Finding Joy in the Feedback Loop — Through Improv and in the Queue

Supporting folks as they engage in all the things that fill them up outside of work is a priority at Help Scout. “Exploring a hobby or side project is something we encourage everyone to do,” said Nick Francis, Help Scout’s co-founder and CEO. “It’s certainly something that’s important to me. I’ve found that those pursuits are a great way to turn off my ‘work brain,’ recharge, and develop gratifying new skills. It’s also one of the reasons I’ve been able to love the same job for 12 years and counting!”

Interested in learning more about how that support for employees’ passions plays out in real life? Read this installment in our Here for It: Work + Life series, which introduces Help Scout team members who are melding personal projects or fulfilling hobbies with their remote roles to create a pretty phenomenal work-life blend. 

Kelly Hummell

Senior technical support specialist; Denver, Colorado

As a senior technical support specialist at Help Scout, Kelly Hummell’s work generally revolves around solving problems — present or potential — one way or another. “On any given day, I’m doing a mix of working in our queue to help customers directly, digging into more complex issues in the product and collaborating with teammates to find solutions, building trainings for our internal team, or helping out with whole company support. It’s definitely a mix of different tasks.”

The throughline of this support grab bag? A pretty satisfying feedback loop.

I really appreciate solving a problem and seeing the delight of somebody — customer or teammate. Seeing the direct impact of my labor really motivates me.

Kelly’s skill in evaluating what’s required of a unique moment, divining the core of a question or prompt, and responding to create delight also plays out in her personal life — on stage. For the last several years, first as a student and now as a performer with a regular improv group show, Kelly has been seeing the direct impact of her “labor” in the volume of laughs and the joy she delivers to the audience. 

Kelly Hummell Improv 1
Kelly, far right, performs with members of her improv group.

The power of play: How a hobby can serve as self-care

“I've always been a person who loves and needs to entertain, to create things from thin air,” Kelly said. “As a kid, I was always making up plays with my cousins and trying to put on a show at any opportunity. Entertaining has always fueled my creative side.”

It was while she was living in Chicago after college and working in tech advertising that Kelly first joined an improv class at Second City. In the midst of early career pressures and adulting in a big city, the new hobby was a welcome outlet. “As life was becoming increasingly serious, to have the chance to just play and perform with other adults was amazing.”

When she made the decision to leave her job and move to Denver, saying goodbye to her improv community in Chicago was one of the hardest parts of the transition. Luckily, after a bit of a break as she found her footing in a new city and a new role in tech — this time in support — she also found her way back to improv.

“I joined a mindful improv meetup group, where we would meditate for 10 minutes at the beginning and then do improv games, which was a concept that was really interesting to me,” Kelly said. “I've struggled with mental health in the past, and I’m always looking for activities that focus on mindfulness and help regulate the nervous system.” The combination of the grounding power of meditation and the embodied presence that improv demands were an ideal combination.  

From that reintroduction, Kelly went on to take a series of improv classes at a local comedy club in Denver and connected with the group she now performs with regularly. They practice weekly and just got a monthly show slot at their club. “It’s really just a blast,” Kelly said. 

Honing valuable support skills on stage and at work 

For Kelly, having a hobby that fuels her creatively and provides mind-body balance contributes positively to her work life as well. “As part of my self-care routine, improv really helps me be more present at work because I have a channel for the side of me that wants to be more goofy and allows me to access that regulated flow state."

Having improv as an outlet allows me to show up at work as my whole self.

She has also seen overlap in some of the key skills and practices that help her succeed in improv and in her support role. “I think my experience with improv helps me navigate customer interactions and really communicate more effectively with human beings in general,” Kelly said. “Anxiety has been a theme throughout my life, but practicing improv regularly and being required to come up with responses on the spot makes it less scary to respond to customers in moments that can be stressful or feel urgent.” 

The presence and listening required to creatively respond to an improv prompt are also good training for support work, she added. “Honing the habit of being present and aware in the improv setting helps me listen to customers and respond thoughtfully, rather than from a place of reactivity.” 

A channel for connection with teammates

Sharing her love for improv with her Help Scout teammates has also been a fun way to build connection at work. “My team has been really supportive and curious to hear my improv stories and news, which feels good,” Kelly said.

It’s great to be able to share those experiences about my life outside of work and feel the genuine interest from my team.

Given the positive impact of improv on her work and personal life, it’s safe to say Kelly will continue to pursue the hobby and chase the feedback loop she loves. “I do really love to see my efforts pay off so directly with improv and in my work,” she said. “It just fills me up.”

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