Kinja Data Team

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Goodbye Forever Allison Wentz

Allison Wentz through the years
Photo: Victor Jeffreys

Allison Wentz worked at Gawker/GMG/UCI/FMG/G/O Media for a total of 7 years, where she’s been promoted 7 times.

7 jobs in 7 years
Screenshot: LinkedIn
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From Ad Ops, to “Biz”, to Data, and now Kinja Engineering, Allison has had the chance to inspire hundreds of people. Sadly none of them were inspired enough to memorialize her legacy, so here’s a handful of people that are extremely happy to say BYE FOREVER ALLISON.

Kerrie Uthoff, former Director of Ad Ops, current employee at Google

Allison and I have tried to figure out many times when our friendship started. Originally, she began as my mentor, encouraging me to move into ad ops and expand my technical knowledge. We spent several happy hours isolated in the corner, drunkenly talking about excel. She helped me grow in my career in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible.

This mentorship was short lived. She declared one day that “I had surpassed her mentorship”. That is when the bullying began.

It’s important at this point to note that I kept a small goat figurine named Neville on my desk. One day Neville disappeared, and I found him hidden inside my tissue box. I inquired as to who was responsible and no one came forward. These kind of disappearances continued over the course of several months, with the goat showing up behind my desktop monitor, in my empty trash can, on someone else’s desk. Each time I was only away from my desk for a moment when it happened and every time I’d locked down a suspect, the disappearance would occur while the suspect was OOO. I was being driven to madness. After weeks and weeks of torture, it was revealed to me that there was not 1 person, but rather 5 ppl, spearheaded by Allison Wentz, who had been responsible. After that point I began keeping a folder of all the threatening messages Allison would send me, which ranged from “I kill u” to just a bunch of emoji knives.

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A rare confession
Screenshot: Gchat messsage between Kerrie & Allison

Despite the bullying and hazing, working with Allison has been the most fun I can imagine anyone having at a job. The 5 years we worked together were filled with ice cream turkey cakes, trips to the bodega that we would have to discuss for about half an hour beforehand, New Girl watching wine & cheese parties in the snakepit, and mornings rushing to work after boxing yelling 20 STREETS 20 MINUTES. We would have full conversations that would consist of “Life McGee, Amiright?” to which the response was “Yah you are right”. Once to a work costume party we went in a couples costume of spongebob and a hamburger. Another time we went as two sailor moons. Looking back it may be the case that we were such close friends with each other because we were too weird to be friends with anyone else.

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I know this is supposed to be a roasting post, but I am far too afraid to roast Allison, even though everyone knows if it came down to it I would win in a fight.

And in all honestly she is and always will be my mentor, my biggest bully and my best friend (please no one tell her that I called her that). It seems only fitting that now we’ll also be coworkers once again. #CodependentAHForever

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Aloha, Richard.

Josh Laurito, former Head of Data Engineering, dead to us

During my time at Gawker (and its successors) I worked will all sorts of people: disdainful developers, cryptic senior managers, harried product managers, demanding editors, sycophantic businesspeople, borderline-feral writers, insufferable know-it-all data professionals, and a handful of relatively normal, well-adjusted human beings as well. I liked them, and they seemed to tolerate me well enough, so I worked there for a while.

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During that time, there were a few people I came to really admire and enjoy working with, who I think were critical to the culture of the company, and really made it the special place that it was. And whenever one of them leaves, I get a little sad that the place I loved so much is changing, and that my friends are moving on to bigger & better things.

This is all to say that it’s been nearly 4 years since Max Nevins left the company, and I don’t think the place has ever been the same. While I worked with lots of great people, the time I spent with Max really stands out, and I wish we had had more of a chance to work together. I wish him the absolute best of luck in all his future endeavors.

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Andie Park, former Media Planner at GMG

Allison once invited me to her hometown in Jersey and I seriously considered going over there for her, which speaks to how incredible of a person she is as I have never gone/will never go to Jersey for anyone else.

