Meet Darcy Peters, Senior Customer Advocate Manager at Buffer, whose diverse journey from fitness entrepreneur and Marine Corps officer to Customer Advocacy maven is a testament to resilience and adaptability.
In this candid interview, Darcy shares her experiences balancing work, family, and personal growth while embracing challenges and nurturing a fulfilling career at Buffer.
Hi Darcy, thanks for joining me! When and how did you get started working at Buffer?
I started at Buffer in November 2015, seven and a half years ago. I previously owned a fitness business and used Buffer for scheduling social media posts. After selling the business, I took a course called "Smart Success" by Chalene Johnson and realized I wanted financial stability and to work on a team for someone else's mission. One day, while scheduling posts at Starbucks, I noticed a "Buffer is hiring" banner on their website.
Buffer was scaling from around 25 to 80 employees at that time, so there were many open positions. I applied for a Customer Advocacy role back when it was called the Happiness Hero. And at the time, we were called the Happiness team instead of Customer Advocacy. I was hired for the role of Twitter Happiness Hero, which meant that I was responsible for all of the support conversations that came through Twitter.
About four months after I joined the team, we decided to build out a social team. I was fortunate enough to become the manager of that team. Ever since then, I’ve enjoyed moving around and learning different aspects of customer support.
You've been in your role for over seven years, which is quite a long time. Why have you stuck with the role, and how has Buffer encouraged you to stay in Customer Advocacy?
That's a good question. One of the main reasons is the dynamic nature of the role, and Buffer as a whole is a very dynamic company. We have the autonomy to identify problems, suggest solutions, and jump into challenges. We're comfortable with failing, learning from it, and pivoting. Because of these aspects, I haven't been doing the same thing every day for seven years. My role has evolved, allowing me to try different things and stay engaged.
In addition, I've been able to grow my skill set, both in Customer Advocacy and as a manager. This continuous growth and the opportunity to face new challenges have kept me interested and motivated throughout my time at Buffer.
Do you have any side projects or personal ventures outside of Buffer? How has working at Buffer been supportive of these pursuits?
I've dabbled in a few side projects, such as reselling items and exploring modern calligraphy. I've always been interested in crafts and tapping into my creative side. However, I haven't delved too deeply into these projects due to my family commitments, which include three children and hosting their Chinese teacher at our home. Additionally, maintaining our house and yard occupies much of my time.
One of my significant non-work-related activities is volunteering for my children's language immersion school. I serve on the school board and act as the co-chair of their school accountability committee, where I work on writing bylaws. Additionally, I manage the school's social media accounts. These roles are unpaid and involve a significant time commitment similar to a paid side project, but they help me develop skills that can benefit my work at Buffer as well. And while these side projects haven't been financially driven, Buffer has supported my personal pursuits and interests.
What would you say is your favorite perk of working at Buffer?
It's difficult for me to pick a favorite, as I appreciate many aspects of working at Buffer. However, I think the ability to work where we are happiest has been a huge benefit to my quality of life and work-life balance. This flexibility allows me to spend time with my family, such as taking my kids to California for three weeks over the summer to visit their grandparents while still being able to work. Additionally, I can work from home or a nearby Starbucks, which lets me quickly pick up my kids from school after a meeting. This flexibility is something I value greatly in my day-to-day life.
As a customer advocate, how do you structure your workday and workweek? Do you work specific hours or with any time zones outside your own?
My work schedule is designed around my family; I have three children in elementary school. I wake up at 5 a.m. and work for about an hour before getting the household up and running. While my husband makes breakfast, I continue working and sometimes use a screen reader app to catch up on long threads as I get ready. After dropping the kids off at school, I resume work and try to fit in a workout during the middle of the day as my break. I continue working until it's time to pick up the kids and take them to any sports activities, during which I may still work. I typically reserve evenings for family time.
I work Monday through Thursday and occasionally jump in to help with after-hours incidents in Advocacy. On Fridays, Advocacy leads take turns being on call to support the team as needed. During on-call days, I don't necessarily have to work but need to be aware of what's going on in case any issues arise.
Do you think your work week differs significantly from a typical work week for someone not at Buffer, given the need to be available online during weekends and the flexibility of your schedule?
While we do have weekend support, those individuals have a different four-day workweek. My work week might be different from some teams, but others also have on-call rotations as part of their position, so I wouldn't say it's drastically different in that regard.
However, my daily work routine may be quite different from many people who may not have children or aren't the primary caregivers for their children. The way I split up my workday, with breaks for workouts or assisting my kids, could be unique compared to how most people work. That being said, this schedule works well for me and suits my needs.
How does working in Customer Advocacy at Buffer impact your daily life outside of work? Have there been any unusual situations or unique considerations you've had to make in your personal life because of your role?
As a manager in Customer Advocacy, I handle escalations involving policy-related situations, which can sometimes be tricky. I sometimes work with customers who are unhappy with their experience or who have expectations beyond what we can provide. Stepping in to communicate difficult decisions in a kind and clear manner often requires deep thought and the willingness to get a little uncomfortable.
