Odd Jobs

Gayle Young works to make sure employees work and play well together at Wikimedia. (credit: Matthew Roth)

As the organization behind a website with 500 million users a month that employs more than 100 people, the Wikimedia Foundation requires someone with an industrial-organizational psychology background to help foster employees' creativity, motivation and ability to work in teams. Lending that psychological insight is Gayle Young, chief culture and talent officer of the Wikimedia Foundation, based in San Francisco. The foundation is best known for Wikipedia, the site that provides "free and open knowledge" to the public. Young has held the position for two years.

Team-building: Known by colleagues as the counselor of the USS Wikimedia, Young works with employees to create a "healthy ecosystem that people can exist healthily within." To accomplish this, Young conducts group interventions to build team dynamics and provides one-on-one coaching to employees who need help with team functioning. She also serves as a conduit between different departments within the organization to work on culture building and helping the company develop and mature more cohesively.

How she got the job: Young earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of San Francisco in 1999. She then got her master's in organizational psychology at Alliant International University. Soon after, Young was offered a job with Kaiser Permanente to develop leadership skills and that led to consulting positions with such companies as Ernst and Young, McDonalds Corp. and Yale University.

Then a job recruiter contacted her about the Wikimedia position. Although at first she was unsure if she would be a good fit, within 10 minutes of her interview, Young knew Wikimedia was where she wanted to work.

Today, she couldn't be more fulfilled by the work. "I love getting to practice what I know of people and being in service of this mission I care about so much," she says.

Her advice for those interested in similar jobs:

"Learn to speak the language of various companies and industries, in addition to simply knowing buzzwords." Organizational experience is key, she says, and can be developed by sitting on a university board or serving in the student government. "Draw upon your own experiences of organizations and systems, and find ways to safely play in leadership spaces," she says.