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I remember a few years ago when Allison took me out to lunch to discuss mentorship opportunities over some pizza at a now defunct food hall. I was a shy little noob in the world of media, whereas Allison was a jaded media STAR. I knew that she would be a superb mentor she confided in me how she once ate Kimchi on a hot summer day, sitting on the shore of Coney Island. I was perplexed as to why she did that and how she was able to tolerate the mix of pungent aromas swirling around and actually enjoy said Kimchi. Yet I applaud her courage to break whatever tenuous beach/food etiquette exists. That’s a woman who is not afraid of a damn thing. And so, under her mentorship, I ate more tacos, drank more Rye Manhattans, and watched more movies than with anyone else in New York.

Through and through, Allison is the best possible person for any job she’s committed to – whether it’s in tech, reminding me that It’s Wednesday, My Dude, or drinking a Rye Manhattan with aplomb. Beyond that, I truly admire her ability take a moment to evaluate how her everyday life affects her larger future and always makes the brave, sometimes scary decision, to try a new thing. It inspires me to one day go to Jersey (or now SF) to visit her. One day.

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Ryan Brown, former SVP of Business Development

Thank you for understanding how cool “cool hats” are, for respecting the cane, and for absolutely loving sixlets more than anyone I’ve ever met before. I’ll miss math club, learning how to pivot, and all the other crazy shit you taught me (and literally everyone else) over the years about excel. From Wentz you came

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Ernie Deeb, soon-to-be former Senior Product Manager at Kinja

Who?

Justin Tanacredi, former Engineer at Kinja

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Tyler Alicea, Business Intelligence Analyst at G/O Media, Hoagie Enthusiast

Out of all the people Allison managed at Unimodo, Gizmodo, and G/O “The Heartbeat of Next” Media, I was the first of our motley crew to report to her. And while she hasn’t been my boss for nearly 18 months, Allison is now leaving us because she doesn’t want to manage people. So yes, one could argue it’s my fault she’s ditching us for a city that is definitely inferior to New York.

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Two years ago, the team hired me to help with some of Allison’s responsibilities. Little did I know that these responsibilities would include becoming a brand ambassador for Wawa, starting feuds with her enemies, creating memes “vaguely” related to data, and talking to her mom about how we both once lived in the same town in Pennsylvania. All of our one-on-ones would somewhat awkwardly start the same way with Allison asking “So… how’s it going?” and me just responding “Eh, it’s going.”

In all seriousness, Allison knows what seems like every random fact about our tech stack and this company, and her leaving is going to be a serious loss for the Kinja team. Because of Allison, we’ve been able to maintain a culture of being transparent with our data, always doing what’s right, and calling people out on their bullshit despite all the company hubbub (probably because no hubbub will ever be as dramatic as the Gawker bankruptcy, just sayin’). I’ll start the timer now to see how long it is before all that goes out the window!

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Anyway, bye forever Allison. I look forward to tweeting at you every Wednesday to celebrate the best day of the week.

Michael “Bucky” Butkovic, Engineer at Kinja, direct report to Allison

Allison and I sort of got off onto the wrong foot. When she first came out to Chicago in 2017(?), at drinks I asked her what she did and when she explained,I said something to the effect of “Oh, you’re the person who writes those emails I don’t read.” To be fair, I freely acknowledge this as extremely rude, but also to be extra fair, I really did not read those emails. Later when I moved to the New York office, she returned the favor by doing a number of cruel things to me. By far the cruelest of them however was labeling herself as “my boss.” Allison was never and will never be my boss. You don’t get to be “my boss” just because we have a one on one every two weeks, man. To be my boss you need to dress up as a Power Ranger and make up a weird story about the guitar emoji randomly appearing on websites like you’re Jim Carrey in The Number 23 or something. Over the time she was “my boss” though, she did her job better than anybody could have asked during crazy uncertainty, turnover, and general drama. Whether it was helping move projects forward, genuinely listening to concerns, or just being there to acknowledge that, yes, this job is very weird and confusing, she was a thoughtful and even-keeled fake boss. She’ll be missed and the New York office will somehow be much sadder with out her. So good luck, Allison. I would say that Google is lucky to have you, but it’s not like they’re starved for talent or anything

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Mike Patek, Senior Data Engineer at G/O Media

Hi Allison,

It was great working with you.

