Author Archives: Mari Malcolm

Cancer Took My Breasts. Reconstruction Helped Me Move On.

Pre-chemo hair shearing.

The week I started chemo, I got my hair shaved off and made into a wig.

Our employees have incredible backstories. Community Manager Mari Malcolm shares her experience with breast cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I’d just turned 35 when I found a lump in my right breast. My doctor told me I was so young that it was probably nothing. It took a few months before I admitted to myself I should probably get that optional mammogram.  

My original diagnosis was stage IV. Thankfully, I was really only late stage III, so I’m still here. But the tumor was so big and close to my chest wall they had to shrink it with five months of chemo before they could do the mastectomy. They took so much tissue, I was left with pretty much just skin over ribs.

The first time I peeled back the bandage, my knees buckled and I had to sit down, which my surgeon said was totally normal. Nurses would compliment me on the neatness of my scar, but I felt like I had been (very necessarily) mutilated.

I kept working through most of my treatment and recovery, often from the hospital. In an environment where showing weakness wasn’t a smart career move, I went to the office in a wig, missing eyebrows and eyelashes, trying to hide how tired I was with makeup.

I was honest about my cancer, but I wasn’t comfortable with most people knowing I’d lost my breast. For a year and a half, I wore a prosthetic pocketed into a bra and avoided low necklines.

Breast Reconstruction Isn’t a Given

Whenever I see stark black-and-white photos of breast cancer survivors baring their mastectomy scars, and I’m in awe of their badassery.

Choosing to live without breasts in this culture is an act of defiance and intense self-love. When I’ve talked with women who decided against reconstruction, they’ve told me that by the time they’d finished cancer treatment, they were sick of surgeries and just wanted to move on.

After five months of chemo, three surgeries, and six weeks of daily radiation, I understood this.

But also I suspected reconstructive surgery would help me move on in the way I needed to. In my oncologist’s waiting room, I’d met a fiftysomething woman in for a follow-up. She heard about my upcoming mastectomy and came this close to taking her top off to show me her new breasts. “Look, they’re so perky!” she enthused, giving them a squeeze.

After that, I knew if I made it to the other side, I’d get new breasts. I wanted a reality where I didn’t have to think about cancer every day. Continue reading

Building a Culture of Confidence: Why I Joined RealSelf as VP of People

Starting in the fall of 2010, I helped build a company called
Year Up Puget Sound from three people to 50, with a focus on developing new leaders. It was my third startup, and I thought my favorite part of that experience was building something from scratch, taking a great idea and putting legs on it.

Five years later, I did it again with Canopy, where I was employee number 1. But a year in, I realized I really missed developing people, specifically new managers.

I had a bee in my bonnet about empowering people through access to information. And I wanted to develop new managers and support a company as it went from being pretty flat to having new layers of leaders.

When I first heard about RealSelf, it didn’t really resonate personally. After talking with CEO Tom Seery, I did more research and, frankly, I talked to my mom. I was looking for a moral compass, asking “Does this align with my values?”

My mom’s almost 60. She’s still in the workforce, competing with millennials. She said, “You know, I’m having to get on these video conferences, and the picture of me that comes up on the screen I don’t even recognize. I don’t know who that old lady is, but she doesn’t reflect who I am as a person and the energy I have. I know people judge me based on what they see, and I have been looking for permission to say ‘That’s not me.’ And I want to be able to make really informed, empowered decisions about how I show up.” That was a pivotal moment for me.

I thought too about my previous nonprofit life, and how so many young people I’d met were going through major gender identity transitions with such poor access to information, at a time when they were launching their careers and really needed to feel confident. It became abundantly clear to me how needed this is.

I realized that I had an opportunity to shape how this company—which helps millions of people make confident choices—instills confidence in its employees. I was sold.

I had really frank conversations with Tom about whether he wanted a traditional HR person. That’s a direction they could have gone. But someone with that background might freak out about the kinds of conversations that have to happen here and what’s on everybody’s computer screens. We came to mutual agreement that the company really needs a builder who can take a more nuanced approach.

