Sarah O'Meara

How I Work: An Interview with Dori Gray from Medidata Solutions

Blog Post created by Sarah O'Meara Employee on Apr 10, 2017

April is here with sunshine (in California, at least), flowers, pollen and the next How I Work blog! This month, bringing in the internet equivalent of sunshine is the woman with all the answers — Community Manager Dori Gray from Medidata Solutions. She is active in the JiveWorks community and is always willing to help. I'm not going to lie... after reading her community manager profile in the comment section of Community Manager Appreciation Day I wanted to know more about Dori Gray and how she works because I saw similarities between us (except running. The only way you will find me running is away from a spider or being dragged by my dog) and she has an incredible story. If you are interested in healthcare, Dori will be presenting at JiveWorld17  during the pre-conference Healthcare Summit on Monday, May 1st!




Where do you work?

I am a Community Manager at Medidata Solutions, we make cloud-based SaaS software to help plan, administer, and report on clinical trials. Our slogan is "powering smarter treatments and healthier people," and I love knowing that my work may be giving employees the platform they need to work better and smarter, and as a result we could potentially save more lives.


Funny story actually: I became a Community Manager by accident.


Before my current role at Medidata, I did employee communications at Verizon. I was tasked with using our new Jive instance to help communicate a potential strike. We created a space (that catered to 40,000 people) to help prepare management employees (people like us who go into an office and work at our desks) to learn how to do technician (think: climbing poles and crawling underground) and call center work in the event of this strike. This was an incredible change from the way this information was communicated in the past. It was a scary time for management employees, who had to go through extensive training in Virginia, book travel for the first possible strike day and prepare to leave their families and their lives for an extended and open-ended period of time. They couldn't plan vacations and often had to find people to help care for their pets or family members. Plus they had to learn a whole new set of skills and deal with customers!


I was on our space answering every single question that came in (and there were LOTS), sharing updated information in real time, listening to concerns and doing everything I could to help resolve them. I tracked down the right person to help in every situation, and I followed up with each employee, often referring them to similar questions that were asked before. I worked with Verizon Community Managers Edward Ford and meghalicek to create a subspace designed to match employees who wanted to swap strike assignment travel locations. (In the past, you went where you were told, even if it was far and someone else would rather be in that location. In the past, you emailed a shared inbox and knew you probably would never get a response.) And throughout it all, I kept the message strong: that even though this was a stressful time, we were ultimately doing this for our customers.



This experience consumed me and it changed me. I loved working, I loved what I did. I didn't mind coming in crazy early and having to stay later than I liked. I just wanted to help employees, to give them their answers — and fast. Tens of thousands of employees knew my name, they referred their friends to me as the one who could help them, as the one with all the answers.


I didn't realize this at the time, but I was a community manager.


When the strike didn't happen on the day we prepared for (it occurred about 8 months later), I had to get back into my "real job" of writing stories for our (non-Jive) intranet and employee emails. But how could I go back? How could I stop being the one with all the answers and go back to writing stories about the inner workings of fiber optics?


At the same time, a friend sent me a job description at her company, to be a Community Manager using Jive (up until then, by the way, I didn't even know that "CrowdAround," the name of our Verizon Jive instance, wasn't the name of EVERYONE'S Jive instance). I applied, and before I knew it I had a new job. A job as a Community Manager, not for one space but for the entire Jive instance that was also the intranet!


I've managed our Medidata Express community for over a year and a half now. And while I am constantly learning and adapting and growing, one thing remains the same: I am known here as the one with all the answers.


And that's no accident.


How would you describe your current job?

Fun, challenging and rewarding. Stressful at times, like when I have to present (something I had never done in my life before working here) but the exhilarated way I feel after makes it all worth it.



I get excited about projects in a way I never have before. My big one right now is my attempt to start an internal podcast. I have SO MUCH to learn about how to actually record and edit, but I am also way more excited than I ever was about any projects at previous jobs.