I will miss conversations like this:

[Me] Hey, I’ve been thinking about problem X and I think we can solve it if we {long winded explanation}. It should take a day or two. What do you think?

[You] Wait, but couldn’t you just {simple thing that takes a minute}?

[Me] Oh yeah, that should work!

Prithvi Gandhi, Analyst at G/O Media

Allison is awesome! She’s been a great mentor to me since I joined the data engineering team last year (and was super helpful even before that!), helping bring me up to speed with DE tech and tools. Always calm and helpful, I know I can ask Allison for help with whatever data issue I’m dealing with. With all of these changes that happened in the company, she was always level-headed and did her best to maintain the tech and data teams’ morale and I really appreciate her for doing that. I can’t imagine managing as many people as she has but she does it so, so well. If you can’t tell by now, Allison is the best and I’m definitely going to miss her, but I’m also very excited for her next opportunity!!

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Jane Hegeler, former Senior Manager, Data & Analytics at FMG

Allison, the first time we met, you had gloriously long flowy hair, and didn’t say much. The next time we saw each other, your long hair was gone and you still didn’t say much. There wasn’t a point to that, I just enjoy regaling newbies of the time “Allison had super long hair”...

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I digress. I will never again be able to participate in a book club without being reminded of you. You’re a great work booze/cheese partner and you’re moving much too far away (see you soon lol). I’m pretty sure I’ll completely forget how to read. Thnks fr th Mmrs.

Josh Laurito, former Head of Data Engineering

I have a lot of confused feelings about Allison moving on in her career and her life. As a dyed in the wool NYC tech chauvinist, I’m sad to lose one of our best to the west coast. And I’m upset that I wasn’t able to convince her to come to Squarespace. But on the other hand, I’m excited for her new adventure, and proud that she’s jumping into a new company, a new industry, a new place. And who knows, maybe this Google company will really make it someday.

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But I have no confusion about what it was like to work with Allison. Working at Gawker & its successors was a really special and important time in my life, and working with Allison was a huge part of that (I know I’m not the only person who felt either of those things).

When Allison joined the data team at Gawker years ago, she had a lot to learn about being part of a technical organization and working with data. Fortunately, she was a quick study: so much so that by the time I left the team, its operations objectively improved with Allison taking the helm, pretty-much immediately.

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There are lots of nice things to say about Allison. She’s whip smart, insightful, honest, and candid to the point that it’s probably detrimental to her career. But that’s why people gravitate to her: they sense that her incorruptibility and her desire to make things better isn’t limited to impressing a boss, or focused on one business problem or group of people. Allison managed to be the most liked and trusted person in both the business and tech departments while I was there, and I get the sense that she managed to mostly maintain that while being promoted to manager, which is an almost impossible feat.

Allison, thank you for being a good sport, a great colleague, and an even greater friend. But most of all, thank you for teaching me, an old man, about emojis.

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Josh Holbrook, former Senior Engineer at FMG

Here’s the thing about roast posts: not everybody gets them. While there aren’t any strict guidelines, there are a number of unifying themes for who does get roasted - the biggest one being, if you’re getting roasted, you were probably O.G. Gawker. Allison Wentz is no exception to this rule.