In these first weeks, I’m doing a lot of learning. There’s a lot to be done, from jump-starting employer branding to creatively reinventing performance reviews. But the uniquely strong culture and talented people make these challenges so exciting.

A few years ago, I challenged myself to try out for the women’s professional soccer team here in Seattle. Even though I was one of the oldest on the pitch, I managed to survive all three rounds of cuts. They didn’t end up picking anybody up from the tryouts, but it was one of those moments when you push yourself past what you think is possible. You only really need one experience like that to discover a well of self-efficacy.

My goal at RealSelf is to give every employee the opportunity and support they need to push themselves and gain the confidence that comes from raising our collective bar.

Lauren Sato joined RealSelf as VP of People in April 2016. Find out more about our unique culture and see our open roles

A Lucky Day in Dehradun: Helping Burn Victims Find New Potential

Nitish and Dr. Kush
Sarah Durkee, a UX designer at RealSelf, was chosen to join ReSurge International on a trip to Dehradun, India, to help those in need of reconstructive surgical care.
Read the first and second parts of her story.

The morning after clinic day, my team met in the hotel restaurant at 6 a.m. Over breakfast, we talked about how everyone slept, with every answer the same: “I woke up at 2 a.m.” This would become our daily routine.

As I ate, the previous day ran through my head. I worried I’d taken too many photos of some of the patients. How did they feel when I asked to see their disfigured hands, or when I zoomed in on their scarred faces? I’d seen so many people with so many deformities that I sometimes didn’t recognize them when they found me later to say they’d been approved for surgery.

Several people came up to me and asked what could be done about their injuries. I would tell them I’m not a doctor, but they didn’t seem to care. They would ask again. “Will surgery help my daughter? Will this scar go away?” I wished so badly there was something I could do to help. I thought about all the information I’m exposed to every day on RealSelf. Unlike me, most of these people have no information at all. They have no way of knowing what their options are or what it could cost or where they can be treated.

Father and Daughter at the Clinic

I couldn’t help but wonder if the doctors were also running through the previous day in their minds. Did they wish they could have done more? Did they regret that a particular patient wasn’t able to be granted surgery? Did they worry they had made a mistake? As I listened to them talk, they confirmed my concerns. They wished they’d written something else down on a chart or that asked different questions. They obviously cared deeply about doing things right.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were told the first patient hadn’t shown up. Did they change their minds? Were they just too scared? Dr. Kush knew of someone local who was in need of surgery. He contacted them to tell them that if they could make it to the hospital, he could fit them in.

Less than an hour later, a familiar face arrived: the same little boy who’d been introduced on the first day. Though Nitesh had already undergone one surgery to correct the burns on his legs, there was still some scar tissue around his groin that prevented him from going to the bathroom normally. Today was a lucky day. Because of that cancellation, he’d finally be able to get the surgery he needed to be fully healed.

Nitish and His Dad at the Cllinic
Shortly after Nitash’s surgery began, I was told I’d be making a trip up to Jangle Mangle, a permanent ReSurge clinic run by Kush’s father, Dr. Yogi Aeron. Typically, this is where the surgery camp takes place, but this year they decided to make it more accessible in the center of town.

I had heard a lot about Jangle Mangle. It’s a medical clinic set on a five-acre garden in the mountains of Dehradun, with room to feed and house people while they’re receiving medical care. Dr. Yogi led us in through a small hallway that opened up into a modest living room. Behind that room was another, just large enough to fit a bed, where he could catch a few hours of sleep during overnight stays.

Down another light-filled hallway was the an operating room with marble walls, a stark contrast to the one we’d seen at the clinic. Past the operating room was a large open air studio, where Dr. Yogi made plaster casts of his patients before surgery. Past that was a large covered porch with a row of beds and a view of the valley below. Patients stayed here as they received their care.

