get people together to meet each other. Particularly in the Bay Area, there’s a large influx of people who aren’t from here, so people have a hard time meeting and creating community. I miss it dearly because, you know, it’s a great chance to get out of the office and meet new people, make new connections, and right now, the way that my meetups are organized doesn’t translate well to the virtual world. This is one of those things we are going to have to wait until we can chat again in person. As soon as we can, I’ll start it back up again.