Get to know Lisa O’Keefe, chief of staff

Lisa O'Keefe

For Lisa O'Keefe (MS/LIS ’09), getting a job at Reddit was like "the mothership has truly called me home." She enjoys the variety of her job responsibilities as well as her company's mission to create community and belonging for everyone in the world.

Where do you work and what is your role?

I'm chief of staff to the chief technical officer (CTO) at Reddit.

What do you like best about your job?

I love it all. My responsibilities are myriad and sometimes nebulous. At a high level, it’s my job to help my CTO, leadership, and everyone in our tech org be successful. I am here to help us get stuff done (and have some fun along the way).

On a daily basis, my work might include one-on-ones with leadership and individual contributors, where I serve as a "safe spot" for people to vent or work on ways to improve the Reddit tech org and culture. I help run the tech blog and partner with HR, recruiting, and other teams, to make sure we're all communicating effectively (a challenge anywhere, really!) I also sit in a lot of meetings. I love the higher level work I get to do with my CTO to help fully develop and drive his technical vision across a rapidly growing team. One more thing: As a cat person, I LOVE our #cats channel on Slack.

What do you see as the most important impact of your work?

One of our values at Reddit is to Remember the Human. Reddit's mission is to create community and belonging for everyone in the world, and that includes those of us who work at Reddit. I like to see the work I do, whether it's strategic or tactical, as helping to build, improve, and support the communities we are creating for our Redditors.

How did the iSchool at Illinois help you get to where you are today?

A friend from the Chicago tech world, Saad Rehmani, who is now VP of engineering at Reddit, contacted me last year because his CTO, Chris Slowe, had a question for a librarian, and I was the only librarian he knew. We got on immediately, but I thought it was nothing more than a fun call with a smart person.  About a week later, Saad contacted me again. He knew my background in building tech orgs and advising CTOs and asked if I might be interested in talking about being the chief of staff.

What advice would you like to share with iSchool students?

Be open to non-traditional roles or exploring how you might contribute outside of a traditional library setting. Take advantage of all the great opportunities and classes offered at the iSchool. I focused on health sciences librarianship during my education but also made sure to take courses like Storytelling, Intellectual Freedom, and a bunch of rare books stuff, too.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I like to hang out with friends, and I stream more shows than a librarian should admit. I look forward to traveling again soon. I love words and language and work to improve my Spanish, French, and Norwegian every day. I work from home in the Uptown neighborhood in Chicago with my four cats, who feature prominently in my life and on my Zoom calls for work.

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