A Girl and Her Dad at Jungle Mangle
Each part of the property was more magical than the last. There were fish tanks that had been made into kaleidoscopes, where fish became a living part of the geometry. There were giant metal structures used to train trees, twisting them into topiaries. Dr. Yogi had even created an elaborate tree house for his guests, with the plan to one day add a staircase, washbasin, and fresh fruit you could pick from inside.

Dotting the edges of the property were small, simple huts overlooking the ravine. These huts provided homes for a few former patients who needed a job or a place to live. Perhaps these people were rejected by their families after being disfigured, or their injuries had left them unable to work. No matter the cause, they had nowhere else to go. Here, they’re given work and a place to stay, often helping out new patients in need.

Jungle Mangle
I imagined 100 years from now, people being taken on tours of the garden. The guides would tell the story of a man and his clinic, which drew people from all over the region in the hopes that they could be healed. Maybe they still would.

“No one has an appreciation of things that are unfinished,” Dr. Yogi told me. “No one has any imagination to see what something could be.” Although he’s 75, the doctor’s work is far from finished. Just as his garden is a work in progress, so are his patients. He can imagine the potential of what they can become through reconstructive surgery, even when they or their families cannot.

* * *

The next morning, the doctors reported that they’d completed six successful surgeries at the clinic. Scars on necks, arms, legs, and hands — scars that had often led people to be rejected by their communities — had all been repaired with skin grafts and flaps. More important than the physical changes were the mental and emotional transformations. Through the work of ReSurge and its doctors, these people had a new sense of who they are and what they can become.

— Sarah




Clinic Day in Dehradun: Afraid to Look, Afraid to Look Away

India Crowd
Sarah Durkee, a UX designer at RealSelf, was chosen to join ReSurge International on a trip to Dehradun, India, to help those in need of reconstructive surgical care.
Read the first part of her story here.

The first day at the hospital is “clinic day,” when doctors and staff evaluate hundreds of patients who’ve shown up in hopes of receiving free, potentially life-changing surgery. It’s an emotional day, filled not only with stories of tragedy, but of having to decide who can be treated and who must be turned away. More than 500 people showed up to be seen, roughly 400 more than we’d expected.

Little Boy Treated for BurnsOur van pulled up to the hospital to a waiting crowd. Hundreds of faces stared as we were escorted to a stage. Dr. Kush Aeron, one of the local doctors and a director of ReSurge’s Surgical Outreach Program in Dehradun, addressed the audience in Hindi. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I noticed everyone looking around at others in the crowd. That’s when a little boy and his father began to make their way to the front.

I later learned that the child had undergone a previous surgery performed by Dr. Kush to correct the damage a fire had caused to his legs. The burns formed webs of scar tissue behind his knees, causing his legs to be permanently bent. Before his surgery, he’d been unable to walk. Now he was just like any other child.

After these introductions, we were escorted through glass doors with the words “Operation Theater” above in red paint. Behind the doors was a large room with a series of smaller rooms opening into it: the examination room, the break room, the OR. Walking into the operating room, we were met with an overpowering smell of disinfectant. There was a large sink that was more brown than white, with three faucets dripping into it.

Operating Theater and Sink

We ripped open the boxes of medical supplies that had shipped along with us, while the head nurse scrubbed down the OR. Before we were even ready, the first patient walked through the door. She was so badly burned and disfigured that I was afraid to look her, but I was also afraid to look away. Her skin was shiny, with thick threads of scarred flesh running across her face and down her neck. Her mouth was pulled open, her bottom teeth permanently exposed, and her scarred hands forced her fingers into the appearance of claws.

SanjanaAs the day wore on, the rooms filled with people and lines snaked out the doors. The smell of bodies overwhelmed the space. Doctors and prospective patients were all tired from their travels. Some from mountain villages had traveled for a day or more to get there. Many brought their families with them, some with deformities of their own. During the examinations, they were asked about their medical history, mostly to determine if they were healthy enough to be placed under general anesthesia. It quickly became clear that the majority of these people had never been to a hospital before. Many were born at home and had never had any medical care at all.