Check out my sweet setup:



How do you use Jive at work and what use cases does it serve for your company?

Medidata Express is our intranet and employee collaboration portal. It serves way more use cases for us than I can name, but I'll call out some of my favorites: A place to ask questions and find answers; a place to learn everything you need to know in real time about what's happening at Medidata whether it be about corporate news or system changes; a place to learn about and connect with colleagues; a place to share what you're passionate about; a place to get your work done smarter and faster; a place to search and find information; and most importantly, a place to collaborate and share knowledge.


What about your community/communities are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the way my community connects people.


I first really noticed this during my first week at Medidata. I wrote a blog post called "My Work Uniform," about why I wear black to work every day. Our Chief Technology Officer read it and sent me an email with the subject "In support of the uniform!" Her note was really nice, about how my post resonated with her and she does something similar and can't wait to meet me. To connect with my boss's boss's boss this way is just so unusual, and never would have happened without our incredible community.


I also love seeing how our community connects others. I've seen so many Medidatians (that's what we call ourselves) find common ground with someone else who works on the other side of the world, or has a completely different type of job, or both — and suddenly they are bonding over a shared interest discovered through our community, and as a result they're more comfortable when they have to work together on a project or walk past each other in the office.


I can't even take credit for this because when I started working at Medidata, our community was already six months old. My boss dmudgett and my teammates Nik Edmiidz and cmandel (pictured with me below at JiveWorld 16) not only built and launched our community, but they turned it into the type of place where people are comfortable making connections, the type of place that enabled the CTO to find my blog and reach out to me on my very first week. They set the groundwork to help me continue to grow and improve the way our employees connect with each other.



What's your computer situation... Do you use a Mac or PC (or something else)?

Before I even started my job at Medidata they asked me if I want to use a Mac or PC, and I knew this job would be a great fit. Mac. The answer is Mac. Most companies don't give you that choice!


Tell us what you use for your mobile device?

iPhone. I find it so much more intuitive than an Android, which I've also used in the past.


Pick one word that best describes how you work.



One example is that I often get distracted from my work with work I like better. For example, right now I'm working on slides for my JiveWorld presentation. Slides are not something I enjoy doing or am particularly good at. The way I handle that is by getting really excited whenever my Medidata Express inbox has a new item, deciding that whatever it is must be urgent, and dealing with that right away. So that work gets done quickly! But it's usually not more important that the work I'm supposed to be doing.


Another example is this: I'll decide to do a task and open my browser to begin . . . and then a second later I forgot why I opened my browser at all or what I was going to do.


Or I'll think about all the things I have to do, and start to do a little bit of work on 10 things at once when it will probably be a lot faster to focus on one task and finish it before moving on.


I'm generally just all over the place. I get done what needs to be done, so it's working for me, but I do wish I could be more organized. All attempts thus far have failed.


Besides Jive, what apps/software/tools can't you live without?

At work, I love SnagIt for capturing screenshots and adding arrows, circles, text, blurring out names, etc. I am sad they no longer support scrolling capture. I also wouldn't be able to do my job without Photoshop, but my brain doesn't really work that way and I am constantly impressed with my ability to do very basic things there.


My favorite non-work app is Bitmoji. My husband and I communicate solely via Bitmoji.


I also love my Apple Watch, especially now that Strava works on it so I don't have to run with two watches anymore. I looked pretty ridiculous there for awhile.


Speaking of Strava (it's a running/cycling/fitness tracking app), I need that because I have no idea how else I'd track how many miles are on my running shoes! How do other people do it? I also love Goodreads for keeping track of my books and getting recommendations based on what my friends like.


And both of those overlap with our community at work! Thanks to our MediRun and Medidata Book Exchange groups on Medidata Express, I connected with Medidatians who share these interests. As we discussed Strava and Goodreads more and more on Express, we realized we needed a way to connect on those platforms as well - and so we formed the Team Medidata running club on Strava and the Medidata Book Exchange on Goodreads.