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I came into the picture at what eventually became G/O media immediately after the Gawker bankruptcy and I left right after the sale. From the get-go, working for what was then Fusion Media Group had been a wild fucking ride. I did, however, have the best companions I could ever hope for on this journey. As Libby Watson said in her G/Oodbye post:

Have you ever shown up at a party full of people you think are really cool, eager to impress and befriend them, but you get there a little too late, and you discover when you arrived that none of them are having a good time because they just found out their best friend died? I haven’t, but that’s kind of what it was like joining Gizmodo Media Group five months after Gawker shut down.

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My tenure at GMG FMG G/O Media overlapped heavily with Libby’s and I think she was right on the money. What she didn’t say is that for a period of roughly 18 months, the Kinja team transitioned from a hodge-podge of ex-Gawker people, The Onion Inc/Bulbs team and a handful of randos from Original Fusion (hi) into a well-oiled tech org that was crushing its goals. For a brief moment, things were actually pretty chill despite Univision. It’s here that I met the best boss I ever had.

That boss was not Allison.

When I joined Allison was a senior analyst and Josh Laurito, AKA Eggman, was the head of data and analytics at FMG. Josh is a great manager and exactly the person you want in that position, but when he eventually left us somebody had to try and fill his shoes and management ultimately decided to promote internally. This is where Allison became my second best boss. Which, really, isn’t saying a lot. I’ve had a lot of bad bosses. Under Allison’s guidance, our team of five trucked along with only one Josh and Despite Everything it all actually worked out pretty well!

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But then shit really hit the fan. After the sale was announced, our org was put under a hiring freeze and as people left we had to make do with what we had. This meant that Allison got promoted from a senior analyst to director of all New York engineering within a very short period of time. Suddenly the responsibility of keeping all of New York tech together fell on her shoulders and it was a heavy burden.

Throughout 2018 the metaphorical fan got covered in so many turds that it damned near stopped working and somehow, unlike myself, Allison always kept her cool. Even as more people left and many of the ones still there (hi) became increasingly frustrated and nervous about the uncertainty and the pressure of the impending sale, Allison didn’t blink once. For someone who had to grab the wheel of our runaway jumbo jet after the pilot got sucked out of a broken window, she was as good an impromptu captain as we could have hoped for. We were in rough shape when the sale happened, but she got us through intact - an impressive feat.

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One of my most hated vendors in this world was and continues to be Google. I’ve joked for years that if I ever interview with them that I’ll be bringing multi-chapter printouts of all the gripes I have with GSuite, Google Analytics, BigQuery, the YouTube API, DFP GAM and basically everything else they’ve touched. I’m ultimately proud of Allison for passing their bar but man is she going to be working with a bunch of clowns on a bunch of clownshoes software. She’d better watch her inbox because I’m going to leverage this connection as hard as I can.

Cheers to Allison, my second best boss, who did as well as she could given the circumstances. I probably won’t visit her in Mountain View (ick!), but she will be missed.

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Jenni Bruno, employee at G/O Media

When I joined FMG 2.5 years ago, I got the immediate sense that the only reason I had been hired was because Josh Laurito had somehow convinced Allison to “give me a shot”. In every meeting, every sprint planning, and every discussion, I could sense that she was skeptical.

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Somehow, through pure magic, I was able to convince her that I had a vague sense about data. Through weekly cookie-time meetings, I was able to gain her trust. And by some luck, I was able to earn her partnership.

Allison & I have had to support each other through continuous departures, team-restructures, company re-orgs, and through the constant growing responsibilities of our roles. And it’s been incredible having her by my side.

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Allison is able to remain objective about everything, and narrow in on the most important problem that deserves attention. She’s an advocate for her team, for data transparency, and for “the Biz”. She’s not an advocate for herself, however, and most of my days have been spent convincing Allison that she actually “does stuff” here.

Since I don’t have to see Allison ever again, I can finally say: Allison, thanks for letting me carry the weight all these years and for doing nothing. I hope you actually have to “do work” at Google. Sorry for never writing an emoji post. Bye forever.

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But for real, you will be missed. Thanks for helping keep the peace in my heart

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