As the doctors continued with the screenings, members of the Indian media interviewed the hospital staff and people on our team. As I looked around at the cameras flashing from the local press and faces lit up with bright lights for television interviews, I realized we were a part of something big here. For weeks it had been advertised on flyers all around town. Hundreds of little pieces of paper with before and after photos and information about the “surgery camp” were scattered across Dehradun.

Indian Media
Eventually, things began to settle down. The doctors worked their way through hundreds of patients, while I wandered through the waiting crowd. As I smiled to the people who had traveled all this way to get here, I was struck by the warmth and sincerity I received back. I remembered a friend telling me about the traditional Indian greeting, Namaste, meaning “The goodness in me bows to the goodness in you.”

India ExaminationsBack in the “Theater,” doctors would occasionally step into the makeshift break room, a small set-up with a few chairs and a gurney, where they could catch a few minutes of peace from the chaos of the day. They were sleep-deprived, hungry, and felt they were getting behind. Never before had they had this many people show up for a clinic day. They expected 100 and got five times that amount. They were faced with having to accept the possibility that they might not be able to see everyone in need.

In my last walk through the crowd, I caught a glimpse of someone’s disfigured hand for a brief moment before it was tucked away behind the drape of a shawl. I slowly realized that many of these burned faces were hidden behind headscarves and veils. Scalps that once had hair were covered with hats. Many of these patients were living their lives in the shadows, hiding the shame of their deformities.

At the end of the day, I packed up and got ready to leave, but the doctors and medical staff were still working hard. Some of the patients had pushed their way through the glass doors and into the examining room, restlessly waiting to find out if they’d be able to get surgery.

Later, I asked one of the doctors how the day went. He said that the true test would come tomorrow. “The first surgery is always the hardest,” he told me. “If something’s going to go wrong, it will be then.” We were all going to have to wait and see.

— Sarah

India Scars


The Longest Day Is Only the Beginning: Seattle to Dehradun With ReSurge International

IndiaSarah Durkee, a UX designer at RealSelf, was chosen to join ReSurge International on a trip to Dehradun, India, to help those in need of reconstructive surgical care. She’s pictured here (third from left) at the airport with the volunteer team of doctors and staff.

We traveled more than 36 hours to reach Dehradun. At 36, I stopped counting. There were four flights and a van ride, and it was an adventure, to say the least. But before I tell you about my purpose in coming here, I feel like I should tell you how I got here in the first place.

I never thought I’d go to India, and I definitely never thought I would experience it with a humanitarian organization. I feel honored to be here, witnessing what I am. I feel exceptionally lucky to be an employee of RealSelf, a company that feels so strongly about helping people — people on the other side of the world whose problems could more easily be ignored.

Through ReSurge International, a nonprofit organization that provides reconstructive surgical care in developing countries, RealSelf sponsored a team to travel to India. This group of plastic surgeons, nurses, and other volunteers donated their time and talents so those who have been severely scarred due to burns and accidents can be given much-needed medical care.

The night before I came, serendipitously, I met an Indian woman who described her home country as raw. She told me I’d see some of the poorest people I would ever see — many missing limbs and begging for food — right next to those whose lives oozed opulence. I forgot these words before boarding my plane to Dubai, but my experience on that first leg of the trip served as a stark contrast to what I would later see.

The plane itself was a double-decker, advertised as “the largest in the world.” Stairs reached up into a second level, where first class passengers enjoyed private suites complete with showers and a butler. (Or so I heard. I wasn’t actually allowed up there.) Even for those of us who didn’t shell out $20,000 for a plane ticket, economy was unlike any other I’ve experienced. We were given warm towels, served more food than we could eat, and provided other conveniences like sleep masks, toothbrushes, and 14-inch LED screens to watch any of the hundreds of movies available.

After more than 20 hours, four movies, and a plane-swap in Dubai, we touched down in New Delhi. I immediately noticed something different about the air. There was a heaviness to it — almost a smokiness — and a slight haze I couldn’t quite place.

