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Philadelphia / Tech jobs / Technology / Workplace culture

‘Surviving Change at Work’: Vanessa Gennarelli’s new book tackles adjusting to change as a tech employee

Gennarelli described her new book as a “missing manual for tech employees.” The book is inspired by her experiences working in the tech industry and her ties to the Philly tech community.

Vanessa Gennarelli cutting the cake at her book party. (Courtesy Vanessa Genarelli)
Update: This article has been updated since its initial publication to incorporate new comments from Rick Nucci, the CEO of Guru and a contributor to “Surviving Change at Work.” (10/11/2023, 4:03 p.m.)

Over the course of Vanessa Gennarelli’s almost 15-year tech career, she’s noticed patterns in how employees at her past companies were dissatisfied: Millennials and Gen Z workers want their work to have a positive impact, employees often have to complete tasks at work that are not part of their trained skill set, and everyone has trouble adjusting to change at work.

She wrote her new book, “Surviving Change at Work,” to be “a sort of portable MBA for a career in the tech sector,” she said. “I wrote it because as an industry, we had few to no tools to deal with any of those patterns.”

The 40-year-old South Philly author celebrated the release of her book at a party at Indy Hall last month, where she’s been a member since 2011.

“In the crowd were people who I’ve been working with for 10 to 15 years and we encountered all these hiccups working for tech organizations together,” she said. “It was just really fun to see all these people in the crowd who have made the tech industry better and Philadelphia better and we figured it out together.”

Gennarelli entered the tech industry by creating outreach and education programs called massive open online courses for companies such as littleBits, Mozilla and Wikimedia. She eventually went to Harvard and earned a master’s degree in technology, innovation and education.

In graduate school, Gennarelli said, she researched what motivates people, how to engage people and how they learn new things. She said that knowledge came in handy when she became a manager.

Gennarelli has had a variety of experiences for different companies, including spending four years at the software development community GitHub. She cofounded Workbrew in 2021 and is currently its COO. She is also currently the principal of change management firm Fortuna.

Gennarelli said employees have more power than they think they do. When a company implements a big change, employees can choose to accept and integrate it or they can choose to leave and find a company that they’re more aligned with. She said good managers will recognize this and work with employees to navigate change.

“Leaders know that they need employees to buy into these ideas if anything is going to work,” she said. “When these sorts of changes happen, think about, do I want to consciously take a step forward? Or am I no longer aligned with this organization?”

She said she knows that career planning is challenging, so the book provides tools to help people figure out their next step.

Gennarelli was not shy about her love for the Philly tech community in the book. She said local technologists, such as Rick Nucci, contributed to the book and that it’s full of “Philly love.”

“It is a place that the professional relationships are not transactional,” she said. “They’re deep relationships. And I think it’s special in that way because a lot of people are from here, and you’re going to work with the same people over and over again. So I think that’s what makes the tech community here really magical.”

Nucci said that he met Gennarelli when she was at GitHub and Guru, the company he leads as CEO, was a customer. He said that he found a book like Gennarelli’s useful for dealing with the inevitability of change that internal and external dynamics can force a company to endure.

“Some employees might respond to change by looking for ways to adapt within their current company, while others might respond by seeking a new role on their career path,” he told Technical.ly via email. “Whatever the situation, this book has guidance and advice that I think readers will really benefit from. I was delighted to contribute and recommend that anyone currently leading or working through change check it out.”

“Surviving Change at Work” is available for purchase at abookapart.com, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: GitHub / Indy Hall

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