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Lean In: Heather Brunner

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Heather Brunner shares career updates since her 2017 cover story and how she’s taking on challenges in the tech world.

Photo courtesy of Heather Brunner

This month, like countless other small businesses and local companies, Austin Woman was faced with the financial ripples of COVID-19. A May issue was no longer a guarantee—without some help. Our founder, Melinda Garvey, turned to the women who have always been our loudest and best cheerleaders: our former cover women. She asked if they would lean in and support us, so in turn we can continue to support all Austin women. The responses were immediate and humbling.

Heather Brunner, CEO of WP Engine and a 2017 cover woman, was one of the many women who leaned in. We’re so grateful for her support and we hope as she supported us, you will support her. We asked Brunner what she’s been doing since her cover story and how she’s taking on challenges in the tech world.

Heather Brunner - Lean In - Austin Woman magazine

Austin Woman: Your Austin Woman cover story followed your journey in Austin’s technology industry and your role as CEO of WP Engine. What have been some career highlights since your 2017 cover?

Heather Brunner: While a lot has changed since I was last on the cover of Austin Woman, one thing that hasn’t are WP Engine’s core cultural values, which remain steadfast and serve to guide and inform our decision making along each step of our path.

In 2018, we built a partnership with Silver Lake, grounded in these shared values. In securing a $250 million investment, we’ve been able to power the future of WordPress and accelerate our growth.

In the summer of 2019, we reached two monumental milestones for the company. Via the largest acquisition in WordPress history, we welcomed Flywheel, which offers managed WordPress hosting thoughtfully built for busy creatives, into our WP Engine family. This helped deliver our vision of becoming the most trusted WordPress technology company in the world.

Also in 2019, we passed a major milestone for the company: 100,000 customers, thanks in no small part to our core value of being customer inspired. We strive to earn their advocacy through our actions every day. Upon reaching the 100,000 milestone, we launched our Engine for Good corporate social-responsibility program with a total of $100,000 in donations to causes that matter most to our employees.

Today, I’m proud to say WP Engine serves 130,000 customers in 150 countries, which represents over 1.1 million websites. These businesses and agencies of all sizes are supported by more than 900 employees in eight offices across five countries.

AW: In your story, you said, “Be somebody who is willing to take on challenges. Go where nobody wants to go. Be the one who’s willing to take the problem. Say, ‘I’ll do it,’ and then do it well.” What challenges have you taken on in the past three years?

HB: In good times and in bad, we look to our core values as the North Star for the decisions we make as an organization. Scale is the name of the game in software as a service (SaaS), so I would say the greatest challenge has been keeping a consistent healthy culture through massive growth, expansion internationally and through integrating three acquisitions.

AW: How can the community support you and WP Engine right now?

HB: Be kind to one another. We are all in different situations and therefore kindness and humanity will help guide us out of this challenge. We must focus on what we can control and do it well. We are very fortunate to be a platform for powering digital experiences and websites when the world is moving in that direction, but also one where our customers have the flexibility to dial up or down their needs easily and quickly as circumstances dictate.

While this storm is scary and unsettling, we will get through it. Better days are ahead for us all. My wish for you is more time to think, to play, to love and to create the future that you want for yourself.


WHAT’S MAKING YOU SMILE RIGHT NOW?

Seeing our culture come to life virtually has been humbling and inspiring. Our employees have found ways to stay connected, support one another personally and professionally, and through it all still have fun at work. Our teams are sharing recipes, hosting virtual happy hours, having cakes delivered to celebrate birthdays and working on further ways to give back to our communities around the world.

On a personal level, there’s no doubt that it can be difficult juggling work and being productive while taking care of my family during such a stressful time. While this is a real challenge we’re all facing, I do believe that these struggles and uncharted experiences will make us smarter and stronger. I am glad my kids are seeing me work hard, stretch myself to learn new things and deal with adversity.


Read more stories of our former cover women who joined our Lean In campaign.

READ MORE FROM THE MAY ISSUE

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