When we stepped outside, it was still night. (It had been night for us for nearly 24 hours.) Local time was 2:40 a.m., though you never would’ve guessed it given all of the activity happening outside the airport. Horns blared, people crowded at the entrance, and men tried to carry our luggage so they might earn a small tip.

That’s when I realized what was different about the air. Through the glaring airport lights, the sky hung heavy with smog, a thick gray curtain that capped visibility at 20 meters.

A shuttle took us to the domestic airport, where we waited another eight hours for our next flight. We boarded a small twin-engine plane, where flight attendants served Dixie cups of water on a plastic tray. Finally, we landed in Dehradun.

The van that picked us up didn’t have enough seats, so two members of the group sat on the floor. As we sped past motorbikes and dodged oncoming traffic, I stared out the window, taking everything in. Hundreds of small shacks cobbled together from scraps lined the street. There were people selling snacks and produce, while others sold hot food cooked over stoves made from barrels. Judging by appearances, most of the people in this area were extremely poor.

We arrived at our hotel, where we dragged ourselves and our luggage upstairs to our rooms. I plopped myself on the bed and stared mindlessly at my phone for a few minutes. Then the lights went out. It was midday, but I was sitting in complete darkness. I realized my room had no window. I got up, found the door, and went up to the roof of the hotel. I gazed out over the tops of trees and the buildings of Dehradun. They looked abandoned, like modern ruins surrounded by jungle.

I wandered outside, where there were no sidewalks, just clumps of haphazardly parked vehicles and piles of garbage and rubble. I wove in and out of parked motorbikes, occasionally being pushed out into oncoming traffic. Within a few feet, I saw a bearded man sitting at the side of the road hunched over a fire. There was a blanket spread out on the ground nearby. I wondered if he lived there, if he called the side of the street his home. I contemplated giving him money, but kept walking. I felt guilt wash over me. I told myself I’d check on him the next day to make myself feel better about doing nothing to help.

I went back to the hotel to have dinner, where I kept nodding off at the table. The next day would be clinic day, where all of the people who traveled — some for days — in hopes of getting treatment would be screened by the surgical team. We’d have to get an early start so the doctors could have a chance at seeing the hundreds of people who needed surgery. I excused myself from the table and I walked to my room, where I poured myself into bed. The longest day I’d ever had was over, but I knew this was just the beginning of what’s sure to be a life-changing experience. I hope you’ll follow along with me in the coming days.

— Sarah

Talking Rain vs. LaCroix Challenge

The kitchen here at the RealSelf office has long been stocked with Talking Rain, the Pacific Northwest’s answer to San Pellegrino and Perrier. However, a certain Millennial contingent in the RealSelf office recently requested that we stock LaCroix, which has been giving even beverage giants like Coca-Cola a run for their money. Which got us wondering: What was the mysterious appeal of LaCroix? Was it the jazzy packaging (which the New York Times described as “trying to appeal to Canadian ravers”), or was their bubbly water truly “the best beverage around,” as its RealSelf fans claimed?

A passionate debate ensued, with the old-school Talking Rain believers on one side and the LaCroix disrupters on the other. Voices were raised, cans were thrown, egos were bruised. In the end, we decided this debate could only be settled in one way: an Official Blind Taste Test. We assembled a jury of six RealSelfers and pitted similar flavors from each brand against each other in three epic rounds. Read on for the results!  

Meghan warming up for the Official Blind Taste Test

Meghan warming up for the Official Blind Taste Test

Round 1: Talking Rain Lemon Lime vs. LaCroix Lime

Simone declares the lime-ness of Beverage #2 (LaCroix) is “on point.”

Simone declares the lime-ness of Beverage #2 (LaCroix) is “on point.”

The jury’s in on Talking Rain Lemon Lime vs. LaCroix Lime: LaCroix wins, 4-2.

Round 2: Talking Rain Peach vs. LaCroix Peach Pear

Alan carefully compares the bouquets of the Talking Rain Peach vs Lacroix Peach Pear. He was satisfied with Beverage #1, but was not blown away.