As a result, the president of our company joined Strava, and now he and I give each other "Kudos" on our runs! When we run into each other in the office, he talks to me about running. Just like with our CTO, this is an amazing connection I never would have made without Jive!



Do you have a favorite non-computer gadget?

My Kindle. I am always either in the middle of a book or just starting a new one.


I only recently discovered that because I work in NYC, I can join the New York Public Library, which has a phenomenal selection of eBooks. I thought you had to live in NYC to join (I reside across the river in Jersey City), so I've spent the last 18 months wasting money on books I could have read for free!


It helps when you have a cute reading buddy:




What you surround yourself with is important, what's your work space like?

I surround myself with rainbow cookies and pictures of my dog. We also have a fair amount of Medidata Express swag, great for getting engagement in our community, not so much for the state of my work space. Cluttered mess is probably the most accurate way to describe it.



And yes, that is three boxes of rainbow cookies. If Rite Aid suddenly stops carrying them the way CVS did, I'll be prepared.


What do you listen to while you work?

I'm a runner (bear with me, I get to the point) and when I started running, I was obsessed with my music. I created specific playlists for each race, timed perfectly to end when the race finished. I published my playlists on the blog I used to write and shared them with others, and I could not run without my songs. Then one day in June 2012, I started a 10K race with my music on, and about a mile in I found the music in my ears so irritating that I pulled out my headphones . . . and never listened to music while running again.


Same goes for work.


I'm able to listen to music when I am working from home since the music is playing out loud, but I am just too irritated having it directly into my ears. I also like hearing what is going on around me at work.


What's your best time-saving trick?

Doing as much as I possibly can from Jive Daily when I'm commuting, sitting around doing nothing, playing on my phone when I first wake up, etc.


How do you balance work and life?

I'm not the type of person who physically CAN work late. I am completely useless in the evening, I just shut down, so you'll rarely find me at work after 6 pm (at the latest). So in that aspect, it's easy for me to leave at the end of the day.


We also have unlimited PTO at Medidata which really helps work-life balance (for me, I know not everyone feels the same way - I was quoted in this article from The Muse about it, and both sides are reflected).


But . . . as you can see from my answer to the previous question, I am very, very, very guilty of using Jive Daily at all hours of the day and night, from wherever I am. I'll wake up at 2 am and start working from my phone. And again at 5 am. And then I'll check in at 8 pm. And throughout my weekends and on my vacation. But it doesn't FEEL like work, it feels like chatting with my friends and offering my advice, which is probably a sign that I love my job.


What's your sleep routine like?

Grandma with insomnia. I'm in bed by 9, but I often wake up in the middle of the night or really early in the morning and never get back to sleep.


Are you more of an introvert, ambivert or extrovert?

Not only am I an introvert, but according to Myers-Briggs I am the most introverted one can possibly be! I will never forget the day in 2010 when I read this Atlantic article called Caring for Your Introvert because I finally understood why I am the way I am. People from the internet are often surprised to discover this about me because I thrive in online communities! I love writing and sharing my thoughts and connecting with others — on the computer. It is way more natural for me to make friends through Twitter or connect with colleagues through Jive than to ever talk to anyone in real life.


My very accurate bag:


My dog's name is Larry, so this pretty much perfectly describes my life:



What's the best advice you've ever received (and from whom)?

For some reason both of my answers are about weddings, which is weird, but it really is great advice that I really wish I received in time for my own wedding.


  • Do not let your family influence any of your decisions. This is your day so do exactly what you want even if it upsets other people.
  • Hire a wedding day-of coordinator.


I have no idea who told me either of these but they have both stuck with me even though it's too late now. My wedding was fun! But it could have been a lot less stressful and a lot more me.




Thank you for sharing, Dori! I'm glad I'm not the only person who opens up several projects at the same time. At least we get our stuff done! Keeps us on our toes . I look forward to seeing you at JiveWorld17!