Another aspect of my role that impacts my daily life is the ability to use longer breaks for reflection. When I'm driving or engaging in mindless activities like walking, I can think through challenges related to customer tickets or ongoing projects. I often use the Notes app on my phone to talk-to-text, recording my thoughts for future reference, whether it's for Customer Advocacy blog posts or project ideas.
These examples may not be exactly "out there," but they do highlight some unique aspects of working in Customer Advocacy at Buffer and how it influences my daily life outside of work.
So going back seven years, what is your strongest earliest memory of working at Buffer?
A memorable experience that stood out to me culturally was when I joined Buffer with three young children. I assumed I'd need to explain my childcare plans to my lead at the time, Caro. When I started explaining, she told me I didn't have to and that if I needed any support, to just let her know.
That level of trust was new to me, as I came from a military background with strict accountability. Buffer's trust in me as a professional made me feel more confident, which allowed me to do better work because I felt valued and didn't need to hold back.
Can you share your career journey in detail, from your studies to your time in the military, your fitness brand, and ultimately ending up at Buffer?
I began my career journey by studying broadcast news and working various fitness-related jobs, such as teaching gymnastics and working as a lifeguard. I attended Pepperdine University, where I led acapella singing groups for church sessions. After graduating with a BA in broadcast journalism, I married my husband and worked as an administrative assistant in a construction business in Orange County, California.
I had always been interested in joining the military or law enforcement, so I decided to enlist as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. I trained to become a combat engineer, choosing it over public affairs, as it was more physically demanding and different from my previous experience.
During my training, my husband was injured overseas and medevaced back to the U.S. I took four months off from my training to help with his recovery before returning to complete my training and serve in Afghanistan. After coming back, my husband was medically retired from the Marine Corps, and I decided to leave the military as well to start a family.
We moved to Colorado for a lower cost of living, and I started teaching fitness classes and writing a blog. Eventually, I found an opportunity with a fitness franchise called FIT4MOM and purchased one of the largest territories available. I built five locations within the territory, hired instructors, and managed the business.
As my family grew, balancing the demands of the business with my personal life became increasingly challenging. Feeling guilty about not giving enough time to either my kids or the business, I decided to sell the franchise. I continued working in fitness while taking a course to soul-search for what I truly wanted in life. This course led me to discover Buffer.
Though I didn't have tech experience, I applied for a position at Buffer, showcasing my customer service experience and injecting my application with personality. I was fortunate to be selected from numerous applicants, and I've been happily working at Buffer ever since, grateful for how well everything lined up in my life.
Given your diverse work experiences, including the Marine Corps, owning a business, and now working at Buffer, how have those experiences influenced your work at Buffer?
The managerial aspect of my previous experiences has definitely impacted my work at Buffer. In the Marine Corps, I was a captain and had to manage dynamic situations in life-or-death circumstances. This has helped me maintain a sense of calm in more hectic situations at Buffer.
Owning a business has also contributed to my growth as a manager at Buffer. I've learned many entrepreneurial skills working here since we all have ownership over various parts of the company. Looking back, I can see how I could have done things better in my own business with the knowledge I've gained at Buffer.
These varied experiences have aided me in managing different aspects of my role at Buffer, especially in staying calm during high-pressure situations like when Buffer goes down and the inbox starts flooding with emails. I strive to see things from a different perspective in these scenarios and to communicate that perspective in my leadership. However, I must note that I'm not unique in this regard, as all the advocates at Buffer excel at handling such situations.
What has been one of the biggest challenges you've faced while working at Buffer, either related to your work or your personal life?
One significant challenge I've faced at Buffer is improving my approach to one-on-one interactions with team members. Last March, I started a course called Leaders Who Coach, to help me interact more effectively in one-on-one situations. The course encouraged stepping back, asking more questions, and helping individuals find their own answers rather than providing answers or leading the conversation.
Changing habits is always difficult, and I'm still working on refining my approach. I believe that the way we conduct one-on-ones can significantly impact team members' sense of empowerment. As a manager, I'm constantly thinking about whether I'm doing what's best for the team members, and I recognize that there will be failures along the way.
The challenge is to continually seek feedback, understand how my actions are impacting individuals at different stages of their journeys, and keep looking for ways to improve. It's an ongoing process to ensure that I'm effectively serving the needs of everyone I lead.
Some people suggest that you can't “have it all”, often meaning that you can't be professionally successful while also dedicating significant time to your family and personal life. Based on your time at Buffer, would you say you've attained professional success, or are at least on the path to it, however you define it for yourself?
I would say an absolute yes, I believe I've attained professional success at Buffer. My growth and skills as a manager have increased significantly, and my awareness of the tech space has expanded. Although I will never be finished growing, the opportunities I have to grow and develop at Buffer keep me moving in a positive direction.
Regarding the balance between professional and personal life, I realized during my sabbatical that the flexibility and balance I enjoyed didn't disappear when I returned to work. My life is enriched because I have challenges and get to think about things I enjoy and work through problems that interest me. This personal growth enhances my ability to serve my family, as I'm happier and more fulfilled. To me, this balance between personal and professional life is the key to success, and I am grateful for the opportunity to experience it at Buffer.