Alan carefully compares the bouquets of the Talking Rain Peach vs Lacroix Peach Pear. He was satisfied with Beverage #1, but was not blown away.

Simone describes the overall taste and scent experience of Beverage #2: “It’s like POW.”

Simone describes the overall taste and scent experience of Beverage #2: “It’s like POW.”

And LaCroix takes the top spot again, 4-2.

Round 3: Talking Rain Natural vs. LaCroix Pure

Alan, ever the data scientist, makes his choice carefully.

Alan, ever the data scientist, makes his choice carefully.

Jasmine tries to discern the subtle differences of the Natural flavors.

Jasmine tries to discern the subtle differences of the Natural flavors.

And Talking Rain Natural takes the flavor-free round, 4-2!

FINAL VERDICT: It was a tight race each time, but LaCroix ultimately triumphed in the flavor rounds for its subtle, natural fruity notes, while Talking Rain took the top spot for straight-up sparkling-water-ness. In fact, many tasters remarked on how Talking Rain Natural seemed to evoke actual precipitation… if precipitation were carbonated… and could speak. But we digress.

Based on these results, the team decided that both LaCroix and Talking Rain deserved their own shelves in the fridge — where they now live together, in blissful cohabitation.

Bonus Round: LaCroix Coconut

Even the most hardcore LaCroix fans among us agreed that LaCroix Coconut stood on its own: one either savored its sunny hint-of-Coppertone notes, or one found it completely unpotable. We decided to host a bonus tasting round of this singular beverage.

Alan: “Ugh, ghastly!” (He’s British.)

Alan: “Ugh, ghastly!” (He’s British.)

Jasmine: “Why did you make me do that.” (She’s still upset about it.)

Jasmine: “Why did you make me do that.” (She’s still upset about it.)

Meghan: “Nope.”

Meghan: “Nope.”

Simone: “Maaaaybe.”

Simone: “Maaaaybe.”

Sarah: “Mmmmmmmm.” (From her expression, you might be able to guess whose idea this whole Coconut round was.)

Sarah: “Mmmmmmmm.” (From her expression, you might be able to guess whose idea this whole Coconut round was.)

FINAL VERDICT: Thanks for playing, LaCroix Coconut, but no thank you. At all. Except for Sarah.

We hope these results will inform the beverage options of an office near you!

Cheers from Tom

Cheers from Tom

Written by Sarah Durkee and Jasmine Park. Edited by Mari Malcolm.

RealSelf Stories: How This Doctor Advisor Became a Patient

When Debra Gravelle joined RealSelf in 2012 as a doctor advisor, she was a cosmetic surgery skeptic. Three years later, she’s undergoing her own inspiring transformation, starting “from the head down” with laser resurfacing, Voluma, and Botox. In December, just before her 60th birthday, she’ll get a tummy tuck with liposuction and fat transfers, followed by a breast lift. She’s documenting it all in her RealSelf review, and in a forthcoming “‘Sexy at 60” mini-documentary by our RealSelf video team.

We asked Debra what she loves about her role of doctor advisor, why this was the moment for her to make such big personal changes, and how her perspective on cosmetic surgery has evolved.


Debra Gravelle, Senior RealSelf Advisor, looking fabulous.

I loved everybody I talked to during my RealSelf interview, but I had a lot of questions about what I thought about plastic surgery. I just didn’t get that these were things people were doing to increase their confidence and happiness level — I thought it was about vanity. I didn’t realize the depths of change that can happen in a person when they go through it.

When I read the stories on RealSelf, I started to understand that it’s more about how you feel inside than how you look, that those things are so connected.

What I love about the role of doctor advisor is that it’s a combination of relationship building and helping doctors with marketing. I didn’t realize how satisfying that customer service piece of the role would become for me, building that trust with doctors and giving them a chance to give back to the community as they build their practice.

In most cases, we’re dealing with their marketing and office staff, more than with the doctors themselves. I love getting that chance to support a practice, almost like one of their team members, coaching them on how to build their presence on our site. When you see them get a new review, you get excited for them, because you know last week you talked about the importance of asking for reviews. You see the results of your advising first-hand. You get to share in their successes.

