BigPanda stories

Marli Dussault, Talent Sourcer – North Carolina

MarliMom. Amateur art curator. Bold.

What was your life like before BigPanda?

Before Big Panda, I had been in the military. I was an active duty soldier for four and a half years, and I worked in intelligence. After I transitioned out of the military, I did a short stint as a government contractor doing the same thing. I was a geospatial intelligence imagery analyst, which is a mouthful to say. It’s kind of hard to go over that with people because they are always like, “Oh, that’s an interesting title.” But, really, what I did was a lot of different things. I mostly watched drone footage, but we also did a lot of looking at satellite imagery and mapping and route planning and things like that. My work life was very structured and very intense. I worked in a high operational tempo environment and wasn’t home very much. The work was at times very meaningful and impactful but, being a mom of two, made life kind of a struggling balancing act.

I wasn’t home very much—and when I was, things like nighttime and birthdays were almost impossible. I was mostly gone during holidays, which is hard with two young kids.

What was your favorite part of that experience?

My experience in the military was a mixed bag: being a soldier is complex and comes with some hardships, but I am thankful I had the chance to do it. I owe a lot to the Army for blessing me with wonderful friends and giving me so many opportunities. I got to do things I never imagined myself doing, like running for 6 miles at a time to have the honor of supporting critical military operations.

I think my favorite part about that entire experience were the people I met. I got to be around a lot of different people from all over the United States and sometimes all over the world. I think that’s helped me now with being able to be pretty adaptable. I made a couple of lifelong friends there too.

What led you to join BigPanda?

The last couple of years of being a mom of two was really what made me decide that I needed to make the leap into something completely different. I was ready to leave government work. It was, like I said, an amazing opportunity and opened the door for a lot of opportunities for me, but in the end being a mom made me decide that a career change is what my family needed. I participated in an amazing program that BigPanda partners with called BreakLine. BreakLine connects veterans, women, and underrepresented minorities with opportunities in the tech industry. The stars just kind of aligned for me to be connected with somebody who was in my shoes and had gone through it before. They actually worked for Facebook at the time. They were like, “You have to do it. You have to join it. It’s like Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. I’m telling you. This program is amazing.”

It took me a year of deciding to leave that space and preparing myself to finally do it. Just for me. There was a lot to consider, and there were a lot of things that happened in the government that I don’t know if people remember or were really aware of that I felt a duty to participate in and help support. But I think that it took so much out of me, I finally realized that I had to move on. So, I called him back up and I was like, “Okay, I’m ready to hear more about this. What can I do? Will you help me?”

From the first call I took of BigPanda’s to the last, I knew this was the right fit for me. The product is impressive, the culture was there, and every call flowed into the next. Everyone was on the same page and, most importantly, kind.

What was your experience like during the first few months of working here?

It was a really interesting grind. It wasn’t like a “I’m sinking, help me” situation, but I say grind because every day I was learning something entirely new to me. A lot of questions, a lot of questioning myself. Hard but supportive. I found that every single person I encountered was really supportive and ready to help me with any and every question I had.

What is your favorite part of working at BigPanda?

Collaboration is almost a part of the team DNA. From my immediate team members to our departmental meetings, the genuine collaboration here has been an awesome thing to experience. Everyone is open to share and supported in doing so. That kind of teamwork and close collaboration and being open to hearing everybody’s ideas is something that I’ve never experienced before, ever. That, to me, is amazing because I feel like I’m contributing. And to have that is really special for me because I get to see all of our brainstorming actually put into action versus a conversation that you contribute to but never hear about again. That’s been my favorite part of working here so far.

What is a fun fact about you others may not know?

Probably that I’m kind of starting my own art gallery in my house. That is something you’d only know if you stopped by really. I like to collect art—old prints, pieces I find while traveling, maps, really anything that catches my eye—and antique frames and have them put together.. The older, the more interesting to me. I have a few pieces that are very very old and some newer. They are all over the place, and I have fun with it!