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Audible Sound Bites with Michael Steinkrauss

Michael Steinkrauss is a Director of Quality Assurance at Audible, leading teams who are helping to ensure Audible’s service and features are not only meeting, but exceeding our customers’ expectations. Based in our hub in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he also helps direct our impact activities in the community, manages our internship program there, and mentors others at Audible and Amazon.

How would you describe your role at Audible and how it affects our customers?

My team develops tools and tests strategies that help ensure our customer experience remains world class, specifically with Audible’s Creator Exchange (ACX), Audible on Alexa, Audible Search, and several other Audible experiences. As a people manager, my role is to grow and develop the careers of the managers and individual contributors on my team, and I also manage education and career development across my organization.

What’s life like at the hub you are aligned to? Do you participate in any impact activities in the community?

The Cambridge hub is tight-knit, with a tremendous sense of camaraderie. As a group, we are involved with numerous community projects, working with young people trying to find their career path. The QA org has hosted several local high school and college interns, which helps me stay in touch with the younger perspective while helping my engineers develop management skills.

I have also been helping to drive our collaboration with The Loop Lab, a BIPOC-led nonprofit in Cambridge providing job training in the media arts and providing connections to work. It has been a fantastic experience getting dozens of Audible engineers to work closely with cohorts to create short videos exploring the city and the unique challenges facing young people living in it. The videos are of amazing quality, and some have won awards. I have lived here my whole life, but these stories have taught me more about a world that I have grown less familiar with in my adult years.

How does your job contribute to Audible’s mission to surprise and delight listeners around the world? What is your biggest source of inspiration?

As QA professionals, our role is to work to ensure that the customer experience functions as designed, but we are also the voice that asks, “Why is this the best experience for our customer?”

I am inspired by the large number of people I have met outside of work who are passionate about Audible. When I tell them where I work, I frequently hear “I love Audible!” Working for a company which has given such joy to so many really drives me.

What was your first Audible listen?

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. She was on the frontline of the independent content creator revolution, and I have been a fan of her projects over the years.

Can you share about a time you were an advocate or ally for someone else, or for a group of people?

I am a frequent mentor for others at Audible, and even some in Amazon, helping to advise on difficult choices relative to their careers, and the right direction to go or the next step to find the path to their ultimate career destination. It is not always obvious, but these intermediate steps may challenge you in ways that deliver an opportunity to develop the skills and confidence you will need to succeed. 

What’s one quality people interested in working on Audible’s QA team need in order to be successful?

An openness with regard to communication. Developing relationships with peers on your team, or across teams, is key. As a more junior engineer, you’ll need to work closely with others to learn and develop your skillset; as a more senior engineer, you’ll frequently be required to work closely with dependent teams in order to build the next generation of software.

What made you choose to work at Audible, what makes you want to stay?

I came from a different Amazon team. A few people in my organization switched to Audible after the Cambridge hub opened. I spoke to them and found out more about Audible and the culture and decided it was a good fit for what I was looking for in my next role. While the exact job I wanted wasn’t available at the time, I took a chance on being able to develop and grow here, and in time, I was able to move into the right role for me. I am now approaching my eighth anniversary. 

Lightning Round! 

Favorite genre? Biographies from an odd mix of entertainers, political figures, and scientists.

Listening from a speaker or headphones? I prefer speakers, but use headphones when out.

Favorite activity while listening? Walking or just focused listening.

Morning person or night owl? Night owl.

Favorite snack? Pretzels.

What is your favorite listen?

Longitude by Dava Sobel. I’ve listened to it many times. It is the story of solving one of history’s great challenges, a way to calculate longitude accurately while at sea. So many brilliant astronomers tried to find a solution, but it was John Harrison, an untrained carpenter with a passion for clockmaking, who through years of iteration managed to develop the world’s first accurate marine chronometer. 

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