I have one doctor who told me he had two people chatting in his waiting room, and they realized they’d both been on RealSelf. They’d been commenting on the same post, and they knew each other’s usernames. They laughed and said, “We’ve been on RealSelf together!”

It’s also great being part of the Advisor team. There’s a lot of support that goes on. I’ve been here nearly three years, and I have more than 30 years of experience in helping people through coaching, advising, or selling. I love to see the new people have success with their doctors, hearing them say, “I told my doctor to do this, and two weeks later he’s getting more inquiries.” I love that!

It’s scary to share my own treatment journey on RealSelf because I’m not anonymous. I have posted a couple pictures that I would never send to a fellow employee and say, “Look at this picture!” But anybody at RealSelf can see it. I’m not a prude by any means, but I’m aware that I’m not anonymous, that I have adult children who might go, “Oh my God, Mother.” I’m aware I have a granddaughter who will see those photos when she gets older. So I’m being tasteful about what I put up, but I still want other people to see and share and be encouraged, because I’ve been so encouraged by others.

Never in my wildest dreams when I showed up at RealSelf would I have thought I’d be going through with this surgery. But I changed my mind, seeing the confidence people gain. This is a banner year for me: I’m turning 60! I feel like if I’m going to do it, I need to do it now. I want to enjoy it for a while! — Debra Gravelle is a Senior RealSelf Advisor. Follow her personal journey, Bringing Sexy Back at 60, on

On Tap: A New RealSelf Tradition

Image-1 (4)

Software Developer David Ross and Product Manager Jasmine Park enjoy a pour.

We’re having a big growth spurt at RealSelf, with new team members starting nearly every week. We care a lot about integrating new folks into our social circle, usually through our shared affection for food. We greet them on their first day with a bagel breakfast for all. We invite them to join us in our Slack #lunch discussions and at the communal lunch table. And on Friday afternoons, we welcome them to our version of the water cooler: the kitchen kegerator. (We drink water, too, but not usually so socially.)

We asked David Ross — Software Developer, food trivia master, and one of the instigators of our rotating taps — to share the inspiration for this tradition and pay tribute to his favorite craft brews. Thanks for fermenting our cultural brew, David.

RealSelf Glasses

Office kegerators are a popular startup perk with good reason: having a tap or two at work leads to a much more social workplace, especially on Friday afternoons.

The path to flowing taps at RealSelf started shortly after I was hired on as a Software Developer. The week I started, I decided to carry over an end-of-week tradition from my previous workplace (and offer thanks to the team for taking me onboard) by sharing some bottled beers I’d been holding onto for a special occasion.

My new team embraced this tradition, which gave us all a bit of novelty and levity to look forward to each week. Craft brews also turned out to be great conversation starters: beer lovers could try something new (given the Pacific Northwest’s wealth of breweries, there’s no shortage of new things to try), and people just getting into them could get a feel for what they like. When it became clear how much people were enjoying it, talk turned to an office keg system. 

Once the decision was made (and budget granted), we settled on a two-tap system from Kegco, so we could rotate through smaller 1/6th kegs, keeping the options frequently rotating. Slack was very useful here, allowing us to coordinate options in a dedicated #on-tap channel and find area breweries we could feature. Our inaugural beers came from Odin Brewing: their seasonal Lemondrop SMASH and standard Asgard IPA.

On the second rotation, featuring Seattle Cider Company’s Semi-Sweet and Two Beers Evo IPA, impromptu keg gatherings really took off. Given the popularity of IPA on the West Coast, that was an expected hit, but the cider was surprisingly popular, bringing those who weren’t really into beer into the kitchen for a pour. Ciders have since become a second-tap staple, especially the delicious Black Currant from Finnriver

Ultimately, introducing the keg to the office has been a resounding success. Friday afternoons are always lively, we enjoy more options at special events, and the Friday Bottle Share still pops up on special occasions. — David Ross

Interested in joining our team? See our open roles.